1. Rome-brokered peace deal increases chances of papal visit to South Sudan.

By Catholic News Service, January 16, 2020

A newly brokered peace deal between the government of South Sudan and opposition leaders increased the chance of a papal visit to the African nation.

The agreement signed in Rome Jan. 13 was significant because it involved opposition leaders who had not signed previous peace deals, said John O’Brien, country representative for Catholic Relief Services in South Sudan.

The Rome-based Sant’Egidio Community brokered the talks in Rome Jan. 11 and 12, and the agreement took effect Jan. 15. Signers included representatives of the government and the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance.

Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, have said they would travel together to South Sudan if the country’s leaders fulfill their promise to form a transitional government by late February.


2. Why The Supreme Court Needs To Let Families Use Tax Dollars For Private Schools: This term, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to bury anti-Catholic laws now used to discriminate against all religions, and secure a brighter future for kids like Raelyn Sukhbir.

By Andrea Picotti-Bayer, The Federalist, January 16, 2020, 8:34 PM

The Montana legislature passed a tax-credit scholarship program in 2016 designed to help families like the Sukhbirs afford the right school for their children, but a nasty vestige of our nation’s anti-Catholic past scuttled the state’s “school choice” program. This term, the U.S. Supreme Court has the opportunity in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue to finally bury those vestiges of our anti-Catholic past now used to discriminate against all religions, and secure a brighter future for kids like Raelyn Sukhbir.

When Montana’s Department of Revenue wrote rules to implement the new law, it decided no “religiously-affiliated private schools” could receive scholarship monies. The agency insisted its rule was needed to comply with a provision in the Montana constitution known as a state Blaine Amendment. This provision prohibits the use of public funds or monies “for any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.”

Kendra Espinoza and two other Montana moms with children attending private Christian schools filed suit in state court claiming, among other things, the Department of Revenue’s rule violated the free exercise and equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. Their case found its way to the Montana Supreme Court, which surprisingly invalidated the private school tax credit program in its entirety. The law “aids sectarian schools,” said the majority, and violates Montana’s constitution “in all of its applications.”

The U.S. Supreme Court granted Ms. Espinoza’s petition for review of the Montana Supreme Court decision in late June and oral argument will be heard later in the term. The high court will consider whether states’ Blaine amendments violate the U.S. Constitution’s religion and equal protection clauses. Raelyn’s mom, Brittany, is among several Montana parents sharing their positive experiences with Catholic schools in an amicus brief filed on their behalf by the Catholic Association Foundation.

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation.


3. An old debate over religion in school is opening up again.

By David Mislin, Associated Press, January 15, 2020, 9:03 AM

As the 2020 election approaches in the United States, President Donald Trump is adding school prayer to the list of contentious issues up for debate. At a rally in early January he announced plans to “safeguard students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools.” On the schedule of the White House later this week is a plan to issue new “guidance on constitutional prayer in school.”

This announcement comes after a year in which officials in six states, including the populous swing state of Florida, considered bills permitting the study of the Bible in classrooms. Last January, President Trump tweeted his support for these laws.


4. Tenn governor to sign bill protecting faith-based adoption agencies.

By Catholic News Agency, January 15, 2020, 8:34 PM

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced Jan. 15 that he intends to sign into law a bill to protect adoption organizations which place children based on the belief in marriage as a union between a man and woman.

The state Senate approved HB 836 on the first day of the 2020 legislative session, Jan. 15, after the House approved it last April. Tennessee has several Catholic Charities agencies that handle adoption cases.

The bill would protect adoption agencies that follow their religious convictions in declining to place children with same-sex couples. Declined applicants would be unable to sue an agency for damages in such a situation, the Associated Press reports.


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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