TIME Religion

Report: Pope Francis to Visit U.S. in 2015

Pope Francis Visits Molise
Pope Francis attends a meeting with young people at the Sanctuary of Castelpetroso in Campobasso, Italy on July 5, 2014. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

Set to visit Philadelphia in September 2015

Updated 12:16pm ET.

Pope Francis has long been rumored to attend the World Meeting of Families in the U.S. next September, and now Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput says Pope Francis has accepted his invitation to join the gathering, according to a report by Catholic News Service.

The report also quotes Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi saying Friday that the Holy Father has expressed “his willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families.” The Archdiocese of Philadelphia clarified later Friday that the Vatican itself has not officially confirmed Pope Francis’ visit. “We still expect that any official confirmation will come approximately six months prior to the event,” stated a press release. “Archbishop Chaput has frequently shared his confidence in Pope Francis’ attendance at the World Meeting and his personal conversations with the Holy Father are the foundation for that confidence.”

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family sponsors the World Meeting of Families every three years in a different city. The upcoming gathering is still more than a year away, and Pope Francis is likely to push for more activity on the issues of family and marriage before then — at least if his workrate continues at its current pace.

In October, Pope Francis will host an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome to discuss the topic, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” It is only the third such Extraordinary Synod since Pope Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops in 1965, and it signals that issues of marriage and family—especially in changing modern times—are of special importance to Pope Francis.

TIME Religion

Border Crisis: Central American Churches Try to Keep Children Home

Members of a Catholic church in a small town along the Guatemala and Mexico border hold a special mass celebrating the Virgin of Shelter.
Members of a Catholic church in El Pedregal, a small town along the Guatemala and Mexico border, hold a special Mass celebrating the Virgin of Shelter for undocumented migrants passing through their town, July 4, 2014. Meridith Kohut—The New York Times/Redux

Pastors in the United States and across Central America and Mexico have a new message: do not send kids to the border.

Thousands of children continue to cross the US-Mexico border without parents, and a growing group of Hispanic Christian pastors is urging churches across Central America to keep their children from making the trip. Their goal is ambitious: zero unaccompanied minors at the border by the end of the year.

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/CONELA, a Hispanic Christian network that serves more than 40,000 churches in the US and 500,000 worldwide, is spearheading the campaign along with three other US-based faith organizations, Buckner International, Convoy of Hope, and Somebody Cares International. Together they hope to mobilize their member churches and partners in Central and South America to stop the children’s migration. “I believe it is wrong for parents to send children to the US border when the primary protective firewall for these children lies in a loving Christ-filled home where faith, family and education stand prevalent,” Samuel Rodriguez, president of NHCLC/CONELA, explains. “Correspondingly, as a nation and as people of faith, we must serve, heal and minister to those that have arrived in our nation because theirs, according to Jesus, is the kingdom of heaven.”

For now, the coalition is spreading the message primarily from pulpits and via a media campaign. The group launched a new website, ForHisChildren.net, on Wednesday, and is also beginning a radio ad campaign targeting some 500 radio stations, both secular and Christian, in Central and South America. Their message is direct: “How can we best protect our children? By making Christ the center of our homes, for a family filled with faith, hope and love stands as the primary deterrent against gangs, drugs and violence,” one of the Spanish ads says. “Keep your children home. Do not send them to the US border rather declare like Joshua, ‘As for me and my house, we shall serve The Lord.’”

NHCLC/CONELA leaders took this message to a gathering of 2,000 church leaders from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, in Guadalajara, Mexico, on July 10. The risk and likelihood of physical and psychological hardship, sexual abuse, and gang involvement, Rodriguez explained to the pastors there, outweighs the perceived benefits of letting children try to enter the United States. He asked pastors to share this message from their own pulpits: “Con Fe en Cristo y la familia junta; nuestros ninos tienen un future,” which translates as, “With faith in Christ and the family together, our children have a future.”

Beyond the humanitarian crisis at the border, the US faith leaders have political incentive to advise constituents to keep kids at home—vast numbers of migrating children continue to complicate the political challenge of passing immigration reform, which the leaders support. From October through the end of June, nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended crossing the US border, and nearly all were from Central American and Mexico. The number of children under age 12 who have been caught at the border has more than doubled this fiscal year over last year, according to data obtained by the Pew Research Center. Earlier this week, NHCLC members met with White House officials and, separately, with Senator Ted Cruz to share their recent efforts to prevent children from illegally coming to the US.

