1. High court revives ex-student’s suit on religious literature, By Jessica Gresko, Associated Press, March 9, 2021
The Supreme Court is reviving a lawsuit brought by a Georgia college student who sued school officials after being prevented from distributing Christian literature on campus.
The high court sided 8-1 with the student, Chike Uzuegbunam, and against Georgia Gwinnett College. Uzuegbunam has since graduated, and the public school in Lawrenceville, Georgia, has changed its policies. Lower courts said the case was moot, but the Supreme Court disagreed.
Groups across the political spectrum including the American Civil Liberties Union had said that the case is important to ensuring that people whose constitutional rights were violated can continue their cases even when governments reverse the policies they were challenging.

Writing only for himself, Chief Justice John Roberts disagreed. Roberts argued that the case brought by Uzuegbunam and another student, Joseph Bradford, is moot since the two are no longer students at the college, the restrictions no longer exist and they “have not alleged actual damages.”
2. Doctors seek permanent relief from mandate to do transgender surgeries, By Catholic News Service, March 9, 2021
Attorneys for doctors and hospitals argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit March 3 that they shouldn’t be forced to perform gender-transition surgeries required under the Affordable Care Act, stressing this is an issue of conscience.
The case focuses on a 2016 regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services requiring doctors to perform these procedures in children and adults or be held liable for discrimination.
After the rule was first issued, Becket, a religious liberty law firm, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Texas, saying the rule violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Two federal courts in 2016 placed an injunction on the mandate. Two other federal district court judges also ruled against the mandate in 2019 and 2020. However, the courts didn’t issue a permanent injunction against HHS to prevent it from enforcing this rule in the future, which the group of doctors and hospitals were seeking March 3 before the 5th Circuit, which is based in New Orleans.
3. Pope Francis to visit Hungary in September, cardinal says, By Associated Press, March 9, 2021
Pope Francis will travel to Hungary’s capital in September where he will participate in the closing Mass of a multiday, international Catholic gathering, according to the cardinal of Hungary’s Catholic Church.
The Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Cardinal Peter Erdo, told Hungarian news agency MTI on Monday that Francis was originally scheduled to appear at the 2020 International Eucharistic Congress, an annual gathering of Catholic clergy and laypeople, but it was canceled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
4. LGBTQ rights bill ignites debate over religious liberty, By David Crary, Associated Press, March 8, 2021
A sweeping bill that would extend federal civil rights protections to LGBTQ people is a top priority of President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress. Yet as the Equality Act heads to the Senate after winning House approval, its prospects seem bleak — to a large extent because of opposition from conservative religious leaders.
The public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, calls the act “the most significant threat to religious liberty ever considered in the United States Congress.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has assailed it as discriminating against people of faith.
The act is the latest version of proposals previously introduced Congress without success. It would amend existing civil rights law to explicitly cover sexual orientation and gender identity, with protections extending to employment, housing, education, and public accommodations such as restaurants, theaters, hotels, libraries, gas stations and retail stores.

The Catholic bishops conference, for its part, said in a statement that the bill “codifies the new ideology of ‘gender’ in federal law, dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting ‘gender’ as only a social construct.”
The bishops also contend it would require Catholic health care workers to support treatments and procedures associated with gender transition even if that went against their beliefs.
Some Catholic activists were dismayed by the bishops’ statement.
“I found it shockingly harsh and not at all in keeping with what Jesus and the Gospels are about,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “It is the antithesis of the teaching of Pope Francis, who says we should ground our policies in the experience of those at the margins of society.”
Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest who advocates for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the church, said he accepts the need for some religious exemptions.
“But the problem is that if every effort to prevent LGBTQ discrimination is opposed by the Catholic Church because it supposedly ‘redefines gender,’ then no efforts will be supported whatsoever,” Martin said. “The question the church must ask itself is: When will we stand up against the real-life discrimination — the violence, harassment and bullying — that LGBTQ people encounter?”
5. Pope weighed Iraq virus risk but believes God will protect, By Nicole Winfield and Samya Kullab, Associated Press, March 8, 2021, 1:13 AM
Pope Francis said Monday he weighed the risks of a high-profile trip to Iraq during the coronavirus pandemic, but said he decided to go ahead with it after much prayer and belief that God would look out for the Iraqis who might get exposed.
Francis described his decision-making process en route home from Iraq amid concerns that his four-day visit, which featured oftentimes maskless crowds in packed churches, singing — could result in the spread of infections in a country with a fragile health care system and a sustained surge in new cases.
6. The Middle East’s religious minorities are facing extinction. The world must act, By Sharon Nazarian and Aykan Erdemir, The Washington Post, March 8, 2021, 4:32 PM, Opinion
Pope Francis began his first-ever papal trip to Iraq on Friday, marking a watershed moment in relations between the Catholic Church and the Middle East. Yet for all the optimism of the Pope’s message, his visit also serves to remind us that Christianity and other minority faiths of the region are facing dark times.
The Middle East is the cradle of the three Abrahamic faiths that have more than 4 billion adherents around the globe. The region remains home to some of the world’s most ancient languages, cultures and heritage sites.
Yet oppressive governments and violent extremist movements have been busy erasing the Middle East’s diverse religious communities.

The U.S. government should take a stand to defend diversity and pluralism in the Middle East and beyond, in concert with its transatlantic allies and other partners. Security assurances to protect embattled communities from future genocidal campaigns, substantial development aid for rebuilding them and support for inclusive institutions can all play a role.
Sharon Nazarian is the Anti-Defamation League’s senior vice president for international affairs. Aykan Erdemir is senior director of the Turkey program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish parliament.
7. Pope Francis in Iraq Triggers Biden Statement But Is It Enough?, Iraqi Christians hope the U.S. government stays the course when it comes to their recovery, By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, National Catholic Register, March 8, 2021, Opinion
Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq this past weekend meant that, for a day or two at least, the Western media had to acknowledge the precarious situation facing Christians in the troubled nation — people who normally aren’t on their radar. These survivors of ISIS-led genocide in 2014 continue to suffer daily indignities: Even those Christians who haven’t lost their ancestral homes are officially second-class citizens.
President Biden issued a statement on the “historic and welcome first for the country.” The pope’s visit to the city of Mosul – “a city that only a few years ago endured the depravity and intolerance of a group like ISIS” — was highlighted by the president as “a symbol of hope for the entire world.” Will Biden be inspired to make sure the United States helps those survivors of the ISIS-led genocide?

It shouldn’t be hard for President Biden to grasp that we need targeted assistance for those who are in danger of disappearing entirely from the fabric of Iraq — and, indeed, much of the Middle East. Put simply, just as the injury was a targeted attack based on religious identity, so the humanitarian response must also consider the religious identity of beneficiaries of aid.

Biden need only look to the rebuilding efforts in the Christian towns of Karamles and Qaraqosh to see that recovery is possible. Thanks to the efforts led by the Knights of Columbus and local Christian leaders the Syriac Catholic Cathedral in Qaraqosh, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was restored. Pope Francis blessed it on Sunday. The Knights also raised over $25 million dollars to rebuild the Christian town of Karamles. The result: Christian residents are returning.

Pope Francis implored the Christians of Iraq during his visit to remain filled with hope. “May your witness, matured through adversity and strengthened by the blood of martyrs, be a shining light in Iraq and beyond in order to proclaim the greatness of the Lord and to make the spirit of this people rejoice in God our Savior,” he told them.
The witness of these Christian martyrs is most certainly a shining light for Iraq and beyond. It’s now up to President Biden, who likes to remind us of how much his faith means to him, to do all he can to make sure it is not snuffed out.
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is the director of the Conscience Project.

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.