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Peace & Justice

U.S. Supreme Court should give juveniles the chance to prove they've changed

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Opinion

I suppose it was difficult to imagine Louis Perez changing course. He was only 14 years old when I met him in a probation camp, and yet, he seemed entrenched in the deepest, lethal absence of hope. Unable at that young age to transform his pain of abuse, abandonment and torture, he seemed set on a path doomed to transmit his pain forever.

SOA Watch activists arrested after protest against border militarization

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School of the Americas Watch founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois and SOA Watch associate Nico Udu-gama were held for three hours and released after a protest along the Mexico-New Mexico border Sunday.

The protest involved 10 people who part of Project Puente's weeklong "border immersion experience." ("Puente" is Spanish for "bridge.")

Officers with the Santa Teresa Border Patrol took Bourgeois and Udu-gama into custody after they crossed into Mexico during a prayer service at the border, Project Puente spokesperson West Cosgrove told NCR. The two were released after three hours and no charges were filed.

Salvadoran colonel implicated in Jesuit killings pleads not guilty to fraud, perjury

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A notorious graduate of the U.S. Army's School of the Americas -- a Salvadoran colonel implicated in the 1989 assassinations of six Jesuit priests -- is fighting criminal charges for allegedly lying on immigration papers that have allowed him to live quietly in the United States for the last 10 years.

Former Col. Inocente Orlando Montano Morales pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of fraud and perjury in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Ruling on 'ministerial exception' has limits

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ANALYSIS

The Supreme Court of the United States, in its Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC opinion, upheld the “ministerial exception” that the U.S. circuit courts had long recognized. Basically, this exception states that churches cannot be sued over employment decisions regarding those whom the church hires to “preach their beliefs, teach their faith and carry out their mission.”

The Supreme Court’s Jan. 11 decision is rooted in both the free exercise and the establishment clauses of the First Amendment, and is very fact-specific to the Hosanna-Tabor case. The decision gives no clear rule as to who is or is not covered by the ministerial exception. But clearly, from the language of the court, two things are required: The employer must be a church, and the employee must be an agent of the church, hired by the church to preach the church’s beliefs, teach its faith and carry out its mission.

Boeing closing could mean transition to civilian economy

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VIEWPOINT

A chill has descended on Wichita, Kan. Winter weather is not the culprit, aircraft manufacturer Boeing is. The company, a longtime fixture in the city, brought the chill when it announced the imminent closure of its big defense plant there. And Wichita is not alone.

In communities from Virginia to California that have relied on steady Pentagon payrolls, people are frightened. Military spending, which totaled $7 trillion over the past decade, is slated to dip.

Good jobs will disappear.

Last August’s bitterly fought Budget Control Act, passed by Republicans and Democrats, mandated cuts of $489 billion in defense spending over 10 years. Then came the failure of the congressional “supercommittee” to agree on deficit reduction. This triggered automatic cuts of more than $1 trillion -- half from the Defense Department, half from domestic programs. Unless Congress, the president and the top Pentagon brass find a way to block the automatic reductions, the military would have to shave a total of $1 trillion from its massive budget in the decade after 2013.

Activists express concern for imprisoned priest

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Activists and friends of an 83-year-old Catholic priest imprisoned for an act of civil resistance are expressing some relief after prison officials responded to concerns he was facing unfair treatment in prison. The priest has not eaten since Jan. 10 to protest his placement in solitary confinement.

Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel was serving a three-month prison term in the Federal Detention Center near Seattle, Wash., for a July 2010 action at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where a new nuclear weapons manufacturing facility is being planned.

Bichsel was moved Jan. 10 to a prison transition facility in Tacoma, Wash. He was sent back to the federal detention center in Seattle the next day because authorities said he had received an unauthorized visit at the transition facility.

Fellow activists say Bichsel has begun a fast since his return to prison, where he is being held in solitary confinement. The activists also were concerned that Bichsel, who suffers from blood circulation problems, was not receiving an adequate number of blankets to keep warm.

Marines urinating on Taliban corpses: Putting words to the picture

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COMMENTARY

A video showing U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters has been circulating since last week. The story led the Jan. 12 edition of the PBS NewsHour, a normally cautious, even staid, news outlet. Moderated by NewsHour regular Judy Woodruff, the segment featured Andrew Exum, a former Army captain and now a fellow with the Center for a New American Security, and Washington Post reporter David Ignatius as guest commentators.

Judge rules against prayer banner in Rhode Island school

A federal judge ruled Wednesday in favor of a teenage atheist who sought the removal of a prayer banner from her Rhode Island high school.

Attorneys for Jessica Ahlquist, 16, argued that a banner on display in Providence's Cranston High School West's auditorium titled "School Prayer" and addressing "Our Heavenly Father" is a violation of the Constitution and the Supreme Court's 1962 decision banning state-mandated prayer in school.

Lawyers for the school district argued that the banner had hung in the school since the 1960s and was more secular than sacred.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux disagreed and ruled that the banner should be removed immediately. He also upbraided school officials for holding community meetings about the mural that "at times resembled a religious revival." At one meeting, several school officials read from the Bible or declared their faith. Ahlquist needed a police escort to leave one meeting.

"I am hopeful that this case can be looked back on in the future and encourage others to stand up for their rights as well," Ahlquist said from the Providence office of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented her.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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