Fermín García, pastor of the 7,000-member strong church Grupo Unidad Cristiana de México (Christian Unity Group of Mexico) in Tijuana, leads the NHCLC Mexico chapter, which includes thousands of Church of God, Assemblies of God, Foursquare and Methodist churches. He is working to spread the message across Mexico pastor to pastor, and this week he met with leaders of the Foursquare denomination at their national convention in Baja California to give them copies of the media spots to share with their local churches. Biblical principles, he explains, are what ultimately change kids lives, and that’s one of the reasons it is so important for pastors to spread the keep-kids-home message. “Parents don’t want children to fall into gangs or with poverty, unfortunately it seems they are finding the same thing, only now away from their family,” Garcia says. “Changes come with hearts being changed, not with money.”

Costa Rican pastor Ricardo Castillo Medina, who serves as president of the Hispanic Federation of the Assemblies of God, was initially surprised to learn of the campaign, but he quickly joined and helped to coordinate awareness and humanitarian aid for children. His network in the most vulnerable immigration zones is large—2,300 churches in El Salvador, 1,750 in Honduras, 2,600 in Guatemala, 5,000 in Mexico. The churches in his network, he says, now have instructions to share messages to keep kids home with their communities. Families need to know, he explains via email, that the risks involved for children seeking the American dream could turn it into a nightmare. “We can avoid children suffering abuse and exposure to inhumane conditions, and besides that it is a social-political problem,” he says.

Whether the overall campaign works on the broad scale remains to be seen. The motivating forces behind the children’s migration, like violence and poverty, have far from an easy fix. “Everything is still new and you can’t yet measure the impact,” Castillo says, “but I think we’re going to raise awareness so that children are not used.”

TIME Religion

Obama’s Executive Order to Protect Gay Workers Will Have No Religious Exemption

US-POLITICS-OBAMA
US President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on July 17, 2014. Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

Not all faith leaders are upset

President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order Monday that will ban job discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation among federal employees and contractors–and it will not include an exemption for religious organizations.

The order ensures that federal employees and contractors, who are already protected on the basis of sexual orientation, will formally be protected from discrimination based on gender identity. It will affect some 24,000 companies with 28 million workers total, or about a fifth of the country’s work force, according to the Associated Press.

“At a critical time for our nation’s economy, we need all of our workers to be focused on making the most of their talent, skill, and ingenuity, rather than worrying about losing their job due to discrimination,” said a White House official. “Discrimination is not just wrong, it also can keep qualified workers from maximizing their potential to contribute to the strengthening of our economy.”

When the upcoming order was first announced on June 30–the last day of LGBT Pride month and shortly after the Supreme Court handed down the Hobby Lobby decision–a handful of Christian leaders including pastors Rick Warren and Joel Hunter wrote Obama a letter asking him to exempt religious organizations. They soon received pushback–more than 100 faith leaders wrote Obama last week asking that he not include an exemption. That group, which included Christian, Muslim, Jewish and interfaith leaders, said such an exemption would only open a “Pandora’s Box inviting other forms of discrimination.” Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, wrote in an op-ed for TIME that asking for such an exemption was “theologically indefensible.” Former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), who had originally signed the letter asking for a religious exemption along with Warren and Hunter, apologized last week, calling her initial decision to sign the request “an error in judgement,” and asked that her name be removed.

Obama’s executive order does not add exemptions for religious organizations beyond President George W. Bush’s 2002 order, which allowed religiously affiliated contractors to favor individuals of a particular religion when hiring. Religious organizations are still allowed, under the First Amendment, to make employment decisions about their ministers as they see fit.

TIME Travel

Washington, D.C.: What to See and What to Skip

The US Capitol and Reflecting Pool.
View of the U.S. Capitol over the Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C on Oct. 6, 2013. Jon Hicks—Corbis

Everyone knows the basics when it comes to visiting the nation’s capital—see the White House, the Capitol, Supreme Court, the monuments—but the locals know there’s a lot more that is worth checking out. Here’s a rundown of the best of DC:

What to See

A woman reads a magazine while enjoying classical music at the exhibit "Orchid Symphony" in the conservatory of the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., on March 12, 2014.
A woman reads a magazine while enjoying classical music at the exhibit “Orchid Symphony” in the conservatory of the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., on March 12, 2014. Kevin LaMarque—Reuters

If you like art but are overwhelmed by the more popular art museums on the mall, the Phillips Collection offers an intimate modern art collection, with Renoirs and Rothkos tucked away in a Edwardian Dupont row home. Even if you don’t go to a show or concert, check out the Kennedy Center rooftop for skyline views of the city. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is classic fun for all ages, and the United States Botanic Garden is a refreshing natural respite from the hustle by the Capitol—in the winter, it even has an exhibit that recreates DC out of plants. The district has several summer Screen on the Green options: NoMa Summer Screen complete with local food trucks, Golden Triangle Cinema Series, and, new in 2014, Films at the Stone, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Meridian Hill Parkon 16th is famous for its tiered fountains and a fun drum circle that meets on the upper level every Sunday afternoon. A bit farther out, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic church in North America, and Washington National Cathedral is the sixth largest cathedral in the world. Sports fans might want to check out a Nats game or DC United match.

