Category : 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

A Message from the rector of Saint Philip’s, Charleston, about today’s Supreme Court Decision

June 11, 2018
Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
—Matthew 7:24–25
Dear Friends,
We learned today that the Supreme Court of the United States has denied the petition for writ of certiorari that was requested by the Diocese of South Carolina, St. Philip’s Church, and twenty-eight other aligned parishes. Though we are disappointed with this decision, our attorneys will be pressing forward. There remain two actions in the Dorchester County Court of Common Pleas, both of which regard the property rights of the Diocese and its parishes.
In one, the remittitur case, we will seek a specific evidentiary inquiry as to whether or not St. Philip’s and twenty-eight other parishes actually acceded to the terms of the Dennis Canon. The Dennis Canon was found by the S.C. Supreme Court to have created a trust interest over the church properties, with the Episcopal Church as the trust beneficiary. In the other, the Betterments case, we will seek recovery, under a South Carolina statute, of the value of certain improvements on the respective church properties.
There is also a federal court trademark action, brought by TEC and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina against our Diocese and its parishes, which seeks damages for the alleged improper use of the term “Episcopal” and other related relief. So, though the Supreme Court of the United States could have ended most or all of this litigation by agreeing to hear our property rights case, its unwillingness to do so will cause us to continue the litigation in the state and federal court systems in South Carolina. We will continue to keep you apprised of any additional developments in both the state and federal litigation.
In the meantime, let me assure you there is no cause for despair! The Lord’s Easter victory is evidence that our Heavenly Father’s plans and purposes cannot be thwarted. God is sovereign over the affairs of men and nations, and He has us right where He wants us—in a posture of dependence. As we have throughout this entire legal process, we will continue to be faithful to Jesus Christ and His call to preach the Gospel. We will NOT be distracted from the mission of the church no matter what comes our way!
One of the hymns we sang this past Thursday put it best…
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine!
Faithfully Yours,
The Rev Jeff Miller is rector, Saint Philip’s, Charleston SC
Posted in * South Carolina, Supreme Court

A Message from the rector of Saint Michael’s, Charleston, about today’s Supreme Court Decision

June 11, 2018
Dear St. Michaelites and Friends:
“Courageous Joy” vs. “Circumstantial Joy” was our theme in worship yesterday, and there is a difference. Our joy is not based on circumstances and happenstances, but on what Jesus has done for us. We also mentioned the fact that Nehemiah’s phrase: “The Joy of the Lord is our Strength” is a profound one (Note, Nehemiah didn’t say “the joy of our circumstance, or the joy of our job etc). Our Joy and strength is found in Christ-Alone. Words we need to hear as we open up social media today to the news that the United States Supreme Court denied our Petition for Writ of Certiorari.
We have attached communication from the Diocese of South Carolina explaining the latest. Let me highlight three important facts as you read it.
  1. None of the nearly three dozen churches involved are in any eminent danger of eviction as a result of today’s decision
  2. The Diocese of South Carolina will now return to our state courts as we believe the ruling of our State Supreme Court is “virtually unenforceable as written.”
  3. The law and facts of our case still favor us and the Diocese plans to continue to press in, even it if requires a second appearance before the South Carolina Supreme Court.
In the meantime, I will be meeting with our leadership team today to come up with a time to gather as a parish family this week and weekend.
On a personal note, so many of you have emailed, texted and called to ask how the Zadig family is doing. In one word, we are fine. Our biggest prayer is that St. Michael‘s Church always be that place where the undiluted Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, taught and caught.
Remember, we are people of courageous and not circumstantial joy, in all of this, choose joy.
Blessings and much love in Christ,
–(The Rev.) Al Zadig is rector, Saint Michael’s, Charleston, SC
Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Supreme Court

Diocese of South Carolina statement: Petition for Cert Denied by United States Supreme Court

Charleston, S.C. (June 11, 2018) – Today the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) was informed that the United States Supreme Court denied its Petition for Writ of Certiorari.   Doing so leaves in place a sharply divided ruling that could deprive at least 28 parish churches of their right to properties some have held for over 300 years.

