Buzzfeed News’s Peter Aldhous reports that American Atheists, one of the most prominent secular organizations in the U.S., abruptly terminated David Silverman as their president on Thursday. Silverman, who had been president of American Atheists since 2010 and was credited for increasing the organization’s publicity, has been accused of financial and sexual misconduct, including sexually assaulting two women in separate incidents. Aldhous writes, “Like many other communities in the #MeToo era, the atheist movement is undergoing a reckoning over the treatment of women in its ranks.”
The Associated Press’s Yanan Wang writes that the Rev. John Sanqiang Cao was sentenced last month to seven years in prison by the Chinese government. Cao, whose family resides in the U.S., was arrested in March 2017 after decades of work organizing “house” churches and Bible schools not sanctioned by the Chinese state. The pastor’s son, Ben Cao, said, “Nothing my father organized was ever political. It was always just religious or charitable.” Wang adds, “Analysts say the government increasingly views Christianity’s rise in China as a threat to its rule, and may be using prominent figures such as Cao as an example to intimidate nascent movements.”
For The New York Times, Margaret Renkl writes about attending former President Carter’s Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. Renkl writes, “President Carter is not a pacing, gesturing, booming-voiced orator, but he is a brilliant teacher — moving nimbly between his memories, his concerns for the world and what the Acts have to say about the right relationship of human beings to one another.” She adds, “Jimmy Carter still has faith in this country, and I hoped his Sunday school lesson might restore my faith, too.”
POLITICO’s Jennifer Haberkorn reports, “The anti-abortion movement believes it’s one Donald Trump-appointed Supreme Court justice away from a shot at overturning Roe v. Wade, and advocates are teeing up what they hope will be the winning challenge.” A series of harsh state-level restrictions on abortion have been passed or been proposed in recent months, any of which would prompt lawsuits that could then make it to the Supreme Court. Haberkorn writes, “The determination to revisit Roe comes amid renewed speculation about the possible retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, which would give anti-abortion forces their best opportunity in a generation to weaken or strike down the ruling that made abortion legal.”
Dozens of Evangelical Leaders Meet to Discuss How Trump Era Has Unleashed “Grotesque Caricature” of Their Faithposted on April 16, 2018
The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports, “About 50 top leaders of major evangelical institutions will attend an invitation-only gathering this week to discuss the future and the ‘soul’ of evangelicalism at a time when many of them are concerned their faith group has become tainted by its association with divisive politics under President Trump.” The Rev. Tim Keller, one of the pastors attending the gathering, said, “It is a complete terrible reversal when [people believe] religion is about politics when it’s the other way around.” Organizers asserted that the purpose of the gathering is not meant to be anti-Trump, but to examine how the term “evangelical” could be restored to its original, faith-based meaning.
The Associated Press’s Mehmet Guzel reports that Andrew Craig Brunson, an American evangelical pastor and long-time Turkish resident, is on trial for charges that he spied against Turkey and had links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Brunson was the pastor of a small church in Izmir, Turkey, before being arrested after Turkey’s 2016 coup attempt. He denied all charges, saying in his defense statement, “I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.” If convicted, Brunson could face up to 35 years in prison.
The Chicago Tribune’s Manya Brachear Pashman and Jeff Coen report that the Rev. Bill Hybels has stepped down from his position at the influential Willow Creek Community Church. They write, “His departure comes less than a month after a Chicago Tribune investigation disclosed that Hybels had been the subject of inquiries by church leaders into claims that he ran afoul of church teachings by engaging in inappropriate behavior with women in his congregation—including employees—allegedly spanning decades.” Vonda Dyer, a former church leader and one of Hybels’ accusers, said, “I believe the women who have come forward because our stories are so similar. For the sake of the other women and for the sake of the church, I cannot stay silent.”
Buzzfeed News’s Hannah Allam and Talal Ansari report that state and local Republican officials in 49 states have publicly attacked Islam with rhetoric and proposed legislation since 2015, facing few consequences. “In some states, the incident was a one-off from a local official in a rural, conservative district,” Allam and Ansari write, “But many others had multiple senior leaders attacking Islam in repeated incidents dating back years, with no punishment from either political parties or voters.” They add, “The anti-Muslim rhetoric in virtually every state reflects the general coarsening of political speech in the anything-goes era of President Donald Trump, who’s lashed out at Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, women, and other targets.”
Religion News Service’s Kimberly Winston reports on FaithLands, an interfaith movement that promotes local sustainability farming. Winston writes, “What’s new about FaithLands is that there is now a critical mass of people and groups who see farming as a religious imperative.” Some FaithLands participants believe that growing food can serve the purpose of cultivating stronger faith communities. Winston adds, “What’s good for the table is also good for organized religion, they suggested, especially at a time when congregations face falling numbers, crumbling buildings and aging membership.”
Pope Francis’s New Major Document: Caring for Migrants and the Poor Is Just as Important as Preventing Abortionposted on April 10, 2018
The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer reports that on Monday, Pope Francis published an apostolic exhortation, which provides guidance for the Catholic Church. “Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life,” Pope Francis wrote, before affirming that it was equally holy and pressing for Christians to care for the poor and downtrodden. The Rev. James Bretzke at Boston College said, “It will not make liturgy traditionalists very happy.”