Cheerleaders image courtesy of View Apart via Shutterstock.

Cheerleaders image courtesy of View Apart via Shutterstock.(Image source)

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.

“The Satanic Temple” unveiled its proposal for a monument it intends to erect next to another religious statue: a depiction of the Ten Commandments on the Oklahoma State Capitol. Illustration courtesy of The Satanic Temple

“The Satanic Temple” unveiled its proposal for a monument it intends to erect next to another religious statue: a depiction of the Ten Commandments on the Oklahoma State Capitol. Illustration courtesy of The Satanic Temple

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.


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

Categories: Beliefs

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe covered government and features as a daily newspaper reporter for 15 years before joining the Religion News Service staff as a national correspondent in 2011. She previously was Washington correspondent for The State (Columbia, S.C.)


  1. First,
    Congrats to RNS for all its successes so enumerated above, especially David Gibson and Adele Banks. Well-earned kudos for excellent reporting.

    “cheerleaders linked hands….and began to recite the Lord’s Prayer.”
    This primitive nonsense must be laughed out of town:

    “Our Father…” — NOT MINE!
    “Who art in heaven” —- SAYS WHO?
    “Hallowed be thy name” — Shouldn’t you exist first?
    “Thy kingdom come” —- WHAT? WHO WANTS THIS KINGDOM?
    “On earth as it is in Heaven” — MEANING WHAT?
    “Give us this day our daily bread” — SAID A MILLION STARVING CHILDREN
    “And forgive us our trespasses” — HOW CONVENIENT!
    “As we forgive those who trespass against us” — The Golden Rule is not for Gods, it is for humans.
    “Lead us not into temptation” —- WHY START NOW?!
    “But deliver us from evil” — FAT CHANCE GETTING HELP FROM THE CREATOR OF EVIL!

    “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

    We must abandon this primitive, incoherent garbage.

  2. Congratulations to the Oneida, Tenn. cheerleaders for having the fortitude to say the Lord’s Prayer before a football crowd. They were willing to face ridicule (like the one above) and possibility of a law suit. Of course some one will figure a way to sue them in Federal Court. Some times you just have to do what you think in right and take the consequences if need be.

    I am also a Baptist minister who is a member of the ACLU, I just don’t think freedom of religion means freedom “from” faith, are that an individual and even a groups rights to free expression should be denied.

    • You seem to forget the distinction between the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment.

      If the prayer was sponsored by the school officials, it is not an act of fortitude but merely following along under coercion. If the cheerleaders were acting on their own accord, there is no violation of the law. Students have always been allowed to pray in schools publicly. They just couldn’t call upon official endorsement by the school.

      If you don’t believe religious freedom also includes freedom from faith, you do not understand the term. Your faith doesn’t require government support or the endorsement of public officials.

      • No, my faith doesn’t require government support. IF, the cheerleaders came up with this stance on their own, then hopefully they will take whatever consequences await them. People of faith have done this for centuries.
        There is a difference between freedom of religion and freedom from religion. The many, many atheist who have written about freedom from religion always give the viewpoint of destroying religions. There seems to be no place on the street, in common places, in universities and colleges that the freedom from religion crowd doesn’t wish to stamp out even the mention of faith or religion.

        Atheist on this web site are not looking for freedom from religion they are looking for the elimination of religion. It’s not going to happen.

        Dr. Frank Burton, Director of The Circle of Reason is for both atheist and theist to come to gather in respect and share their beliefs and find common ground and even purpose.

        • @Chaplain Martin,

          “…both atheist and theist to come to gather in respect and share their beliefs and find common ground…”

          Any effort to support religion is uncivilized.
          As an Atheist who is both Anti-theist and Agnostic I cannot respect someone who wants me dead. Simple as that.

          “Unbelievers deserve death” – St. Thomas Aquinas
          “Unbelievers must be stoned to death” – Yahweh
          “Execute them in front of me” – JESUS
          “slay the infidel wherever you find them” – Allah
          “Unbelievers must die” – St. Augustine

          But I do not reciprocate – no atheist does!
          I have no manifesto calling for death to religious people or anyone else.

          I only insist that religious people keep their bloody ideas
          and wild-eyed, destructive doctrines out of our government laws. Religion (whether you like it or not) is primitive, woman-hating,
          gay-hating, freedom-hating, man-hating barbarism
          and it is determined to act in an uncivilized, divisive behavior
          at every chance.

          Religion has no value except to puff up the proud
          and to afflict the afflicted. It is a shame so many people are so lost in its infantile grip.

        • Chaplain,

          To find Common Ground between a Theist and an Atheist.

          A Theist must:

          1. Throw out the Bible as ‘an Authority’ or as truly ‘God’s Word’.
          2. Throw out the preachment of Hell as a real place.
          3. Treat religion as completely optional.
          4. Treat Jesus as completely optional.
          5. Treat God as optional.
          6. Treat religion as optional.
          7. Treat the concepts of Sin, Hell, Damnation, Heaven as completely optional (i.e.: if you dismiss Christianity you are not a sinner)
          8. Promise to indoctrinate NO children into religion.
          9. Accept religion as a philosophy frozen in time; not supported by any evidence but founded strictly on primitive guesswork from ancient bands of hunters and gatherers long before science started answering things more clearly.


          keep your beliefs out of government laws. And we’ll be fine.

    • David Lloyd-Jones

      Where are the lions in the arena when we need ’em?

      In a serious vein, this looks to me like a fair litmus of how far we’ve come…
      and how far we still have to travel.


    • @Chaplain Martin,

      “Congratulations…They were willing to face ridicule”

      Would you be as approving if they prayed to Mohammed and then removed everybody’s beer from the stands? Or do you only approve of pushy Christians?

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    […] We’re hung over this morning at Religion News Service. We got drunk this weekend on the great ideas 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 […]  […]

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