In Church We (Do Not) Trust: News Roundup

This week in the news: we trust our churches, synagogues and temples less than our parents did; a hotly contested mosque project in Tennessee moves forward, and opposition to the Obama administration's contraception mandate grows.

According to new statistics released by Gallup this week, Americans' confidence in their religious institutions is at an all-time low:

"Today only 44 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in “the church or organized religion,” Gallup said. It was 68 percent in the mid-1970s… [Gallup Senior Editor Ellen] Saad said in 1975, “the church or organized religion” was the highest-rated of the 16 institutions Gallup asked about. The top three institutions Americans have most confidence in are, in order, the military, small business and the police."

Religious organizations are still faring far better than the Congress, which currently enjoys the support of a scant 13% of the population. (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

A federal judge overturned the order preventing Murfreesboro, Tennessee's Muslim community from occupying their mosque, just in time for the holy month of Ramadan. The mosque issue has been a stand-in for a larger ideological battle in the area:

"Since mosque construction began in 2010, the building has been at the center of a dispute over whether the public was adequately notified about the site's construction. However, opponents made clear in court hearings that they also opposed the practice of Islam… Plaintiffs in the original suit were a group of residents who made repeated claims that Islam was not a real religion and that local Muslims intended to overthrow the U.S. Constitution in favor of Islamic religious law."

The congregation is now free to pursue the normal inspection process pursuant to obtaining the Certificate of Occupancy that will allow them to begin using the space. (

The Dallas Morning News' Texas Faith Blog asked ten different religious leaders and scholars whether they believed the United States could elect an atheist president, and while most of them agree that belief in a god should not be a litmus test for public office, they remain doubtful that America is ready to take that step. (Sadly, atheists who threaten to publicly desecrate sacred texts to make a political statement aren't doing much to change perceptions – read more in the Washington Post.)

Wheaton College, the nation's premier evangelical Protestant college, is joining the 50 or so Catholic institutions suing the Obama administration for requiring religious employers to offer contraceptive coverage for employees and students in their health insurance plans. Explained college president Phillip Ryken.

'"We have a conviction we should not be providing abortion services," he said. "We have a moral conviction we should be not be coerced."

Ryken said freshmen would be arriving to Wheaton in about two weeks. It's unclear if the conflict regarding the mandate will preclude faculty, staff and students from receiving health care coverage.'

A similar suit filed by several states was recently dismissed, leaving the resolution of this one unclear. (Chicago Tribune)