4 predictions for 2020 (and lots of resources)

President Donald Trump speaks at a "Make America Great Again" rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Sept. 9, 2019. (Jackson A. Lanier via Creative Commons)

This edition of ReligionLink explores three issues that will demand your attention in 2020 and highlights past editions that will likely be especially relevant this year.

For more 2020 predictions, check out Religion News Service’s overview of what to expect in the year ahead.

1. The 2020 election will keep religion reporters busy.

The presidential election will provide a healthy supply of story ideas to religion reporters in the year ahead, as candidates, voters and commentators navigate the complicated relationship between religion and politics. 

Will white evangelicals remain loyal to President Donald Trump? Will liberal people of faith influence the Democratic nominee? Will young, nonreligious voters finally turn out on Election Day in full force?

The answers to these questions and more will emerge over the next 10 months.

Background reading

Potential sources

  • Diana Butler Bass

    Diana Butler Bass is an author, speaker and scholar who specializes in American religion and culture. She is the author of many books, including Christianity After Religion and Grounded: Finding God in the World – A Spiritual RevolutionArrange an interview through Melinda Mullin at HarperCollins.

  • Jerry Falwell Jr.

    Jerry Falwell Jr. is president of Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia. He serves on President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board. Arrange an interview through Scott Lamb, the university’s senior vice president for communications.

  • Justin Giboney

    Justin Giboney is an attorney, political strategist and co-founder of the And Campaign, an organization that aims to increase and improve Christian political engagement. The And Campaign’s statement on the 2020 presidential election includes a call for a national paid family leave policy. 

  • Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons

    Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons is the associate director of ReThink Media’s Rights and Inclusion Collaborative. He is the author of a forthcoming book on politically liberal Christians.

  • Derrick Harkins

    The Rev. Derrick Harkins is the national director of interfaith outreach for the Democratic National Committee. He also serves as senior vice president for innovations in public programming at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

  • Robert Jeffress

    The Rev. Robert Jeffress is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a contributor to Fox News. He serves as one of President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisers.

  • Sarah M. Levin

    Sarah M. Levin is the director of governmental affairs for the Secular Coalition for America. She is one of the coordinators of a national effort to form a voting bloc of religious “nones.”

  • Liz Theoharis

    The Rev. Liz Theoharis directs the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary and serves as co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, which aims to bring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s lessons on morality and justice to bear on modern life. She is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and has written two books on poverty and moral organizing.

  • Michael Wear

    Michael Wear is chief strategist for the AND Campaign, a Christian organization aimed at building a healthier political culture. He is the author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America.  Wear served as faith outreach director for President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

  • Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

    The Rev. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is an author, preacher and religious activist. He is the co-founder of Rutba House, an intentional community in Durham, North Carolina, aimed at breaking down divides between the homeless community and other residents. He helps lead the Red Letter Christian Movement, which speaks out regularly against President Donald Trump, and the Poor People’s Campaign and serves as associate minister of St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Durham.

2. Women will be the newsmakers to watch.

As sexual abuse scandals continued to rock churches, faith-based organizations and American society as a whole over the past year, women from a variety of religious backgrounds set the tone of surrounding debates. They called out injustice, advocated for victims and offered a vision of a more hopeful future. 

These women often faced immense pushback both within their faith communities and beyond them. In some religious traditions, it remains controversial for women to serve as featured speakers at church events. 

In 2020, expect women of faith to continue to test the limits of their contested power and lead important conversations about abuse, harm reduction and other religious issues.

Background reading

Potential sources

  • Atiya Aftab

    Atiya Aftab is an adjunct professor of Middle Eastern studies at Rutgers University. She previously served as chairwoman of the board of trustees of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey and was the first woman to hold this role in New Jersey.

  • Katelyn Beaty

    Katelyn Beaty is a Christian editor and writer covering topics such as work, culture and politics. She is the author of A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home and the World. Arrange an interview through the contact form on her website.

  • Sarah Bessey

    Sarah Bessey is a Christian author, speaker and blogger who often addresses women’s roles in the church. She is one of the co-organizers of the Evolving Faith Conference, an annual gathering of self-described “spiritual refugees.”

  • Kate Bowler

    Kate Bowler is an associate professor of the history of American Christianity at Duke Divinity School. Her latest book, The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities, explores how evangelical women build successful ministry careers despite being barred from the pulpit.

  • Rachael Denhollander

    Rachael Denhollander is an attorney and women’s rights activist best known for being the first woman to speak publicly about being sexually abused by the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics. She now works to end sexual abuse within a variety of settings, including religious communities. Contact Denhollander through the form on her website.

