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White House Confirms Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. on Education Task Force

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The Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, will be part of a planned task force on higher education, the White House confirmed. According to Falwell, who spoke to the Chronicle of Higher Education, he will be one of 15 college presidents who will participate. Falwell told Politico, “We haven’t had any substantive discussions on the issues yet.”

China, Once Officially Atheist, Now Booming with Religion

China is experiencing “one of the great religious revivals of our time,” Johnson writes. “Across China, hundreds of temples, mosques, and churches open each year, attracting millions of new worshippers. … Faith and values are returning to the center of a national discussion over how to organize Chinese life.

“This is not,” he continues, “the China we used to know.”

Jesuits in South Dakota Return Land to Sioux Tribe

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The Jesuit-run St. Francis Mission, which serves the Lakota peoples in south-central South Dakota, announced it will return about 500 acres to the Rosebud Sioux tribe, a band of Lakotas with a reservation in the same area.

The land was given to the Jesuits in the 19th century by the U.S. government. It is in multiple parcels across several counties, and includes some now-closed churches and other church structures.

Hashtag About Christian Women Highlights Misogyny in the Church

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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.

New Study Reveals Growth in Population of American Atheists

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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.

Why Won’t Mike Pence Eat Alone with a Woman Who Is Not His Wife?

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A recent Washington Post profile of Karen Pence mentioned that her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, never eats alone with another woman or goes without her to events where alcohol is being served.

Twitter erupted with outrage and ridicule.

But the Indiana Republican’s practice is not unusual in many conservative Christian circles. As Emma Green pointed out in The Atlantic, it likely stems from something called “the Billy Graham Rule,” named for the 98-year-old international evangelist. Nor is it that much different in intention from the practices of conservative Jews and Muslims.

New York Church Provides Sanctuary for Undocumented Immigrants

Image via RNS/Rev. Justo Gonzalez II

The Trump administration’s hard-line stance on undocumented immigrants is polarizing: People have responded with either “throw the bums out” or “have a heart.” But the question of whether faith communities can legally offer the undocumented physical sanctuary — sheltering them in churches, synagogues, and mosques to keep them from immigration authorities — is not so cut and dry. 

A Battle with Islamophobia

3 Muslim Americans on Their Lives Today

Photo courtesy of Reuters/Nancy Wiechec/ RNS

This wave of Islamophobia has hit hard. Anti-Muslim sentiment was never absent from America. From the time Muslims first came as slaves in the 1600s, there have been times when anti-Muslim attitudes have bubbled over. This is one of those times.

Trump Travel Ban Orders a Report on Honor Killings in U.S.

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“It is a thinly-veiled reference to stereotypes about Islam and Muslims,” said Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “This reference to honor killings is part of a broader effort to smear an entire faith by the extreme acts of a few and its inclusion in this order bolsters the argument that this is simply another attempt at a Muslim ban.”

Reza Aslan Might Make a ‘Believer’ Out of You

And that is the point of Believer — to use Aslan’s hip-deep immersion in some obscure corner of the faith world to show that people of different religious persuasions — even the ones generally considered marginal, dangerous, or just plain “out there” — have more in common than they know.

Mahershala Ali Becomes First Muslim to Win Acting Oscar

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With his win for portraying a drug dealer with a father’s heart in the film Moonlight, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to take home an acting Oscar.

Ali, 43, won in the Best Supporting Actor category on Feb. 26, topping much bigger names, including Jeff Bridges, nominated for Hell or High Water, and Dev Patel, nominated for Lion.

Where Are God's Borders?

“Are we going to have to worry about ICE agents swooping down on our clients on distribution day?” he said. “What if my congregation chose to offer sanctuary to an immigrant facing deportation? Would we have to worry about immigration officers and sheriff’s deputies kicking down our front door?”

Bishop Mark Beckwith, who heads the Episcopal Diocese of Newark in New Jersey, says at least 10 of the 100 congregations in his diocese have parishioners who are affected by the new policies. He described a heightened sense of urgency as his diocese investigates what its collective response should be.

