The Nuns Are Back on the Bus

“Do you know how to floss?” Sister Mary Ellen asks me, deadpan. “Because we do.” The “we” she’s referring to is a group of 10 Catholic nuns traveling the country by bus to spread the gospel of tax reform. And the flossing she’s talking about isn’t dental hygiene; it’s a deceptively difficult dance move. “We just read a tutorial last night and practiced in our chairs, but if you know how to do it for real, we’re looking for some teachers,” Sister Mary Ellen notes. Sister Susan, I’m told, has perfected the dance, and she’s hoping to show me. But we’re in a moving bus. The other sisters warn her, laughing. “Don’t break a hip!” “Don’t fall down!” Susan McCarthy, a steadfast Sister of the Divine Compassion, is undeterred. The 73-year-old stands up in front of me to demonstrate, shaking her hips from side to side while her arms wave in an opposite motion. “Something like that?” she grins at me.

Voting From the Pews

On Sunday mornings in black churches across Georgia this October, congregants will gather like they always to do, to pray and worship together. But in the weeks preceding the November 6 election, they’ll be doing something a little bit different: voting by mail, together. At Pulse Church in downtown Atlanta, pastor Billy M. Honor plans to preach a sermon about civic engagement on October 28. “We’ll be talking about voting, the sacred act of voting, how citizenship is a God-given right,” Honor says. “We best exercise that right when we participate in that project.”

Beyond Cake Baking: The Next Discrimination Debate

Nine states allow state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place children with LGBTQ families, if doing so violates their religious beliefs. Some of these laws are facing challenges in the courts. The tension in the resulting cases stems from a fundamental disagreement over who is being discriminated against and who needs protection from the government: the religious agencies providing adoption and foster care services, or the same-sex couples hoping to use them.

Crisis pregnancy centers aren’t the only ones putting limitations on women’s reproductive care

All over the country, crisis pregnancy centers openly lie to patients about what services they offer, often preventing women from making fully informed decisions about their reproductive health. But they’re not the only health-care providers withholding information in this way. Catholic hospitals and affiliated doctors’ offices have long had religious limitations on the reproductive health care they offer — and their patients may have no idea.

Christian Ethicist Says to Trust Women on Abortion

According to Christian ethicist Rebecca Todd Peters, women are continually asked to justify their abortions in response to a default assumption that abortion is morally wrong. This assumption is incorrect, she argues in her new book Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice, and it stems from a particular theological framework that values motherhood over the needs, decisions, and desires of individual women. For Peters, the moral status of a fetus is an ethical and theological question that should be asked and answered by women themselves, not by legislators or judges. Her Christian ethic for abortion is not built on Scripture, but rather “a feminist theological perspective that affirms both the goodness and justice of God.” In other words, she’s not interested in telling us what God wants, other than to say that God wants justice, which means moral agency for women.

As EIC of Religion News Service is ousted, staff fears loss of editorial control

Early in the morning on Monday, April 23, members and followers of the “God beat” awoke to upsetting news. “I am no longer at @RNS, and that’s about all I can say,” tweeted Jerome Socolovsky, until then the editor in chief of Religion News Service. “It was an honor to lead such a dazzling news team.” His departure—later revealed to be a firing—seemed to come out of nowhere. But current and former staff members say it has, in fact, been a long time coming: the culmination of months of tension between Socolovsky and RNS Publisher Tom Gallagher, whom many believe has taken control over the newsroom.

A Christian Argument for Abortion: A Q&A With Rebecca Todd Peters

Abortion is a moral issue, just not in the way we’ve been taught, argues Rebecca Todd Peters, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church and professor of religious studies at Elon University. She is also the author of the new book Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice. Rather than an abstract moral question, she argues, abortion is a morally valid option to a concrete question women face on a regular basis: “What should I do when faced with an unplanned, unwanted, or medically compromised pregnancy?” I recently spoke with Peters about the book and her vision for the role of progressive, feminist Christian theology in contemporary abortion debates.

