Eighteen persons have announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination for United States President. They represent an interesting cross section of American religious life. According to their own on-line material, five are Roman Catholics, two are Baptists and two are Episcopalians. One is Pentecostal. Another four adhere to some version of mainline Protestant faith. One is Quaker, another is Hindu, and two are Jewish—one secular and the other new age. Pete Buttigieg, the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a member of the local Episcopal church, has generated quite the buzz with this open and frank discussion of religion.
Sixty nine members of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention voted almost unanimously to elect Rev. Ronnie Floyd of Arkansas as the next president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. Floyd is currently pastor of the 9,000-member Cross Church which has campuses in both Arkansas and Missouri. He has held numerous positions of high responsibility within the Convention. In addition, he has been a key person in the spiritual network advising and supporting President Trump. He also serves as president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
More than 400 Muslims from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the U. S. Council of Muslim Organizations gathered on Capitol Hill this week to discuss issues affecting Muslim communities. It was the fifth annual National Muslim Advocacy Day. Former Senator and current ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Sam Brownback, addressed the gathering, focusing his remarks on abuses of religious freedom in China. A highlight of the gathering was the efforts of 125 members of the minority Ahmadi Muslim sect to advocate for the beleaguered Uighur Muslims in Pakistan. Attention was also given to Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims and Middle Eastern Christians. “Our faith asks of us not to rest until the international community protects the rights of all people of faith, including the Uighur community, who have endured unspeakable cruelties,” said Amjad Mahmood Khan, national director for public affairs for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.
The Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has opened an investigation into the decision by the municipal airport at San Antonio to deny space to Chick-fil-A. While the decision there and also in Buffalo is tied to the fast food chain’s public resistance to gay rights, what also concerns the airport and Paxton is the corporate policy of Sunday closure. This practice does not sit well with the airport, which fears lower sales revenue; but it does not sit well with the Attorney General either because it infringes upon the religious freedom of the corporation and its employees. “The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken,” he wrote in a letter. “Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport.”
Two decisions by the Supreme Court have left observers in a puzzle. Last month, the Court allowed the execution of Muslim inmate (Alabama) even though he was denied spiritual counsel by a Muslim cleric; but this month they prevented the execution of a Buddhist inmate (Texas) because he did not have a Buddhist minister to offer support. There was little justification given for either decision, and the mystery grew as it was learned that the deciding vote in both cases was new judge Brett Kavanaugh who voted in the majority both time, switching his vote to do so. Texas immediately responded by banning ALL clergy from the execution chamber!!
Pope Francis has tapped Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory to be the next archbishop of Washington, considered the most high profile position in the American Catholic Church. Gregory succeeds Donald Wuerl who retired six months ago in the midst of controversy. The Catholic Church is still struggling with the sex abuse scandal, and Archbishop Gregory (71 years old) is widely recognized as a zero tolerance leader. The Washington Archdiocese includes 800,000 parishioners, smaller than the 1.2 million in Atlanta and north Georgia.