National Catholic Reporter

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Politics

Congress undermines Obama's peace efforts

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In response to President Barack Obama’s clear -- albeit understated and unenforced -- calls for an end of the Israeli occupation of most of the Palestinian West Bank, both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have mobilized to undercut the administration’s timid efforts and throw Congress’ support to the right-wing Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Does the contraception mandate really kill religious freedom?

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The Obama administration's policy requiring most employers to provide free birth control coverage in their health insurance policies took effect Wednesday -- a deadline that sparked apocalyptic warnings from conservative activists and some faith groups.

"Aug. 1 is a day that will live in infamy for the First Amendment and the fundamental freedoms and rights we as a people have enjoyed since the founding of our nation," said Brent Bozell, head of ForAmerica. "With the stroke of a pen, the Obama administration has shredded the First Amendment and the Constitution right before our eyes."

Federal judge upholds Arizona's new law banning late-term abortions

PHOENIX -- The executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference praised U.S. District Court Judge James A. Teilborg for upholding Arizona's recently enacted ban on abortions after 20 weeks except in cases of medical emergency.

Ron Johnson said he was "absolutely thrilled with the decision from the federal court." Johnson, who worked with Arizona legislators to help get the measure passed, said that "it's been frustrating at times" when courts overturn hard-won legislation.

"It's extremely rewarding when we get the legislation passed and the court upholds (it)," Johnson said, calling the new law "sensible and very positive legislation."

In his July 30 ruling, Teilborg wrote that the Arizona Legislature had written the law -- known as H.B. 2036 -- based on "the substantial and well-documented evidence that an unborn child has the capacity to feel pain during an abortion by at least 20 weeks gestational age."

Supporters of the law said that it also protects women from increased risks incurred in late-term abortions.

Vatican newspaper says Melinda Gates 'off the mark' on contraception

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VATICAN CITY -- Under the headline "birth control and disinformation," the Vatican newspaper took to task Melinda Gates, wife of the Microsoft founder, who announced in early July that the couple's foundation would give $560 million during the next eight years to increase women's access to artificial contraception.

Court upholds Georgia ban on guns in church

A federal appeals court has upheld Georgia's ban on bringing guns into places of worship.

The Rev. Jonathan Wilkins, a Baptist pastor, and a gun-rights group had argued that church members should have the right to carry guns into worship services to protect the congregation.

But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a Georgia law adopted in 2010 does not violate the Thomaston congregation's First and Second Amendment rights.

Gun-rights advocates might want a weapon for self-defense, but that is a "personal preference, motivated by a secular purpose," the court ruled.

Jerry Henry, executive director of GeorgiaCarry.org, said the minister and his organization are mulling an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We think they've got it wrong again," he said in an interview Tuesday.

"The church's First Amendment right prevails over the state right to tell them what they can and cannot do," Henry said.

The appeals court also rejected arguments about the constitutional amendment permitting U.S. citizens to bear arms.

Editorial: Move forward to health care for all

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Two years ago when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law, NCR editorialized that the largest expansion of the nation's social safety net in 45 years, extending health coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans "is a monumental achievement worthy of praise."

Now the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld this most important piece of legislation, resisting pressure from conservative ideologues to overturn the law that was passed by a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives, a supermajority in the U.S. Senate, and signed by a duly elected president.

Health care ruling may resonate in November

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Analysis

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's landmark legislation on health care reform, vaulted the controversial law back into the national spotlight. But with a still anemic economic picture dominating most voters' concerns, will the Affordable Care Act still be an issue in November?

Conservative Catholics seem especially motivated by the issue of religious liberty, and their principal focus has been on the provision of the law that allows the Department of Health and Human Services to mandate insurance coverage for certain procedures, like contraception, to which the church objects. Liberal Catholics, as evidenced by the attention generated by the "Nuns on the Bus" tour, are especially concerned about defending social justice programs, with the Affordable Care Act representing the fulfillment of a generations-long struggle to enact universal health care. And what about those Catholic swing voters who hold the balance of voting power in such key battleground states as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia?

House panel's food aid cuts in farm bill called 'unjustified and wrong'

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WASHINGTON -- A proposed $16 billion cut in the nation's Supplemental Nutritional and Assistance Program is "unjustified and wrong," said a joint letter from the chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic and international justice committees, leaders of Catholic Relief Services and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

The cuts in SNAP, once known as food stamps, "will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and struggling workers," said the July 10 letter, addressed to Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the committee's ranking Democrat.

"At this time of economic hardship and continued high unemployment, the committee should protect essential programs that serve poor and hungry people. To cut programs that feed hungry people in the midst of economic turmoil is unjustified and wrong," the letter said.

"A just farm bill requires shared sacrifice by all but cannot rely on disproportionate cuts to essential services for hungry, poor and vulnerable people," it said.

New proposal would remove mandate's penalties for religious employers

WASHINGTON -- Saying that the U.S. Supreme Court's June 28 decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act "leaves intact a grave assault to religious freedoms," Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., announced July 10 that he would introduce the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act.

The bill, which has 57 co-sponsors, would allow employers who have religious or moral objections to covering certain preventive services mandated by the health reform law to decline to provide them through their health insurance plans without facing taxes, penalties or enforcement actions for their noncompliance.

The Supreme Court ruled June 28 that it was constitutional for Congress to require individuals to purchase health insurance under its authority to tax.

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July 18-31, 2014

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