1. The Do A Lot of Harm Act, Several Democratic senators want to hobble rights of the religious. 

By The Washington Times, July 2, 2018, Pg. B2, Editorial

The Do No Harm Act, proposed by several Democrats in the U.S. Senate ranging from the far left to the farther left, is a sneaky case of mislabeling. If there were truth in marketing, it would be called the Do A Lot of Harm Act.

The new legislation would eviscerate the 25-year-old Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was once favored by liberal members of Congress for its protections of minority religious practices, such as, among other things, the rights of Muslims and Sikhs to wear religious headgear on the job and in driver’s license photographs.

Ironically, that legislation was introduced on that far-away day by one Rep. Chuck Schumer of New York and by Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, and it was passed by the House by unanimous vote and only three senators voted against it. President Bill Clinton eagerly signed it. But that was then, and this is now.

The good news is that the new legislation has no expectation of enactment, and was a bone thrown to the expanding Democratic left, and to burnish the credentials of its authors with the radical wing of the party. Still, it shows what some Democrats would do if they could. The Do No Harm Act would amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to prevent the law from being invoked as a legal defense against what the Democrats call discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people.

The law would further target private business concerns like the Hobby Lobby and charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor, which insist that the government cannot compel them to provide abortion and contraceptive coverage to their employees in contravention of their religious beliefs.

The Do No Harm partisans want Congress to put its thumb on the scale to favor LGBT and abortion plaintiffs when their legal rights collide with those of the religiously devout. One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, puts the goal in plain English: “While our country was founded on the value of religious liberty,” she says, “that freedom cannot come at the expense of others’ civil rights.” Bromides always come with a “but.”

The legislation would not repeal the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion, because a law can’t override a constitutional amendment. But the Do No Harm Act would give liberal federal judges cover for ruling against the religious whenever possible, such as in the case of Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker whose First Amendment free-speech rights were narrowly upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Another co-sponsor, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, insists that the Do No Harm Act would simply balance competing rights and “ensure we protect both.” But when two rights collide, only one right will prevail, as the senator knows. She wants to tip the scale to make sure that her favorite prevails. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and sometimes the vigilantes ride from the halls of Congress.


2. Abortion in Focus as Trump Weighs Pick, President says federal control of procedure could end after filling Supreme Court seat. 

By Stephanie Armour and Peter Nicholas, The Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2018, Pg. A4

President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast Sunday that the legality of abortion could be decided by the states as a possible fallout from filling a Supreme Court opening, a statement that acknowledges the high stakes of the battle over Justice Anthony Kennedy’s successor.

In choosing a nominee, Mr. Trump must balance finding someone his supporters—many of whom oppose abortion—will rally around without losing enough backing for the nominee to clear the Senate.

Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine), a likely swing vote in confirming a nominee, said Sunday she wants a justice who will respect legal precedent in upholding the Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Speaking about abortion rights on Fox News, Mr. Trump said: “Maybe some day it will be to the states. You never know how that’s going to turn out. That’s a very complex question.” He added: “It could very well end up with the states at some point.”


3. Vatican City still has no policy to fight clergy sex abuse. 

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, July 1, 2018, 7:53 AM

Pope Francis has taken measures to address a spiraling sex abuse scandal in Chile, but he hasn’t moved on a problem closer to home: Vatican City itself does not have policies to protect children from pedophile priests or require suspected abuse to be reported to police.

Seven years after the Vatican ordered all bishops conferences around the world to develop written guidelines to prevent abuse, tend to victims, punish offenders and keep pedophiles out of the priesthood, the headquarters of the Catholic Church has no such policy.

And one could argue that, beyond the new law, a written policy and safe environment program is unnecessary in a city state where only a handful of children live full time.

But thousands of children pass through the Vatican walls every day, touring the Vatican Museums, attending papal audiences and Masses and visiting St. Peter’s Square and basilica.

And Vatican City authorities wouldn’t have to look far for help in crafting such a policy. The pope’s own Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors — his hand-picked sex abuse advisory board — has a template for such guidelines on its Vatican website.


4. Pope singles out ‘good news’ about Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict. 

By Associated Press, July 1, 2018, 9:04 AM

Pope Francis is hailing the “good news” that Ethiopia and Eritrea are willing to discuss peace prospects for what has been one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts.

Francis told the Catholic faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday that “in the midst of so many conflicts, it’s dutiful to point out an initiative that can be called historic.”

Ethiopia’s foreign minister said Thursday that the leaders of the two countries would meet soon. The countries broke off relations when a border war began in 1998, five years after Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia.

Francis expressed hope that having the governments “speak together of peace” after 20 years would “turn on a light of hope for these two countries in the Horn of Africa and for the entire African continent.”


5. The Controversy over Communion. 

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2018, Pg. C5

Should Catholics be allowed to share Communion, one of their church’s most sacred rites, with their Protestant spouses? That question, now the center of a debate roiling German Catholics, is also echoing a broader global controversy about how to define a religious community’s core beliefs and collective identity.

Germany’s Catholic bishops voted in February to publish guidelines for sharing Communion with Protestant spouses upon the approval of a parish priest. But a conservative minority of German bishops objected, noting that church law lets Protestants receive Catholic Communion only in cases of “danger of death” or “some other grave necessity.” The conservatives appealed to the Vatican for a ruling.

At first Pope Francis seemed open to the proposed policy, but then he blocked its publication until further study could be made. Last week, he said that such decisions should be up to individual local bishops. On Wednesday, the German bishops’ leaders published the guidelines anyway, announcing that they were “on an ecumenical quest to achieve a more profound understanding and even greater unity among Christians” and thus “obliged to stride forward in this matter courageously.”


6. Iowa’s top court rejects waiting period for abortions. 

By Reuters, June 29, 2018, 11:50 AM

Iowa’s Supreme Court on Friday rejected a 72-hour waiting period for abortions signed into law last year, ruling it unconstitutional.

Iowa, which separately in April passed the nation’s strictest abortion limit known as the “fetal heartbeat” law, had placed the waiting-period law on hold during the court challenge.

“We conclude the statute enacted by our legislature, while intended as a reasonable regulation, violates both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution because its restrictions on women are not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest of the state,” Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote in the ruling.