1. A Free Exercise of Religion Court, By The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2021, Pg. A16, Editorial
The first significant distinction of the newly constituted Supreme Court concerns the free exercise of religion from government control. The latest evidence is the 5-4 ruling late Friday slapping down another California pandemic diktat on the freedom of worship.
The unsigned majority opinion in Tandon v. Newsom overturned an appellate-court ruling that upheld an order barring meetings of more than three families to worship in a private home.

The decision is the fifth time the Court has overruled the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on pandemic orders against worship, as an exasperated majority points out. The willfulness of the lower courts in defying the High Court underscores how much religious liberty needs protecting against the militant secular values that now dominate American public life.
2. Flattered to Be on China’s Sanctions List, By Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins, The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2021, Pg. A15, Opinion
The Chinese Communist Party recently imposed sanctions against us for our work on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. It’s part of a desperate attempt to silence international scrutiny of Beijing’s abysmal human-rights record, particularly its genocidal policies against the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang and its persecution of other religious minorities.
We won’t be intimidated or silenced. We appreciate Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s support, and we are proud that USCIRF has long been at the forefront in exposing the Communist Party’s egregious religious-freedom violations. In fact, we’re flattered by the Chinese government’s recognition for our work in defending religious freedom in China, as we join an increasing list of courageous American, European and other officials on whom the party has likewise applied sanctions for standing up to a regime that has violated its obligations under the Genocide Convention.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s threats gave us a glimpse into the state-led oppression under which so many Uighurs, Tibetans, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners and others are forced to live.
Ms. Manchin and Mr. Perkins are, respectively, chairman and vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
3. Some GOP-led states target abortions done through medication, By David Crary and Iris Samuels, Associated Press, April 12, 2021, 12:32 AM
About 40% of all abortions in the U.S. are now done through medication — rather than surgery — and that option has become all the more pivotal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abortion rights advocates say the pandemic has demonstrated the value of medical care provided virtually, including the privacy and convenience of abortions taking place in a woman’s home, instead of a clinic. Abortion opponents, worried the method will become increasingly prevalent, are pushing legislation in several Republican-led states to restrict it and in some cases, ban providers from prescribing abortion medication via telemedicine.
4. Ken Starr on Religious Liberty: ‘The Next Crisis is Coming’, In light of what Starr describes as the “steady erosion of our nation’s commitment to first freedoms,” what can religious Americans do? Starr offers three important suggestions., By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, National Catholic Register, April 12, 2021, Opinion
Ken Starr has written a new book, and it is really good. Religious Liberty in Crisis: Exercising Your Faith in an Age of Uncertainty is a handy primer on the special protection afforded religion under the law and a plan for how religious people in the U.S. can weather these most uncertain times.
Most Americans don’t know that Starr, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Solicitor General, is one of the country’s top constitutional law experts. He is also a devout Christian.
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is the director of the Conscience Project.
5. Can the Meritocracy Find God?, By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, April 11, 2021, Pg. SR7, Opinion
Even if there is a resilience in American religion — especially in evangelical Christianity, still the most numerically robust form of faith — it doesn’t alter institutional faith’s general weakness, its limited influence, its subordinate position to other personal affiliations, from partisanship to ethnic identity to sports or superhero fandom.
A key piece of this weakness is religion’s extreme marginalization with the American intelligentsia — meaning not just would-be intellectuals but the wider elite-university-educated population, the meritocrats or “knowledge workers,” the “professional-managerial class.”

As a Christian inhabitant of this world, I often try to imagine what it would take for the meritocracy to get religion. There are certain ways in which its conversion doesn’t seem unimaginable. A lot of progressive ideas about social justice still make more sense as part of a biblical framework, which among other things might temper the movement’s prosecutorial style with forgiveness and with hope. Meanwhile on the meritocracy’s rightward wing — meaning not-so-woke liberals and Silicon Valley libertarians — you can see people who might have been new atheists 15 years ago taking a somewhat more sympathetic look at the older religions, out of fear of the vacuum their decline has left.

But the obstacles are considerable. One problem is that whatever its internal divisions, the American educated class is deeply committed to a moral vision that regards emancipated, self-directed choice as essential to human freedom and the good life.

A second obstacle is the meritocracy’s anti-supernaturalism.
6. Sharing goods not communism but ‘pure Christianity,’ Pope says, By Inés San Martín, Crux, April 11, 2021
Pope Francis on Sunday argued that having received mercy, Jesus’ apostles became merciful themselves, sharing ownership over everything, calling such an arrangement “not communism, but pure Christianity.”
“The Acts of the Apostles relate that ‘no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.’ This is not communism, but pure Christianity,” he said.
7. High court halts Calif. virus rules limiting home worship, By Jessica Gresko, Associated Press, April 10, 2021, 8:13 PM
The Supreme Court is telling California that it can’t enforce coronavirus-related restrictions that have limited home-based religious worship including Bible studies and prayer meetings.
The order from the court late Friday is the latest in a recent string of cases in which the high court has barred officials from enforcing some coronavirus-related restrictions applying to religious gatherings.
Five conservative justices agreed that California restrictions that apply to in-home religious gatherings should be lifted for now, while the court’s three liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts would not have done so.
8. House Republicans push to keep Hyde Amendment in funding bills, By Catholic News Agency, April 9, 2021, 11:13 AM
Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday warned against allowing taxpayer-funded abortion in fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills.
The members urged the continued inclusion of pro-life policies in forthcoming budget bills – namely the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 that has barred funding of elective abortions.
“We sincerely urge you to keep the Hyde provisions and other similar Hyde-type policies that have been enacted in annual appropriations bills as you develop the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills,” said an April 7 letter to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the appropriations committee.
9. How Would Religious Freedom Fare With Common-Good Constitutionalists?, This way to interpret the law looks to be a nice antidote for the ills facing our country today. But scratch beneath the surface and you find all sorts of dangers to cherished liberties., By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, National Catholic Register, April 9, 2021, Opinion
There is a troublesome idea that has the interest of a handful of influential U.S. conservatives. It’s called “common-good constitutionalism.” This way to interpret the law looks to be a nice antidote for the ills facing our country today.
But scratch beneath the surface and you find all sorts of dangers to cherished liberties, including religious freedom.
The subject of rival legal interpretive methods isn’t something that you’d expect to captivate most Americans.

Embracing originalism as the proper approach to interpreting the Constitution are a growing number of members of the federal judiciary and a cadre of lawyers in every stratum of the legal profession. They have no stomach for the activist judges of yesteryear who used what they called a “living Constitution” to invent rights based on the political fashions of the moment. Originalists also offer a bracing alternative to today’s progressives, who demand a judiciary ready to advance a radical social agenda.

So, what’s so bad about untethering judges from written instruments of civil law? Why not allow judges the liberty to “read into” the Constitution some moral truths?
Let’s take a look at how religious freedom could fare. Because common-good constitutionalist judges are not bound by any bothersome written instruments of civil law, they can just skip over the specific guarantees of the First Amendment in reviewing cases. A core component of its “free exercise of religion” — the right to worship — is thus subject to an easy override if what is considered the common good is served.

Many Americans today feel that our country is facing a grave moral crisis. While the daydreaming of common-good constitutionalists sounds attractive, abandoning originalism can undermine the very freedoms that make the common good possible.
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is the director of the Conscience Project.

TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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