The central issue the high court was asked to review was whether the same rules for determining property ownership applied to church property as in any secular case (neutral principles of law). Courts across the nation have been deeply divided on this issue. There was in this instance, the serendipity of a Minnesota case simultaneously petitioning the Court for review, with essentially identical facts but an opposite outcome in Minnesota. The Court has declined to review either case, leaving in place divisions only it can resolve.

The Rev. Canon Jim Lewis observed, “We are disappointed the Court chose not to resolve a serious division in the lower courts, though our case was a providential opportunity to do so.  The essential issue of what the Court means by “neutral principles of law” will remain unresolved for now.”

The Diocese of South Carolina will now return to our state courts, where the case has been remitted to the Dorchester Courthouse where it originated. An element of TEC’s argument for the United States Supreme Court to deny our petition was the “fractured” nature of the South Carolina Supreme Court’s ruling. Constitutional issues aside, the Diocese believes the conflicted nature of the current State Supreme Court ruling is virtually unenforceable as written. Interpretation and implementation of that ruling, given its five separate opinions, with no unified legal theory even among the plurality of the court, means there are still significant questions to resolve.

The Diocese remains confident that the law and the facts of this case favor our congregations. We plan to continue to press both to their logical conclusion, even if that requires a second appearance before the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Statement by the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, Diocesan Bishop: “While, obviously, we are disappointed that the Court did not review this case, our hope remains steadfast in our Heavenly Father. There are many unresolved legal questions which remain before the State Court as well as matters for prayerful discernment as we seek to carry out the mission to which we are called in Jesus Christ. We shall seek his guidance for both.”

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

US Supreme Court declines review of the dispute between the Historic Diocese of South Carolina and the new TEC Diocese of SC

Dear Friends,
This morning, the United States Supreme Court released its list of orders of the day, which is their normal process for announcing the outcome of last Thursday’s conference discussion of petitions.

The Court announced they had denied our petition for Certiorari (as well as that for Eden Prairie).

As previously announced, the Bishop has scheduled a clergy day for this Thursday at St. Paul’s, Summerville, beginning at 1:00 p.m.   The purpose will be to brief you, as best we are able, on the current legal landscape and its implications.  The Bishop will address what this means (and doesn’t mean) for us as a Diocese and how we anticipate moving forward.

As always, please continue to keep this process and the labors of our legal counsel in your prayers.

In Christ’s service,

–The Rev. Canon Jim Lewis is Canon to the Ordinary in The Diocese of South Carolina

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

(WSJ) Jack Philips on the Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision–The Supreme Court Let Me Live My Faith Again

Religion isn’t something I pick up on Sunday mornings only to put away during the rest of the week. My entire life belongs to Jesus, and I believe that everything I do should honor him. As the Bible says, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).

This means that when I operate my business, I am always mindful of whether God is pleased with what I create. That’s why even though I serve all people, I can’t design cakes that celebrate events or express messages that conflict with my faith. It’s also why I’ve declined requests to create cakes that celebrate Halloween or memorialize a divorce.

My beliefs about marriage come from my reading of the Bible. Describing marriage, Jesus said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Mark 10:7-8). This shows clearly that God intends marriage to be a union between a husband and a wife.

On the day I declined to create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage, I was simply living out the truth that I—along with millions of other Christians—have found in the Bible. The men who sued me say I discriminated against them. That’s not true. Declining to design something because of what it celebrates isn’t the same as refusing to serve people because of who they are. Those men are welcome in my shop today, just as they were in 2012. But I can’t create a cake that celebrates a view of marriage at odds with my Christian beliefs.

Read it all.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(1st Things) Hadles Arkes on the Supreme Court Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision–Conservative Jurisprudence Resorts To Relativism

For Kennedy, this diatribe against the religious was reprehensible in the same measure: “To describe a man’s faith as ‘one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use’ is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere.”