“What is so upsetting about this is we don’t know what a safe space is,” he said, citing uncertainty about whether the traditional status of churches as sanctuaries will be respected. “We need to move as fast as these executive orders are moving. That’s the challenge. We are grounded in our biblical faith and we need to respond.”

Swastikas Began as Symbols of Peace. Can They Ever Be Redeemed?

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In one weekend, the swastika appeared in public places in three U.S. cities — HoustonChicago, and New York. The sight was so offensive, average New Yorkers pulled out hand sanitizer and tissues to wipe the graffiti from the walls of the subway where it had been scrawled.

“Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone,” one subway rider who was there said. He added, “Everyone kind of just did their jobs of being decent human beings.”

Free Speech Fairness Act Would Enable Tax-Exempt Churches to Endorse Political Candidates

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The day before President Trump used his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast to promise a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, a bill was introduced in Congress to effectively do that. It has not yet been scheduled for debate or a vote.

The Free Speech Fairness Act is being touted as a “fix” to the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that prohibits nonprofits from engaging in politics. But how much of a fix would the act be? Would it offer a First Amendment right of free speech to clergy — or trample the same First Amendment’s guarantee of a separation between church and state?

Trump Vows to Let Tax-Exempt Churches Engage in Politics

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President Donald Trump vowed to make good on a campaign promise to repeal the law that restricts political speech from the pulpit, speaking at his first National Prayer Breakfast as president.

“I will get rid of, totally destroy, the Johnson Amendment, and allow representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear,” he said on Feb. 2 to a gathering of 3,500 faith leaders, politicians, and other dignitaries from around the world, including King Abdullah of Jordan.

Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court

5 Faith Facts About the Nominee

Neil Gorsuch at his nomination hearing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit on June 21, 2006, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Photo courtesy of Lauren Victoria Burke/The Denver Post

President Donald Trump announced his Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last February: Judge Neil Gorsuch. Here are five faith facts about the nominee.

 

Religious Leaders Respond to Refugee Ban and Border Wall

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“We stand in a long tradition of radical hospitality. From the underground railroad to this very day, we have welcomed the stranger, sheltered the refugee, offered safe home, resisted racism, fear, and exclusion. We will not be silent if families are torn apart, children terrified, parents detained. We are not accomplices to hate or reactionary fear. Our calling is to love and justice and faithful resistance. We will open our hearts, we will open our doors, to those who face the threat of deportation. All are welcome, period.” – The Rev. Victoria Safford, lead minister, White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, Mahtomedi, Minn.

Ohio Mosque Is First to Join Sanctuary Movement

The Clifton Mosque in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

A Cincinnati area mosque announced it would join the burgeoning church sanctuary movement in the U.S., possibly becoming the first Islamic house of worship to do so.

The announcement came on the eve of the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, who took a hard-line stance on immigration and proposed a national Muslim registry during his campaign.

Canadian Mayor Dons Turban and Dances for Religious Tolerance

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Curtis thought there would be a few still shots taken of their meeting in an otherwise empty City Council chamber. But a video was made instead, showing the two men stretching, twisting, and wrapping a scarlet cloth on the mayor’s head. 

At the end, Pandher breaks into Bhangra — a traditional folk dance from the Punjab region — and Curtis gamely follows, despite his portly figure and business suit. 

The video ricocheted around Canada and then overseas via BBC News. It has been viewed more than 4.5 million times. 

Norway And Its International Church Part Ways

The Arctic Cathedral, or Ishavskatedralen, of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Norway in Tromsø, Norway. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

The move has been in the works since 2012, when the Norwegian Parliament approved the change. It comes just as Germany and other Protestant nations prepare to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation later this year.

Secularism has been on the rise in Western Europe since the 1960s, with church attendance declining and strict laws on public displays of religion in nations such as France. But the past decade has seen the rise of anti-secular groups and politicians in England, Germany and France.