What to Skip

Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 24, 2012.
Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 24, 2012. Frederic Soltan—Corbis

Most important tip: skip the memorials during the day—instead, go at night to see them lit up, and don’t miss the World War II and Vietnam Wall shrines. The Newseum is a tough sell for the $22.95 entrance fee, especially when the Smithsonian history museums are free and have similar exhibits. Georgetown Cupcake never ceases to be an endless tourist fascination thanks to a television show, but Baked and Wired down the street has no line, and superior cupcakes.Adams Morgan has turned into the college kids nightlife spot, so if that’s not your scene, only Jack Rose (whiskey heaven) and Las Canteras (best Peruvian, even in a lime shortage) are worth the trip. Ben’s Chili Bowl downtown is a tourist trap.National Harbor is farther than you think, and without good public transportation, cabs can be pretty pricey for the corporate-feel payoff. Jazz in the Sculpture Garden can be fun, but less fun since BYO alcohol is a no-go for your picnic.

Union Market on April 5, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Leigh Vogel—Getty Images

Where to Eat

  • DC is a foodie heaven, so much so that its hard even for locals to keep pace with the new restaurant openings. Here’s some to get you started:
  • Coffee. Filter and Dolcezza (also known for its gelato) are hip DC’s espresso spots. Many places also serve DC’s local brew, Vigilante Coffee.
  • Brunch. If DC is a happy hour town during the week, it is brunch-obsessed on the weekends. Le Diplomate boasts delicious French-inspired plates, Farmers Fishers Bakers has an unreal buffet spread, The Pig is known for its pork and bourbon maple syrup, Red Rocks has a chill outdoor patio, Ted’s Bulletin is good for families and its homemade pop tarts, and Masa 14 is a must for its bottomless drinks. If you don’t mind waiting, the blueberry buckwheat pancake line atMarket Lunch inside Eastern Market is a fun activity.
  • Lunch. If you try one spot, make it Union Market. It’s a warehouse full of different local food artisans and pop-up kitchens, making it good for a group with lots of different taste buds.
  • Dinner. You can’t really go wrong at any of the places on 14th Street between Logan Circle and U Street, or with anything in chef Jose Andres’ restaurant group (including Zaytinya, Oyamel, Jaleo, and minibar). Mike Isabella’s Graffiato is famous for its seasonal small plates.Tosca is the finest and freshest Italian around. Founding Farmers offers farm-inspired goodness, or for a quick and delicious bite, there’s always burgers and milkshakes at Good Stuff Eatery. Belgian-fare Brasserie Beck, 555-beer-cellar Birch and Barley, modern-Indian Rasika…we could go on and on. Columbia Heights on 11th St. has gems like Room 11, El Chucho, and Meridian Pint. The more adventuresome may want to check out the Atlas District, H Street NE from Union Station out to Benning Rd NE, a hipster haven with favorites including Ethiopic and, Washington’s best, Toki Underground ramen. The best kept dining secret? Little Serow, a northern Thai speakeasy does not take reservations, but its seven-course, prix-fix menu will blow you away. Definitely worth putting your name in early and then grabbing a drink at nearby Hanks Oyster Bar while you wait.

Drinks

The bar inside Proof on G street in Washington, D.C. Darko Zagar

For a classic DC experience, Point of View, the W Hotel’s Rooftop, is a must—it overlooks the White House. DNV Rooftopat the Donovan House has great views to the city’s north. Cocktails are great at Pearl Dive and Bar Charley. For wine, check out Barcelona or Proof. Beer is top-notch at Right Proper Brewing Company (while you’re at it, try out some of the new places cropping up in Shaw), Biergarten Haus, and Granville Moore’s. Nellie’s Sports Bar, Satellite Room, and American Ice are the go-to’s on U Street.

Dining Pro-Tip. Get reservations. Most places are on OpenTable, and DC is definitely a reservation culture, so walking in can mean a long wait.

Where to Stay

The Hay-Adams features stunning views of the White House and the Washington Monument, and it’s where President Obama and his family stayed before they moved into the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If you want luxury in the heart of Georgetown, book a room at the Four Seasons—just don’t expect it to come cheap. Le Méridien just over the Potomac in Rosslyn is a stylish, boutique spot, or if you want to skip the hotel route, you can check out Airbnb’s neighborhood guide.

TIME Religion

Faith Leaders to Obama: Don’t Let Us Discriminate, Either

A new effort pushes back against a smaller campaign last week

More than 100 faith leaders asked President Barack Obama on Tuesday not to include a religious exemption in his upcoming executive order to ban job discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation among federal employees.

