Category : Supreme Court

(Wash Post) Erik Wemple–NYT’s (former Supreme Court Reporter) Linda Greenhouse boasts of monthly Planned Parenthood donations

Linda Greenhouse has nothing to hide with respect to her charitable activities. Writing in her new book “Just a Journalist: On the Press, Life and the Spaces Between,” the former New York Times reporter notes that she wasn’t content to allow Planned Parenthood to deduct a monthly contribution from her bank account. “It was important to me to write a check every month and sign my name,” writes Greenhouse, who is now a contributing op-ed writer for the same paper. “It was the signature of a citizen. The stories that appeared under my byline, on abortion and all other subjects, were the work of a journalist. If anyone ever thought those failed to measure up to professional standards, they never told me or anyone else.”

That’s one heck of an internal firewall. Skeptics of Greenhouse’s remarkable ethical divisibility are already speaking up. “Rather than meld her identities, she dons or sheds them whenever convenient,” writes Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada.

The New York Times itself preaches caution when making donations. “Staff members should think carefully about their own contributions to various causes, bearing in mind the need for neutrality on divisive issues,” notes a September 2004 New York Times ethics guide. “Those in doubt about contributions should consult their supervisors and the standards editor or the deputy editorial page editor.”

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Media, Politics in General, Supreme Court

(CT) Supreme Court Gives Christian Schools a Big Victory

Trinity Lutheran argued that Missouri was violating the free exercise clause of the First Amendment (“no law … prohibiting the free exercise of religion”) by declaring the church’s preschool ineligible for a grant program—which helped cover the cost of safer playground surfaces made of recycled tires—just because the school was affiliated with the church.

On the other side, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources deployed the establishment clause of the First Amendment (“no law respecting the establishment of religion”) to defend its decision not to provide aid directly to a church, even if used for a secular purpose. This prohibition has been codified in Missouri and 30 other states under laws known as “Blaine Amendments.” Missouri’s bars state funds from going “directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion.”

While Roberts wrote that the consequences of Missouri’s rejection were likely “a few extra scraped knees,” he considered the discriminatory policy “odious to our Constitution all the same.” He defended the rights of religious institutions to get their fair share of public benefits.

By siding with the church, the Supreme Court sets a precedent against a strict interpretation of state-level Blaine Amendments, thereby shifting the prospects for religious institutions’ involvement in public programs.

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

(WSJ) Nathan Diament–What Neil Gorsuch Sees That Antonin Scalia Didn’t

What comes through in these opinions is a recognition that seems to have eluded Scalia in 1990: The law is meant to be a bulwark against the infringement—whether by government or other powerful entities—upon a person’s religious conscience and practices. It is not enough to allow Americans to believe as they wish; they must also be able, generally, to act in conformity with their beliefs.

Accommodations for religious observance are welcome from the legislative or executive branches, but the Framers put freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights to guarantee it. The First Amendment applies to people of all faiths, and shouldn’t depend on political power. What is required is enforcement by jurists sensitive to the needs of religious minorities.

Whether Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court remains to be seen. But his record suggests that those who care about religious liberty may want to pray that he gets the chance to rule on it.

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

(CT) Thomas Berg–Antonin Scalia: Devout Christian, Worldly Judge

“He was a man. Take him for all in all. [We] shall not look upon his like again.” Those words from Hamlet seem appropriate on the death of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He had a powerful effect on the Court and on the law more broadly. Scalia was the most eloquent and prominent proponent of the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the “original meaning” of its words: the meaning they had at the time of their adoption. He argued, in his inimitable style, for a “dead Constitution”””whose meaning is fixed until changed by formal amendment””over a “living Constitution” that a judge can manipulate into whatever shape he wishes.

Moreover, except for Ruth Ginsburg, it is hard to imagine another justice becoming so visible in the broader culture. Many who hated Scalia’s rulings could not help but be entertained by his razor-sharp writing, which he used especially in his dissenting opinions to carve up the majority’s reasoning (my favorite is Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where among other things he referred to the majority’s “Nietzschean vision of us unelected, life-tenured judges””leading a Volk who will be ”˜tested by following’” the Court’s rulings obediently). In a talk at my law school last November, he said that he wrote his dissents “mainly for you guys, for law students.” His eloquence inspired generations of lawyers and students convinced by his judicial philosophy.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Supreme Court, Theology

(AC) Is anybody Listening***Rod Dreher–The Next Culture War Front (of Religious Freedom)

Chai Feldblum isn’t a minor figure. She is the head of the on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, having been appointed by President Obama, and will be in that post until her term expires in 2018. Long before she was elevated to the EEOC chairmanship, Feldblum was known for her view that there are almost no situations in which disputes between religious liberty and gay rights should be resolved in favor of religious liberty.

