1. The Supreme Court Isn’t Anti-Muslim, It erred in denying a death-row inmate’s request for an imam—but not out of bias.

By Luke Goodrich, The Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2019, Pg. A15, Opinion
Mr. Goodrich is vice president at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Alabama put Domineque Ray to death last week after the U.S. Supreme Court refused his petition to have an imam beside him as he died. State officials had denied that request because of security concerns. They said he could pray with the imam immediately before the execution, but only prison employees, including a Christian chaplain, were permitted to enter the chamber.

The outcome is unfortunate and unjust. Religious freedom is a basic human right, including for prisoners. Alabama offered no concrete evidence of any security issues related to having an imam inside the room where Ray was executed. The state surely could have made an accommodation, and refusing to do so under the circumstances seems unnecessarily cruel.

But accusations that the Supreme Court’s decision reflects anti-Muslim bias are also mistaken. The justices didn’t reject the prisoner’s claim on the merits; instead, they said his claim came too late. Legally, that distinction is important because it means the decision creates no new precedent for religious-freedom cases.


2. Abortion bill raises alarm on late-term procedures.

By Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, February 13, 2019, Pg. A1

Vermont may already be the most abortion-friendly state in the nation — there are no restrictions in state law — but a bill to put unfettered access in writing has raised alarm about sanctioning late-term procedures and opening the door to another Kermit Gosnell.

H. 57, which went Tuesday before the state’s House Judiciary Committee, would prohibit regulations that interfere with “an individual’s right to choose” and forbid the prosecution of “any individual” for performing or attempting an abortion.

The companion bill, S. 25, adds that health care workers “performing or assisting with a legal abortion procedure shall not be subject to any civil, criminal, or administrative liability and penalty.”

To pro-life advocates, the language sounds like an invitation for abuse. If an unscrupulous hack — think Gosnell, a former doctor convicted in 2013 of killing three infants at his Philadelphia clinic — were to hang up a shingle, “there’d be nothing we could do about it,” said Mary Hahn Beerworth, Vermont Right to Life executive director.

The Gosnell scenario comes as only one of the concerns surrounding the legislation introduced as part of a national Democratic push to codify abortion in state law as a bulwark against the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

New York and Virginia have come under fire for bills making it easier to obtain late-term abortions, even allowing procedures up until birth, but the Vermont bill is at least as sweeping in that it ensures the status quo in a state where abortion limits were lifted in a 1972 court decision.


3. University violated group’s religious liberty, judge rules, Christian organization required leadership to be heterosexual.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, February 13, 2019, Pg. A8

A federal judge has ruled that the University of Iowa violated the religious liberty of Christian students by de-registering their business group for not allowing gay students to participate as leaders.

U.S. District Judge Stephanie M. Rose ordered the university to reinstate Business Leaders in Christ and put administrators on notice to more uniformly apply the school’s human rights policy.

Business Leaders in Christ garnered national attention in 2017, when it was de-registered as a campus organization because it applied Bible-based beliefs about sexuality. It declined to give a leadership post to an openly gay student because its requires leaders to uphold its belief that homosexuality is “outside of God’s design.”

According to the university’s website, student groups can exist on campus regardless of being endorsed by the school. However, registered groups can access student activity funds, be included in campus publications and use campus facilities.

Judge Rose’s decision left open the possibility the university could de-register Business Leaders in Christ down the road, but only in the college enforces an “all-comers” policy that only recognizes groups that allow any student, regardless of status or belief, to join and become leaders.


4. Religious tolerance in Bahrain , How a melting pot in the Middle East advances religious freedom.

By Abdullah Bin Rashid Al Khalifa, The Washington Post, February 13, 2019, Pg. B1, Opinion

Bahrain has been a crossroads of commerce and culture since the ancient Greeks. Today, it remains a melting pot, the tolerant home to many religions and ethnicities. Christians, Hindus, Jews and others worship openly alongside their Muslim brothers. All cultures are respected.

Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United Arab Emirates — the first by any pope to the Gulf region — was remarkable. As Vatican flags flew on the peninsula where Islam was born, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church joined a prominent imam to preach love, peace and religious pluralism.

This inspiring message should reverberate around the world and encourage the world to look at the region a little closer than they have.

Abdullah Bin Rashid Al Khalifa is the ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States.


5. Report: Pope says not time yet for mediation in Venezuela.

By The Associated Press, February 13, 2019, 7:24 AM

Pope Francis has reportedly written to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro indicating conditions aren’t ripe for the Vatican to step in and help mediate in the country’s political crisis.

