Category : Law & Legal Issues

(BP) Supreme Court delivers 2 religious liberty wins

The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed in two 7-2 rulings Wednesday (July 8) that churches and religious organizations are free to make employment and health insurance decisions based on their convictions.

In one ruling, the justices reiterated their support for a “ministerial exception” that enables churches and other religious bodies to hire and fire based on their beliefs. They had ruled unanimously in 2012 in favor of such an exception. In consolidated cases, two Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles chose not to renew contracts for two fifth-grade teachers based on what they said was poor performance.
In its other opinion, the high court upheld federal rules that protect the rights of employers with religious or moral objections to the Obama-era, abortion/contraception mandate. The opinion came after a seven-year legal battle by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order that serves the poverty-stricken elderly, to gain an exemption from the requirement.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) commended both decisions as victories for religious freedom.

“If a religious organization cannot recruit leaders who agree with the beliefs and practices of those organizations, then there can be no true religious freedom. The Court recognized that today,” ERLC President Russell Moore said in a written statement of the “ministerial exception” opinion.

Read it all.

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

Brand New Episcopal Church (TEC) Diocese in South Carolina Asks Court to Reconsider its recent Ruling

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Posted in * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

(1st Things) Carl R. Trueman–The Road to Bostock

It is here that Farrow’s book is so singularly helpful. The essay “Autonomy: Sic transit anima ad infernum” is worth the price of the book all by itself. In it he traces with both remarkable depth and enviable conciseness the rise of the modern self: the autonomous self-creator to whom reality must bend or, better still, for whom reality is merely what works best for the individual concerned. With roots in Rousseau and Nietzsche, this self lies behind Anthony Kennedy’s oft-cited fantasy of selfhood in Casey and lurks in the background of all the subsequent Supreme Court rulings on matters involving sexuality, up to and including Bostock. Indeed, Farrow makes the necessary point:

The autonomous will really has no choice but to attack the body as well as the mind. For the body is the most obvious locus of the given, the most stubborn impediment to the power claimed by the will.

Transgenderism is the logical outcome of all this. In fact, the annihilation of gender as a stable category tout court is the logical outcome—a point that seems to have eluded Justice Gorsuch, who apparently wants to keep his binary categories while not realizing the metaphysical depths of the revolution he has now placed into law.

The shock and awe surrounding the Bostock ruling perhaps indicates that the old task of apologetics is now being oddly reversed. The pressing pastoral need of the hour for the church is not to explain the faith to the world but rather first to explain the world to the faithful. If Richard Rorty’s famous quip—the truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with saying—works as a descriptive rather than prescriptive principle in terms of cultural dynamics, in terms of which arguments work and which do not, then it behooves us to ask in what kind of culture the stated logic of the Bostock decision has come to make sense. If Christians do not understand the wider context, then they will continue to underestimate the true depth of the cultural problem, be perplexed at the speed of apparent change, and be disturbed by new developments. And that will make it very hard to navigate this world as both good citizens and good stewards of the gospel.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Secularism, Supreme Court

Anglican Unscripted 606 – Legal Victories

Kevin Kallsen and AS Haley talk about the latest court victories for the ACNA. And, some of the challenges the US Supreme Court’s recent decisions will bring religious communities.

Posted in Anthropology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

The Brand New TEC Diocese in South Carolina gives a (very revealing) response to Judge Edgar W. Dickson’s ruling

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

(Anglican Dio of SC) South Carolina Circuit Court Rules in Favor of the Diocese and Parishes

In his ruling, Judge Dickson made several important conclusions of law. Chief among them was his ruling on the central issue of interpreting the Collective Opinions. As he noted in quoting former Chief Justice Toal, “The Court’s collective opinions in this matter give rise to great uncertainty, so that we have given little to no collective guidance in this case or in church property disputes like this going forward.” He concluded that, “This court must distill the five separate opinions, identify the court’s intent and produce a logical directive.” With respect to parish property, the law of this case follows the precedent of All Saints Parish, Waccamaw (2009). In his deciding opinion, Chief Justice Beatty, “found that the Dennis Canon, standing alone, does not unequivocally convey an intention to transfer ownership of property to the national church…” In accordance with established South Carolina law, establishment of a trust interest must meet the standard of being “legally cognizable”. The Diocese has argued that there is no such evidence of accession to the Dennis Canon that meets this standard and Judge Dickson concluded, “This court finds that no parish expressly acceded to the Dennis Canon” and “defendants failed to prove creation of a trust.” He further concluded, “TEC’s argument that their unilaterally drafted Dennis Canon created a trust under South Carolina law is rejected.”

