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The former disc jockey-turned-pastor founded Creation Festival in 1979 after he had a vision of “thousands of kids on a hillside,” he told RNS as the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary. It grew from attracting 5,000 people to a park in Lancaster, Pa., that first year, to annual, multi-day events in both Pennsylvania and Washington state.

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The settlement, announced by the Justice Department on May 30, was reached after the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge sued Bernards Township, about an hour’s drive west of New York City. The township, which held 39 hearings on the planned mosque — hearings which subjected mosque members to anti-Muslim tirades — had refused to issue buildings permits.

Image via RNS/NJ Advance Media/Aristide Economopoulos

“Now think about it, especially right now, with apparent one-party rule in our government: Congress and the president could pass comprehensive immigration reform tomorrow if they wanted to,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told an audience of journalists meeting in Brooklyn on May 17. “They could bring nearly 12 million people out of the shadows — if they wanted to."

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The United Methodist Church’s top court has ruled that the consecration of an openly gay pastor as bishop is against church law.

But, in a somewhat muddled ruling that could reflect the ongoing struggle to determine how great a role LGBTQ members can play in the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., the court also ruled that the Rev. Karen Oliveto, its first openly gay bishop, “remains in good standing.”

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A New Jersey teen pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to terrorists, in what media called an ISIS-inspired effort to kill Pope Francis in 2015 during a public Mass in Philadelphia, according to a statement by federal prosecutors.

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As the seminary said in announcing the award, Keller “is widely known as an innovative theologian and church leader, well-published author, and catalyst for urban mission in major cities around the world.”

But Keller is also a leader in the Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA, which is the more conservative wing of U.S. Presbyterianism and does not permit the ordination of women or LGBTQ people.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Jim Bourg

Following a report that President Trump is thinking of scrapping the ambassador position assigned to combat global anti-Semitism, a bipartisan group of 167 U.S. House members sent a letter asking him to appoint one soon.

The letter, released on March 13, asks Trump to “maintain and prioritize” the appointment, in a time of rising anti-Semitism.

Warren Hall 1-12-2017

Image via RNS/Francis Micklow/courtesy of The Star-Ledger

It has also been five months since Myers suspended me from all priestly ministry, for my “disobedience” in continuing to be involved with that same work against LGBT discrimination.

That’s given me a lot of time to think about what would happen when a new archbishop came to Newark, and what my future would be.

Image via RNS/Anti-Defamation League

At least 16 Jewish community centers received bomb threats on Jan. 9, in an apparent attempt to rattle American Jews, who have seen a spike in anti-Semitism incidents in the past year.

The threats — some by live callers, some by robocall — were made to JCCs in Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Tennessee, South Carolina, and at least four other states.

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“The picture is mixed,” said Besheer Mohamed, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center who specializes in religion.

“On the one hand, its seems clear that Muslims are a pretty small part of the population. On the other hand, they are concentrated in some states and metro areas that might increase their voting powers in those specific areas.”

Faiza Patel 11-23-2016

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This election season has been an anxious time for Muslim Americans. After the election, my Facebook feed was filled with Muslim mothers wondering how to explain to their children that the new president is a man who had proposed requiring them to register with the government, and called for a ban on people of their faith coming to the United States.

As we try to absorb what this election means, we must contend with how Muslims have been cast. For the president-elect, we are either terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, who are conflated with the threat of “radical Islam.” For the most part, Democrats too see Muslim Americans through a narrow counterterrorism lens.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

At a solemn ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica, to elevate 17 new cardinals, Pope Francis, on Nov. 19, delivered a ringing plea to the world, and his own Catholic Church, to reject “the virus of polarization and animosity," and the growing temptation to “demonize” those who are different.

The pontiff’s address came across as a powerful, gospel-based indictment of the populist and nationalist anger roiling countries around the world, displayed most recently by the stunning election of Donald Trump as president of the U.S.

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A week after Donald Trump’s stunning election as president sent the country’s governance lurching to the right, the nation’s Catholic bishops sent a message of their own — at least on immigration — by putting Mexican-born Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles in line to become the first Latino to lead the American hierarchy.

But the vote at their annual fall meeting in Baltimore on Nov. 15 also suggested that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is still hesitant to fully endorse the more progressive and pastoral approach to ministry that Pope Francis has been championing since his election in 2013.

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The incident seems like a straightforward hate crime: Swastikas sprayed in and around the New Jersey home of an Indian-American running for Congress earlier this month.

But the vandalism is steeped in religious and ethnic irony.

10-03-2016

Image via RNS/Reuters/Carlo Allegri

“It is very, very, very tragic that a woman died,” he said. “But I’ve been at the train station and thirty people are at that same spot on other days.

“One death is one too many, but just to look at how a train stops and a few hundred people get off, and sometimes a few at one time go left to the Path (commuter trains), others go right to the light rail. It could have been so much worse.”

But others viewed things differently.

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If we who are Christians participate in the political process and in the public discourse as we are called to do — the New Testament tells us that we are to participate in the life of the polis, in the life of our society — the principle on which Christians must vote is the principle, Does this look like love of neighbor? If it does, we do it; if it doesn’t, we don’t.

We evaluate candidates based on that. We evaluate public policy based on that. And that has nothing to do with whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, liberal or conservative. It has to do with if you say you’re a follower of Jesus, then you enter the public sphere based on the principle of love which is seeking the good and the welfare of the “other.” That’s a game-changer.

the Web Editors 3-02-2016

Super Tuesday ended with big wins for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the one making headlines, despite the fact that he dropped out of the presidential race last month. Six New Jersey newspaper editorial boards are now calling on the governor to resign, according to USA Today.

12-14-2015

This weekend marks the third anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It is the second anniversary of the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath, organized by Faiths United Against Gun Violence, which invites religious communities across the country to engage in prayer, advocacy and witness against the epidemic of gun violence, which claims 30,000 lives a year in America.

Shannon Mullen 12-10-2015

Image via Shannon Mullen / Asbury Park Press / RNS

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here. But Hanukkah? Not so much.

In this town of about 90,000 residents, including a large Jewish enclave, a complaint over a menorah set up beside a decorated Christmas tree in Town Square has triggered the menorah’s removal and upset numerous residents and at least one downtown merchant, who says township officials acted rashly.

For decades, Lakewood’s display has featured a Christmas tree and a small menorah. No one has complained until now, township officials say.

Susan K. Livio 2-04-2015
Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Brian Snyder / RNS

Jayden Mercado gets an influenza vaccine at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Brian Snyder / RNS

Gov. Chris Christie created a stir during a trade trip to London this week when he defended parents’ right to decide whether their children should get mandated vaccines — remarks that a spokesman quickly clarified by saying the governor “believes vaccines are an important public health protection.”

Back home in New Jersey, where Christie’s health commissioner has been a vocal advocate for vaccinations, parents already have the right to make those decisions if they put in writing that accepting vaccines violates their religious beliefs.  

In the 2013-14 school year, nearly 9,000 New Jersey children used a religious exemption to decline immunizations that under state law children must receive in order to attend school. The largest number of exemptions were sought in Hunterdon, Monmouth, Warren, and Sussex counties, according to state education department data.  

A parent need only submit a signed statement indicating “immunization interferes with the free exercise of the pupil’s religious rights,” according to the health department website.

Parents do not need to produce a letter from a clergy member or cite religious doctrine.

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