The world is falling apart. Gunmen kill civilians in office buildings and schools; babies die in wars and in abortion clinics. People suffer poverty, sexual violence, hunger. Our planet is rife with racism and tyranny […]
Santa Fe, N.M., Jun 30, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- After a bus crashed on its way back to New Mexico from a Catholic youth conference in Denver, reports have emerged that the seminarian on board, Jason Marshall, may have given his life to save the kids on… […]
Washington D.C., Jun 30, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- In the wake of recent controversies over teacher hiring, and firing, at religious schools, CNA spoke with professor Rick Garnett from Notre Dame Law School to discuss the future of religious liberty.
In 2012 the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment prevents the government from interfering with the hiring or firing of ministers. The case also determined what can be considered under the ministerial exception.
A woman named Cheryl Perich was a religion teacher at Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran School for five years, before she went on disability in 2004. When she was cleared to work the following year, she was not offered her job back, and the school said they had hired someone else to teach religion. Perich then sued for unlawful dismissal, stating that her firing was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The court said that her firing was in fact not unlawful, due to the religious component of her job, which the Supreme Court said likened her to a minister. The government cannot be involved with the employment of ministers, which would be a violation of the First Amendment.
The Establishment Clause would prevent “a situation like in England, where the queen picks the bishop,” explained Garnett. “The idea behind the ministerial exception is that our Constitution doesn’t permit stuff like that.”
A minister, said Garnett “is broader than just, you know, an ordained priest or pastor. It includes people who work for religious institutions, and who have a role in the religious mission of these institutions.”
The effects of Hosanna-Tabor may be seen in the coming years, as the exercise of religious liberty in schools becomes a bigger and bigger problem.
“One place where this is coming up a fair bit and creating some controversy is when you have religious schools that are firing teachers who enter into a civil same-sex marriage,” said Garnett.
“That’s happened at a number of Catholic schools around the country. And in a number of these cases have been lawsuits saying the firing was illegal, on the ground that it was discrimination.”
The schools, Garnett said, have responded to the claims of discrimination that these teachers are teaching at Catholic schools, and therefore are ministers.
“So far, there’s been some disagreement about how to handle these cases in the Supreme Court,” said Garnett.
Recently, two Jesuit high schools in Indianapolis were in the news. One defied orders from the archbishop to not renew the contract of a teacher who is in a civil same-sex marriage, opting to keep him on staff. The other high school decided not to renew the contract of one of their teachers who is in a same-sex marriage, who is, coincidentally, married to the other teacher.
Other religious liberty issues are beginning to arise over school vouchers. The Maryland Department of Education last year disqualified Bethel Christian Academy from participating in the state’s Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today voucher program, which benefits low-income students in the area.
The department had previously requested to see the student handbooks of schools in the program. Bethel’s handbook includes a statement of Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality.
Garnett told CNA that does not think schools should be forced to give up the ministerial exemption to get vouchers, and that “every school [should] get some sort of public support.”
Vatican City, Jun 30, 2019 / 05:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis prayed for peace and the successful outcome of the meeting Sunday between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the DMZ.
“In the last few hours we have witness… […]
Grenoble, France, Jun 29, 2019 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- Reviving a three-year old debate over what constitutes appropriate swimwear for women at the beach, a French city shut down its only public pools after Muslim women attempted to swim wearing burkinis despite a ban on them in the city.
The city of Grenoble in southeastern France closed two municipal pools this week after Muslim women went swimming twice in the city’s pools wearing burkinis as a form of civil disobedience.
The move was part of an initiative of civil rights group Alliance Citoyenne, an advocacy group in Grenoble, which planned recurring acts of civil disobedience to overturn the ban. According to the BBC, the group said they were calling the campaign “Operation burkini,” and that they were inspired by Rosa Parks and other members of the civil rights movement in the United States.
“Freedom of conscience. Free access to public services. #burkini” the group said in a Tweet, with a photo of burkini and swimsuit clad men and women in a pool in Grenoble on June 23. The women were fined roughly $40 by officials when they exited the pool.
In response, Grenoble shut down the city’s two public swimming pools.
Matthew Chamussy, the municipal councilor of Grenoble, said in a tweet on June 23 that the burkini ban is about women’s rights.
“I appeal to all elected Republicans of the @VilledeGrenoble . All who share this same attachment to a secular and indivisible republic. Let’s not give in to communitarianism. Women’s rights recede wherever political Islamism advances #Grenoble #burkini” he tweeted.
Grenoble Mayor Eric Piolle said in a June 25 tweet, “When it comes to equal access of a public service, the role of the state is to pose clear and just rules for everyone. National solidarity is at stake…”
Notably, Piolle’s cover photo on Twitter shows him cheering alongside a woman wearing hijab, a Muslim head covering.
Burkinis are a long, modest swimsuit that cover everything but the face, hands and feet. Typically, they consist of at least two pieces: a hooded, long dress, and footless leggings. They are commonly worn by Muslim women.
Citing concerns over safety and overt displays of religious affiliation, several cities and coastal towns in France issued bans in 2016 against such swimwear. The policies cited the French Republic’s concept of laïcité (secularism) as the reason for the ban.
In at least one French town in 2016, the ban was overturned. The Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, ruled that the burkini ban in the town of Villeneuve-Loubet “seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms,” including freedom of belief. But the ban remains in many cities.
While officials have stated concerns that burkinis are a symbol of “political Islam,” burkini-wearing women interviewed by The Guardian in 2016 cited personal reasons for the choice, including their religious convictions and their own desires for modesty.
“I choose to dress this way because it gives me freedom. I don’t have to worry about strange men looking at my figure, desiring me in a sexual way or people commenting on the way I look and judging my looks or talking about my clothes,” one woman said.