In the case of the Trustees and St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center, Judge Dickson affirmed that under the All Saints ruling that a non-profit corporation which follows the correct steps to sever its association with another entity does so with all its property interests intact. The Collective Opinions found that the Diocese and Parishes properly disassociated. As Judge Dickson explains, “Applying neutral principles of law, this court finds the Diocese and Parishes properly disassociated and control their real and personal property with any improvements thereon. Following the narrowest grounds of the majority in the Collective opinions, this Court finds that Camp St. Christopher should remain as titled in the Trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina as stated in the 1951 deed.”

On the final matter of registered trademarks, Judge Dickson said “This court finds that the Federal Court has jurisdiction over matters related to trademarks, intellectual property and service marks,” Those matters are currently on appeal before the Federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Speaking on behalf of the Diocese, the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis observed, “The Diocese welcomes the clarity of Judge Dickson’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s Collective Opinion. By twice denying petitions by TEC and TECSC to prevent Judge Dickson from completing this task, the Supreme Court has clearly signaled its desire to resolve these issues. We remain confident that our ability to disassociate from TEC, with all our legal rights intact, will continue to be affirmed.”

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Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

A S Haley–South Carolina Court on Remand Vindicates Bishop Lawrence and His Parishes

Judge Dickson does an excellent job of laying out these conclusions at the close of his Order:

The neutral principles of property, corporate, and trust law [in South Carolina] have been consistent for years. Lawyers and judges understand those principles and are competent to decide issued based upon them. Additionally, neutral principles of law avoids all religious discussion, including which party is “true” to their denomination.

This is a property case. A decision on property ownership is usually governed by the title to real estate—the deed. In this case, all the Plaintiff Parishes hold title to their property in fee simple absolute.

Ownership may be effected by trust: a clear, convincing legal statement of a trust—not a promise, not a pledge, not polity. This Court concludes that there is no signed writing by the Plaintiffs expressly acceding to the Dennis Canon. This Court concludes there is no evidence establishing an intent by the Plaintiff Parishes to create a trust in favor of Defendants nor did the Plaintiffs ever vote on or consider acceding specifically to the Dennis Canon. Statements of allegiance are insufficient to establish an expressed trust. TEC unilaterally drafted the Dennis Canon. Since TEC and TECSC are not the owners of the Parish properties, they cannot establish a trust for themselves simply by declaring that they are also the beneficiary of the trust. The Dennis Canon by itself does not create a “legally cognizable” trust nor does [it] transfer title to property.

What does this mean on the ground? Again, Judge Dickson — in contrast to the indeterminate and scattered holdings of the South Carolina Supreme Court, whose “Collective Opinions” he was forced to parse and make sense of — leaves nothing unclear:

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the thirty-six Plaintiff Parishes be, and hereby are, declared and affirmed as the title owners in fee simple absolute of their respective parish real properties, with improvements thereon and their accompanying personal property.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that certified true copies of this order shall be filed in the Clerk of Court’s Office in the county where each parish is located.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Defendants herein have no interest in the Plaintiff Parishes’ properties.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that ownership to Camp St. Christopher remain as titled to the Trustees of the Corporation as stated in the 1951 deed.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Federal Court has jurisdiction over all matters related to trademarks, service marks, and intellectual property.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the request for the Appointment of a Special Master, the Petition for an Accounting are denied.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.

Your Curmudgeon does not gloat or boast, but tries to keep things humble and accurate here. Nevertheless, this earlier post foreshadowed this result. It was obvious to a lawyer’s mind that no three justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court had agreed on anything except that they were not overruling All Saints Waccamaw, which remained good law. And following that lead, Judge Dickson finds that each of the questions presented for him on remand was already resolved by that earlier decision.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry

Saint Philips Charleston–A Legal Update Based on Judge Edgar W. Dickson’s ruling today

Today, Judge Edgar W. Dickson, Judge of the First Judicial Circuit in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas, issued an Order finding that St. Philip’s did not accede to the 1979 Dennis Canon and is thus the owner of its property. He further found that no other Parish acceded to the Dennis Canon and thus no trust was ever created in favor of The Episcopal Church (TEC). This is the ruling for which we have been praying.

Following the five separate Opinions issued by the Supreme Court of South Carolina on August 2, 2017, and subsequent motions and petitions, the case was remitted to the state trial court. Our Diocese, joined by St. Philip’s and the other Parishes (Plaintiffs), filed a Motion for Clarification of Jurisdiction and Other Relief in March of 2018. TEC and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (Defendants) filed a Petition for Execution and other relief in May of 2018.

