Stephanie Russell-Kraft reports on the intersections of religion, culture, law, and gender. She has written for The New Republic, The Nation, The Atlantic, Religion & Politics, In These Times, and more.

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Detroit Pastor on Delayed Wayne County Election Certification: ‘Shame on Those Enablers’ 

Rev. Wendell Anthony speaks at a news conference with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan Nov. 18 in Detroit. Photo via screenshot from news conference.

“They want to count the votes in places where he is winning and don’t count the votes where he seems to have lost or is losing. It is a shame before God and man. Trump has taken gangsterism to a new level. He makes Al Capone and his crew look like choir boys,” Detroit NAACP president Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony said.

‘A Full Court Press’: How Detroit's Black Pastors Helped Protect the Vote

Detroit pastors, including Rev. Dr. James Perkins , right, observe the polling location at Greater Christ Baptist Church administrative offices on Election Day. Erik Howard / Sojourners

“I’ve been a pastor for 44 years in Detroit in the urban setting. I have never seen this level of organization and mobilization toward an election as I saw this time,” said Bishop Edgar Vann II, senior pastor of Second Ebenezer Church. “This one went deep into the literal souls of people because everything everyone has gone through this year.”

Why Should We Fix the Electoral College? It's Racist, Experts Say

People protest attempts to throw out ballots cast at drive-through polling locations in Houston, Texas on November 2, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

The Electoral College system favors voters in a small group of battleground states, over-representing white voters while ignoring many voters of color. A growing chorus of legal and policy experts, along with the majority of Americans, believe it should change.

See Something Weird at Polling Places? Here's What To Do

Tips for recognizing — and reporting — voter intimidation

Voters walk past a Trump sign as they wait to cast ballots in Wake Forest, N.C. Sharkshock / Shutterstock.com

Voter intimidation — harassing voters, spreading misinformation, or asking them about their citizenship — is never allowed under federal law. And many states prohibit explicit electioneering, such as handing out pamphlets endorsing a specific candidate. But when it comes to apparel, state laws and enforcement vary.

Group Sued After Recruiting Armed ‘Security’ for Minneapolis Polling Places

Voters at a polling station in Marietta, Georgia, on October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota has accused a private security company of violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by hiring ex-U.S. military Special Operations soldiers to patrol polling places. The company, Atlas Aegis, posted a job listing in early October looking for former Special Operations personnel to “[staff] security positions in Minnesota during the November Election and beyond to protect election polls.”

This Multifaith Refuge Is Only for Women

"Everyone is welcome to bring their own traditions; only sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of exclusion are off the table."

Abby Stein. Photograph by Amy Lombard.

IT'S A WARM September morning, and roughly 20 women are gathered in a women-only coworking space in Brooklyn. After brief introductions, a poem honoring the first month of the Muslim calendar, and a hymn from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (widely known as the Mormon church), Abby Stein speaks about the upcoming Jewish High Holy Days.

Stein grew up in a strict Orthodox Jewish community and was assigned to be male at birth. From a young age, she says, she knew she was a girl, but didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what she was feeling. Gender roles were so strict in her community that, according to Stein, the concept of being gay or transgender simply didn’t exist.

“Forget separate roles,” Stein tells me. “Men and women aren’t even supposed to interact.”

For several years beginning when she was 9, Stein prayed every night that God would make her a girl while she slept. She began questioning her belief in God: “How can I trust my parents and teachers about something as big as God and religion that touches our entire lives when they could be mistaken about something so existential as who I am?”

Stein got married, was ordained as a rabbi, and had a son. But by her early 20s, it wasn’t working. She watched YouTube to learn English (she’d previously spoken only Yiddish and Hebrew), studied for her GED, and eventually left the community. She came out as transgender while an undergraduate at Columbia University and is now an activist in both transgender and formerly Orthodox communities.

Stein has found a new home in several LGBTQ-inclusive Jewish spaces, but she finds them limiting. “All of these communities, even the ones as progressive as they are, they still follow a very set tradition,” she says. At the September gathering, Stein discusses the biblical story of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, who share a deep love that some consider romantic. “If you ask me,” says Stein, with a half-joking grin, “everyone in the Bible is queer.”

Things are different at Sacred Space, a multifaith gathering that meets on the first Sunday of every month. The gathering is both a refuge for women who have left their religious traditions and a seminar for those who still hope to change their faith communities from within. No one religion is playing host. Everyone is welcome to bring their own traditions; only sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of exclusion are off the table.

Beyond Cake Baking: The Next Discrimination Debate

This conflict has implications far beyond cake shops or even adoption. Most states still don't protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations., and under the Trump administration, the Justice Department has taken the position that the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity. Wherever advocacy groups are able to secure legal protections for LGBTQ individuals, we should expect pushback from certain religious groups hoping to gain an exemption from those rules.