Here we go again: California, courts, abortion, Catholics, colleges, covenants, religious liberty

Here we go again: California, courts, abortion, Catholics, colleges, covenants, religious liberty

Did you think you’ve heard enough about religious employers, the federal government, the Little Sisters of the Poor and so on to last a lifetime?

Buckle up, because a new battle has begun.

It’s based in California, which is becoming the new Ground Zero on abortion. There, the issue isn’t federal laws, as has been the case previously.

It all began when some faculty at two Catholic institutions in southern California wanted health care plans that included abortion coverage. Here, we’re dealing with state laws; in fact, 50 sets of them. As Bloomberg explains:

... State laws on abortion coverage are governed by a different legal regime than federally mandated contraceptive care. The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act bars Washington from imposing a "substantial burden" on most religious practice and was at stake in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case as well as the Little Sisters case. But it doesn’t apply to the states.  

That’s the crux right there. All the lawsuits we’ve been hearing about for the past few years (Little Sisters, Hobby Lobby) had to do with the feds. That national angle is just one layer of the wider story.

I’m going to include a few paragraphs from the beginning of a Los Angeles Times story to bring you up to date:

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Compassion vs. conversion: surprising insight on why these evangelicals welcome refugees

Compassion vs. conversion: surprising insight on why these evangelicals welcome refugees

I traveled to the Toronto area earlier this year to write about two Canadian churches that partnered to adopt a family of Syrian refugees:

BEAMSVILLE, Ontario — As war ravaged their homeland, a Syrian family of eight fled for their lives.
The Muslim father, mother and six children — among 4 million Syrians who have escaped to neighboring countries — ended up in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

There, they lived in a barn for four years.
Conditions became so dire that the family — including a daughter with cerebral palsy — contemplated returning home, despite the 5-year-old civil war that has claimed an estimated 470,000 lives.

“Inhumane” is the single word that an Arabic interpreter used to translate the Syrians’ lengthy description of the camp.

Enter two Churches of Christ south of Toronto — their hearts touched by the plight of strangers abroad and resolved to show the love of Jesus to a suffering family.

In reporting that story for The Christian Chronicle, I was interested in the "delicate balance between serving and evangelizing," as national reporter Adelle Banks characterizes the dichotomy in a new feature for Religion News Service (more on her excellent piece in just a moment).

My story quoted church member Marcia Cramp and Noel Walker on that topic:

The church members hope to introduce the family to the Gospel of Jesus.

For now, they’re content to build the relationship slowly and learn more about the Syrians’ own faith.

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Yo, journalists: Kentucky has solved its gay-marriage dilemma and Kim Davis is happy

Yo, journalists: Kentucky has solved its gay-marriage dilemma and Kim Davis is happy

You remember Kim Davis, right? 

Yes, we're still talking about the Rowan County clerk who insisted that her Apostolic Christian beliefs would not allow her to sign -- as required by Kentucky law -- marriage licenses for same-sex couples. If you are drawing a blank, click here and surf around.

At the height of early Kim Davis mania -- when her brief time behind bars was dominating headlines and even evening news shows -- I had an interesting email dialogue with a mainstream news reporter. I was arguing, here at GetReligion, that reporters were ignoring two crucial facts in this story.

Fact 1: From the beginning, Davis and her legal team were open to a compromise that would allow other local and state officials to sign marriage licenses. This would mean removing the slot on the license form requiring the signature of the county clerk.

Fact 2. From the beginning, there were Democrats, as well as Republicans, in the state legislature who backed this compromise -- which would recognize the religious liberty rights of clerks, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The problem was my use of the positive word "compromise." I was working under what some considered the false impression that a political course of action represented "compromise" if it (a) granted each side their primary goal (same-sex marriage on one side, freedom of religious conscience on the other) and (b) was backed by a broad, centrist coalition of Democrats and Republicans.

My reporter friend's logic was simple: Elite journalists were not going to consider this a "compromise" if Davis was happy with it. Now, what's the implication of that statement?

This brings me to a recent Reuters piece that may, perhaps, wrap up the long, tortured story of Davis and her efforts in support of the free exercise of religious convictions (see the First Amendment). This development has not received much national attention, but I think it's crucial.

