The Associated Press’s Matthew Barakat reports that John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban,” was released from prison this week after nearly 20 years. A convert to Islam, he was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 9/11. Michael Jensen, a terrorism researcher at the University of Maryland, told Barakat that “Lindh represents an interesting test case, as he is on the leading edge of dozens of inmates who were convicted on terror-related offenses in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and are eligible for release in the next five years.”
The New York Times’ Timothy Williams and Alan Blinder report that Alabama legislators passed a measure that would outlaw most abortions in the state, including those resulting from pregnancies caused by rape and incest. Doctors who perform the procedures would be charged as felons and face prison terms of up to 99 years. The legislation is headed to the desk of Alabama’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey. Williams and Blinder write, “Opponents have vowed to challenge the measure in federal court if it becomes law.”
The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan profiles Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, “a priest-and-lawyer-turned-sex-crimes specialist who is dispatched to scandal zones” in order to look into clergy sex abuse allegations. Harlan reports that Scicluna has conducted four major investigations over the past 15 years, and he has interviewed hundreds of victims. Harlan writes, “Scicluna has developed a reputation — even among some wary abuse victims and advocates — as one of the rare Vatican officials who appreciates the seriousness and scale of the church’s abuse crisis.”
The Tablet’s Maggie Fergusson reflects on the life of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, an international network of communities for people with developmental disabilities. Vanier died in Paris on May 7 at the age of 90, leaving behind a legacy of 154 L’Arche communities in 38 countries. Fergusson notes that Vanier once studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood but remained “passionately ecumenical.” From the start, L’Arche welcomed people of all faiths and none.
The Washington Post‘s Chico Harlan reports, “Pledging that clerical sexual abuse should ‘never happen again,’ Pope Francis on Thursday issued a sweeping new law aimed at holding leadership more accountable while overhauling how the Roman Catholic Church deals with accusations of abuse and coverup.” Harlan writes that the rules will go into effect on June 1, when “priests and nuns will be required for the first time to report abuse accusations to church authorities.” There will also be new processes set up to investigate bishops.
Rachel Held Evans, the Hugely Popular Christian Writer Who Challenged the Evangelical Establishment, Is Dead at 37posted on May 6, 2019
Slate‘s Ruth Graham reports that popular and influential Christian writer Rachel Held Evans died over the weekend. Graham writes, “Evans, 37, entered the hospital in mid-April with the flu, and then had a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics, as she wrote on Twitter several weeks ago. According to her husband, Dan Evans, she then developed sustained seizures. Doctors put her in a medically induced coma, but some seizures returned when her medical team attempted to wean her from the medications that were maintaining her coma. Her condition worsened on Thursday morning, and her medical team discovered severe swelling of her brain. She died early on Saturday morning.” The author of four books, Evans was a progressive Christian voice who left evangelicalism for the Episcopal Church. Graham writes, “Evans’ political and cultural polemics attracted the most attention. But she also wrote passionately about her own evolving faith, her prayer life, her wrestling with doubt, and her love for the church.”
NPR’s Sasha Ingber reports, “The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has released its annual report in the aftermath of attacks on mosques in New Zealand, churches in Sri Lanka and synagogues in the United States.” The report identifies more than a dozen countries that engaged in or tolerated violations of religion freedom, among them China and Myanmar. Ingber writes, “In the midst of trade discussions with the United States, Chinese authorities detained as many as 2 million Uighurs, an ethnic and predominantly Muslim minority, the report says.”
The Washington Post‘s Deanna Paul and Katie Mettler report on the aftermath of Saturday’s shooting at Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego, California, which left one dead and three injured on the last day of Passover. Lori Kaye, 60, was killed, while those injured include Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. Paul and Mettler write that the suspect, who surrendered to police, “referenced the alleged shooters at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue and the New Zealand mosques, Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler as role models.”
The Washington Post‘s Joanna Slater, Amantha Perera, and Shane Harris report, “Sri Lanka on Monday accused a local Islamist extremist group, the National Thowheed Jamaath, of being behind a string of Easter bombings at churches and hotels that killed at least 290 people, and the United States pledged support for the investigation, dispatching FBI agents to help.” Suicide bombers carried out the attacks. Slater, Perera, and Harris add, “A Sri Lankan security official characterized Thowheed Jamaath as a shell for the Islamic State and said it has been active in Kattankudy, an area in the eastern part of the country and home to one of its largest Muslim populations.”
For The New Yorker, Eliza Griswold profiles Shane Claiborne, an evangelical activist whose faith is driving his calls for gun reform. In March, Claiborne and one of his friends published Beating Guns, which highlights white evangelicals’ promotion of gun culture. Griswold writes, “Claiborne believes that conservative culture often conflates Christianity and nationalism, placing, as he puts it, ‘the American flag above the cross.’” Griswold adds, “According to Claiborne, many evangelicals imagine Jesus in their own image, ‘as a white, middle-class Republican’ who shares their interests and fears.”