TCA Radio Podcast – “Conversations with Consequences”.

Episode 9: The late Justice Antonin Scalia, as remembered by his son Chris

TCA’s Grazie Christie, Maureen Ferguson and Andrea Picciotti-Bayer welcome Christopher Scalia to speak about “On Faith: Lessons from an American Believer.” This gem of a book edited by Chris and the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Ed Whelan compiles speeches and opinions by the late-Justice Antonin Scalia on his Catholic Faith and the role of faith in America. Chris gives wonderful readings from some of the most beautiful excepts found in this compilation.

1. Justices Liberate a Public Cross, A step toward reviving the proper meaning of the Establishment Clause.

The Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2019, Pg. A14, Editorial

The original meaning of the First Amendment is making a comeback on the Supreme Court. The latest evidence is Thursday’s rousing 7-2 ruling in support of religious liberty and pluralism in the public square.

In American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the Court held that the 40-foot Bladensburg cross in Maryland erected in 1925 to commemorate soldiers who died in World War I can continue to stand. All Justices except Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed, and the Court also went far to repealing its rotting Establishment Clause precedent known as the Lemon test.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Gorsuch, Stephen Breyer, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas agreed that Lemon had grown stale, but they couldn’t agree on a rule to replace it. The plurality opinion by Justice Alito, joined by the Chief and Justices Breyer and Kavanaugh, suggested a test considering “historical origins.”

 But Justice Breyer in his concurrence pointedly noted that he did not believe the Court’s opinion “would permit any newly constructed religious memorial on public land.” So a cross-shaped war memorial is kosher if it was built a century ago, but not today.

Justice Gorsuch wants none of that. “What matters when it comes to assessing a monument, symbol, or practice isn’t its age but its compliance with ageless principles,” he wrote in his concurrence. “The Constitution’s meaning is fixed, not some good-for-this-day-only coupon, and a practice consistent with our nation’s traditions is just as permissible whether undertaken today or 94 years ago.”

2. Court Allows Curbs on Abortion Funding.

By Brent Kendall, The Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2019, Pg. A3

A federal appeals court said the Trump administration can implement new rules prohibiting federal family-planning grants to health clinics offering on-site abortions or referrals for the procedure.

Thursday’s court order, from the San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, hands a victory to the White House and social conservatives, and deals a blow in particular to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which has been the largest family-planning care provider under a federal program known as Title X.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the Ninth Circuit’s action was “a major step toward the Trump administration being able to ensure that all Title X projects comply with the Title X statute and do not support abortion as a method of family planning.”

3. A victory for common sense, The Supreme Court takes a pragmatic stance on the Peace Cross.

The Washington Post, June 21, 2019, Pg. A24, Editorial

By a resounding vote of 7 to 2, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the 40-foot-tall Bladensburg Peace Cross may continue to stand on a patch of public property in Prince George’s County. 

Above all, the decision was a victory for constitutional common sense. Rejecting the purist brand of secularism advanced by the cross’s opponents, led by the American Humanist Association, the majority — which included conservative Republican appointees, as well as two Democratic appointees, Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan — interpreted the First Amendment prohibition on religious establishment flexibly. To them, it requires not the purging of religious symbolism from the American landscape but careful, contextual consideration of the many such installations that are already in place.

Written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the majority opinion acknowledged that the Latin cross, of which the Peace Cross is an example, undeniably symbolizes the Christian faith. Still, at the time it was erected — in the aftermath of World War I — that symbol also had acquired an arguably more universal and secular meaning, derived from the ubiquitous crosses that marked temporary U.S. soldiers’ graves in Europe. This history, coupled with the fact that the Peace Cross has stood so long — long enough, in fact, for its original meaning to become subject to modern reinterpretation — created a strong presumption against viewing it as a strictly religious installation, much less an unconstitutionally religious one.

4. Pope seeks more freedom in theology, dialogue with Islam.

By The Associated Press, June 21, 2019, 6:38 AM

Pope Francis called Friday for a reform of the way theology is taught in Catholic schools, saying students must learn about dialogue with Judaism and Islam, and that overall there must be greater freedom in theological research and academic pursuits.

“Theological freedom is necessary,” Francis said Friday. “Without the possibility of trying new paths, you don’t create anything new.” Speaking off the cuff, Francis, though, made a distinction between the necessary freedom required for theological study and the need for theological precision in preaching to the faithful.

He called for a revision of the way theology is taught so that it focuses on welcome, dialogue and flexibility. In addition, lay people should be encouraged to take up theological studies, especially women, he said.

5. Missouri Faces Deadline to Decide if Its Only Abortion Clinic Can Stay Open.

By Reuters, June 21, 2019

Missouri health officials will decide on Friday whether to renew the license of the state’s only abortion clinic in the latest battle between abortion-rights advocates and states restricting abortion access.

If the state denies the license and a legal challenge fails, Missouri could become the only U.S. state without a legal abortion clinic.

Planned Parenthood has vowed to fight to protect abortion access in Missouri and to push back on regulatory standards that it believes put a burden on abortion rights.

A doctor at the St Louis clinic this week told CBS News that the clinic will no longer follow the state’s requirement to conduct a second pelvic exam on women seeking abortions, defying what the staff views as an “unethical” and medically irrelevant mandate.

Court document show that Missouri health officials declined to renew the clinic’s license to perform abortions because they were unable to interview seven of its physicians over “potential deficient practices.”

6. In a victory for religious liberty, Supreme Court saves ‘Peace Cross’.

By Charles Collins, Crux, June 21, 2019

On the eve of the U.S. Catholic bishops-sponsored Religious Freedom Week (June 22-29), the Supreme Court provided a bit of good news for religious liberty advocates by allowing a memorial cross to continue to stand on public land in Maryland.

The 40-foot-tall monument, commonly referred to as the Peace Cross, had been built between 1919 and 1925 in the town of Bladensburg as a memorial for the 49 area residents who died in World War I.

In 2015, the American Humanist Association launched a legal challenge to the cross existing on public land – it’s located on a highway median – and called for it to be either moved or have the arms of the cross knocked off to create a “nonreligious” slab or monolith.

7. Peace Cross can stay, Supreme Court rules.

By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency, June 20, 2019, 9:00 AM

The Supreme Court declared Thursday that a large, cross-shaped war memorial on public land is constitutional.

In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled in the case American Legion v. American Humanist Association that the Bladensburg Peace Cross does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and can remain on public land and be maintained by public funds.

Andrea Piccotti-Bayer, the legal advisor for The Catholic Association, an organization dedicated to “defending religious liberty, life, and the Church in the public square,” praised the Supreme Court for its “common sense and clarity” in deciding that the monument was constitutional.

“The Constitution does not require eliminating the great symbols of America’s religious pluralism from the public square,” said Piccotti-Bayer in a statement sent to CNA.

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