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Court rules Michigan firm exempt from providing contraceptive coverage

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A federal court has ruled that a Michigan-based medical supply company does not have to provide contraception coverage in its employee health insurance plan because of faith-based objections.

The Jan. 5 ruling by Judge Robert Jonker of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan in Grand Rapids said Autocam Medical does not have to comply with the contraceptive coverage requirement of the Affordable Care Act. The decision is a reversal of the judge's ruling three years ago.

Seven ways religious affiliation will (and won't) change in the new Congress

Republicans will take full control of Capitol Hill when the 114th Congress is sworn in on Tuesday, but even with a political shift, there will be little change in the overall religious makeup of Congress, according to a new analysis from the Pew Research Center.

Here are seven ways the religious makeup of Congress will (and won't) change.

1) More than nine in 10 members of the House and Senate (92 percent) are Christian; about 57 percent are Protestant while 31 percent are Catholic. The new Congress will include at least seven members who are ordained ministers.

If the Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage in 2015, how will evangelicals respond?

Ten years after Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian Americans can be wed in 35 states and the District of Columbia. (Florida will boost that number to 36 starting Tuesday.) This year, the Supreme Court may put an end to the skirmish by legalizing what progressives call "equality" and conservatives dub a "redefinition" of this cherished social institution.

Church leaders at Utah ecumenical vigil say 'no more' to gun violence

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Face after face of women and men, boys and girls, African-American, white, Latino and Asian -- all representing the more than 30,000 people who die from gun violence each year in the United States -- shone briefly on the screen at Calvary Baptist Church.

As the images flashed by representatives of five Salt Lake City churches spoke about the need to end the gun violence that had claimed the life of each of those pictured.

Executions drop to lowest level in two decades

Driven in part by continuing legal disputes related to lethal injection drugs and state moratoriums on the death penalty, the 35 people executed in the U.S. this year marks the fewest in two decades, according to a year-end report by the Death Penalty Information Center.

The center, which opposes capital punishment, also found that the 72 death sentences issued in 2014 represents the fewest in 40 years.

Despite year-end budget deal, future spending trends less certain

The $1.1 trillion federal spending bill approved by Congress avoided a repeat of last year's government shutdown and largely kept in place social services spending, especially programs benefiting low-income families.

Beyond the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the future is less certain, however, as Republican victories in the November elections gave the party control of both chambers on Capitol Hill. With the new leaders come new plans on limiting federal spending and reducing the country's $17.6-trillion debt.

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