Category : Law & Legal Issues

A S Haley–The South Carolina Supreme Court Rebuffs TEC Again

How do ECUSA and its attorneys manage to contend that there are any “rulings” in the August 2017 decision capable of being enforced? By vastly oversimplifying the jumble of five separate Justices’ opinions, that’s how.

I have demonstrated in earlier posts just how divided and disunited were the individual Justices (including especially Justice Hearn, who had not yet seen fit to disqualify herself — on the ground that she was an active member of one of the parishes whose property was at stake in the case, and had earlier underwritten the effort by dissident Episcopalians to remove Bishop Lawrence from his position). It is logically impossible to derive any legal result from the five opinions other than that three of the Justices (including the one now disqualified) voted to reverse the trial court’s judgment.

So Judge Goodstein’s judgment awarding the property is now reversed. What comes next? Ah, that is the question — and one looks in vain for a mandate (direction) from any three of opinions as got what the Circuit Court should do on remand towards entering a new judgment. As Judge Dickson said at the outset of the arguments on the motions before him:

The Court: The first motion that I have today, going through the list that y’all gave me the last time y’all were here, and I think the one I am most interested in is the motion to decide what I am supposed to decide. The clarification motion, okay.

In response to the contention by ECUSA’s attorney, Mary Kostel, that the Court’s ruling as to who owned the property was “clear”, Judge Dickson responded: “We would not be here if it was clear.”

And indeed, as pointed out in Bishop Lawrence’s response to the petition for mandamus, just one day before filing its motion for enforcement with Judge Dickson, ECUSA had filed a brief in opposition to Bishop Lawrence’s petition to the United States Supreme Court for a writ to review the August 2017 decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court (p. 4):

On May 7, 2018, Petitioners [in the Circuit Court, i.e., ECUSA and its diocese] argued to the United States Supreme Court that it should not grant Plaintiffs’ Petition for Certiorari because the Collective Opinions were “a poor vehicle for review.” Brief of Respondents in Opposition to Petition for Writ of Certiorari, 2018 WL 2129786 at 23-26. Petitioners [ECUSA and its diocese] contended this was so because the Collective Opinions are based on an “incomplete record”, which “contains significant ambiguities.” Id at 2, 23. The Collective Opinions are “fractured not only in rationale but even on facts.” Id at 2, 9. The absence “of a majority opinion on the standard of review” creates “ambiguities” making it “difficult to discern which of the trial court findings stand.” Id. at 23-24.

This is just another example of ECUSA’s unabashed hypocrisy in making diametrically opposed arguments to different courts, depending on the occasion. (For another egregious example, see this post.) For the US Supreme Court, the jumbled South Carolina opinions were “ambiguous” and “difficult to discern”, but in the South Carolina Circuit Court, just one day later, all was suddenly “clear.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Anglican Diocese of SC) South Carolina Supreme Court denies Petition for Writ of Prohibition by The Episcopal Church

The South Carolina Supreme Court announced yesterday that it has denied the Petition for a Writ of Prohibition submitted on February 21st by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), which sought to prevent Judge Edgar W. Dickson from ruling on the Diocese’s and parishes motion to clarify the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling. If granted, the petition would have prevented Judge Dickson from ruling on the case as he has indicated he was about to do. The Supreme Court’s order succinctly states: “Petitioners seek a Writ of Prohibition to prevent the circuit court from clarifying this Court’s decision in Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of S.C. v. Episcopal Church, 412 S.C. 211, 806 S.E. 2d 82 (2017). The petition is denied.”

This ruling by the Supreme Court allows Judge Dickson to proceed with clarifying the Court’s earlier August 2017 ruling, which was comprised of five separate opinions. That situation is unprecedented in the history of the court. This open-ended denial of the petition by the Supreme Court places no restrictions upon the appropriateness of Judge Dickson’s work in interpreting the meaning of the original ruling.

Ironically, this ruling comes almost exactly a year after TEC and TECSC filed a similar Petition with the high court for a Writ of Mandamus meant to force Judge Dickson to rule in the case. The Mandamus Petition asked the Supreme Court to require the Circuit Court to interpret the Supreme Court’s August 2, 2017 ruling favorably for TEC and TECSC. That petition was also denied by the Supreme Court in July of last year.

As before, the Prohibition Petition was an attempt to end run Judge Dickson’s exercise of his discretion in interpreting the August 2, 2017 decision in a manner that may differ from TEC and TECSC’s interpretation.

The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina welcomes this decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court affirming that the Circuit Court is the proper venue to resolve the many uncertain issues arising from the August 2, 2017 decision.

