Category Archives: Government and politics

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abortion

When choosing terms to describe a person’s stance on abortion, journalists should remember that abortion is a nuanced issue, with many people supporting or opposing abortion in some, but not all, circumstances. Take care to describe a person’s view rather than relying on terms popularized in the heated public debate. For example, journalists should use pro-abortion rights or a similar description instead of pro-choice, and opposed to abortion or against abortion rights instead of pro-life. The AP Stylebook advises using anti-abortion instead of pro-life and abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice. See pro-choice and pro-life.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Government and politics, Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, Protestantism, Religion and culture

accommodationist

A term used to describe people or groups who believe that government should accommodate religion to some extent in legal matters. The degree of accommodation can vary greatly. See separationist, Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause.

Filed in Government and politics

Christian Coalition

A group of political conservatives who generally also represent conservative theological views. It was founded in 1989 by televangelist Pat Robertson and is considered the successor to the Moral Majority, founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell in 1979. See Moral Majority.

Filed in Government and politics

city upon a hill

A phrase made famous in 1630 by future Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop, who told Puritans sailing from England that the colonies would serve as a model, a “city upon a hill.” The phrase has come to encapsulate the idea, cited by politicians from John Adams to John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton, that America has special blessing from God as well as a special responsibility.

Filed in Christianity, Government and politics, Protestantism

civil religion

The phrase, first noted in 1762 in Jean Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract, has come to mean a collection of sacred beliefs Americans hold about their country – beliefs that transcend any particular faith or institution of religion. It was popularized by a 1967 essay by sociologist Robert Bellah.

Filed in Government and politics

civil union

A civil ceremony that gives same-sex couples some of the rights married couples have in the areas of tax benefits, medical decisions and estate planning. In 2000, Vermont became the first state to allow civil unions.

Filed in Government and politics, Religion and culture

Establishment Clause

One of two clauses in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that address religion. It reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …” The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the clause to mean that the federal government is prohibited from declaring and financially supporting a national religion, preferring one religion over another, or even religion over non-religion. Religious conservatives argue that the specific wording of the Establishment Clause does not prohibit the federal government from engaging in certain religious activities, such as promoting prayer in public schools or posting the Ten Commandments in public spaces. On the other side is the argument that the Establishment Clause carries a broader meaning as set out in the writings by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison that suggest “a wall of separation” between church and state. See Free Exercise Clause.

Filed in Government and politics

faith-based

Term that came into popular use when President George W. Bush established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2001. Generally, the adjective faith alone is preferred, as in faith groups instead of faith-based groups.

Filed in Government and politics, Religion and culture

First Amendment

Written by James Madison, the First Amendment guarantees basic freedoms and is the root of disagreements over church-state issues involving the complicated relationship between the government and religious organizations. It went into effect with the Bill of Rights on Dec. 15, 1791. It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” See Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause.

Filed in Government and politics

Free Exercise Clause

One of two clauses in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that address religion. It reads, “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise (of religion).” As interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court through several decisions, a person’s right to believe in any religion – or none at all – is absolute, but the government can place limitations on free exercise. The court has ruled that any law that specifically targets a religion violates the First Amendment. The situation is much murkier when a law that is religiously neutral or generally applicable has the effect of interfering with a religious practice or belief. Through a series of rulings in the 1950s and 1960s, the high court determined that governments had to show a “compelling interest” for passing any laws that had an unintended effect of interfering with religious practice or belief. The burden of proving that compelling interest was heavy. But in 1990, the Supreme Court narrowed the scope of “compelling interest,” lightening the government’s burden and requiring little justification as long as the law was not aimed at a specific religion or religious practice. See Establishment Clause.

Filed in Government and politics

intifada

This Islamic term for shaking, uprising and insurrection generally is used to refer to the Palestinian resistance of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Specific events mark the beginnings of different intifadas.

Filed in Government and politics, Islam

just war

A doctrine with roots in Christianity that posits that governments sometimes – but not always — have a morally justified reason for using mass political violence. It has three parts, known by their Latin names: jus ad bellum, which considers the justice of the cause for going to war; jus in bello, which concerns justice within the conduct of war; and jus post bellum, which concerns the justice of peace agreements and the termination of war.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Government and politics

Khalistan

The name adopted by proponents of an independent Sikh homeland in India. It means “land of the pure.” Khalistani separatists declared their independence from India on Oct. 7, 1987, but this declaration has not been recognized by any nation.

Filed in Government and politics, Sikhism

King, Martin Luther Jr.

The civil rights leader and Baptist minister was born on Jan. 15, 1929, and assassinated on April 4, 1968. A federal holiday honoring him takes place on the third Monday in January. Refer to him as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on first reference.

Filed in Baptist/Southern Baptist, Christianity, Government and politics, Protestantism

Moral Majority

Started in 1979 by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, it was made up of conservative Christian political action committees that campaigned on issues it believed central to upholding its concept of Christian morality. Its leaders believed it represented the majority of Americans’ beliefs; hence the name. The organization officially dissolved in 1989, but its work continues through the Christian Coalition network initiated by Pat Robertson. After the 2004 presidential election, Falwell created a new group called the Moral Majority Coalition.

