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In the News (June/July 2022)

Report: Southern Baptist leaders covered up abuse 

Southern Baptist Convention leaders on May 22 released a major third-party investigation that found that sex abuse survivors were often ignored, minimized and “even vilified” by top clergy in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The findings of nearly 300 pages include details about specific abuse cases and shine a light on how denominational leaders for decades actively resisted calls for abuse prevention and reform. Evidence in the report suggests leaders also lied to Southern Baptists over whether they could maintain a database of offenders to prevent more abuse when top leaders were secretly keeping a private list for years.

The 13 million-member denomination, along with other religious institutions in the United States, has struggled with declining membership for the past 15 years. Its leaders have long resisted comparisons between its sexual abuse crisis and that of the Catholic Church, saying the total number of abuse cases among Southern Baptists was small.

The report was compiled by Guidepost Solutions at the request of Southern Baptists. It states that abuse survivors’ calls and emails were “only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility” by leaders who were concerned more with protecting the institution from liability than from protecting parishioners from further abuse.

OK gov signs nation’s strictest abortion ban

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on May 25 signed into law the nation’s strictest abortion ban, making the state the first in the nation to effectively end availability of the procedure, the Associated Press reported.

State lawmakers approved the ban enforced by civil lawsuits rather than criminal prosecution, similar to a Texas law that was passed last year. The law takes effect immediately and prohibits all abortions with few exceptions. Abortion providers have said they will stop performing the procedure as soon as the bill is signed.

The only exceptions in the Oklahoma law are to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.

Survey: Nones are most supportive of abortion

Religious “Nones” — U.S. adults who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or religiously “nothing in particular” — are the most supportive of legal abortion, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center.

Among the Nones, 85 percent say abortion should be legal in all cases with no exceptions (34 percent) or that it should be legal in most cases (51 percent). Self-described atheists are more absolutist in their opinions about abortion than any other “religious” group analyzed in the survey, with 53 percent saying abortion should be legal in all cases, with no exceptions. 

White evangelical Protestants are most opposed to abortion. Nearly three-quarters say that abortion should be against the law in all cases without exception (21 percent) or that it should be illegal in most cases (53 percent).

After School Satan Club request denied by district

A school district in Pennsylvania denied a resident’s request to form an After School Satan Club in Northern Elementary School.

All but one board member opposed the formation of the club. Hundreds of community members attended the two-hour meeting to discuss the age of the children the club would target, cultural and biblical issues attached to the possible formation of such a club and the content on the Satanic Temple’s website for the program.

Supportive parents mentioned how the formation of the club was a constitutional right.

The club was initially proposed by district mother Samantha Groome as an alternative to the Joy El Christian club that provided students with off-campus, faith-based activities during the school day.

Groome, who is not religious, said she did not want her children to miss out on extracurricular activities like Joy El, but there were no secular alternatives.

Study: Nonbelievers sleep better than Christians

Americans who don’t believe in God are more likely to get the recommended amount of sleep each night than those who do, a new study has found. While contradicting the claim religious faith is good for mental well-being, the causes of the sleep difference are unclear. 

Baylor University student Kyla Fergason and co-authors surveyed 1,501 participants in the Baylor Religion Survey on how many hours they slept each night and how easy they found it to go to sleep.

Directly contrary to expectations, they found 73 percent of atheists and agnostics (grouped together) usually got the recommended sleep quotient. By contrast, only 65 percent of people who considered themselves religious got the same. For Baptists, the figure was just 55 percent. 

Atheist petitions to ban bible in Florida schools

With more than 200 books being banned in various school districts in Florida, political activist and atheist Chaz Stevens of Florida has petitioned eight school districts to ban the bible from classrooms and libraries, citing its inclusion of inappropriate topics.

“If they’re gonna ban books, then the whole library should be in play. My hope — and it’s a longshot — is that they will apply their own standards to themselves and ban the bible,” Stevens told the New Times.

When the state went so far as banning math books, Stevens says, he was inspired to use the same bureaucracy to strike back against the conservative wave with an operation he calls “Eff Off Jesus.”

Conspiracy theorists tend to be more religious

A large study published in the journal Political Psychology suggests that the link between conspiracy belief and religiosity is rooted in cognitive similarities between the two beliefs. The overall findings suggest that people with higher conspiracy belief also tend to be more religious, and this is likely driven by overlapping ideological and political worldviews.

Some researchers have suggested that the two beliefs fulfill similar psychological needs, such as morality, belonging and sense of control. Others suggest that the beliefs share cognitive styles, with both alluding to invisible forces at play and offering “anomalies as explanatory starting points.”

Wisconsin gets hundreds of clergy abuse reports

A year after Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul announced a formal investigation into abuse by members of the clergy in the state, more than 200 reports have been made to the Department of Justice. 

Those include more than 150 individuals accused of abuse, and 51 people were reporting an instance of abuse to law enforcement for the first time, according to an April 17 press release.  

Individuals are able to make a report to the department either by phone or by submitting a form online, according to a news release. In total, more than 1,000 calls have been made to the hotline since its launch last year. 

Archbishop bans Pelosi from receiving communion

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will no longer be allowed to receive communion in her San Francisco diocese due to her support for abortion.

In a letter to Pelosi on May 20, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone wrote, “A Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits a manifestly grave sin which is a cause of most serious scandal to others.  Therefore, universal Church law provides that such persons ‘are not to be admitted to Holy Communion’ (Code of Canon Law, can. 915).”

Pelosi then called out the archbishop’s apparent hypocrisy.

“I wonder about death penalty, which I am opposed to,” she said in an interview on MSNBC. “So is the church, but they take no action against people who may not share their view. . . Now our archbishop has been vehemently against LGBTQ rights, too, in fact, he led the way in some of the initiatives on — an initiative on the ballot in California. So, this decision taking us to privacy and precedent is very dangerous in the lives of so many of the American people.”