The Rev. Marcus Kaiser, President of the diocesan Standing Committee observed, “In this time, our focus is on caring for our people and praying for a world deeply rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, we are profoundly grateful that the Supreme Court has denied the request for a Writ of Prohibition, and hope this ruling helps move things along. We pray for Judge Dickson and the complex issues he has to deal with, even as we continue to focus on concerns far more pressing to most people.”

The brief in support of the motion by the Diocese to dismiss this Petition can be found on the Diocesan website, along with further background on the earlier Petition for Mandamus. The August 2, 2017, ruling by the Supreme Court may also be found here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(WSJ) Nathan Lewin–The US Supreme Court Justices Punt on Religious Liberty

[Justice Byron] White then rejected the notion that TWA should have to pay “premium wages” to a substitute, wrecking employment opportunities for many religiously observant employees. “To require TWA to bear more than a de minimis cost in order to give Mr. Hardison Saturdays off is an undue hardship,” he wrote. He justified this repudiation of respect for conscience by declaring that if TWA bore any cost whatever, it “would involve unequal treatment of employees on the basis of their religion.” Never mind that any accommodation by definition results in unequal treatment.

Accommodating religious observance usually requires more than “de minimis” cost and inconvenience. By defining religious accommodation as voluntary cost-free etiquette, Justice White empowered bosses to treat an employees’ religion as a mere inconvenience.

Justice Thurgood Marshall declared in dissent: “Today’s decision deals a fatal blow to all efforts under Title VII to accommodate work requirements to religious practices.” He concluded that “one of this Nation’s pillars of strength—our hospitality to religious diversity—has been seriously eroded.”

In Patterson v. Walgreen, the drugstore chain claimed that it had accommodated Mr. Patterson’s religious observance by offering him a lower-paying position in which he could observe the sabbath and by allowing him to swap shifts with other employees who wouldn’t have to be paid extra. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch said they were prepared to overrule White’s noxious Hardison declaration. But they believed there were too many technical hurdles in Patterson v. Walgreen to make it “a good vehicle for revisiting Hardison.”

I am an Orthodox Jew, and I’ve been blessed with accommodative employers for nearly all of my professional life. Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(1st Things) Wesley Smith–Death On Demand Comes To Germany

…even I never expected full-bore death on demand to arrive in the West for another decade. I was too optimistic. A recent ruling from Germany’s highest court has cast right-to-die incrementalism aside and conjured a fundamental right both to commit suicide and to receive assistance in doing it. Moreover, the decision has explicitly rejected limiting the right to people diagnosed with illnesses or disabilities. As a matter of protecting “the right of personality,” the court decreed that “self-determined death” is a virtually unlimited fundamental liberty that the government must guarantee to protect “autonomy.” In other words, the German people now have the right to kill themselves at any time and for any reason. From the decision (published English version, my emphasis):

The right to a self-determined death is not limited to situations defined by external causes like serious or incurable illnesses, nor does it only apply in certain stages of life or illness. Rather, this right is guaranteed in all stages of a person’s existence. . . . The individual’s decision to end their own life, based on how they personally define quality of life and a meaningful existence, eludes any evaluation on the basis of general values, religious dogmas, societal norms for dealing with life and death, or consideration of objective rationality. It is thus not incumbent upon the individual to further explain or justify their decision; rather their decision must, in principle, be respected by state and society as an act of self-determination.

The court wasn’t done. The right to suicide also includes a right to assist suicide:

The right to take one’s own life also encompasses the freedom to seek and, if offered, utilize assistance provided by third parties for this purpose. . . . Therefore, the constitutional guarantee of the right to suicide corresponds to equally far-reaching constitutional protection extended to the acts carried out by persons rendering suicide assistance.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CT) Recent Praise for Modi on India’s ‘Incredible’ Religious Freedom Doesn’t Match Our Research

…Modi’s record on religious freedom since becoming the leader of India has not been something to be proud of. His silence when minorities in India have been targeted and lynched by right-wing mobs has been telling. The worst sufferers of the wrath of extreme Hindu nationalists have been India’s Muslims—the targets of cow vigilantes and much hate speech—but Christians have not been far behind. The fundamental freedoms promised by the constitution of India to religious minorities are being constantly eroded, and persecution is a daily reality for many Christians in India.

Radicals affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) movement and its family of organizations—including Modi’s BJP—have been making concerted efforts to attack Christians both physically and socially. Groups such as Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which believe in the ideology of Hindutva as promoted by the RSS, have disrupted worship services in churches, beat up pastors and other Christians, engaged in vandalism and destruction of property, and have pressured many Christians to recant their faith and forcibly convert to Hinduism.

