The New York Times’s Michael Crowley reports that President Trump will speak at Friday’s March for Life rally in Washington. He will be the first president to do so after being the first president to give a video speech at the rally in 2018. Crowley writes that as Trump, who once identified as pro-choice, “has battled for political survival in the face of multiple investigations and a re-election campaign, he has made increasingly warm overtures to evangelicals and sought to cast himself as the most firmly anti-abortion president in at least a generation.”
Major Evangelical Nonprofits Are Trying a New Strategy with the IRS That Allows Them to Hide Their Salariesposted on January 23, 2020
The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports that several evangelical nonprofit organizations have changed their IRS status from “nonprofit” to “church.” The news was first reported by MinistryWatch, “an independent, donor-based group that monitors evangelical institutions.” The status change allows the organizations’ finances to remain private. They are not required to disclose how they spend their money and what salaries are for their top employees. “Transparency and accountability send an important message to the world, which is why this trend is so potentially destructive,” said MinistryWatch Spokesperson Warren Cole Smith.
The Associated Press’s Jeff Amy reports that celebrations in Atlanta for the recent Martin Luther King Jr. holiday seemed split by party lines, as Republican and Democratic politicians gathered at King’s former church Ebenezer Baptist. Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler focused on “King’s legacy of service and political empowerment” while the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a possible opponent of Loeffler’s in the next Senate election, called on King’s memory to urge “more radical action.” Despite his low African American support, Trump put his own spin on the holiday with a celebratory tweet highlighting low rates of African American unemployment.
The New York Times’s Stephanie Saul reports from former Vice President Joe Biden’s Sunday visit to Bethlehem Baptist Church, a black congregation in South Carolina, where the presidential candidate is a favorite to win the Democratic primary. Biden invoked the KKK alongside the president and compared the current political climate to violence against black Americans in the 1960s. Saul writes, “His remarks to the 1,300-member congregation were among the strongest condemnations of the president to date in a campaign season in which a number of leading candidates have harshly criticized the president’s posture on race and immigration.”
United Methodist Church Is Expected to Split Over Gay Marriage, Fracturing the Nation’s Third-Largest Denominationposted on January 3, 2020
The Washington Post‘s Julie Zauzmer reports that leaders within the United Methodist Church have come to a tentative agreement to split the denomination over LGBT clergy and same-sex marriage. She writes, “Leaders of the church announced Friday they had agreed to spin off a ‘traditionalist Methodist’ denomination, which would continue to oppose same-sex marriage and to refuse ordination to LGBT clergy, while allowing the remaining portion of the United Methodist Church to permit same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for the first time in its history.” The mediation was facilitated by a law firm in D.C. The plan will still need to be approved at the United Methodist conference in May.
The New York Times‘s Elizabeth Dias reports that evangelical magazine Christianity Today published an editorial on Thursday calling for President Trump’s removal from office. It was written by Mark Galli, the retiring editor-in-chief. Dias writes that the surprising editorial is “unlikely to signal a significant change in Mr. Trump’s core support; the magazine has long represented more centrist thought.” Frequent Trump defender Franklin Graham, who is the son of the magazine’s co-founder Billy Graham, said, “My father would be embarrassed.” Trump himself derided the magazine on Twitter on Friday as “far left.”
Buzzfeed‘s Anne Helen Petersen reports that Jubilee Baptist, a church in North Carolina, has relaunched itself as a “quasi-socialist, anti-racist, LGBTQ-affirming church.” The congregation gives out grants for debt forgiveness while criticizing capitalism and systems of injustice. Its name is taken from the biblical tradition of the Jubilee year when debts were forgiven. “What Jubilee Baptist is doing isn’t new,” Petersen writes. “It just might feel that way because so many other churches, specifically the churches that have catered to the bourgeois and the comfortably middle-class, have not prioritized that obligation for years.”
The Washington Post‘s Jon Swaine, Douglas MacMillan, and Michelle Boorstein report, “A former investment manager alleges in a whistleblower complaint to the Internal Revenue Service that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has amassed about $100 billion in accounts intended for charitable purposes, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Washington Post.” They continue, “The confidential document, received by the IRS on Nov. 21, accuses church leaders of misleading members — and possibly breaching federal tax rules — by stockpiling their surplus donations instead of using them for charitable works. It also accuses church leaders of using the tax-exempt donations to prop up a pair of businesses.”
The Atlantic‘s Emma Green writes about the many recent incidents of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence, including yesterday’s deadly shooting at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey. Later the same day, reports about the Trump administration’s planned executive order targeting anti-Semitism on college campuses also sparked widespread debate. Green writes, “This is the pernicious nature of anti-Semitism: It emerges in many different forms, from all sides of the political spectrum.” She adds, “Anti-Semitism is terrifying because of its myriad forms, and for its ability to sow division among Jews themselves. But it is also terrifying because it is not possible to solve, and it never goes away.”
The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung, Steve Hendrix, and John Hudson report, “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the Trump administration had determined that Israel’s West Bank settlements do not violate international law, a decision he said had ‘increased the likelihood’ of a Middle East peace settlement.” It has been U.S. policy for more than 40 years to say that Israeli expansion is an obstacle to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. DeYoung, Hendrix, and Hudson write, “More than 700,000 settlers have taken up residence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 war. Both areas are claimed by Palestinians for a future state.”