It fell to Andrew Sullivan (whose voice I miss more and more every week) to defend freedom to the crowd. You really should read the whole Reason report to hear what he had to say. It includes a link to Andrew’s presentation, in which he says that the LGBT-industrial complex needs to keep the bogeyman of Oppression alive (“These people’s lives and careers and incomes depend on the maintenance of discrimination and oppression”), and says that religious liberty is just about the most important American freedom.

The hard truth is that Andrew Sullivan, alas for us all, is irrelevant to the debate now. When I saw him this spring in Boston, he told me that he can’t go on some campuses now because the gay left hates him for speaking out for religious liberty, and in particular for Brendan Eich. Think about that: fewer than four years ago, the president of the United States was formally committed to maintaining traditional marriage in law. Now, we have Court-mandated gay marriage from coast to coast, and Andrew Sullivan, who has done as much or more than any single person to make that happen, is now regarded by the gay rights movement as some sort of reactionary because of his liberal views.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(W Post) Dominic Bouck–A country without churches

After the Obergefell decision, Time magazine writer Mark Oppenheimer was quick to declare that the state should “abolish, or greatly diminish” property tax exemptions for churches that “dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality.”

Punishing “dissent” seems a strange new role for the American government. In the mid-twentieth century, the Catholic church was a leading advocate against anti-miscegenation laws. The church was able to take a stand contrary to the state on marriage and not be penalized for it, a position now almost unquestionably supported by Americans. And despite the confidence of those like Oppenheimer, the dissenters aren’t even a minority in the more recent marriage controversy. Most Americans favor religious liberty, and a plurality oppose Obergefell.

Allowing conscientious objection is an acknowledgment that the state does not have all the answers. The state has an obligation to make laws, but the state has no obligation to be correct. The independent voices that critique the state make the state better, and should not be silenced. Lose churches, lose the independent voices that prevent the state from having an absolute say in complicated moral matters.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Taxes, Theology

(Christian Today) Ravi Zacharias: We've reached 'breaking point' on divide over sexuality

“Compromising the truth is a serious blunder” but we must always live out our beliefs with love and grace, Ravi Zacharias has said in a detailed blog post addressing same-sex relationships.

The author and speaker who chairs the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA), says he is against gay marriage, and points to the biblical description of one man and one woman in sacred commitment. “So profound is this union that the relationship of God to the Church bears that comparison. He is the bridegroom; the Church is the bride,” Zacharias writes.

Responding to the US Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalise same-sex marriage, which Zacharias says “sent tremors around the globe,” the author warns that we are at “breaking point”.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Politics in General, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Wash Post) Sarah Pulliam Bailey–Is polygamy next in the marriage debate?

The Supreme Court’s decision in June that legalized same-sex marriage across the country has unleashed a renewed debate over polygamy, leaving some to wonder why marriage should be considered between just two persons.

The first legal challenge involving polygamy came last week after a man from Montana said the Supreme Court’s decision inspired him to apply for a marriage license so he can legally marry a second woman. Nathan Collier, who was featured on the reality television show “Sister Wives,” said he will sue the state if it denies him the right to enter into a plural marriage.

“It’s about marriage equality,” Collier told the Associated Press. “You can’t have this without polygamy.” A county civil litigator Kevin Gillen said he was reviewing Montana’s bigamy laws and expected to send a formal response to Collier by this week.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Children, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(Theopolis Institute) After Obergefell: Ephraim Radner

Third, the Christian Church is now a secondary player in these cultural transformations. She is also intrinsically debased, so intertwined has she become, at least regionally, with larger cultural shifts and declensions. The imperative for renewal, both within the church and in her relationship with surrounding political cultures, is inescapable. Are we in need of new reformation, in line with the reformations of fourth century, the twelfth, the sixteenth, and the nineteenth? If so, we will need to reform in the direction of Christian unity, the lack of which helped to create the very ecclesial incapacities of today.

Finally, we are confronting the long-term of God’s providence. Ecclesial reformation or not, cultures are not changed in an instant, except perhaps through cataclysm (which no one wants, however regular and inevitable it is within the course of human history). We have entered Canaan and been swallowed up before Moloch in the same way that Israel was enveloped by a surrounding religion of idolatrous violence. So we affirm with the Psalmist: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church History, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(The Week) W. James Antell–How the Supreme Court's Oberfell ruling could destroy United Methodism

Some Christians are worried that their churches will lose their tax-exempt status as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision declaring gay marriage a constitutional right. I’m worried that my church will cease to exist altogether, or at least in its present form.

