We’re hung over this morning at Religion News Service. We got drunk this weekend on the wisdom wafting through the air at what one of our colleagues has dubbed “the prom for religion nerds,” aka the annual conference of the Religion Newswriters Association.
There might also have been some non-sacramental wine.
In Atlanta this year, some of the most popular panels tackled God and guns, religion and sports, and death and spirituality.
RNS also took home a bunch of awards, including David Gibson’s first place in the Religion Reporter of the Year contest among large newspapers and wire services. I got an honorable mention in the category, but you already know that from the email my mother sent out to humanity.
Our own Jonathan Merritt won for Commentary/Blog of the Year, and RNS brought home a third place honor for our project, anchored by Adelle Banks, on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. And we are proud of our irrepressible summer intern, Heather Adams, who took second place in the competition among student journalists.
Then, in the midst of all this learning and honoring, the religion reporters scrambled to write the big religion story of the weekend . . .
Pope Francis makes his first big American appointment
If you love Francis, you will really like Spokane Bishop Blase Cupich, chosen by Francis to be the next archbishop of Chicago. He’s the pontiff’s most important U.S. appointment to date, and traditionalists aren’t thrilled with the move, especially since Cupich will replace Cardinal Francis George, who was far more in line with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The Cardinal is battling cancer.
Rick Perry cites Joan Rivers’s death to make an abortion point
Let’s just say the Texas governor is lucky that Rivers is not around anymore to skewer him on this. He used her death, which occurred after a procedure on her vocal cords in a New York ambulatory surgery clinic earlier this month, to defend new Texas regulations on abortion clinics that could wind up closing about half of them.
His argument went something like this: who knows if she would be alive today if the tough Texas regulations were in place in New York? But 81-year-old Rivers, a staunch abortion rights proponent, did not go to her clinic for an abortion and the facility at which she was treated met the standards of the Texas law.
Faith and the People’s Climate March
Though the largest public demonstration to press for action on global warming was not a religious event per se, believers and humanists came out in force in New York City, taking their messages on environmental sanity to the streets. The Huffington Post has a short but sweet slideshow of these folks and their slogans, including “For A Humanist, Every Day is Judgment Day” and “Mormon Grandparents for Climate Action.”
The cheerleader’s prayer
A group of Oneida, Tenn. cheerleaders linked hands before a recent football game at their public high school, and began to recite the Lord’s Prayer. Many in the stands joined in. Establishment Clause violation? The Christian Science Monitor explores the possibility that these teens with pom poms have managed to get around a 2000 Supreme Court ruling that prohibits student-initiated prayers and large, regularly-scheduled public school events.
An Oklahoma judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Ten Commandments monument on state Capitol grounds, saying it serves a secular purpose. The suit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of a Baptist minister who said the privately-funded monument violates the Establishment Clause. Expect an appeal.
Since the monument was erected in 2009, several other groups, including one that proposed a seven-foot monument to Satan, have sought to have their own ideas realized on the Capitol complex grounds in Oklahoma City.
Catholic insurance companies that allow for contraception
Before the Affordable Care Act, about half the states required insurers who want to sell to the public to provide the sort of contraception coverage the ACA requires. And many Catholic insurance companies decided to do — and still do — just that, reports NPR. Here’s how they attempt to reconcile Catholic teaching and the law.
Modi to fast at White House
On his first visit to the U.S., Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a devout Hindu, will observe a strict religious fast, consuming nothing but lemonade and a cup of tea with honey each day of his visit. Modi is abstaining from food because his visit coincides with the Navratri festival, when India’s majority Hindus worship mother goddess Durga in all her manifestations, Reuters explains.
At the end of the roundup, we usually ask you to sign up for the roundup. Today I have an additional request: consider joining the Religion Newswriters Association, whether you write about religion or not. The resources and conferences give anyone interested in religion an inside track to much going on in the faith world, and the humanist world too.
The next RNA conference is in Philadelphia, where Pope Francis may well stop next year on his first papal trip to the U.S. A surprising amount of details about the possible Philly visit was revealed at this year’s RNA conference.
– Lauren Markoe