The lack of police action, and in too many cases the cooperation of the police with the radicals, has resulted in a culture of impunity, emboldening the oppressors to attack without fear of any consequence. This has resulted in a sense of insecurity felt by many Indian Christians. It does not help that responsible leaders of Modi’s party, including state and union ministers, routinely engage in hate speech against Christians and other minorities. This only bolsters the radicals, who view this as open encouragement to target minorities.

According to the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), which has been documenting incidents of persecution against Christians since 1998, incidents targeting Indian Christians have risen steeply since 2014, when Modi came to power. The commission recorded 147 verified cases of persecution in 2014; 252 cases in 2016; 351 in 2017; and 325 in 2018. The EFI commission will soon release the data for 2019.

Read it all.


I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Other Churches, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Violence

A S Haley–The Brand New TEC Diocese in South Carolina Attempts an End Run by filing a request with the SC Supreme Court in their lawsuit vs. the historic Anglican diocese of SouthCarolina

By invoking the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction over its inferior courts, the ECUSA parties at this point are demonstrating outright that they no longer have any confidence in Judge Dickson’s integrity to reach an impartial resolution of the puzzle presented to him by the five scattered opinions that came from the Court. Just as they requested the Court last June, ECUSA’s attorneys want to have the Court step in now and put an end to further delay in implementing what they claim was the Court’s “clear mandate.”

The problem is, the Supreme Court’s membership has changed since it rendered its fractured decision. Two of the then Justices (Toal and Pleicones) have retired from the Court, while a third (Hearn) belatedly recused herself from taking any further part in the case. That leaves only Chief Justice Donald Beatty and Justice John Kittredge out of the original panel, and those two were at odds with each other: the Chief Justice supported the official ECUSA line about the Dennis Canon, while Justice Kittredge was having nothing to do with any sort of remote trust that could be imposed on a parish’s property without its written consent.

Under those circumstances, the success of the petition filed by ECUSA will at the outset turn upon the view of it by the two new appointees to the Supreme Court: Justice John Cannon Few and Justice George C. James, Jr. If they agree between themselves on how to deal with the petition, their votes will carry the day by making the tally 3-1 (whether to deny the petition or to grant it). And if they disagree? The result (presuming that the C.J. and Kittredge are still at odds) would be a 2-2 tie, with the result that the writ could not issue.

Long and short of it: The Court will issue the petition restraining Judge Dickson only if the two new appointees both vote with the Chief Justice to grant the writ.

After all, there is nothing compelling the Court to be as impatient as ECUSA is to get a result; the Justices will each still collect their paychecks regardless of how they rule. And after all the time and effort Judge Dickson has expended to get to the point where he is now ready to take up ECUSA’s motions, one would think that the Court will be in no great hurry to take the case away from him, either.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

The brand new TEC Diocese in South Carolina Files a Petition for a Writ of Prohibition with the South Carolina Supreme Court in its Controversy with the Historic Anglican Diocese of South Carolina

Take the time to read it all (18 page pdf).

Posted in Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(BBC) St Paul Cathedral’s bomb plot: ISIS supporter Safiyya Shaikh pleads guilty

A supporter of the banned Islamic State terror group has admitted plotting to blow herself up in a bomb attack on St Paul’s Cathedral.

Muslim convert Safiyya Shaikh went on a reconnaissance trip to scope out the London landmark and a hotel.

The 36-year-old, born Michelle Ramsden, was arrested after asking an undercover police officer to supply bombs.

At the Old Bailey, Shaikh, of west London, admitted preparing an act of terrorism and will be sentenced in May.

She was considered such a threat that MI5 made her the highest-level priority for investigation in the weeks before her arrest, according to Whitehall security sources.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Seattle Times) Sudden resignation of two Seattle-area Roman Catholic school teachers stirs protests over church stance on same-sex relationships

Two people close to one of the teachers, Paul Danforth — his mother, Mary Danforth, and his fiance, Sean Nyberg — said his departure was related to news that he was planning to marry another man. They said they couldn’t comment about whether the teachers were fired, quit voluntarily or were asked to resign.

Several students said they already knew that Danforth and the other teacher were both in relationships with same-sex partners.

Kennedy Catholic mother Erika DuBois, who helped plan the walkout, said the news of the teachers’ departures shocked her. She said she knew that Catholic school teachers had to sign a contract that includes a morality clause about adhering to church values but that she didn’t expect the school to act on the clause.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(EF) Spanish parliament starts the final process to decriminalise euthanasia

The first official debate to finally pass the draft law to decriminalise euthanasia, proposed by the social democrat party PSOE, took place this week in the Spanish Parliament.