The group—which included Christian, Jewish, Muslim and interfaith leaders—sent the White House a letter Tuesday urging the President to end such discrimination without exception. “An executive order that allows for religious discrimination against LGBT people contradicts the order’s fundamental purpose, as well as the belief shared by more and more Americans every day, which is that LGBT people should not be treated as second-class citizens,” they said in the letter. “An exception would set a terrible precedent by denying true equality for LGBT people, while simultaneously opening a Pandora’s Box inviting other forms of discrimination.”

Their effort pushes back against a smaller campaign last week by about a dozen Christian leaders who asked the President to carve out an exception in the order for religious organizations. Signers of that letter included pastors Rick Warren and Joel Hunter, as well as Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, Larry Snyder of Catholic Charities USA, and Stephan Bauman of World Relief. Michael Wear, who directed faith vote outreach for Obama’s reelection campaign, helped to organize that effort.

Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary and a signatory to the new letter, said she was “devastated” to learn that a group of prominent faith leaders, “my brothers and sisters in Christ,” had asked the President for a religious exemption in the forthcoming order. “In other words, they asked that people of faith be given special permission to discriminate,” she wrote in an op-ed for TIME last week after the first group’s letter became public. “It’s simply theologically indefensible.”

Five other seminary and divinity school presidents joined Jones in signing Tuesday’s letter—Katharine Henderson of Auburn Theological Seminary, Alice Hunt of Chicago Theological Seminary, James McDonald of San Francisco Theological Seminary, Katherine Hancock Ragsdale of Episcopal Divinity School, and Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan of Claremont School of Theology. Other notable signers include Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson, Brian McLaren of the Cana Initiative, and Rabbi Richard Block of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, as well as heads of nonprofits and denominational leaders of the Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ and others.

It remains to be seen how the White House will respond. For now, the dueling positions are one more reminder that, despite increasing public support for gay rights, tensions surrounding the matter still divide religious communities across the country.

TIME Courts

Religious Groups Divided on Hobby Lobby Ruling

Supreme Court Issues Ruling In Hobby Lobby ACA Contraception Mandate Case
Hobby Lobby supporters react to the U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Conservative Christians rejoice at Monday's ruling, but some church leaders question whether it's good for religious freedom or access to healthcare

On Sunday night, Hobby Lobby was simply a craft store. On Monday morning, it became the champion of religious liberty for conservative faith groups across the country.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5-4 split decision on June 30 that closely-held corporations can hold religious views under federal law, meaning that religious for-profit companies can refuse to pay for the employee contraceptive coverage required by President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.

Conservative Christian voices immediately praised the ruling and offered their prayers of thanksgiving. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called the ruling, “one of the most significant victories for religious freedom in our generation.” Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator and Republican presidential candidate, described it as “a tremendous victory for our freedom of conscience.” Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, tweeted “Hallejulah” within seconds, and then “Gave proof through the night that our First Amendment’s still there.” Soon after, Moore posted on his blog, “This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets for joy.”

A supporting chorus of the faithful around the country quickly added to the rejoicing. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called Monday a “great day for the religious freedom of family businesses.” George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God church, commended the court “for recognizing that individuals do not surrender their religious freedom rights when they incorporate as a closely held, for profit business.” Brian Fisher, president of Online for Life, stated, “No person or entity should be forced to provide baby-killing drugs to their employees.” Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, explained that the decision does not stop here: “I do believe that while this outcome validates this fundamental right, the many threats in both culture and society make religious liberty the quintessential civil rights issue of the 21st century.”

It would be a mistake, however, to believe that all religious groups are pleased with Monday’s ruling. Many religious leaders, Christian and non-Christian, see the decision as a setback for both the freedom of faithful practice and access to health care for which they have advocated for years. “The Court has privileged bosses and their corporations–who now are allowed to exercise religious belief, even though a corporation can’t sit in a pew–over women,” said Rev. Dr. Althea Smith-Withers, who chairs the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, whose members include the American Jewish Committee, the Episcopal Church, and the United Church of Christ. “Contraception is a moral good, a fact supported by the various denominations and organizations that make up our coalition. It’s a shame that it may be out of reach for the women who need it the most.”

Union Theological Seminary president Serene Jones called the decision a loss for Christians who desire to be faithful. “As a Christian, I believe that God creates human beings individually, and that the mark of our individual blessedness before God is our souls,” she said in a statement. “I am horrified by the thought that the owners of Hobby Lobby as Christians think their corporation has a soul, and I’m even more appalled that the Supreme Court agrees.”

