1. Religious Crusaders at the Supreme Court’s Gates, Conservative justices appear eager to take on a subject at the heart of the country’s culture wars.

By Linda Greenhouse, Contributing Opinion Writer, New York Times Online, September 12, 2019

The Supreme Court’s decision in last term’s big religion case, on the constitutionality of a Latin cross that stands 40 feet tall on public land in Bladensburg, Md., left both sides in the religion wars unsatisfied. The court’s several opinions, adding up to seven votes to keep the cross in place, disappointed the secularists who brought the lawsuit seeking to have it removed. But the narrow holding, based on the history of this particular monument, was even more frustrating to those who hoped that the court, already tilting noticeably in favor of religion in particular contexts, would go further and adopt new rules for lowering the barrier between church and state across the board.

It seemed to me then that the court was just biding its time. 

Sooner than I expected, that time has arrived.

The new case, to be argued in December, presents this question: “Does it violate the Religion Clauses or Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution to invalidate a generally available and religiously neutral student-aid program simply because the program affords students the choice of attending religious schools?”

It’s an interesting question, but an odd one in the context of this case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, brought to the court by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian litigating group that has been a leader in the school choice movement.


2. Bishop faces church probe over abuse claim.

By Associated Press, The Washington Post, September 12, 2019, Pg. A3

The Roman Catholic archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Wednesday that he has opened an investigation — the first known of its kind under a new Vatican protocol — into allegations that a bishop in northwestern Minnesota interfered with investigations into clerical sexual misconduct. 

Archbishop Bernard Hebda said in a statement posted on the archdiocese’s website that the investigation targets Bishop Michael Hoeppner of the Crookston diocese. Hebda said the allegations are that Hoeppner “carried out acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations of clerical sexual misconduct in the Diocese of Crookston,” but he gave no further details. He said law enforcement has been informed. 


3. Christian florist appeals ruling over gay wedding again.

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, September 12, 2019, Pg. A2

A Christian florist who refused to participate in a same-sex wedding has again requested that the Supreme Court take her case, filing a new petition Wednesday.

Washington state’s Supreme Court ruled against Barronelle Stutzman in June after the high court previously remanded her case for further review following its decision in a 2018 case, ruling for a Christian baker who had refused to create a cake for a same-sex wedding.

In the baker’s case, the justices said the state’s civil rights commission showed religious hostility towards the cake maker, but the high court punted on squarely settling the First Amendment conflict.


4. Pope points to the example of Madagascar’s City of Friendship, and the man who leads it.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, September 12, 2019

During his Sept. 4-10 visit to sub-Saharan Africa, Pope Francis had the opportunity to see Akamasoa, a solidarity project that under the leadership of an Argentine missionary priest has lifted some 30,000 people from extreme poverty. Upon his return to Rome, he called the project “prophetic.”

Madagascar, Francis said during his general audience on Wednesday, is a country “rich in natural beauties and resources but marked by so much poverty.”

Francis said he hoped by moving forward with a “traditional spirit” of solidarity, the Malagasy people can overcome their differences and build a future of development combining a respect for the environment and social justice.


5. Judge halts North Dakota abortion counseling law.

By Rachel Frazin, The Hill Online, September 11, 2019, 1:49 PM

A federal judge has temporarily halted a North Dakota law that required doctors to tell patients the effects of abortion drugs can be reversed.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland issued an order Tuesday granting a preliminary injunction on that part of the law, known as H.B. 1336.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a suit against the law in June on behalf of the American Medical Association and the Red River Women’s Clinic, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota.


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