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Earlier this month ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Pew Research Center highlighted its survey on what the civil rights leader means to Americans today.

Pew found that a large share of U.S. adults — 81% — believe that King had a very positive or somewhat positive impact on the country, but only 38% of Americans felt their personal views on racial equality were shaped by his work.

Responses to that second question varied widely between racial groups, Pew noted.

“Fifty-nine percent of Black Americans say their personal views on racial equality have been influenced by Martin Luther King Jr. a great deal or a fair amount. Smaller shares of Hispanic (38%), White (34%) and Asian (34%) Americans say the same,” researchers wrote.

The survey showed that political beliefs also seem to shape how people view the civil rights leader.

“A majority of Democrats and Democratic leaners (58%) say King has had a very positive impact on the country, compared with 37% of Republicans and those who lean to the GOP,” Pew reported.

Most Americans agreed that there is still work to be done to ensure equal rights for all people.

Fifty-two percent of U.S. adults said efforts to secure racial equality have “not gone far enough.” But the group of Americans who are feeling optimistic about the future (28%) is smaller than the group feeling pessimistic (44%).

The survey, which was fielded in April 2023, included responses from 5,073 U.S. adults.

Here are some stories I’ve written about Martin Luther King Jr. and religion over the years:

Fresh off the press

Why Pope Francis and others want to ban surrogacy

Place of the week: Cáceres, Spain

There’s a unique project underway in Cáceres, a city in western Spain: A Spanish foundation with funding from Asia wants it to become “Buddhism’s headquarters in Europe,” according to Religion News Service.

As part of this mission, the foundation plans to erect a white jade Buddha statue that’s about 47 meters tall and weighs around 6,000 tons. The statue will sit among Buddhist temples and monasteries.

Although land has been set aside for the project, many people in the area are skeptical about whether it will actually come to fruition, Religion News Service reported. There are questions about where the funding is really coming from and whether interest in the Buddha statue will ever justify its size.

“The Buddha project’s aims are lofty, especially for a small city, and there are those who question whether such grandiosity might doom it in the way of the biblical Tower of Babel,” the article said.

What I’m reading

Amid a broader debate over how to make college more affordable for young students, several Christian colleges are rolling out programs designed to reduce or eliminate tuition costs, according to Christianity Today. These programs come in many forms, but they generally share the goal of making it easier for students from a variety of backgrounds to access faith-based education.

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Another week, another essay from Simran Jeet Singh for you to enjoy. I really liked his reflection on what to do when you’re sweating the small stuff.

As David and Nancy French deal with a heartbreaking cancer diagnosis, they’re giving thanks for the many, many friends offering them meals, landscaping help and other acts of kindness. David French wrote a beautiful essay for The New York Times about why you should draw closer to others during sorrowful times instead of pulling away.

Odds and ends

The popular social media account “We Rate Dogs” made a religion joke this week and I’m still laughing. Check it out!

Kleenex, the famous tissue brand, is saying goodbye to Canada. I was shocked by this news and interested to learn that a brand of tissues called “Scotties” is already much more widely used in the Great White North.

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