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, is concerned that corporate owners now have more faith and health-related protections than their employees. “It is fairly stunning that the Supreme Court in today’s Hobby Lobby ruling held that a corporation’s owners can extend their religious preferences to the corporation’s employees regardless of their employees’ religious views,” Campbell says. “It raises the serious concern about employees being able to get needed services.”

The divide is a reminder that conservative religious groups are celebrating a broader victory. Yes, they transformed a dispute about health care coverage requirements into a symbolic case about religious freedom. But they have had few big culture war wins in recent years, especially as public opinion shifts in favor of marriage equality. The Hobby Lobby ruling—handed down on the last day of LGBT Pride month—is a bright spot for conservative Christians who feel besieged by cultural values they do not share.

The case’s broader religious freedom implications, however, may be more limited than many victors might hope. The decision is based on a 1993 law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not the First Amendment more broadly. Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, was careful to clarify the ruling is restrained in scope. “This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g. for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs,” he wrote in the ruling. “Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.”

TIME Religion

Hillary Clinton: Anchored by Faith

Brooks Kraft/Corbis for TIME

Since childhood, the former Secretary of State's Methodist beliefs have inspired public service and private devotion

This originally appeared in TIME’s book Hillary: An American Life, available on newsstands everywhere June 27.

Hillary Clinton once described her faith as the background music of her life. Whether she hears it as Chopin, Bach or even U2, she did not say, but the tune, she said, never fades away. “It’s there all the time. It’s not something you have to think about, you believe it,” she said in an interview with the New York Times. “You have a faith center out of which the rest flows.”

It can be easy to tune out background music, especially amid the political cacophony that has so often dominated Clinton’s public life. But the former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady is, and has always been, a Methodist. Her faith is at once public yet personal, quiet yet bold. She is part of the second-largest Protestant group in the country, but her brand of faith has never been mainstream: Methodists make up about 6% of the total U.S. adult population, according to the Pew Research Center.

If Methodists are known for one thing, it is, as the old church saying goes, that they are always looking for a mission. Clinton is no exception. Her sense of purpose has guided her from Wellesley to Washington, and may push her to seek the White House again come 2016. Certainly political aspirations have motivated her career. But her faith has also driven her, if not equally, at least consistently, to give her life to the pursuit of a higher calling.

Step By Step

Methodism knew Clinton even before she was born. Family lore has it that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, converted her great-great-grandparents in the coal-mining villages of Newcastle, in northeast England, in the 19th century. Clinton grew up attending First United Methodist Church of Park Ridge in Chicago, where she was confirmed in sixth grade. Her mother taught Sunday school, and Clinton was active in youth group, Bible studies and altar guild. On Saturdays during Illinois’s harvest season, she and others from her youth group would babysit children of nearby migrant workers. As the Wesleyan mantra instructed them, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

One man in particular had a strong influence on her young faith: Donald Jones, who came to Park Ridge as the new youth minister when Clinton was a high school freshman. A Drew University Seminary graduate, Jones’s own theology had the imprint of theological heavyweights like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Reinhold Niebuhr, and he made it his mission to give the youth a strong and broad theological training. He created a “University of Life” for his youth-group students and introduced Clinton and her peers to the great works of T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings, Dostoyevsky and Picasso. Faith, he argued, must be lived out in social justice and human rights. Jones ensured that students connected these ideas to life in their own communities, arranging exchanges with youth groups at black and Hispanic churches in Chicago’s inner city so that his students became aware of life beyond Park Ridge. Most important, he introduced Clinton to Martin Luther King Jr. when he came to Chicago in 1962. “Until then, I had been dimly aware of the social revolution occurring in our country,” Clinton recalled in her memoir Living History, “but Dr. King’s words illuminated the struggle taking place and challenged our indifference.”

This socially active current remained the lifeblood of her faith as her political career began to take shape. At Wellesley, Clinton regularly read the Methodist Church’s Motive magazine, and she credited it with helping her to realize that her political beliefs were no longer aligned with the Republican Party and that she should step down as president of the Young Republicans. During her Yale Law School years, she worked for anti-poverty activist Marian Wright Edelman, who is now president of the Children’s Defense Fund, and researched the education and health of migrant children she had known earlier. When she finally decided to marry a young Southern Baptist named Bill Clinton in Oct. 1975, it was local Arkansas Methodist minister Vic Nixon who married them in their living room.

Clinton became the first Methodist First Lady in the White House since President Warren Harding’s wife, Florence, who followed Methodist First Ladies Ida McKinley, Lucy Hayes, Julia Grant and Eliza Johnson. She soon brought issues like health-care reform and women’s rights to the national spotlight (even though faith alone could not make what came to be known as “Hillarycare” succeed). The Clintons regularly attended the Foundry United Methodist Church, a socially active church that today is an advocate for gay and lesbian rights, not far from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “As a Christian, part of my obligation is to take action to alleviate suffering,” she told the United Methodist News Service not long after her husband was elected. “Explicit recognition of that in the Methodist tradition is one reason I’m comfortable in this church.”

