Five religion stories to cover postelection

Pope Francis and Joe Biden at the White House. (Courtesy David Lienemann via Creative Commons)

As President-elect Joe Biden prepares for Inauguration Day, the role spiritual belief and values play in American politics and policies will continue to grab headlines.

With a Democrat winning the White House, Americans can expect policy changes. Biden also is inheriting the surging coronavirus pandemic, a struggling economy and a deeply divided country.

This edition of ReligionLink looks at five postelection story ideas and experts to help you report on them in the weeks and months to come.

1. What will refugee resettlement look like under the Biden administration?

President Donald Trump slashed the U.S. refugee resettlement program during his four years in office. After Biden moves into the White House, he plans to reinvigorate the country’s role in the global humanitarian effort by raising the annual refugee admissions cap back to 125,000.

Refugees are those who fear persecution in their home countries for a variety of reasons, including their religion. The majority of the resettlement agencies working to help refugees restart their lives in the U.S. have a religious mission. Also, many people find support for welcoming refugees within the teachings of their religious traditions.

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2. Some Christians prophesied a Trump victory. Now what?

Some charismatic Christians prophesied that Trump would win his 2020 reelection bid. But the predictions of these religious leaders, who are seen as modern-day prophets by some, have not come true.

Despite postelection resistance from Trump and his supporters, Biden will be the country’s next commander-in-chief. So, what happens when prophecies don’t come true and how does it affect the people who believed in them?

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3. COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the U.S.

Cases of the COVID-19 virus are surging in communities across the U.S. The ongoing outbreak is expected to worsen during the winter, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, in an interview with USA Today.

The pandemic has disrupted everyday life for months. But religious practice continues in America, and so do the debates about whether government restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus infringe on religious freedom. As the anniversary of the start of the pandemic in the U.S. approaches, the coronavirus will continue to dominate the news cycle.

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  • Sean Feucht

    Sean Feucht, a worship leader, is traveling the U.S. and hosting worship protests amid the pandemic. Contact Feucht through his website.

  • Susan Frederick-Gray

    Susan Frederick-Gray is the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, which has recommended congregations plan to meet virtually through May 2021.

  • James Hildreth

    Dr. James Hildreth is the president and CEO of Meharry Medical College. He is an infectious disease expert. Contact Patrick Johnson for interviews.

  • John Inazu

    John Inazu is a professor of law and religion at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also teaches political science. He specializes in legal issues related to the First Amendment’s free speech, assembly and religious freedom protections.

  • Grace Yukich

    Grace Yukich is a sociology professor at Quinnipiac University. Her areas of expertise include religion, immigration, culture, race and ethnicity, social movements and politics.

4. Can faith help unite and heal the country?

After Election Day, Biden said that now is the time to heal. But Americans are deeply divided.

A November report from Pew Research Center noted that elected officials in the U.S. represent “two broad coalitions of voters who are deeply distrustful of one another and who fundamentally disagree over policies, plans and even the very problems that face the country today.”

Does the faith community have a role to play in uniting the U.S.?

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  • Camille Baker

    Camille Baker is a member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government. She published a column in the Deseret News in October 2020 titled “What Mr. Rogers can teach about healing our toxic political climate.” Contact Mormon Women for Ethical Government for interviews.

  • Anthea Butler

    Anthea Butler is an associate professor of religious studies and Africana studies and graduate chair of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She specializes in the history of Pentecostalism and is working on a book about evangelicals, politics and race.

  • John Faison Sr.

    The Rev. John Faison Sr. is the senior pastor of Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

  • David Pizarro

    David Pizarro is an associate professor of psychology at Cornell University. He researches moral judgment.

  • Robert Putnam

    Robert Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, where he studies civic connectedness, social capital, and religion and public life. He is author or co-author of more than a dozen books, including The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again and Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

5. Religious freedom and the new makeup of the Supreme Court

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the state of New York from enforcing some restrictions on gatherings at houses of worship located in coronavirus hot spots. It was a 5-4 decision, and recently appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the majority.

Earlier this fall, Trump appointed Barrett to fill the seat on the high court left vacant by the late, liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Conservatives now have a majority on the Supreme Court and they could have a big impact on major issues religious Americans are concerned about, including religious freedom, LGBTQ rights and abortion.

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  • Brian T. Fitzpatrick

    Brian T. Fitzpatrick is a law professor at Vanderbilt University and a former law clerk to the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

  • Rachel Laser

    Rachel Laser is the president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an advocacy organization that seeks to reduce entanglement between the government and faith groups. She previously served as deputy director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where she worked on social justice issues, including gun control, abortion rights and reproductive rights. Arrange an interview through Liz Hayes.

  • Elizabeth Reiner Platt

    Elizabeth Reiner Platt is the director of The Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia Law School.

  • Micah Schwartzman

    Micah Schwartzman is a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. His areas of expertise include law and religion.

  • Chaim Dovid Zwiebel

    Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel is the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, which objected to the COVID-19-related restrictions New York state put on religious gatherings.