1. A Day of Rest May Get a Day in Court.

By Michael A. Helfand, The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2019, Pg. A13, Opinion, Houses of Worship

The Supreme Court inched closer this week to undoing a dec ades-old mistake that has denied meaningful workplace protections for religious employees. On Monday the high court asked the solicitor general to outline the government’s view in Patterson v. Walgreen , a case under consideration for a full hearing.

In 1972 Congress amended Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to require that employers “reasonably accommodate” employees’ religious practices, unless doing so would create an “undue hardship.” Absent real financial consequences, the law expects employers to let people of faith make a living without giving up their religious commitments. 

But in 1977 the Supreme Court upset this delicate balance. In Trans World Airlines v. Hardison—another case about an employee’s sabbath observance—the court defanged the religious-accommodation requirement. In translating “undue hardship” to the far more indulgent “de minimis” standard, the court effectively told employers that they need to expend only trivial resources on religious accommodation.

The solicitor general should seize this opportunity and outline for the high court why the law, as written, requires employers to provide substantive religious-accommodation protections in the workplace.

Mr. Helfand is a professor at the Pepperdine University School of Law.


2. House GOP Unanimous on Abortion Now.

By Kristina Peterson, The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2019, Pg. A4

The start of a new Democratic-led House this year also marked the end of an era, as the House Republican caucus now doesn’t have a single lawmaker considered a supporter of abortion rights.

The unanimity on opposing abortion rights followed the retirements of centrist Republican Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. Their ranks could continue to diminish in the Senate, where Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine are the only Republicans to back abortion rights.

Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for Susan B. Anthony List, a group that seeks to elect abortion opponents, said abortion has been a motivating issue helping its candidates. “This absolutely includes women and younger voters who have been increasingly turned off by the Democrat Party’s extremism on abortion,” she said.

Recently, Republicans have focused on legislation that would force health-care practitioners to provide medical care to infants deemed alive after abortion procedures. Republicans have argued the bill doesn’t restrict access to abortions but rather focuses on the care of fetuses that are “born alive” during such procedures. Democrats noted that infanticide is already illegal in the U.S. and said that the bill was designed to intimidate reproductive- health-care providers.

The partisan divide on Capitol Hill over abortion is starker than among voters of either party. Among Republicans nationwide, 59% believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, compared with 36% who believe it should be legal, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in October. By contrast, in Congress, Sens. Collins and Murkowski now represent the fewer than 1% of GOP lawmakers considered abortion-rights supporters.


3. Mississippi Joins Battle With Strict Abortion Ban.

By Timothy Williams and Alan Blinder, The New York Times, March 22, 2019, Pg. A17

Phil Bryant, the Republican governor of Mississippi, on Thursday signed a bill largely banning abortions once doctors can detect a trace of a fetal heartbeat with an ultrasound, a milestone that can come as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Mississippi is only the latest state to press for the strict abortion limit — the sort that has already been passed and then blocked in the courts in states including Kentucky, which approved it earlier this month, and Iowa, where a law passed last year was struck down by a state court in January. About 10 other states also are debating bills to ban abortions once fetal heartbeats are found, a point at which some women and girls are not yet aware that they are pregnant.

In a signing ceremony in Jackson on Thursday, Mr. Bryant described a heartbeat as “the universal hallmark of life since man’s very beginning.”

Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas are among the states expected to approve fetal heartbeat measures this year.


4. U.K. Quotes Bible Verses In Rejecting Asylum Claim.

By Anna Schaverien, The New York Times, March 22, 2019, Pg. A6

Britain’s immigration department has been condemned for citing violent Bible passages as the basis to reject an asylum claim by an Iranian national who said he had converted to Christianity because it was a “peaceful” religion.

The Home Office — which is responsible for handling immigration, security and law and order — used verses from the books of Leviticus, Exodus and Revelation in an attempt to argue that Christianity was hardly “peaceful.” The asylum seeker’s application was denied on Tuesday, according to the man’slegal representative, who shared details on social media.

The case drew a rebuke from the Church of England, and immigration advocates denounced the decision as another example of the Home Office’s harsh methods.


5. ‘Unplanned’ filmmakers kept pro-life film from public eye.

By Christian Toto, The Washington Times, March 22, 2019, Pg. A1

Filmmakers usually seek a lot of fanfare for their movies in the creation phase, but the team behind the pro-life feature “Unplanned” undertook a stealth production to shield the project from protests and negative publicity.

“We wanted to be very much out of the public eye,” said co-writer/co-director Chuck Konzelman.

Based on the life of former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson, “Unplanned” follows her journey from prochoice advocate to abortion critic. It opens nationwide on March 29 and stars Ashley Bratcher, of 2015’s sleeper hit “War Room,” as Mrs. Johnson.

The project gathered some obvious allies, including 40 Days for Life, a pro-life group featured prominently in both Mrs. Johnson’s personal journey and the film’s narrative.


6. An Expiatory Sacrifice for the Sins of Clerical Sexual Abuse.

By Fr. Roger Landry, The Anchor, March 22, 2019
Fr. Roger J. Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts and the National Chaplain of Catholic Voices USA.

These reminders provide the proper context to try to comprehend the unbelievable injustice that is happening to Cardinal George Pell in Australia, who on March 12 was sentenced to six years in prison after having been found “guilty” on December 11 of five charges that he sexually abused two choristers of the Melbourne cathedral choir in 1996.

False accusations of sexual abuse against clergy, we know, are relatively rare. In the United States, historically less than ten percent of accusations have been demonstrated to be false. The just response to the Church’s failure adequately to protect and help sexual abuse victims in the past, however, is not to allow innocent clerics or other personnel to become victims of character assassination through false accusations — or worse, to be convicted of crimes by perhaps the worst of all false witness. We must defend the innocent cleric with a similar zeal to that with which which we protect innocent children and hold accountable who hurt them.

That’s why it’s important for all Catholics to be praying for Cardinal Pell — and for those who seek justice to raise up our voices as strongly as the young prophet Daniel when Susanna was falsely accused by two corrupt judges for refusing their advances (Dan 13).

It’s impossible, of course, for anyone who was not present to have absolute certainty that something did not occur. It is possible, however, for anyone who studies the facts of the Pell case with a fair mind not only to have reasonable doubt that he didn’t do what he is accused of, but moral certainty that he in fact could not have done it.

Pell has appealed to a panel of senior judges, who have the option of declaring an “unsafe verdict,” one that pronounces that the jury could not have rationally reached the conclusion it did based on the evidence, and thereby making Pell’s conviction null and void. That’s what we all should be praying for now.

In the meantime Cardinal Pell is in a solitary confinement jail cell prevented from celebrating Mass, as he enters more deeply into the Passion of the Lord and helps leads the reparation of the Church for the sins of clerical sexual abuse, even though he is as guilty of those sins as Jesus was of blasphemy and sedition.