Corriere della Sera quoted on Wednesday from a letter it said Francis wrote to Maduro on Feb. 7, several days after the socialist leader said he had asked the pope to help launch talks with the opposition.

Francis has lamented that Venezuelan bishops were frustrated in their efforts to help defuse political and social tensions in the country, where much of the population sorely needs food and medicine.


6. In countdown to summit, abuse scandals rock pope’s native Argentina. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux, February 13, 2019

As a Feb. 21-24 Vatican summit on the protection of minors approaches, ferment related to clerical sexual abuse continues to percolate in Pope Francis’s native Argentina.

The episodes in question range from a bishop given refuge in the Vatican who is now facing charges, to a monastery in trouble and a bishops’ conference president with great expectations for the pope’s assembly.

A prosecutor’s office in the northern province of Salta, where Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta served until his resignation in 2017, confirmed through a statement on Monday that an alleged victim had come forward with a charge against the prelate.

A prosecutor’s office in the northern province of Salta, where Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta served until his resignation in 2017, confirmed through a statement on Monday that an alleged victim had come forward with a charge against the prelate.

Before a formal allegation against the former bishop was made, local authorities had already opened an investigation after reports from local media detailed improper behavior. Due to public interest in the case, Salta’s judicial authorities have appointed two prosecutors to investigate.


7. Vatican announces Newman, Mindszenty move closer to sainthood. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, February 13, 2019

In moves that advance the sainthood causes of two of the most celebrated, and, at times, controversial Catholic figures of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Vatican announced Wednesday that a miracle has been attributed to Cardinal John Henry Newman and “heroic virtue” has been attributed to Cardinal József Mindszenty.

Newman, an Englishman who died in 1890, is perhaps the most renowned Anglican convert to Catholicism of all time. A theologian, poet and essayist, Newman was beatified in 2010, meaning the new miracle clears the way for his canonization, the formal act of declaring him a saint.

Mindszenty became a global symbol of resistance to Communism, and he was eventually permitted to leave Hungary in 1971. He died in Vienna, Austria, in 1975, where he had been welcomed by the late Cardinal Franz König, who had opened negotiations with the Hungarian Communists to secure his release at the personal request of St. Pope John XXIII.

A decree of “heroic virtue” means that Mindszenty is now entitled to be called “venerable,” and that his sainthood cause must await one approved miracle for beatification and another for eventual canonization.


8. The Ever-Present Totalitarian Temptation. 

By George Weigel, First Things, February 13, 2019

First circulated underground in communist Czechoslovakia in October 1978, Václav Havel’s brilliant dissection of totalitarianism, “The Power of the Powerless,” retains its salience four decades later. It should be required reading for politicians given to describing the Knights of Columbus as an “extremist” organization because of the Knights’ pro-life convictions and activism.

The totalitarian impulse did not (and does not) express itself only through constant surveillance, the sharp knock on the door in the dead of night, the sudden disappearance, the slave labor camp. As the word implies and Havel’s greengrocer analogy illustrates, totalitarianism demands something more than external obedience to the system. It demands that others concede that they are wrong and that the totalitarians are right. To be socially acceptable, one must not just toe the line visibly; one must be converted. 

When United States senators describe the Knights of Columbus as “extremist”—and by implication apply that epithet to all of us who think like the Knights on the life issues and the nature of marriage—those legislators are declaring us socially unacceptable: people whose commitments to democracy are suspect; people who should be shunned as morally unclean; people who are leprous. 

This is the new McCarthyism of the left. And while it won’t create a new Un-American Activities Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, its message will be similar: Those who disagree with us are, well, un-American. That calumny must be stoutly resisted.     

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.   


9. Spokane’s Plain-Spoken Shepherd Makes Waves, Bishop Thomas Daly serves notice to pro-abortion Catholic politicians in his diocese.

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, February 12, 2019

When Father Bob Dunn read the headlines sparked by his friend Spokane Bishop Tom Daly’s strong corrective for Catholic politicians who promote abortion rights, the New York City priest told his friends, “This is the type of witness we need.”

“Politicians who reside in the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, and who obstinately persevere in their public support for abortion, should not receive Communion without first being reconciled to Christ and the Church,” Bishop Thomas Daly wrote in a Feb. 1 letter to his diocese that referenced Canon 915 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

“Efforts to expand access to abortion, allowing murder of children up to the moment of birth, is evil,” added Bishop Daly. “For a Catholic political leader to do so is scandalous.”

Bishop Daly, 58, released his indictment of pro-abortion Catholic lawmakers just days after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Catholic, signed a bill that allowed abortions through nine months of pregnancy.