While Clinton’s faith has always emphasized public service, it also has a private side that runs deep. Prayer and reflection have been at the core of her spiritual life, and she has been known to carry a small book of her favorite Scripture verses to reflect upon in quiet moments. “My faith has always been primarily personal,” she once told the New York Times. “It is how I live my life and who I am, and I have tried through my works to demonstrate a level of commitment and compassion that flow from my faith.”

At times, she would let the public catch a glimpse of this inner faith. When George H.W. Bush called Bill on election night in 1992 to concede, Hillary recalled in Living History, “Bill and I went into our bedroom, closed the door and prayed together for God’s help as he took on this awesome honor and responsibility.” Her words are an unmistakable echo for anyone who knows the Bible well. Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, preached, “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

It is a reminder that Clinton is keenly aware that in America the Bible can often be a political tool. Early in 1993, she joined a women’s prayer group through the National Prayer Breakfast organized by conservative evangelical Doug Coe. Clinton called the women her “prayer partners,” in the long spiritual tradition of having people of faith pray consistently for you throughout your life. The group, however, was more than just spiritual—each woman had strong political affiliations, many of which served to help Clinton win allies across the political aisle. It included Susan Baker, the wife of President George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of State, James Baker; Joanne Kemp, the wife of future vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp; and Holly Leachman, a Christian speaker who even faxed Clinton a daily Scripture reading or faith message throughout her time in the White House. Whether the group served a primarily political or spiritual purpose is difficult to sort out, but Clinton did say that she valued their prayers. “Of all the thousands of gifts I received in my eight years in the White House, few were more welcome and needed,” she wrote.

Clinton had plenty of raw personal moments that thrust her faith into the public spotlight. Her second year in the White House was particularly grief-stricken: she lost her father, her mother-in-law and her friend Vince Foster in the short time since Bill Clinton had been president. Two friends gave Clinton a copy of a book by Catholic priest Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son. One sentence, Clinton said, struck her like a lightning bolt: “The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”

The biggest test of faith came in 1998 with her husband’s personal indiscretions. To the public, Clinton’s response was short and direct. “This is a time when she relies on her strong religious faith,” Marsha Berry, Clinton’s press secretary, said in a statement when the Monica Lewinsky news broke. But as she often did in times of personal trial, Clinton turned back to her former minister Don Jones for counsel. He pointed her to a sermon by theologian Paul Tillich called “You Are Accepted” that he had taught her youth group growing up and encouraged her to choose grace. “Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness,” Tillich wrote. “It happens or it does not happen.” Clinton explained in her memoir that she made a decision to choose grace. She also turned to Nouwen for advice on forgiveness. Prayer, Nouwen argues, takes you into the arms of God and deep into yourself to find the ability to forgive. “Do I want to be not just the one who is being forgiven, but also the one who forgives; not just the one who is being welcomed home, but also the one who welcomes home; not just the one who receives compassion, but the one who offers it as well?” he reflected in his book’s conclusion.

Clinton also developed a close relationship with evangelist Billy Graham in the months leading to and after the crisis. In 1997, at the dedication of the George Herbert Walker Bush Presidential Library, Clinton pulled Graham aside and asked him to talk with her. “She grabbed my head in her hands and held it there like that and looked right into my eyes and said, ‘I want to tell you about Bill,’ ” Graham later recounted in The Preacher and the Presidents. Graham, who forgave Bill Clinton as quickly as he had Nixon decades prior, encouraged Hillary to forgive her husband. Clinton held Graham’s hand the entire time during their private meeting at Graham’s New York City Crusade in 2005. “She was just so sweet,” Graham recalled. “She is different from the Hillary you see in the media. There is a warm side to her—and a spiritual one.”

Costly Grace

There’s a strain of Christian theology that believes self-sacrifice to be the highest form of faithful living. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who famously said that when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. Bonhoeffer took this literally—he was eventually executed by the Nazis for his role in the political resistance movement. God’s grace should mean something, he argued, and it should bring about justice on earth. “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church,” he wrote. “We are fighting today for costly grace.”

It can be said that Clinton knows this personally all too well. Few people in politics today know costs as closely as she does, be they political, marital, or the costs of being the first woman poised to become president. They have followed her time and again throughout her career. But she keeps on going. As she told a gathering of Methodist women in April, “Even when the odds are long, even when we are tired and just want to go away somewhere to be alone and rest, let’s make it happen.”

In a way, the costs are just the price for doing the Lord’s work. And it makes politics, and whatever her future therein is, more than just her career: it makes it her calling.

