Lauren Markoe covered government and features as a daily newspaper reporter for 15 years before joining the Religion News Service staff as a national correspondent in 2011.
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'Suspicious' Fire Destroys Orthodox Cathedral in New York
Hours after parishioners celebrated Easter, which fell on May 1 in the Orthodox community, a fire gutted their landmark Manhattan cathedral.
“Our church has burned down last night,” read the announcement the next day on the website of the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava.
Episcopal Saint Is Namesake of New Yale Residential College
A new residential college at Yale University has been named for an Episcopal saint who was the first African-American woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest.
Anna Pauline Murray, known as “Pauli,” was also civil rights activist who helped shape the legal argument for the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. She was the co-founder of the National Organization for Women and received an advanced law degree from Yale in 1965 and an honorary doctorate from Yale Divinity School in 1979.
Muslim Advocacy Groups Say They Were Snubbed by Ted Cruz's Staff
Muslim groups say Sen. Ted Cruz and his Capitol Hill staff refused to see them during an annual lobbying day in which hundreds of Muslim constituents met with their senators and representatives.
On April 18, while Cruz was in New York, campaigning in advance of the April 19 presidential primaries in that state, a group of 14 Muslim Texans marking “National Muslim Advocacy Day” went to the candidate’s Washington office.
Muslim Nations Plan to Call for New Israel-Palestine Peace Process
The largest gathering of Muslim leaders in the world kicks off a five-day conference that will call for a new peace process to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Other weighty issues at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit include combatting extremism within Muslim nations, countering Islamophobia in the rest of the world, and protecting the Rohingya — a group of Muslims suffering persecution in Myanmar.
Gay Methodist Pastor a Step Closer to Church Trial
A United Methodist pastor who recently came out as gay may be a step closer to a church trial, just weeks before the United Methodist Church’s General Conference is expected to take up the question of gay clergy and gay unions.
DC Library Officer Who Demanded Woman Remove Hijab Is Back at Work
A security officer at a Washington, D.C. public library who demanded that a library patron remove her headscarf is back on the job, reports the DCist, an online publication.
2 Young Women, 2 Different Views on Contraception Case
Amid the helium balloons, dance music, chants, and counterchants, Katie Stone and Katie Breslin spelled out their opposing views outside the Supreme Court as the justices inside heard one of the most contentious cases of the year. The two 20-something Christians, both motivated by faith, say the justices’ ruling in Zubik v. Burwell could affirm or weaken the most basic of rights. The case asks whether religious nonprofits must comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, or whether it violates the federal law that sets a high bar for government infringement on religious rights.
A List of Religious Groups Taking Sides in Supreme Court Birth Control Case
One of the most anticipated cases of this Supreme Court season revolves around nuns and birth control.
Zubik v. Burwell, which comes before the justices Wednesday, addresses one of the most contentious parts of the Affordable Care Act: the requirement that employers offer certain types of birth control to their employees — the so-called contraceptive mandate.
Merrick Garland Is Jewish. Does It Matter?
President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, would be the current court’s fourth Jewish justice if confirmed.
For Jews, who represent about two percent of the population, holding 44 percent of the seats on the court might be a point of pride.
But is it anything more than that?
ISIS Lures With Video Game Themes
The footage, to gamers who like to play “Grand Theft Auto,” looks familiar. From the point of view of a gunman looking for targets through the speeding car’s window, unsuspecting people take bullets in the chest, and crumple to the ground.
But it’s not “Grand Theft Auto.” It’s propaganda created by the group that calls itself the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. And the people lying motionless on the ground are real. Then they die many times over on social media, after the Islamic State posts these executions on Twitter and elsewhere online.
Israel Fractures by Faith on Politics and Society
“Mostly what we find is a huge gulf between ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews,” said Neha Sahgal, a senior researcher on the survey, “Israel’s Religiously Divided Society,” which is based on face-to-face interviews of more than 5,600 Israeli Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze.
Secular Israeli Jews, for example, say they are more uncomfortable with the idea of their child marrying a very Orthodox Jew than a Christian, the report shows.