Judge Dickson’s Order applies the “neutral principles of law” as directed by the majority of the state Supreme Court finding that a trust in parish property can be created in favor of TEC only if a parish church, in a signed writing, expressly agreed to the Dennis Canon. The Order recognizes that the Parishes’ names are on the deeds and that a valid trust under South Carolina law was never created or acknowledged by the Parishes. Judge Dickson reviewed the evidence admitted at trial––that had not been made available to the South Carolina Supreme Court––and concluded that there was no evidence of written accession to the Dennis Canon in the trial record. The Court found that although some parishes merely promised allegiance to TEC, that no parish expressly acceded to the 1979 Dennis Canon and thus this promise cannot deprive them of their ownership rights in their property.

With regards to St. Philip’s Church, Judge Dickson specifically found that the only evidence that Defendants argue could constitute accession to the Dennis Canon is the reference to the Articles of Religion contained in our 1987 Articles of Restatement. The court found that these Articles predate the Dennis Canon by 178 years and relate exclusively to religious doctrine, do not make an express accession to rules or Canons of TEC, and thus do not create an express agreement to the terms of the Dennis Canon. The Court found that the Articles of Religion were not part of the record on appeal and thus not considered by the state Supreme Court, that they are a summary of theological and doctrinal beliefs, and that there is “a complete lack of evidence of an express agreement to the 1979 Dennis Canon by St. Philip’s Church in a signed writing. Thus, this court finds that the Parish of St. Philip’s property title is held in fee simple absolute by the Parish, and its property is not held in trust for the Defendant TEC or TECSC.” (Order, page 27). The Order contains a similar examination of evidence and findings of fact for each of the other 27 Parishes in the litigation.

With regards to Camp St. Christopher, Judge Dickson noted that the trial court originally found that our Diocese was the proper statutory beneficiary of the Trustees that owned the Camp, that the Supreme Court Opinions do not change this finding, that the Diocese and all Parishes properly disassociated from TEC and control the real and personal property with any improvements thereon, and that the Camp should remain titled in the Trustee of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina as stated in the 1951 deed.

With regards to the trademarks, service marks, and intellectual property at issue in the litigation, Judge Dickson found that the federal court has jurisdiction over these matters. These matters were decided by an Order issued on September 19, 2019, by United States District Judge Richard Gergel granting summary judgment to the Defendants, and that Order is currently on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

In his conclusion, Judge Dickson ordered that:
  • “the thirty-six Plaintiff Parishes be, and hereby are, declared and affirmed as the title owners in fee simple absolute of their respective parish real properties, with improvements thereon and their accompanying personal property.”
  • “certified true copies of this order shall be filed in the Clerk of Court’s Office in the county where each parish is located.”
  • “the Defendants herein have no interest in the Plaintiff Parishes’ properties.”
  • “ownership to Camp St. Christopher remain as titled to the Trustees of the Corporation as stated in the 1951 deed.”
  • “the Federal Court has jurisdiction over all matters related to trademarks, service marks, and intellectual property.”
  • “the request for the Appointment of a Special Master, the Petition for an Accounting are denied.”
Judge Dickson has previously acknowledged in open court that whatever order he issues would likely be appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

For today’s ruling, we give thanks to God.

W. Foster Gaillard

Chancellor Emeritus
Ben A. Hagood, Jr.

Chancellor
St. Philip’s, Charleston, South Carolina

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry

Judge Edgar W. Dickson Dickson Unpacks the South Carolina Supreme Court Ruling on the Property Dispute between TEC and the Historic Anglican Diocese

“This Court finds that no parish acceded to the 1979 Dennis Canon; the deed of Camp St. Christopher titled to the Trustee Corporation is controlling; the Federal Court has exclusive authority to decide all issues relating to the trademarks, service marks, and intellectual property; and the Defendants’ Petition for the Appointment of a Special Master and Petition for an Accounting are denied.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry

(NYT Op-ed) Russell Moore–Monday’s Supreme Court decision on sex discrimination was a blow for religious freedom. That’s a problem — for both sides

Whatever the caricatures, almost no one, even among the most religiously conservative, argues that religious freedom outweighs every other concern. Everyone recognizes that as with freedom of speech and other constitutional guarantees, there will be some hard cases.

But it would be tragic to trample over the consciences of citizens whenever their beliefs come into conflict with the fluctuating norms of secular sexual orthodoxy. Likewise, almost no rational person would suggest that a religious-freedom consensus would evaporate our “culture war” disputes. We have real differences, and they are not going away anytime soon. What’s perilous right now is how we choose to have these arguments.

One need not agree with Christians or Muslims or Orthodox Jews or others on marriage and sexuality to see that such views are not incidental to their belief systems. They did not emerge out of a political debate, and they won’t be undone by political power. In many cases, these beliefs aren’t even, first of all, about sex or family or culture in the first place, but about what these religious people believe undergird them. In the case of 2,000 years of small “o” (and big “O,” for that matter) orthodox Christians, this is the belief that sexual expression is confined to the union of a man and a woman because marriage is an icon of the gospel union of Christ and his church.