TIME Religion

What It Really Means for Pope Francis to Excommunicate the Mob

Italy Pope
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in Sibari, southern Italy on June 21, 2014. Alessandra Tarantino—AP

Why the Pope took sides against the Family

Pope Francis used the e-word against the mob for the first time this weekend.

The Holy Father was celebrating mass on Saturday in Calabria, a mob-heavy region in southern Italy, when he deviated from his prepared remarks and announced that the mafia are excommunicated. “Those who go down the evil path, as the Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated,” he said. The thousands who had gathered underneath the hot sun cheered.

Calabria is home to the ‘Ndrangheta, a global drug trafficking syndicate. Reports suggest that the group turns over $72 billion per year in the cocaine trade and uses that wealth to entice young people in the region—where the unemployment rate is 50% or higher—to work for it. Last week Pope Francis also reaffirmed his position against recreational drug use and the drug trade.

Francis has condemned corporate financial sins throughout his papacy, particularly for their socio-economic consequences. His pronouncement on Saturday yet again shows how seriously he takes those consequences.

“When adoration of the Lord is substituted by adoration of money, the road to sin opens to personal interest…Your land, which so beautiful, knows the signs of the consequences of this sin,” Francis explained. “The ‘ndrangheta is this: adoration of evil and contempt of the common good. This evil must be fought, must be expelled. It must be told no.”

Pope Francis’ pronouncement was the strongest censure of the mafia so far in his papacy, or in any of his predecessors’ papacies. Excommunication does not mean that a person is banned from the church, but it is a public recognition by church authorities that a person is no longer part of the Catholic community. Technically excommunication means the excommunicated party has chosen to separate him or herself from the church through their own un-Catholic choices. The Pope doesn’t excommunicate, but people excommunicate themselves by their behavior. Excommunication also does not mean a person is denied from heaven and the afterlife (that’s “anathema”)—one’s baptism is still effectual, meaning it still carries its sacramental worth.

Excommunication is usually reserved for grave offenses, and some sins incur automatic excommunication. These traditionally include abortion (the woman who has it and all accomplices), apostasy (total repudiation of Christian faith), heresy (obstinate denial of doctrine), schism (refusing to submit to the Pope and church community), violating the sacred species (throwing away/desecrating elements of Eucharist), physically attacking the pope, consecrating a bishop without Vatican’s authorization, sacramentally absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin, and violating the seal of confession.

Francis is building on a theme of his papacy that financial behavior deserves equal scrutiny and attention as often-hyped sexual sins. Often people think of excommunication as a consequence for an individual, but the Pope’s words were a reminder that communities can sin too—and that a group’s financial behavior affect society as a whole, sometimes violently. Love of money and violent or dishonest behavior are right up there with abortion in his mind. It is another reason Francis has also been working to reform the scandal-plagued Vatican bank, the Institute for Religious Works, and that he has condemned the “idolatry of money” and unfettered capitalism as a “new tyranny.”

Life together, Pope Francis is reminding the world, is at the core of the Catholic message. That’s why excommunication means something. When someone is excommunicated, they are ex-communion, out of communion, and they cannot participate in the sacrament of Eucharist, a public action by a group of people setting themselves apart for the Christian life.

Will priests start denying members of the mafia the bread and wine? That remains to be seen, and it would likely be a risky decision. Francis appears unabashed. He’s preaching a bigger message: reconciliation and societal change. Even excommunication is not the end of relationship with the church. The same day, Pope Francis reminded a group of prisoners that God always forgives, meaning that reunion is always possible. “The Lord is a master at rehabilitation,” he said. “He takes us by the hand and brings us back into the social community. The Lord always forgives, always accompanies, always understands; it is up to us to let ourselves be understood, forgiven and accompanied.”

Whether the mafia listens to that message is another matter.

TIME

Santorum Film: American Believers Could Face Nazi Fate

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Rick Santorum is bringing the nationwide fight over religious liberty to the big screen, and it is chilling.

As the Supreme Court weighs the Hobby Lobby case and activists at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference denounce the war on Christianity in America, Christian movie company EchoLight Studios, of which Rich Santorum is CEO, is preparing to release One Generation Away: the Erosion of Religious Liberty. The trailer, above, shows just how seriously Santorum and many fellow conservatives are taking the issue: if the United States continues down a path that erodes religious freedom, the country could be headed toward Nazi Germany. (That punch comes around minute 1:41.)

One Generation Away is a documentary-style film slated to release September 1. The film focuses on seven ongoing cases studies of religious freedom across the country: Mt. Soledad in San Diego, wedding service providers in Oregon and Washington, Hobby Lobby, chaplaincy in the military, two education cases with a collegiate counseling program, and high school cheerleaders in Koontz, Texas. “The fight to protect our religious freedom is paramount to our country’s future prosperity,” Santorum says. “Taking that fight to the big screen and impacting the culture along the way allows us to inform on this critical subject in a meaningful and entertaining way.”

