1. Religious bigotry in the Senate: Certain senators want to impose the forbidden religious test for office. 

By The Washington Times, September 18, 2017, Pg. B2, Editorial

[I]t was particularly sad to see Mrs. Feinstein join the chorus of radical Democrats who would impose the religious test for public office expressly forbidden by the Constitution. Blocking President Trump’s judicial nominees is the right of the Democrats in the Senate, but they must use legitimate means to do it.

Mrs. Feinstein confronted Amy Coney Barrett, the president’s nominee for the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, to defend her Roman Catholic faith at a confirmation hearing last week. Mrs. Barrett is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and has written and lectured extensively about the role of faith in public life

This makes Mrs. Barrett “controversial,” and her views on abortion mightily offend Sen. Feinstein, for whom the right to abortion is the holiest of rights. She has called Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that made an abortion a Constitutional right, not just a precedent but a “super-precedent.

Some Democrats in Congress, like voices in the media, have been on a tear to make private religious belief suspect. In June, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the newly crowned conscience of the Democrats (of whom he is not even officially one) rebuked Russell Vought, the president’s pick for deputy budget director, for statements made about Islam.

Nevertheless, Mr. Sanders, whose own religious beliefs have been challenged, imagines himself and his partisan colleagues as arbiters of what everyone is allowed to believe. The word for this is bigotry, and it has no place in the public square. If Mrs. Barrett is confirmed and takes her place on the bench, and betrays her oath by imposing her religious belief on the law, she could and should be impeached. Until then certain senators should honor their own oaths.


2. The Nazis’ First Victims Were the Disabled. 

By Kenny Fries, Kenny Fries is the author of, most recently, “In the Province of the Gods”, The New York Times, September 17, 2017, Pg. SR9, Opinion

I sit facing the young German neurologist, across a small table in a theater in Hamburg, Germany. I’m here giving one-on-one talks called “The Unenhanced: What Has Happened to Those Deemed ‘Unfit’,” about my research on Aktion T4, the Nazi “euthanasia” program to exterminate the disabled.

I first discovered that people with disabilities were sterilized and killed by the Nazis when I was a teenager, watching the TV mini-series “Holocaust” in 1978. But it would be years before I understood the connections between the killing of the disabled and the killing of Jews and other “undesirables,” all of whom were, in one way or another, deemed “unfit.”

The neurologist does not know much about what I’m telling him. While he does know that approximately 300,000 disabled people were killed in T4 and its aftermath, he doesn’t know about the direct connection between T4 and the Holocaust. He doesn’t know that it was at Brandenburg, the first T4 site, where methods of mass killing were tested, that the first victims of Nazi mass killings were the disabled, and that its personnel went on to establish and run the extermination camps at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.

Why is it important to know this history? We often say what happened in Nazi Germany couldn’t happen here. But some of it, like the mistreatment and sterilization of the disabled, did happen here.

A reading of Hoche and Binding’s “Permitting the Destruction of Unworthy Life” shows the similarity between what they said and what exponents of practical ethics, such as Peter Singer, say about the disabled today. As recently as 2015, Singer, talking with the radio host Aaron Klein on his show, said, “I don’t want my health insurance premiums to be higher so that infants who can experience zero quality of life can have expensive treatments.”

What kind of society do we want to be? Those of us who live with disabilities are at the forefront of the larger discussion of what constitutes a valued life. What is a life worth living? Too often, the lives of those of us who live with disabilities are not valued, and feared. At the root of this fear is misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and a lack of knowledge of disability history and, thus, disabled lives.


3. Cake Is His ‘Art.’ So Can He Deny One to a Gay Couple? 

By Adam Liptak, The New York Times, September 17, 2017, Pg. A1

Jack Phillips bakes beautiful cakes, and it is not a stretch to call him an artist. Five years ago, in a decision that has led to a Supreme Court showdown, he refused to use his skills to make a wedding cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage, saying it would violate his Christian faith and hijack his right to express himself.

“It’s more than just a cake,” he said at his bakery one recent morning. “It’s a piece of art in so many ways.”

The couple he refused to serve, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, filed civil rights charges. They said they had been demeaned and humiliated as they sought to celebrate their union.

At first blush, the case looked like a conflict between a state law banning discrimination and the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom. But when the Supreme Court hears the case this fall, the arguments will mostly center on a different part of the First Amendment: its protection of free speech.

The government, Mr. Phillips contends, should not be allowed to compel him to endorse a message at odds with his beliefs.

If a bakery has a free speech right to discriminate, gay groups contend, then so do all businesses that may be said to engage in expression, including florists, photographers, tailors, choreographers, hair salons, restaurants, jewelers, architects and lawyers. A ruling for Mr. Phillips, they say, would amount to a broad mandate for discrimination.

The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, No. 16-111, will be argued in the late fall and is likely to turn on the vote of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is simultaneously the court’s most prominent defender of gay rights and its most ardent supporter of free speech.

The couple’s meeting with Mr. Phillips five years ago was, both sides agree, short and unpleasant.

