Madison Muller is a Chicago-based freelance journalist and a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

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‘We Have to Be a Counter Voice to White Christian Nationalism’

by Madison Muller 01-05-2022

A person holding a wooden cross adorned with the phrase “Jesus Saves” marches down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the U.S. Capitol building alongside supporters of former President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021. Madison Muller/Sojourners.

Last January, over two dozen community members assembled near the large Martin Luther statue outside Luther Place Memorial Church in downtown Washington, D.C., for a morning of orchestrated silent prayer. Staggered six-feet apart in the sharp winter air, they were acutely aware that the Capitol was already abuzz with protesters waving Trump flags, holding signs invoking Jesus Christ, and outfitted in insignia from dangerous far-right organizations.

This year, to mark the one-year anniversary of Jan. 6, the church plans to hold a prayer service in reflection of the insurrection that took place less than two miles from their congregation at the U.S. Capitol building.

How Priests Are Helping Workers Unionize

by Madison Muller 12-13-2021

A priest’s collar. Image via Godong/Alamy.

Last September, the Catholic Labor Network, a nonprofit dedicated to workers’ rights, trained six priests to perform “card checks” for workers looking to unionize. Since then, the priests have performed card checks for six local union efforts through UNITE HERE, a labor union that represents over 300,000 U.S. and Canadian workers in the hotel, food service, transportation, and other industries.

Student Govt. Says Black Icon ‘Serves To Further Divide’ Campus

by Madison Muller 12-08-2021

The Catholic University of America in Washingtong, D.C. on July 11 2019. Photo: Mehdi Kasumov /

In the wake of controversy surrounding an icon at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus Law School, the school’s undergraduate student government passed a resolution Monday requesting university officials replace the painting with art that is “non-political and uncontroversial.”

The Story Behind a Stolen Black Icon

by Madison Muller 12-06-2021

“Mama” is displayed at The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, near St. Louis. Photo courtesy of Rev. Mike Angell. 

The icon is on display in two locations — the Catholic University of America’s Columbus Law School in Washington, D.C., and at The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion near St. Louis. In November, The Daily Signal, a conservative news outlet, published a story about the CUA edition of the painting. Since then Kelly Latimore has been receiving death threats.

All 3 Men Found Guilty in Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

by Madison Muller, by Mitchell Atencio 11-24-2021

A woman reacts outside the Glynn County Courthouse after the jury reached a guilty verdict in the trial of William "Roddie" Bryan, Travis McMichael, and Gregory McMichael, charged with the February 2020 murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick, Ga., November 24, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello

A jury in Brunswick, Ga., found all three defendants guilty of murder Wednesday for chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery while he was out on a run in February 2020. Faith leaders across the country showed gratitude for the verdict while noting the grief for Arbery’s family and the work of justice still to be done.

Catholic Leaders Say Social Justice Isn't In Conflict With Faith

by Madison Muller 11-11-2021

A protester holds a sign with a quote from Pope Paul VI. Maria Oswalt via Unsplash.

Last week, Archbishop José H. Gomez assailed “new social justice movements” as “dangerous substitutes for religion.”

Gomez, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke to the Congress of Catholics and Public Life, an international conference held in Madrid, but his comments spread beyond the direct audience. His remarks focused on “the new social movements and ideologies” that he said were “seeded and prepared for many years in our universities and cultural institutions;” movements that were “unleashed” on society after George Floyd was killed in May 2020.

“In denying God, these new movements have lost the truth about the human person,” he said. “This explains their extremism, and their harsh, uncompromising, and unforgiving approach to politics.”

While the archbishop acknowledged that “racial and economic inequality are still deeply embedded in our society,” the comments seemed, to many, to be an effort to delegitimize social justice efforts within the church despite past and present commitments to social justice from Catholic leaders.

Sojourners asked Catholic leaders and thinkers across the United States why social justice is important to their faith. Here’s what they had to say.

Will Christian Left and Right Agree on Protecting Pregnant Workers?

by Madison Muller 11-10-2021

In an increasingly polarized Congress, protections for pregnant workers via the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act may be an avenue for bipartisanship between conservative and progressive lawmakers and activists — especially for Christians.

“That’s the sort of thing that catches the attention of both those who are operating in worker justice, for women in particular … but also those who are concerned with the unborn,” said Clayton Sinyai, executive director of the Catholic Labor Network. “This [bill] is pro-worker, pro-family, and pro-life, and all of those are concerns for Catholics.”


‘It’s Good to be Back,’ Biden Says of Vatican Meeting With Francis

by Madison Muller 10-29-2021

Pope Francis meets U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the Vatican, October 29, 2021. Vatican Media/­via REUTERS

The two world leaders met behind closed doors to discuss “working together on efforts grounded in human dignity,” with Biden praising the pope’s advocacy in fighting climate change ahead of next week’s United Nations conference on climate change (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, according to a White House news release. During their meeting, Biden called the pope “the most significant warrior of peace I’ve ever met,” and gave the pope a “challenge coin” with the U.S. seal on the front. The president also made several jokes, about the two men’s ages, his own sobriety, and said it was “good to be back,” as he was greeted at the Vatican.

Street Papers Want To Help Homeless People. Do They?

by Madison Muller 10-26-2021

Lisa Getches stands outside StreetWise’s new office in Chicago, Ill. on Oct. 18, 2021. Madison Muller/Sojourners.

