Mark Scolforo and Peter Smith of the Associated Press report, “A Pennsylvania grand jury in recent months accused nine men with connections to the Jehovah’s Witnesses of child sexual abuse in what some consider the nation’s most comprehensive investigation yet into abuse within the faith.” The proceedings have focused on structural barriers to reporting child sexual abuse within the community, a problem that critics say has plagued the religion for years. Jarrod Lopes, a spokesperson for the Church, denies any wrongdoing. Commentators have compared the current inquiry to the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury investigation into sexual abuse within the Catholic church which led to the first state-wide public report of its kind on the issue.
Adam Liptak of The New York Times reports, “The Supreme Court seemed poised on Tuesday to expand, though perhaps only slightly, religious workers’ protections for refusing to work on the Sabbath.” The court heard arguments in Groff v. DeJoy, a case brought under the Civil Rights Act by a former mailman who resigned from the Postal Service because his religious beliefs do not permit him to work on Sundays, as he was being asked to do. The justices searched for common ground between the parties, both of whom agreed that the current “de minimis” burden test is no longer the correct standard. Justice Gorsuch said, “I think there’s common ground, too, that de minimis can’t be the test, in isolation at least, because Congress doesn’t pass civil rights legislation to have de minimis effect, right?”
Amy Harmon, David W. Chen, and Ava Sasani of The New York Times report, “The Republican Party has struggled to contend with abortion since the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to the procedure last summer and sent abortion policy to the states.” The party is trying to strike a balance between appealing to its base, which supports further abortion restrictions, and the 65 percent of Americans that believe abortion should be legal. Mike DuHaime, the former political director of the Republican National Committee, said, “What Republicans need to do is get to a place where they talk less about the extremes.”
The Associated Press reports, “Thousands of people assembled Tuesday at the former site of Auschwitz for the March of the Living, a yearly Holocaust remembrance march that falls this year on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.” Holocaust survivors were among the participants that made the two-mile trek from the gates of the camp to the gas chambers at Birkenau. The event takes place on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day each year.
Ruth Graham of The New York Times reports that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appealed to young evangelicals in a speech at Liberty University last week, a venue that has served as a launch pad for recent Republican presidential hopefuls. Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a religious historian at evangelical Calvin University, said, “What I’m seeing is definite interest in DeSantis, but not a rejection of Trump.” Students at the event were supportive of DeSantis’s stability as a candidate but still felt that they did not fully understand the role that faith plays in his personal and professional life.
Adam Liptak of The New York Times reports that the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday in a suit from a former mailman who resigned from the Postal Service because his evangelical Christian beliefs barred him from working on Sundays, as he was required to do. The former postal worker, Gerald Groff, said, “I’m put into a situation where I have to choose to honor my earthly authority or do what I know is right to honor God.” The case will test the limits of the court’s previous ruling on Sabbath accommodations which only required employers to accommodate religious employees if the costs to the employer were functionally insignificant. The court’s composition has changed significantly since that ruling, however, and it has been receptive to religious parties in recent years.
Yonat Shimron of Religion News Service reports, “Beginning Saturday, abortion rights groups are assembling a series of rallies and protests in defense of mifepristone, an abortion pill a federal judge in Texas sought to suspend. Leading the charge are notable religious coalitions of Jews, Catholics and Hindus, as well as many ecumenical Christians.” The faith groups claim that the judge’s ruling preferences a sectarian Christian reading of the law over their sincerely held beliefs. Shannon Russell, the policy director for Catholics for Choice, said, “The idea that a court would determine when life begins reflects a narrow view of one religion and imposes Christian nationalism on all of us.”
Jack Jenkins of Religion News Service reports that Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, the two Democratic lawmakers expelled from the Tennessee legislature over a gun control protest on the house floor, have roots in liberal faith groups. Both lawmakers participated in the Poor People’s Campaign, an activist movement led by the Rev. William Barber. Jenkins writes, “At the heart of that activism is a faith-infused advocacy environment common in the South, where coalitions of local religious communities — particularly Black churches, mainline Protestants and interfaith organizations — often partner with national faith-led activist groups.” Both men have regained their seats in the state legislature after being reinstated by local councils.
Abbie VanSickle and Pam Belluck of The New York Times report, “The dramatic dueling rulings by two federal district judges on Friday about access to a widely used abortion pill set up a lower court conflict that legal experts say will almost certainly send the dispute to the Supreme Court.” The first order, from a Texas judge, held that the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, the most commonly used abortion drug in the United States, was improper and should be revoked. The second order, from a Washington state judge, held that access to mifepristone should not be altered. Samuel L. Bray, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, said, “The two decisions are in conflict and the conflict between them is not sustainable.”
Jintamas Saksornchai of the Associated Press reports, “More than 60 asylum-seeking members of a Chinese Christian church who were detained last week in Thailand are en route to the United States, a religious freedom advocate who has been aiding them said Friday.” The migrants, members of the Mayflower Church, allege that they faced persecution and harassment in China. Bob Fu, the president of ChinaAid, a Christian organization dedicated to advancing human rights in China, said, “We will not rest until religious freedom is fully realized in China.”