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I’ve got a confession to make: When I first started working for the Deseret News, I knew as much about religious freedom as I did about playing water polo. (That is to say, I knew very, very little.) I only started covering the topic because my editors said I had to. Eight years later, I sure am glad they did.

As I explain on the latest episode of the Church News podcast, that order from my editors sent me on a journey that totally changed my perspective on religion and the law. I went from assuming that religious freedom was a fixed and boring legal concept to seeing it as something we all have a responsibility to embrace and uphold each and every day. The Founding Fathers only wrote the beginning of the story; it’s up to the rest of us to figure out how it ends.

Today, I think of myself as a convert to religious freedom fandom, and I enjoy talking to people who think the topic is a snooze since I used to be one myself. I work hard each week to help members of my old camp understand how complicated legal and legislative battles relate to their life.

I can’t thank the Church News team enough for inviting me onto the podcast to share my perspective. You can listen to the full episode here.


Fresh off the press

Southern Baptist leaders speak out on sexual abuse report, plan next steps

Americans pray for their co-workers. But the company? Not so much

Should Americans look to faith for help making business decisions?

When are attacks on churches classified as hate crimes?


Term of the week: Executive Committee

The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention runs the denomination’s day-to-day operations. It’s the subject of an explosive investigative report released Sunday that details the sexual abuse crisis within the convention.

The report is the culmination of a seven-month investigation begun soon after last year’s denominational meeting. Delegates to that meeting pushed for an independent investigation in order to understand the scope of the crisis and how the Executive Committee had responded to victims who spoke out against Southern Baptist leaders.

The report says that committee members — and their lawyers — routinely “stonewalled and denigrated survivors of clergy sex abuse over almost two decades” in order to protect the Southern Baptist Convention and its leaders, according to The Associated Press.

“Survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its policy regarding church autonomy — even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation,” the report said.

Members of the Southern Baptist Convention will convene next month to discuss church business and consider the action items put forward in the report.


What I’m reading...

White evangelicals have been on the front lines of the fight against abortion rights for decades, but the story of how they got there is widely misunderstood, according to religion scholars Gillian Frank and Neil J. Young, who wrote a column on the topic for The Washington Post last week. People often assume that so-called elite evangelicals latched onto abortion issues in the late 1970s order to grow support for the religious right political movement; in reality, the religious right was always focused on a range of issues, from LGBTQ rights to school prayer, Frank and Young wrote.

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In last week’s newsletter, I wrote about Eboo Patel’s vision for interfaith America, noting that he’d like school calendars to recognize non-Christian holidays. This week, I stumbled upon two articles about that issue: one was on New Jersey schools struggling to keep up with holiday-related requests and the other was about an Ohio bill that grants public college students three flexible faith-related holidays.

My colleague, Meg Walter, recently took a look at a transgender rights debate in Loudoun County, Virginia, and the Latter-day Saint community member who helped warring parties find common ground.


Odds and ends

You’ve heard of Wordle and you’ve (probably) heard of Quordle, but have you heard of Waffle? It’s yet another unique entry into the “guess the five-letter word” genre of word games, and I highly recommend it!

There will be no newsletter next Monday, May 30, since I’m taking time off to celebrate my birthday this weekend. Let’s meet back in your inboxes on Monday, June 6.

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