As significant numbers of Americans seek religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine mandates, many faith leaders are saying: Not with our endorsement. Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said Thursday that while some people may have medical reasons for not receiving the vaccine, “there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for Her faithful from any vaccination for religious reasons.” The Holy Eparchial Synod of the nationwide archdiocese, representing the largest share of Eastern Orthodox people in the United States, urged members to “pay heed to competent medical authorities, and to avoid the false narratives utterly unfounded in science.”
Shock. That’s what Ruth Simmons, the president of a historically Black university in Texas, felt in December when she received a call informing her that the school would be gifted $50 million — many times the size of the previous largest contribution it has received. Simmons, who leads Prairie View A&M University, thought she misheard the caller, so she asked for the amount to be repeated: “Five-Zero.” The donor this time was MacKenzie Scott, who has reset the philanthropic agenda for racial equity while barely saying a word. Similar stories of surprise have flooded in from across the country in the past year as colleges and nonprofits received unexpected gifts from Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett. Scott, a 51-year-old novelist, received the bulk of her fortune from her 2019 divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. After the police killing of George Floyd, she funded the top recipients of racial equity donations in 27 states, according to an AP analysis of preliminary data from the philanthropy research organization Candid. The data, which includes only contributions from institutional funders, shows that Scott was responsible for $567 million distributed to such organizations.
President Joe Biden entered the White House promising to stop the twin health and economic crises caused by COVID-19, but $1.9 trillion and countless initiatives later he’s confronting the limits of what Washington can achieve when some state and local governments are unwilling or unable to step up. Six months after Congress passed the massive rescue plan, administration records show that more than $550 billion has yet to be disbursed. The sum could help provide a key economic backstop as the coronavirus’ delta variant continues to pose a threat. But in some cases, it’s also led to frustration as aid for renters, testing and vaccines goes unused despite mass outreach campaigns. Republican critics say the unspent money shows that Biden’s relief package was too big and inflationary; the administration says the unspent funds reflect the extent of planning in case the recovery from the pandemic hits more snags with virus mutations and unexpected economic disruptions.