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Politics

SCOTUS starts with church school employment

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The constitutionally thorny question of where the line lies between a church school's religious autonomy and the legal rights of its teachers comes before the Supreme Court Oct. 5, two days after the term starts.

Other cases on the court's docket this fall include consideration of standards of indecency on network television and at least two cases over what activities warrant deporting immigrants.

Within the court's first weeks, the justices also will decide whether to hear a challenge to Arizona's immigration enforcement law. They also will consider whether to hear several other appeals of how immigration and asylum laws are applied and yet another in a series of challenges to the display of crosses in public places.

The church school case could have broad implications for other religious groups.

Bishop: Catholic Church's serves 'all who come our way'

FORT WORTH, Texas -- The Catholic Church serves "all who come our way because we are Catholic," Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth told participants at Catholic Charities USA's first Poverty Summit and National Gathering.

"We repeatedly emphasize that our mission to serve all in need comes from the fact that we are Catholic," Bishop Vann said, "and that since one of the marks of the church is "universal,' that applies to our call to ministry and mission here. We are who we are."

He made the remarks in his homily at the Sept. 18 Mass opening the two-day summit.

That universal group served by Catholic Charities and its partner agencies is growing.

Carol Quasula is dealing with a new kind of poverty. She's accustomed to helping the generational poor -- children of parents with no resources or money who grow up to live in poverty themselves. But the families now walking through her door at Catholic Charities in rural Cottonwood, Ariz., about 35 miles outside Flagstaff, are used to having jobs, a paycheck and a modest lifestyle.

Bishops urge governor to veto vaccination bill

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Vaccines against sexually transmitted diseases sure are getting a lot of attention these days.

California's bishops are asking Catholics in their state to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to veto a bill allowing children ages 12 and older to be vaccinated against sexually transmitted diseases without parental consent or knowledge. AB 499 was sent to the governor's desk, Sept. 7, the final day of the legislative session.

The California Catholic Conference (CCC) is one of six groups officially opposing AB 499 because it denies parents their fundamental right to be responsible for their children's physical and spiritual well-being.

Setback to church in adoption fight

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The Catholic church has no “recognized legal right” to a contract with the state, a judge said in ruling that Illinois officials can legally cancel contracts with Catholic Charities over the church agency’s refusal to place adoptive children with same-sex couples.

A lawyer for the church, however, said he will seek a stay of the ruling, arguing that Circuit Judge John Schmidt, in his Aug. 18 ruling, did not address the heart of the church’s argument that Catholic Charities comes under exercise of religion protections.

American politics more religious than American voters

Has America gotten more religious, or just American politics?

The country has grown less religious since the 1970s, while frequent churchgoers are now much more likely to vote Republican or support the Tea Party, according to recent studies.

As a result, faith-filled rhetoric and campaign stops make Americans appear more Christian than they really are, according Mark Chaves, a Duke University professor of sociology and religion.

The rise of megachurches, with their memberships in the thousands, also fuels the misperception that most Americans attend services weekly, when only one in four Americans actually do, he added.

HHS action draws religious liberty protests

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When it comes to issues of religious freedom, Bill Donohue thinks the Obama administration has put religious employers between a rock and a hard place.

Commenting on the Department of Health and Human Services' Aug. 1 announcement that contraceptives and sterilization will be among the mandated preventive services for women under the new health reform law, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights recalled that as a presidential candidate, Barack Obama said faith-based programs that receive government aid should not be allowed to hire only members of their own faith.

"If you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them -- or against the people you hire -- on the basis of their religion," Obama said in a July 1, 2008, speech in Zanesville, Ohio.

Now, HHS is proposing that only religious employers meeting four criteria would be exempt from providing contraceptives and female sterilization through their health plans. Those requirements are that the organization "(1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a nonprofit organization" under specific sections of the Internal Revenue Code.

Cardinal criticizes contraceptive mandate

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Department of Health and Human Services' proposed "religious exemption" to the requirement that new or significantly altered health insurance plans cover contraceptives and sterilization for women is "so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and health care providers," according to the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston criticized the Aug. 1 announcement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that she had accepted the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine on eight "preventive services" that must be included in any health plan under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Faith leaders to Obama: protect the poor

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As congress and the president take talks about the budget and deficit reduction to the final hour, there's one topic that is swept under the rug, religious leaders say: How will cuts in the budget affect the poor and vulnerable in the U.S.?

Leaders and representatives of faith organizations met with President Obama July 20 to discuss the ongoing budget and deficit talks. They urged the president not to forget to protect the poor and vulnerable in the budget talks.

"We're not interested in which party wins the current political battles but we are worried at who is likely to lose: the families trying to feed their kids, the jobless looking for work, children who needs healthcare, the hungry, sick and hopeless," Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of La Cruces, N.M., said in a conference call with other meeting attendees July 21. Ramirez is a member of the bishops' conference committee on domestic justice and human development.

The president and Congress must raise the country's debt limit by Aug. 2 or risk defaulting on that debt. To raise the ceiling the parties must reach a budget agreement, and Washington has seen deep divisions between some who want deep cuts in government spending and those who want to see increased revenues.

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July 18-31, 2014

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