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From our 'No comment' department: This is sort of a journalism Marx Brothers joke

From our 'No comment' department: This is sort of a journalism Marx Brothers joke

You cannot make this one up.

I think we have to rank this one right up there in the top ranks of items that we have ever featured under the heading "From our 'No Comment' department."

Let's see if you can spot the error in the top of this Associated Press report, as it ran earlier today. It has since been corrected.

Note that the dateline is from an always-exciting location during the Pope Francis era, when it comes to breaking stories on the Godbeat. Yes, I know there was a post earlier on a story linked to this. Thus, please consider this a quick mini-update on that  post by our own James Davis.

Here goes.

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) -- Pope Francis says gays -- and all the other people the church has marginalized, such as the poor and the exploited -- deserve an apology.
Francis was asked Sunday en route home from Armenia if he agreed with one of his top advisers, German Cardinal Karl Marx, who told a conference in Dublin in the days after the deadly Orlando gay club attack that the church owes an apology to gays for having marginalized them.

Oh my.

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Apologizing to gays: Pope Francis' latest quotes send news media into a frenzy

Apologizing to gays: Pope Francis' latest quotes send news media into a frenzy

So you thought Pope Francis began a storm of news 'n' views three years ago, when he said, "Who am I to judge" gays? Well, brace yourself for the summertime blizzard of news and commentary with his latest remark -- that the church should apologize to gays, women, children, the poor and, apparently, anyone who likes weapons.

It was on another of those in-flight press conferences, like the one in 2013 when he dropped his non-judgmental bomb. Mainstream media love to pounce on Francis' off-the-cuff remarks, but few of them recognize the conversations flowing just under the surface -- even when they occasionally break into the open.

Yesterday, Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service asked Francis if the church should apologize to gays in the wake of Omar Mateen's shooting spree, killing 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando. She was asking because Cardinal Reinhard Marx had said the church had marginalized gays.

The pope answered with, well, an apology spree. Says the Associated Press:

Francis responded with a variation of his famous "Who am I to judge?" comment and a repetition of church teaching that gays must not be discriminated against but treated with respect.
He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being "a bit offensive for others." But he said: "Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?"
"We must accompany them," Francis said.
"I think the church must not only apologize ... to a gay person it offended, but we must apologize to the poor, to women who have been exploited, to children forced into labor, apologize for having blessed so many weapons" and for having failed to accompany families who faced divorces or experienced other problems.

Does this signal the dawn of a "progressive" era in the church? Not according to a particular Dawn -- Catholic scholar and GR alumna Dawn Eden:

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The key to understanding the Supreme Court decision on Texas abortion restrictions

The key to understanding the Supreme Court decision on Texas abortion restrictions

Big news today out of the U.S. Supreme Court: As the Washington Post reports, the court — in a 5-3 decision — struck down Texas abortion restrictions that had caused more than half the state's abortion clinics to close.

As always, abortion is one of those topics that mix politics and religion, no matter how hard people try to keep the topics separate. 

The New York Times notes:

The decision concerned two parts of a Texas law that imposes strict requirements on abortion providers. It was passed by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature and signed into law in July 2013 by Rick Perry, the governor at the time.
One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

How important is this decision? The Daily Beast is pretty excited, calling it "the biggest victory for abortion rights since Roe V. Wade."

Meanwhile, Rod "Friend of this Blog" Dreher of the American Conservative is less enthused (see his new post "Abortion Forever"), but he, too, attaches great significance to the ruling:

The bottom line, it seems to me, is that the Supreme Court will never let any state restriction stand meaningfully in the way of the Sexual Revolution. Ever. No federalism, no democracy, not when it comes to defending the Sexual Revolution.

So what should news consumers look for in the media coverage of this decision?

 

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The state of Donald Trump's soul: Lots of chortles and, so far, few factual questions

The state of Donald Trump's soul: Lots of chortles and, so far, few factual questions

At least once a month, I receive some kind of angry email (or perhaps see comments on Facebook) from someone who is upset about mainstream press coverage of President Barack Obama that identifies him as a Christian.

