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Lawyer charges Catholic University with violations

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WASHINGTON -- A famously litigious lawyer has filed charges against the Catholic University of America (CUA) for not providing Muslim students with prayer rooms that are free of Catholic iconography.

John F. Banzhaf III, a law professor at George Washington University who had earlier filed charges over CUA's switch to same-sex dorms this summer, filed the new 60-page complaint with the Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights.

"It shouldn't be too difficult somewhere on the campus for the university to set aside a small room where Muslims can pray without having to stare up and be looked down upon by a cross of Jesus," Banzhaf told Fox News.

Banzhaf complained that CUA does not sponsor a Muslim student association, even though it sponsors a Jewish one. He also claimed the single-sex dorm policy discriminates against female students.

The university, whose Arab student population swelled from 56 in 2007 to 122 this year, sponsors an Arab American Association, founded this fall by Muslim student Wiaam Al Salmi.

Is the idea of a global government agency radical?

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Commentary

It's a hopeful sign that The Council for Justice and Peace note "reform of the international financial system with a view toward a general public Authority" is getting a good amount of press. The Vatican has again added its voice to those calling (some from the streets) for a return of ethics and political oversight to the titanic power of financial institutions that have grown beyond political control after decades of deregulation and technological innovation. And yes, the Vatican does stand with the "basic sentiment" of the protesters on Wall Street and around the world.

Most coverage has focused on the document's call for a global governmental authority through which the global community can "steer its institutions towards achieving the common good." It is true, as George Weigel has sputtered out between angry outbursts of "rubbish, rubbish, rubbish!" that this document has a low level of authority.

An uphill slog for the bishops

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Editorial

The U.S. bishops sounded an unusual alarm with the formation recently of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty to deal with what Catholic leaders term “unprecedented threats” to the freedom of faith communities as a result of Obama administration policies.

If the tone of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s letter announcing the committee is somewhat breathless and exaggerated, he nonetheless raises a valid point: No religious group that is otherwise not breaking a law should receive mandates from the federal government requiring it to go against its conscience.

Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, lists six areas of concern about state interference, most of them having to do with sexual issues. Some of them present greater difficulty than others in making the case for religious exceptions.

Election 2012: Most bishops stand by 'Faithful Citizenship'

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ANALYSIS

Editor’s note: This begins an occasional series of articles analyzing issues and personalities that are shaping the 2012 election.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. bishops’ decision to make no changes in their quadrennial document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” took many observers by surprise.

Institute hosts Catholic conversations

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In my column, I have tried to highlight some of the wonderful people who, in different ways and with different charisms, make us proud to be Catholic. From the Franciscan Action Network, to the personal witness of Ambassador Doug Kmiec, to the intellectual endeavors of Pax Romana, the church has some great stories to tell. This month, I want to talk about a project with which I am engaged.

U.S. House passes Protect Life Act in bipartisan vote

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House Oct. 13 passed the Protect Life Act, which applies long-standing federal policies on abortion funding and conscience rights to the health reform law.

The measure passed with a bipartisan vote of 251 to 172. Its chief sponsors were Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., who co-chairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. The bill also had 144 co-sponsors.

"The health care law made it clear that the current way we prevent taxpayer funding of abortion through annual riders is dangerously fragile," Lipinski said in January when the measure was introduced. "We must take action to prevent federal funding for abortion under the health care law and throughout the government, without exception."

In a statement released Oct. 14, Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for the U.S. bishop's pro-life secretariat, said that by passing H.R. 358, "the House has taken an important step toward authentic health care reform that respects the dignity of all, from conception onward."

McQuade urged the Senate to likewise "help make health care reform life-affirming."

California bishops question vaccination law

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California Gov. Jerry Brown's approval, Oct. 9, of a bill allowing minors as young as 12 to receive a vaccination against HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases without parental permission has drawn swift and forceful rebuke from the public policy office of the state's Catholic bishops.

Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, called the governor's action both "regrettable and inexplicable." He said AB 499 clearly undermines parental authority and denies parents "a valuable opportunity to discuss sexual health and values with their pre-teen children."

Catholic orgs place ad objecting to HHS mandate

WASHINGTON -- An unusual coalition of national Catholic organizations and universities took to the pages of two Capitol Hill publications Oct. 11 to protest the Obama administration's plan to include contraceptives and sterilization among the mandated "preventive services" for women under the new health reform law.

"As written, the rule will force Catholic organizations that play a vital role in providing health care and other needed services either to violate their conscience or severely curtail those services," the groups said in a full-page ad in Politico and The Hill newspapers. "This would harm both religious freedom and access to health care."

The ad carried the headline, "Support access to health care? Protect conscience rights."

Members of the coalition ranged from the heads of the National Catholic Educational Association and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities to the leaders of Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA.

'Faithful citizenship' gives glimpse of political season

WASHINGTON -- It didn't take long for the "spin" to start after the U.S. bishops reissued their 2007 document, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," with a new introductory note signed by the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairmen of nine USCCB committees.

The reissuance without changes to the body of the text "will not please some conservatives," wrote John Gehring, senior writer and outreach coordinator for Faith in Public Life, adding that "it's good to see the bishops affirm that Catholics should not be single-issue voters."

But Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, emphasized a line from the introductory note, praising the "especially helpful comment" that the document "does not offer a quantitative listing of issues for equal consideration."

"To that we say, 'Amen!" he added. "Not all issues are equal; at the core of every issue is the right to life."

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