People participate in a protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban, in New York City, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Tuesday's ruling by U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco was the latest blow to Trump's efforts to toughen immigration enforcement. Federal courts have also blocked his two travel bans on citizens of mostly Muslim nations.

Image via UMNS/Mike DuBose

The United Methodist Church will hold a special session of its General Conference to settle questions of LGBTQ inclusion that have vexed the global denomination for years.

The announcement came on April 25, the same day the denomination’s highest court held a hearing on whether an openly gay pastor can serve as bishop.

The General Conference, the United Methodist Church’s top legislative body, typically meets every four years. At last year’s meeting in Portland, Ore., it voted to defer all decisions about human sexuality to a specially appointed commission and left the door open for a special session.

Layton E. Williams 4-25-2017
Margaret Atwood holds a slate while laughing with Elizabeth Moss during filming of The Handmaid's Tale series.

Image courtesy of Hulu.

Williams: ... You alluded earlier to how groups purporting to be Christian, like in your novel, are not really a legitimate representation of Christianity. I'm wondering if you could say a bit more about how you believe faith can also be a force for good? And whether it can serve as a primary vehicle for justice?

Atwood: No question. I mean, early Christianity was egalitarian. And it was also very courageous because it underwent various persecutions, as you know, and so it also had its own underground. … Of course faith can be a force for good and often has been. So faith is a force for good particularly when people are feeling beleaguered and in need of hope. So you can have bad iterations and you can also have the iteration in which people have got too much power and then start abusing it. But that is human behavior, so you can't lay it down to religion.

Photo via Hira Hyder/ Religion News Service 

Copts are the largest minority population in the Middle East and make up 10 percent to 15 percent of Egypt’s population. Founded in the first century by St. Mark the Apostle, it is believed to be one of the oldest Christian denominations in the world.

Kaya Oakes 4-25-2017

I interviewed a dozen Christian millennials from different denominational backgrounds about these questions, and found that most of them disagree with the idea that government should be borrowing ideas from business in terms of how it operates.

California "weed nun" Christine Meeusen, 57, who goes by the name Sister Kate (L), and India Delgado, who goes by the name Sister Eevee, trim hemp in the kitchen at Sisters of the Valley near Merced, California, U.S., April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Based near the town of Merced in the Central Valley, which produces over half of the fruit, vegetables, and nuts grown in the United States, the Sisters of the Valley grow and harvest their own cannabis plants.

Jack Jones (left) and Marcel Williams, image courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS

Arkansas carried out back-to-back executions on Monday night, administering lethal injections to two men convicted of rape and murder to become the first U.S. state to put more than one inmate to death on the same day in 17 years. Marcel Williams, 46, was pronounced dead at 10:33 CDT, a little more than three hours after the execution of 52-year-old Jack Jones, according to officials at Cummins Unit prison, about 75 miles southeast of the state capital, Little Rock.


Inmates Bruce Ward(top row L to R), Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones (bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams and Jason Mcgehee are shown in these booking photo provided March 21, 2017. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS
 

Arkansas, which has not conducted an execution in 12 years, at one point had planned to execute eight inmates in 11 days, the most of any state in as short a period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Image via RNS/Creative Commons/Jason Howie

What a Christian author started on a whim rapidly turned into a whirlwind. Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Review the Bible’s View of Women, created a Twitter hashtag on April 18 called #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear. She kicked it off with a couple things that have been addressed to her.

the Web Editors 4-19-2017

Bill O’Reilly, host of the O'Reilly Factor, will leave Fox News, the channel's parent company announced today. The move comes after several sexual harassment complaints and a subsequent loss of corporate sponsors.

“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” a statement from 21st Century Fox read.

The Supreme Court is seen ahead of the Senate voting to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch as an Associate Justice in Washington, DC, U.S. April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

The case, which examines the limits of religious freedom under the U.S. Constitution, is one of the most important before the court in its current term. It also marks the biggest test to date for the court's newest justice, President Donald Trump's appointee Neil Gorsuch.

the Web Editors 4-18-2017

Image via Rainier Martin Ampongan / Shutterstock 
 

Rutledge claims that nothing is in place preventing the next five executions, according to the AP. She says she will continue to fight against any legal challenges hindering the executions.

Image via RNS/Tyrone Turner

A new study shows there may be more than twice as many atheists in the U.S. than previous studies have found.

The report by two University of Kentucky scholars suggests that because people may be embarrassed to admit they don’t believe in God, the number of Americans who say they are non-believers may be artificially low. Polls from Gallup, Pew, and Barna have reported that number between 3 and 10 percent.

Image via RNS/ACNS/Scott Gunn

John, a 64-year-old theologian and dean of St. Albans Cathedral, has made no secret of his own homosexuality, and is in a civil partnership with another priest, a relationship he says is celibate. He has also made clear his support for same-sex marriage.

That has made John the subject of hard-liners’ ire. Supporters say his honesty about his homosexuality, and his views about same-sex marriage, have cost him the bishop’s seat, while some other bishops are known to be “quietly gay.”

Kaitlin Curtice 4-17-2017

What if Easter is our starting over point, our "New Year" packed with resolutions to begin again in the ways of grace? What if Easter for us is like those days for Barabbas, those days after he watched this innocent man die on a cross and find him after he'd resurrected? What began again in Barabbas, what new life and fresh perspective?

Image via RNS/Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

Pope Francis used his traditional Easter Sunday message to call the bombing of a refugee convoy near Aleppo, Syria, a “despicable attack”, and urged world leaders to “prevent the spread of conflicts” despite mounting tensions in Syria and North Korea.

In his Easter blessing, known as “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”), the pope urged the faithful to remember “all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine, and oppressive regimes.”

the Web Editors 4-17-2017

Image via mikeledray/Shutterstock.com

An analysis by the 2016 American National Election Study has revealed that racism played a bigger part in Trump’s election than authoritarianism, reports the Washington Post.

The 2016 American National Election Study consisted of about 1,200 people from across the U.S. answering survey questions for more than an hour, the questions structured to reveal their political leanings.

the Web Editors 4-17-2017

Image via fpolat69/Shutterstock.com

On April 15 a bomb attack struck buses that were transporting evacuees to safety from dangerous Syrian towns, reports BBC News. The attack killed 128 people, at least 68 of whom were children. The attack occurred at a transfer point for the evacuees.

As of yet, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and it is believed that Syrian rebels are not to blame, since some of their supporters were slated to evacuate from those same Syrian towns.

the Web Editors 4-15-2017

Inmates Bruce Ward(top row L to R), Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones (bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams, and Jason Mcgehee. Scheduled to be executed in Arkansas, beginning April 17. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS

A U.S. judge in Little Rock on Saturday temporarily blocked plans by Arkansas to hold a rapid series of executions this month, after the inmates argued the state's rush to the death chamber was unconstitutional and reckless.

Amanda Maldonado, right, reads a poem about refugees during a ‘Women for Syria’ vigil in northwest Washington on Thursday. Photo by Maryam Saleh/Medill News Service

About 100 small groups of Syrian refugee activists held vigils Thursday evening to send a message to President Donald Trump that accepting refuges from Syria is at least as important as taking military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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