ERLC advises church/civic partnerships to slow spread of COVID-19
A new statement of principles from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission urges churches to partner with governments to help stop the spread of COVID-19, including cooperation with contact tracing efforts. The statement, released July 10, says “churches should create a process that utilizes all available means of contacting members and guests of the church’s activities to ensure widespread notice is made in the event of a potential exposure.” It also includes counsel for civic leaders, urging them to protect religious liberty and freedom of association and peaceable assembly, while not singling out houses of worship from other gatherings of similar size and activity.
Baptist church sued after sexual battery by former employee
Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., is facing a civil suit from parents of a teenage girl who was sexually abused by a former part-time employee. The lawsuit claims the church allowed the employee, James Hook, “complete discretion and freedom to have personal and private encounters with volunteers and minors.” Hook pleaded guilty in January 2020 to sexual assault by an authority figure.
In a statement July 13, Bellevue said the church desires “to build a culture that deals with abuse directly and honestly.” In its response to the lawsuit, Bellevue said the church cannot be liable for Hooks’s “independent, unauthorized criminal behavior.” The church has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Religious freedom advocates cheer opinions on ministerial exception, Little Sisters
The U.S. Supreme Court’s July 8 ruling in favor of Catholic schools facing discrimination lawsuits gives the schools sole authority to select, hire, and fire teachers of faith. The ruling, which Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore called “crucial,” was the first of two same-day opinions on religious liberty. The Court later ruled an order of Roman Catholic nuns do not have to violate their consciences in order to comply with a mandate requiring employers to include coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients in their healthcare plans.
Christian leaders speak on behalf of international students
Leaders of 12 Christian organizations have asked the Trump administration to reconsider a policy that requires international students to leave the U.S. or transfer if their universities hold classes entirely online this fall. The signatories, which include Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, said the policy “lacks compassion” and “violates tenets of our faith.”
Sources: ERLC, Barna, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, Illinois Baptist, Religion News Service