Human Rights

Photo courtesy RNS/Wikimedia Commons.

Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm. Photo courtesy RNS/Wikimedia Commons.

Nineteen former students of a high school run by Yeshiva University, the flagship school of Orthodox Judaism, have filed a $380 million federal lawsuit over what they claim are hundreds of acts of abuse by two rabbis in the 1970s and 1980s.

The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., follows the resignation of Rabbi Norman Lamm, the chancellor and head of the Yeshiva seminary. In his resignation letter, the 85-year-old Lamm, who was president of the university when the abuse took place, said he was doing penance for mishandling allegations against staff members.

The 148-page lawsuit accused Lamm and various other Yeshiva officials, trustees, board members, and faculty of a “massive cover-up of the sexual abuse of students” at a university-run high school.

The organization representing Catholic hospitals across the country says it no longer objects to the Obama administration’s mandate that all employees receive free birth control coverage.

The decision by the Catholic Health Association puts the hospitals at odds with the Catholic hierarchy, which last week rejected the White House’s final regulations on an issue that many church conservatives view as evidence of the administration’s hostility to Catholicism and religious freedom.

Sister Carol Keehan, head of the CHA, disagreed. “If you look at the final regulations it is very clear that we do not have to contract for, or pay for, or arrange for” contraception coverage, Keehan said in an interview on Tuesday.

Kyle Luck 07-09-2013

A drone launches a missile. Photo courtesy Paul Fleet/

Dear Liberty University,

I want to write truthfully about God. I know many will find that an odd way to begin a letter about U.S. drone warfare, but I see no other way. This morning, I was discouraged to read that Liberty University has been training Christians to pilot armed U.S. drones since 2011 in your School of Aeronautics (SOA). The reasons for my discouragement are many — not least of which is the idea that Liberty graduates can somehow "serve the Lord" by targeting and killing their neighbors. Here, I would like to outline some of my concerns in detail with the hope that Liberty might reconsider, or at least restate theologically, its position regarding U.S. drone warfare.

Photo courtesy RNS.

Cardinal John Njue addresses journalists at a news conference in Nairobi on June 29. Photo courtesy RNS.

Religious leaders in Africa strongly rebuked President Obama’s call to decriminalize homosexuality, suggesting it’s the reason why he received a less-than-warm welcome during a recent trip to the continent.

In a news conference in Senegal during his three-nation tour, just as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on same-sex marriage, Obama said African nations must grant equal protection to all people regardless of their sexual orientation.

“My basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you … people should be treated equally,” Obama said. “And that’s a principle that I think applies universally.”

Esther Sprague 07-05-2013
Protests against violence in Darfur, David Burrows /

Protests against violence in Darfur, David Burrows /

Americans were introduced to Sudan and what is now South Sudan by immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees like the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, who sought protection from a brutal dictatorship in Khartoum. Sudanese turned to the U.S. for a better life not only for themselves but in order to support their family and friends back home, and to advocate for help in stopping genocide, mass atrocities, and human rights abuses committed by an oppressive regime. Many Sudanese captured our hearts not only because of their fight for freedom and their bravery in enduring terrible suffering, but because of their resolve to access the educational and employment opportunities available in the U.S. to prepare themselves to return and help rebuild a country destroyed by decades of state-sponsored violence.

QR Blog Editor 07-03-2013
Egyptian protestors on June 30, Mohamed Elsayyed /

Egyptian protestors on June 30, Mohamed Elsayyed /

Egypt's military forcefully seized power from President Morsi on Wednesday. An emergency meeting of top civialian and religious leaders has convened to create an interim government and plan for  new elections. The whereabouts of Mr. Morsi remain unknown. The New York Times reports:

The developments followed the lapse of a 48-hour deadline imposed by the military generals on the increasingly isolated president to meet the demands of millions of Egyptians disaffected with the one-year-old governance of Mr. Morsi, the first democratically elected leader of Egypt.

Read more here.


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Photo courtesy RNS/Wikimedia Commons.

Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm. Photo courtesy RNS/Wikimedia Commons.

The chancellor and head of the seminary at Yeshiva University, the flagship U.S. school for Orthodox Judaism, resigned his posts on Monday and acknowledged that he had mishandled sex abuse allegations against staff members in the 1980s.

In a letter sent to students, faculty, alumni, and donors, Rabbi Norman Lamm, 85, said that in failing to report the abuse complaints to police, he was acting “in a way that I thought was correct, but which now seems ill conceived.”

“I understand better today than I did then that sometimes, when you think you are doing good, your actions do not measure up,” wrote Lamm, for decades a leading figure in Orthodox Judaism.

Liane Rozzell 07-01-2013

A Deadly 'Snowstorm'

Molly M. Gill 07-01-2013

Mandatory minimum sentences are both irrational and unjust.

David P. Gushee 07-01-2013

Guantanamo reminds us of the fragility of constitutional democracy.

Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

Sandy Stier and Kris Perry at the Supreme Court following DOMA and Prop. 8 decisions. Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

The Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, while historic, didn’t settle the issue. In fact, they fuel it.

For President Obama, the repercussions of Wednesday’s ruling striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act will mean review and revisions in hundreds of federal laws. In everything from Social Security checks to Pentagon benefits, gay married couples now must be treated the same way as heterosexual couples.

