From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved

    This file is attached to from “Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.

Or return to Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.
    This link will return you to Scarlet Woman 2021 January-March or continue to Scarlet Woman 2021 July-Sept

4/1/2021 CNN Reporter Claims Impossible To Know Baby’s Gender At Birth by OAN Newsroom
The Cable News Network (CNN) logo adorns the top of CNN’s offices on the Sunset Strip,
January 24, 2000 in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by David McNew/Newsmakers)
    CNN has ignored science to perpetuate their liberal agenda, this time saying it’s impossible to know a baby’s gender.    On Tuesday, the network posted an article claiming “there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth.”
    This came in response to Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R-S.D.) recent executive action, which blocked biological male student athletes from competing with females.
    Despite mainstream media’s apparent denial of biological sex, Noem asserted this does not represent the views of most Americans.
    “I think a lot of people agree that only girls should be playing in girls sports,” Noem stated.    “My goal is really to protect our kids, make sure we don’t have boys playing in girls sports at the K-12 level and then also at the collegiate level.”
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 27: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference
held in the Hyatt Regency on February 27, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
    Regardless, the CNN reporter argued in his article about Noem that using biological sex to determine sports teams is far “too complicated.”
[Whose is the idiot reporter at CNN that has never got the images from a scan that shows the doctor what sex the baby is oh I forgot they abort and kill them before they determine it or even after they know?].

4/1/2021 Recreational Marijuana Bill Clears N.M. Legislature by OAN Newsroom
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
    Recreational marijuana has gotten one step closer to legalization in New Mexico.    According to reports, the proposal to legalize recreational cannabis for adults ages 21 and older was approved by legislators at a special session on Wednesday.
    The bill includes provisions like caps on the number of plants per household and the amount sellers can grow.    Despite some pushback, it passed in the State Senate 23-to-13 and cleared the House 41-to-28, which sent it up to the governor’s desk for final approval.
    “I’m just very excited for the people of the state of New Mexico,” State Rep. Javier Martinez (D) said.    “I think the people deserve a big transformative win like this one.    I can’t wait for this industry to get to work and create jobs and bring revenues for our state.”
    The governor is expected to sign the bill into law, which would make cannabis legal in the state by next April.

4/4/2021 Biden Fails To Mention Jesus In ‘Easter Address,’ Speaks Of COVID by OAN Newsroom
Joe Biden. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
    Joe Biden has come under fire for failing to mention Jesus Christ in his purported ‘Easter Address.’
    However, Biden made sure to mention COVID-19 seven times.
    “We share the sentiments of Pope Francis who has said that getting vaccinated is a moral obligation,” Biden said.
    Biden, who claims to be a devout Catholic, took an opportunity to promote COVID vaccines in his address, which further stirred the latest fears of the coronavirus.
    Critics said his address was an insult as he failed to honor the Christian symbol of faith and instead, used a supposedly religious message for political purposes.    Biden’s COVID address also caused dismay among Christian communities, many of whom oppose vaccinations for any purpose.
    Critics said the focus of Biden’s address showed the modern left was really worshipping money and power instead of Jesus.

4/5/2021 Pope calls wars during pandemic ‘scandalous’ by Frances D’Emilio, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis in his traditional Easter address on Sunday denounced as “scandalous” how armed conflicts continue to rage even as the coronavirus pandemic has triggered severe social and economic suffering and swollen the ranks of the poor.
    Francis tempered his “Urbi et Orbi” address (Latin for “To the city and to the world”) wishes of joy on the Christian feast day along with accounts of pain from the globe’s many armed conflicts in Africa, the Mideast, Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe.
    Describing vaccines as an “essential tool” in the pandemic battle, Francis called for a “spirit of global responsibility” as he encouraged nations to overcome “delays in the distribution of vaccines” and ensure that the shots reach the poorest nations.
    “Everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us, requires assistance and has the right to have access to necessary care.” the pontiff said.
    He sounded a note of indignation at the start of his address, decrying that there has been no shortage of war and conflict during the world’s worst health crisis in a century.
    “The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor.    Nevertheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended, and military arsenals are being strengthened,” Francis said, sounding angry.    “That is today’s scandal.”
    The pontiff prayed that public authorities would see to it that those needing assistance have a “decent standard of living.    Sadly, the pandemic has dramatically increased the number of the poor and the despair of thousands of people.”
    He lamented the plight of people afflicted by war and other conflicts, citing Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries and which has been wracked by violent protests and political strife including an alleged coup.    Francis urged Haitians “not to be overwhelmed by difficulties, but to look to the future with confidence and hope.”
    Francis offered encouragement to young people in Myanmar who are “committed to supporting democracy and making their voices heard peacefully.”
Myanmar’s military has violently sought to quash those opposed to a Feb. 1 coup that ousted a democratically elected government.
    Francis thanked Lebanon and Jordan for taking in refugees from war in Syria, praying that peace finally comes to “millions are living in inhumane conditions.”    He also prayed for ends to conflicts in Yemen and Libya.
    Citing suffering of people in Africa, he decried “internal violence and international terrorism, especially in the Sahel and Nigeria.”    Other troubled areas he mentioned were Ethiopia’s Tigray province and Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, which has been blooded by days of fighting with rebels for control of a town.
    Francis prayed for the safe return home of prisoners of long conflicts in Europe, in eastern Ukraine and in Nagorno- Karabkh.
    Earlier in the day, Francis celebrated Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, where the faithful in the pews barely numbered 200 in keeping with pandemic protocols, compared to the usual thousands.
Pope Francis delivers his blessing after celebrating Easter Mass at
St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City on Sunday. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE VIA AP/POOL

