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Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune offers analysis and commentary on issues that concern the work of FaithTrust Institute.

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What Would Jeremiah Say?

What Would Jeremiah Say?

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The recent film Spotlight highlights the investigation by The Boston Globe into the coverup of child sexual abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese. Using the lens of investigative journalism, it takes us as viewers/bystanders through the years of complicity by the legal system, The Globe, and the Catholic Church— as well as the active efforts by the Church to hide the abuse and protect the pedophile priests at the expense of the laity. The sexual abuse of children by faith leaders is no longer “news”. Sadly enough, it is too common to be “news”. But what is informative and important about Spotlight for those of us who are bystanders to these atrocities is the laying out of the institutional practices that have allowed this suffering to go on for decades. In November, 2015, the National Center for Victims of Crime called for a national commission on child sexual abuse to investigate institutional settings where children are particularly vulnerable and where we know there has been a history of child sexual abuse.

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Spotlight: Diving Deep & Surfacing

Spotlight: Diving Deep & Surfacing

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Spotlight is the name of the team of Boston Globe reporters who investigated the Archdiocese of Boston in 2001 when the puzzle pieces began to fall into place surrounding the sexual abuse of children by priests. Their reporting yielded a Pulitzer Prize and finally blew the lid off the long-standing conspiracy of silence surrounding the protection of priest pedophiles in the Catholic Church. Spotlight, the film, is indeed a cautionary tale for us all. While non-Catholics might be tempted to walk away from the theater with just a tinge of self-righteousness, assuming that this is a Catholic problem, don't give into that temptation. And let us not spend time arguing (as some commentators have) over whether "the problem" is greater or lesser in our faith community. Neither will serve us well.

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GUEST BLOG: A Safe Place to Call Home {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work} by Rev. Amy Gopp

GUEST BLOG: A Safe Place to Call Home {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work} by Rev. Amy Gopp

December 10, 2015 - Human Rights Day We all deserve a safe place to call home. The right to seek a safe place to live and the right to shelter are fundamental human rights as named in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which we celebrate today. Tragically, for victims and survivors of gender-based violence, no matter where they live, home is often the most dangerous place in the world. In fact, for far too many, it can be deadly to stay home.

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GUEST BLOG: Inspiration for Prevention {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work} by Rev. Pat Simpson

GUEST BLOG: Inspiration for Prevention {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work} by Rev. Pat Simpson

I saw the film "Spotlight" last week. It celebrates the intrepid Boston Globe journalists who exposed sexual abuse of children in parishes and schools of the Boston Archdiocese, and the cover-up by church authorities that made it possible. The story ran early in 2002, and won a Pulitzer the next year. The movie is winning awards, too, leading to some good visibility. The next day I went to work at my church. I punched in the four digit code for the security door into the daycare space. I opened the door to the pastor's office, with its clear window for safety's sake. Most days I don't notice these precautions we take to keep kids and vulnerable adults safe from abuse. They are facts of life now. But that morning I sat down at my desk full of gratitude.

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GUEST BLOG: Bettie Williams Watson: Ending the Silence, Defeating the Shame {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work}

GUEST BLOG: Bettie Williams Watson: Ending the Silence, Defeating the Shame {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work}

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I met Bettie Williams-Watson 8 years ago when she presented a workshop on domestic violence at a faith-based women’s conference in Seattle. Bettie told a compelling story about her abusive relationship with her husband, a minister who would batter her during the week but was careful to avoid hitting her or kicking her on parts of her body where bruises could be seen in church on Sunday. He was over 7 feet tall with huge feet and hands and she describes him as a lethal weapon. One day she realized that if she stayed he would kill her and their children.

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It Takes Courage: Rev. M.L. Daniel on Activism

It Takes Courage: Rev. M.L. Daniel on Activism

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Have you read the comment section on any of the headline news stories recently? I have to admit that I frequently make the mistake of reading the comments and it never fails that I am appalled, saddened and ashamed of what many people post in the name of Christianity.

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GUEST BLOG: "My Little Pony Snowsuit" {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work}

GUEST BLOG: "My Little Pony Snowsuit" {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work}

She was proud of her pink My Little Pony snowsuit and she needed to go to the bathroom. That was my introduction to Mimi, a preschool-aged girl in the gym of a local church drop-in center. She was there with her Dad and 2nd grade brother, Lemar, as they waited to be transported to an emergency shelter that operated on bitter cold nights.

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16 Days of Activism: The Stories That Inspire Our Work

16 Days of Activism: The Stories That Inspire Our Work

As we approach the end of 2015, it's once again time for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. As we pause to consider “activism” and to take stock of our efforts, it is sobering to realize that we are still having to make the case that “Black Lives Matter,” that women should have access to contraception, that one should be able to attend college or serve in the military without being raped, that climate change is a deeply disturbing fact, that terrorism, whether in the home or in the street, is an affront to every faith tradition and that we are all a year older. How is it that we stay on these paths, seeking justice, safety, equality and healing?

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GUEST BLOG: "I Will Survive": A Celebration for a New Year

GUEST BLOG: "I Will Survive": A Celebration for a New Year

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I still remember the energy surging through my body that New Year's Eve as the words of Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive echoed through the room. Sadness mixed with joy of freedom transformed into renewed confidence as I danced with friends welcoming a new year. I am a survivor; I will survive. I've moved from putting one foot in front of the other to dancing in celebration of a new secular year.

