The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a surprising blow to pandemic restrictions on house of worship in a late night order barring the enforcement of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Oct. 6 “Cluster Initiative” limiting attendance at religious services. Five justices (including newly installed Justice Amy Coney Barrett) blocked the limits while allowing the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to hear the merits in the case. Notably, Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the liberal justices but only because he felt that the order was not needed since the plaintiffs were not currently subject to the most severe limits. Continue reading “The Supreme Court Bars Cuomo’s Pandemic Limits On Houses of Worship”
We have been discussing the anti-Catholic attacks on Judge Amy Coney Barrett and how various commentators are calling her a “cult member” and a religious “monster.” Most responsible writers and newspapers have condemned the attacks but the New York Times has run a column that appears to justify the attacks using the same anti-Catholic tropes. (For the record, I was raised Catholic and attended a Catholic high school in Chicago). The column by Elizabeth Bruenig explains why the attacks may “not be entirely baseless” in exploring historical and philosophical sources. While I do not believe Bruenig holds or wants to advance long-standing anti-Catholic prejudices, the column references sources and advances stereotypes that are painfully familiar to many Catholics.
We have followed the rapid destruction of the secular government and civil liberties in Turkey under the authoritarian rule of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan used a failed coup to push his effort to create a de facto Islamic regime and to complete his work in arresting his critics, including forcing the resignation of thousands of secular academics, and suspending all civil liberties in a proclaimed state of emergency. Despite Erdogan’s repression of dissidents and groups in the name of Islam, there remain people of courage who defy him and his government. Sebahat Tuncel was sentenced Saturday for saying (four years ago) that Erdogan was a “complete misogynist” and an enemy of women — statements that are demonstrably true.
We have previously discussed the brutality of Islamic nations enforcing medieval Sharia law. Iran has given the world another shocking addition to the long list of beheadings, floggings, and other forms of Islamic punishment. A “court’ has ordered the amputation of the fingers of three teenagers found guilty of theft. Continue reading “Iranian Court Orders The Amputation of The Fingers Of Three Teenagers Under Sharia Law”
Many of us criticized statements attributed to Attorney General Bill Barr this week calling for the use of sedition laws against rioters. However, instead of raising constitutional or statutory objections, Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe instead raised Barr’s Catholic faith in a completely unwarranted and unfounded tweet. The response to the reference was total silence. Not a single professor at Harvard or elsewhere chastised the use of a person’s religion in such commentary. This is not the first profane or prejudiced statement by Tribe.
The media coverage of the scandal involving Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has been overwhelming. That is to be expected. An evangelical figure leaves his post at a religious university after a photo with his pants unzipped on a yacht owned by a Nascar mogul who received lucrative deals with the university. Then came the allegations of Giancarlo Granda that he had a long time sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife Becki and Rev. Falwell liked to watch the sexual trysts. Falwell has alleged that Granda was extorting money. Michael Cohen, the thuggish former counsel for President Donald Trump, is even involved. In this tsunami of coverage, the interesting element is the one that is missing: no one has threatened a defamation action. Such a lawsuit could raise some interesting issues under the common law. Continue reading “The Falwell Fiasco and the Curious Absence of a Defamation Lawsuit”
We have been following the dubious work of Rev. Jim Bakker after his release from prison, including pitching “cures” for the corona virus. There is now an interesting twist. While Bakker is being pursued by the government for possible fraud for selling fake cures for Covit-19, the government just gave him a loan to help him continue his work during the Covit-19 pandemic. Ironically, Bakker begged supporters for money to help him fight off the government. The government appears to have responded.
For many years, I have written columns denouncing faith-based politics of both Republican and Democratic Presidents. None however have gone quite as far as President Donald Trump yesterday when he declared that Joe Biden is “against God.” It sounds a bit like a constructive divine endorsement. It is certainly the ultimate expression of the faith-based politics that I have long opposed. Continue reading “Got God? Trump Claims Biden Opposes The Almighty”
President Donald Trump has continued his dogmatic and potentially dangerous advocacy of the use of hydroxychloroquine despite recent studies questioning its benefits (and possible risks) as a treatment for COVID-19. One doctor who disagrees with these reports, including some out this week, is Dr. Stella Immanuel. Immanuel’s views however have been censored by Facebook and Twitter after her video was removed as false information. That brought an attack from Trump over censorship and the President has encouraged action from Congress which is looking this week at the issue. However, Dr. Immanuel called upon a higher source for intervention. She has warned the companies that Jesus will shutdown the companies unless her video is restored.
Early on in the pandemic, I wrote about how governors can shutdown churches under the Constitution. On Friday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to reject an emergency appeal from a California church over the imposition of limits on the size of attendance at services. The church came close to prevailing. Chief Justice John Roberts joined his liberal colleagues in upholding what he said were limits that “appear consistent” with the First Amendment. The cost ruling is an indication of how courts are applying closer scrutiny to the treatment of churches as opposed to other institutions allowed to have greater numbers of people.
This week, President Donald Trump has pledged that he will “override” state orders barring in-person religious services unless governors do so. As I have previously noted, the President is claiming authority that is expressly denied to him in our system of federalism. While I have warned such deference given to the states wanes with time, any order to reopen churches in a given state will be based on the inherent authority of the courts, not the President. This issue could be coming to a head with the split decision of a panel in the Ninth Circuit late Friday to uphold the order Gov. Gavin Newsom barring large in-person religious services. Early on in the pandemic, I wrote about how governors can shutdown churches under the Constitution. The Administration can, and has promised, joined legal challenges to such state orders but it is not claiming the inherent authority of presidents to “override” state decisions. The Justice Department has warned Newsom that his order is contravening constitutional rights.
We have been discussing most recent case against televangelist Jim Bakker. Bakker was mentioned in my recent column on why some religious claims raised in the pandemic are dubious. Now, Bakker is making sweeping claims that he has a religious right to sell a fraudulent cure for the coronavirus. His new lawyer, former Gov. Jay Nixon, is arguing that the free exercise clause gives Bakker the right to sell (for profit) a cure that could discourage the stricken from getting medical treatment or taking real precautions.
We previously discussed the defiance of Louisiana Pastor Tony Spell who refused to stop holding large services as the state struggled to control the coronavirus. Now, Spell has announced that while he wants nothing to do with orders designed to control the virus, he would appreciate the faithful sending him and other churches their pandemic stimulus checks. We also previously discussed televangelists telling the faithful that the pandemic and economic collapse is not excuse to stop sending tithes to the churches.
We have been discussing ministers who have defied state orders to avoid large services, even refusing to yield after criminal charges. Now one of those ministers, Bishop Gerald O. Glenn, has died of coronavirus.
He was widely qouted for saying “I Am Essential . . . I Talk to God!”: Continue reading “Virginia Pastor Who Defied Lock Down Order Has Died From Coronavirus”