1. Democrats Are Caught Off-Guard on Abortion.

By Jeremy W. Peters, The New York Times, May 17, 2019, Pg. A16

With grisly claims that Democrats promote “birth day abortions” and are “the party of death,” the Republican Party and its conservative allies have aggressively reset the terms of one of the country’s most divisive and emotionally fraught debates, forcing Democrats to reassess how they should respond to attacks and distortions that portray the entire party as extremist on abortion.

The unusually forceful, carefully coordinated campaign has created challenges that Democrats did not expect as they struggle to combat misinformation and thwart further efforts to undercut access to abortion. And advocates of abortion rights fear it is succeeding in pressuring lawmakers in more conservative states to pass severe new restrictions, as Alabama did this week by approving a bill that would essentially outlaw the procedure.


2. President Who Speaks Language of Evangelical Christians, and Keeps His Promises.

By Michael Tackett, The New York Times, May 17, 2019, Pg. A16

“The relationship that evangelicals have with President Trump is a very transactional one,” said Mr. Land, who serves on a spiritual advisory board to the president. “They feel like their voices are heard and he is keeping their promises to them.”

Mr. Land said that Mr. Trump, far more than Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, an evangelical himself, has given evangelicals a place at the table and a welcome at the White House.

As he enters his re-election campaign, Mr. Trump, through his appointment of judges who oppose abortion rights, including to the Supreme Court, and his equally graphic language about late-term abortions, is again speaking a language that evangelicals embrace.

The issue has taken on renewed prominence after the Alabama Legislature passed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, drawing fierce opposition from Democratic opponents and presidential candidates seeking to challenge Mr. Trump.

The president must maintain evangelicals’ committed backing to win a second term, and has clearly decided that he will try to frame the election as part of a culture war, even as he talks about the strength of the economy. By speaking so directly of his opposition to abortion, Mr. Trump is putting himself squarely on one side of perhaps the nation’s most divisive social issue.


3. What the court gives, it can take away.

By Megan McArdle, The Washington Post, May 17, 2019, Pg. A21, Opinion

Supporters of abortion rights are fond of saying that Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” The phrase is supposed to convey a finality that borders on irrevocability. But, of course, what the Supreme Court gives, the Supreme Court can take away. That appears to be the reasoning behind the new laws passed in Alabama and Georgia, which would virtually outlaw abortion in both states. 

Obviously, these laws will be challenged by abortion rights activists; just as obviously, the laws will be struck down by lower courts, whereupon Alabama and Georgia will appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. And shortly thereafter, the country will probably find out just how settled Roe v. Wade really is. 

 Of course, if it hadn’t been for Roe, there also wouldn’t have been more than 50 million abortions since 1973; whether that’s a good or bad thing will be left as an exercise for the reader. But many abortions would have been performed anyway, because before the court took the issue away from voters, polls showed public opinion steadily trending in favor of legalized abortion, and the procedure was already legal in several states.

If the Supreme Court hadn’t intervened on abortion, political debate might have sorted voters along a spectrum, rather than forcing them into the unforgiving yes-no binary. And if you fear you’re about to end up on the wrong side of that binary, you might wish your side had settled for something less grandiose but more enduring. 


4. A firewall for abortion rights?

By Catherine Rampell, The Washington Post, May 17, 2019, Pg. A21, Opinion

 When our political system fails us, when our electoral system fails us and when even our judicial system fails us, can corporate America serve as our final firewall against terrible state policies designed to rob women of their reproductive autonomy?

That is not a reassuring question to have to consider.

This year, more than a dozen states have worked to ban abortion about six weeks after conception, before many women even realize they’re pregnant. In a handful of states, the bills have already been signed into law. Combined, they place draconian new limits on women’s control over their bodies, limits that appear to contravene Roe v. Wade, as well as Americans’ own mixed views on abortion rights. 

 Presumably, most of these boycotts or canceled investments happened not because the companies have much of a moral compass. It’s because they realized — given the preferences of their employees and customers — that spending dollars in these places would be bad for business. Rattled by the corporate defections, politicians ultimately rolled back or amended their inflammatory laws.

