The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in the case Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC is a resounding defeat for those who seek to deny religious groups their free exercise rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. The mere fact that the decision was unanimous should give pause, great pause, to those who argued here – and who argue in other contexts - that religious groups should be treated like any other social group. In a word, the court’s decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, proclaims to those who have forgotten it that the First Amendment means what it says.
In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that the ministerial exception is required by teh First Amendment and that it clearly applied in the case before the court, Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC.
Rick Garnett has posted this commentary on the decision. I will have nore on the subject tomorrow once I have a chance to read the opinions.
Progressive Catholics are praising President Obama for naming Cecilia Munoz as the new Director of the Domestic Policy Council. This is a high-powered, albeit out-of-the-spotlight job. Munoz previously worked at the White House on inter-governmental affairs and on immgration policy. Before joining the administration she worked at the National Council for La Raza and for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
"Catholics and people of faith have a true ally with the appointment of Cecilia Muñoz to head the administration's Domestic Policy Council,” said James Salt, executive director of Catholics United in a press release. “Cecilia has a long track record of working effectively with the faith community and comes to the work with a deep set of personal convictions. By selecting someone of Cecilia's character and background, the Obama administration has signaled how important the faith community is to their governing agenda.”
My friend Rocco Palmo has been singing the praises of Toronto's Archbishiop Thomas Collins for years. And, he just put up a link to a press conference now Cardinal-designate Collins held after news that he would be made a cardinal at next month's consistory. The man certainly comes across as the kind of unassuming, affable prelate we need more of. Me thinks Rocco has not been over-estimating this man's gifts. Here is the video:
Not all conservatives are like all other conservatives. In an article in the UK's Catholic Herald, William Oddie sees much to like about Sen. Rick Santorum, whom he aptly describes (borrowing from another Brit commentator) as a "turbo-Catholic." But, Oddie, who is no liberal, insists that Santorum is "deranged" about the National Health Service and the neo-liberal attack on such government-run social programs more generally.
A few things jump out at me from the New Hampshire results and the state of the GOP nominating race. In no particular order, these are the main take-aways:
1) Is Romney 2012 the McCain of 2008? John McCain used his win in New Hampshire to propel himself to victory in South Carolina and on to the nomination, but he never won the love of the GOP base. Indeed, the whole rationale for the GOP keeping New Hampshire at the front of the pack is that its voters pull the party back towards the center. But, in 2012, the base is more assertive – ask Mike Castle! And McCain could channel the patriotic meme better than almost any candidate in living memory. On the other hand, Republicans are united by, and worked up about, their venom for President Obama in a way they weren’t in 2008. Will the GOP base jump on the Romney bandwagon or will a third party challenge emerge?
Just as in the case of the group Catholic Democrats whaling on Sen. Santorum, it is not really very surprising to find our friends at CatholicVote.org endorsing Santorum's candidacy.
"Republicans hoping to win back the White House in November must unite behind the candidate most dedicated to the foundational issues of faith, family and freedom," the group's statment concludes. "If the GOP hopes to defeat President Obama, it takes a Rick Santorum to get it done." The rest of their statement of support is equally fulsome in its praise of Santorum.
The Maryland Catholic Conference, which represents the Archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore as well as the Diocese of Wilmington, has issued an "action alert" via email calling on all Catholics to contact their state legislators during January, which is Poverty in America Awareness Month.
A few months back, I had a conversation with a state senator here in Maryland who said that the lobbyists for the Maryland Catholic Conference were among the best in Annapolis, that they were always well-informed, knew the policy issues inside and out, and most importantly, that they were virtually the only people in the state capital consistently and fervently arguing on behalf of the poor.
This latest action alert shows that the Maryland Catholic Conference is not, as some have charged, only interested in opposing gay marriage. It also shows that in addition to having competent lobbyists working the halls of the legislature, they are serious about getting Catholics in the pews pushing the Church's social justice agenda. Kudos to our friends at the MCC.
I suppose it is not really "news" that the group Catholic Democrats has decided to come out swinging against former Sen. Rick Santorum. In a press release yesterday, the group said Santorum "had among the worst voting records in the US Congress on issues related to the Catholic social justice tradition and the family, despite his efforts to portray himself as a 'pro-family' Catholic who is concerned about poverty."
Catholic Democrats looked at Santorum's ratings from both the Catholic social justice group NETWORK and the Children's Defense Fund, and found his rankings were lower than even most other Republicans. Graphs of the rankings can be found here.
There is an old chestnut in politics: An election will be won by the candidate with whom the voters would most like to go to a BBQ. Reagan over Carter. Papa Bush over Dukakis. Clinton over Papa Bush. Bush fils over Gore. The idea is that a successful candidate needs to come across as comfortable in his or her own skin, and someone with a common touch, someone who can, in Clinton’s famous phrase, “feel your pain.”
Mitt Romney has a problem with the BBQ test. He is so highly scripted and, in those few instances when he speaks extemporaneously, he says things your neighbor wouldn’t. For example, “corporations are people” and “want to bet $10,000?” Yesterday, in an attempt to establish something resembling empathy, he asserted that “I know what it’s like to worry whether you’re going to get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.” Of course, as the son of a multi-millionaire, even if Mr. Romney had been fired, the consequences from such an event would be different from what they would be for you or me. If he lost his job, that did not mean he was going to lose his health insurance or his house.