Civil Rights

Holocaust Museum to Give Highest Honor to Civil Rights Leader

John Lewis. Image via Marion S. Trikosko / Library of Congress 

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will give its highest honor to a lion of the American civil rights movement, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

Lewis will be presented with the Elie Wiesel Award at the museum on May 4. Chairman Tom A. Bernstein lauded Lewis in a statement as a leader of “extraordinary moral and physical courage” and “an inspiration to people of conscience the world over.”

Department of Justice to Investigate Denial of New Jersey Mosque

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the decision by Bernards Township authorities to deny a Muslim community’s application to build a mosque in the township, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Newark has confirmed. The investigation will look into whether the township violated the rights of members of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge over its prolonged, and ultimately failed, application to build a mosque on Church Street, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Indiana Republicans Introduce LGBT Civil Rights Legislation

Indiana State Capitol. Image via Jimmy Emerson, DVM / flickr.com

In the legislation, the state’s schools and businesses would be allowed to write their own policies on the use of bathrooms or showers based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. They also could decide for themselves what dress code to impose on students and workers.

Under the bill, those rules wouldn’t count as discriminatory.

House and Senate Democrats have called for simpler solution, saying a fix could be had by adding four words and a comma: “sexual orientation, gender identity” to the Indiana’s civil rights law.

In Meeting Kim Davis, Pope Francis Confounds and Challenges

Kimberly Winston / RNS
Pope Francis passes the crowd along the street of Philadelphia on September 27, 2015. Photo via Kimberly Winston / RNS

Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last week was a huge hit with the media and with the public. This week, Americans may have wondered whether he would provide ongoing unity and inspiration for our public discourse, or whether we would return to culture warring and ideological sniping.

Liberals inside and outside the Catholic Church noted that the pope made only brief allusions to abortion and same-sex marriage but spoke at length about immigration, climate change, and economic inequality.

Yet as progressives were ebullient, news broke Sept. 29 that Pope Francis met privately with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refuses to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

The Voting Rights Act Turns 50 Today

Image via /Shutterstock

Today is the 50th anniversary of the landmark Voting Rights Act, passed Aug, 6, 1965. The act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, created key provisions to prevent racial discrimination in voting laws.

The Voting Rights Act has been called "the single most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress."

Today's anniversary is a bittersweet commemoration. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4, which had required Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia to seek federal approval before imposing changes to voter laws.

Sojourners Donor Spotlight: Barbara Clark

Barbara Clark
Barbara and husband Andrew at a prime bird-watching spot in Kerala, India. Photo via Barbara Clark

Influenced in her early 20s by the civil rights movement, Barbara learned about Sojourners during the time that she and her husband served in Tanzania with the Peace Corps. Experiences interacting with folks diverse in religious belief and race during this time profoundly influenced her understanding of faith and social justice. She shares that her life has been influenced by Catholics and Mennonites, pagans and Methodists, Anglicans, Quakers, Hindus, and Buddhists: “At the core, a lot of us on the planet are looking for the same thing: to get along with one another, to have enough to eat, [and] to be able to live with some measure of safety and security.”

How Much Do You Know About the Black Panthers?

Screenshot via 'The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution' trailer/YouTube
Screenshot via 'The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution' trailer/YouTube  

We learned about sit-ins, bus boycotts, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. But when it came to the Black Panthers, I was taught virtually nothing. I can vaguely recall a high school teacher mentioning Huey Newton, and showing photos of John Carlos and Tommie Smith giving the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics. That’s it.

We didn’t hear about the origins of the Black Panthers, or their active improvement of local communities. We didn’t hear about the personalities that created both important exposure and also infighting. We didn’t hear the story of the federal government’s fear of the Panthers or its insidious undercover missions, whose implementation prompted senseless killing and violent responses.

What we didn’t hear, in short, is everything The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution covers.

Gay Civil Rights Activist, MLK Mentor Bayard Rustin to be Honored

World Telegram & Sun / Stanley Wolfson / Library of Congress / RNS
Bayard Rustin speaks to the media in 1965. Photo via World Telegram & Sun / Stanley Wolfson / Library of Congress / RNS

Years before the gay rights movement gained momentum, an openly gay black activist named Bayard Rustin advised Martin Luther King Jr. on nonviolent protest tactics and organized the 1963 March on Washington. But attacks on Rustin’s sexual orientation threatened his role in the civil rights movement.

Rustin died in 1987 at age 75 after decades as an activist and organizer on issues including peace, racial equality, labor rights, and gay rights. He will be remembered for support for LGBT rights during the National LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration July 2-5 in Philadelphia. The four-day event recalls gay rights activists who demonstrated for equal rights at Independence Hall on the Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969.

Rev. Gil Caldwell, a ‘Foot Soldier’ for Civil Rights, Turns His Eye to LGBT Rights

The Rev. Gil Caldwell. Photo via Travis Long / RNS
The Rev. Gil Caldwell. Photo via Travis Long / RNS

Caldwell was a “foot soldier” in King’s civil rights army, and he finally made it to Durham, where he closed out a social justice conference focused on a newer movement — the effort to secure full inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church.

“In some ways there is a possibility that on gay rights and marriage equality, God is speaking more through the judiciary than God is speaking through the United Methodist Church,” Caldwell said in his sermon at a gay-friendly United Methodist church just three miles away from the seminary he said denied him admission.

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