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Peace & Justice

Supreme Court won't reopen roadside crosses fight

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will not reopen a case in which a lower court ruled that highway crosses memorializing Utah state troopers are unconstitutional.

The court's decision was harshly criticized by Justice Clarence Thomas, the lone dissenter, who said it "rejects an opportunity to provide clarity" to an area of church-state law that is "in shambles."

Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, which filed the suit in 2005, said he hopes the court's announcement will bring the case to an end and lead to an alternative way of honoring troopers who died in the line of duty.

"Erecting divisive religious icons that violate the very Constitution the fallen troopers had sworn to uphold is not the way to honor those troopers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens of their state," he said.

The conservative Alliance Defense Fund, which asked the court to consider the case, was disappointed.

"Justice is not well-served when unhappy atheists can use the law to mow down memorial crosses and renew the suffering for the survivors," said ADF Senior Counsel Byron Babione.

Accusation university mistreats Muslim students 'without foundation'

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WASHINGTON -- The president of The Catholic University of America has disputed a complaint filed with the District of Columbia's Office of Human Rights over the ability of Muslim students to engage in worship at the university.

"That charge is completely without foundation," declared president John Garvey in a statement sent to all students, faculty and staff Oct. 28.

Pope: Believers must oppose violence

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ASSISI, Italy -- Taking 300 religious leaders with him on pilgrimage to Assisi, Pope Benedict XVI said people who are suspicious of religion cannot be blamed for questioning God's existence when they see believers use religion to justify violence.

"All their struggling and questioning is, in part, an appeal to believers to purify their faith so that God, the true God, becomes accessible," the pope said Oct. 27 during an interfaith gathering in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels.

Marking the 25th anniversary of the first Assisi interfaith gathering for peace, hosted by Blessed John Paul II in 1986, Pope Benedict brought together the religious leaders and -- for the first time -- four philosophers who describe themselves as humanists or seekers who do not identify with any single religion.

After a train ride of almost two hours from the Vatican, Pope Benedict and his guests arrived in Assisi and were driven to the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels for the morning gathering focused on "testimonies for peace."

Bishop to Congress: Religious freedom subject to 'rapid erosion'

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The bishop placed in charge of the U.S. bishops' new ad hoc committee for religious liberty testified Wednesday in Congress that religious freedom in the country is subject to "ever more frequent assault and rapid erosion."

In testimony before the House of Representatives' subcommittee dealing with issues of constitutional rights Wednesday, Bishop William Lori said the bishops want to call congressional attention to "grave threats to religious liberty" that are "grim validations of the bishops' recognition of the need for urgent and concerted action."

Lori, head of the Bridgeport, Conn., diocese, was announced as the head of the bishops' new committee Sept. 30.

At the time of the announcement, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the bishops' conference president, said an assault on principles of religious liberty is coming "in an increasing number of federal government programs or policies that would infringe upon the right of conscience of people of faith or otherwise harm the foundational principle of religious liberty."

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace urges major economic reform

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Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace urges major economic reform

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace released a document Oct. 24 calling for a radical reform of the world's financial and monetary systems. It also proposed the creation of a global political authority to manage the economy and a new world economic order based on ethics.

The note entitled “Towards reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the context of the global public authority” was presented to journalists at a press conference today presided over by the President of the Council, Cardinal Peter Turkson.

“We are talking about finding solutions to issues, finding solutions to problems”.

Cardinal Turkson also told Lydia O’Kane, who participated at the conference, that the document was also a way of giving a voice to the voiceless.

“Definitely, that’s part of it and in fact in asking the G20 to pay attention to this or currently start doing a reflection in this direction, it is actually in view of those who suffer from this phenomenon, so giving a voice to the voiceless, that’s what it is”.

Death row inmates could be executed by firing squad in Florida

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TALLAHASSEE, FLA. — Former marketing executive and now Florida State Rep. Brad Drake wants to give death row inmates the option of using a firing squad instead of lethal injection when they are executed.

Drake, a Republican, came up with this idea from a constituent he talked to in a Waffle House, according to The Current, an online news source covering Florida politics.

Drake told The Current that he decided to file the bill, called HB 325, after he overheard a constituent say, “You know, they ought to just put them in the electric chair or line them up in front of a firing squad.”

“There shouldn’t be anything controversial about a .45-caliber bullet,” Drake told The Current. “If it were up to me we would just throw them off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge [in Tampa Bay] and be done with it.”

Florida began to use lethal injections after a malfunction of the electric chair during Pedro Medina’s execution in 1997, when Medina appeared to be on fire.

Archbishop, chaplains object to same-sex weddings

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WASHINGTON -- Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services and a group representing hundreds of other Christian military chaplains have objected to a Pentagon memo allowing military chaplains to participate in or officiate at same-sex marriages on or off military installations.

The memo was issued by Undersecretary of Defense Clifford L. Stanley Sept. 30. It followed the Sept. 20 repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that banned gays from serving openly in the armed forces.

Stanley's memo said: "A military chaplain may participate in or officiate (at) any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law."

It also said that "a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate (at) a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion."

Archbishop Broglio has questioned how the military could allow chaplains in the U.S. armed forces to be involved in same-sex marriage ceremonies when the federal Defense of Marriage Act prohibits such unions.

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April 11-24, 2014

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