1. Religious Liberty Lives: A 7-2 Supreme Court rebukes a relic of anti-Catholic bigotry.

By The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2017, Pg. A16, Review & Outlook

Religious freedom is making a comeback at the Supreme Court, which ruled 7-2 Monday that churches can’t be denied access to a public benefit because they’re religious.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo., applied to participate in a state program that recycles old tires to resurface school playgrounds. The church’s application ranked fifth in quality out of 44, but the state denied its application under language in the state constitution that “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.” That is a relic of the anti-Catholic Blaine Amendments that swept the country in the late 1800s to deny public funds to religious schools. (Trinity Lutheran v. Comer).

Chief Justice John Roberts overruled the state, noting that the church isn’t seeking a subsidy but only to participate in a public program “without having to disavow its religious character.” Denying it participation for that reason violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. The state “has not subjected anyone to chains or torture on account of religion,” Justice Roberts writes. “But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”


2. Anthony Kennedy, Culture Warrior: Judicial decrees on difficult moral questions have made our politics bitter.

By William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2017, Pg. A15, Opinion

So Anthony Kennedy is apparently sticking around.

At the Washington Post Ruth Marcus called the prospect of Justice Kennedy’s retirement “terrifying and terrible.” Because notwithstanding his many sound opinions—this is the same justice who gave us Citizens United, upholding First Amendment speech rights—on the court he nevertheless plays an indispensable role for American progressives: culture warrior.

On issues best fitted for federalist solutions, such as abortion and marriage, Justice Kennedy has proved himself a reliable voice for the animating impulse of modern American progressivism. This is the idea that the American people cannot be trusted to decide certain issues and so must yield, as he once put it, to the “enhanced understanding” of unelected justices such as himself.

What makes issues such as abortion and marriage so contentious is that the opposing moral positions cannot be reconciled. The beauty of democratic politics, however, is its recognition that what free people want and what they will settle for as reasonable are two different things. Justice Kennedy’s unfortunate legacy on these hot-button issues is to take compromise off the table and thus ensure anger and ill will.

And why not, when the sides are depicted as the enlightened versus the bigots? Though he walked it back in Obergefell, in which he conceded that many who opposed same-sex marriage were acting from “honorable religious or philosophical premises,” in the 2013 decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Kennedy asserted that the only possible motivation for such a law was a “bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group.”

Next time America’s corrosive politics comes up, it’s worth remembering that the justice so often hailed as a “moderate” or “centrist” has done as much as any to fan the flames of America’s raging culture war.


3. Supreme Court Says State Playground-Grant Program Can’t Exclude Religious Schools: Opinion limited to discrimination based on ‘religious identity’, but doesn’t address state support for religious practices.

By Jess Bravin, The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2017, Pg. A5

The Supreme Court Monday ruled that Missouri may not exclude a church school from a program that funds playground resurfacing, finding that discrimination based on “religious identity” violates the First Amendment’s protection for free exercise of religion.

The opinion stopped short of the wholesale redefinition of church-state separation that religious advocates supporting the case had hoped for. Chief Justice Roberts said in a footnote that the court didn’t “address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination” apart from the playground program.

That footnote exposed the court’s divisions regarding the religion clauses. Two conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, explicitly rejected the Roberts footnote, even while agreeing with his broader decision in favor of the church. The Constitution “guarantees the free exercise of religion, not just the right to inward belief (or status),” Justice Gorsuch wrote.

Two liberals dissented, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor signaling her distress by reading her opinion from the bench.

“History shows that the religion clauses separate the public treasure from religious coffers as one measure to secure the kind of freedom of conscience that benefits both religion and government,” she wrote, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


4. Justice Gorsuch immediately asserts himself on right of Supreme Court.

By Stephen Dinan and Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, June 27, 2017, Pg. A1

Newly minted Supreme CourtJustice Neil M. Gorsuch came out of the starting blocks quickly in his first months, firmly planting himself on the court’s right along with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. as defenders of religious freedom and skeptics of judicial meddling in the other two branches’ work.

In a series of rulings Monday, the last day of the 2016-17 session, Justice Gorsuch blasted colleagues for an aggressive pro-gay-rights decision in a case about same-sex marriages and children’s birth certificates, and he joined a series of other opinions signaling that he wanted to make a bold defense of First Amendment religious rights and Second Amendment gun rights.


5. Cardinal Sarah against the dictatorship of noise.

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Crux, June 27, 2017

Cardinal Robert Sarah, in his new book The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, offers a profound examination of the silence that “leads us toward God and others so as to place ourselves humbly and generously at their service.”

The initial inspiration to write this book came from the Guinean cardinal’s visits with a young religious unable to speak due to the multiple sclerosis that eventually consumed his life. Theirs was a friendship that “was born in silence, it grew in silence, and it continues to exist in silence.”

It is basic Christian teaching that our purpose in life is to “know, love and serve God.” While God is always present, we seem to be having a harder time finding Him.

Sarah explains our challenge: “Modern man is capable of all sorts of noise, all sorts of wars, and so many solemn false statements, in an infernal chaos, because he has excluded God from his life, from his battles, and from his gargantuan ambition to transform the world for his selfish benefit alone.”

Instead, of throwing our hands up in the air because we are living during “the dictatorship of noise,” Sarah advises that “[n]othing will make us discover God better than His silence inscribed in the center of our being.”

When explaining the connection between silence and the sacred, Sarah observes that “[s]acred silence is the only truly human and Christian reaction to God when he breaks into our lives.” Silence in the liturgy “is above all the positive attitude of someone who prepares to welcome God by listening.”

