Category : Law & Legal Issues

(NPR) Religion, The Supreme Court And Why It Matters

Lots of controversial cases at the intersection of religion and the law wind up before the Supreme Court.

And, for most of U.S. history, the court, like the country, was dominated by Protestant Christians. But today, it is predominantly Catholic and Jewish.

It has become more conservative and is about to get even more so with President Trump’s expected pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is stepping down from the court at the end of July.

Everyone on Trump’s shortlist, but one, is Catholic. So what, if anything, do the current justices’ and potential nominees’ faiths tell us — and how has the religious makeup of the Supreme Court changed?

“It’s extraordinary and unprecedented in American history,” said Louis Michael Seidman, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown University, which is affiliated with the Catholic Church. “There was a time when, for example, there was tremendous anti-Catholic bias … and, of course, there was a time when there was a lot of anti-Semitism, and a lot of that has gone away.”

Read it all.

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

(GR) Julia Duin–When profiling ADF’s Kristin Waggoner, why not include facts about her Pentecostal roots?

There’s so much good in this story, as the details are the result of hours of observation by a keen-eyed reporter. It’s the stuff that got left out that drives me batty.

The story talks a lot about Waggoner’s friendship with Stutzman but doesn’t mention how Waggoner honed her craft through years of working in a law firm here in Seattle, where she got her fill of the liberal politics in this ultra-blue state.

I learned the details of her religious upbringing in Ken McIntyre’s Daily Signal piece where we learn Waggoner is the daughter of an Assemblies of God minister, Clint Behrends, who is on staff of Cedar Park Assembly of God in Bothell, a Seattle suburb. She attended an Assemblies of God college in nearby Kirkland; clerked for a Washington Supreme Court judge, then spent 15 years with Ellis, Li & ­­­­­McKinstry, a Seattle law firm that includes many Christian lawyers. And ever since moving to Arizona to work with ADF in 2014, her star has gone straight up.

We also learn her husband is a lawyer and that they have three kids. Most importantly, she is a Pentecostal Christian. That’s what growing up in the rather moderate Assemblies of God means. Thinking back to 2008, when another female Pentecostal, Sarah Palin, climbed onto the national stage as the Republican Party’s vice presidential candidate, reporters hadn’t a clue how to cover her church. Not much has changed.

I don’t know whether the Post reporter didn’t grasp Waggoner’s beliefs enough to ask her about them or whether she did include those details but an editor took them out. But if this woman’s faith renders her unflappable amidst some tough high-profile cases, not to mention the personal toll of overseeing dozens of lawyers working on similar cases while staying married with three kids, then we should know more about it.

Once again, what is the logic – in terms of journalism basics – for omitting this kind of core information?

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Media, Pentecostal, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Adam O’Neal–Taking an honest look Inside the Christian group to which Amy Coney Barrett’s belongs

Judge Amy Coney Barrett could be President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court—a prospect that thrills many conservatives. A former Antonin Scalia clerk and Notre Dame professor, Judge Barrett, 46, seems an ideal choice. Yet her religious beliefs could lead to a contentious confirmation process. Would it be a risk to pick her?

Last year President Trump nominated Ms. Barrett for a seat on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Several Democratic senators pondered whether an “orthodox Catholic” would have dual loyalties. “The dogma lives loudly within you,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said during Ms. Barrett’s hearing. “That’s of concern.”

Video of Mrs. Feinstein’s religious test quickly spread, provoking outrage from thousands of Americans. Yet a New York Times news story suggested she and her colleagues hadn’t gone far enough: The nominee’s “membership in a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise never came up at the hearing, and might have led to even more intense questioning.”

Richard Painter, a law professor and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Minnesota, loved the article. He recently tweeted the link, adding his own comment on People of Praise: “A religious group in which members take an oath of loyalty to each other and are supervised by a male ‘head’ or female ‘handmaiden.’ That looks like a cult.” As nonbigots do, Mr. Painter then added, “don’t even try playing the ‘anti-Catholic bigotry’ card.”

