Atlanta and Boulder
Mass shooters with religious backgrounds killed 18 people in two events over a period of eight days. In Atlanta, Robert Aaron Long killed eight women, claiming they were sexual temptations to him. His church, First Baptist Church of Crabapple, denounced and disowned him. In Boulder, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa seems to have sensed a resistance to his Muslim identity and that may have been part of the mental and emotional disturbance that prompted him to kill ten people in a grocery store in the northwest Denver suburb.
Congratulations to the Rev. J. Drew Sheard, pastor of the Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ since 1988. He has been elected presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, known colloquially as COGIC. COGIC is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States and has congregations in 112 other countries. The delegates also elected 12 bishops drawn from eight states to serve with him, all Black men. The church was founded in 1907 by Bishop Charles-Harrison Mason; headquarters are in Memphis, Tennessee, where this election took place.
A 26-member study commission authorized by Baylor University to study its racist history released its 90-page report this week. Leaders of the commission spoke of the emotional trauma commission members encountered as they delved deeply into the slave-holding practices of their founders and benefactors, including university namesake Judge R. E. B. Baylor, “I would say it was hard to read; it was painful”, said Alicia D. H. Monroe, provost and senior vice-president of the Baylor College of Medicine and co-chair of the commission. The report offered to the Board of Regents recommendations on what to do about such things as statues, names, spaces, and published histories.
Arkansas and Maryland
Two states have taken dramatic action to address very contentious issues connected to religious convictions. In Arkansas, the state legislature passed a law which the governor signed to allow medical personnel to refuse to treat any patient if that action contradicted their religious or deeply held convictions. It was widely known to be a response to the movement toward civil liberties of LGBTQ people. This comes on the heels of another law that prohibits all abortions. It was designed, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson, to work its way to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe v Wade and the right to abortion. In Maryland, legislators authorized payment of $577 million to four historically Black colleges and universities in the state, beginning in 2023 and extending over ten years. This action settled a federal discrimination lawsuit, argued pro-bono, brought by the schools to address long-standing inequities in state funding.
Sister Jean Delores Schmidt, age 101, is chaplain for the men’s basketball team at Loyola University in Chicago. Sister Jean is again in the news because of her team’s upset wins in the current NCAA basketball tournament. She rose to fame in 2018 when the team made it to the Final Four; and she has again brought attention to herself and her team, this time with a pre-game prayer that mixed strategy with petition. Sister Jean is a life-long member of the Sisters of the Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Loyola, seeded #8, is scheduled to play #12 Oregon State this Saturday, 2:40 EST, on CBS.