Mr. Phillips shut down the conversation as soon as he heard that a gay couple was getting married.

“I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, cookies, brownies,” Mr. Phillips recalled saying. “I just can’t make a cake for a same-sex wedding.”

Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig, speaking in the kitchen in their Denver home, rejected the distinctions Mr. Phillips drew.

“Our story is about us being turned away and discriminated against by a public business,” said Mr. Mullins, 33, an office manager, poet, musician and photographer.

Mr. Phillips, who calls his bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop, said he chose the name with care. It was partly to emphasize the creativity that informs his craft, he said.

The case has taken a financial toll, Mr. Phillips said. A judge ordered him to create custom wedding cakes for same-sex marriages if he did so for opposite-sex ones. He instead stopped making custom wedding cakes entirely.

“The civil rights commission says you have to violate your faith,” he said. “Use your talents and make cakes for religious events you don’t agree with. The only way I can avoid disobeying the ruling of the court is to not make wedding cakes, period.”


4. The Brothers of Charity are clear: No euthanasia in our hospitals.

By Andrea Gagliarducci, Catholic News Agency, September 17, 2017

Brother René Stockman says it clearly: The path to euthanasia is not viable for a Catholic hospital.

After a board of trustees decision to allow euthanasia in Belgian hospitals sponsored by the Brothers of Charity, the community’s general superior spoke with CNA about the issues at stake, and the possibility that the Brothers of Charity might discontinue sponsoring hospitals if things do not change.

The Congregation of the Brothers of Charity is a religious community of brothers founded in Belgium in 1807, with the mission to care for the poor, elderly, and those affected by psychiatric diseases.

The hospitals are managed by a civil corporation named after the Brothers of Charity, though the board of trustees includes only 3 Brothers of Charity out of 15 members.

This board made the decision to allow Catholic hospitals to permit acts of  euthanasia, in certain limited circumstances. The Brothers of Charity protested this decision, appealed to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Vatican responded by requesting that the corporation stop allowing euthanasia in their hospitals.

The board of trustees defied the Vatican request, and published a long statement in which they reiterated their view.

Asked if the Brothers of Charity could withdraw their sponsorship from the hospital, Stockam said that “if there is no change in the policies, it is a possibility.” If the 3 members of the organization leave the board of the hospital, it will no longer be considered a Catholic hospital.


5. Backlash over Martin’s LGBT book prompts speech cancellations. 

By Christopher White, Crux, September 16, 2017

Jesuit priest Father James Martin’s invitation to speak at Theological College, the National Seminary at the Catholic University of America, has been rescinded following the publication of his new book encouraging Catholic outreach to the LGBT community.

“Since the publication of his book, Building a Bridge, Theological College has experienced increasing negative feedback from various social media sites regarding the seminary’s invitation…in the best interest of all parties, the best decision was made to withdraw the invitation,” the seminary said in a press release.

The decision by Theological College is the latest in a series of cancellations in reaction to Martin’s book, including others by the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development.

Martin has been the subject of numerous attacks from Catholics who object that his book does not more faithfully or comprehensively present Church teaching on same-sex relationships. Earlier this month, Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to criticize the book.


6. Trump Administration Moves Cheer Abortion Foes: Rescinding of Obama-era rules and key personnel decisions support views on both sides that the president is a champion of the antiabortion cause. 

By Michelle Hackman, The Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2017, 3:53 PM

The Trump administration has taken a series of steps to cut funds for abortion providers and promote conservative reproductive policies, moving toward what supporters and opponents say could be the most antiabortion presidential agenda in recent memory.

A high-profile push to withhold federal Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions as well as an array of other women’s health services, fizzled this summer along with the larger Republican health care effort. But the administration has pursued more modest initiatives—rescinding Obama-era rules, curtailing contracts, making key appointments—that could broadly shape access to abortion and contraception.

Groups that oppose abortion were also cheered by the April appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a venue where abortion battles are frequently litigated, as they hope he will side with them on increased restrictions to the procedure and possibly an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade, the high court’s 1973 decision on abortion.


7. Official at Vatican embassy to United States removed over child porn allegations.

By Charles Collins, Crux, September 15, 2017

A Vatican diplomat based in Washington has been accused of violating child pornography laws and has been recalled to Rome.

The priest, who has not been identified, is currently in the territory of the Vatican City State, and Vatican prosecutors have opened an investigation.

A statement from the Vatican press office said the U.S. State Department notified the Vatican’s Secretariat of State of the allegations on August 21.

The Associated Press reports the State Department confirmed that it had asked the Vatican to lift the official’s diplomatic immunity, but the request was denied.

The Vatican statement said the Holy See was “following the practice of sovereign states” when it recalled the priest in question.

In 2013, Pope Francis signed new legislation covering the sexual abuse of children in Vatican City, which applies to those working at the Vatican’s diplomatic posts.

Sexual violence and sexual acts with children, child prostitution and possession of child pornography are all specifically cited in the law, and if convicted, the priest could face up to 12 years in prison.