Anti-Semitism in Europe: 'The Devil That Never Dies'
“Contaminated by the monstrous and rooted ‘certitude’ that in this catastrophic and absurd world there exists a people chosen by God … the Jews endlessly scratch their own wound to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as if it were a banner,” read Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, at a Georgetown University conference Feb. 29 on anti-Semitism in Europe.
“Now, if I told you that these were the words of a Hamas leader, or any number of Middle Eastern political officials, or movement leaders, you wouldn’t be very surprised,” he said.
“But these were the words of Jose Saramago, the Nobel Prize-winning author, as published in 2002 in El Pais, the paper of record of Spain.”
Sri Srinivasan: The First Hindu on the Supreme Court?
Hindus around the world are wondering whether Sri Srinivasan — the name atop many a list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees — will be the first Hindu to serve on the high court. The India-born Srinivasan put his hand on the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, held by his mother, when he was sworn in to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2013. The Senate had confirmed him to the court — often a launching pad to the Supreme Court — by a 97-0 vote.
Obama Visits U.S. Mosque for First Time in His Presidency
In times of rising Islamophobia, President Obama made a plea for religious tolerance at the first visit to an American mosque of his presidency. A lot of Americans have never been to a mosque, the president said as he began his speech, shoeless per Muslim tradition, in the Islamic Center of Baltimore’s prayer hall on Jan. 3.
To Fight ISIS, West Point Cadets Secretly Built a Facebook Page
Last fall, 16 West Point cadets — none of them Muslim — signed up for an elective on counter-terrorism and created a Facebook page to appeal to young Muslims thinking about joining the so-called Islamic State group. The cadets aimed to convince those tempted by the terrorist cause to see jihad in Islam as a peaceful endeavor. For their project to succeed, the cadets knew, they would have to learn more about the faith, and build a social media platform that reserved judgment even on those who expressed admiration for committed terrorists.
Religious Groups Focus on Flint's Water Woes
Catholic Charities is giving out water and food. The Flint Jewish Federation is collecting water and water filters. And the Michigan Muslim Community Council has distributed more than 120,000 bottles of clean water for Flint, Mich. But these faith organizations are also focused on a longer-term goal: to make sure the impoverished city, where President Obama last weekend declared a state of emergency over its poisoned water, is never so neglected again.
Muslim Journalists No Longer as Rare in U.S. Newsrooms
Rummana Hussain was one of those children whose Muslim parents envisioned her in a white coat with a stethoscope around her neck. Instead, she became a metro editor and reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times, where she covers criminal courts and remains the only Muslim member of the editorial staff. She knows “a couple” more Muslims at the Chicago Tribune, the state’s largest paper.
Remembering the Religious Leaders We Lost in 2015
They preached and inspired. They wrote and taught. Some lobbied in the halls of government. Others toiled to protect the environment and educate the young. Several died at the hands of persecutors. Here is a list of notable faith leaders — and one champion of secularism — who left us in 2015.
Webby Awards Cuts 'Religion' Category
The most coveted award for work on the Internet bestows honors in 231 categories, but “Religion & Spirituality” is no longer one of them.
A producer of the Webby Awards, now in its twentieth year, cited fewer submissions to the category.
“Unfortunately, entries in ‘Religion & Spirituality’ were decreasing each year,” Webby Award Produce Denise Gilley wrote to a past winner in the “Religion & Spirituality” category who had asked what had happened to it. The deadline for the 2016 contest is Dec. 18.
American Mosques Trying to Protect Bodies and Spirits From Hate
Following a surge of attacks on mosques and Muslims — a backlash against recent extremist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino — Islamic leaders have been installing more security cameras and hiring more security guards. But as they worry about the physical safety of their flocks, they are also paying attention to the spiritual damage Islamophobia can inflict.
Hate crimes penetrate Muslims deeply and widely, said Kameelah Rashad, Muslim chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania.
“It erodes their sense of identity and their sense of their spiritual selves,” she said.