1. Reasonable, not radical: In reality, the ruling may not change much.

By The Washington Post, July 5, 2017, Pg. A12, Editorial

DEPENDING ON whom you ask, the Supreme Court last week blew a hole in the wall between church and state — or issued a modest decision that calls for little more than reasonableness when the government interacts with religious groups. Who’s right depends on what the court does from here and whether the justices can adopt principles that allow for some curbs on public money flowing into religious activities.

Affirming that “denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion,” the court repudiated the state’s grant distribution policy. It “puts Trinity Lutheran to a choice: It may participate in an otherwise available benefit program or remain a religious institution,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. Concurring, Justice Stephen G. Breyer compared the state’s decision to cutting off churches from basic public safety services such as police and fire protection.

Between Mr. Roberts’s and Mr. Breyer’s words, a reasonable principle is identifiable: The government cannot deny churches public funding merely because they are churches, but the government may deny them funding if they would use it for religious endeavors. This principle should guide courts in future cases.


2. After Backing Trump, Christians Who Fled Iraq Fall Into His Dragnet. 

By Vivian Yee, The New York Times, July 5, 2017, Pg. A1

A few Sundays ago, federal immigration agents walked through the doors of handsome houses here in the Detroit suburbs, brushing past tearful children, stunned wives and statuettes of the Virgin Mary in search of men whose time was up.

If the Trump administration prevails, more than 100 of these men may soon be deported, like the tens of thousands of other people rounded up this year as part of a national clampdown on illegal immigration.

But the arrests may have stunned this community more than most.

They are Christians from Iraq — a land that they and their families fled decades ago because, they say, to live as a Christian in Iraq is no life at all, and sometimes means death.

Though most of them came here legally, as refugees or through relatives who were American citizens, their green cards were revoked after criminal convictions on charges including theft, drug possession, rape and murder.

A federal judge in Michigan last week blocked the government from deporting any of them for two weeks while he weighs whether he has the authority to hear their immigration cases.

The Iraqis argue that near-certain torture or even death awaits them in Iraq, where the Islamic State has targeted Christians, Shiites and other religious groups.


3. Christians increasingly lean on federal courts to protect rights.

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, July 5, 2017, Pg. A1

Evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics are increasingly heading to the federal courts to try to carve out space for their religious activities, looking to press judges to imbue more meaning into the federal government’s guarantees of protection.

Last week’s 7-2 ruling in the Supreme Court that states can’t deny churches money for secular purposes just because they are houses of worship is the latest in a string of victories for the religious groups.

Although most of the public focuses on the First Amendment’s seemingly competing pressures of allowing for “free exercise” of religion while prohibiting a government “establishment,” analysts say the real legal battle is over a 1993 federal law, the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which requires the federal government to take religious beliefs into account. Many states have similar laws binding local officials.

Daniel Blomberg, an attorney with the Becket Fund, said RFRAs are used by more than just Christian groups. He pointed to a case where the law helped secure Sikhs serving in the U.S. military the right to grow a beard and wear a turban.

“Because of RFRA, we were able to find a way to continue to honor the military mission without forcing Sikh-Americans to violate their faith,” said Mr. Blomberg.


4. Cardinal Meisner, one of the ‘dubia’ cardinals, dies at 83.

By Crux, July 5, 2017

Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the former Archbishop of Cologne and president of the German bishops’ conference, has died at the age of 83.

Meisner, considered a leader of the conservative wing of the German episcopate, was one of the four cardinals who presented the “dubia” to Pope Francis, seeking clarifications on the document Amoris Laetitia.

The Cologne archdiocese said Meisner died Wednesday while on holiday in Bad Fuessing, near the Austrian border, where he had been living since his retirement.


5. Lofty rhetoric aside, why the U.S. bishops’ ‘Convocation’ mattered.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, July 5, 2017

… [T]here are at least three immediate take-aways that suggest the event [the Convocation of Catholic Leaderswas significant, whether or not, over time, it lives up to the elevated billing.

First, I was struck by how basically apolitical the summit was.

Second, as Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, told Crux in a July 4 interview, this was really the first time the bishops of the United States have brought people together to reflect explicitly on Pope Francis and his vision for the Church.

Third, while it’s impossible to say what else may result from this meeting, most people with whom I spoke in Orlando seemed to have a blast, and also seemed to feel energized simply by hanging out for four days with other Catholics from all over the country who are as committed as they are.

Bottom line: Whatever else may result from the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders,” it lifted up a less politically charged image of what Catholicism is about, ratified Evangelii Gaudium as the blueprint for the Catholic future, and left almost 3,500 people with a positive and energizing experience of the Church.


6. The Case Against Cardinal Pell. 

By Julia Yost, First Things, July 3, 2017

George Cardinal Pell was charged last week with multiple counts of sexual abuse of children. He currently resides in Rome, tasked with cleaning up the Vatican finances. In the coming weeks he will fly to his native Australia, where he vows to fight all charges. His successor in the see of Sydney, Archbishop Anthony Fisher, advises letting the justice system take its course.

Australian civil authorities have yet to announce the number and nature of the offenses with which Pell is charged. But allegations against Pell have been accumulating for years. He stands publicly accused of complicity in a sex abuse coverup in the diocese of Ballarat in the 1970s and early 1980s; complicity in a sex abuse coverup in the archdiocese of Melbourne in the late 1980s and 1990s; and various counts of child molestation, assault, and indecent exposure, from 1961 through 1997.

In recent decades, child sex abuse cases have notably arisen from, and elicited, public hysteria. They have created poor conditions for the operation of the justice system. Ludicrous prosecutions and unjust convictions have resulted, far too numerous to count as the cost of doing business. In Australia, public hysteria concerning Pell is already extreme. Here is Louise Milligan’s florid book, written “from the complainants’ point of view.” Its publication was advanced from July to May, presumably to influence the deliberations of the civil authorities. Once Pell had been charged, its publisher removed it from local bookshops to avoid influencing the deliberations of jury members. But its claims have already been broadcast throughout the Australian media. Archbishop Fisher’s repose in the justice system may prove mistaken.

I’ll let you decide why Milligan wrote this book: because she hates pedophiles—or because she hates the Church.