1. Donald Trump Signals He’ll Push to Expand Religious Rights: Draft executive order would expand religious protections, potentially allowing denial of services to gays. 

By Ian Lovett, Jacob Gershman and Louise Radnofsky, The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2017, Pg. A4

President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to repeal a ban on churches engaging in political campaigning, while his administration also was exploring other steps to expand religious rights, including increased protections for individuals, organizations and employers acting on their faith.

Mr. Trump said at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning that his administration “will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty.” He said he would seek the repeal of the Johnson Amendment passed by Congress in 1954, which prohibits many nonprofit organizations, including churches and charities, from endorsing political candidates.

Meanwhile, a draft executive order circulating in the administration would dramatically expand legal exemptions on the grounds of religious beliefs. That would potentially allow discrimination against gay, transgender and other people, as well as the denial of contraception coverage for some workers. It also would likely trigger legal and political battles.


2. Gorsuch’s so-called weakness is really his greatest strength.

By Michael Gerson, The Washington Post, February 3, 2017, Pg. A19, Opinion

It is the gist of much Neil Gorsuch coverage that he is a brilliant jurist with one large weakness: being firmly anti-choice. Exhibit A is his book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” in which he scandalously defends the “idea that all human beings are intrinsically valuable.”

“The intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong,” he continues, along the same shocking lines.

Gorsuch’s detractors see in such statements “an existential threat to legal abortion in the United States” — though nowhere in the book does the judge define “human life” to include developing life in the womb.

There are, as Gorsuch notes, unbelievably difficult choices in the shadow world between life and death. This requires both sensitivity and legal space. But the combination of a personal ethic of absolute autonomy and a social ethic of utilitarianism leads toward some scary territory. The right to die quickly becomes a social duty. And people who should be singled out for particular, loving care are encouraged to become instruments of their own death, with quick and convenient help. This is not a slippery slope but a logical consequence.

There should be one bright legal and social line here: that, as Gorsuch wrote, “all human beings are intrinsically valuable,” including those who have lost, or never gained, the ability to determine their own concept of existence.

I want a Supreme Court nominee for whom the promises of the Declaration of Independence are the moral and legal context for reading the Constitution. A nominee who believes — even when all human care fails — that America’s basic law still stands for the weak and vulnerable. There is no greater good.


3. D.C.’s ‘Death with Dignity’ Bill Could Cut Costs — and Compassion. 

By Brad Wenstrup and Phil Roe, National Review Online, February 3, 2017, 4:00AM, Opinion

‘Do no harm.” Three short words, but to physicians they represent a sacred charge. Three short words that now hang in the balance here in the District of Columbia, after the D.C. council passed the Death with Dignity Act (Act 21-577), legalizing physician-assisted suicide in the nation’s capital. 

Instead of simply providing end-of-life comfort, D.C.’s new law is poised to do more harm than good. Even those disagreeing on the merits of the larger issue should take a close look at the text of Act 21-577, which leaves patients unprotected, doctors unaccountable, and our most vulnerable citizens at risk of having fewer medical options at their disposal rather than more.

Act 21-577 allows adults diagnosed with a terminal disease, having less than six months to live, to receive a prescription for medication to end their life. There are concerns that the definition of “terminal disease” is too broad, since most doctors will admit that accurately predicting life expectancy is almost impossible. Additionally, many conditions, such as diabetes and HIV, are considered “incurable and irreversible” or “terminal” if left untreated. 

One of the greatest concerns that medical professionals have about Act 21-577 is its failure to adequately protect patients from potential coercion and abuse. When someone is considering ending his or her own life, regardless of the reason, he or she is in a vulnerable mental and emotional state. …This leaves some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — the disabled, the elderly, and those fighting mental illnesses — at the most risk under this law.

Additionally, a stunning lack of accountability is built into the bill, as doctors self-report their participation in assisted suicide and their compliance with regulation. 

Perhaps most troubling of all, under the new law, patients may end up with fewer options, not more. D.C. residents who are not able to pay for health care out of pocket may find their options severely limited when facing a new diagnosis, suffering from a chronic illness, facing a disability, or struggling with mental illness. For certain medical conditions, assisted suicide could become the cheapest option. By some estimates, lethal medication costs no more than $300. 

Ultimately, whatever its intentions, D.C.’s new law puts patients at risk and could limit their access to high-quality health care. It prioritizes cost over compassion. Since the Constitution charges Congress with legislative jurisdiction over D.C., Congress has a duty to carefully scrutinize this bill, its impact on medical patients, and its effects on our health-care system. We have weighed the legislation and found it wanting. D.C. residents deserve better.

Brad Wenstrup, of Ohio’s second congressional district, is a member of the House of Representatives. Phil Roe represents Tennessee’s first congressional district.


4. Trump defends refugee policy as part of protecting religious freedom. 

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, February 2, 2017, 10:50 AM

President Donald Trump on Thursday insisted that protecting religious freedom is a U.S. priority, while defending his recent halt of refugee admissions as a necessary step to protect that freedom.

“Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways, and I’ve never seen it so much and so openly since I took the position of President,” President Trump stated at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.

“There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle. Not right,” he said. “We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation.”

President Trump emphasized the global threat of religious violence, citing “acts of wanton slaughter against religious minorities,” and noting that “terrorism is a fundamental threat to religious freedom.”

“In recent days, we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goal,” he continued.

Last week, his executive order on “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States” suspended refugee admissions into the U.S. for 120 days and immigration from seven countries for 60 days while his administration would investigate the security of the refugee resettlement program and the quality of information-gathering on foreign nationals seeking to enter the U.S.