Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national correspondent at RNS.
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Black Clergy Decry Trump Policies as Detrimental to African Americans
At a news conference on May 15, in front of the United Methodist Building, leaders of congregations and denominations called on fellow African Americans to speak up, and urged Congress to vote down proposed plans by the new administration that they believe help the rich and hurt the sick and the poor.
Religious Liberty Executive Order Draws Mixed Reviews
“America is a deeply religious country because religious freedom and tolerance of divergent religious views thrive. President Trump’s efforts to promote religious freedom are thinly-veiled efforts to unleash his conservative religious base into the political arena while also using religion to discriminate. It’s a dual dose of pandering to a base and denying reproductive care.”
The Bible — Helpful, but Not Read Much
The Bible may be a source of wisdom for many Americans, but most don’t read it for themselves, a new survey shows.
More than half have read little or none of it, reports LifeWay Research.
“Even among worship attendees, less than half read the Bible daily,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of the evangelical research firm based in Nashville, Tenn.
“The only time most Americans hear from the Bible is when someone else is reading it.”
Majority of Americans Concerned About Violence Against Jews, Muslims
For the first time, a majority of Americans has voiced concern about violence against Jews, polling by the Anti-Defamation League shows.
While 52 percent of Americans surveyed said they are disturbed about such violence, an even higher percentage — 76 percent — said they are concerned about violence against Muslims.
Unitarian Universalist President Resigns Amid Diversity Controversy
The Rev. Peter Morales, the first Latino president of the liberal and theologically diverse association, resigned effective on April 1, as criticism mounted over hiring practices.
“It is clear to me that I am not the right person to lead our Association as we work together to create the processes and structures that will address our shortcomings and build the diverse staff we all want,” he wrote in his March 30 resignation letter to the UUA’s trustee board.
Still No Sign of Leader for White House Faith Partnership Office
Since winning the election with strong support from conservative evangelical voters, President Trump has invited their leaders to the White House, and banned government funding for groups that support or perform abortions overseas.
But he has yet to move on one item that many of them care about.
No one has been named to direct the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which, since 2001, has linked government with a broad range of religious groups.
Conservative and Liberal Groups Call for Rights for Returning Citizens
A national prison ministry is joining forces with conservative and liberal groups to call on church leaders and politicians to give former prisoners a second chance at normal lives.
“We believe people with a past can rise from their failure, repay their debt, and restore and heal our communities that are affected by crime,” said Craig DeRoche, senior vice president of Prison Fellowship, as he launched the first “Second Chance Month.”
Survey: Some Protestant Pastors Preach on Race; Most Leave It to Others
“It seems like most congregations are eager for somebody else to do the work of reconciliation,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, “rather than embrace it for themselves.”
The vast majority of pastors (90 percent) said their churches would welcome a sermon about racial reconciliation. But almost three-quarters of pastors — 73 percent — say they have not been encouraged by church leaders to preach about reconciliation. A quarter (26 percent) said they have been urged to address the issue from the pulpit.
Russell Moore, Southern Baptist Ethics Agency Seek ‘Unity’
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission have affirmed ethicist Russell Moore, despite his criticism of President Trump that caused some to consider withholding funds from the denomination.
“For us not to stand in affirmation of the principles that Dr. Moore has espoused would be unfaithful to the mission entrusted to us by the Convention,” wrote the Executive Committee of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in a statement posted on March 20, on the website of the agency that Moore leads.
Religious Leaders Urge Congress to Protect Foreign Aid
Religious leaders, including some who spoke at President Trump’s inauguration, are calling on Congress to protect foreign aid that helps the needy across the globe.
Trump’s 2018 budget proposal calls for $25.6 billion in funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. That’s a decrease of $10.1 billion, or 28 percent, from the 2017 budget.
Married Lesbian Baptist Co-Pastors Say All Are ‘Beloved’
In her sermon on the last Sunday of Black History Month, the Rev. Maria Swearingen preached about her belief that black lives, “queer lives,” and immigrant lives matter.
And since it also was Transfiguration Sunday, she pointed to the story in the Gospel of Matthew where God declared Jesus “beloved.” That is a term, she said, that can be used for everyone.
‘Trumpet Call from the Podium’: Black Faith Leaders Vow to Resist
The Rev. Leah Daughtry stood in front of fellow black Christian leaders and told them they will need to work harder for social justice.
“If you’ve been feeding them, now clothe them,” said the Pentecostal pastor and 2016 CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee at a conference last week. “If you’ve been clothing them, now console them. If you’ve been at a march, now lead the march. If you’ve been at a rally, now organize the rally.”
Doug Coe, Leader of National Prayer Breakfast, Dead at 88
“In a town where powerful people are constantly trying to increase their name recognition and their brand, Doug Coe was the opposite of that,” said Michael Cromartie, director of the Evangelicals in Civic Life program at Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center. “He was a man who liked to work behind the scenes, who did not call attention to himself, who was a sort of a pastor to people in power.”
Constitutionality of Leaked Executive Order on Religious Freedom Called Into Question
The former U.S. religious freedom ambassador told a congressional subcommittee that leaked language of a proposed presidential executive order on religious liberty could cause “constitutional problems.”
“I think it raises very serious equal protection issues,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, who recently ended his tenure at the U.S. State Department.
Yazidi Lawmaker Receives Human Rights Prize, Calls Travel Ban 'Unfair'
Receiving a prestigious human rights prize, an Iraqi lawmaker, who gained international attention for her oppressed Yazidi religious minority, decried the Trump administration’s “unfair” executive order on immigration.
'Life Is Winning in America Today,' Pence Tells March for Life Crowd
A week after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, throngs of anti-abortion marchers gathered near the White House to applaud his administration’s actions and his plans to support their cause.
'We Shall Not Be Moved' Marchers Honor King, Fight Fear of Trump
Crying out “no justice, no peace,” crowds joined the Rev. Al Sharpton in a weekend march towards the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, vowing not to let President-elect Donald Trump turn back strides made by the civil rights leader.
The mostly African-American throng — smaller than the thousands expected, due to the steady rain — heard from civic and religious leaders about key areas of concern: health care, voting rights, economic equality, and police brutality and reform.
President Obama Designates Historic Civil Rights Sites Including Black Churches
In one of his last official acts, President Obama has designated Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and other civil rights landmarks in Birmingham, Ala., as the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.
The designation protects the historic A.G. Gaston Motel in that city, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders had their 1963 campaign headquarters, as well as Kelly Ingram Park, where police turned hoses and dogs on civil rights protesters. And it includes the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where four girls died in 1963, after the Ku Klux Klan detonated 19 sticks of dynamite outside the church basement.
In His Own Words: President Obama on Faith
“This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this ‘Amazing Grace’ calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness, for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short.”
Army: Soldiers Can Wear Turbans, Beards, Hijabs
New Army regulations will allow soldiers to wear turbans, beards and hijabs under most circumstances, reflecting a change Sikhs have sought for years.
“Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations,” wrote Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning in a Tuesday (Jan. 3) memo.
In March, the Army concluded that permitting beards for medical reasons but banning them for religious reasons is a discriminatory bar to service for Sikhs, who are forbidden by their faith to cut their hair and beards.