Links on R&P from around the web
Across the Country, a Push to Observe Muslim Holidays in School Calendarsposted on March 21, 2023
Alejandra Molina of Religion News Service reports that Muslims across the country are advocating to include Muslim holidays, particularly Eid Al-Fitr, in school calendars as days off. Three school districts currently close schools for the holiday, while others counsel teachers to reduce exams or projects on the holiday instead. Amaarah DeCuir, a professor at American University, said, “It’s important for Muslim students and their families to be part of school districts that see them and their religious identities as part of the religious, pluralistic landscape in our country.”
The Fight Over Two Freedomsposted on March 21, 2023
Kelsey Dallas of Deseret News reports that a pending Supreme Court case regarding a Christian website designer’s right to refuse to make websites for gay weddings could have far-reaching consequences. She writes, “In order to declare a winner, judges have had to and will have to determine how to balance a business owner’s rights with a customer’s rights, a conservative religious person’s rights with a gay person’s rights and state-level civil rights laws with the First Amendment.” The court is likely to rule in favor of the website designer, but the justices did not make the probable scope of the opinion clear in oral arguments.
Black, Evangelical, and Tornposted on March 21, 2023
For The New York Times Magazine, Caleb Gayle profiles the Rev. John Onwuchekwa, a Black preacher whose church left the Southern Baptist Convention over concerns about the denomination’s approach to race. He writes, “For Onwuchekwa, the fissure lies in the inability of the S.B.C. and white evangelicals to confront and make up for in tangible ways their historical and ongoing treatment of their congregants of color, especially Black people.” Other Black churches have remained part of the SBC and tried to affect change from within, though their efforts have been met with resistance from SBC leaders who have emphasized racial harmony rather than reconciliation in recent years.
Read at The New York Times Magazine
Johnny Hunt, Disgraced Former SBC Pastor, Sues Denomination He Once Ledposted on March 21, 2023
Bob Smietana of Religion News Service reports that Johnny Hunt, a former Southern Baptist pastor and denominational leader, is suing the Southern Baptist Convention for libel over allegations levied against him in a 2022 report. Hunt admits that a sexual encounter with another pastor’s wife occurred, but he claims that it was consensual. The report alleges that it was sexual assault. The SBC declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Wyoming Becomes First State to Outlaw the Use of Pills for Abortionposted on March 21, 2023
David W. Chen and Pam Belluck of The New York Times report, “Wyoming on Friday became the first state to explicitly ban the use of pills for abortion, adding momentum to a growing push by conservative states and anti-abortion groups to target medication abortion.” The law will charge healthcare providers who prescribe the medication with a misdemeanor, but it will not charge patients with a crime. Dr. Giovannina Anthony, an ob-gyn in Wyoming, said, “Criminalizing evidence-based medicine is really what this boils down to, and that, in the end, honestly, will lead to maternal deaths and horrible outcomes for both mothers and babies.”
Seeking Evangelicals’ Support Again, Trump Confronts a Changed Religious Landscapeposted on March 13, 2023
Charles Homans of The New York Times reports that Donald Trump is confronting a wavering of support from evangelical Americans after the overturning of Roe by a Supreme Court that he largely shaped. John Fea, a professor of history at Messiah University, said, “They tolerated a lot from Trump, and they refused to question him, because they knew there were bigger issues at stake. But now the slate has been wiped clean, and you have to rethink the question of, Is Trump worth it? Or has he done what we needed him to do?” A new poll shows that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s predicted toughest competitor in the Republican primary, is gaining support among evangelical voters.
Pope Francis at 10 Years: He Has Made His Mark, But Early Hope Has Fadedposted on March 13, 2023
Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli of The Washington Post report that Pope Francis is marking his tenth anniversary as pontiff. He has transformed church priorities to serve the vulnerable and protect the environment during his time at the Vatican. Francis has also been criticized by some conservative Catholics for his progressive stances on LGBTQ issues and by liberal Catholics for his handling of the sexual abuse crisis in the church. They write, “In leading the church, Francis has found himself caught between two poles, transforming too much for one side, not enough for the other. He has been a reformist pope — kind of. He is also a product of an institution that is almost always slow-moving.”
The Sinister New Talking Point Republicans Used to Grill Merrick Garlandposted on March 7, 2023
Molly Olmstead of Slate reports that Senate Republicans questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland on alleged anti-Catholic bias in the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley pointed to an internal memo from the field office in Richmond, Virginia, that cited traditionalist houses of Catholic worship as places of concern for domestic extremists. Olmstead argues, however, that Hawley misconstrued the meaning of the memo. She writes, “At no point does the memo imply that the threat is the radical traditionalists; rather, the threat is that ‘racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists’ will be attracted to—or otherwise find a home among—the radical traditionalists.”
The Mayor Talks Religion and Makes Wavesposted on March 7, 2023
James Barron of The New York Times reports that New York City Mayor Eric Adams is facing backlash after his comments disparaging the principle of the separation of church and state at an interfaith breakfast recently. Adams claimed that prayer should never have been banned in public schools and insisted that his election as mayor was divinely ordained. Some religious leaders in attendance were taken aback by the mayor’s position. One anonymous, retired Protestant minister told The Times, “‘The kind of religion hizzoner professes is one no serious clergy’ would embrace.”
For Many Congregations, Wiping Out Medical Debt Has Become a Popular Callingposted on March 7, 2023
Yonat Shimron of Religion News Service reports, “Helping ease medical debt, especially for people of color, is an increasingly popular social justice project among liberal Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations. Over the past few years some 800 U.S. congregations have partnered with RIP Medical Debt to do so.” The organization has paid off medical debt for more than 5.4 million Americans thus far. The initiative has wide appeal given the biblical mandate in many faith traditions to cyclically forgive debts. The Rev. Jim Harrison, a priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Midland, Michigan, said, “It’s love in action.”