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Garnett on the \"Ministerial Exception\"

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One of the most controversial church-state issues facing the country is how to apply laws that protect civil rights to religious organizations that have First Amendment rights to be free from government interference. Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett, who is arguably the most thoughtful conservative Catholic scholar in the United States today (and I would make that argument), in an essay at Liberty Magazine, looks at the "ministerial exception" that allows churches to choose whomever they want as their ministers, free from any legal constraints imposed by the government.

DOJ Joins Fight for Prisoners' Rights

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Let's be honest: In America today, very few people give a damn about rhose who are incarcerated. So, it was especially heartening to learn that the Department of Justice has filed suit against Berkeley County, South Carolina, which has a "Bibles-only" policy for inmates' access to reading materials. The case involves religious freedom, insofar as non-Christian prisoners should be able to access the holy books of their traditions. The Justice Department brief specifically cited the First Amendment's religious guarantees.

The Church & Labor: Rerum Novarum at 120

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Catholic University's Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies is sponsoring a conference on the 120th anniversary of Rerum Novarum May 2 and 3. The event will feature keynote addresses from Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and John Sweeney, former President of the AFL-CIO. Panelists will include E. J. Dionne, Harold Meyerson, noted historian Rev. Gerry Fogarty, S.J., Father Clete Kiley, the USCCB's John Carr and Kathy Saile, Alexia Kelley from the White House Office on Fath-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and many others. The conference is free and open to the public and you can find out more information and register to attend here.
In anticipation of the conference, Professor Stephen Schneck, the director of the IPRCS has penned a short essay for the "Common Good Forum" published by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Schneck charts some of the history and the issues that will be discussed at the conference and indicates why readers should consider attending.

Obama Hits a Home Run

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President Obama hit a home run yesterday with his speech on deficit reduction. He articulated clearly the conflict of visions that is at the heart of the battle over the budget numbers – and hopefully, the positive response to the speech will encourage him to keep talking about his values! And, while the speech was better than the policy proposals, the policy was good enough for now.

It is important for Americans to be reminded of the two intertwined ideas that constitute our national character, our rugged individualism and our sense that we are bound to each other, and the President began his speech by reminding us of both ideas. He used language similar to that he employed in his 2004 keynote to the Democratic National Convention, the speech that launched his career. Yesterday, he was actually being a bit kind to some contemporary Republicans who do not celebrate rugged individualism; they celebrate a kind of Ayn Randian “success” that is as positively creepy as it is vacuous, a view of the world that separates human beings into losers and winners, which, I submit are not categories found in Catholic social teaching.

Censorship is Bad - Always

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The Diocese of Scranton and Marywood University recently cancelled a speech planned by Michael Voris, an obnoxious rightwing personality who runs the outfit "RealCatholicTV." Earlier this year, a bishop told me, "Funny thing is that his show is not real and it isn't Catholic."
Now, it is puzzling to me why anyone would invite the spewer of right-wing agitprop to rant on campus in the first place. But, censorship is not the answer. Let people hear Mr. Voris's paranoid fantasies about unorthodox bishops and the USCCB's supposed collusion with the Culture of Death. There is nothing attractive about his rants. The best way to expose a scoundrel is to shine the light of day on him.

Let Them Squirm

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Politico has an article up about how many Republican lawmakers are already squirming at the prospect of voting on Congressman Paul Ryan's budget proposals which would end Medicare as we know it, among other things.
I say: Let them squrim. This is yet another reason the President should be wary of being to conciliatory towards the GOP on the subject of deficit reduction. First, he should see if his opponents have the strength of their convictions. I am betting they don't.

What Should Obama Say Tonight?

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Many of us on the political left, who generally find ourselves in agreement with President Obama, are dreading tonight’s speech on deficit reduction. But, the same emotion can come from different sources in different people, so I want to make crystal clear what I believe the President should, and should not say, tonight.

Let me start my separating myself from some liberal criticisms of the President. There is a headline on the front page of this morning’s Washington Post.that reads, “Obama risks losing liberals,” in which various D.C.-based liberal activists deride the focus on deficits, and insist that the President should be focusing on job creation. Those activists say the Republicans have won the messaging war, requiring this focus on cutting the deficit. Both points are true: The President should be focusing on jobs and the GOP has won the massaging war.

Congrats to Yakima!

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It is not every day that I go to the Vatican's "Bolletino" and see a name I recognize. But, this morning, Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Joseph Tyson, heretofore an auxiliary bishop in Seattle, as the bishop of Yakima. Bishop Tyson and I were classmates back in seminary in the mid-1980s and he was a genuinely holy man, deeply committed to social justice and the poor, intelligent in his classroom comments, and an always enjoyable coversationalist at dinner. The people of Yakima have got themselves a fine pastor as their new bishop.

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