The film will include interviews with more than 40 political, business and religious leaders, including Steve and David Green of Hobby Lobby, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Jennifer Marshall of Heritage Foundation, Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, and Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association. “The tone and message of One Generation is that freedom must be available for all to be effective,” Jeff Sheets, president of EchoLight Studios and founder of Abington Ridge Films, explains. “Our intended goal is to promote ongoing, civil dialogue that respects each other even while at times disagreeing.”

The trailer makes the film’s overall position clear: religious freedom in the U.S. is under attack. A famous Ronald Reagan quote frames the trailer: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” Reagan says in the trailer. “And if you and I don’t do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” (The original quote comes from Reagan’s 1961 speech arguing to block the passage of Medicare. Sarah Palin revived the quote in her closing remarks in the 2008 vice-presidential debate.)

The comparison to Nazi Germany is bound to raise eyebrows, if not criticism. It is not an uncommon analogy for Santorum—as Dana Milbank wrote in 2012, “Santorum sees Nazis everywhere: in the Middle East, in doctor’s offices and medical labs, in the Democratic Party, and now in the White House.” Sheets explains the inclusion of the Nazi comparison this way: “This example was used to illustrate the extreme consequences that can occur when freedoms begin to erode unchecked. The ‘Church’ in Germany sat by as their freedoms and the freedoms of the Jews were restricted. By the time they woke up, it was too late. America is NOT Nazi Germany nor is there an inference in the movie that our government is taking that extremist position.”

One Generation Away will be shown in churches as the premier of EchoLight’s new plan to take advantage of their theater-like setup and built-in audiences.

TIME Religion

Pope for Legal Dope? Still Nope.

Pope Israel
Pope Francis listens to a speech during his meeting with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, at the Heichal Shlomo center in Jerusalem on May 26, 2014 Andrew Medichini—AP

The Holy Father is standing firm against recreational drugs, even as his home continent pushes for legalization

Pope Francis is not changing his mind about recreational drug use or marijuana legalization. On Friday morning, the Holy Father made his anti-pot position clear to the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome. “Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs!” the Pope said. “Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise.”

Legalization, he continued, should be a no-go. “Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects,” he said.

It is far from a new position, either for Francis or the Vatican. In 2001, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Health Care urged governments to resist legalization even on soft drugs in the manual “Church, Drugs, and Drug Addiction,” published at the request of John Paul II. Francis said no to legalization as a bishop in Argentina when he was still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. Last summer, Pope Francis condemned legalization when he was in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day. “The scourge of drug trafficking, that favors violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage,” he told the crowd, adding that legalization would not yield “a reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction.”

The Pope’s position is similar to the Dalai Lama’s, who also warns against recreational use. “These kinds of substances are generally considered poison, very bad,” he told TIME in February. “The ability to judge reality is something very unique. Our brain is something very special. So if that is damaged, that’s awful. So alcohol and drugs are very bad.”

Francis’ reasoning is not so much about drugs themselves as about the broader suffering they cause, not just for individuals, but also for communities. Drugs dependencies can both hurt relationships and trap people in poverty. “To say this ‘no,’ one has to say ‘yes’ to life, ‘yes’ to love, ‘yes’ to others, ‘yes’ to education, ‘yes’ to greater job opportunities,” the Pope explained. “If we say ‘yes’ to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction.”

He is particularly concerned about their impact on young people. “The scourge of drug use continues to spread inexorably, fed by a deplorable commerce which transcends national and continental borders,” he said. “As a result, the lives of more and more young people and adolescents are in danger.”

Even if his words are not new, it is still a significant stand for the first Pope from Latin America to take. The region has been at the forefront of the drug wars for years, and many lawmakers there have been arguing that legalization and regulation are actually the way out of the cycle of violence and poverty associated with the trade.

Last year Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the marijuana trade—growing, selling, smoking—to try to push traffickers out to the pot business, and President José “Pepe” Mujica was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Argentina, Francis’ home, decriminalized possession of controlled substances in 2009, and Catholic priest Juan Carlos Molina, who serves as the country’s drug czar, called for a debate about whether or not Argentina should follow Uruguay’s example. In Brazil trafficking the drug is criminal but personal use is not punished. Mexico decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2009.

Francis may not have directly taken on these policies this morning, it is hard to imagine they are far from his mind, especially since South America is in the global spotlight for the World Cup games. The last major time he spoke out against recreational drugs was also when Rio de Janiero was an international focus for World Youth Day. It’s another reminder that the world’s top Catholic leader knows how to play the political game.

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