1. The Supreme Court Has Unfinished School-Choice Business, By Michael Bindas, The Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2021, Pg. A17, Opinion
The Supreme Court went a long way toward protecting the right of parents to direct the education of their children in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020). But the court’s opinion left a critical constitutional question unresolved. As a result, students are still being denied the opportunity to attend the schools that will best meet their needs. Fortunately, the justices have a chance to finish the job.
In Espinoza, the court held that if a state provides aid for students to attend private schools, it can’t single out religious schools as ineligible and bar students from using the aid to attend them. To do so violates the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause.
But in his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts stressed that the religious exclusion at issue turned on the religious status of the excluded schools—not the religious use to which a student’s scholarship might be put. He left open whether the state could, in making exclusions, delve into whether a student’s scholarship might be used for religious activity.

Sure enough, four months after Espinoza was decided, the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals faced the question in Carson v. Makin. The case concerned Maine’s exclusion of religious options from the state’s tuition-assistance program. Under that program, if a school district doesn’t operate its own public high school or contract with a school to educate its resident students, the district must pay tuition for its students to attend the school of their parents’ choice—whether public or private, inside or outside the state. Maine, however, prohibits parents from choosing a school that the state deems “sectarian”—specifically, schools that provide religious instruction.

For millions of American schoolchildren, the court should hear the Carson appeal. The need for greater opportunity in education has rarely been more urgent.
Mr. Bindas is a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represented the families in Espinoza and represents the families in Carson.
2. Maine likes not-too-religious schools, By George F. Will, The Washington Post, March 18, 2021, Pg. A23, Opinion
Decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment’s prohibition of “establishment” of religion was violated if the government supplied maps to religious schools, but not if it supplied books. So, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) mischievously wondered: What about atlases, which are books of maps?
Now comes another occasion for jurisprudential hairsplitting about contacts between the government and religious schools. At the court’s conference on April 1, the nine judicial brows will be furrowed as they consider whether to hear a case from Maine that poses this question: Is it constitutional for that state to say that parents can use state aid to pay tuition at religious schools if the schools are not too religious. If, that is, they are not excessively serious about religion, with excess to be determined by government officials measuring such things with some unspecified theological micrometer.

Usually, questions about possibly excessive government entanglements with religion have involved governments somehow endorsing or otherwise promoting religion (e.g., crèches on public property, or prayers at public events). If on April 1 the court agrees to hear the Maine case, it can erase the unhelpful distinction between religious status and religious use, a distinction akin to the one it once made between books and maps.
3. German church abuse report faults serving archbishop, others, By Kirsten Grieshaber and Daniel Niemann, Associated Press, March 18, 2021, 4:18 AM
A report commissioned by Germany’s Cologne archdiocese on church officials’ handling of past cases of sexual abuse by clergy has found 75 cases in which eight high-ranking church officials — among them a serving archbishop — neglected their duties.
Cologne’s archbishop, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, infuriated many local Roman Catholics over recent months by keeping under wraps a first report on how local church officials reacted when priests were accused of sexual abuse under wraps, citing legal concerns. He commissioned a new report, which released Thursday.
Woelki himself was absolved from any neglect of duty toward abuse victims by the new report, an 800-page investigation based on church files that was put together by a German law firm.
However, Woelki’s late predecessor, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, was accused of two dozen cases of neglecting his duty in abuse cases, which include such wrongdoings as failing to follow up on or report cases of abuse or sanctioning the perpetrators. Meisner retired in 2014 and died in 2017.
4. The ERA doesn’t deserve a participation trophy in the Constitution, House Democrats try to re-animate the Equal Rights Amendment despite the lack of a legal pulse, By Kristan Hawkins, The Washington Times, March 18, 2021, Pg. B4, Opinion
In life, a hard lesson is learning when to let things go, something supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) have struggled with over the last 100 years.
The ERA makes huge promises to empower women while never persuading enough voters that it can deliver. Twice it has failed to get the 38 states needed to ratify it in time to meet congressional deadlines, and five states experienced buyers’ remorse and rescinded their support. If this were any other measure, it would be game over or back to square one.
But here we are again. House Democrats introduced efforts this month to re-animate the ERA despite the lack of a legal pulse, following a federal judge’s recent ruling that two passed deadlines were too many. Yet, ERA supporters convinced Nevada, Illinois and Virginia to ratify decades late, asking for a participation trophy in the U.S. Constitution for playing the game of politics. Not so fast.

The Centenarian ERA also risks an entire framework of laws developed specifically to protect women’s rights such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972; the Federal Minimum Wage Act of 1974, and the Pregnancy Nondiscrimination Act of 1964. Currently, Students for Life of America’s Standing With You Initiative works to defend women’s Title IX rights at schools and universities to help those pregnant and parenting while in school.
The ERA would put such efforts in question as it pledges to remove any differences in the law and reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

But in today’s culture, the ERA raises troubling new issues. The ERA could be called the “Everything Related to Abortion” act, as a broad coalition of abortion advocates lobby on its behalf to create a true foothold for abortion in the Constitution.
Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America, more than 1,250 groups in all 50 states, Follow her @KristanHawkins or subscribe to her podcast, Explicitly Pro-Life.
5. Belgian bishop lashes out at Vatican over gay unions decree, By Raf Casert, Associated Press, March 17, 2021, 10:36 AM
A Belgian bishop has lashed out at the Vatican over its decree that the Catholic Church won’t bless same-sex unions since God “cannot bless sin.”
Antwerp Bishop Johan Bonny wrote in an opinion piece Wednesday that he feels “shame for my Church” and “intellectual and moral incomprehension” after Pope Francis approved the “negative” response to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless same-sex unions. The official response said God “does not and cannot bless sin.”
Bonny, who was part of a Vatican 2015 synod on marriage and family, said: “I want to apologize to all for whom this is painful and incomprehensible.”
The conference of Belgian bishops backed Bonny’s concerns, saying LGBT faithful and their families saw the Vatican decree as “exceptionally painful.” The conference urged everyone to work on “a climate of respect, recognition and integration.”
6. Christian medical groups oppose health secretary nominee, By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency, March 17, 2021, 2:00 PM, Opinion
Groups of medical professionals warn that President Biden’s health secretary nominee would bring about an “unprecedented assault” on conscience rights.
In a letter to the Senate on Wednesday, several Christian and conservative medical groups opposed the confirmation of California attorney general Xavier Becerra as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“Based upon the review of his voting record in the U.S. House of Representatives and his service as Attorney General of the state of California, we believe that Mr. Becerra will continue to vigorously promote not only elective abortion up to and including at the time of birth, but also the acceptance of infanticide when infants are born alive during failed abortion procedures,” the letter read.
The letter was signed by several pro-life medical groups: the American Association of Prolife Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Pediatricians, the Christian Medical and Dental Association, and the Catholic Medical Association.
The members argued that Becerra supported extreme abortion policies during his time in the House and in California, while opposing conscience rights for medical professionals.

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.
Subscribe to the TCA podcast!

“Conversations with Consequences” is a new audio program from The Catholic Association. We’ll bring you thoughtful dialogue with the leading thinkers of our time on the most consequential issues of our day. Subscribe today or listen online and enjoy our entertaining and informative weekly episodes.