Category : Supreme Court

(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

(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.

Read it all.

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

(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.

Read it all.

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.”

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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

(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

(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

(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?

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

(CLJ) Adrian Vermeule–All Human Conflict Is Ultimately Theological

First consider a pair of puzzles from the crucial period 2014-16 in American politics, when the tempo of liberalism’s sacramental celebrations increased sharply. In both cases, the puzzle is that political incumbents in a liberal regime—executive actors in one case, litigation groups and judicial actors in another—took actions that were flagrantly ill-advised from the standpoint of the ragion di stato, revealing deeper sacramental commitments and impulses.

The first was the Obama administration’s relentless attempt to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to either fund abortifacient contraceptives or, at least, to take action to pass the responsibility elsewhere. Commentators at the time criticized the seemingly inexplicable stupidity of the administration’s approach, which created a highly salient example of repressive regulatory secular liberalism and thus radically antagonized Christian conservatives, who proceeded to vote for Trump in large numbers. It is plausible to think that the voting pattern was partly caused bythe example, although, in the nature of the case, it is extremely difficult to establish such things one way or the other.

But this criticism, while entirely valid from a ragion di stato perspective, does not quite reach the root of the matter, at least if we understand the inner dynamics of sacramental liberalism. The very point of the administration’s conduct, on my view, was not (or not only) to force one smallish order of nuns to provide contraceptives—indeed, the very fact the administration offered a “voluntary” opt-out underscores that the real objective lay elsewhere. Rather, the objective was ceremonial—to force the nuns to acknowledge publicly the liberal state’s just authority, even in matters of religion, the authority to require either provision or the exercise of an opt-out, as the state saw fit. The main point was to stage a public, sacramental celebration of the justice of liberal power and of the overcoming of reactionary opposition.

Another example involves the puzzle of Obergefell[26]including the administration’s rather chilling representation at oral argument in the Supreme Court that institutions not supportive of same-sex marriage might have to lose their tax exemptions as contrary to “public policy,” as did racist institutions like Bob Jones University.[27] The puzzle is not only why the administration would make such an inflammatory threat, but also why such a judicial decision was necessary at all, when the tide of politics was running in favor of same-sex marriage anyway. Simple nonintervention, by means of any of the standard techniques available to the liberal Justices,[28] would have attained the same policy ends with far less political conflict. As far as instrumental political rationality went, all that was necessary was to do nothing.

But a conspicuous conflict with the settled mores of millennia was, of course, the point. It was right and just to have same-sex marriage not merely embodied in law, but declared a requirement of fundamental justice, coupled with a conspicuous defeat of the forces of reaction.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(NR) David French–‘The Next Big Religious Freedom Case Just Landed at SCOTUS’

Those are the first words in a tweet thread from Becket attorney Lori Windham, and she’s right. This week Becket filed a cert petition in Sharonell Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. Fulton is appealing from a Third Circuit Court of Appeals opinion holding that Philadelphia did not violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment when it took punitive actions against Catholic Social Services because, in the words of the cert petition, “as a Catholic agency, CSS cannot provide written endorsements for same-sex couples which contradict its religious teachings on marriage.” Philadelphia took this action in spite of the fact that “CSS’s beliefs about marriage haven’t prevented anyone from fostering. ” As Becket explains:

Philadelphia has a diverse array of foster agencies, and not a single same-sex couple approached CSS about becoming a foster parent between its opening in 1917 and the start of this case in 2018. Despite this history, after learning through a newspaper article that CSS wouldn’t perform home studies for same-sex couples if asked, the City stopped allowing foster children to be placed with any family endorsed by CSS. This means that even though no same-sex couples had asked to work with the Catholic Church, the foster families that actually chose to work with the Church cannot welcome new children into their homes at a time when Philadelphia has an admittedly “urgent” need for more foster parents.

As is the case with multiple modern religious liberty cases, the issue isn’t whether LGBT individuals are excluded from the relevant market, industry, or program but whether the state may use its power to enforce ideological and religious conformity. Just as a ruling for Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop meant that customers could still get their cakes, and Christians could still retain their rights of conscience, a ruling for CSS here would mean that LGBT families could still foster, and Catholics would be able to uphold church teaching.

