Sandi Villarreal

Web Editor and Chief Digital Officer

Sandi Villarreal comes to Sojourners after a starting her career in print newspaper reporting and veering quickly into digital media and online journalism. She comes to Washington, D.C., via stops in St. Louis, Chicago, and Minneapolis. Sandi holds a BA in Journalism and Political Science from Baylor University and an MS in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She has worked in both print and online journalism, publishing, digital marketing, and non-profit community development.

Sandi is most interested in writing about the intersection of faith, politics, and culture, especially as it relates to the role of women both in our pews on Sundays and in our society in general.

Sandi hails from San Antonio, Texas, is married to a Lutheran preacher from Arkansas, and is mom to two young kids. In her downtime, you can find her visting local wineries or watching the San Antonio Spurs.

Posts By This Author

Defending an Independent Press

by Sandi Villarreal 02-22-2017
There's a reason why freedom of the press and religious freedom reside together in the First Amendment.

ONE SPACE WHERE I find rest, amid the noise of living and working in Washington, D.C., sits directly in the heart of the hustle: the Newseum, dedicated to the defense of Amendment 1 to the U.S. Constitution.

It may be an odd choice, since it exhibits the front page of 60 newspapers each morning, each listing the harrowing headlines I’m trying to escape. But in this space, dedicated to education on our First Amendment freedoms, I find special solace.

Etched on a large window overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol are these words: “Freedom of Press Speech Religion.”

There is not much breathing room between those freedoms inherent to all Americans, nor between those listed separately: freedom of assembly and petition.

It’s a well-placed reminder about freedoms many Americans take for granted. In 2016, 39 percent of Americans could not name a single one of them. Fifty-four percent could name freedom of speech, but only 17 percent and 11 percent could name freedom of religion and freedom of the press, respectively.

When freedoms don’t “feel” threatened, it’s easy to take them for granted.

Enter 2017. Already this year, we’ve experienced attacks on the freedom of religion as evidenced by the surge in Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attacks and the Trump administration’s failure to mention Jews or anti-Semitism in its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement (a stark departure from the previous six administrations). We’ve seen lawyers spill pro bono hours in airports defending the freedom of religion by enforcing legal protections for international travelers in the face of what appeared to be a “religious test” for entering the country.

People of faith across the U.S. and across party lines rightly have been outraged at potential infringement of religious liberty under the Trump administration.

DeVos: ‘It Would Be Premature’ to Commit to Keeping Title IX Sexual Assault Guidance

by Sandi Villarreal 01-18-2017

Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, said during her Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 17 she looks forward to understanding the “range of opinions” around Title IX rules for colleges addressing sexual assault on campus. While DeVos agreed with Sen. Bob Casey (D.-Penn.) that “sexual assault in any form or any place is a problem,” she stopped short of saying whether she would uphold 2011 rules laid out in the Office for Civil Right’s Dear Colleague Letter, which requires any schools receiving federal funding to have procedures in place and take immediate action on incidents of sexual violence, harassment, or discrimination.

 

What Will 'Sanctuary' Look Like in 2017? San Antonio's Response to Hundreds of Freed Migrants Shows One Way

by Sandi Villarreal 12-09-2016

Released families flood local church. Image courtesy RAICES.

In early December, Immigration and Customs Enforcement released nearly 500 women and children from Texas family detention centers, flooding San Antonio emergency shelters — and revealing the generosity of a city.

“After this weekend’s events San Antonio may not be a sanctuary city on paper, but it’s a sanctuary city just by the actions of the community,” said Amy Fischer, policy director for the RAICES in San Antonio.

African-American Clergy to Trump: Bannon Appointment Makes 'Reconciliation and Unity Extremely Difficult'

by Sandi Villarreal 11-18-2016

Steve Bannon. Photo by Don Irvine, via Flickr.com

A group of African-American clergy have issued an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump, urging him to “reconsider this appointment especially as you step into your role as President in a nation struggling to move past a deeply divisive campaign.”

