These days, solidly under the reign of President Donald Trump and a new judiciary that he has helped shape, it can easily feel like the country is going rogue on our commitment to religious freedom for all.
We've heard Trump's key spiritual adviser, televangelist Paula White, brag about dedicating the White House as a "holy ground" sanctified by the "superior blood of Jesus." We've fought a Department of Labor proposed rule to allow federal contractors (private and nonprofit) claiming to be religiously based to fire anyone who doesn't pass their religious litmus test. We've sued on behalf of nontheists excluded from delivering invocations in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and criticized the recent ruling from the federal appeals court allowing this unconstitutional practice to continue based on "tradition."
These things and too many others tell us that we are living through a cultural and legal moment of constant assaults on the freedom of conscience our founders enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution.
In this context, I found great joy participating in a Sept. 6 panel discussion at the Newseum's Religious Freedom Center in Washington, D.C., following a showing of the hopefilled documentary "American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel." Also on the panel were three individuals featured in the film: the Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, a trailblazing progressive Unitarian minister; Bishop Carlton Pearson, a former leader in the conservative evangelical movement turned moral defender of equality for all, and Dr. Robby P. Jones, founder and CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, an independent research organization at the intersection of religion, culture and public policy. Former Ambassador of International Religious Freedom Sujay Johnson Cook was the facilitator.
If films could preach, this one would be pounding its first on the pulpit proclaiming, red in the face, that the complexion of religion in America, even in Oklahoma, is changing. It shared the story of two congregations, Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ Church in Oklahoma City and All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, which are thriving not in spite of but because of their commitment to inclusion and equality both within their respective walls and throughout their state.
Lest you think that these two churches represent outliers in terms of...