That does not mean, in any way, that all Americans of deep religious belief agree on how to address these questions in the public square. One could find multiple views — even in church pews — about what, for instance, public nondiscrimination laws should be. It does mean, though, that such views are not peripheral to the missions of many religious institutions. One cannot simply uproot them and expect these people to adjust their consciences to fit the new cultural expectation.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(NR) A Liberal Law Professor Explains Why the Equality Act Would ‘Crush’ Religious Dissenters

Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, has been a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage. What’s made him unusual is that in recent years he’s been trying to make the case to liberals that “same-sex marriage and religious liberty can co-exist.” In 2017 he co-authored an article at Vox with another law professor to argue that Jack Phillips, the Evangelical Christian baker in Colorado at the center of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case, should be allowed to follow his conscience to not bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Laycock has also been a longtime supporter of enacting a federal gay-rights non-discrimination law, but he doesn’t support the Equality Act, a bill just approved by the House of Representatives that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, because it would “crush” conscientious objectors.

“It goes very far to stamp out religious exemptions,” Laycock tells National Review in an email. “It regulates religious non-profits. And then it says that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] does not apply to any claim under the Equality Act. This would be the first time Congress has limited the reach of RFRA. This is not a good-faith attempt to reconcile competing interests. It is an attempt by one side to grab all the disputed territory and to crush the other side.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

Responses to the recent Supreme Court Decision (III)–Ryan Anderson

Now, whatever one may think about these three cases as a matter of ethics or policy, Congress acted in 1964 to address only the first case—and it has explicitly rejected policies to address the latter two. People can debate whether Congress’s decision not to pass sexual orientation and gender identity laws is or is not a good thing, but as a legal matter, the issue is clear. Discrimination on the basis of sex is prohibited, but discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is not—for it is not included in “sex” even if “inex­tricably bound up with sex.”

Of course, there is good reason why Congress has rejected calls to legally prohibit “discrimination” on the basis of “sexual orientation and gender identity.” Much of what the activists contend is “discrimination” is simply disagreement about human sexuality, where acting based on true beliefs about human sexuality is redescribed as discriminatory.

The Implications of Gorsuch’s Ruling

Which is why it is troubling that Gorsuch wasn’t willing to consider what his theory of sex discrimination entails for other employment considerations or for other federal laws. He notes that many people:

worry that our decision will sweep beyond Title VII to other federal or state laws that prohibit sex discrimination. And, under Title VII itself, they say sex-segregated bathrooms, locker rooms, and dress codes will prove unsustainable af­ter our decision today. But none of these other laws are before us; we have not had the benefit of adversarial testing about the meaning of their terms, and we do not prejudge any such question today. Under Title VII, too, we do not purport to address bathrooms, locker rooms, or anything else of the kind. The only question before us is whether an employer who fires someone simply for being homosexual or transgender has discharged or otherwise discriminated against that individual “because of such individual’s sex.”

But the simple test Gorsuch applied to answer “yes” to this question yields ready answers in all these other contexts. Just recall the bathroom and dress code examples given above. Or consider a case of athletics, where “changing the [student’s] sex would have yielded a different choice by the [principal].” A high school male who identifies as a girl but is prevented from entering the girls’ locker room or playing on the girls’ basketball team. What would Gorsuch say? “the [principal] intentionally penalizes a person identified as male at birth for traits or actions that it tolerates in a [student] identified as female at birth.”

Gorsuch’s position would either require the elimination of all sex-specific programs and facilities or allow access based on an individual’s subjective identity rather than his or her objective biology. It is telling that Gorsuch is evasive about which of these outcomes is required by his theory.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

Responses to the recent Supreme Court Decision (II)-Ed Condon

The vision of humanity, of the person and its innate character, meaning, and dignity has been redefined by the act of stripping away its definition. It is a nihilistic vision in which the great fallacy of the Enlightenment, cogito, ergo sum, is elevated from intellectual narcissism to law of the land.

Of course, what the court giveth, the court can taketh away — blessed be the name of the court. Many are now predicting, based on Justice Gorsuch’s pointed reference to religious liberty, that we may soon see a companion decision which significantly broadens the ministerial exception. The court may yet allow, in the name of free exercise, for a host of religiously minded institutions to suddenly deem their social workers, teachers, administrators, even janitors, to be ‘ministers’ of the faith.

Such a ‘solution’ would, in fact, solve nothing.