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How Many? How Long?

How Many? How Long?

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This might sound like the start of a bad joke: What do a theologian (John Howard Yoder) and a comedian (Bill Cosby) have in common? More than you might imagine—and I’m not laughing. Both were major figures in their fields. Both were widely regarded and respected, even adored by many. Both were powerful men with a sense of entitlement. With impunity, both sexually abused scores of young women who trusted them for years. Both were shielded by their peers and colleagues from any meaningful accountability.

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Dear Dylann Roof

Dear Dylann Roof

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Dear Dylann Roof: When you gunned down 9 people in a Charleston church who were sharing Bible study with you, you said, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Author Lisa Wade described this as “benevolent” sexism. I find this an overly generous label.

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GUEST BLOG: Ramadan Reflections: Recharging for Social Justice Work by Afeefa Syeed

GUEST BLOG: Ramadan Reflections: Recharging for Social Justice Work by Afeefa Syeed

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I am an aspiring potter and love to be covered in clay. I’m excited about the process of what clay does even more than what products my playing with mud might yield. More than anything else, being a potter gives me head and heart space to reflect on humility, patience, submission and being passionately hopeful that whatever comes out of the process is just what I needed to learn, experience, and live to be who I am. Sometimes there’s a pretty pot I can pour tea out of. In many ways this is how Ramadan is for me as an activist. Essentially, fasting is denying yourself something, but it really becomes more about how that denial takes place, what process makes it be more than just not eating or drinking. Principles from Ramadan are critical then in how they reinforce my work as an advocate...

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Dear Pope: It's Me Again

Dear Pope: It's Me Again

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Dear Pope: It’s been a while since I wrote to you. Like many people around the world, I’ve been watching your tenure closely, particularly regarding the sexual abuse of children. I want to commend you for your move to establish a tribunal for holding bishops accountable for their actions to protect abusers and stonewall investigations or their inaction to protect children in response to sexual abuse by priests. I also commend you for actually listening to the Papal Commission you established in late 2013 to advise you on these matters.

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Consent: Not Rocket Science—Really

Consent: Not Rocket Science—Really

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What is it that people don’t understand about consent in sexual relationships? Evidently a lot, given the staggering numbers of rapes in the military, on campuses, in marriages… and everywhere else. I remember a conversation I had with a young woman in a church youth group. She said that her boyfriend had asked her to have sex with him. She declined and didn’t give a reason. She just didn’t want to do that with him at that time. He didn’t force her to have sex; he ended the relationship. So even though he didn’t assault her, he punished her for saying “no, not now.” She didn’t want to end the relationship; she just didn’t want to have sex. It was a deal breaker for him.

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“Marriage Is Sacred”

“Marriage Is Sacred”

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A few years back there was a news article in California about the prosecution of a husband for marital rape of his wife. The wife had locked herself in the bedroom to protect herself from the abusive husband. He broke down the door and assaulted her. His defense at trial was that he was Roman Catholic and the church had taught him that once he married, he could have sex with his wife any time he chose; therefore his arrest for marital rape was a violation of his First Amendment right to exercise religion.

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Spring Break {File Under: Things We Tend To Take For Granted}

Spring Break {File Under: Things We Tend To Take For Granted}

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In the northern hemisphere, this is the season of spring. Each year I try to spend a week in the Smokey Mountains because spring here is an event that unfolds each day before our eyes. Warm days and cool nights coax the sprouts from the ground and the buds from the trees. Wild violets cover the ground, tender fiddle heads of ferns unfold, the redbuds are just ready to burst into purple, a faint touch of green covers the mountainside.

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From Darkness to Light: Passover

From Darkness to Light: Passover

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Passover is the Jewish holiday about the passage from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom. In remembering the Exodus story of the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, it is an occasion to reflect on our own journeys.

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A Tale of the Usual and the Unusual

A Tale of the Usual and the Unusual

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The story of Mohammad Abdullah Saleem of Elgin, IL, is not unlike that of a Catholic priest, a Protestant pastor, a Jewish rabbi, or a Buddhist teacher who has sexually molested a faithful follower. Over the past 30 years, we have heard from many survivors of abuse by a faith leader in all of these groups, but few Muslim survivors. It has simply been harder to break the silence in the Muslim community where any discussion of anything sexual remains largely taboo.

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GUEST BLOG: Campus Sexual Assault is a Civil Rights Issue

GUEST BLOG: Campus Sexual Assault is a Civil Rights Issue

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Last Friday marked the opening of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about rape on American college campuses, in which students share painful testimonies about sexual violation and frustrated hopes for justice. The film highlights the serious human toll resulting from the fact that roughly one in five women faces sexual assault during her college years... “The Hunting Ground” comes at an important moment in the public conversation about the epidemic of campus sexual assault in this country. While the movement to raise awareness about widespread sexual victimization of college women has continued to gain momentum, the countermovement that has emerged is fierce.

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

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“As gun rights advocates push to legalize firearms on college campuses, an argument is taking shape: Arming female students will help reduce sexual assaults.” I will tell you exactly what will go wrong. Here’s how it will go. Undergrad Sally is given a handgun by her parents on her birthday. Sally attends an abbreviated gun safety class which includes target practice. Sally now carries her gun in her backpack on campus. She says she feels safer. Two possible scenarios:

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