New York

Richard Wolf 5-31-2017

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While not yet final, the regulation appears intended to let employers avoid providing birth control coverage if they object for any reason — an expansion of the original effort to exempt those with religious objections. As a result, abortion rights groups warn that up to 55 million women could lose free birth control coverage — something that saves them $1.4 billion annually.

Sarah Ngu 5-30-2017

When Scharold and Yan first realized they had feelings for one another, they confessed to their pastor, Vito Aiuto, in tears. They hoped their church would create space for them to explore these questions while serving as members — Resurrection Williamsburg, though conservative, had been profiled as a “hipster church” that attracted tattoo-wearing, artistic millennials. But when they tried to dialogue with Aiuto, Scharold recalls the pastor accusing her of being “disqualified” from interpreting Scripture because she “had an agenda.” Of all his reactions, Scharold said over email, this comment stung the most.

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“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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Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened on March 27 to cut off U.S. Justice Department grants to cities that fail to assist federal immigration authorities, moving the Trump administration closer to a potential clash with leaders of America's largest urban centers.

Sessions' statements were aimed at a dozens of cities and other local governments, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, that have joined a growing "sanctuary" movement aimed at shielding illegal immigrants from stepped-up deportation efforts.

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The Trump administration’s hard-line stance on undocumented immigrants is polarizing: People have responded with either “throw the bums out” or “have a heart.” But the question of whether faith communities can legally offer the undocumented physical sanctuary — sheltering them in churches, synagogues, and mosques to keep them from immigration authorities — is not so cut and dry. 

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Religious leaders, including some who spoke at President Trump’s inauguration, are calling on Congress to protect foreign aid that helps the needy across the globe.

Trump’s 2018 budget proposal calls for $25.6 billion in funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. That’s a decrease of $10.1 billion, or 28 percent, from the 2017 budget.

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Enrollment has dropped at more than a quarter of Jewish Community Center preschools since a wave of threats against JCCs began in early January.

“I’m starting with the most difficult news, which is simply that more JCCs indicated something of a decline — but the majority have not,” said David Posner of the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, sharing the results of the umbrella group’s latest member survey.

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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.

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The pro-Trump evangelicals suffer from a spiritual crisis, not a political one.

Moore has challenged the foundations of conservative evangelical political engagement because they desperately needed to be shaken. For 35 years, the old-guard religious right has uncritically coddled, defended, and promoted the Republican Party.

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In her sermon on the last Sunday of Black History Month, the Rev. Maria Swearingen preached about her belief that black lives, “queer lives,” and immigrant lives matter.

And since it also was Transfiguration Sunday, she pointed to the story in the Gospel of Matthew where God declared Jesus “beloved.” That is a term, she said, that can be used for everyone.

Katie M. Logan 2-15-2017

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During the first few weeks of the Trump administration, we’ve seen increased pressure on Muslim and immigrant communities in the United States.

In the face of these threats, which Marvel superhero might be best equipped to defend the people, ideals, and institutions under attack? Some comic fans and critics are pointing to Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel.

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In one weekend, the swastika appeared in public places in three U.S. cities — HoustonChicago, and New York. The sight was so offensive, average New Yorkers pulled out hand sanitizer and tissues to wipe the graffiti from the walls of the subway where it had been scrawled.

“Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone,” one subway rider who was there said. He added, “Everyone kind of just did their jobs of being decent human beings.”

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The United States Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.

Nearly 91 percent of members of the 115th Congress convening on Jan. 3 describe themselves as Christian, compared to 95 percent of Congress members serving from 1961 to 1962, according to congressional data compiled by CQ Roll Call and analyzed by Pew.

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Melissa Grajek was subjected to all kinds of taunts for wearing the hijab, but an incident at San Marcos’ (Calif.) Discovery Lake sealed the deal.

Her 1-year-old son was playing with another boy when an irate father saw her and whisked his son away, telling Grajek: “I can’t wait until Trump is president, because he’ll send you back to where you came from.”

The man then scooped up a handful of wood chips and threw them at Grajek’s son.

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Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. believes that Donald Trump “will become America’s greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.”

But that wasn’t enough to persuade him to accept Trump’s offer to become secretary of education, he said.

Falwell told Religion News Service the decision was due to concerns for the health of his family and the university he leads.

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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.”

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First came the mayors of New York, Chicago, and Seattle declaring their cities “sanctuaries”, and saying they will protect undocumented immigrants from President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to deport them.

Then thousands of students, professors, alumni, and others at elite universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Brown, signed petitions, asking their schools to protect undocumented students from any executive order.

Now, religious congregations, including churches and synagogues, are declaring themselves “sanctuaries” for immigrants fleeing deportation.

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The Rev. Frank Pavone, a leading anti-abortion crusader and Donald Trump supporter, was jubilant on Nov. 9 after his candidate’s surprising win in the presidential race.

But the head of the Staten Island-based Priests for Life group is also facing a stern rebuke and investigation from his bishop, over Pavone’s shocking election eve video, in which he posed with an aborted fetus on an altar while delivering a 44-minute appeal to voters to elect the Republican nominee.

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Behind the scenes, for example, the two candidates – who couldn’t bring themselves to shake hands at the third and final presidential debate a night earlier – were brought together by the cardinal during a brief pre-dinner prayer.

“They were both icy from the beginning, you could tell,” Dolan said. “They’re not on each other’s Christmas card list, I can tell you that. You could tell those two had a rather, I’d say, frigid relationship, more than icy.”

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