Rather, it has the potential to screw the lid down tighter on the pressure building up on both sides: among those who believe with sincerity that male and female are not states of mind but facts of being, and those who believe that a person can redefine themselves at will as fundamentally as they are seeking to redefine our history and society.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality, Supreme Court

Responses to the recent Supreme Court Decision (I)–Senator Josh Hawley

It’s time for religious conservatives to bring forward the best of our ideas on every policy affecting this nation. We should be out in the forefront leading on economics, on trade, on race, on class, on every subject that matters for what our founders called the “general welfare;” because we have a lot to offer, not just to protect our own rights, but for the good of all of our fellow citizens; because as religious believers, we know that serving our fellow citizens—of whatever their religious faith, whatever their commitments may be—serving them, aiding them, working for them, is one of the signature ways that we show a love of neighbor. It’s time for religious conservatives to do that.

It’s time for religious conservatives to take the lead rather than being pushed to the back.

It’s time for religious conservatives to stand up and speak out rather than being told to sit down and shut up.

And because I’m confident that people of faith, of goodwill, all across this country are ready to do that, and want to do that, and have something to offer this country—and every person in this country, whatever their background or income or race or religion—because of that, I’m confident in the future. But I’m also confident that the old ways will not do.

So, let this be a departure. Let this be a new beginning, let this be the start of something better.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(1st Things) Hadley Arkes on the recent Supreme Court Decision–A Morally Empty Jurisprudence

The statute has barred discriminations based on “sex” as well as race. As Justice Alito pointed out, virtually no one in 1964 could have dreamed that the statute barred those who would have an aversion to the homosexual life or the transgendered. But I warned myself, in an earlier piece, that it just would not do for the conservatives to cite the dictionaries on the meaning of sex in 1964. The liberals would be free to play the trump card of Lyman Trumbull. Trumbull had steered the Fourteenth Amendment to passage in the Senate, and he had to assure his colleagues up and down that there was nothing in the Equal Protection Clause that barred those laws in Illinois as well as Virginia that barred marriage across racial lines. But now we have an amplified and clearer sense of why that principle on racial discrimination would bar those laws on miscegenation. Judges could easily argue now in the same way that we must bring to the Civil Rights Act a more amplified view of what “sex” has come to mean. The only way to deal with that argument is to make the move that conservative judges have been so averse to making: to move beyond the text of the statute to those objective truths, confirmed in nature, on the differences that must ever separate males from females.

That was the understanding of “sex” that Justice Alito had in mind as he countered every case and example cited by Gorsuch. Justice Gorsuch noted the many ways in which the meaning of discrimination on the basis of sex could extend to sexual harassment or simply treating people differently on the basis of sex. A woman is refused a job because she has children at home, while the job is not refused to a man with children at home. But as Alito points out, at every turn the discrimination pivots on the difference between men and women, as that difference has been plain enough for millennia. The Western States had long established policies barring discriminations based on “sex” in education, and the Nineteenth Amendment had drawn on the same understanding when it barred the denial of the right to vote “on account of sex.” It was understood in all cases that the laws were assuming the biological definition of sex.

Ryan Anderson, drawing on the full range of texts in biology, condensed the truth of the matter in this way: “Sex, in terms of male or female, is identified by the organization of the organism for sexually reproductive acts.” The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith noted years ago that there has not always been an Italy or Hungary, but as long as there are human beings, there will be males and females. That is the purpose, or the telos, or the very reason that we have males and females. This was the understanding that Justice Alito was seeking so artfully to defend. But he defended it entirely as the meaning of sex contained in a long list of statutes and the Constitution. What he could not quite move himself to say was that this was indeed the inescapable truth of the matter, the only coherent way of explaining what sex must really mean. There is something, in the shaping of conservative judges, that makes them deeply reluctant to make that move beyond “tradition” and statutes to the moral truth of the matter.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

President of U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference Issues Statement on Supreme Court Decision on Legal Definition of “Sex” in Civil Rights Law

I am deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law. This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life.

By erasing the beautiful differences and complementary relationship between man and woman, we ignore the glory of God’s creation and harm the human family, the first building block of society. Our sex, whether we are male or female, is part of God’s plan for creation and for our lives. As Pope Francis has taught with such sensitivity, to live in the truth with God’s intended gifts in our lives requires that we receive our bodily and sexual identity with gratitude from our Creator. No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan.

Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and, without exception, must be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.

