1. The First Amendment Faithful: Minnesota’s Governor courts a legal defeat over his church lockdown.

By The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, Pg. A16, Editorial

Minnesota churchgoers were hoping for a reprieve Wednesday when Gov. Tim Walz, as expected, announced steps for easing restrictions on bars, restaurants, hair salons and barbershops starting June 1. But churches didn’t make the cut.

In accordance with their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion, they sent letters to their congregations and Gov. Walz announcing their intention to reopen their churches next week—without his blessing.

This will put Gov. Walz in an awkward position. Are the cops going to cite or arrest people for going to church? It is a dilemma entirely of his making, and he can’t say he hasn’t been warned.

Gov. Walz might take a look at that letter. It’s hard to see how under any reading of the First Amendment the Mall of America can be allowed to reopen while churches must keep their doors closed to all but a handful.


2. New York to Allow Small Religious Gatherings, as Coronavirus Cases Fall: Faith services with 10 or fewer people will be permitted, so long as participants stay apart and wear masks.

By Jimmy Vielkind, The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, Pg. A11

Religious services with 10 or fewer people will be permitted again in New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, as restrictions related to the new coronavirus are relaxed.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who leads the Archdiocese of New York, will discuss plans for re-opening on Thursday, his spokesman said.

The governor said he will be convening a council of faith leaders to further discuss the matter.


3. Reopening guidance for churches delayed after White House and CDC disagree.

By Lena H. Sun, Josh Dawsey and Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, May 21, 2020, Pg. A8

Guidance for reopening houses of worship amid the coronavirus pandemic has been put on hold after a battle between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House, which was resistant to putting limits on religious institutions, according to administration officials.

The CDC this week issued a detailed road map for reopening schools, child-care facilities, restaurants and mass transit. On Tuesday night, the agency issued additional guidance in the form of “health considerations” for summer camps, including overnight camps, and youth sports organizations and colleges.

But there are currently no plans to issue guidance for religious institutions, according to three administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss policy decisions.


4. Religious freedom receives a small boost in Sudan.

By Crux, May 21, 2020

A proposal for an independent religious freedom commission in Sudan is receiving support from international religious rights groups.

The majority Muslim nation is currently under an interim government after long-time leader Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a coup last year. The al-Bashir regime was responsible for decades of human rights violations of religious and ethnic minorities, and the leader was indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Since his ouster, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom says that Sudan has made some improvements in terms of the degree of freedom enjoyed by religious groups.

The SPLM-N, an armed group based in Sudan’s predominantly Christian South Kordofan and Blue Nile states which fought against the government of al-Bashir, has now called for the creation of a commission on religious freedoms as part of the ongoing peace process in the country.


5. Jehovah’s Witnesses case spotlights religious freedom issue in Russia.

By Catholic News Service, May 21, 2020

A U.S. official praised Belarus for releasing a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that Russia wanted extradited.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, co-chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, praised the government of President Alexander Lukashenko for releasing Nikolai Makhalichev.

Wicker described the Witnesses as a “peaceful faith community” and welcomed the release of Makhalichev, who faced 10 years of jail in Russia for being a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In a statement May 19, Wicker cautioned that Russia and other “autocratic governments” were using Interpol warrants to “engage in transnational repression,” as well as foreign “surveillance, abduction and assassination.”

A senior Russian Catholic priest voiced concern at the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, adding that it had damaged the reputation of Russia and its predominant Orthodox Church.

Russian police began seizing places of worship belonging to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose 395 branches had 175,000 members nationwide, after Russia’s Supreme Court upheld a decree in July 2017 outlawing the group as an “extremist organization.”

At least 330 arrested Jehovah’s Witnesses have since been fined or jailed after nationwide raids, while the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized dozens as political prisoners.


6. Genetics expert Francis Collins wins major religion prize.

By Associated Press, May 20, 2020, 4:15 PM

Physician and geneticist Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009, has been awarded one of the world’s leading religion prizes for demonstrating how religious faith can motivate scientific research.

Collins, who led the acclaimed Human Genome Project to completion in 2003, was announced Wednesday as winner of the 2020 Templeton Prize. The honor from the John Templeton Foundation and two affiliated philanthropies comes with an award of 1.1 million British pounds ( $1.345 million).


7. Bishops issue organ donation guidelines after England starts ‘opt out’ system.

By Charles Collins, Crux, May 20, 2020

Moving to an “opt-out” system of organ donation in England is “regrettable,” according to the country’s leading Catholic bioethics center.

As of May 20, most people in England will be considered organ donors unless they record a decision not to donate.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement noting that although the Catholic Church “has consistently encouraged its followers to consider organ donation … a system of presumed consent risks taking away the right of the individual to exercise this decision, and therefore potentially undermines the concept of donation as a gift.”

The bishops issued guidelines for Catholics on organ donation, which include a brief outline on Catholic teaching and instructions on how to record a decision online via the Organ Donation Register (ODR).


8. Vatican cautions Israel over West Bank annexation plan.

By Catholic News Service, May 20, 2020

The Holy See is concerned about an Israeli plan to unilaterally annex a large portion of land in the West Bank, said a Vatican statement.

“The Holy See is following the situation closely and expresses concern about any future actions that could further compromise dialogue,” said the statement released May 20.

The Vatican press office said the statement came after Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, was contacted by telephone by Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator and secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization.


9. Facebook oversight panel prompts questions about free speech, abortion advocacy.

By Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency, May 20, 2020, 10:14 AM

Facebook says it is responding to long-standing questions about content moderation and censorship by appointing an independent oversight board to help set policy.

American pro-life advocates have voiced concern about protections for their free speech, and at least one member of the oversight board has links to a group that halted a pro-life billboard campaign in Kenya.


10. Pope Francis moves financial records office under Secretariat for Economy.

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, May 20, 2020, 9:00 AM

Pope Francis Wednesday moved the office of the Vatican’s financial records database under the management of the Secretariat for the Economy — reversing a decision he made in 2016.

According to a rescript May 20, starting June 1 the Data Processing Center (CED) will no longer be run by the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) — the Vatican’s sovereign asset management body — as was first defined in the apostolic constitution Pastor bonus in 1988.


11. Senators Demand Investigation into Planned Parenthood PPP Loans.

By Catholic News Agency, May 20, 2020

Planned Parenthood affiliates reportedly received $80 million in emergency coronavirus loans, despite congressional regulations that were intended to disqualify them.

Fox News reported on Tuesday that 37 of the organization’s affiliates applied for and received $80 million in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), designed to help small businesses and non-profits stay open and maintain payroll during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Upon the news that Planned Parenthood received PPP loans, Republican senators voiced their disapproval on Tuesday, calling for an investigation.


12. Foster Care: An Essential Call.

Catholic Information Center, May 28, 2020, Event

Foster care is at the heart of Christian life, and yet it can often be at the peripheries of our public conversations and even parish life. At a time when the need for foster parents is on the increase, as so many anxieties and addictions rise to the service in this pandemic, how can we get more involved? How can we support those who need support? How can we make sure children are in safe and stable homes? And why is a Supreme Court case in the fall critical to this all?

Our speakers will be Melissa Buck, a foster and adoptive mother whose court case was argued by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, legal advisor & senior fellow at the Catholic Association (who has written an amicus brief on the Philadelphia adoption case before the Supreme Court), and Sarah Zagorski, former foster child and activist.

Our conversation is moderated by Kathryn Jean Lopez, senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large at National Review.

https://cicdc.org/event/foster-care-an-essential-call/ ___________________________________________________________

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.
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