It’s easy to make People of Praise sound terrifying. Isn’t there a TV show and novel about these “handmaid” people? Do Americans really want a cultist on the Supreme Court? Despite such insinuations from “resistance” conspiracy theorists, understanding the group requires more than a couple of tweets….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate, Supreme Court

(GR) Looking at a New York Times Article on Free Speech Cases which begs many questions

When you apply this to other crucial First Amendment doctrines then you would find yourself defending the rights of a single baker (a traditional Christian) to decline a request to create a one-of-a-kind artistic cake celebrating a same-sex wedding rite (after offering the couple any of the standard cakes or desserts in his shop). The baker’s very narrow, faith-based refusal of this task was offensive and caused pain, yet the gay couple had many other options in the local marketplace. The baker is “the powerful” force in this legal fight?

It would also be possible to defend Catholic nuns who refused government commandments that they cooperate with efforts to provide contraceptive options to their own staff, in violations of important Catholic doctrines linked to their mission. The elderly nuns represent the “the powerful” classes in this legal fight?

This Times piece, if the goal was balance, really needed to document cases of conservative forces rising up, during the past decade or two, to DENY First Amendment freedoms to liberal people and liberal organizations. Shouldn’t we be seeing a wave of those? Are liberal voices being silence in public life (as opposed to inside private associations)?

For example, are there examples of liberal, perhaps mainline Protestant, churches and ministries being pressed to violate their doctrines, perhaps being compelled to deliver messages that violate elements of their evolving doctrines? Perhaps there are cases linked to the sanctuary movement?

I am left, once again, wondering what label to assign to contemporary people and groups that are weak in their defense of free speech, weak in their defense of freedom of association and weak in their defense of the free exercise of religion. What should fair-minded journalists call them? What should the Times team have called the powers that be on the “progressive” side of the debate (including the newspaper’s editorial-page team)?

The one label that cannot be assigned to these groups is “liberal.” That just won’t fly, in the wider context of American political thought.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NA) Adam White–Amid growing calls to break up Google, are we missing a quiet alignment between “smart” government and the universal information engine?

Google exists to answer our small questions. But how will we answer larger questions about Google itself? Is it a monopoly? Does it exert too much power over our lives? Should the government regulate it as a public utility — or even break it up?

In recent months, public concerns about Google have become more pronounced. This February, the New York Times Magazine published “The Case Against Google,” a blistering account of how “the search giant is squelching competition before it begins.” The Wall Street Journal published a similar article in January on the “antitrust case” against Google, along with Facebook and Amazon, whose market shares it compared to Standard Oil and AT&T at their peaks. Here and elsewhere, a wide array of reporters and commentators have reflected on Google’s immense power — not only over its competitors, but over each of us and the information we access — and suggested that the traditional antitrust remedies of regulation or breakup may be necessary to rein Google in.

Dreams of war between Google and government, however, obscure a much different relationship that may emerge between them — particularly between Google and progressive government. For eight years, Google and the Obama administration forged a uniquely close relationship. Their special bond is best ascribed not to the revolving door, although hundreds of meetings were held between the two; nor to crony capitalism, although hundreds of people have switched jobs from Google to the Obama administration or vice versa; nor to lobbying prowess, although Google is one of the top corporate lobbyists.

Rather, the ultimate source of the special bond between Google and the Obama White House — and modern progressive government more broadly — has been their common ethos. Both view society’s challenges today as social-engineering problems, whose resolutions depend mainly on facts and objective reasoning. Both view information as being at once ruthlessly value-free and yet, when properly grasped, a powerful force for ideological and social reform. And so both aspire to reshape Americans’ informational context, ensuring that we make choices based only upon what they consider the right kinds of facts — while denying that there would be any values or politics embedded in the effort.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, The U.S. Government

AS Haley on the Ongoing South Carolina Episcopal Church litigation mess–“O, What a Tangled Web We Weave . . .”

Thus two of the Justices viewed this case as one in which the civil courts should “defer” to the “ecclesiastical authorities” — even though South Carolina is a “neutral principles” State, in which “deference” has no role! — while the third reaches his result based “strictly applying neutral principles of law.” Two of them simply “reverse” the decision below (and one only in part), while only Justice Hearn declares the whole kit and caboodle to belong to her own denomination.