This Former 700 Club Producer Wants to "Make Amends to a Whole Generation of Christians"

Earlier this year, Terry Heaton published a book about his time running production at The 700 Club in the 1980s. It’s called The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP. He has been sober for just over 19 years, and he considers the memoir-turned-political exposé to be part of the 9th step of his 12-step program: making amends. Heaton feels responsible for helping create the conservative news bubble that reshaped the American religious right and ushered President Donald Trump into office.

How Religious Health Care Hurts Women of Color

According to new research by the Columbia Law School Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, women of color are even more likely to be treated at Catholic hospitals where religious doctrines dictate medical practices. It’s not news that women of color—and black women in particular—face greater barriers to health care across a wide range of services. This so-called health care gap stems from a number of factors, including economic inequality and structural discrimination, which often work in tandem. The impact of Catholic ethics restrictions on women of color should be examined alongside these trends.

This Newsletter Is For People Who Are Religious and Want to Resist Trump

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons is on a mission to reclaim religion from political conservatives who so often use it as a cover for their restrictive laws. Over the summer, the 27-year-old divinity school graduate launched a newsletter inspired by Mike Allen's Politico Playbook, but for the religious left. Each installment of The Resistance Prays includes news of the day, related scripture, interpretation, prayer, and an action item. For example: Are you enraged over President Trump’s recent decision to rescind DACA? Remember that “There are no deserving or undeserving migrants just as there are no deserving or undeserving children of God.” Then, get involved with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s Neighbor to Neighbor meetings.

How Justice Kennedy Fell for a Right-Wing Meme

Cases like Masterpiece are a symptom of white conservative Christians feeling like they have become outsiders in what they believe is their country. Jack Phillips’s lawyers at the Alliance Defending Freedom have framed his and other similar cases as efforts to protect Americans who have been caught in the crosshairs of Kennedy’s Obergefell decision and LGBTQ rights advocates. They’re trying to protect themselves against what they perceive to be the new dominant cultural norm.

The Children of Bellow and Roth: New Book of Short Fiction Takes On the Male Jewish Experience

“I’m unbelievably bored writing about Judaism as a journalist,” author Gordon Haber said during a recent conversation with RD. When Haber compiled Uggs for Gaza And Other Stories, his debut short story collection, he didn’t set out to tackle the American male Jewish experience. But the stories, which tackle questions of ethnicity, identity, masculinity and otherness, all feature non-practicing American Jewish men.

The Religious Right Is Starting to Get Its Money’s Worth

President Donald Trump concluded Thursday’s National Day of Prayer with more than just a pageant of platitudes. Joined in the White House Rose Garden by several nuns of the Little Sisters of The Poor—who famously sued the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate—Trump signed an executive order “promoting free speech and religious liberty.” The order is mercifully less sweeping than many had feared, but it still opens the door to policies that will erode the wall between church and state.

The Clash Between Religious Freedom and Equality Law

It’s easy, in the current American political climate, to see religious freedom and LGBT rights as two opposing values, permanently in conflict with each other. Much of this has to do with the backlash to advancements in LGBT rights from conservative religious groups. When the Supreme Court in 2015 affirmed the legal right of same-sex couples to marry, religious freedom laws began making their way through state legislatures and courthouses, demanding exceptions to anti-LGBT discrimination laws for individuals with religiously based views. Brooklyn Law Professor Nelson Tebbe wrote his latest book, Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age, against this backdrop.

The Rise of “Zombie Religious Hospitals”

In 2009, Mindy Swank was 20 weeks into a difficult pregnancy when her water broke. Her doctors said the baby, already suffering from severe anomalies, would not survive, and they recommended she terminate the pregnancy immediately to avoid the risk of infection. Yet for nearly two months, Swank’s hospital in Silvis, Illinois, refused to perform the procedure. It wasn’t until Swank woke up one morning bleeding profusely that the hospital finally agreed to induce labor.
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