Heather Hollingsworth of the Associated Press reports that some health care workers who oppose the Covid-19 vaccine are utilizing religious exemptions to avoid vaccine mandates. Vaccine mandates have left hospitals in difficult positions, forcing them to choose between granting religious exemptions while having unvaccinated employees or suffering staffing shortages. Some medical workers fear that their coworkers are abusing the religious exemptions. Marcella Dahl, a primary care physician in Sidney, Montana, said, “Half of the people saying this don’t even go to church. I think it puts everybody at risk.”
West Virginia School District Says Students’ Rights Were Violated During Religious Gathering on Campusposted on February 15, 2022
Alisha Ebrahimji of CNN reports, “Some students’ rights were violated during a revival assembly led by an evangelical preacher at a high school, a West Virginia school district investigating the gathering said in a statement.” The Fellowship of Christian Athletes held the assembly at Huntington High School on February 2, and a Jewish student told CNN that an evangelical preacher asked them to give their lives to Jesus. The school district superintendent’s statement read, “The district honors students’ rights to express their views. The district also respects students’ rights to religious expression. However, forcing religious expression on those with differing beliefs is not acceptable and is not in alignment with district, state, or federal policy and will not be tolerated by my administration or the Board of Education.”
For Religion News Service, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware writes about the importance of President Biden’s reestablishment of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He writes, “In the year since its reestablishment, it has been part of the administration’s efforts to bring people of all backgrounds and faiths together, to connect both faith-based and secular organizations to efforts addressing racial injustice, supporting global humanitarian work, promoting pluralism and combating the pandemic.” He continues, “It is a key part of the administration’s work, in President Biden’s words, ‘to heal the soul of our nation.’”
Jacob Kornbluh of The Forward reports, “Seven months after Deborah E. Lipstadt was nominated to serve as the nation’s antisemitism envoy, Senate Republicans defended their holdup of her confirmation hearing,” which took place on February 8. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin pointed to one of Lipstadt’s tweets that accused him of white supremacy as the reason for his opposition. Jewish American groups have criticized the delay, especially in light of the rising levels of antisemitism both nationally and globally.
David Brooks of The News York Times argues that American evangelicalism is in crisis and needs saving from those inside the community. Disagreements over racism, sexual abuse, and evangelical support for Donald Trump are dividing evangelicals. Tim Dalrymple, the president of Christianity Today, told Brooks, “One of the most surprising elements is that I’ve realized that the people who I used to stand shoulder to shoulder with on almost every issue, I now realize that we are separated by a yawning chasm of mutual incomprehension. I would never have thought that could have happened so quickly.” Brooks writes, “Christians are supposed to believe in the spiritual unity of the church. While differing over politics and other secondary matters, they are in theory supposed to be unified by their shared first love—as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Margaret Talbot of The New Yorker profiles Justice Amy Coney Barrett and the conservative Christian legal movement that helped shape her views. Penny Nance, head of Concerned Women for America, told Talbot that Barrett is “more embedded in the conservative Christian legal movement than any Justice we’ve ever had.” Barrett’s critics often focus on her conservative views and Catholic faith. Talbot concludes, “The Justices aren’t partisan hacks, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t political. Barrett may be pursuing her goals more slowly, and more cautiously, than Alito. But what’s the hurry? She has plenty of time.”
Alejandra Molina of Religion News Service reports that some clergy are working as intermediaries between employers and labor unions. One such clergy member, the Rev. Sinclair Oubre, said, “We can actually put to life our Catholic social teaching regarding work in a real, concrete way. There’s this idea of cooperation, of dialogue, of collective bargaining to working toward the common good.” Clergy have long protested for workers’ rights, but in a new role, some are validating signatures and counting union membership cards as part of the “card check process,” which establishes a company’s employees as union members.
Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post reports, “From prominent clergy to regular people in the pews, far more nuanced and varied perspectives about abortion are being voiced across the religious spectrum, many for the first time.” The response comes as new laws around the country restrict access to abortion. Mary Ziegler, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, said, “It’s easy for a lot of people to talk about what you should do when it’s not illegal. Now states can really punish people. I think for people of faith, ethical and religious arguments will be really central to that. Criminal law is intersecting with questions of morality and faith.”
Luis Andres Henao, Peter Smith, and David Crary of The Associated Press report, “The uproar over Whoopi Goldberg’s remarks about the Holocaust has catalyzed somber reflections by many American Jews about not only the legacy of the Holocaust but anti-Jewish discrimination in the United States and their sense of a collective identity.” ABC suspended Goldberg for two weeks for saying that the Holocaust was not about race. Lauren Bairnsfather, director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, where the deadly 2018 Tree of Life synagogue massacre took place, said, “Race is a made-up construct, but racism is very real.” She noted “that Adolf Hitler based his racial laws in Nazi Germany partly on Jim Crow laws targeting African Americans in the U.S.”
Amy B. Wang of The Washington Post reports that President Biden focused on national unity in his address to attendees at the National Prayer Breakfast last Thursday. At the annual event, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also read Scripture from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Biden said in his remarks, “Whether in a synagogue or a church or a mosque or a temple, whether you’re religious or not, we’re all imperfect human beings trying our best, the best we can because we can’t know the future. We can’t know what’s coming. We also can’t live in fear every step of the way. That’s America.”