We pray that the Church, with the help of Mary, the Mother of God, will be able to continue her mission to bring Jesus Christ to every man and woman.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(CT) Legal experts worry that ruling in landmark workplace discrimination cases can’t provide the nuanced exemptions evangelicals have advocated for

In an article for Christianity Today’s ChurchLawAndTax.com, attorney and senior editor Richard Hammar said churches retain important protections with employment decisions pertaining to clergy, despite Monday’s ruling. However, Monday’s decision fosters greater uncertainty for churches with employees in nonministerial roles, he said.“

Churches that take an adverse action against an employee or applicant for employment based on religious considerations should describe their action appropriately,” Hammar said. “Refer to the religious or doctrinal principle at issue, and avoid generic labels like ‘sex’ or other gender- or sexuality-based labels.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote that the ruling will have “seismic implications for religious liberty, setting off potentially years of lawsuits and court struggles, about what this means, for example, for religious organizations with religious convictions about the meaning of sex and sexuality.”

“This Supreme Court decision should hardly be surprising, given how much has changed culturally on the meanings of sex and sexuality,” he said. “That the ‘sexual revolution’ is supported here by both ‘conservatives’ and ‘progressives’ on the court should also be of little surprise to those who have watched developments in each of these ideological corners of American life.”

Read it all and there is a lot more there as well.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Supreme Court

(NYT Op-ed) Esau McCaulley–What the Bible has to say about Black Anger

Jesus’ resurrection three days after his crucifixion shows that neither the lynching tree nor the cross have the final say about those whom God values. The state thought that violence could stop God’s purposes. For the Christian, the resurrection makes clear the futility of the attempt. Further, Jesus’ profound act of forgiving his opponents provides me with the theological resources to hope.

Dare we speak of hope when chants of “I can’t breathe” echo in the streets? Do we risk the criticism commonly levied at Christians that we move too quickly to hope because faith pacifies? Resurrection hope doesn’t remove the Christian from the struggle for justice. It empties the state’s greatest weapon — the fear of death — of its power.

Hope is possible if we recognize that it does not rule out justice. It is what separates justice from vengeance. Howard Thurman wrote in his classic work “Jesus and the Disinherited” about how rage, once unleashed, tends to spill out beyond its intended target and consume everything. The hatred of our enemy that we take to the streets returns with us to our friendships, marriages and communities. It damages our own souls.

Christians contend for justice because we care about black lives, families and communities. We contend for reconciliation after the establishment of justice because there must be a future that is more than mutual contempt and suspicion. But justice and reconciliation cannot come at the cost of black lives. The only peaceful future is a just future. And because Christians should be a people for peace, we must be a people for justice even when it seems ever to elude us. Too many black lives have been lost to accept anything else.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Violence

(Telegraph) Row escalates between Christ Church Dean and dons as Oxford college tries to distance itself from McDonald Centre

An ongoing row between the Dean of Christ Church and Oxford University dons has escalated following the college’s attempts to distance itself from a theological foundation headed up by one of the Dean’s staunchest allies.

One of the university’s Chancellor has been asked to intervene after Christ Church insisted that The McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics & Public Life remove all references to Christ Church from its website, including the centre’s logo, which has the appearance of the college’s famous Tom Tower.

The centre is headed up by Professor Nigel Biggar, a vocal supporter of the Very Rev Martyn Percy, who presides over the prestigious college and the cathedral.

It comes after 41 members of Christ Church’s governing body wrote to the Charity Commission accusing Dr Percy of “unsound judgement” and “a consistent lack of moral compass” in a bid to have him removed from the Board of Trustees. They also accused him of breaching his legal, fiduciary and safeguarding duties and of leaking confidential material to the press.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Stewardship

(NYT Op-ed) Issac Bailey–I’m Finally an Angry Black Man

You see, for a long time I was one of the “good blacks,” whom white friends and colleagues and associates and neighbors could turn to in order to be reassured that they weren’t racist, that America really had made a lot of racial progress since its founding, that I was an example of that progress because of the success I had attained after all I had faced and overcome.

For a long time, I wasn’t an angry black man even after growing up in an underfunded school that was still segregated four decades after Brown v. Board of Education in the heart of the Deep South.

I wasn’t angry even when I watched my oldest brother, my hero, be taken away in handcuffs for murdering a white man when I was a 9-year-old boy. He served 32 years, upending our family forever. Guilt is what I felt instead of anger. It’s akin to the guilt white liberals who go overboard in their efforts feel and are often guided by as they try to appease black people because of the racial harm they know black people have suffered since before this country’s founding.

Mine was a black guilt, a guilt stemming from the knowledge that my black brother had irreparably hurt a poor white family, guilt that helped persuade me to try to make it up to white people as best I could.

That’s why for a long time in my writings, I was more likely to focus on all the white people who didn’t yell “Nigger!” out their windows as they drove by as I jogged along Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, S.C., instead of those who did. That’s why I spent nearly two decades in a mostly white evangelical church. That’s why I tried to thread the needle on the Confederate flag, speaking forthrightly about its origins, but carefully so as not to upset my white friends and colleagues who revered a symbol of the idea that black people should forever be enslaved by white people.