Yes, but so what? Kennedy did not challenge the law itself as a violation of Phillips’s religious freedom. Why should it matter that commissioners, enforcing the law, allowed their conviction of its rightness to express itself in some gratuitous sneering at a man Justice Kennedy and the Court were still willing to treat as a wrongdoer? What this situation seemed to violate, for Kennedy, was the “State’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint.” For years it was understood that the law need not be at all “neutral” between religion and irreligion, that there were compelling reasons, for the public good, to encourage the religious life. But now the claim is reduced simply to an obligation not to be indecorously nasty while the law refuses to respect religious convictions.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, State Government, Supreme Court

Thursday June 7 at Saint Philip’s, Charleston

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Spirituality/Prayer, Supreme Court

The rector of Christ Church, Mount Pleasant, preaches on approaching the Supreme Court decision Theologically

Timely Sermon Addressing Legal Issues from Ted Duvall:

This past Sunday, the Rev. Ted Duvall, the Rector of Christ Church, Mount Pleasant, gave a helpful sermon addressing the on going legal battle. Listen now.

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

(WSJ) Ryan Anderson–Discrimination Law Isn’t Supposed to ‘Punish the Wicked’

If those playing down the importance of the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling are wrong, those overstating it are also off base. “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane claimed that “it’s a shorter walk than we think, particularly today, from ‘I won’t bake them a cake because they’re gay’ to ‘I won’t seat him here because he’s black.’ ” This wildly mischaracterizes Mr. Phillips’s position. The Masterpiece proprietor serves all customers, regardless of sexual orientation, but he can’t in good conscience communicate all messages or celebrate all events. He is motivated by his Christian belief that marriage unites husband and wife, not his customer’s identity.

This disagreement about the definition of marriage occurs among people of good faith motivated by honorable theological and philosophical premises, as Justice Kennedy recognized in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 same-sex-marriage decision. And as he wrote in Masterpiece, “religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”

That is why states should be careful not to abuse antidiscrimination policy in a way that amounts to an enforcement of an orthodoxy regarding questions about sex on which reasonable people can disagree.

Monday’s ruling won’t open the floodgates to invidious discrimination as critics imagine. But neither should we gainsay its wider applicability. The Supreme Court has said clearly that the government may not punish people because of their religious beliefs. Any generally applicable, neutral law must serve the common good, not punish those whom people in power deem to be “wicked.”

Read it all.

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

Jeff Miller, rector of St Philip’s, Charleston, writes his Parish about Today

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” –Hebrews 10:19, 22
Dear St. Philip’s Family,
On Thursday, June 7, the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States will gather to consider whether or not to grant our petition for a Writ of Certiorari. We believe that this is the best way to bring clarity to the conflicted legal landscape and resolution to the protracted battle between the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church. While this is a hopeful sign, it is not a guaranteed thing. The justices grant only a small percentage of the thousands of petitions that they receive annually, and we cannot assume that they will take ours.
However, the Epistle of James reminds us that the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” and as Christians, we can be sure that the judge of all the earth will do right. To this end, I want to invite you to join me at noon on June 7 in the Church for a special prayer service led by Bishop Lawrence. It will be a time for us to ask for forgiveness, to pray for deliverance, and to seek the Lord’s guidance for our parish and diocese. Prayer is one of the greatest privileges we have as believers, and we can approach our Heavenly Father with confidence. To borrow a phrase from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”
We will have a nursery available for children ages five and younger, and I strongly encourage allparishioners to make this service a priority. It is not just the future of St. Philip’s that is at stake; it is the American right to worship freely that is in jeopardy. In the meantime, let us not lose heart, but let us carry on with the work the Lord has given us to do, confident that even now, He is doing for us “greater things than we can ask for or imagine”!
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Jeff+
Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Supreme Court

A Day of Coming before the Lord

You may find the bishop’s letter about this there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Supreme Court, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Masterpiece Cakeshop Analysis (II): Douglas Laycock and Thomas Berg–Scotus Decision not as narrow as may first appear

The Supreme Court has announced a powerful ideal. Even when a law has no explicit exceptions, hostile enforcement is unconstitutional. Single-issue agencies that enforce state civil-rights laws must approach claims to religious exemptions with tolerance and respect. And this is apparently an absolute rule; the court does not consider whether hostility might be justified by some state interest, compelling or otherwise.