Filed in Christianity, Government and politics, Protestantism

National Council of Churches

The formal name of this group, which was founded in 1950, is the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. It is commonly called the National Council of Churches, and that term is acceptable in all references. Use NCC on second reference. The NCC is an ecumenical organization that is the major national umbrella group for mainline Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African-American and Living Peace churches. More than 50 other faith groups, including Roman Catholics, work with the council on humanitarian, justice and interfaith issues.

Filed in Christianity, Government and politics, Interfaith, Orthodoxy

nones

An increasingly popular term for people who answer “none of the above” in surveys that ask them to categorize what religion they follow. Many nones say they believe in God and/or consider themselves religious. In the early 21st century, nones are one of the fastest-growing segments in religious identification surveys. Journalists should define the term on first reference.

Filed in Government and politics, Religion and culture

parish

Originally this referred to a geographic territory whose residents were all to go to the one church within that territory. That is still essentially how it functions within Roman Catholicism. In the 1960s theEpiscopal Church allowed its members to attend any parish they chose, eliminating the geographic use of the term. Today, a growing minority of Catholics also attend the parish of their choice, and there is no sanction involved. In some heavily Catholic parts of the nation, particularly Louisiana and Philadelphia, counties or neighborhoods are still known as parishes. Capitalize as part of the formal name. Lowercase when standing alone.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Government and politics

pro-choice

A term used to describe people who support abortion rights. Abortion, however, is a more nuanced issue, with many people supporting abortion in some circumstances, but not all. Journalists should instead use the term pro-abortion rights or a similar description. See abortion, pro-life.

Filed in Christianity, Government and politics, Protestantism

pro-life

A term used to describe people who oppose abortion. Abortion, however, is a more nuanced issue, with many people opposing abortion rights in most, but not all, circumstances. Journalists should instead use a description of their views, such as opposed to abortion or against abortion rights. See abortion, pro-choice.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Government and politics, Orthodoxy, Protestantism

progressive

A term that emerged as a way to refer to people of faith who are liberal-to-moderate in their political views. It is a disputed term because it implies that other groups are regressive, which carries a negative connotation.

Filed in Government and politics

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

A federal law passed in 1993 that offers important protections for people’s right to the free exercise of religion. It prohibits the government from burdening a person’s religious practice unless a compelling state interest justifies the restriction. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the law did not apply to state or local governments, states began passing their own RFRA laws. RFRA is acceptable on second reference.

Filed in Government and politics

religious left

A term used to describe people of faith with liberal political views. Journalists can refer to the so-called “religious left,” but it is best to specify which groups they are referring to and what action they are promoting. See religious right and progressive.

Filed in Government and politics

religious right

A term used to describe people and groups whose religious beliefs inform their conservative political and social views. The term dates to 1979, when the Rev. Jerry Falwell formed the Moral Majority. Since then, politically active religious conservatives have diversified in their goals and approaches. Journalists should refer to the so-called “religious right” or religious conservatives. It is best to specify which groups the term refers to and what they are promoting. See religious left.

Filed in Christianity, Government and politics, Protestantism

separationist

A term used to describe people or groups who support a strong separation of church and state in legal matters. See accommodationist, Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause.

Filed in Government and politics

Social Gospel

Refers to a Protestant movement, prominent in the 19th and early 20th centuries, that sought to apply Jesus’ teachings to social problems, such as poverty and industrialization. Sin and salvation were seen as social rather than individual.

Filed in Government and politics, Protestantism

Somali

A person from Somalia, or as an adjective for a thing related to Somalia. Avoid “Somalian.”

Filed in Government and politics

theocracy

A government ruled by religious authority or people who believe they are carrying out divine directions.

Filed in Government and politics

White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

The successor to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which was begun in 2001 by President George W. Bush to make federal funding available to religious organizations for social services. Under President Barack Obama, the renamed program was given a broader scope.

Filed in Government and politics

World Council of Churches

Formed in 1948 in Amsterdam, the World Council of Churches claims the membership of 340 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 100 countries and territories, representing some 550 million Christians, including most of the world’s Orthodox churches. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member but has a working relationship with the council. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the council works for Christian unity while stressing that it is not aimed at creating a “global super-church.” It is viewed with suspicion by many theologically conservative Christian groups — including strong factions of some member churches — who believe that it waters down Christian theology and substitutes social action for spreading the gospel.

Filed in Christianity, Government and politics, Interfaith, Orthodoxy

Zionism

A modern movement in Judaism rooted in the establishment of a separate Jewish nation, based on God’s biblical promise that Israel would forever belong to Abraham and his descendants as a nation. Many Zionists do not have religious motives, but believe a Jewish state is necessary because of the long history of persecution of Jews. That goal was realized with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Zionism refers to Mount Zion, the site of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. A Zionist is a supporter of Zionism.


Filed in Government and politics, Judaism