    It is called DIVERSITY now in 2020 in the United States and probably already in many of the other nations of the world and as you have read my website at I call them the Globalist Socialist One World Government who has infiltrated all the world’s governments.
    It seems to be controlling in the United States: Silicon Valley, Corporate America, Academia arenas, Hollywood, and now language in a Culture Cancel mentality trying to change family and faith to gain power over all and it is now a WOKE ANGRY MOB.
Wokeism – The New Religion of The West | Converge Media

    There is a new religion.     It is moving like a tidal wave through every facet of western culture, shaping and redefining society as it goes.     This religion masquerades under the guise of compassion and justice, but underneath is an evil ideology that is incompatible with western values and incongruent with the Christian worldview.     This movement did not start in Minneapolis on May 25th, when George Floyd was murdered.     That event acted as a watershed moment for an ideology that has been growing for decades.     If left unchecked, this new religion could lead to a complete unravelling of western culture.
    There are many names for what we currently find ourselves in; wokeness, political correctness, and cancel culturez are some of them, but these only encapsulate a portion of the phenomenon.
    Cultural Marxism, neo-marxism, social justice, identity politics, and Critical Theory are broader descriptors.    We would like to use a term that adequately captures the religiosity of the movement: wokeism.
    Wokeism is a religion.    Although it has not been organized into any formal religious structure, it has all the functions of religious doctrine.     It has a unique epistemology (theory of knowledge), an evaluation of the human condition, and a redemption narrative.     But from where did it come? Critical Theory
    In the early 20th century, a German school of philosophy called the Frankfurt School developed a social philosophy called Critical Theory.    In a nutshell, Critical Theory critiques culture and challenges the underlying power structures of society.     It is a movement to “liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them,” reinterpreting western culture as a story of the oppressor vs. oppressed.     In Critical Theory, the only things that exist are hierarchies of power, and those hierarchies must be torn down.     The goal of this movement, whether stated or not, is nothing less than the complete dismantling and rebuilding of western culture from the ground up.
    Critical Theory started to become prominent among western academics in the 90s and eventually infiltrated almost every university in the western world. In recent years, the ideology has left the university and has made the jump to media and corporate culture, establishing itself as the primary moral culture within western societies.
Currently, the main lines of separation between oppressors and oppressed are race, sex and gender identity.
    This is not just a political or social movement within the framework of traditional enlightenment values. Concepts such as logic, science, and reason are viewed as tools of the oppressive white patriarchy.     Values like individualism, hard work, punctuality and delayed gratification would be understood as perpetuating white supremacy.     Critical Theory has become much more than a social philosophy and is the primary philosophical driving force behind the new civil religion of wokeism.
    The goal of this movement, whether stated or not, is nothing less than the complete dismantling and rebuilding of western culture from the ground up.
The New Religion
    Why call wokeism a new religion?     The fact is that the rise of secular humanism over the past 70 years created a religion-shaped hole in our culture.     Secularism, for all of its cultural dominance, failed to offer a robust philosophy of meaning and purpose, nor did it provide any moral framework for how to act within the world besides “be a good person because the alternative is undesirable for everyone.”    Alternatively, wokeism has developed its view of reality with its own set of values and narratives.     From the ashes of secular humanism, a new civil religion rises.
    Wokeism offers everything that secularism failed to provide, and has quickly filled the God-shaped hole in our culture.    It purports its version of truth, justice, righteousness, sin, and judgement.     It provides its adherents meaning, with its meta-narrative of societal conflict, power struggle and the struggle for redemptive freedom.     The tearing down those oppressive power structures helps give purpose to the individual and the collective.     These values are solidified in public rituals like sensitivity training or confronting white fragility.     There is a strong communal aspect, and people feel like they are part of something greater than themselves.     Also inherent in this “social progress” is the hypothetical future utopian society liberated from the evils of the current oppressive system.     Most of all, however, Wokeism offers what every sinful human heart deeply longs for, and that is moral justification.     People believe they are acting justly within the world, and being fair, sometimes they are.     But often, all that they are doing is mere posturing, or worse, destructive.
    That is not to say the Wokesim offers total absolution to its followers; in fact, it is quite the opposite.     To be tearing down oppressive power structures means that you are also profoundly aware of your prejudices.    James Lindsay, a mathematician, academic, and atheist, was recently on Joe Rogan and said:
Some religions look up, they’re looking at God, and they’re afraid of sin, but they’re paying attention to God, and they’re thinking about renewal, they’re thinking about redemption, they’re thinking about forgiveness.     And then some religions look down, and all they do is look at sin.     If you look up, then religion can be great, it can lead people in spiritual development, community and so on, but if you’re looking down, if you’re obsessing about sin, you’re going to start obsessing about everybody else’s sin too.”
    The ideas of sin (privilege) righteousness (victimhood) and damnation (cancellation) are well established within Wokeism.     While it provides rituals of penance (“check your privilege” and “allyship”) and piety (kneeling during the anthem or posting black squares), what it never offers is forgiveness.     In a recent interview with Dave Rubin, theologian Nathan Finochio described the phenomenon:
