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.
- Read “Biden Gives New Hope To Refugees Fleeing Religious Persecution” from NPR on Nov. 20, 2020.
- Read “Biden pledges to raise refugee ceiling to 125,000 in address to Jesuit group” from Religion News Service on Nov. 12, 2020.
- Read “He cast his first vote as a U.S. citizen. Now, he’s eager for the ‘Muslim ban’ to go.” from The Washington Post on Nov. 7, 2020.
- Read “Faith-based organizations express outrage over plan to cut refugee admissions to historic low — again” from Religion News Services on Oct. 1, 2020.
- Read “Religion and refugees are deeply entwined in the US” from The Conversation on Oct. 31, 2018.
- Read “Key facts about refugees to the U.S.” from Pew Research Center on Oct. 7, 2019.
- Visit the Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System’s website for reports on the refugees resettled in the U.S.
Becca Heller is co-founder and executive director of the International Refugee Assistance Project. Media contact is Henrike Dessaules.
Mark Hetfield is the president and CEO of HIAS, or Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. HIAS is active on the ground in Poland and Moldova coordinating with Jewish organizations in those countries who have been taking in Ukrainian refugees. Arrange an interview through Bill Swersey.
Stephanie Nawyn is an associate professor of sociology at Michigan State University. She studies refugees and refugee resettlement.
Mariano Sana is an associate professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University. He also works with the university’s Latin American Public Opinion Project and recently published an article about favorable public opinion toward refugees being on the rise.
Matthew Soerens is the U.S. director of church mobilization for World Relief and national coordinator for Evangelical Immigration Table. He is the the co-author of Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis and Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate.
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?
- Read “The Charismatic Christians Prophesying Trump’s Victory (And Not Backing Down)” from Religion Unplugged on Nov. 16, 2020.
- Read “When Political Prophecies Don’t Come to Pass” from Christianity Today on Nov. 11, 2020.
- Read “Bethel Church pastor who prophesied Trump win posts apology video, then takes it down” from Redding Record Searchlight on Nov. 10, 2020.
- Read “Why some keep believing when Trumpian prophecy fails” from Religion News Service on March 23, 2020.
- Read “#MAGA Church: The Doomsday Prophet Who Says the Bible Predicted Trump” from The New York Times on March 15, 2019.
- Read “Voting in the Kingdom: Prophecy Voters, the New Apostolic Reformation, and Christian Support for Trump” from Nova Religio on April 15, 2020.
- Read “Fox News Poll: Did God favor Donald Trump in 2016?” from Fox News on Feb. 13, 2019.
Damon T. Berry is an assistant professor of religious studies at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. He is the author of Blood and Faith: Christianity in American White Nationalism. He published an academic article titled “Voting in the Kingdom: Prophecy Voters, the New Apostolic Reformation, and Christian Support for Trump.”
Bradley Christerson is a sociology professor at Biola University. He co-wrote The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders Are Changing the Religious Landscape.
Craig Keener is a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He co-authored an article on the Nation of Islam for A Guide to New Religious Movements. He is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Erin Prophet is an assistant professor in the religion department at the University of Florida. She studies cults and new religious movements.
Matthew Sutton is a professor at Washington State University. He teaches courses on religious history and wrote American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism.
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.
- Read “Sean Feucht protest worries Los Angeles homeless advocates” from Religion News Service on Nov. 27, 2020.
- Read “Fauci worries Thanksgiving may be the start of a dark holiday season if COVID-19 cases continue to soar” from USA Today on Nov. 27, 2020.
- Read “Splitting 5 to 4, Supreme Court Backs Religious Challenge to Cuomo’s Virus Shutdown Order” from The New York Times on Nov. 26, 2020.
- Read “COVID vaccines are moral to use, say ethicists, Catholic bishops” from Religion News Service on Nov. 25, 2020.
- Read “Biden says Americans can worship in person ‘safely.’ But what does that mean?” from Religion News Service on Nov. 24, 2020.
- Read “Few Churches Back to Pre-COVID Attendance Levels” from LifeWay Research on Oct. 20, 2020.
- Read “Religion in the Age of Social Distancing: How COVID-19 Presents New Directions for Research” from Oxford University Press on Sept. 16, 2020.
- Read “Americans Oppose Religious Exemptions From Coronavirus-Related Restrictions” from Pew Research Center on Aug. 7, 2020.
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 is the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, which has recommended congregations plan to meet virtually through May 2021.
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 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 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.?
- Read “Robert Putnam thinks religion could play a role in healing divisions” from Religion News Service on Nov. 24, 2020.
- Read “A close presidential election deepens the nation’s divide. How do we live together now?” from USA Today on Nov. 6, 2020.
- Read “Even If Joe Biden Wins, He Will Govern in Donald Trump’s America” from Time on Nov. 4, 2020.
- Read “What Mr. Rogers can teach about healing our toxic political climate” from the Deseret News on Oct. 27, 2020.
- Read “Faith could bring us together. But too often it divides us” from CNN on Nov. 24, 2019.
- Read “2020 election reveals two broad voting coalitions fundamentally at odds” from Pew Research Center on Nov. 6, 2020.
- Read “Fractured Nation: Widening Partisan Polarization and Key Issues in 2020 Presidential Elections” from PRRI on Oct. 20, 2019.
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 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.
The Rev. John Faison Sr. is the senior pastor of Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
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.
- Read “Supreme Court blocks strict COVID-19 restrictions on New York houses of worship” from USA Today on Nov. 26, 2020.
- Read “Midnight Ruling Exposes Rifts at a Supreme Court Transformed by Trump” from The New York Times on Nov. 26, 2020.
- Read “Religious conservatives hopeful new Supreme Court majority will redefine religious liberty precedents” from The Washington Post on Nov. 3, 2020.
- Read “Barrett’s Record: A Conservative Who Would Push the Supreme Court to the Right” from The New York Times on Nov. 2, 2020.
- Read “How Amy Coney Barrett could change the Supreme Court’s balance on religious liberty” from Religion News Service on Oct. 22, 2020.
- Read “51% in U.S. Want Amy Coney Barrett Seated on Supreme Court” from Gallup on Oct. 20, 2020.
- Read “The State of Abortion and Contraception Attitudes in All 50 States” from PRRI on Aug. 13, 2019.
- Read “Where the Public Stands on Religious Liberty vs. Nondiscrimination” from Pew Research Center on Sept. 28, 2016.
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 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 is director of the Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia Law School. She authored a March 2021 column in The Hill called “‘Religious liberty’ is coming for voting rights.”
Micah Schwartzman is a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. His areas of expertise include law and religion.
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.