The United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in America. Following decades of steep membership losses across all these historic churches, that’s kind of like being the tallest building in Topeka. But only the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention have more U.S. members, and the United Methodist Church’s international membership is actually growing.

Almost alone among mainline Protestant churches, the United Methodists have remained committed to orthodox Christian standards of sexual morality. Clergy must be celibate when single and monogamous in marriage, which is defined as the union of a man and a woman. Methodist pastors are not permitted to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Supreme Court, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(RCR) Dominic Lynch–After Obergefell, Churches Are Next

…one thing is certain: the religious liberty of individuals and faith-based institutions — up to and including churches — is now threatened in a way not present before the ruling. When the Court heard oral arguments for Obergefell in April, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli’s admitted that the tax-exempt status of religious institutions “could be an issue” if same-sex marriage is recognized as a right.

Sounding very much unlike the man from Burwell, Chief Justice Roberts’s Obergefell dissent lays the stakes on the table:

Today’s decision, for example, creates serious questions about religious liberty. Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is — unlike the right imagined by the majority — actually spelled out in the Constitution. Respect for sincere religious conviction has led voters and legislators in every State that has adopted same-sex marriage democratically to include accommodations for religious practice. The majority’s decision imposing same-sex marriage cannot, of course, create any such accommodations. The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.

How do we get from “marriage equality” to churches forced into performing weddings that violate their teachings? Lawsuits.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Independent) Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives

Nathan Collier said he was inspired by the recent Supreme Court decision that made marriage equal. He said he was particularly struck by the words of dissenting Chief Justice John Roberts who claimed giving gay couples the right to marry, might inspire polygamy.

And so this week, Mr Collier and his two wives, Victoria and Christine, entered a courthouse in Billings, Montana, and sought an application to legalise the trio’s polygamous union,

“Right now we’re waiting for an answer,” Mr Collier told The Independent. “I have two wives because I love two women and I want my second wife to have the same legal rights and protection as my first.”

He added: “Most people are not us. I am not trying to define what marriage means for anybody else – I am trying to define what marriage means for us.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(RNS)-Supreme Crt decsn a win for same-sex couples, but for polygamy activists, the fight continues

So is polygamy passé? The next slide on our slippery slope to damnation? The next rung on our steep climb towards full civil rights and equality in America?

Whatever your take, there’s no denying that last week’s SCOTUS opinions broke our collective silence on poly rights. If Friday’s ruling was about dignity and equality, as Justice Kennedy made clear, we must continue this debate.

Read it all from Brian Pellot.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Polyamory, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(NYT) With Same-Sex Decision, Evangelical Churches Address New Reality

The result has been an obvious change in tone and emphasis ”” but not teaching or policy ”” at many churches. Almost all evangelical churches oppose same-sex marriage, and many do not allow gays and lesbians to serve in leadership positions unless they are celibate. Some pastors, however, now either minimize their preaching on the subject or speak of homosexuality in carefully contextualized sermons emphasizing that everyone is a sinner and that Christians should love and welcome all.

“Evangelicals are coming to the realization that they hold a minority view in the culture, and that on this issue, they have lost the home-field advantage,” said Ed Stetzer, the executive director of LifeWay Research, which surveys evangelicals. “They are learning to speak with winsomeness and graciousness, which, when their view was the majority, evangelicals tended not to do.” A handful of evangelical churches have changed their positions. City Church in San Francisco, for example, has dropped its rule that gays and lesbians commit to celibacy to become members, and GracePointe Church in Tennessee has said gays and lesbians can serve in leadership roles and receive the sacrament of marriage. Ken Wilson, who founded the Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, Mich., published an open letter calling for a greater embrace of gays and lesbians in evangelical churches. But Mr. Stetzer said they are the exceptions.

“Well-known evangelicals who have shifted on same-sex marriage, you could fit them all in an S.U.V.,” Mr. Stetzer said. “If you do shift, you become a media celebrity, but the shift among practicing evangelicals is minimal.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Local paper Editorial) Ending the same-sex marriage debate

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, found that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment prohibited government actions that “demean” the lives of homosexuals and that therefore gay marriage is a constitutional right. Homosexuals, he said, cannot be deprived of the “constellation” of state-conferred benefits limited to marriage, “a keystone of the nation’s social order.” He was joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Each of the four dissenting justices issued separate opinions, the central gist of which was summed up by Justice Scalia when he wrote, “It is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.”

Justice Samuel Alito, making a similar point, noted that, “Until the federal courts intervened, the American people were engaged in a debate whether their States should recognize same-sex marriage. … Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage.” He added, “It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, State Government, Supreme Court, Theology