A controversy at United-Methodist Hamline University in St Paul continues to simmer. As we reported earlier, the contract of an adjunct art history professor was not renewed after students complained she had used in a class presentation Islamic art depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The latest wrinkle is a statement issued by the National Council on American-Islamic Relations saying the instructor did not act with bigoted intent when she showed a 14th-century painting of the Prophet Muhammad in a class last semester. The statement, issued as “the official position” of the national organization, counteracts remarks made by its Minnesota chapter’s executive director, who said the classroom viewing of the painting was Islamophobic.
The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by a former mail carrier in Pennsylvania who accused the U.S. Postal Service of religious bias after being reprimanded for refusing to deliver packages on Sundays. The justices took up Gerald Groff’s case after lower courts dismissed his case. Griff, an evangelical Christian, refused to work on Sunday and claimed that the Postal Service violated federal anti-discrimination law by refusing to exempt him from working on Sundays. Lower courts found that his demands placed too much hardship on his co-workers and employer.
Three dozen historic Black religious sites will receive a multi-million dollar infusion of funding to help them with renovations and preservation of their buildings. The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund announced Monday that 35 churches are the recipients of the first round of its Preserving Black Churches grants. The Lilly Endowment is funding the $20 million, multi-year initiative. One church receiving funds this year is Reedy Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Galveston, Texas.
Dallas and Atlanta
Inspired by the Martin Luther King Jr holiday, large and influential Baptist churches in two southern cities hosted prominent political candidates in their pulpits. President Joe Biden spoke at Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, and former Vice-President Mike Pence spoke at First Baptist in Dallas. Elsewhere, thousands of congregations and communities celebrated the holiday with marches, speeches, and community service projects.