If I’m stuck in the oppressor group and there’s no escaping it, there can be no forgiveness if there’s no repentance, right?     Like, isn’t that how it works?     So I’m just perpetually a sinner, and I’m just going to continue to perpetuate the oppressor group, and there’s nothing that I can do.     Of course, cancel culture is actually the logical conclusion of Critical Theory…because they have to get rid of the oppressor class.”
Differences with Christianity
    What’s so nefarious about Wokeism is that it regularly plays on people’s better motivations such as compassion and a desire for justice.     Most people have a genuine desire to see the lives of others improve, and many Christians have engaged with these ideas as if they are congruent with the teachings of Christ.     Of course, there are disparities in our society where justice is needed.     Still, the point is that Wokeism has different interpretations for the concepts of truth, justice and equity and leaves no room in the conversation for alternative ways of addressing those issues.     Wokeism is incompatible with the biblical worldview, differing in several key ways.    First, it attributes intrinsic guilt or innocence to the individual based on their group identity, regardless of individual actions.
Proverbs 17:15
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
    The belief at the core of western culture is that each individual is made in God’s image and is therefore intrinsically worthy of dignity and respect.     This idea sits at the foundation of our legal system as well.     In the biblical moral framework, the individual is responsible to God for his or her actions.     The notion that sin or righteousness could be inherited based on one’s natural identifiers, like race, gender, or descent, was refuted when the Lord spoke to the prophet Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 18:1-3
The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?     As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.     Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.
    The New Testament takes it a step further, saying that “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 5:16) As followers of Jesus, we are not to judge people based on natural identifiers (race, age, sex, etc.); instead, we are to evaluate them based on the moral standards of the scriptures and treat them as equals, created by God.
    Second, the narrative of redemption that Wokeism puts forward is entirely antithetical to the Christian narrative. The biblical stories present the pattern of the individual, in relationship with God, as the primary mechanism for the redemption of the world. This pattern culminates with Christ as the perfect man and sacrifice for the sins of the world.     Our belief in his finished work and submission to his Lordship is our motivation to act justly within the world.     Therefore, the ideal Christian behaviour is one of mercy, peace, kindness, and forgiveness.     Wokeism, on the other hand, presents the redemptive pattern of various groups vying for power within an inherently oppressive system. In this tribalistic vision of the world, the only thing that exists is power, and if only power exists, then power and control are necessary to tear down a corrupt system. In this narrative of redemption, violence is easily justified.     For this reason, we have seen violent riots and not just peaceful protests sweeping America over the past two months.
    In this tribalistic vision of the world, the only thing that exists is power, and if only power exists, then power and control are necessary to tear down a corrupt system.
Possible Futures
    Western culture has already reached its tipping point.     Critical Theory has become the mainstream social philosophy, and Wokeism has become the new civil religion.     There are two conceivable ways that our future will unfold.     The first is that Wokeism will eat itself and dissolve because these ideologies are inherently self-consuming.     If the only thing that exists is power, then corrupt power structures must be torn down.     It could be that enough people will begin to wake up to the cognitive dissonance that is being shoved down our collective throats, but that is an incredibly optimistic view of the current situation.
    What’s more likely is the second option; that these ideas will be taken to their logical conclusion.     In the interview mentioned above, Nathan Finochio said that “cancel culture is actually the logical conclusion of Critical Theory… because they have to get rid of the oppressor class.”    Rubin responded with the following.
    “I hate to tell you I think it’s beheading that is the logical conclusion of cancel culture.”
    We have already seen an autonomous zone called CHOP (named after the French Revolution) and a guillotine in front of Jeff Bezos’s house.     People seem to think that something like “The Great Leap Forward” couldn’t happen in the western world, but it’s precisely this assumption that could be our undoing.
How Do We Respond?
    Bradley Campbell recently wrote an article for Quillette, saying:
However it plays out, those who have problems with the new culture, or with aspects of it, aren’t going to get anywhere simply by dismissing it or mocking it.     To the extent that social justice culture offers a new moral vision, they’ll need to offer an alternative moral vision.”
    As Christians, we must be the ones to offer this “alternative moral vision,” namely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.     We cannot incorporate Critical Theory into the Gospel.    The mixture of these two ideologies will only result in Church fracture, the loss of brotherly love, and the perversion of the Gospel.     Unfortunately, many believers have already integrated these doctrines into their theology.     The trojan horse of Wokeism has entered the Church. Time will tell how the Church responds.
    Again, all this is not to say that we shouldn’t care about issues of justice or socioeconomic disparity.    Black lives do matter. Just law enforcement policies are important.     Poverty should be alleviated.     These issues deeply matter to the heart of God, and we need to be seeking God’s solution to address the roots of the problems.     But God has already put forward his definitions of sin and righteousness, justice and redemption.     His interpretations are the ones that matter, and his meta-narrative is the one that we are actually living in.     It’s up to the Church to identify the lies of the enemy, speak the truth in love, and seek the solutions that come from heaven.     Perhaps it’s not too late.
Isaiah 5:20-21
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
    Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.