According to a 2017 Pew study, France has the highest percentage of Muslims of any country in Europe, in large part due to an influx of migrants over the past several years.
The religiosity of these Muslim migrants has clashed with France’s strong adherence to laïcité before, causing France to ban the face veil despite complaints that the move violated religious freedom.
French law also bans hijabs, Jewish skullcaps and large Chrsitian crosses in public schools, as well as the wearing of hijab or other religiously-affiliated clothing on school trips, effectively banning any headscarf-wearing moms from chaperoning their child’s school trips.
The revived burkini dispute also comes amidst new religious freedom worries in France, over the country’s new Universal National Service for teens, a civil service program that will be made mandatory over the next seven years for all French youth age 15-16.
Participants in the program will wear French military uniforms and sing the French anthem daily. They will not be allowed to wear religious symbols, nor will they be released to attend religious services. The meals served at the program will not accommodate for religious dietary needs.
The program is intended to give young people “causes to defend” and “battles to fight in the social, environmental and cultural domains,” according to French President Emmanuel Macron, who proposed the revival of a required service program in the country.
Marc Guidoni, a veteran trainer for the Values of the Republic and Secularism Plan, told the French Catholic newspaper La Vie this week that he was concerned that the program discriminated against young religious believers, and that it went beyond the bounds of secularism required or allowed by French law.
“With the exception of freedom of conscience, the rest of the constitutional framework relating to secularism does not seem to be respected,” Guidoni told La Vie.
“The citizen is free to express his opinions – including religious ones – as long as this does not disturb the functioning of public order.”
Vatican City, Jun 29, 2019 / 07:35 am (CNA).- The Catholic Church is Christ’s beloved bride, Pope Francis said Saturday on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.
“To the Lord we are not a group of believers or a religious organization, we are His bride. He looks at His Church with tenderness, He loves it with absolute fidelity, despite our mistakes and betrayals,” Pope Francis said June 29.
In his Angelus address for the feast of the patron saints of Rome, Pope Francis reflected on Christ’s words to St. Peter, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.”
“Like that day to Peter, today He says to all of us: ‘my Church, you are my Church,’” the pope said. “And we too can repeat it: my Church.”
“Today, through the intercession of the Apostles, we ask for the grace to love our Church,” Pope Francis said.
“We ask for the strength to pray for those who do not think like us,” he added.
Saints Peter and Paul were very different, Pope Francis explained: “a fisherman and a Pharisee with different life experiences, characters, ways of doing things, and very different sensibilities.”
“But what united them was infinitely greater: Jesus was the Lord of both. Together they said ‘my Lord’ to Him who says ‘my Church,’” the pope said.
“Brothers in faith, they invite us to rediscover the joy of being brothers and sisters in the Church,” he said. “How nice it is to know that we belong to each other, because we share the same faith, the same love, the same hope, the same Lord.”
Pope Francis said that the feast of Saints Peter and Paul invites each Catholic to say, “Thank you, Lord, for that person who is different than me: it is a gift for my Church.”
“It is good to appreciate the qualities of others, to recognize the gifts of others without malice and without envy,” he said. “Envy causes bitterness inside, it is vinegar on the heart.”
The pope recommended praying for the intercession of the two saints for “a heart that knows how to welcome others with the tender love that Jesus has for us.”
As early as the year 258, there is evidence of an already lengthy tradition of celebrating the solemnities of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul on the same day. Together, the two saints are the founders of the See of Rome, through their preaching, ministry and martyrdom.
In a sermon in the year 395, St. Augustine of Hippo said of Sts. Peter and Paul: “Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith.”
“I ask you, please, say a prayer for me through the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul,” Pope Francis said.
Vatican City, Jun 29, 2019 / 06:25 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Saturday that Saints Peter and Paul are both witnesses to the transformative power of God’s forgiveness through which all Christians can experience a new beginning of peace and joy.
Atlanta, Ga., Jun 29, 2019 / 04:18 am (CNA).- Allison DeVine’s conversion began in a preschool classroom.
There, she met another woman named Allison – a Catholic. The two women started talking because their daughters had become playmates. Both g… […]
Cologne, Germany, Jun 29, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA).- German Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki thanked Pope Francis for ‘fearlessly’ calling Catholics in Germany to be a missionary church in a letter published Saturday.
“It is refreshing how clearly and fearlessly the Holy Father also puts into words the terms which we often express in this country only with hesitation and a certain timidity, which we have almost lost: repentance, conversion, mission,” Cardinal Woelki said in a statement June 29.
Pope Francis published a more than 5,700 word letter addressed to Catholics in Germany Saturday calling for a focus on evangelization in the face of the “erosion” and “decline of the faith” in the country.
The Archbishop of Cologne said that it is obvious that Pope Francis shares the concern of many German Catholics: “How can we preserve the faith today and pass it on to the next generation?”
According to research recently published by the University of Freiburg, the number of officially registered Catholics in Germany is predicted to halve by 2060.
“The forthcoming process of change cannot respond exclusively to external facts and needs, such as the sharp decline in the birth rate and the ageing of communities, which do not allow a normal generational change to be considered,” Pope Francis said in his letter.
“A true process of change … makes demands that arise from our Christianity and from the very dynamics of the evangelization of the Church; such a process requires pastoral conversion,” he said.
Cardinal Woelki responded, “the fact that Pope Francis even speaks of ‘erosion and decay of faith’ in Germany shows that he really does not gloss over anything and also encourages us not to close our eyes to reality.”
This is “first and foremost a crisis of faith,” the German cardinal said.
“Let us be infected by the ‘hopeful serenity’ that Pope Francis has written to us with this letter. It is the serenity of all who are fully devoted to Christ,” Woelki said.
“Let’s take the words of the Holy Father, let’s take them seriously! Let us carry the Good News into the world of today!”