Moreover, the facts of the case demonstrate that Philadelphia’s intolerance doesn’t just harm the Catholic Church, it harms the very people the foster program is designed to help.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(DN) Why faith groups are divided over the cross case before the Supreme Court this week

If a World War I memorial is shaped like a cross, does that make it a religious symbol? Even faith groups don’t agree on the answer to that question, which is before the Supreme Court this week.

The American Legion, et al. v. American Humanist Associationcenters on a 40-foot-tall, cross-shaped monument in Bladensburg, Maryland, which is maintained with government funds. By the end of June, justices must decide if this arrangement violates the Constitution’s establishment clause, which bans the government from privileging one faith group over others, and, if it does, whether the cross should be altered or removed.

Briefs filed in the case, which will be heard on Wednesday, reveal conflicting claims about the monument within and between faith groups and religious freedom organizations.

Supporters of the so-called “Peace Cross” say its secular purpose outweighs its association with Christianity, while opponents say it’s undeniably and unlawfully religious.

“Maintaining a nearly century-old war memorial at a busy intersection is hardly an official declaration in law that Christianity is the government’s preferred religion,” argues a brief in support of the Bladensburg cross signed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and four other religious organizations.

On the other hand, faith groups opposing the cross filed briefs stating that even the appearance of religious favoritism is a problem.

Read it all.

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

(CNN) Princeton University’s Robert George with an Important Interview about the US Supreme Court and the Current Political Climate

Watch it all (12 3/4 minutes).

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Supreme Court, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–A Complete National Disgrace: The Kavanaugh hearings as American nadir

Over the past few years, hundreds of organizations and thousands ofpeople (myself included) have mobilized to reduce political polarization, encourage civil dialogue and heal national divisions.

The first test case for our movement was the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s clear that at least so far our work is a complete failure. Sixty-nine percent of Americans in one poll called the hearings a “national disgrace,” and the only shocking thing is that there are 31 percent who don’t agree.

What we saw in these hearings was the unvarnished tribalization of national life. At the heart of the hearings were two dueling narratives, one from Christine Blasey Ford and one from Brett Kavanaugh. These narratives were about what did or did not happen at a party 36 years ago. There was nothing particularly ideological about the narratives, nothing that touched on capitalism, immigration or any of the other great disputes of national life.

And yet reactions to the narratives have been determined almost entirely by partisan affiliation. Among the commentators I’ve seen and read, those who support Democrats embrace Blasey’s narrative and dismissed Kavanaugh’s. Those who support Republicans side with Kavanaugh’s narrative and see holes in Ford’s. I can think of few exceptions.

These hearings were also a devastating blow to intellectual humility. At the heart of this case is a mystery: What happened at that party 36 years ago? There is no corroborating evidence either way. So the crucial questions are: How do we sit with this uncertainty? How do we weigh the two contradictory testimonies? How do we measure these testimonies when all of cognitive science tells us that human beings are really bad at spotting falsehood? Should a person’s adult life be defined by something he did in high school?

Commentators and others may have acknowledged uncertainty on these questions for about 2.5 seconds, but then they took sides….

Read it all.

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

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Senate, Supreme Court, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Akhil Reed Amar–A Liberal’s Case for new Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh

In 2016, I strongly supported Hillary Clinton for president as well as President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. But today, with the exception of the current justices and Judge Garland, it is hard to name anyone with judicial credentials as strong as those of Judge Kavanaugh. He sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the most influential circuit court) and commands wide and deep respect among scholars, lawyers and jurists.

Judge Kavanaugh, who is 53, has already helped decide hundreds of cases concerning a broad range of difficult issues. Good appellate judges faithfully follow the Supreme Court; great ones influence and help steer it. Several of Judge Kavanaugh’s most important ideas and arguments — such as his powerful defense of presidential authority to oversee federal bureaucrats and his skepticism about newfangled attacks on the property rights of criminal defendants — have found their way into Supreme Court opinions.

