1. Martin Lee’s arrest confirms that Beijing has crossed the line into tyranny.

By David Alton and Luke de Pulford, Catholic Herald, April 21, 2020, Opinion

On November 24 2019, after months of protests, three million Hong Kongers handed a historic victory to democratic candidates in council elections. As part of an international team of election observers, we were there to witness the 326-seat landslide, with only 62 seats taken by pro-Beijing candidates.

This was always going to bring a response from the Central Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.

On April 18 that response came. Under the cover of a global pandemic, the CCP delivered its reply, rounding up and arresting 15 leaders of the pro-democracy movement. Among them was a Catholic barrister called Martin Lee.

On being arrested, Lee – a lifelong proponent of peaceful resistance – reiterated his belief in democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. With candour and characteristic humility, with no self-pity, he said: “I feel relieved. After months of witnessing youths being arrested and prosecuted while I stayed out of it, I eventually felt guilty. I have been eventually prosecuted and I have no regrets, I am proud to walk the road of democracy.” His words bring to mind his patron St Thomas More – both were called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn. In Utopia, More reminds us that the political leader is called “to feed his sheep, not himself” and also reminds us that even in Utopia “There is never any shortage of horrible creatures who prey upon human beings, snatch away their food, or devour whole populations.” These words could have been written for the Chinese Communist Party.

Martin Lee’s arrest marks a threshold. A prominent lawyer – a Queen’s Counsel and recipient of prestigious international awards – he was one of the drafters of Hong Kong’s constitutional settlement, Two Systems One Country. Apprehending him on trumped-up charges is a symbolic incarceration of the rule of law itself. In words prayed by so many of the Church’s resistance, Isaiah prophesied: “For Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet”. Neither must we.


2. If Liquor Stores Are Essential, Why Isn’t Church?: The new conundrums created by the coronavirus can be addressed by some very old materials: the principles of the First Amendment.

By Michael W. McConnell and Max Raskin, The New York Times, April 21, 2020, 5:00 AM, Opinion

Individual churches have been closed for health reasons in the past. History buffs may recall that the first Free Exercise Clause case in Supreme Court history, in 1845, involved the prohibition of open-coffin funeral services in a New Orleans church during a yellow fever outbreak. But this is the first mass closure of churches, synagogues, temples and mosques all over the country. And it has lasted for almost a month.

Other important activities — from shopping in hardware stores to voting — manage to take place with appropriate safeguards against the spread of the disease. Yet worshipers have been prevented from gathering “together” (six to 10 feet apart) in cars in the church parking lot; Catholic churches have been told to close their doors even for solitary prayer; traditional sunrise services were canceled even when they would take place in the fresh air, observing the rules of social distancing.

First, separation of church and state does not give religious communities immunity from regulation that is necessary for the common good.

The second principle is that government can regulate religious activity only through what the Supreme Court calls “neutral” and “generally applicable” laws. This means that a government requirement cannot single out religious activity on the ground that it is somehow dispensable or “nonessential.” The government may regulate religious activities no more strictly than it regulates secular activities that present comparable risks.

Third, both sides must seek what the courts call “reasonable accommodations.” These are tailored arrangements that allow people to practice their faith to the maximum practicable extent while still minimizing the dangers those activities pose to the public. Sacramental wine was permitted during Prohibition; Quakers are not drafted into the Army; kosher and halal facilities are excused from some of the details of meatpacking regulations.

Mr. McConnell is a law professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School. Mr. Raskin is an adjunct professor of law at New York University.


3. Unanimous Verdicts Required for Serious Crimes, Supreme Court Rules: The court also addressed the cleanup of hazardous waste sites, limiting landowners’ ability to use private lawsuits to force restoration.

By Jess Bravin and Brent Kendall, The Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2020, Pg. A3

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that defendants can’t be convicted of serious crimes under the Constitution unless jurors are unanimous, overturning laws in two states and calling thousands of verdicts into question.