Very few of these notes come from people who think Obama is a closet Muslim. Mostly, they come from doctrinally conservative Christians whose churches clash with the Obama White House on moral and cultural issues, most of them having to do with the Sexual Revolution. What they are saying, of course, is, "Obama isn't one of us." His actions show that.

Of course he isn't one of them. But it's perfectly accurate for journalists to note that the president has made a profession of faith (numerous times) as a liberal mainline Protestant. He walked the aisle and joined a congregation in the United Church of Christ, the bleeding edge of the liberal Protestant world, and has, functionally, been an Episcopalian while in the White House. Before becoming president he was quite candid about the details of his faith (the essential interview here). Obama has a liberal Christian voice.

This, of course, brings us to the God-and-politics story de jour right now -- the online interview in which Dr. James Dobson, once the creator of the Focus on the Family operation, says that he knows the person who recently led Donald Trump to born-again faith.

You can imagine the Twitter-verse reaction to this news, coming so soon after that closed-door New York City meeting between Trump and about 1,000 selected evangelical leaders. Here is the crucial material from The New York Times, which, as you can imagine, opened with a question lede. Then:

In an interview recorded ... by a Pennsylvania pastor, the Rev. Michael Anthony, Dr. Dobson said he knew the person who had led Mr. Trump to Christ, though he did not name him.

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Weekend think piece: Pope John Paul II and his fight to save Polish culture and even Europe

Weekend think piece: Pope John Paul II and his fight to save Polish culture and even Europe

Let's make this a Polish think piece weekend, shall we?

How many more lives lived in the darkness of the 20th Century were more amazing than that of the late St. Pope John Paul II? How many other names go at the very top of the list, especially if you are looking for women and men who were warriors for peace, dignity and true tolerance?

When looking at the fall of the materialistic world of Communist Eastern Europe and, even, the Soviet Union, the question I have always asked has been this: What did John Paul II and when did he do it?

Obviously, we know quite a bit about the dramas that took place out in the open, in front of -- literally -- millions of people. But do we really know what took place behind the scenes? If Poland started the dominos falling, what role did this great son of Poland play behind the scenes? Every few years, if seems, we learn more amazing details.

Another question: How did John Paul II fail to win the Nobel Peace Prize at some point during that era? Can you think -- in this weekend after Brexit -- of better symbol of the values of the post-Christian Europe than that strange fact?

So that brings me to this weekend think piece, via The Catholic Exchange. The headline: "Pope John Paul II & the Secret History of Europe." This short piece focuses on the contents of a new film, "Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism." Here is the trailer for that documentary:

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Polexit? Looking for news about tensions between EU and Poland's Catholic culture

Polexit? Looking for news about tensions between EU and Poland's Catholic culture

There is a circle of GetReligion readers who have, from time to time, been known to lose it at the sight of a URL pointing toward material from LifeNews.com, an advocacy journalism site that focuses, as the name implies, on issues linked to abortion, euthanasia, etc.

As I just stated, LifeNews.com is an advocacy site that, basically, covers one side of hot-button stories on these topics. If you are looking for fair coverage of liberal views on this topic, this is not the site for you.

However, if you are looking for clues and information about stories that are not receiving coverage in the mainstream press, this is a place to find tips about documents, events and sources that could lead to balanced mainstream coverage. In other words, LifeNews.com has the same approach to journalism as, let's say, Rolling Stone or, on moral and religious issues, the Kellerism-era New York Times. You go there to read about one side of an argument.

Some culturally liberal readers believe, in a strange echo of conservatives who write off the Times, that this means that all events or information reported at LifeNews.com should be ignored. I don't believe that about the Times and I don't believe that about the much smaller and less important LifeNews.com. I take what I see in advocacy publications with a grain of salt and look for links to valid information about views on the right and left.

That brings me, in this post-Brexit world, to this new LifeNews.com report, which ran with the headline, "Poland Defends Its Pro-Life Laws, Blasts EU Leaders Telling It to Legalize Abortion."

(CFAM) -- The Polish government snapped back at European bureaucrats in a scathing response to a report published last week by the Council of Europe that criticized Poland’s restrictive abortion law and its treatment of women.

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