The New York Times’s Scott Shane reports that YouTube recently deleted the majority of the content from Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent English-language jihadist recruiter who was killed six years ago by a drone strike. Shane writes, “After Mr. Awlaki’s death, fans often labeled even his early material as the work of the martyr killed by America. The number of videos on YouTube presenting or celebrating his work more than doubled from 2014 to 2017, even as investigators found his decisive influence in most of the major terrorist attacks in the United States and some in Europe.” The removals come in response to criticism from counterterrorism advocates such as the Counter Extremism Project, a research organization.
The Washington Post‘s Stephanie McCrummen,report allegations of sexual misconduct by Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. Four women have accused Moore of initiating relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was a district attorney in his early 30s. Leigh Corfman was 14, and two years under the age of legal consent in 1979, when she says the incident occurred. Moore, an outspoken conservative Christian, is known for being a culture warrior, against gay marriage and in favor of hanging up the Ten Commandments inside his courtroom when he served as chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court.
The Boston Globe’s Danny McDonald reports from Massachusetts, “House lawmakers Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ensure access to free birth control in the state and shield state residents from changes to federal law regarding contraceptive coverage requirements.” After a 138-16 vote in the House, supporters of the bill anticipate it will pass in the Senate as well. McDonald adds, “The decision comes about a month after the Trump administration issued a rule that undermines a federal contraception coverage mandate.”
The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein writes about U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat from California who announced his position as a humanist on Thursday. Huffman said, “I suppose you could say I don’t believe in God. The only reason I hesitate is – unlike some humanists, I’m not completely closing the door to spiritual possibilities.” Boorstein adds, “Experts on religious identity in Congress say Huffman seems to be only the second member in contemporary records to describe his ethical system as not being God-based.”
Religion News Service’s Yonat Shimron and Kimberly Winston report, “Vice President Mike Pence traveled to this rural stretch of Texas to offer prayers and words of comfort to a stricken community three days after a lone gunman killed more than two dozen people during a Sunday morning church service.” During the memorial service on Wednesday, Pence said, “Faith is stronger than evil. Faith is the antidote to fear and despair.” Bernard Cenney, a retired member of the U.S. Army who came to the service, emphasized, “Belief in God is really, really big here and it transcends going to church. There’s this wholesome belief in God and in something greater than us.”
America’s Michael J. O’Loughlin reports, “Gov. Jerry Brown led a delegation of California politicians and climate change activists to Rome this weekend, where he gave a keynote address during a Vatican-sponsored conference about threats facing the environment.” He adds, “The meeting, called ‘Health of People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility: Climate Change, Air Pollution and Health,’ was sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which has in recent years sought to amplify warnings from Pope Francis found.” Brown, a Democrat and California’s longest serving governor, said, “The problem … is us. It’s our whole way of life. It’s our comfort … It’s the greed. It’s the indulgence. It’s the pattern. And it’s the inertia.”
Religion News Service’s Emily McFarlan Miller reports that churches across the country are considering security measures after Sunday’s shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, left 26 people dead. McFarlan Miller writes, “In the last five years alone, gunmen have taken lives not only at churches such as New Life, First Baptist and Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., but also a mosque, Jewish center and Sikh temple.” She adds, “On Sunday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton suggested on Fox News that churchgoers carry concealed weapons. He was echoed by Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas, also on Fox News.”
The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports on evangelical attitudes about gun-control. She writes, “Most conservative evangelicals don’t believe specific gun policies are spelled out in the Bible, and many of them don’t believe gun-control measures are constitutional and can solve the problem of mass shootings, said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm.” Cameron Strang, an editor of Relevant, an evangelical magazine, said, “Evangelicals vote along party lines, whether or not it makes theological sense. Pro-lifers would see supporting anything but steadfast Republican policy as endorsing part of a liberal agenda, which means ultimately endorsing abortion.”
For The New York Times, David Montgomery and Jose A. DelReal report from Sutherland Springs, Texas, “Law enforcement officers investigating the mass shooting at a church that killed 26 people here said on Monday that ‘a domestic situation’ within the gunman’s family may have motivated the killing.” They write of the horrific scene at the First Baptist Church: “Inside, pools of blood splattered across the small church led back to dozens of dead and dying parishioners.” Freeman Martin, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said on Monday, “This was not racially motivated, it wasn’t over religious beliefs, it was a domestic situation going on.”
The Atlantic’s Emma Green writes about the limitations of a federal law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which aims to prevent cities and towns from using zoning laws to discriminate against religious groups. Green explains, “Few congregations have the time, knowledge, money, or energy to pursue the legal process set up by RLUIPA, leaving many in a desperate limbo with no place to pray.” North Jersey Vineyard Church is just one institution that has been plagued by the process, after it was forced into over a year of expensive legal proceedings just to use its property for worship.