But the court’s fractured ruling has little significance for cases outside Louisiana and Oregon, the only states where a 10-2 or 11-1 jury can convict. Instead, the justices’ remarks about precedent—an issue of increasing importance, as the abortion-rights decision Roe v. Wade and other liberal landmarks face challenges—may be the decision’s most significant legacy.


4. The Court’s Conservatives Clash: Gorsuch and Alito issue dueling opinions on jury trials and precedent.

By The Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2020, Pg. A16, Review & Outlook

With Republican-appointed judges reshaping the federal courts, Democrats have described legal conservatives as partisans who want the same things and think the same way. Close Supreme Court-watchers know this is false. Last term there were more 5-4 decisions when a conservative joined the liberals than when the conservatives were united. But if there were still any doubt, Monday’s ruling requiring unanimous jury verdicts offers an illuminating look at the diversity of conservative thought.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote separately to outline his principles for when the Court should overturn precedent. Court-watchers will scrutinize that concurrence for hints on how he’ll rule on abortion precedents. As Adam White of the American Enterprise Institute notes, it’s a testament to how much Roe v. Wade has warped jurisprudence that even unrelated rulings are seen through the politicized abortion lens.

Democratic threats against the Supreme Court have been escalating in the last year. They want to convince the public that the Justices are glorified partisans so they can pack the Court or intimidate Justices to deliver liberal outcomes. The Ramos decision is a rebuttal to that partisan distortion.


5. Proxy Wars over Religious Liberty.

By Ryan T. Anderson, National Affairs, Spring 2020, No. 43, Opinion

Since the early Obama years at least, progressives have sought, with considerable success, to advance the objectives of the sexual revolution through aggressive government mandates. It’s a familiar story by now: A movement that claims merely to want personal freedom (“live and let live”) first repeals laws that purportedly limited their freedom, then uses government to subsidize their preferred choices, then to mandate that other people subsidize them, and finally to punish anyone who disagrees with them. The right to abortion becomes a right to government-funded abortion, and then a right to have Hobby Lobby pay for abortion, and now a right to punish pharmacists for not providing abortifacients and doctors and nurses for refusing to participate in or refer for abortions. The “freedom to marry” becomes the duty to bake the cake.

Americans who are harmed by these increasingly aggressive actions, and those who seek to protect the people who are harmed, respond with appeals to religious liberty. But religious liberty can’t be the only response to such coercive efforts. Religious liberty is one human value at stake, but not the only or even the primary one. Other human goods and aspects of human flourishing, and ultimately human nature itself, are more central to these debates. After all, religious liberty is about the right to stand by the truth about the more basic values at stake. But very few people want to engage on those terms, taking sides on the substantive issues in these debates. They prefer the safer, more respectable, less icky ground of religious liberty.

This unwillingness to engage the substantive moral debates that actually divide us in the culture war leaves us fighting proxy wars over religious liberty. These wars confuse the issue, and put at risk our capacity to defend the rightful place and purpose of religious liberty.

The pro-life movement, thankfully, did not make this mistake. It did not ask simply to be left alone in peace with a sincere religious belief about the sanctity of life. It has demanded that Roe v. Wade be overturned and that unborn children be protected by law. The pro-life movement was able to walk and chew gum at the same time — to protect people’s right not to be complicit in the evil of abortion while simultaneously working to reshape both law and culture to respect and protect unborn life.

All of this suggests that, in our time in particular, the case for religious liberty must be part of a larger public argument for and from the underlying truths that religious people seek to defend and advance.

Answering today’s attacks against religious liberty requires more than a defense of religious liberty. It requires a defense of the substance of what that liberty protects. And it also requires some prudence about American culture and politics.

Religious liberty has been defended almost exclusively by lawyers, pastors, academics, and other people at nonprofit organizations in our time.

