Paul Singer

Yes, the 'faith-based FEMA' is crucial to the recovery effort after disasters such as Harvey, Irma

Yes, the 'faith-based FEMA' is crucial to the recovery effort after disasters such as Harvey, Irma

Yes, the "faith-based FEMA" is crucial to the recovery effort after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. 

After deadly tornadoes struck my home state of Oklahoma in 2013, I wrote a piece for Christianity Today on how various Christian groups aided victims based on what each denomination does best.

That story noted the important role of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. National VOAD, as it's known, is an umbrella group for denominational relief agencies and secular charities.

From that story, which is mostly hidden behind a paywall at this point:

National VOAD works to avoid duplication of services by FEMA and faith-based groups—a collaboration that has caused few church-state concerns because no money changes hands, said Robert Tuttle, a George Washington University professor of law and religion.

Fast-forward to this week, and I was pleased to see a national publication highlight the faith-based coordination.

The publication? USA Today.

The reporter? Washington correspondent Paul Singer. 

If that name sounds familiar, it's because we interviewed Singer just last week about why he came to the Religion News Association annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., looking for faith and religion stories.

Singer's piece on faith groups providing the bulk of disaster recovery, in coordination with FEMA, is a good one:

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#RNA2017: Why USA Today's Washington correspondent is looking for faith and religion stories

#RNA2017: Why USA Today's Washington correspondent is looking for faith and religion stories

As I mentioned Thursday, I'm attending the Religion News Association's 68th annual conference in Nashville, Tenn.

Among the interesting people I've met: Paul Singer, Washington correspondent for USA Today.

I talked to Singer about why he came to Music City for this week's conference. Here's a quick transcript (please forgive any typos or other deadline sins).

Q: What is your job with USA Today, and what brings you here?

A: My job officially is running our congressional coverage for USA Today and the hundred newspapers and news outlets in the Gannett network. I have some responsibility for our coverage of the Trump administration as well. I am here on my own interest trying for some stories about faith and religion.

Q: Why do you think that’s important?

A: Because our readers care about it. It is something I know our readers have interest in. Every time we write a story about faith and religion, it gets a lot of traffic and interest. It is an area of interest for me personally because I cover politics, and a big question in the 2016 election was were evangelicals going to look past the personal failings of Donald Trump and support him for political reasons, (because) he’s going help them advance their political agenda.

Q: Do you think this election only makes the need for a religion emphasis that much stronger?

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GOP establishment in a panic! Guess what kind of leaders the Gray Lady ignores?

GOP establishment in a panic! Guess what kind of leaders the Gray Lady ignores?

In case you have not noticed, there is a little bit of panic right now spreading among Republican Party leaders. It's in all the newspapers.

If you push the panic to its logical conclusion, one needs to ask how many security professionals will be needed at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, just to handle the task of tossing out the party faithful who will be hating on the nominee.

So, precisely WHO is in a #NeverTrump panic?

The most common answer is the "Republican Establishment." This is usually defined as the people who are calling the shots in the party. And who is that? For Trump, that term points toward the big-shot donors, Republicans in Congress, the old-guard Republican experts who are constantly interviewed on television, etc., etc.

The New York Times produced a major piece the other day -- "Inside the Republican Party’s Desperate Mission to Stop Donald Trump" -- about this panic attack and, as you would expect, it was packed with familiar names from the GOP establishment Rolodex. But as I read it, I kept thinking: What is the connection between the party's ESTABLISHMENT and its BASE, the people it can count on to turn out on election day?

To be specific, are there leaders of the GOP BASE who are not considered to be honored members of its ESTABLISHMENT? If so, why is that the case? Might that disconnect have something to do with the Trump insurgency? Hold that thought.

This is long, but you need to read the whole overture (Spot the names!) to get into the mood of the story:

The scenario Karl Rove outlined was bleak.

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Marco Rubio reaches out to believers, pushing something called the 'free exercise' of religion

Marco Rubio reaches out to believers, pushing something called the 'free exercise' of religion

If you are following the madness that is the GOP pre-primary season, then you know that one of the most interesting showdowns is over in the Cuban-American bracket, where Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio are facing off.

At the heart of that crucial battle is the bond between Cruz and large parts of the Sunbelt evangelical world, which is a huge advantage in crucial states such as Iowa, South Carolina and, of course, Texas. The Rubio people know that and have been making strategic moves to reach out to the world of cultural conservatives.

That effort is complicated, a bit, by two issues -- both of which are addressed in a recent New York Times news feature that ran under the headline, "As Marco Rubio Speaks of Faith, Evangelicals Keep Options Open."

The first issue is quite simple, and the Times team handles it quite well. Rubio's religious background is complex, to say the least. The world is not full of Cuban-Americans who were raised Catholic, converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then went back to Catholicism, while also attending his wife's Southern Baptist congregation.

Also, The Times dedicates quite a bit of space to Rubio's ties to New York financier Paul Singer, a strong supporter of same-sex marriage causes.

This leads to the crucial passage in this report:

Mr. Rubio’s more open discussion about his religion is cracking a window into a part of his life he does not often discuss. Sometimes he goes on at length, as at the dinner in Des Moines, demonstrating a fluency with Scripture that surprises his audience. ...

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