Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service, specializing in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality, and ethics.

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America Welcomes Christians, Jews; Atheists, Muslims Not So Much

LIfeWay Research / RNS

Graphic via LIfeWay Research / RNS

Americans are all for religious freedom — but disagree on who can claim it.

Diverse religious groups are recognized — but Christians and Jews are significantly more welcome than atheists, and many don’t see a welcome mat for Muslims. And not everyone means the same thing when speaking of a “Christian” nation.

So finds a new look at Americans’ religious self-image, detailed in a LifeWay Research survey released July 29.

The Hidden Ethics Battle in the Planned Parenthood Fetal Tissue Scandal

Dream Perfection / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Dream Perfection / Shutterstock.com

In a flood of outrage over Planned Parenthood videos — executives caught talking callously about supplying fetal tissue for medical research — some key points have washed out of attention, ethics experts say.

  • The use of fetal tissue in medical research is legal — and scientifically valuable.
  • It’s taxpayer-funded, to the tune of $76 million last year, and Planned Parenthood isn’t the only provider.
  • Done with dignity, it can be ethical, too, both religious and secular experts say.

But they also say there may be an unresolvable impasse in the public response: Can or should the leading provider of women’s health care be shut down in a showdown over the moral status of embryonic and fetal life?

Where’s the Bible in Harper Lee’s ‘Watchman’?

RNS

Harper Lee (center). Photo via RNS

Harper Lee’s “new” book Go Set a Watchman is infused with religious life and Christian moral argument, from its title to its final words.

It’s also a book with splashes of humor, enough Victorian poetry references to send readers scrambling for a Norton Anthology, and Bible allusions as the narrator of both novels, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, grows up to own her own life.

Examples (spoiler alert!) range from small moments to an epic showdown over race, justice, and sin in which Scout’s father, the saintly Atticus Finch of Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, is revealed, as David Gushee writes, as a “polite racist.”

United Church of Christ to Boycott Washington Redskins

Brad Mills / USA TODAY Sports / Reuters / RNS

Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson. Brad Mills / USA TODAY Sports / Reuters / RNS

The United Church of Christ, a progressive denomination, has called on its 1 million members to boycott Washington Redskins football games and merchandise until the team drops its controversial name and mascot.

The resolution, supported by several Native American tribes, passed June 29 at the denomination’s biennial summer synod in Cleveland.

Clue to Gay Marriage Ruling Was Threaded in Obamacare Opinion

PRRI / RNS

Image via PRRI / RNS

The Supreme Court ruling June 26 to legalize gay marriage rested in pragmatic legal reasoning, the same approach in the June 25 ruling on the Affordable Care Act — the decision that saved Obamacare from a “death spiral.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, author of the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision, described equal protection under the law as an inevitable step in the evolution of changing understandings of marriage across the centuries and essential for the safety and dignity of thousands of gay and lesbian couples and their children.

The Supreme Court ruling June 26 to legalize gay marriage rested in pragmatic legal reasoning, the same approach in the June 25 ruling on the Affordable Care Act — the decision that saved Obamacare from a “ death spiral.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, author of the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision, described equal protection under the law as an inevitable step in the evolution of changing understandings of marriage across the centuries and essential for the safety and dignity of thousands of gay and lesbian couples and their children.

Better Than Church? Religions’ Social Events Have Higher Purpose

Courtney Perry / RNS

An afternoon of Beer ‘N’ Hymns rocks the Beer Tent at a Christian music festival. Such events are growing in popularity, according to a report from Eventbrite. Photo via Courtney Perry / RNS

The Christian conference circuit has special appeal to women.

Jews and Muslims alike have dinners and parties organized around their holiday calendar.

And Buddhists and New Agers get heady: More than half of these groups’ sponsored events are classes and seminars, and meditation retreats.

Those are just a few of the revelations culled from a study conducted by Eventbrite, a company that markets tens of thousands of live experiences annually, from small workshops to massive music festivals.

Americans’ Confidence in Religion Hits a New Low

Courtesy Jason Benner/ Shutterstock.com

Overall, church/organized religion is now ranked in fourth place in the Gallup survey. Courtesy Jason Benner/ Shutterstock.com

Americans have less confidence in organized religion today than ever measured before — a sign that the church could be “losing its footing as a pillar of moral leadership in the nation’s culture,” a new Gallup survey finds.

“In the ’80s the church and organized religion were the No. 1″ in Gallup’s annual look at confidence in institutions, said Lydia Saad, author of the report released Wednesday.

Confidence, she said, “is a value judgment on how the institution is perceived, a mark of the amount of respect it is due.” A slight upsurge for Catholic confidence, for example, parallels the 2013 election and immense popularity of Pope Francis.

Like It or Not, Most Expect Gay Marriage Will Sweep the U.S.

Photo via Public Religion Research Institute / RNS

Legal status of, and support for, same-sex marriage in each state. Photo via Public Religion Research Institute / RNS

Most Americans — including people from every major religious group — predict gay marriage will be legalized nationwide when a hotly anticipated Supreme Court ruling is announced later this month.

Among those who favor legalizing same-sex marriage, 80 percent think the high court will rule their way, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute released June 11. And among those who oppose gay marriage, 47 percent say that’s the likely outcome, too.

Obama to Catholic Health Leaders: Only ‘Cynics’ Would Dismantle Health Reform

Photo via REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst / RNS

Sister Carol Keehan greets President Barack in Washington on June 9, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst / RNS

With some members of Congress and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell in the audience, Obama’s speech was entirely about the success of his signature legislation and the need to keep it alive.

Obama recited statistics on how many uninsured are now covered and on the economic value of “portable plans in a competitive marketplace.” But he anchored his speech in the faith-based association’s moral calling.

“What kind of country do we want to be?” he asked in a series of rhetorical questions:

Is access to care a commodity “only for the highest bidders?” Or is it “a fundamental right?”

Most Americans Look So Kindly on Churches, They Might Even Go Sometime

Photo via Twenty20 Inc / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Twenty20 Inc / Shutterstock.com

The findings show that as many as 45 percent of Americans will look at the church brand on the sign out front — Catholic or Baptist or Methodist or whatever — and drive past, thinking it is “not for me.”

And yet, McConnell said, the survey reveals an openness in most people — if not a very theologically deep one — to stopping by, even if they declare no religious identity, the “nones.”

“Many people view a church like the ice cream parlor down the road. They think, ‘When I’m in the mood, I can go.’ Church leaders can take it as good news: People haven’t ruled them out. But they have to be a little unsettled at how little people are thinking about this,” said McConnell.

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