For Tablet, Jenna Weissman Joselit writes that American Jews are divided on whether or not they should observe Halloween. She explains, “When it comes to marking Halloween, fragmentation rather than consensus rules the contemporary American Jewish roost. For every American Jew who can’t wait for Oct. 31, there are those who wish it away, turn a blind eye, shrug their shoulders, or sigh.” She adds that divisions over Halloween are partly rooted in growing conservatism in the Jewish community.
The Associated Press’s David Crary and Jessica Gresko report, “A federal judge on Monday barred President Donald Trump’s administration from proceeding with plans to exclude transgender people from military service.” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly argued that the transgender service members who are suing the government are likely to win the lawsuit because the administration has failed to provide evidence that supports a ban. A senior staff member of the ACLU said, “The federal courts are recognizing what everyone already knows to be true: President Trump’s impulsive decision to ban on transgender people from serving in the military service was blatantly unconstitutional.”
For The New Yorker, Luke Mogelson reports on America’s involvement in Raqqa, Syria, which helped Kurdish forces expel ISIS in mid-October. The Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.), which were instrumental in defeating ISIS, have a tenuous relationship with the United States. Although the U.S. deployed forces and weaponry to assist S.D.F., some wonder if U.S. forces will now abandon the country. Mogelson adds, “On October 19th, in a ceremony at Naim Square, in the center of Raqqa, the S.D.F. announced that the city had been ‘liberated.’ This feels like a misnomer. The coalition’s air campaign has left Raqqa an uninhabitable wasteland. More than three hundred thousand civilians have been displaced.”
The New York Times’s Dan Barry writes about the recent discovery of hundreds of dead children in a septic system near the Tuam home in Ireland, an orphanage managed by a Catholic order in the early to mid-twentieth century. Barry writes, “Children born out of wedlock during this period were nearly four times more likely to die than ‘legitimate’ children, with those in institutions at particular risk.” Catherine Corless has made it her mission to unearth its secrets: “The future of the Tuam grounds that her questioning disturbed has yet to be revealed. The government is grappling with many complexities, including the sad fact that the remains of infants and children, the Marys and Patricks, the Bridgets and Johns, are commingled,” Barry writes.
BuzzFeed’s Anne Helen Petersen writes about political divisions within Kootenai County, a predominately white, Christian, conservative county in Northern Idaho. Brent Regan, a community member and current chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee (KCRCC), is working to push local politics to the far right. The KCRCC created a PAC, the Kootenai County Republican Concerned Citizens (KCRCC), which distributes misleading endorsements that aim to elect conservative hardliners. Petersen writes that the endorsements “do little to dissuade voters from assuming a direct connection with the Republican Party.”
For GQ, Scott Sayare profiles Ammar, a Muslim boy from Syria who was adopted by a family in Sweden. He initially told his adopted family that he was a Christian who escaped imprisonment by jihadists, but a journalist who was held captive with Ammar revealed that the boy was possibly a jihadist, who was subject to psychological abuse and torture. Lina, Ammar’s adopted mother, said, “I have thought about it. But I have landed in – no, this is not my story of him. I don’t know the truth. But I have landed in this. And I have chosen now to trust him.”
The Atlantic’s Emma Green writes that there are significant divisions among Catholics and Protestants, 500 years after Martin Luther triggered the Reformation. Green notes that ecumenical efforts have brought some progress: “In 1999, the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church even reached a consensus on the basics of the doctrine of justification.” However, Lutherans still do not agree with the authority of the pope, or that their churches should be governed by bishops. Green adds, “While these disagreements have led to painful splits—both denominations face the possibility of schism in the coming years.”
The New York Times’s Laurie Goodstein writes that Mormon Senator Jeff Flake’s speech to the Senate on Tuesday is a reflection of his faith. In the 17-minute floor speech, Flake announced his decision not to seek re-election after criticizing the president and Republican party. Flake said, “Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.” Max Perry Mueller, professor of American religion at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said, “That speech reflects a Mormon understanding of human agency and participation in history, that humans bring about change, and move the world towards perfection.”
For Aeon, the John C. Danforth Center’s own Leigh E. Schmidt writes about symbols of secularism, which aim to counter religion in public life. Schmidt writes that there is a deep history of creating monuments among nonbelievers and atheists: “They wanted to enshrine their commitment to scientific rationality over biblical revelation, their strict construction of church-state separation, and their worldly focus on human happiness in the here and now.” He adds, “Atheists and nonbelievers have also launched new congregational ventures – most prominently, the Sunday Assembly and Oasis – in several cities across the country, and humanist chaplaincies have flowered on a number of college campuses to afford a community for openly secular students.”
NPR’s Bill Chappell reports, “A 17-year-old undocumented immigrant to the U.S. underwent an abortion procedure on Wednesday morning, after a weeks-long legal fight with the Trump administration, which had sought to block her from leaving the detention facility where she’s being held in Texas.” Federal officials argued that the woman did not have a right to an elective abortion because of her undocumented status. The woman said, “I made my decision and that is between me and God. Through all of this, I have never changed my mind.”