Still, for a long time, none of that turned me into an angry black man….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

Bp Mark Lawrence–Standing in the Breach

To stand in the breach, to kneel in the place prayer is to hold all of this in our hearts before God: the young marching in peaceful protest; a looter and burglar fleeing the scene of violence perpetrated by his companion in crime; and all the George Floyds and David Dorns of the world . It is not only to stand in the breach, it is to have one’s heart enlarged. In the words of Edwin Corley, intercession “… is the principle by which praying people allow their own spiritual hearts to become enlarged enough to take on [through prayer] the care of others.” To share in the compassion of Jesus Christ for this world where so many people are like sheep without shepherds. To ask God’s Spirit to address our own “…feelings that have become calloused and remote for most of the people around [us].” May God work in us a deep feeling of love and compassion for His people. So we lift up those suffering from the Covid-19; those working for a vaccine and cure; those burying their loved ones either from the pandemic, the street violence or the normal stuff of life; for those who have lost their business and jobs from quarantine or fire, rioting and looting; for those who continue to suffer the weight of racial injustice; for police officers who risk their lives in their daily round of duty; and those for whom the killing of George Floyd makes the world feel less safe. That may sound almost like a litany. It is—or at least a prayer list. We pray for the light of Christ to come into our darkened world, and after this week of prayer and fasting to show each of us what the next step is, so we might fulfill the promise of our Lord. “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(CEN) Bishops take the knee

Bishops across the country led Anglicans in ‘taking the knee’ to mark the death of American George Floyd and to highlight injustice in British society.

The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Martyn Snow, led others in kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that a US police officer knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck.

Bishop Snow said: “I am deeply shocked by the appalling brutality we have seen against black people in America and I stand alongside those who are suffering and peacefully calling for urgent change, as well as committing to make changes in our own lives and the institutions we are part of.

“Structural and systemic racial prejudice exists across societies and institutions and we must act to change that, as well as addressing our own unconscious biases that lead us to discriminate against others.” Earlier this year he led the General Synod in a vote to apologise for racism in the Church.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(NPR) ‘Breathe, Pray, Meditate’: Born From Resistance, Black Churches Now Leading In Crises

As her church distributed masks and hand sanitizer as it does each Friday, the Rev. Traci Blackmon said that black churches “have always been on the bottom rung ladder of all of this.”

“We’ve always had to figure out how to take care of our community, to take care of our neighborhoods and take care of our seniors, even when the economy is booming,” said Blackmon, associate general minister of justice at the United Church of Christ, who leads a church in Florissant, Mo. “So in some ways, we’re ahead of the game with this, because we know how to survive with less, because we’ve always had to survive.”

She said that “the way we are accustomed to being governed in this country is being challenged in ways that it has not been challenged in recent history before.”

“So I think it is all erupting and that makes this moment very different because we are in this moment partly created by a lack of leadership,” she added. “And now we have to navigate this moment without leadership.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

David French–American Racism: We’ve Got So Very Far to Go: And the journey must continue step-by-step

So now I sit in a different place. But where do I stand? I believe the following things to be true:

  1. Slavery was legal and defended morally and (ultimately) militarily from 1619 to 1865.
  2. After slavery, racial discrimination was lawful and defended morally (and often violently) from 1865 to 1964.
  3. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not end illegal discrimination or racism, it mainly gave black Americans the legal tools to fight back against legal injustices.
  4. It is unreasonable to believe that social structures and cultural attitudes that were constructed over a period of 345 years will disappear in 56.
  5. Moreover, the consequences of 345 years of legal and cultural discrimination, are going to be dire, deep-seated, complex, and extraordinarily difficult to comprehensively ameliorate.

It’s hard even to begin to describe all the ramifications of 345 years of legalized oppression and 56 years of contentious change, but we can say two things at once—yes, we have made great strides (and we should acknowledge that fact and remember the men and women who made it possible), but the central and salient consideration of American racial politics shouldn’t center around pride in how far we’ve come, but in humble realization of how much farther we have to go.

Moreover, taking the next steps down that road will have to mean shedding our partisan baggage. It means acknowledging and understanding that the person who is wrong on abortion and health care may be right about police brutality. It means being less outraged at a knee on football turf than at a knee on a man’s neck. And it means declaring that even though we may not agree on everything about race and American life, we can agree on some things, and we can unite where we agree.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Theology, Violence

(The Week) Damon Linker–Don’t willfully ignore the complexity of what’s happening in America right now

The very least we can do is make a concerted effort to legitimize the pain and anger of African Americans, while defending the constitutionally protected right to protest. But this must also be paired with an unconditional condemnation of looting, stealing, smashing, burning, and destroying lives and property — none of which is protest, and all of which will succeed only in further rending the social fabric while giving would-be authoritarians pretext to crack down in the name of the public good.