The letter, organized by National African American Clergy Network co-chairs Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Dr. T. DeWitt Jr., and Dr. Otis Moss Jr., came before the announcements today of Sen. Jeff Sessions to Attorney General.

What's Behind White Evangelical Anxiety?

by Sandi Villarreal 10-26-2016

Much ink has been spilled this election cycle on the future of evangelicalism given the “God gulf” between some white evangelical Donald Trump supporters and those evangelicals who have either long denounced Trump’s candidacy or who more recently have decided that some of Trump’s rhetoric and policy proposals have gone too far. But the root of this divide may be found in this fact, released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute: “No group has a dimmer view of American cultural change than white evangelical Protestants.”

Jerry Falwell Jr. Cuts Anti-Trump Column From Liberty Student Paper

by Sandi Villarreal 10-19-2016

Jerry Falwell Jr. introduces Donald Trump at Liberty University's convocation.

A student editor at the Liberty Champion, Liberty University's student newspaper, is crying foul after his column was axed by university president Jerry Falwell Jr. The piece — part of a weekly column by sports editor Joel Schmieg — took aim at Donald Trump's so-called "locker room talk" in which the Republican presidential candidate bragged about being able to get away with sexual assault.

The Baylor Crisis Isn't About Football. It's About Women's Lives.

by Sandi Villarreal 06-02-2016
Photo by Shehan Jeyarajah

Candlelight vigil in front of the Albritton House on the Baylor University campus on Feb. 8. by Shehan Jeyarajah

So the story, as presented, has been either one of the downfall of a Cinderella sports team or one of political hypocrisy. And left behind are the stories of women whose lives were forever changed and subsequently ignored, first by the administration and now by the media.

How Motherhood Helped Me Understand the Incarnation

by Sandi Villarreal 05-05-2016

For me, as a mother, the incarnation becomes tangible thus: “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” and [not listed in Gabriel’s announcement] he’ll be brutally killed in front of you. It becomes tangible when I again picture this mother at the foot of a cross where her son hangs. He is the savior of the world, carrying out God’s perfect plan through his death and resurrection, yes. … But he is her baby.

Baylor Maintains Silence as Students, Alumni Demand Transparency on Sexual Assaults

by Sandi Villarreal 02-10-2016

Candlelight vigil in front of the Albritton House on the Baylor University campus on Feb. 8. by Shehan Jeyarajah

On Feb. 9, the day after more than 200 Baylor students, alumni, faculty, and staff gathered in front of university President Ken Starr’s campus residence for a candlelight vigil honoring the community’s sexual assault survivors, Starr released a statement on the school’s website saying, “We hear you loud and clear.”

Starr was not present for the vigil — according to an inquiry to the media communications office, he was in Washington, D.C., on university business.

His brief statement read: “You want us to continue to improve. And you want definitive, responsible actions after we receive the insights and recommendations from Pepper Hamilton. You have my word on both.”

Baylor Students, Alumni Call for Changes to School's Response to Sexual Assaults

by Sandi Villarreal 02-08-2016
Baylor University

Baylor University, by Danny Huizinga / Flickr.com

A group of Baylor University students and alumni will gather for a candlelight vigil outside university President Ken Starr’s home on Feb. 8 in an effort to urge changes to how the school handles sexual assault.

The vigil is being organized by Stefanie Mundhenk, a recent graduate who described her own experience through the school’s Title IX process in her personal blog. Mundhenk’s account — coupled with a recent ESPN report accusing the school of mishandling cases of sexual assault by Baylor football players, and subsequent CBS Sports commentary calling on President Ken Starr to “stop stonewalling” about the rape cases — sparked outrage among Baylor alumni, many of whom responded in an open letter to the university administration over the weekend. Since the open letter was shared on Saturday, the list of signatories has risen from 50 to more than 1,300.

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