The first two Justices would thus have overruled the leading South Carolina neutral principles case, All Saints Parish Waccamaw v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, but two votes do not suffice for that. They would have required a third vote to overrule that decision, and they never obtained that third vote. So the neutral principles doctrine of All Saints Waccamaw stands unchanged.

Nor did Justice Hearn get any other Justice to buy into her “constructive trust” rationale (unless Justice Pleicones may be said to have done so by “joining” in her opinion). But that was not a ground urged on appeal by ECUSA or its rump diocese — so Justice Hearn gratuitously inserted her views on an issue that was not properly before the Court.

Finally, only two of the Justices (Hearn and Beatty) mentioned Camp Christopher — the retreat property that belongs not to any one parish, but to the Diocese itself. The Dennis Canon does not apply to the property of a diocese, and so it cannot be used to transfer ownership. For Justice Hearn, “deference” requires that result, while for Chief Justice Beatty, the result follows from the fact that he cannot see how Bishop Lawrence’s Diocese is the “successor” to the diocese that owned the property before the lawsuit began. (But the Diocese did not go anywhere — it is still the same South Carolina religious corporation it always was. So how can there be any question of whether a Diocese can “succeed” itself? The Chief Justice went out on a limb, and no one joined him.)

An even bigger problem for Judge Goodstein on remand, however, is how she should regard the opinion of Justice Hearn, who belatedly recused herself due to a (presumed) perception of a conflict of interest. (You think?) Which is to say, she never should have participated in the case to begin with.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, Corporations/Corporate Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government

([London] Times) Melanie Phillips– Are“safe spaces” are morphing into prejudice in reverse?

The thinking behind this [French] change was expounded in Le Monde by Mario Stasi, chairman of the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism. He said race had been included in the French constitution by postwar politicians in revulsion at the ideology of the Nazis. In so doing, however, they had unwittingly promoted the cause against which they were seeking to fight. That’s because the very idea of separate races is itself a Nazi concept. It is arbitrary and scientifically meaningless. It is merely a device to promote hatred and worse.

It follows inescapably that, as a result of this change, the French are not only abolishing race but also racism. So there can be no more racial diversity targets and all the rest of the racial equality apparatus. This does not mean that the notion of prejudice will be abolished. Prejudice will be defined instead on the basis of “origins”, a neutral and surely more accurate term.

The implications of the change will be devastating for the industry of racial grievance. This can only be a good thing. The proper notion of equality, the concept which underpins western civilisation, derives from the Hebrew Bible which lays down that all people are equal because all are made in the image of God.

That means equal respect for everyone on the grounds of our common humanity. It is therefore an absolute and unconditional equality. It does not mean, however, identical treatment regardless of circumstance or behaviour: the basic condition of “victim culture”.

In our godless age, religious precepts have largely been replaced in the public sphere by ideologies such as feminism or anti-racism. These are man-made absolutes. They are therefore conditional upon which group exercises power over others to obtain privileged treatment and a free pass for bad behaviour.

That’s why “victim culture” is not about the victims of power but itself embodies an abuse of power. And that’s why, from LGBT flats to sacred wombs, we now have prejudice and discrimination in reverse.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Young Adults

(Newsroom) New Zealand Anglican Bishops are Divided on Assisted Suicide

The eight top Anglican bishops of New Zealand have come out against David Seymour’s proposed euthanasia bill but three other bishops have voiced their support.

The two very different submissions on the End of Life Choice Bill are a sign of the differences of opinion within the country’s second largest church and among its 450,000 adherents.

The eight bishops, the church’s top leaders, have told Parliament’s Justice select committee that more money should be put into palliative care and helping families looking after the terminally ill, rather than allowing euthanasia or assisted dying.

The submission – by the bishops of Dunedin, Christchurch, Waiapu, Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Te Waipounamu and Waikato/Taranaki – is one of 35,000 to the committee and among thousands made public this month.

But three other bishops – two former bishops, John Bluck and David Coles, and Assistant bishop of Auckland, Jim White – have published a contrary opinion saying for some people with a terminal illness, assisted dying “is a good and moral choice”.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Gerald Mcdermott–An Interview with Archbishop Ben Kwashi

Your grace, you were attacked the other night for the third time.  Some think the Fulani are targeting you.  Are you afraid?