Counting on cynical, amoral, profitmaximizing private firms to serve as the last bulwark for women’s rights certainly seems risky. But given the makeup of the Supreme Court, we may not have much of a choice. 


5. A New Take on the Apostle Paul.

By Barton Swaim, The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2019, Pg.  A13, Houses of Worship

“For by grace are ye saved through faith,” the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” This and related Pauline assertions were central to the 16th-century Reformation, and they remain integral to the self-understanding of Protestants around the world. That self-understanding has been challenged over the past three or four decades, owing to a dispute over a single word: “works.”

The Protestant Reformers applied Paul’s denunciations of works-based righteousness directly to late-medieval Catholicism’s use of other good works to merit salvation: indulgences, prayers, sacraments, pilgrimages. The Protestants insisted that salvation is entirely a gift of God, received by faith. Even faith is part of the gift. Good works are the proper response to that gift but contribute nothing to its attainment. This served as the Protestant doctrine of “justification” for half a millennium.

 Even in this permissive, materialist age, people go to extraordinary lengths to atone for their guilt. Consider the vast numbers of Americans who spend their days maniacally trying to prove their upright status in the eyes of secular deities—conspicuously announcing their support for enlightened causes, loudly denouncing bigotry and xenophobia, proclaiming their sympathy with the marginalized and their loyalty to ethically manufactured products. How delightful it might be to hear that salvation is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should virtue-signal.

Mr. Swaim writes a column on political books for the Journal.


6. Poland’s church head says film on sex abuse not an attack.

By The Associated Press, May 17, 2019

The head of Poland’s Catholic church says that recent revelations of abuse of minors by priests do not amount to an attack on the church but will help its cleansing.

Poland’s primate, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, was referring to a documentary film, “Tell No One,” containing testimony by men and women that they were molested and raped by priests when they were children. Aired Saturday, it provoked a heated public debate.


7. New D.C. leader says of facing abuse crisis again: ‘I’m not afraid’

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, May 17, 2019

Seventeen years ago, a charismatic young African-American bishop of Belleville, Illinois, rose to national prominence as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference at a time when the clerical sexual abuse crisis exploded in Boston in 2002, and then quickly rippled across the country.

In a dark moment for the American Church, many Catholics felt Wilton Gregory was a rare point of light. Poised, articulate, and resolute, Gregory led the U.S. bishops in adopting the “Dallas Charter,” the heart of which was a “zero tolerance” policy widely credited today for better detection and reporting mechanisms as well as steep reductions in the number of abuse cases over the last two decades.

Now 71, closer to the end of his career than the beginning, Gregory once again finds himself in the eye of a clerical abuse storm, taking over as the Archbishop of Washington after months of anguish capped by the resignation under fire of Cardinal Donald Wuerl in October.

“It’s certainly not the way I wanted to continue my ministry,” Gregory laughed, but added, “I’m not afraid of it.”

“I believe that in our deepest spiritual hearts, our people want this to be handled correctly, and I’ll try to do that to the best of my ability,” he said.


8. The Equality Act Will Harm Religious Freedom.

By Thomas F. Farr, RealClear Religion, May 16, 2019

Supporters of the Equality Act claim it will increase equality in America, but it will actually harm one of the most fundamental rights we all share as Americans – religious freedom. It purports to ban discrimination, but it actually bans disagreement. 

If passed, the law will damage not only the priceless American achievement of religious freedom for all, but also its indispensable progeny: pluralism, limited government, and unity. 

The Act, which was introduced in Congress earlier this year and is scheduled for a vote on the House floor Friday, would add sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) to classes protected under the Civil Rights Act, such as race and sex. Proponents assert a faulty analogy between SOGI and race. Race is an immutable characteristic unconnected to distinctive behaviors or expressions. By contrast, behaviors and expressions are part of SOGI identities.

The Equality Act will harm American democracy by privileging one view of sexuality and human nature, and silencing another. But our lives together as one nation – “out of many, one” – cannot long survive if one group of Americans employs the force of law to silence others, and to declare their deepest convictions “no longer welcome here.” The Act should be rejected.

 Dr. Thomas F. Farr is the president of the Religious Freedom Institute.


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