But a requirement of tolerance and respect, or even the avoidance of hostility, is difficult to enforce. The opponents of religious exemptions will now start doing the sorts of things done by many other government officials resisting constitutional mandates. They will seek doctrinal and rhetorical manipulations to cloak their hostility to the constitutional right, and their unequal treatment of objectors they agree with and objectors they don’t.

Those manipulations began in the state’s briefs and in the concurring and dissenting opinions. Kagan and Breyer said that the state’s discrimination could easily have been justified with a different explanation: The protected bakers would not have sold an anti-gay cake to anybody, but Phillips would sell wedding cakes to opposite-sex couples.

As Justice Neil Gorsuch explained, this reaches the preordained result by manipulating the level of generality. An “anti-gay” cake is distinguished only by what it displays on the outer surface. So the category is not cakes, or wedding cakes, but cakes with particular messages. If a same-sex couple wants a cake with two grooms, two brides, a rainbow, or any other indication of approval of same-sex marriage, that is a cake that Phillips would not sell to anybody. If they want a cake that could just as appropriately be used for an opposite-sex wedding, then at the surface, Kagan’s rationalization holds — but it is still a rationalization. Everyone would still know what is really going on: The commission agrees with the protected bakers and disagrees with Jack Phillips.

Masterpiece states an important ideal. But the Supreme Court has not been good over the years at identifying government bias or hostility that is the least bit shrouded. In a case without smoking-gun expressions of hostility, objectors will need evidence of inconsistent treatment of tester cases.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

Masterpiece Cakeshop Analysis (I): Amy Howe–Opinion analysis: Court rules (narrowly) for baker in same-sex-wedding-cake case [Updated]

…the critical question of when and how Phillips’ right to exercise his religion can be limited had to be determined, Kennedy emphasized, in a proceeding that was not tainted by hostility to religion. Here, Kennedy observed, the “neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised” by comments by members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. At one hearing, Kennedy stressed, commissioners repeatedly “endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado’s business community.” And at a later meeting, Kennedy pointed out, one commissioner “even went so far as to compare Phillips’ invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.” “This sentiment,” Kennedy admonished, “is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law—a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation.” Moreover, Kennedy added, the commission’s treatment of Phillips’ religious objections was at odds with its rulings in the cases of bakers who refused to create cakes “with images that conveyed disapproval of same-sex marriage.”

Here, Kennedy wrote, Phillips “was entitled to a neutral decisionmaker who would give full and fair consideration to his religious objection as he sought to assert it in all of the circumstances in which this case was presented, considered, and decided.” Because he did not have such a proceeding, the court concluded, the commission’s order – which, among other things, required Phillips to sell same-sex couples wedding cakes or anything else that he would sell to opposite-sex couples and mandated remedial training and compliance reports – “must be set aside.”

But the majority left open the possibility that a future case could come out differently, particularly if the decisionmaker in the case considered religious objections neutrally and fairly. Other cases, the majority emphasized, “must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

Ryan Anderson–Supreme Court Upholds Baker’s Right to Disagree With Same-Sex Marriage in Marketplace

…as Justice Neil Gorsuch notes (in a concurring opinion joined by Justice Samuel Alito), either all four bakers violated the Colorado anti-discrimination law, or none did. Gorsuch writes:

[T]here’s no indication the bakers actually intended to refuse service because of a customer’s protected characteristic. We know this because all of the bakers explained without contradiction that they would not sell the requested cakes to anyone, while they would sell other cakes to members of the protected class (as well as to anyone else).

As I argue in the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, “Disagreement is not always discrimination.” And this is true when it comes to disagreements about same-sex marriage.

