MH News October 15, 2020

Washington DC
Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett has a foot in each of two big religious networks: the Roman Catholic Church and the American Pentecostal movement. While she vowed this week at her senate confirmation hearing to not let her Catholic faith influence her judicial rulings, her presence there was touted by media of both of these groups, which together comprise a significant percentage of the voting public, perhaps as much as one third. Barrett’s association with Pentecostalism is through a group known as People of Praise.


Los Angeles
Fuller Seminary has won round one in what promises to be a lengthy legal struggle to clarify what freedom it has as a religious institution to enforce its code of conduct. Here are the facts: the school prohibits students and employees from entering into homosexual marriages; the school has students who receive federal financial aid. two female students at the school got married; the school expelled them; they filed suit in federal court claiming discrimination based on sexual orientation; the judge—U. S. District Judge Consuela B. Marshall—dismissed the suit citing a religious exemption from federal education rules for the seminary. The couple vows to appeal it to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.


The Trump administration announced that no more than 15,000 refugees would be admitted to the United States during 2021. This is down from 18,000 for 2020, 30,000 in 2019, and 45,000 in 2018. It is the lowest number since the modern refugee program was created in 1980 and the numbers actually admitted are lower still. The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of the nine groups authorized by the government to resettle refugees (of whom six are faith-based) had formerly requested the Trump administration to admit to the United States up to 95,000 refugees during 2021. There are more refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people today than at any time since World War II, largely because of crises in Hong Kong, Syria, Venezuela, and elsewhere.


A long-running case of institutional response to generations of racist policy came to a head (and maybe a conclusion) when the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary decided not to amend any of the names by which its campus spaces are known simply because the persons memorialized were enslavers. The school was founded in 1859 with strong racist justifications, a history revealed two years ago when the school released a 71-page summary of its ties to slavery. The trustees voted unanimously this week to, one, leave all rooms and buildings named as they are, two, declare vacant an endowed chair of theology named for a prominent Georgia racist of the last century, and three, designate up to $5 million of its money for scholarships to black students. There are few black students and no black full-time professors at the school.


Various networks of religious people are increasing their political advocacy as the national election draws near. A group called Prolife Evangelicals for Biden issued a letter signed by more than 5,000 persons; James Dobson sent a letter to more than 800,000 people asserting “that what we are now facing might bring an end to civilization as we have known it.” And a video entitled “MAGA Church” released on YouTube earlier in the year by a group called the Lincoln Project continues to circulate and garner hundreds of thousands of viewers.