It has the support of the majority of the parties. The draft law, inspired by the Dutch and Belgian model, proposes that those who suffer a serious and incurable or disabling illness, with unbearable suffering could ask for euthanasia.

First, the patient and a doctor will have to agree, afterwards a second medical opinion is needed, then the patient will have to confirm his decision two weeks later, and 15 days later it can be made. The process will not last more than a month.

Furthermore, the law foresees the creation of a Commission for Control and Evaluation in each region, in addition to a registry of health professionals who decide to be conscientious objectors. Doctors who allege this cause must do so in writing.

The draft law must now go through the Health Commission, go back again to the Parliament and, finally, to the Senate. A process that could be resolved before summer.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Spain, Theology

(Gzero) Will Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir finally face justice?

Sudan’s former strongman president, Omar al-Bashir, has spent years evading justice for alleged war crimes committed almost two decades ago. But the ex-dictator now seems set to face the music after Sudan’s transitional government said that it would hand the 76-year-old over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges including an allegation of genocide. Here’s what you need to know about Omar al-Bashir and the events that led him here.

The wily and brutal Omar al-Bashir assumed power in Sudan in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, and quickly ramped up the Arab-dominated government’s long-running war against black and Christian separatists in the country’s oil rich South. Al-Bashir, who was ousted by mass protests against his longstanding autocracy last year, has been wanted by the top international court since 2009 over mass atrocities committed by government militia in the western region of Darfur, where 300,000 people were killed and almost 3 million were displaced.

Since being pushed from power, Al-Bashir has been sentenced by a Sudanese court to two years in a correctional facility on corruption charges (in Sudan people over the age of 70 can’t serve jail terms) but his years of alleged crimes against humanity have not been reckoned with.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Sudan

(ESPN FC) Manchester City to appeal 2-year UEFA competition ban for FFP (financial fair play) violations

Manchester City will appeal UEFA’s decision to ban the club for two seasons from European competition — including the Champions League — after the governing body found them guilty of breaching financial fair play rules.

UEFA announced on Friday that the reigning Premier League champions will be excluded from the Champions League for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns and have also been fined €30 million ($33 million) for “overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts” and failing “to cooperate in the investigation,” according to findings by the UEFA Adjudicatory Chamber.

In response, City said they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the ruling and gave notice of their intention to lodge an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Sources have told ESPN that City believe UEFA’s process has been flawed and that they remain confident they will be cleared of any wrongdoing once their appeal is heard by an independent body. Sources have told ESPN that, until then, the club will go about their business “as usual.”

Read it all.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Sports

(C of E) Overwhelming support for General Synod safeguarding motion

General Synod voted unanimously today to endorse the Church’s response to the five recommendations from IICSA and urged its national safeguarding steering group to work towards a more fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress for survivors.

The debate was opened by the lead bishop for safeguarding, Bishop Peter Hancock who shared personal reflections on his time as lead bishop along with outlining the Church’s response to the IICSA recommendations. The Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, takes over as lead safeguarding bishop in April.

Read it all and please note the links to the various speeches.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell–Safeguarding: the Church of England’s house is slowly being rebuilt

Our proposals sought to record our collective lament at our sins of omission and commission, and (for the second time of asking) we commended the text of the excellent Blackburn Ad Clerum. Then and now these suggestions were rejected: the first time our Archbishops thought it premature; this time, seeking to preface our acceptance of the IICSA recommendations with sentiments of repentance, and endorsing the pastoral response which our victims had welcomed, were ruled technically out of order. We can play with the idea of repentance being ‘out of order’ in this context at a future juncture: this is not the time for mischief-making, however tempting.

Our purpose in going beyond the anaemic and prosaic was to make this debate a cultural turning point from which we might begin to move on from the necessary demolition – of structures, attitudes, policies etc. – toward a more positive future.

We thought it important that such an initiative should come from below, for we saw that it is no longer sufficient for the House of Bishops alone to direct our response. Archbishop Justin has previously acknowledged that a change to the culture of deference is needed. We were taking him seriously. It is liberating and deserves to be taken seriously. “Trust me, I’m a Bishop” is no longer a sound principle: the whole of the Church, from top to bottom, must own its priorities, and discussing these at Synod seemed to be a healthy place to start.

Our proposals additionally committed Synod to accepting the final IICSA proposals promptly, on the basis that it was inconceivable that we would pretend to know better after all the embarrassment of the IICSA evidence and submissions. Our track record does not merit once again wandering off on a Safeguarding frolic of our own.