I am not afraid to die, I continue to live my normal life as you have seen but I do nurse the fear that I might get killed. My sure faith, however, is that until my time is over and assignment completed nothing shall yet happen to me. So I live between these tensions.  

Archbishop, you have just released a new book, Evangelism and Mission: Biblical and Strategic Insights for the Church Today (Africa Christian Textbooks).  Why did you write this book?

I wanted to give pastors a book they could use.  No one has any business being a priest if he does not do the work of an evangelist and missionary.  That is what we are called to first and foremost, to be missionaries.  This book tells them how to do this.

In 1992 when I started as a bishop, most Anglican pastors in this part of Nigeria were doing “church” in a way that was alien to what I had learned from my own experience of planting churches.  They had no understanding of the church as a vehicle of salvation for people who did not have the gospel.  I had been teaching and doing this for years.

Once they started seeing how we do this in rural areas, there was a domino effect.  We sent teams out without cars or bicycles, with just enough money to buy transport.  They had to minister by faith, and see God provide for them.  It was crucial to their learning how God meets their needs day by day.  They learned what Anglicans should mean by “apostolic succession”—planting churches from scratch like the apostles did.

I also wanted to explain in the book why we must not make the mistake of the early African church, that lost North Africa to Islam.  That church did not do enough mission.  We must not make that mistake.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Local Paper) An Important Letter to The Editor on the Historic Diocese of South Carolina Lawsuit

“Conflicting rulings leave church dispute unsettled”

From there:

Recent letters to the editor suggest that because the United States Supreme Court denied our petition for review, the legal questions between the Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church (TEC) are settled and all that remains is return of the property. As the elected leaders of our congregations (St. Michael’s, St. Philip’s and the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul) we have a far different perspective.

While the denial of our petition means the five opinions of the South Carolina Supreme Court justices will not be reviewed, it was not an affirmation of them. The same day, the court also declined to review a Minnesota church case with the same facts but an opposite outcome to ours. All the denial means is that the court was unwilling to resolve this conflict between the lower courts.

So why do we continue in our legal defense? Our houses of worship, established by faithful generations before us, are worth preserving for our children and grandchildren. And the faith we proclaim there, the immutable Gospel of Christ, is worth defending.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria said last week, at an international gathering of Anglicans in Jerusalem, “If we walk together with those who reject the orthodox faith, in word or deed, we have agreed that orthodoxy is optional.” We believe the divinity of Christ and the authority of Scripture must be upheld, not revised to suit the times. The Gospel ministry we share in our churches today, and the ministry these sanctuaries will enable tomorrow, is worth protecting.

We believe that the grounds for doing so remain strong. As TEC itself argued in its Brief in Opposition before the United States Supreme Court, the South Carolina ruling is “fractured.” Among the five separate opinions, promulgated after two years of wrangling, there is no majority legal opinion. The conflicts of interpretation among the five opinions are significant.

One key example illustrates this well. In the deciding opinion on the parish property issue, Chief Justice Don Beatty said only parishes that acceded in writing to the Dennis Canon created a trust. None of our parishes signed such a document. To our knowledge, no congregation in our Diocese did so. On that basis, what the ruling says is that no congregation should lose their property. This is one of the many difficulties that must still be resolved by a state court.

Many of our congregations have been faithfully proclaiming the Gospel here for over 300 years, through earthquake, fire and flood. We will pass through this challenge as well and look forward, God willing, to another 300 years of faithful proclamation. We pray that The Episcopal Church will respect the path of faithfulness we have chosen, as parishes and as a Diocese. For those truly concerned to heal fractured relationships, this is the shortest road to that destination.

–Penn Hagood is senior warden of St. Philip’s Church. Heidi Ravenel is junior warden of St. Michael’s Church. Todd Lant is senior warden of the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(CT) Anglican Archbishop Nicholas Okoh Calls For End to Killings

Speaking further, he appealed to those involved in rustling cattle and killing their fellow men to stop the evil act.

“This appeal goes to those who steal cows, if you are one of them or you know such people, tell them to stop stealing cows.

“For you to take a cow and pay with your life is not worth it. It’s not a good exchange.

