The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Barber profiles Jean Bellini, a nun who moved from upstate New York to Brazil in 1976 at age 33. Bellini joined the Pastoral Land Commission (C.P.T.), a Catholic group that supports indigenous peoples in claiming land that has been taken from them or is being destroyed. Barber writes, “Jean Bellini is a nun who believes that God made us free, and that we’ve used our freedom poorly. We’ve used it to create colonialism, capitalism, and other systems that exploit the poor and reward the rich; we’ve used it to build a world in which some people have too much and others have nothing. Now, we’re in a fix.”
The New York Times’s Liam Stack reports that Orthodox Jews are more at risk of hate crimes than the larger Jewish community because their religious clothing makes them easily identifiable as Jewish. Stack also reports that anti-Semitism is on the rise, and that “Jewish people were the victims in more than half of the 428 hate crimes in New York City last year.” Anti-Defamation League chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt said, “We know there are over one million Jews in New York City alone, and a couple hundred thousand of those are Orthodox. They are being singled out in disproportionate numbers to their percentage of the population.”
For The Atlantic, Garrett Epps writes about the abortion case, June Medical Services v. Russo, that will come up at the Supreme Court next month. The case is similar to the 2016 case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which dealt with a Texas law that “would have closed half of the clinics in Texas that offer abortion services,” Epps writes. The case was ruled unconstitutional, but in the wake of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s resignation, the court has been reshaped by the Trump administration’s appointments. Epps argues that June Medical Services v. Russo could end differently by further restricting abortion in conservative states.
The Associated Press’s Elana Schor reports that Democratic candidates continue to utilize a popular Bible passage, Matthew 25, for their campaigns. Pete Buttigieg used the verses in a television ad in South Carolina, saying, “Whatever happened to, ‘I was hungry and you fed me? I was a stranger and you welcomed me?’” According to Schor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also cited Matthew 25 “more than a half-dozen times in public forums since her campaign started, including last week at a New Hampshire town hall when she urged a more compassionate immigration policy.”
For The Atlantic, Maggie Bullock profiles Candice Russell, an abortion-rights activist, and Willie Parker, a Christian Ob-Gyn and prominent abortion provider. In March of 2019, Russell wrote an article on the website Medium calling Parker a sexual predator and accusing him of rape. Parker has denied the allegations, saying the sex between he and Russell was consensual. Though groups like Planned Parenthood have supported Russell after her allegations, the accusations have complicated both the #MeToo and abortion-rights movements. “Its tentacles stretch much further, bringing into the open generational and, to an extent, racial divisions in our rapidly shifting views on sexual assault—the kinds of questions and doubts that are typically expressed only in private,” Bullock writes.
The Associated Press’s David Crary reports that many U.S. corporations are creating religious resource groups for employees. “Corporate American is at a tipping point toward giving religion similar attention to that given the other major diversity categories,” Brian Grim, founder and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, said. Started in 2017 by Salesforce, Faithforce is one such religious resource group. Its founder Farah Siddiqui says, “We’re a very inclusive group. If someone has something interesting to share, we share it. There is no proselytizing.”
The New York Times’s Jeremy W. Peters reports that Republican Sen. Mitt Romney’s vote to convict Trump has not diminished much of his support in his home state. Though some have called for Romney’s actions to be censured by the Utah state government, the measure seems to be unpopular. “Utah is one of the rare places where the few Romney-style Republicans who remain are relatively safe from a challenge from their right, where speaking out against the president can be an act to admire, not an apostasy,” Peters writes.
The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey report that President Trump’s speech at the National Prayer breakfast seemed to criticize Sen. Mitt Romney, who cited his faith while voting to impeach the president, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said she prays for the president even as she moved to impeach him. “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” Trump said. “Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so.” The breakfast is an annual bipartisan event where the president speaks, usually giving a message of unity. Trump, however, “used his time as a campaign speech and to slam his opponents,” Boorstein and Pulliam Bailey write.
Religion News Service’s Jack Jenkins and Emily McFarlan Miller report that Romney referenced his Mormon faith and “an oath before God” in explaining his vote to convict Trump in the impeachment trial. “[M]y promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience,” Romney said. Jenkins and McFarlan write, “His appeal to faith is likely to find a receptive audience among his fellow members of The Church of the Latter-day Saints in the Beehive State.”
The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins was the first to interview Sen. Mitt Romney about his vote to convict Trump in the impeachment trial. “Throughout the trial, he said, he was guided by his father’s favorite verse of Mormon scripture: Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good,” Coppins writes. Ultimately, Romney found himself unconvinced by Trump’s defense and unable to ignore the evidence against Trump. “I have gone through a process of very thorough analysis and searching, and I have prayed through this process,” he told Coppins. “But I don’t pretend that God told me what to do.”