If that much proves impossible for us to manage, we will have failed. And in that failure, we will have demonstrated before the world that we did all of this to ourselves.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

Grace & Race Statement from Redeemer Church, NYC–Concerning the Killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd

We remember that throughout Scripture, God shows particular care for those who are most vulnerable, he commands authorities to be characterized by righteousness and justice, and he holds nations accountable for how they treat the least powerful groups and persons in their societies.

We recognize the pervasiveness of sin, we acknowledge that the bloody history of racially motivated violence in the United States continues to this day, we denounce any doctrine of racial superiority, and we join the many calls for systemic change in a nation that has often failed to uphold God’s vision of justice and has persistently worked against people of color. We pray that local officials will exercise their authority to pursue justice for Mr. Arbery, Ms. Taylor, Mr. Floyd, and countless others whose stories have been neglected.

We repent of the ways that we as Christians have far too often failed to adequately stand against the evil of racism and violence: diminishing its severity, averting our gazes, and even perpetuating such injustice deliberately or complicitly.

We realize that for many of our brothers and sisters, the revelation of these deaths is but another reminder of an everyday reality, and that even now as we lament the loss of these lives, many others are overlooked while being subjected to cruelty and death due to the color of their skin. Even still, we remember that ​“nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bishop Mark Lawrence offers some Thoughts on our Current Cultural Moment of National Unrest–Groanings too Deep for Words

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(CSM) With new urgency, parents learn how to talk to kids about race

As an African American parent, Cassandre Dunbar in Charlotte, North Carolina, always knew she and her husband would have “the talk” with their son, the one preparing him for interactions with law enforcement.

But she never dreamed it would be necessary at 5 years old.

“I thought the cops were supposed to help us? Are they only helpful to white people?” he asked after taking in TV coverage of protests and overhearing his parents discuss the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.

Ms. Dunbar explained to her eldest child: “Some people have a hard time understanding that skin color doesn’t have anything to do with what kind of person you are. I said that, yes, cops are meant to help us all, but some cops aren’t good cops and the bad ones really aren’t helpful to people who look like us.”

Many parents of all races are struggling with similar conversations after a week of outrage and sadness that spilled into streets worldwide after video of Mr. Floyd’s death emerged. It came after months of family togetherness in coronavirus lockdown, a time when kids have been cut off from schools and peers.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Theology, Violence

(Economist) The grim racial inequalities behind America’s protests

According to the Census Bureau, African-Americans earn barely three-fifths as much as non-Hispanic whites. In 2018 average black household income was $41,400, compared with $70,600 for whites. That gap is wide. In Britain, where race relations can also be tense, blacks earn 90% as much as whites. The American gap is narrower than it was in 1970, when African-Americans earned only half as much as whites. But all the improvement happened between 1970 and 2000, and since then things have worsened again. The black income gap has been eased somewhat by post-covid federal spending increases. But it may soon yawn wider because African-Americans have many of the low- or unskilled jobs that could be most vulnerable to a coronavirus recession.

Income numbers understate the real economic disparities because they only describe people who are in work. According to a study by Patrick Bayer of Duke University and Kerwin Charles of the University of Chicago, a stunning 35% of young black men are unemployed or out of the workforce altogether, twice the share of whites. This huge number seems to be connected with the high incarceration rates of African-Americans: besides those in jail, many have given up looking for work because employers will not offer jobs to former felons. Hence the judicial disparities at the heart of the protests over Mr Floyd also reinforce income and job inequalities.

The wealth gap between blacks and whites is even wider than the income gap.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, History, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(Ed Stetzer’s The Exchange) Race, Gospel, and Justice: An Interview with Esau McCaulley in 4 Parts

We have all been stirred by the events surrounding the death of George Floyd as well as the protests happening across the country. I wrote, “George Floyd, a Central Park 911 Call, and All the Places Without Cameras,” last week. Over the weekend, I invited John Richards to write a guest post, “Letter From a Quarantined Home: Expressing Disappointment with Some of My White Brothers and Sisters in Christ.”
To better understand the reaction to his death, to think about how we can respond as believers to the protests, and to consdider how we should address looting and riots, I interviewed my colleague and friend Esau McCaulley. The following multi-part series will walk us through that important interview. You can listen to that interview on my Moody Radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, right here. Or, we will post the interview in several parts here.

Read it all (and make sure to catch all 4 parts).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence