The Associated Press’ Jeff Karoub and Noreen Nasir report that new seminaries are opening to train imams and combat the shortage of Islamic religious leaders in the United States. American mosques struggle to find imams with both a strong theological background and a knowledge of American culture. Ali Bazzi, a seminary student, explained what she looks for in an imam: “I need to make sure he speaks the language, he’s knowledgeable, he’s respectful, he’s truly caring and he’s trying to adapt to the country we live in.”
The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein reports that this year State Department employees established GRACE, the department’s first faith-based affinity group. Boorstein writes, “It has hosted events with evangelical speakers and runs a ‘mentorship ministry’ that brings together pairs of employees to focus on ‘how being a disciple of Christ impacts your professional experience at the State Department.’” Some critics of GRACE worry that the group breaks the separation between church and state.
The New York Times‘ Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman report that televangelist and prosperity gospel preacher Paula White will join the Trump administration in an official role. They write, “Her role will be to advise the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which Mr. Trump established last year by executive order and which aims to give religious groups more of a voice in government programs devoted to issues like defending religious liberty and fighting poverty.” White has been a spiritual adviser the president, though many evangelicals are divided on her view that “God blesses people he deems to be of strong faith with wealth, good health and other gifts.”
The Atlantic’s Emma Green reports on the efforts of Eric Lidji, a local Jewish archivist in Pittsburgh, to preserve the memory of the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting. After the shooting, Lidji began collecting artifacts ranging from makeshift memorials to funeral programs, and “I Voted” stickers. Green writes that “the Jewish people, Lidji explained, have been able to maintain continuity in part because their archives have let them ‘come back later and be reminded.’”
The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports that former Vice President Joe Biden was reportedly denied communion during a campaign stop at a Catholic church in South Carolina because he supports abortion rights. This incident is part of an ongoing debate within the Church over how to treat politicians who hold beliefs in conflict with church teachings. Bailey writes, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bishop, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, has suggested publicly that politicians who favor legal abortion should be refused Communion. But other church leaders, including Washington’s recently retired archbishop Donald Wuerl, have openly disagreed.”
The Associated Press’ Elaine Ganley reports that tensions are rising in the debate over whether Muslim headscarves should be allowed in public spaces in fiercely secular France. Recent incidents include a French official demanding that a mother remove her headscarf when accompanying her child on a school trip and a shooting at a mosque earlier this week that wounded two Muslims. Nicholas Cadene, who works for the government’s Observatory of Secularism, said, “We’re in a climate of a meeting of fears, emotions, instincts.” Ganley writes, “For Cadene, French society is growing polarized as one part increasingly turns away from religion while another, notably Muslims, grows more visible.”
Religion News Service’s Yonat Shimron writes, “Five Democratic candidates spoke Monday (Oct. 28) at the annual meeting of the liberal Jewish advocacy group J Street.” J Street supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Shimron reports that Bernie Sanders received a standing ovation from the crowd of 4,000 in Washington, D.C. Sanders is Jewish, but it was his “popularity with young people and his willingness to take a tough stand on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump, the settler movement and the failed peace process that won him support here,” Shimron writes.
For The Seattle Times, Tantri Wija reports that Wiccans are getting ready to celebrate Samhain—“the original Halloween, a modern(ish) version of an ancient Gaelic end-of-harvest festival.” Wicca combines modern ideas of naturalism and feminism with ancient Gaelic and Celtic traditions. “Wicca is kind of a mix of western magic and neopaganism,” says Robert Anderson, who runs a pagan bookstore and supplies shop. Samhain rituals may include a feast for the dead, a trance-like ritual, or tarot card readings.
The Associated Press reports that Pope Francis encouraged the church to “open new roads for the proclamation of the Gospel.” His remarks on Sunday came after South American bishops proposed allowing married men to be ordained as priests in the remote Amazon region, which would break with the Catholic Church’s tradition of clerical celibacy. The AP reports that the pope has said he will respond to the proposal by the end of the year. “He also cautioned against self-righteousness, in an apparent slap at conservative critics who fear he is weakening the church’s foundations,” the AP writes.
Slate’s Ruth Graham reports that evangelicals are embracing rapper Kanye West after the release of his new album, Jesus is King. Recently, West has hosted Sunday services, an invitation-only musical Christian experience, and he has expressed support for President Trump, which puts him politically in line with many evangelicals. “West is hardly the first artist to flirt with religion as an artistic phase,” Graham writes. “But he has provided plenty of signals that he is not just dabbling in God-language as a motif, but plunging into the distinct values and practices of 21st-century American evangelicalism.”