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Peace & Justice

Budget foes, unsatisfied, to fast through Easter

WASHINGTON -- The congressional budget compromise reached last week did not go far enough for some progressive Christian leaders who have vowed to continue their liquid-only fast in hopes of a “better budget.”

Sojourners founder Jim Wallis and Ambassador Tony Hall, executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger, say the poor stand to lose the most in the $38.5 billion in budget cuts, and plan to continue protesting by fasting through Easter.

“This compromise represents the interests of all those who make big campaign contributions but betrays the poor and vulnerable,” Wallis said, referring to the 11th-hour compromise brokered Friday night April 8.

Community organizing celebrated as Catholic action

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WASHINGTON -- In a 40th anniversary seminar at The Catholic University of America April 6, speakers celebrated the focus of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development on community organizing as a major contribution of the U.S. church to Catholic teaching on social justice.

The CCHD – under intensive attack in recent years by the American Life League and other ultraconservative Catholic social, political and ecclesiastical groups – is fulfilling the Gospel mandate of bringing justice to the poor and freedom to the oppressed through its funding of community organizing groups, speaker after speaker said.

Omaha octogenarian priest gets probation for protest

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Fr. Jack McCaslin, an Omaha, Neb., diocesan priest known for his opposition to nuclear weapons, was sentenced to three years probation April 12 for an act of civil disobedience at Offutt Air Force Base, the home of the command center responsible for the planning and targeting of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The sentence, which was decided in U.S District Court by Judge Thomas D. Thalken, also imposes a $300 fine. McCaslin plead guilty before sentencing to charges of trespassing for the Aug. 6, 2010, action, at which he walked about 10 steps onto the property of the base with three others.

Ill.pharmacists don't have to give morning-after pill

Pharmacists with religious objections to “morning-after” emergency contraceptives cannot be compelled to sell the product, an Illinois Circuit Judge ruled Tuesday.

The Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act was passed in 1998 to shield health care workers from going against their own beliefs. In 2005, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a ruling to force “pharmacies to fill prescriptions without making moral judgments.”

Two pharmacists, Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog, sued for the right to not dispense the pills.

Circuit Judge John Belz wrote that the 1998 law “was designed to forbid the government from doing what it aims to do here: coercing individuals or entities to provide healthcare services that violate their belief.”

Attorney Mark Rienzi, who represented the pharmacists with the help of the American Center for Law and Justice, called the ruling “a very good thing.”

“The judge’s decision makes clear that religious people don’t have to give up their religion, don’t have to check their conscience at the door, to enter the health care profession,” Rienzi said.

Marquette gives same-sex partners benefits

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MILWAUKEE -- Marquette University will extend health benefits to same-sex domestic partners starting next year.

The extension is contingent upon domestic partners registering their status with Milwaukee County clerk's office. The county started registering same-sex couples as domestic partners last year, according to university spokeswoman Kate Venne.

Venne told Catholic News Service that there are 13 other Jesuit colleges and universities that offer health benefits to same-sex partners. Marquette's package will include medical, dental and vision care.

Melissa Collins DiLeonardo, a spokeswoman for the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, of which Marquette is a member, said it was collecting information on which of its member schools was offering same-sex employee benefits, but noted that each college oversees its own benefit packages without input from the association.

A spokesman for the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities said the Washington-based association has no information on how prevalent the practice is among U.S. Catholic institutions of higher learning.

Chaplains offered exit plan as gay training starts

WASHINGTON — The Army has started training chaplains on the repeal of the ban on openly gay military members, saying those who are unable to follow the forthcoming policy can seek a voluntary departure.

“The Chaplains Corps’ First Amendment freedoms and its duty to care for all will not change,” reads a slide in the PowerPoint presentation, released to Religion News Service Thursday (March 24). “Soldiers will continue to respect and serve with others who may hold different views and beliefs.”

Plowshares activists given 15 month prison terms

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1 year, 3 months. That’s how long Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly and peace activist Susan Crane will be in prison following yesterday’s sentence in federal court for a four-hour act of civil disobedience they committed at a U.S. Navy nuclear weapons base in Bangor, Wash in 2009.

Kelly, 61, and Crane, 65, both members of a five-person group who call themselves the Disarm Now Plowshares, were sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle for convictions of conspiracy, trespass, destruction of property on a naval installation, and depredation of government property.

USCCB urges no change in federal housing rules

WASHINGTON -- Proposed changes in federal housing regulations to forbid discrimination based on "sexual orientation" or "gender identity" could violate existing federal law and force faith-based organizations to end their "long and successful track record in meeting housing needs," according to comments filed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Anthony R. Picarello Jr. and Michael F. Moses, USCCB general counsel and associate general counsel, respectively, said the proposal by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to add to the list of protected categories for which discrimination in HUD programs is prohibited "appears at odds" with the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which says marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

"HUD should not create a new protected classification where there is no statutory policy undergirding it and where the new classification flies in the face of a policy expressly adopted by Congress," they said.

The two attorneys filed the comments on behalf of the USCCB late March 25, the final day of a 60-day comment period on the proposed changes.

Egypt's people show that nonviolence works

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To the legions of skeptics who dismiss nonviolent conflict resolution as an admirable ideal but pathetically useless in the real world where might makes right, now comes a refutation: Egypt and Tunisia.

The throngs who massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for 18 days, stitched together like thread that couldn’t be cut, had no weapons of steel -- only superior ones, weapons of willpower. It was close to laughable that the suddenly enfeebled dictator, Hosni Mubarak, bunkered with a giant arsenal of U.S.- supplied planes, tanks, bombs and bullets, could apply a counterforce of only a gang of camel- and horse-riding thugs wielding machetes and sticks at fleeing demonstrators who quickly reassembled more empowered than before.

Former counterterrorism chief says Muslims cooperate

A former FBI counterterrorism director on Tuesday rejected allegations by the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee that Muslim Americans don’t cooperate with law enforcement in terror investigations.

Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican, will open hearings on Thursday about Muslim radicalization that critics say unfairly singles out Muslims.

“I will tell you in no uncertain terms that the community has on multiple occasions come forward and assisted law enforcement,” said Michael Rolince, who headed the Counterterrorism Division in the FBI’s Washington field office between 2002 and 2005.

Rolince said the hearings and heated “rhetoric” from politicians attacking Muslims undermine that cooperation, and said smart counterterrorism strategy requires engaging with Muslim Americans.

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April 11-24, 2014

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