In The Washington Post, Matthew N Schmalz writes that if the president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has his way, the Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of the provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring insurers to cover contraception prescriptions. Schmalz writes that the key to overturning the mandate will be to frame it as infringing on religious liberty: “Given that the Catholic bishops have consistently emphasized the First Amendment issues raised by the revised mandate, the Supreme Court would seem to be an appropriate venue for addressing them. The Catholic bishops are also doubtlessly aware that there are Catholics on the Supreme Court who would be amenable to their position.”
At The Daily Beast, Harry Siegel and Matthew DeLuca live-blogged yesterday’s Occupy Wall Street “May Day” protests. After a winter of “hibernation,” the Occupy Wall Street movement marked “International Worker’s Day” by returning to the streets of New York, and on several occasions scuffling with the NYPD.
The Washington Post‘s Lisa Miller calls on the Catholic Church to start employing Mary, mother of Jesus, its “best ambassador.” She writes, “When I see American bishops wanting to make rules about sexuality and contraception for ordinary people, I think about Mary.” She concludes: “It is time for the men in charge to let Mary speak.”
Religion News Service’s Omar Sacirbey reports that last week the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, ordered a review of the curriculum for courses on Islam taught to senior officers. The order came after several officers complained that course materials contained inaccurate and inflammatory information about Islam. Dempsey canceled a class entitled, “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism,” taught as an elective at the Joint Forces Staff College, after learning the course asserted Islam was at war with the west.
Last Friday, the White House released new guidelines on public/private partnerships between governmental agencies and faith-based groups, reports Adelle M. Banks. The director of White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood partnerships, Joshua DuBois called the new guidelines “an important step” towards clarifying what religious-based social service organizations can do (e.g. display religious art, scriptures and other symbols in their facilities) without jeopardizing federal funding sources. Yet the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says these new guidelines fail to address critical questions, most notably whether faith-based groups can discriminate in their hiring and firing practices.
For the second time in a decade, New Hampshire Episcopalians may elect a gay man to become bishop of the state’s diocese. The senior associate rector at Boston’s Trinity Church, the Rev. William W. Rich, a gay married man, is one of three finalists the diocese’s search committee has nominated to replace the retiring Bishop Gene Robinson. In 2003, the election of Bishop Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, sparked an ongoing rift in the Anglican Communion, with many conservative Episcopal congregations splitting from the American church and joining Anglican churches in Africa.
Mitt Romney is beating President Barack Obama for the “very religious” vote (54 percent to 37 percent), so reports a new Gallup poll released last week. However Obama leads the Mormon Romney among “moderately religious” (54 percent to 40 percent) and “nonreligious” (61 percent to 30 percent) voters. During the GOP primary campaign, Romney lost the “very religious” vote to the conservative Catholic Rick Santorum. Self-described “very religious” voters make up half the electorate.
Praying Americans will find they have non-theistic company on the “National Day of Prayer,” scheduled for this Thursday. Religion News Service‘s Kimberly Winston reports, “The National Day of Reason—or ‘NDR’ in the shorthand of the nontheist community—will also be held May 3, part protest, part celebration and totally godless.”
On May 1, 1933, Dorothy Day and a handful of like-minded Catholics fanned out in New York City’s Union Square to sell the first edition of The Catholic Worker. Marking this 79th anniversary, The New York Times’ Ginia Bellafante profiles a few of Day’s spiritual descendants who, during the Great Recession, continue to live by the Catholic Worker’s ethos of creating “‘a new society in the shell of the old’—peace, less disparity of wealth, an end to economic exploitation, violence, racism.” Day’s newspaper, which is still sold on the streets of New York City, “delivered the message of compassion and justice at the cost of one penny; the price has never gone up.”
Reuters reports that Islamic separatists continued their attacks on Christians in northern Nigeria. Gunmen on motorbikes threw homemade bombs into a university theatre in Kano, where Christians had congregated to worship, and then shot worshippers who fled the building. With some 10-15 reportedly killed, these are the latest in a spate of killings in northern Nigeria, targeted at the region’s minority Christian population. The militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, hopes to topple Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s government and create an independent, Islamic state in the north of the country.