Only one side has flexed political muscle…. Social conservatives need 501(c)(4)s, PACs and super PACs, 527s, and other organizations to engage in direct political action, supporting bills and politicians that are good for religious liberty and human sexuality — and opposing those that do them harm. What the Susan B. Anthony List has done for the pro-life cause should be done for religious liberty and human sexuality. There’s a Club for Growth, but no Club for Virtue. The NRA can whip members into voting to protect gun rights, but when it comes to human sexuality and religious liberty, we merely ask members to do the right thing because it’s the right thing. We don’t make it painful to do the wrong thing because we don’t do politics — we merely talk.

To succeed in embracing religious liberty is not to succeed in transforming society. More is required. Protecting religious liberty for all, however praiseworthy in itself, is not a prudent or effective way on its own to fight a proxy war over human sexuality. … Religious liberty is a prerequisite for a moral life, but it is not the substance of it. A proxy war is not a substitute for the hard work of moral argument and moral formation.

Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation and St. John Paul II Teaching Fellow in Social Thought at the University of Dallas.


6. Panel: Texas can ban medical abortions to fight coronavirus.

By Associated Press, April 20, 2020, 4:33 PM

Texas can now ban medication abortions as part of the state’s effort to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, a federal appeals court panel ruled Monday.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans last week temporarily blocked the state’s prohibition on medication abortions while it gave more consideration to the issue.

The same panel, in a 2-1 decision, said Monday the state was within its rights to ban that — and other abortion procedures — as it sought to slow the use of masks, gowns and other protective medical gear.

The majority opinion by judges Jennifer Elrod and Kyle Duncan said a lower court erred by treating a medication abortion as “an absolute right.”


7. Updated: Three states’ coronavirus abortion bans remain after court interventions.

By Catholic News Agency, April 20, 2020, 1:19 PM

Eight states that have enacted temporary bans on abortion during the coronavirus pandemic are contending with legal challenges, and judges have prevented many of the temporary bans from coming into effect.

Judges have so far intervened to allow abortions in some form in Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Iowa, Louisiana, and Tennessee, after the leaders of those states attempted to classify elective abortions as non-essential procedures.

In Texas, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled Monday that the state’s ban on elective abortions, including medical abortions, can be reinstated. This decision reversed a lower court’s decision, and that of one of its own panels.

In Iowa, abortion advocates had filed a lawsuit against the state’s order, but reached an agreement with the state outside of court before the lawsuit could progress.

In Alaska, a move by state officials to “delay” abortions until June has not been legally challenged; and in Mississippi, the state’s order banning all “elective” medical procedures also has not been challenged. Louisiana’s order to stop elective abortions is facing a lawsuit but has not been blocked.

Many states have suspended medical procedures deemed non-emergency or non-essential in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus among healthcare professionals, and to free up medical resources and hospital capacity.


8. Michigan Catholic Conference calls governor’s abortion stance ‘removed from reality’

By Catholic News Agency, April 20, 2020, 12:00 PM

The Michigan Catholic Conference has condemned Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recent claim that abortion is “life sustaining” and should remain available throughout the state, even as other medical procedures are limited to conserve medical resources to fight the coronavirus.

“We call on Governor Whitmer to pause and reflect on the wounds her comments have created for countless people in this state and elsewhere. We all need the governor’s sole focus right now to be on the needs of the people of Michigan, not the demands of the abortion industry,” said an April 19 statement from the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in the state.


9. Pope Francis postpones World Youth Day and Meeting of Families due to coronavirus.

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, April 20, 2020, 10:00 AM

Pope Francis has decided to postpone by one year World Youth Day and the World Meeting of Families, according to the Vatican. The events were expected to take place during the summers of 2022 and 2021.

World Youth Day, programmed for Lisbon, Portugal in August 2022, will now take place in August 2023, according to an April 20 statement from Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director.

The World Meeting of Families, previously scheduled to be held in Rome in June 2021, will now happen in June 2022.


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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