Tom Gjelten | KGOU
KGOU

Tom Gjelten

When a young Southern Baptist pastor named Alan Cross arrived in Montgomery, Alabama in January 2000, he knew it was where Martin Luther King, Jr. had his first church and where Rosa Parks launched her famous bus boycott, but he didn't know some other details of the city's role in civil rights history.

Christians the world over have been united in their revulsion over the killing of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer, and faith leaders from across the theological spectrum have spoken out about the lessons they think Christians should draw from the incident.

Many Protestant and Roman Catholic ministers have emphasized a Christian obligation to love one's neighbor and to work for justice in the earthly world.

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The plaza between St. John's Church and Lafayette Park was full of people nonviolently protesting police brutality late Monday afternoon when U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops, with the use of tear gas, suddenly started pushing them away for no apparent reason.

And then it became clear.

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Houses of worship around the country on Friday got a presidential green light to open immediately.

"I call on governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now," President Trump said in remarks at the White House. "These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united," he said. "The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue and to their mosque."

Francis Collins, the evangelical Christian who as a physician and scientist directs the National Institutes of Health, has been awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize for his commitment to challenging the idea that science and religion are at odds.

Christian worship in the United States, long characterized by its adherence to tradition, appears to have been significantly altered by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Religious leaders in America who have had qualms in the past about taking money from the government may be relenting under financial stress. Surveys suggest that between a quarter and a half of all Christian churches in the country have applied for emergency loans under the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), with most of their applications approved for funding.

The 2016 election highlighted Donald Trump's successful courtship of white evangelicals. This year, much of the focus could be on Catholics. The presidential campaigns are fighting for votes in the Catholic-rich Midwestern states, and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, is himself a Catholic.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit African Americans proportionally harder, with higher infection and death rates than for any other demographic group. The global health crisis, however, may actually have strengthened their religious faith.

Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET

Religious freedom in India under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken "a drastic turn downward," according to the U.S. government commission that monitors conditions around the world.

A new government program that funnels taxpayer money to churches, synagogues and mosques has brought welcome relief to some financially stressed houses of worship, while leaving others — many of them serving communities of color — still struggling to survive.

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State and local restrictions on religious gatherings, introduced as measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, have emerged as a top religious freedom issue and prompted a flurry of new lawsuits charging that such measures violate the First Amendment or state religious freedom statutes.

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In a development that could challenge the Constitution's prohibition of any law "respecting an establishment of religion," the federal government will soon provide money directly to U.S. churches to help them pay pastor salaries and utility bills.

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