“The Second appeal goes to those who kill human beings, to stop killing Nigerians for whatever reason because if this killing does not stop, it is a bad thing that will bear no good fruit,” the Bishop said.

Also speaking on the killings, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Kaduna, Timothy Yahaya had on Friday, demanded that the killer herdsmen be labelled as a terrorist group just as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was declared as one.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

The Guardian view on an Anglican cover-up: the church that didn’t want to know

It’s not the scandal that does the damage, they say, but the cover-up. What happens if the cover-up is itself covered up? This is the question that the Church of England must face with the publication of an extraordinary report into the occasion, eight years ago, when it gave itself a pass mark on the issue of sexual abuse. A report then published, prompted by scandals earlier in the decade, was meant to measure the extent of historic sexual abuse known to the church. Instead it produced the frankly incredible claim that there were only 13 cases in 30 years that had not been dealt with properly.

Now that Peter Ball, a former bishop of Lewes and of Gloucester, has been convicted of indecent assault and been sentenced to 32 months in jail, while Lord Carey, who as archbishop of Canterbury attempted to rehabilitate him and suppressed some of the evidence against him, has been barred from working as a priest in retirement, it is time to review the church’s earlier self-examination. The Ball case is only the most visible of what is now obviously a considerable load of past cases. The archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, along with two of his bishops, has been formally reported to the police for alleged inaction over the case of one of their priests who was as a young man raped by an older priest.

So it is disappointing to see that the church has managed to produce another report that appears to argue that the original clean bill of health was the product of perfectly innocent misunderstandings.

Read it all.

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

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–Anthony Kennedy and the Privatization of Meaning

Justice Anthony Kennedy didn’t invent the shift from community to autonomy, but in 1992 he articulated it more crisply than anyone else: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

In this sentence, which became famous as the “mystery of life” passage, there is no sense that individuals are embedded in a social order. There is no acknowledgment of the parts of ourselves that we don’t choose but inherit — family, race, social roles, historical legacies of oppression, our bodies, the habits that are handed down to us by our common culture.

There’s no we. We are all monads who walk around with our own individual opinions about existence, meaning and the universe. Each person is a self-created choosing individual, pursuing individual desires. There is no sense that we are part of a common flow connecting the past, present and future; instead, each of us creates our own worldview anew.

Read it all.

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

(PFC) The Supreme Court Declined Their Case , but the battle over the Historic Diocese of South Carolina is far from over

When asked this question,…[The] Reverend Lewis said that, “[i]n its argument for why the Supreme Court should not review our case, The Episcopal Church attorneys argued it was too ‘fractured’ to be used for setting precedent. On that one point, we would agree. The South Carolina ruling is composed of five separate opinions that do not agree on either legal principles or outcomes. Interpreting what the conflicting legal opinions in this ruling actually mean and how they will apply will require further adjudication by the courts. We continue to believe the facts and law of the case favor our positions.”

As the case returns to the Dorchester County court later this summer where it originated and a judge considers several motions one of which is the motion to execute the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision, Reverend Lewis and the Diocese appear confident that this motion cannot be implemented until “numerous significant and complicated legal questions are answered.” The Diocese then can hope and pray that because the facts and laws indeed favor their position, the legal process still has time to correct the situation.

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Bob Kuhn–Canada Attacks Religious Freedom

Canada legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, amid many promises that traditional religious believers would be protected. Those promises have proved empty. Earlier this month the Supreme Court of Canada told Trinity Western University, which I lead, that it could not open a law school. Accrediting a school that upholds traditional Christian teachings on marriage could send the wrong message to Canadians who disagree with Trinity’s beliefs, we were told.

This isn’t about the quality of our educational programs. Our researchers hold millions of dollars in grants. Many members of our faculty have been recognized as 3M Teaching Fellows, Canada’s most prestigious award for excellence in educational leadership. We are consistently ranked one of the best Canadian universities for educational experience, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement.

Trinity simply is being punished for asking its faculty and students to observe traditional Christian teachings on marriage through a community covenant. In 2001 the high court ruled decisively that this policy did not disqualify the university from training public-school teachers. It seemed as if the ruling gave Trinity a secure place as one of the few private faith-based schools in Canada.

But that was then. In 2012 Trinity decided to open a law school.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture