This is a new weekly feature of A Public Witness in addition to our regular essays and analysis. We hope you find it edifying.
Here’s the top news of the week from Word&Way. Paid subscribers to A Public Witness received an essay this week lamenting how our nation gave up some of its commitment to religious liberty rights in the aftermath of 9/11.
Top 5 at wordandway.org
Before Never Forget. Brian Kaylor reflects on the call to “never forget” 9/11, as well as the ways we seem to struggle to even remember or acknowledge deaths today.
IMB Adopts COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate. Brian Kaylor reports on the move by the mission arm of the largest Protestant denomination. Will this spark a greater push for vaccinations, or will it create a backlash among Southern Baptists?
Behind the Pulpit: Joy Martinez-Marshall. In the latest installment of “Behind the Pulpit,” Beau Underwood interviews the pastor of First Baptist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Deuteronomy 12:3-4 (in photos). Images of the dismantling of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia.
Pope, Patriarch, Archbishop of Canterbury Make Joint Climate Appeal. It’s not the start of one of those walk-into-a-bar joke. Three global Christian leaders issued an unprecedented joint statement.
Other News of Note
After a gay history exhibit was removed from the Missouri Capitol (and put in a closet), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on the political controversy. In their piece, they added some context by quoting Gov. Mike Parson from a 2017 interview with Word&Way.
This week: Brad Lyons of Chalice Press
by Brian Kaylor, Word&Way Editor-in-Chief
On Wednesday night, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a last-minute reprieve for a Texas death row inmate. John Henry Ramirez sued after prison officials denied his request for his pastor to lay hands on him and vocalize prayers during his execution. Ramirez’s lawyer argued the rules violated the First Amendment as the state forces the minister “to stand in his little corner of the room like a potted plant” with a threat to eject him if he tries “to utter prohibited words of prayer.” The high court agreed to consider the issue, halting the execution until they can hear the case in November.
I applaud this reprieve and hope the justices will strongly rebuke the Texas officials. Although we should oppose the death penalty on principle, its defenders should agree that the First Amendment doesn’t have a death row exception. Prison officials repeatedly struggle to recognize this, as demonstrated by past controversy over allowing non-Christian clergy in death chambers.
The Supreme Court needs to clearly articulate that religious liberty exist even for dead men walking. As Dana Moore, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the man Ramirez’s wants by his side during the execution, said: “John’s sentence wasn’t death and you can’t have any meaningful contact. … He is paying for his crime. I guess the question that would come up, is that not enough?” The Supreme Court must ensure religious liberty isn’t sentenced to death as well.
Photo of the Week
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