He continues by warning that “[w]ithout this contemplative spirit, the liturgy will remain an occasion for hateful divisions and ideological confrontations instead of being the place of our unity and of our communion in the Lord.”

The Power of Silence is an encouraging reminder to the Church, Her priests and the faithful that “[o]nce we have acquired interior silence, we can transport it with us into the world to pray everywhere.”


6. Supreme Court rules for Missouri church in dispute over public funding access.

By Barnini Chakraborty, Fox News, June 26, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Missouri church that sued the state after being denied taxpayer funds for a playground project because of a provision that prohibits state funding for religious entities.

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association, called the ruling “a significant victory for fairness and government neutrality towards religious institutions.”

“The Supreme Court is sharply signaling in this decision that the government must stop its growing hostility towards religion and religious institutions, and that antiquated and anti-Catholic Blaine Amendments should not be used as a weapon to discriminate against people of faith.”


7. Supreme Court rules in favor of church in crucial First Amendment case.

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, June 26, 2017, 11:32 AM

In one of the biggest religious cases of the term, the US Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a church-owned playground can be eligible for a public benefit program.

Catholic leaders applauded Monday’s ruling.

“For over a century, Blaine Amendments have enshrined into law discrimination against faith-based charities and schools that form an essential part of American society,” Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association, stated. “In this case, a state Blaine Amendment was used to justify blacklisting a Christian elementary school from a playground safety program solely on religious grounds.”

“Blaine Amendments are anti-Catholic in their origin, and getting rid of them is more than a century overdue,” she added. “Today’s decision demands a more fair and inclusive approach to government programs meant to serve all people.”


8. Religious freedom supporters applaud decision siding with Lutheran school.

By Josephine von Dohlen, Catholic News Service, June 26, 2017

Religious liberty won June 26 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot discriminate against religious institutions in the distribution of state funds for nonreligious activities.

The high court, in a 7-2 ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, sided with the school. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, said the decision was a “landmark victory for religious freedom.”

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, a legal adviser with the Catholic Association, said in a statement that such a blow against state Blaine amendments was long overdue.

“America’s beacon of liberty shines brighter today and our communities will be stronger for it,” Picciotti-Bayer said in a statement. “Like the Missouri law at issue in Trinity Lutheran, 36 other states have Blaine amendments that deny state funds to groups simply because their good work is done as part of their faith community.

“Americans of all creeds live our faith not just where we worship but by serving our neighbors at soup kitchens, rehab programs, crisis pregnancy centers and even — like the petitioners in Trinity Lutheran — preschools with outdoor playgrounds. Today’s decision recognizes the important contributions made in America by faith-based groups.”


9. Supreme Court Rules 7-2: Yes, Christians Are Citizens Too: June 26 Ruling Concerning Missouri Playground Protects Religious Liberty in Civil Cases, Holds Out Hope for Future Cases.

By Kathy Schiffer, National Catholic Register, June 26, 2017

This just in: The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on June 26 that the government should support a Christian school that wants to make its playground safer for children. In a 7-2 ruling on the last day of the 2016-17 session, the Court said that the state of Missouri should have provided taxpayer funds to enable Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri, to lay a new surface of recycled tires under its playground equipment. The state has, since 2012, provided grant monies for schools that wish to improve playground safety for the children who use their facilities; but religious institutions were blocked from receiving support – even when no religious instruction was involved.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, policy advisor for The Catholic Association, applauded the ruling. Dr. Christie said:

Today’s Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer is a win for people of faith who join together to do good through their ministries and civic associations. This is good for all Americans, too, since our society is served in so many ways by religious institutions, which educate children, enrich the culture, assist the poor and immigrant, and care for the sick. Today the Court indicated that excluding Christian schools like Trinity Lutheran from government grants using anti-Catholic Blaine amendments is discriminatory, and unworthy of our great country.


10. The Pope’s Cardinals: A New Era for Red Hats: The Pope is certainly recasting the College of Cardinals along international lines, but he is doing so in an innovative way. Its implications will be felt for decades to come.

By National Catholic Register, June 26, 2017, Editorial

On June 28, Pope Francis will preside over his fourth consistory since his election in 2013 — the fourth time he has added new members to the College of Cardinals. So far, the Holy Father has named 61 new cardinals, 49 of them under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave that will one day elect his successor.

What, then, is so remarkable about Francis’ reshaping of the College of Cardinals? He has expanded its horizons, naming cardinals from the peripheries who have an especially close connection to the poor and those suffering persecution, oppression and marginalization for their faith or from war. And he has bypassed many larger, traditional sees in favor of smaller, even tiny, dioceses that would never had been considered for a red hat before.

Francis knows vividly that the center of gravity for the world’s Catholic population has shifted from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere and, increasingly, from the wealthier centers of Europe and North America to the poorer regions of the world, with their own challenges and opportunities.

His appointments have reflected that global awareness. Of the 49 voting cardinals named by Francis, 30 come from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. And of these, most come from some of the poorest places in the world or where the Church is suffering the most.

They also have certain characteristics in common. Many are known as intense pastors and are current or former presidents of bishops’ conferences, meaning they have been elected to leadership positions by their peers. These choices, then, are not as random or bewildering as they might, at first, seem.

By custom, the very name “cardinal” comes from the Latin word cardo (“hinge”), denoting that these men are the key counselors, or pivots, for the Pope. Francis wants these cardinals’ voices to be heard as counselors and for them to bring their special perspectives of the situation for the Church in all the corners of the world to Rome.

Equally, it is clear that he wants the Catholics in suffering regions to know that he stands with them in solidarity and love, and one of the best ways to express that is to have the powerful voice that only a cardinal can bring. After all, cardinals wear scarlet as a reminder that they should be willing to serve with charity even to the point of shedding their blood.