For gay rights advocates, the twin decision that opens the door to resume same-sex marriages in California bolstered determination to expand the right to wed for gay men and lesbians. The Human Rights Campaign set a goal to achieve that in all 50 states within the next five years.

Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

Couple celebrates outside Supreme Court. Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

The twin Supreme Court rulings on Wednesday that further opened the door for gay marriage in the U.S. were not entirely unexpected, and the condemnations from religious conservatives angry at the verdicts were certainly no surprise either.

So the real question is what gay marriage opponents will do now.

Here are four possible scenarios that took shape in the wake of Wednesday’s developments:

Cathleen Falsani 06-27-2013
Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

Celebration on the grounds of the Supreme Court after DOMA and Prop. 8 decisions. Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

The first thing I did when I read the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in the cases involving the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop 8 on Thursday morning was offer a silent prayer.

It was short — just two words — completely heartfelt and probably far more eloquent than anything I’ll manage to write in this space today.

“Thank you,” I told God. 

QR Blog Editor 06-27-2013

Religious leaders from across the country revealed their thoughts on yesterday’s DOMA and Prop. 8 decisions. Stating both good and bad opinions, religious leaders touched on various viewpoints and shared examples of how yesterday’s decisions will affect the future of religion across the United States. USA Today reports:

Religious leaders on opposing ends of the gay-marriage debate alternately referred to Wednesday as a tragic and a celebratory day after the Supreme Court's decisions on two same-sex marriage cases.

But the traditional religious opponents of gay marriage remained steadfastly against the rulings, condemning them as far reaching and inconsistent with religious principles.

Read more here.


Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

Supporter of the LGBT community stood outside the Supreme Court yesterday. Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

“DOMA is dead.”

Such were the chants heard outside the United States Supreme Court yesterday when it was announced that the highest judicial body in the nation voted 5-4 to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That’s right. As of yesterday, there is no longer a federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and woman.

Of course, not every American is roundly rejoicing. Responses from the Christian community, which has become more divided over the issue in recent years, are mixed. Conservative Christians seem mostly despondent while the progressives among them are mostly celebrating. I spoke with several prominent Christians from across the political spectrum today to get their reactions to the Court’s decision:

Kevin Eckstrom 06-26-2013
Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners

"Thank you" Paul and Jeff sign. DOMA and Prop 8 decisions at the Supreme Court. Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

Sometimes a court opinion is more than just a court opinion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s 26-page decision Wednesday striking down a federal ban on same-sex marriages offers a window into Americans’ rapidly shifting views of same-sex relationships — a shift that increasingly relies on matters of law and fairness, not moral or religious views.

At the same time, Justice Antonin Scalia’s biting 26-page dissent in United States v. Windsor reflects a set of cultural, religious, and social arguments that are losing ground in the court of public opinion and now, in the highest court of the land.

Catherine Woodiwiss 06-24-2013

A supporter of same-sex marriage stands in front of the Supreme Court Monday. Photo via Brandon Hook/Sojourners.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down decisions on two significant cases for same-sex marriage: United States v. Windsor (regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA), and Hollingsworth v. Perry (regarding California’s Proposition 8).

At the Supreme Court this morning, an expectant crowd gathered hoping to catch the decisions firsthand. Most in attendance were visibly supportive of same-sex marriage, and many were cautiously optimistic that the Court would strike down DOMA, Proposition 8, or both.

See our slideshow and interviews with those gathered at the Supreme Court, below.

Cindi Love 06-21-2013
Photo via RNS courtesy Rev. Cindi Love

Rev. Cindi Love, Photo via RNS courtesy Rev. Cindi Love

After almost 40 years, Exodus International is closing its doors. It was the oldest Christian services group of its kind and a market leader in reparative/ex-gay/sexual orientation change therapy.

It harmed countless people, not just those in the programs but also their families, friends, and communities. Exodus took a heavy toll emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Too many end their lives feeling hopeless and alone because of homophobia and rejection.

Throughout its tenure, Exodus claimed its professionals and programs could “heal” people of homosexuality. They were successful in enrolling eager clients.

Krista Kapralos 06-21-2013
Photo courtesy RNS/Krista Kapralos.

Imam Dayaiee Abdullah is said to be the only gay imam in North America. Photo courtesy RNS/Krista Kapralos.

Imam Dayaiee Abdullah never knows how many people are going to show up for Friday prayers.

Some weeks, nearly a dozen men and women gather at a Quaker hall in northwest Washington, D.C., where they kneel on prayer rugs laid out to transform the room into a Muslim place of worship.

Other weeks, Abdullah, a convert to Islam, sits alone.

Vishal Arora 06-21-2013
Photo courtesy RNS/Vishal Arora.

Two young monks at the gate of a monastery in Thimphu. Photo courtesy RNS/Vishal Arora.

The South Asian nation of Bhutan has been rocked by a sexual abuse scandal in which young Buddhist monks molested by older monks fled their monastery and reported the abuse to journalists.

While rumors about child sexual abuse in monasteries have swirled around this tiny Buddhist nation for a while, this is the first time confirmed cases of underage monks molested by their seniors have come to the fore.

“Every time I tried to scream or struggled, he pinned me with his body, put his hand over my mouth and covered it tightly,” an 11-year-old boy told the magazine The Raven describing how he was sexually abused by a 20-year-old monk in a monastery in Punakha, about 45 miles northeast of the capital city of Thimphu.