Street newspapers began in New York City as a way to address rising levels of homelessness and combat negative media portrayals of homeless communities, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Proponents wanted to both help people earn money and also illuminate their stories and raise awareness of systemic issues. In the decades since, workers at these publications and scholars have debated whether or not street newspaper organizations have been able to achieve that mission.

For Abolitionist Candidates, the Goal Is Building Community

by Madison Muller 09-24-2021

Nikkita Oliver speaks on June 18, 2020 during a vigil on the third anniversary of the death of Charleena Lyles, who was shot and killed in 2017 at her apartment by Seattle Police. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, who placed first in the primary race for Seattle city attorney, said that while voters have embraced more progressive ideas, she thinks moderate voters are still “freaked out” by the term abolition because of misconceptions about what it means. Her campaign was motivated in part by working as a Seattle public defender, where she saw the city “mostly prosecuting poverty and disability,” including, she said, a case where a person stole a block of cheese and a beer.

Can Churches Earn the Trust of Young Racial Justice Activists?

by Madison Muller 04-05-2021

A woman poses in front of a 'Black Lives Matter' mural on the street as a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., June 16, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

While adherence to organized religion may not be as strong as it once was, faith and spirituality still play fundamental roles in the contemporary fight for racial justice.

D.C.-area Churches Encourage Community To Have ‘Faith in the Vaccine’

by Madison Muller 02-12-2021

Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church in Southeast Washington is the first faith-based vaccination partner in DC Health’s “Faith in the Vaccine” initiative. Photo by Madison Muller for Sojourners.

Senior citizens braved the winter weather on Thursday morning for their COVID-19 vaccine appointments at Pennsylvania Baptist Church in Southeast Washington, D.C. By the end of the day, 100 Washingtonians would be vaccinated at the church.

She Guarded the BLM Memorial for Months. Now It's Preserved In Archives.

by Madison Muller 02-03-2021

Nadine Seiler admires the fence she has been protecting since Oct. 27. Many of the signs on the fence she has had to repair with tape, plastic wrap, or zip ties after they were vandalized by pro-Trump supporters during various demonstrations since October. “The fence is like my baby, I guard it like a guard dog,” Seiler said. Photo: Madison Muller

Nadine Seiler began protesting then-President Donald Trump in 2017 with one simple sign: a pink piece of paper with the word “RESIST” written across it in black ink. Until late January, that same sign hung among hundreds of others on what community members call “the Black Lives Matter Memorial Fence” in Washington, D.C., near the White House.

‘We Hate the Media! Get Out of Here!’

by Madison Muller 01-26-2021
A student journalist's firsthand account of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Trump supporters at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot hold a cross that says 'Jesus Saves'

Trump supporters carry a cross to the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021 / Madison Muller

Madison Muller is a graduate student studying social justice and investigative journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She spoke with Sojourners' Jenna Barnett.

“I GOT TO Federal Plaza around noon, right when Trump’s speech was starting. I sat with a group called the America First Coalition. They had plugged a phone into a megaphone and were standing in a circle listening to the speech. I sat right in the middle to listen. Ten minutes in, Trump started speaking about his distrust of the media and [how they were] complicit in the ‘rigged’ election. That’s when I started getting a little bit fearful. I could see people looking at my press pass. When I said that I was a graduate student journalist, one of them said, ‘We don’t like people in grad school.’ And then they started yelling at me, ‘We hate the media! Get out of here!’

A larger group started forming in the street. I [ended up] at the front of the group when they walked to the Capitol. I saw people in bulletproof vests, people with military tactical equipment, walkie-talkies, helmets, goggles; people had batons in their backpacks. There was this acceleration toward the Capitol. I remember thinking there is just nothing that’s going to stop the momentum of this group. I was surprised by the lack of law enforcement that I saw, especially after having covered racial justice protests since May, where there’s always such a heavy police presence.

How DC Peace Team Plans to De-Escalate Inauguration Violence

by Madison Muller 01-15-2021

A member of DC Peace Team attends a Black Lives Matter protest this summer. Photo courtesy of DC Peace Team.

Ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, monuments are fenced off, streets are closed and 20,000 National Guard members are positioned around Washington, D.C. But some local organizations are more focused on the safety of Washingtonians — especially the safety of Black and brown Washingtonians who may be at greater risk of being targeted by right-wing groups, many of which have ties to white nationalism.

Photos from an Attempted Coup

by Madison Muller 01-07-2021

Despite advanced warnings of far-right demonstrations intent on wreaking havoc in Washington, D.C., Wednesday began as many pro-Donald Trump rallies have in weeks since the election: Spirited attendees in American flag apparel, some bearing the insignias of right-wing organizations like the Three Percenters, took pictures, mingled, and professed their ardent support of Trump – some going so far as to conflate the president with Jesus Christ.

D.C.’s Black Churches Prepare for Right-Wing Protests of Election Certification

by Madison Muller 01-05-2021

D.C. Metropolitan Police were stationed outside of Metropolitan AME Church Monday night as the city heightened security around Black churches and places of worship. Photo by Madison Muller for Sojourners.

Black church leaders, anti-racist activists, and Washington, D.C., officials urged Washingtonians to exercise caution as they prepared for right-wing demonstrations on Wednesday as Congress convenes to certify the Electoral College votes in favor of President-elect Joe Biden.