4/6/2021 High court dodges religion question - The justices decline to hear workplace dispute by John Fritze, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear an appeal that could have set a different standard for when employers must accommodate the religious beliefs of workers, but two of the court’s conservative justices questioned the decision in a sharply worded dissent.
    Jason Small was an electrician for Memphis Light, Gas and Water for more than a decade.    His troubles began after an injury in 2013 required him to transfer jobs.    Memphis Light offered him a position as a service dispatcher, but Small, a Jehovah’s Witness, worried the job would conflict with his desire to attend services on Wednesdays and Sundays and take part in community work on Saturdays.
    Small sued in 2017, alleging religious discrimination. A federal district court and the Ohio-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit found that he lacked enough evidence for most of his claims.    But in a concurrence, appeals court Judge Amul Thapar wrote that the standard used to decide such cases since a Supreme Court decision in 1977 should be reconsidered.
    The court offered no explanation for its decision not to hear the dispute.    Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito said it is time to take another look at the standard.
    Federal law requires companies to make accommodations for their workers’ religious beliefs as long as it doesn’t present an “undue hardship.”    In 1977, the Supreme Court defined “undue hardship” as anything having more than a “de minimis,” or trivial cost.    That means employers can avoid making accommodations in many situations.
    Gorsuch, in a dissent joined by Alito, asserted that those circumstances allow “subpar employees” to receive more favorable treatment than highly performing workers if the latter group seeks only to attend church.    “There is no barrier to our review and no one else to blame,” Gorsuch wrote.    “The only mistake here is of the court’s own making – and it is past time for the court to correct it.”
    Even before Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett took her seat on the court in October, the justices have looked kindly on religious claims.    The court allowed taxpayer money to be directed to religious entities in some situations and exempted employers with religious objections from providing insurance coverage for contraceptives.

