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Don't Carry Me Back to Ole' Virginny

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I confess that I always get a bit nervous when circumstances require that I cross the Potomac into the Commonwealth of Virginia. In part it is the horrendous traffic situation, which can only be fixed by raising taxes, something that is the kiss of political death in the conservative state. In 2008, when the Old Dominion went for Obama, I briefly toyed with the idea of reconsidering my prejudice. After all, there are many beautiful sights from Monticello to Williamsburg and many others. But, just when I was prepared to set aside my prior antipathy, the state goes and does something so stupid, I am confirmed in my Yankee bias.

Yesterday, the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia passed a law that would make it illegal to compel any of its citizens to buy health insurance. A mandate to purchase such insurance is at the heart of the current health care reform bill nearing enactment in Congress. According to the Washington Post, 24 other states are considering similar legislation.

Texas and the death penalty

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Judge Kevin Fine of Harris County, Texas, shook the Texas judicial world last week when he declared that the death penalty as applied in Texas is unconstitutional. He was immediately attacked by Texas Governor Rick Perry, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos as partaking in judicial activism.

Harris County sends more inmates to death row than any other county in the nation.

Now news comes that Fine has rescinded that ruling. "Rescinded" may not be the best word to use. He is holding the ruling in abeyance until he hears more arguments on the matter. He has scheduled a hearing on the matter for next month.

Mar. 11, St. Eulogius of CÛrdoba

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"The city of Córdoba was the setting for an unusual historical drama that unfolded between the years 850 and 859, when forty-eight Christians were decapitated for religious offenses against Islam. More striking than the number of executions were the peculiar circumstances surrounding them. For one thing, as the sources unambiguously demonstrate, the majority of the victims deliberately invoked capital punishment by publicly blaspheming Muhammad and disparaging Islam. Moreover, though some Cordoban Christians applauded the executed Christians as martyrs, others regarded them as self-immolators whose unwarranted outbursts served only to expose the community as a whole to the emirs' suspicions."

--from the Introduction to Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain, by Kenneth Baxter Wolf, the John Sutton Miner Professor of History at Pomona College.

Rachel Maddow excoriates Stupak amendment

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By now most NCR readers have heard the arguments -- pro and con -- regarding the Stupak Amendment, embedded in the House passed version of the health care bill.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Michigan) says he represents a coalition of 12 anti-choice Democrats who will vote against health care reform unless their anti-abortion language remains in the final health care bill. The original House health care bill only passed by 5 votes, so a 12-vote bloc could be a real obstacle to final passage.

Fish fry Friday feasts

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While I was looking for something else, I found this over on the web site of the Catholic Times of Springfield, Ill. The headline caught my attention, and as a lover of fish, I have to confess this question has crossed my mind many times during many Lents: Do no-meat Lenten Fridays count less if you like fish?

And if you saw the line to my parish's Knights of Columbus Friday night fish fry winding out the gymnasium door, up the stairs and down the hall, you too would have to wonder: Is this really a sacrifice?

Speaking of injustice....

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... I received a notice today from Richard Dieter, Executive Director, of the Death Penalty Information Center, which does terrific work on death penalty related issues. He writes about the case of Henry Skinner who is scheduled for execution in Texas on March 24 despite the lack of DNA testing of critical evidence from the crime scene that could lead to his exoneration.

Limbaugh's Threat, The Nation's Salvation

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Rush Limbaugh said on his radio program yesterday that if the Democratic health care reform bill passes, he will leave the country. (I do not listen to Mr. Limbaugh, but this assertion made the news.) Well, Democrats, if ever there was a two-for-one you should grab, this is it. Universal health care plus no more Rush is as close to heaven as I am ever gonna get!

Limbaugh’s assertion raises an interesting question. Where would he go? Most of the other industrialized nations of the West have universal health care that actually is run by the government, unlike the government regulated, private health care the Obama plan envisions. Does Rush really prefer a single payer system? Now, he tells us!

How long is a good sermon?

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Did you see this story from Catholic News Service: Homilies should be under eight minutes long? Don't overtax parishioners' attention spans, is the message from Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, who has just written a book, The Word of God, which is chock-full of tips Eterovic gleaned from the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Bible.

I wonder what Bill Tammeus would say to this advice. Kansas City-based NCR staff have been reading Bill's work on the religion pages of The Kansas City Star for years. Today Bill joins us as an NCR contributor. His columns will appear on the Web site about every other week or so.

His first offering looks at getting the proper balance between preaching and Eucharist. See Balancing the right and left brains at worship.

Bill's an active, practicing Presbyterian, so we welcome his bringing a bit of balance to our Catholic-centric site.

Welcome Bill!

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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