Except for Judge Garland, no one has sent more of his law clerks to clerk for the justices of the Supreme Court than Judge Kavanaugh has. And his clerks have clerked for justices across the ideological spectrum.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, President Donald Trump, Senate, Supreme Court

(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

(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

(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

(NPR) U.K. Supreme Court Rules It’s Unfair To Offer Civil Unions Only To Same-Sex Couples

On Wednesday, Britain’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled that heterosexual couples should not be banned from entering civil partnerships and that making them only available to same-sex couples is discriminatory and “incompatible” with human rights laws.

The decision comes after Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, a British couple who objected to the traditional institution of marriage because of its “patriarchal nature,” fought a legal campaign for years, according to Reuters.

Though the ruling does not require the British government to change the law, supporters are hopeful that the decision could pave the way for more legalized heterosexual civil partnerships.

Read it all and you may find David Pocklington’s initial post on it there.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Supreme Court, Women

(Washington Post) ‘What’s next?’ Muslims grapple with Supreme Court ruling that they believe redefines their place in America

“For all my life, I’ve felt that this is my country,” said [Ramy] Almansoob, a 34-year-old structural engineer who was born in the United States and raised in Yemen, returning in 2015 to the suburbs of Washington to build a new life for his family. “We all knew that the United States is the place where you have freedom, and that’s what I always had in my mind. It’s not how it used to be.”

Almansoob applied to bring his wife and daughters to the United States a few months before Trump took office in January 2017. The ban, which seemed to echo Trump’s campaign call “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” quickly followed. And after two amended versions and a number of court battles, the Supreme Court in December allowed for the temporary implementation of the ban on Yemenis, Syrians, Iranians, Somalis and Libyans.

Now the court has upheld the policy, a decision that added permanence to the sentiment among many American Muslims that the government views and treats them differently from other Americans.

“It has put me in the position of second-class citizenship,” said Abrar Omeish, a Libyan American in Virginia who recently ran for a spot on the school board in Fairfax County.

Civil rights and religious advocacy groups across the country reacted to the court’s decision Tuesday in a passionate uproar.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Supreme Court

(Item) 2 Sumter churches among 28 in South Carolina that may have to vacate property after Supreme Court denies request

After the U.S. Supreme Court denied a state church district’s petition for a hearing Monday, it is unknown what the future may hold for two local congregations’ properties.

The Rev. Marcus Kaiser, rector of Church of the Holy Comforter, 213 N. Main St., made his comments after the high court informed The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina that it would deny a request to hear its case to reverse a decision made last year by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Doing so leaves in place a sharply divided ruling from the state’s high court from 2017 that could deprive at least 28 parish churches of their right to properties – some of which have been held for more than 300 years.

Kaiser said the local congregation has owned and maintained the property and buildings associated with Church of the Holy Comforter since 1857 and that no money has ever come from the national Episcopal Church, with which Holy Comforter was previously associated.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

The Rector of Saint John’s, Johns Island, South Carolina Writes his Parish about the recent US Supreme Court Decision

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

AS Haley on today’s Supreme Court Decision

From here:

Today’s order list from the United States Supreme Court brings the sad news that the Court voted to deny certiorari (review) in the case of Bishop Mark Lawrence and the parishes of the Diocese of South Carolina.  This means that no four justices considered the case important enough to have the Court’s full attention, and says volumes about the secular makeup of our current Court.  (Or it could be telling us that the justices of the Supreme Court are better followers of St. Paul’s advice on litigation than are most Episcopalians, Methodists and Presbyterians! Six of them are Roman Catholic, after all.)

It also means that the impossibly fractured, highly partisan and irresponsible decision of the court below will stand in infamy as possibly the worst application of so-called “neutral principles” on record. But that the Supreme Court chose to do nothing about the legacy that Harry Blackmun gave us says that it has disowned its responsibility for that doctrine, and in the future will mean that churches can expect no fair treatment of their property issues in the secular courts.

As, always, therefore, St Paul is vindicated yet again. And ECUSA gets just what it always wanted: a servient South Carolina of its own, with no regard whatsoever for the centuries of history that built the heritage it betrays today. By watching what the Episcopal Church and its minions do with the treasure that has been handed over to them, the rest of the Christian world will learn the nature of the god which Episcopalians today truly worship.

Posted in * South Carolina, Featured (Sticky), Supreme Court

A Local Newspaper Article on today’s Supreme Court Decision

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Supreme Court