Our final proposal dared to engage bluntly with the issue of proper reparation. We were mindful of the story of ‘Tony’ in the insurance press. He told his story on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, and explained how survivors have endured very low levels of compensation because they cannot afford to take matters to court and lose. The power imbalance in the negotiations is immense.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Wired) The Future of Death Tech Has No Rules—Yet

When a company asks permission to pulverize a corpse—to freeze a body solid, then shake it till it shatters—how, exactly, should the government respond? Last September, Derek Schmidt, the attorney general for Kansas, sat down to ponder the specifics. Interest in a new process for disposing of the dead had trickled across the state; it was up to Schmidt to say whether the technology was even legal.

Schmidt’s analysis began on YouTube, where he landed on an animated demonstration that broke down the new mortuary method, known as promession, into steps: First, cadavers are cryogenically frozen; then they’re vibrated into bits, freeze-dried to get the moisture out, and filtered into an urn. In theory, promession would release significantly fewer emissions than fire cremation, which is responsible for 270,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. If true, that would make promession a big draw for the environmentally conscious. Schmidt cross-referenced each step in the promession process against Kansas law in the hopes of answering what turns out to be a highly consequential question: Is vibration into bits a type of cremation, and therefore a legal form of disposition?

Two months later, Schmidt issued his decision. Promession, he announced, “would not meet the requirements of a cremation process as set forth” in state law. His reasoning reads a bit like science fiction and a bit like a rabbi’s parsing of biblical law. Schmidt argued, for instance, that cremation requires “the separation of flesh from bone by the destruction of the flesh.” Promession certainly could be said to destroy the flesh, but the crystallization process doesn’t really separate it from the bone. In that sense, Schmidt concluded that Kansas could not treat it as cremation.

Schimdt’s predicament is not unique. In the last few years, state officials across the country have been forced to map a range of futuristic death technologies onto the creaky regulations of a prior age. Most state disposition laws are antiquated, premised on narrow definitions of “cremation” and “burial” that leave new technologies like promession without the legal grounds to establish themselves. But a few states—Kansas among them—have seized the opportunity. In a bid to attract death-tech companies, and perhaps a piece of the $2 billion fire cremation industry, they’ve been revamping regulations.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Christian Today) Ben Bradshaw MP warns Church of England its established status is at threat over civil partnerships stance

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw today told the House of Commons that “serious questions” will be asked about the Church of England’s established status if it stands by its position on opposite-sex civil partnerships.

In the Commons on Thursday, Mr Bradshaw grilled Andrew Selous, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, on the guidance….

“It is bad enough that the Church still treats its LGBT+ members as second-class Christians, but to say to the child of a heterosexual couple in a civil partnership that they should not exist because their parents should not have had or be having sex is so hurtful,” he said.

“Will he tell the bishops that unless this nonsense stops serious questions will be asked in this place about the legitimacy of the established status of the Church of England?”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church of England, Church/State Matters, England / UK, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Safeguarding amendments to give Synod motion ‘more teeth’ are rejected

Survivors of clerical abuse welcomed amendments to next week’s General Synod motion on safeguarding, in a letter to members that laments that the Church has made “no progress at all” in caring for victims and survivors. It was ruled on Wednesday, however, that the amendments were out of order and could not be moved.

“We need you to acknowledge that you do not have the competence or the right to clear up your own mess,” the ten survivors write. “We need independent people we can go to to report abuse and find support; people who are not part of the Church, and don’t wear the same uniform that our abusers wore. We need you to use your power as a Synod to establish a properly funded scheme for support, compensation and redress for victims of church abuse.”

The existing motion, to be debated on Wednesday morning, endorses the Archbishops’ Council’s response to the five recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in May (News, 9 May 2019).

“Is that all?” the survivors ask. “We believe that you should go much further. . . The motion before you is anodyne, but the amendments we have seen seem to have some teeth.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

Bishop Philip Mounstephen of Truro issues a statement on safeguarding

As your bishop I have a particular charge laid upon me ‘to serve and care for the flock of Christ’, and as chief pastor of the whole diocese I will never abrogate that prime responsibility. I bring many years’ experience of devising and implementing safeguarding policies to this role: but that very experience teaches me that in this area there is never any room at all for complacency.

Pastoral care in this diocese falls ultimately to me, so I expect all those who exercise pastoral responsibility under my authority to show the very highest levels of care and concern possible, the Lord being our helper. We do well to remember Jesus’ sobering words, ‘If any of you put a stumbling- block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18: 6)

These things should be of the utmost importance in any diocese, which is why the Church of England is currently undergoing the second ‘Past Cases Review’. But there are particular reasons why these are core concerns for us here in Truro. I am acutely aware that Peter Ball lived with his twin brother, Bishop Michael, in the same house my wife and I now call home, after he resigned as Bishop of Gloucester. I know, too, that for many the recent documentaries about Peter Ball were deeply upsetting and shocking – and rightly so.

Furthermore, those in authority in this diocese repeatedly failed to deal with allegations of child sex abuse made against a former press officer of the diocese, Jeremy Dowling. Those were abject failures and must never be repeated. The report on this case, written by Dr Andy Thompson, makes for sobering, but necessary reading, and I commend it to you

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(Crux) Canada’s Roman Catholic bishops call assisted suicide plan ‘deeply troubling’

As Canada’s government works to expand the criteria for individuals seeking medically assisted suicide, the head of Canada’s Catholic bishops has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying his government has failed to provide an impartial consideration of the matter.

“Suffering and death are indeed terrifying and the instinct to flinch from pain is universal. But euthanasia and assisted suicide are not the answer,” wrote Archbishop Richard Gagnon, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in a letter dated January 31.

“We strongly urge the Government of Canada, before proceeding further, to undertake a more extensive, thorough, impartial, and prolonged consultation on the question, in order to ensure all pertinent factors – social, medical, and moral – are carefully and thoroughly considered,” he continued.

The letter is in response to the Trudeau’s government’s efforts to extend the categories of individuals who are allowed to seek medical support to end their lives, following a ruling from the Superior Court of Quebec saying it is unconstitutional only to allow the practice to individuals who are already near death.

Gagnon, who is also the archbishop of Winnipeg, called the move “deeply troubling.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Richard Ostling) Can U.S. students pray in school?

THE QUESTION:

Can students pray in U.S. public schools?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

The Trump Administration’s education and justice departments, after work with government attorneys, issued policy guidance to public schools January 16 on this emotional-laden and oft-misunderstood issue. The answer is well settled in American law and agreed upon by a very wide range of religious and public education organizations.

Yes, depending.

Yes, if a student initiates prayer and does not disrupt classes. Students also enjoy other religious rights on an equal basis with non-religious activities, as surveyed below. But the answer is no if public school systems, administrators or teachers authorize prayers in an official capacity. Federal court edicts say that violates the Constitution’s ban on government “establishment of religion.” (Private schools, of course, can do whatever they want about religion.)

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

(NR) The Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in a Key Religious-Freedom Case

Ultimately, the Court in Trinity rejected the fungibility argument, a position that Justice Stephen Breyer reaffirmed in the opening arguments of Espinoza. The proposition, Breyer said, that the state will “give police protection to all schools, all people, but no religious institution” is a facially “unconstitutional” one. Lawyers for the mothers suing in Espinoza agreed, arguing that the revocation of their children’s scholarships was an unconstitutional exercise in religious discrimination: the denial of a neutral public benefit — a scholarship to be used as they please — because of their status as religious persons.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s rejoinder to the respondents during opening arguments helps to explain the fundamental difference between Espinoza and Locke. While he conceded that “funding religion, funding religious schools generally or training of clergy is . . . an establishment clause-concern,” as argued in Locke, Kavanaugh claimed that Espinoza raises “a separate issue when you set up a neutral-benefit program — police, fire, or scholarships — and allow people to use those things, allow religious institutions to obtain the benefits of those things on a non-discriminatory basis.”

Kavanaugh’s assertion reaches the question at the heart of Espinoza: Is it constitutional for a state to withhold a neutral public benefit — here, a scholarship that parents can use at either a secular or religious private school — because the recipient of that benefit might use it in furtherance of a religious end? The plaintiffs acknowledge that states do not have an obligation to subsidize private education. If a state decides to do so, however, it has a constitutional duty to treat all of its citizens, religious and non-religious alike, with an even hand. That duty is what’s at stake here, and we won’t have to wait too long to know the outcome: A ruling is expected this summer.

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Supreme Court

(CEN) Bishop Alan Smith wants inquest law to focus on gambling

The Coroners (Determination of Suicide) Bill 2020 received its first reading in the House of Lords last Thursday.

“I have introduced this common-sense piece of legislation so the Government can begin to get a handle on the consequences of gambling-related harm,” Bishop Smith told the House of Lords.
“This new legislation will mean, for the first time, each instance where gambling is a factor in suicide coroners will record it in conclusions.

“I have met far too many families whose lives have been destroyed by the loss of a loved one, often young adults who have their entire lives ahead of them.

“As there is no accurate, up-to-date, data linking gambling with suicide, their desire to get the Government to take action has often been stymied,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Gambling, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Suicide

(WSJ) Michael Helfand–Discrimination Without Discriminating? The Supreme Court next week will hear another challenge to an anti-Catholic law

In Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (2017), the justices took aim at Missouri’s Blaine amendment, which the state had invoked to withhold funding for a church-run school. By 7-2, the justices deemed Missouri’s denial a First Amendment violation because “Trinity Lutheran was denied a grant simply because of what it is—a church.” But the court focused on the discriminatory impact of the specific case, rather than the discriminatory intent of the Blaine amendment.

Espinoza involves a scholarship program the Montana Legislature created in 2015 to promote school choice. The state offered a $150 tax credit for donations to nonprofits that award scholarships to students attending any private ‘“qualified education provider,” a definition that initially included religious schools. But the law conflicted with Montana’s Blaine amendment, which bars “any direct or indirect” funding to religious schools. The state Department of Revenue redefined “qualified education provider” to exclude religious schools. That exclusion triggered a set of lawsuits arguing that the modified rule violated the First Amendment—a strong argument given Trinity Lutheran.

Then the legal fight took a strange turn. The Montana Supreme Court held that the program could not support institutions providing scholarships to religious schools. But it also found that the Department of Revenue lacked the authority to modify the program to exclude religious schools. Because the law authorized what the state constitution prohibited—funding religious schools—the entire law had to be struck down. That meant no private school received funding.

As a result, the law that discriminated against religious schools is off the books. Thus the most natural application of U.S. Supreme Court precedent—that a state may not exclude a religious institution simply because of “what it is”—does not easily apply. Given this peculiar posture, how might the justices decide the case?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(HLT) Bryan Stevenson –Bringing Slavery’s Legacy to Light, One Story at a Time

Last January, Johnson and his family stood with Stevenson where it happened. Beside them was Oprah Winfrey with a camera crew, filming for a “60 Minutes” segment. Stevenson said a few words in Wes’ honor, then handed a small shovel to Johnson to dig the soil that would make its way to the Legacy Museum.

After all these years, Wes’ story would finally be heard; Johnson could share it with the world. But it meant just as much to him to share the story with the people of Abbeville. In the days after the segment aired, a county employee, a young white woman, approached Johnson to say she was sorry for what had happened. That she had no idea.

“It just gives you some closure,” Johnson says.

When his former students got in touch to apologize, Johnson reassured them it wasn’t their fault. Don’t hate your grandparents, he added; they got caught up in the frenzy of things.

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.” It’s something Stevenson often says, and Johnson believes it.

But for the sake of the future, Johnson had something else to say to his former students. Now you know better, he told them. And it’s up to you to pass that on—to your children, and to everyone else you know.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Law & Legal Issues, Race/Race Relations, Violence

(This Day) Gunmen Free Woman After Collecting N60,000 Ransom, As Anglican Cleric and his Son are Attacked

[A] few hours after the release of a 60-year-old woman, Mrs. Banjo Ademiyiwa, sequel to the payment of N60,000 ransom, gunmen last Monday attacked an Anglican Church cleric, Reverend Canon Foluso Ogunsuyi, and his son, who is a Nigerian Army sergeant with machetes.

Ademiyiwa was kidnapped on Ikun-Oba Akiko Road in Akiko North West Local Government Area of Ondo State last Monday just around where Ogunsuyi and his son were attacked.

The cleric is the shepherd in charge of Danian Marian Memorial Anglican Church, Ikun Akoko in Akoko South-west LGA of the state.

A source told journalists that the gunmen during the attack collected valuables, including N92,000 cash from the vehicle in which the cleric and his son were travelling.

While the gunmen spared the cleric, his son who sustained several machete cuts, was admitted at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Owo.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of Nigeria, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Nigeria, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Violence

(GR) Terry Mattingly–After decades of fighting, United Methodists avoid a visit from Ghost of the Episcopal Future?

Wait a minute. The crucial language that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” was just approved this past February? That hasn’t been the language in church discipline documents for many years before 2019 and affirmed in multiple votes?

But here is the most crucial point. What, precisely, are the “fundamental differences” that the United Methodists involved in these negotiations — leaders from left and right — cited as the cause of the upcoming ecclesiastical divorce? Was it really LGBTQ issues, period?

Consider this commentary from David French (an evangelical Presbyterian) of The Dispatch:

The secular media will cast the divide primarily in the terms it understands — as focused on “LGBT issues” — but that’s incomplete. The true fracturing point between Mainline and Evangelical churches is over the authority and interpretation of scripture. The debate over LGBT issues is a consequence of the underlying dispute, not its primary cause. …

Thus, at heart, the disagreement between the Evangelical and Mainline branches of Christianity isn’t over issues — even hot-button cultural and political issues — but rather over theology. Indeed, the very first clause of the United Methodist Church’s nine-page separation plan states that church members “have fundamental differences regarding their understanding and interpretation of Scripture, theology and practice.”

Ah, there’s the rub. Who wants to put “Scripture, theology and practice” in a news report — especially at NBC Out and similar structures in other newsrooms — when you can blame the whole denominational war over conservatives refusing to evolve on LGBTQ issues?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Media, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Central Florida, TEC Conflicts: Central New York, TEC Conflicts: Colorado, TEC Conflicts: Connecticut, TEC Conflicts: Florida, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: Georgia, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles, TEC Conflicts: Milwaukee, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan, TEC Conflicts: Ohio, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Conflicts: Quincy, TEC Conflicts: Rio Grande, TEC Conflicts: San Diego, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, TEC Conflicts: Tennessee, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Departing Parishes, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Australian bishops respond to bushfire crisis

Bishops of the two regions most affected by the current Australian bushfire crisis have issued pastoral letters to their congregations.

The Bishop of Gippsland, Dr Richard Treloar, in a letter read in churches across his diocese on Sunday, wrote that “our hearts and hand go out” to the people in the fire-ravaged areas of east Gippsland. Two people have died and hundreds of homes and other buildings have been destroyed.

He continued: “We commit ourselves to a sustained relief effort, working within and beyond our churches with people of good will to support those most affected by the fires and their aftermath, and to rebuild hope where hope has been lost.”

The Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Dr Mark Short, has also written to all parishes in his diocese, which extends to the south coast of New South Wales. Some small towns in the south coast region have been virtually obliterated, and at least one church was burnt down.

“We grieve with and for those who have lost property and loved ones”, Dr Short wrote. “We groan with and for creation as it waits for rescue. We long for quenching rain and relief. . . Please join with me in thanking God for every act of courage and kindness.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Police/Fire

(WSJ) Bernard-Henri Lévy–The New War Against Africa’s Christians

A slow-motion war is under way in Africa’s most populous country. It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality. And the world has hardly noticed.

A Nigerian Pentecostal Christian, director of a nongovernmental organization that works for mutual understanding between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims, alerted me to it. “Have you heard of the Fulani?” he asked at our first meeting, in Paris, speaking the flawless, melodious English of the Nigerian elite. The Fulani are an ethnic group, generally described as shepherds from mostly Muslim Northern Nigeria, forced by climate change to move with their herds toward the more temperate Christian South. They number 14 million to 15 million in a nation of 191 million.

Among them is a violent element. “They are Islamic extremists of a new stripe,” the NGO director said, “more or less linked with Boko Haram,” the sect that became infamous for the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Christian girls in the state of Borno. “I beg you,” he said, “come and see for yourself.” Knowing of Boko Haram but nothing of the Fulani, I accept.

The 2019 Global Terrorism Index estimates that Fulani extremists have become deadlier than Boko Haram and accounted for the majority of the country’s 2,040 documented terrorist fatalities in 2018. To learn more about them, I travel to Godogodo, in the center of the country, where I meet a beautiful woman named Jumai Victor, 28. On July 15, she says, Fulani extremists stormed into her village on long-saddle motorcycles, three to a bike, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They torched houses and killed her four children before her eyes.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) China Sentences Wang Yi, Christian Pastor, to 9 Years in Prison

A secretive Chinese court sentenced one of the country’s best-known Christian voices and founder of one of its largest underground churches to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations, according to a government statement released on Monday.

Wang Yi, the pastor who founded Early Rain Covenant Church, was detained last December with more than 100 members of his congregation as part of a crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state.

While most of Mr. Wang’s parishioners, including his wife, Jiang Rong, were eventually released, Mr. Wang never re-emerged from detention.

As part of his sentence, he will also be stripped of his political rights for three years and have 50,000 renminbi, or almost $7,200, of his assets seized, according to the statement.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) On Christmas Eve in Hong Kong, Protests Are Still Going Strong

The night before Christmas was marked with tear gas and rubber bullets as police tried to disperse protesters gathered near the city’s harbor front, signaling a renewed escalation in the conflict after a few weeks of relative calm.

Hundreds gathered in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Tsim Tsa Tsui to chant “fight for Hong Kong” and “five demands.” Around 9 p.m., riot police fired several rounds of tear gas near the Peninsula hotel, a luxury British colonial-era establishment that has been hit hard by falling numbers of tourists as months of protests drive the city into recession. As people fled, one protester threw an object at police, prompting one officer to fire rubber bullets.

An 18-year-old university student who identified herself as Rainbow Leung said she ran over after dinner to show solidarity with other locals fighting for their freedom.

“We want to support Hong Kong and stand against the violence,” Ms. Leung said. She canceled plans to attend an orchestra performance on Christmas Day to continue protesting. “The city is more important,” she added.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General