CNN’s Ray Sanchez reports that the recent murder of nine members of a Mormon family has spotlighted an American-Mexican community with long ties to the region. The splinter Mormon group was fleeing persecution in the United States when they arrived in Mexico nearly 140 years ago. “They have a very vivid sense of their own history of persecution, which is not imaginary. Now it’s the cartels. And all they’ve wanted to do is live independently and according to their values,” said Laurie Maffly-Kipp, a professor at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis, which publishes this journal.
NPR’s Selena Simmons-Duffin and Colin Dwyer report, “In a blow to the Trump administration, a federal court in Manhattan has knocked down a rule that would make it easier for doctors and other health care workers to refuse care for religious reasons.” They could, for instance, opt out of performing or being a part of an abortion procedure. Simmons-Duffin and Dwyer write, “Critics of the rule saw it as a means of allowing health care workers to circumvent rules against discrimination.”
The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports that the Source, a new chain of Christian pregnancy centers in Texas, will begin providing women with contraceptives, a controversial move for many conservative and anti-abortion Christians. However, the Source sees contraceptives as a way to reduce abortions by decreasing the amount of unwanted pregnancies. Ingrid Skop, an obstetrician-gynecologist who joined the Source board says, “Even within the pro-life community, there’s a lot of nuance in what we think we should be offering to women. It helps to show that not every pro-life activist says, ‘Put an aspirin between your legs and don’t have sex.’”
Writing for The New York Times Magazine, Jennifer Percy reports on the mental health crisis facing thousands of Iraqis in the wake of the ISIS occupation. It is estimated that the rate of depression among Iraqis is nearly double that of Western nations. To combat the crisis, the University of Duhok opened the country’s first psychotherapy master’s program. Percy writes, “Iraqis have suffered under almost 40 years of continuous conflict … and yet the country has almost no trained professionals to treat an epidemic of war-induced psychological disorders.”
The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg profiles combat veteran Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council member who testified for the impeachment inquiry about President Trump’s phone call with Ukraine. Vindman, along with his brother Yevgeny, a fellow NSC member, immigrated to the United States as Jewish refugees fleeing Soviet Ukraine when they were three. Stolberg writes, “His heritage gave Colonel Vindman, who is fluent in both Ukrainian and Russian, unique insight into Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign.”
The Associated Press’ Jeff Karoub and Noreen Nasir report that new seminaries are opening to train imams and combat the shortage of Islamic religious leaders in the United States. American mosques struggle to find imams with both a strong theological background and a knowledge of American culture. Ali Bazzi, a seminary student, explained what she looks for in an imam: “I need to make sure he speaks the language, he’s knowledgeable, he’s respectful, he’s truly caring and he’s trying to adapt to the country we live in.”
The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein reports that this year State Department employees established GRACE, the department’s first faith-based affinity group. Boorstein writes, “It has hosted events with evangelical speakers and runs a ‘mentorship ministry’ that brings together pairs of employees to focus on ‘how being a disciple of Christ impacts your professional experience at the State Department.’” Some critics of GRACE worry that the group breaks the separation between church and state.
The New York Times‘ Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman report that televangelist and prosperity gospel preacher Paula White will join the Trump administration in an official role. They write, “Her role will be to advise the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which Mr. Trump established last year by executive order and which aims to give religious groups more of a voice in government programs devoted to issues like defending religious liberty and fighting poverty.” White has been a spiritual adviser the president, though many evangelicals are divided on her view that “God blesses people he deems to be of strong faith with wealth, good health and other gifts.”
The Atlantic’s Emma Green reports on the efforts of Eric Lidji, a local Jewish archivist in Pittsburgh, to preserve the memory of the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting. After the shooting, Lidji began collecting artifacts ranging from makeshift memorials to funeral programs, and “I Voted” stickers. Green writes that “the Jewish people, Lidji explained, have been able to maintain continuity in part because their archives have let them ‘come back later and be reminded.’”
The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports that former Vice President Joe Biden was reportedly denied communion during a campaign stop at a Catholic church in South Carolina because he supports abortion rights. This incident is part of an ongoing debate within the Church over how to treat politicians who hold beliefs in conflict with church teachings. Bailey writes, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bishop, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, has suggested publicly that politicians who favor legal abortion should be refused Communion. But other church leaders, including Washington’s recently retired archbishop Donald Wuerl, have openly disagreed.”