  • Jen Hatmaker

    Jen Hatmaker is a Christian author, blogger and podcast host. She is the author of several books, including Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. Contact Hatmaker through the form on her website.

  • Kate Kelly

    Kate Kelly is an attorney and women’s rights activist. In 2013, she founded Ordain Women, a grassroots organization that seeks the ordination of women to the Mormon priesthood. Contact Kelly through the form on her website.
  • Gina Messina-Dysert

    Gina Messina-Dysert is an associate professor of religion and gender studies at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. She is also the co-founder and co-director of the Feminism and Religion project. Arrange an interview by using her school’s contact form.

  • Beth Moore

    Beth Moore is the founder of Living Proof Ministries and a prominent Christian writer and speaker. She is the author of dozens of books, including many Bible studies.

    Contact: 281-257-3344.
  • Jana Riess

    Jana Riess is a scholar and journalist known for her coverage and research of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is the author of The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church.
  • Paula White

    Paula White is senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Orlando, Florida. She is considered by many to be a “prosperity gospel” minister and was among those televangelists investigated by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley in 2007. White also serves as an adviser to the White House and the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Contact her through her website.

    Contact: 407-641-4136.

3. A familiar religious freedom fight will continue to demand attention.

2019 was a banner year for the cause of LGBTQ rights. The House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation- and gender identity-based protections to federal civil rights law, and support for LGBTQ nondiscrimination policies continued to rise. 

However, tension between LGBTQ rights and religious freedom protections remained unresolved. Some conservative lawmakers cited support for religious institutions as a reason to oppose the Equality Act, and the Republican-controlled Senate refused to take it up. 

Late in the year, a coalition of LGBTQ advocacy and religious organizations put forward a potential compromise bill, the Fairness for All Act, but it has yet to advance beyond introduction. The legislation would add LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections to federal law, but would also exempt some religious objectors to same-sex marriage from them.  

In 2020, debates over how best to balance religious freedom and LGBTQ rights will heat up. The Supreme Court will rule on whether employment nondiscrimination law protects gay and transgender workers, and presidential candidates will outine their views on the future of religious freedom. Expect the Equality Act and Fairness for All Act to both be in the news.

Background reading

Potential sources

  • Jen Butler

    The Rev. Jen Butler is the founder and former CEO of Faith in Public Life, a progressive, faith-based organization that advocates for better policies on immigration, LGBTQ rights and other issues. She is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and previously served as chairwoman of the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships.

  • Stanley Carlson-Thies

    Stanley Carlson-Thies is founder and senior director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, which has called for a “Fairness for All” approach to religious freedom and LGBTQ rights. He previously worked on faith-based initiatives for the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

  • David Cicilline

    Rep. David Cicilline is a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island. He is the lead sponsor of the Equality Act, which aims to add sexual orientation- and gender identity-based protections to federal civil rights law.

    Contact: 202-225-4911.
  • Tyler Deaton

    Tyler Deaton serves as senior adviser to the American Unity Fund, a politically conservative LGBTQ rights advocacy organization. He partners with Republican lawmakers to promote nondiscrimination protections.

  • Holly Hollman

    Holly Hollman is general counsel for and associate executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, where she specializes in church-state issues. She is also an adjunct law professor at Georgetown University. Arrange an interview through Cherilyn Crowe.

  • Shirley Hoogstra

    Shirley Hoogstra is president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. She has argued that expanding nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community without expanding religious freedom protections would threaten the future of religious schools.

  • 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.

  • Jack Moline

    Rabbi Jack Moline is president of Interfaith Alliance in Washington, D.C., as well as an adjunct faculty member of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Virginia Theological Seminary. He’s spent much of his career creating common ground between people of diverse religious and secular backgrounds and speaks out often on religious freedom issues and faith-related policies.

  • Tim Schultz

    Tim Schultz is the president of the 1st Amendment Partnership, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization that works to expand religious freedom protections at the federal and state levels. Arrange an interview through Kerry Troup.

  • Chris D. Stewart

    Rep. Chris D. Stewart is a Republican congressman from Utah. He is the lead sponsor of the Fairness for All Act, which tries to balance religious freedom protections with LGBTQ rights. Arrange an interview through Madison Shupe.

  • Ian Thompson

    Ian Thompson is a senior legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union. He leads outreach to lawmakers on issues such as LGBTQ rights, HIV and sex education.

4. These past editions of ReligionLink will be especially relevant this year.