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Politics

Activists gather to plot defense of 'religious liberty'

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WASHINGTON -- U.S. Catholic bishops have used the Obama administration's contraception mandate as Exhibit A in their high-stakes defense of "religious freedom." But it's not just the bishops who are fuming, and it's not only over contraception.

Like-minded religionists of several denominations -- including Southern Baptist leader Richard Land and Baltimore Archbishop William Lori -- gathered in Washington on Thursday to organize a response to what they see as the sorry state of religious freedom in America today.

"We must all be willing to stand up and tell the government 'no,'" said Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "Secularists don't like people of faith because the ultimate authority for us is not the state. The ultimate authority is God."

Sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center's American Religious Freedom Program, the daylong summit attracted conservative Catholics, Baptists, Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Christians, Mormons and others, almost all of whom painted a dismal picture of religious freedom.

Editorial: Farm Bill is an opportunity to turn a broken system around

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Every five years, Congress looks over the nation's agricultural, nutrition and food aid policies and passes a multibillion-dollar piece of legislation known as the Farm Bill. Since only a small number of Americans farm, the bill is shaped and debated without much media attention, yet it's an important piece of legislation because it provides food aid both here and abroad while forming and supporting our overall food and farming system.

The Senate Agriculture Committee has passed its version of the bill and it has gone to the Senate floor.

Vatican committed to universal health care coverage

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Vatican City -- Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, head of the Holy See delegation to the 65th World Health Assembly, on Wednesday delivered an address before that gathering, which is being held in Geneva, Switzerland, until Saturday. Speaking English, the archbishop reaffirmed the Holy See's support for Resolution WHA64.9 on "sustainable health financing structures and universal coverage," which urges member States to aim for affordable universal coverage and access for all citizens on the basis of equity and solidarity.

Notre Dame's swing at Obama is, unfortunately, deserved

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COMMENTARY

Four years ago, Notre Dame fought to award President Barack Obama an honorary degree.

This week, the Fighting Irish have effectively sued their honorary graduate in federal court.

When he arrived beneath the Golden Dome, the president had just finished a campaign inspiring hope for the "change we need" in which he swept the Catholic vote by unprecedented percentages in key electoral states. Within months of the Irish honoring him, Obama adroitly helped steady a nation that for all practical purposes had been economically defrauded by sharp bank and securities practice.

Obama complimented Notre Dame's chief executive, Holy Cross Fr. John Jenkins, for "doing an outstanding job as president of his fine institution, and for his continued and courageous commitment to honest, thoughtful dialogue." As laudatory as that compliment was, it was the least the new president could have said to a priest who in the months leading up to that day and every day since has borne criticism from virtually every American Catholic bishop and suffered a vicious anti-Notre Dame campaign aimed at scaring away donors.

24-year-old to head Obama campaign's faith outreach

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has tapped a 24-year-old executive assistant in the White House faith-based office to head up its outreach to religious communities.

Michael R. Wear, who has worked in the White House for the past three and half years, will move to Chicago to become the campaign’s Faith Vote director in the coming weeks, White House officials confirmed May 14.

Obama 'accommodation' offers no fundamental change, USCCB attorneys say

WASHINGTON -- Although the Obama administration's proposed accommodation for religious employers to the mandate that contraceptives and sterilization be included in most health plans "may create an appearance of moderation and compromise," it does not change the administration's fundamental position, attorneys for the U.S. bishops said in comments filed Tuesday.

When the budget is a moral failure, who will speak for the poor?

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Commentary

The House of Representatives has passed a budget based largely on a plan proposed in late March by Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., — a practicing Catholic — and later endorsed by presumed-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The plan is structured to spare military spending from mandatory cuts. It is a vicious, anti-life austerity budget that, if implemented, would hammer the poor, the sick, the vulnerable and elderly.

Chaplain talks about conflict and his unusual congregation

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PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) -- After almost a year as chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, which The New York Times called "one of the most reviled congregations in the country," the Rev. Patrick Conroy was back in Portland, Ore., for a few days to meet with his Jesuit counterparts.

Conroy, 61, was a theology teacher at Jesuit High School here when the opportunity to be House chaplain arose. He was sworn in May 25 as the chamber's 60th chaplain. In a recent interview, he talked about the challenges of his job and issued a challenge of his own to American citizens. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Churches helped North Carolina ban same-sex marriage

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RALEIGH – North Carolina became the 31st state and final Southern state to amend its constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Campaigns by religious groups supporting the ban were instrumental in the victory, organizers said.

With about 2.1 million votes cast, about 34 percent of the state's registered voters, the amendment , which reads "marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized," was a approved by a 61percent to 39 percent margin.

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September 12-25, 2014

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