Phillips didn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation when he refused to design and bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. He didn’t take his customer’s sexual orientation into consideration at all. He declined to use his artistic abili­ties to create a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding because he objected to same-sex marriage, based on the common Christian belief that such partnerships (along with many other relationships—sexual and not, dyadic and larger, same-sex and opposite-sex) aren’t marital.

Nowhere need Phillips’ reasoning have even referred to the partners’ sexual orientation, much less any ideas or attitudes about gay people as a class (good or bad, explicit or not).

It wasn’t his customer’s identity that motivated Phillips at all. It is even clearer that Phillips’ reason for refusing to bake the wedding cake was not the invidious discrimination of avoiding contact with others on equal terms. As Phillips said to the same-sex couple, “I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.” He sought only to avoid complicity in what he considered one distortion of marriage among oth­ers—as shown by his refusal to create divorce cakes as well.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(ABC) How a same-sex wedding cake controversy made it all the way to the Supreme Court

Aided by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy organization, Phillips petitioned the Supreme Court to take his case, saying the state of Colorado violated his First Amendment rights of freedom of religion and expression.

“What we’re asking the Court to look at is creative professionals, should they be forced to violate the First Amendment, our deeply-held religious beliefs, to create art that violates those beliefs. Which is more important?” he said before the court’s decision. “What I do, I paint on cakes. I sculpt cakes. It’s clearly art. It’s clearly protected.”

Phillips said he couldn’t just create a generic wedding cake available to any customer.

“That would be side-stepping the issue. That’s still the government forcing me to create cakes for ceremonies that go against my faith,” Phillips said.

Mullins said he felt the issue was about whether he and Craig were treated differently based on sexual orientation.

“This isn’t about a cake,” Mullins said. “It’s about the right of the people to receive equal service at a place of business that anyone else would.”

Read (or watch) it all and see how balanced you think it is.

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

(PD) Gerard Bradley–The city of Philadelphia’s recent decision about Catholic Social Services: Learning to Live with Same-Sex Marriage?

The everyday challenge of Obergefell is whether those of us who hold the “decent and honorable religious” conviction that it is impossible for two persons of the same sex to marry will be accorded the legal and social space we need in order to live in accord with our convictions. The question at hand is whether we will instead be forced to contradict our convictions in word and deed, day in and day out. Chief Justice Roberts wrote in Obergefell:

Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples.

Just so.

Catholic Social Services vs. the City of Philadelphia

Last week (on May 16), Catholic Social Services and several foster care parents sued the city of Philadelphia to settle one of those “hard questions.” CSS was recently ranked by the city as the second best of the twenty-eight agencies with which it contracts for foster care placement and support. Its record of finding homes for difficult-to-place children is unsurpassed. On March 15 of this year the city announced that it was nonetheless suspending referrals to CSS. Because the city monopolizes these referrals, its decision was tantamount to closing down CSS’s foster care operation.

The hanging offense? Even though CSS avers in its complaint (prepared by lawyers from the Becket Fund, the great religious liberty firm) that it has never received a complaint from a same-sex couple, it does adhere to Church teaching about marriage. The complaint makes clear enough that CSS would conscientiously refuse to do the work prescribed by law to certify a same-sex “married” couple as foster parents. CSS would, however, refer them to other agencies that would.

Philadelphia is trying to drive these “decent and honorable” people from the field. The mayor is quoted in the CSS complaint as declaring that “we cannot use taxpayer dollars to fund organizations that discriminate against” people in same-sex marriages. “It’s just not right.” The city council professed to be shocked—shocked!—to discover that some contracting agencies have policies, rooted in religious beliefs, that prohibit placement of children with “LGBTQ people.” But the Catholic Church’s position on marriage is no secret. The CSS complaint even points out that the “City has been aware of Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs for years.” For example, the city waived repeatedly for CSS the obligation of city contractors to provide benefits to same-sex spouses of employees.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Urban/City Life and Issues