4/6/2021 Schumer set to move on pot’s legalization - Yet president wants more study of the issue by William Cummings, USA TODAY
    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a strong advocate of marijuana legalization, is ready to move ahead with major changes to federal laws prohibiting the use, sale and production of cannabis products – with or without the support of President Joe Biden.
    During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden – a leading Democratic proponent of tough drug laws during his long Senate career – was the only leading Democratic primary candidate to oppose federal legalization of the plant, saying more study is needed.    While the president supports legalizing the drug for medical use and the decriminalization of possession, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week, Biden’s “position has not changed” on full legalization since the campaign.
    Schumer told Politico he respects Biden’s desire for more study on the subject, but he said “we will move forward” even if the president’s view stays the same.
    “He said he’s studying the issue,” the New York Democrat said when asked if he would introduce a legalization bill even if Biden opposes it.    He added he wants to give the president “a little time” to research the question.
    “I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will,” Schumer told Politico.    “But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”
    Schumer introduced a legalization bill in 2018 and is working on legislation to change federal marijuana laws with Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.    Schumer has not yet revealed the contents of the new bill, and it is unclear whether the legislation would include full federal legalization or a more modest move toward decriminalization that Biden might be more likely to support.
    “I support decriminalization at the federal level, and we’ll be introducing legislation with a few of my colleagues shortly,” Schumer said.    “At the federal level, you call it decriminalization because it lets the states legalize.”
But when asked by Politico about whether the new legislation calls for legalization or decriminalization, Schumer said: “I am personally for legalization.    And the bill that we’ll be introducing is headed in that direction."
    “I don’t want to get into the details of our bill.    You’ll have to wait and see,” Schumer said, though he indicated it would include a provision to expunge federal marijuana convictions from people’s criminal records.    Schumer also said he would support pushing states to similarly expunge criminal records through federal “incentives and disincentives.”
    Schumer, whose home state of New York legalized marijuana last week, told Politico his position on the matter “evolved” after seeing the success of the states that approved recreational use of the drug.
    “When a few of the early states – Oregon and Colorado – wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up.    Drug use would go up.    Everything bad would happen,” Schumer said.    “The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and President Joe Biden differ on the legalization

4/6/2021 In Ark., a veto of ‘extreme’ gender reassignment bill by Max Bryan, Fort Smith Times Record USA TODAY NETWORK
    FORT SMITH, Ark. – Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed a bill that would ban gender reassignment surgeries and hormone supplements for anyone under 18 in the state.
    Labeled the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act, the bill, which did not have a provision for youth who are currently transitioning, passed the Arkansas Senate by a vote of 28-7 on March 29 and a House vote of 70-22 on March 10.
    “The bill is overbroad, extreme and does not grandfather those who are under hormone treatment,” said Hutchinson.
    He added that he believes the bill is legislative interference with medical care in the state.
    Hutchinson anticipates the Arkansas Legislature may override his veto on House Bill 1570 before the session is over.
    The American Medical Association, American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics publicly opposed the bill.
    The American Civil Liberties Union called the bill’s restrictions on gender reassignment unprecedented in the United States.
    ACLU spokespeople said they planned to take legal action against the legislation if it was passed into law.
    The bill states the risks of gender transition procedures “far outweigh any benefit at this stage of clinical study” and lists risks of taking hormone supplements including blood clots and cancer.
    In his reasoning for the legislation, Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, cited an American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry study that states 90% of young adults who experienced gender dysphoria eventually identified how they were assigned at birth.    Clark was the primary Senate sponsor of the bill.
    Before speaking on behalf of the legislation on March 29, Clark said his heart goes out to youth who are experiencing gender dysphoria and their families.
    He also encouraged trans youth and their families to seek counseling, which is not prohibited in the bill.
    Opponents of the bill argued access to medical care lowers suicide rates among trans people.
    “The bill is overbroad, extreme and does not grandfather those who are under hormone treatment.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
    Of his veto of a bill that would ban gender reassignment surgeries for anyone younger than 18.
    Some believed the legislation contradicts President Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order meant to combat discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
    The bill was the latest measure targeting transgender people that easily advanced in the Arkansas Legislature and other states this year.
Governors in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have signed laws banning transgender girls and women from competing on school sports teams consistent with the gender identity
    Hutchinson recently signed a measure allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of moral or religious objections, a law that opponents have said could be used to turn away LGBTQ patients.
Contributing: Andrew DeMillo, Associated Press

4/8/2021 Arkansas enacts ban on trans youth treatment by Andrew DeMillo ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas lawmakers on Tuesday made the state the first to ban gender confirming treatments and surgery for transgender youth, enacting the prohibition over the governor’s objections.
    The Republican-controlled House and Senate voted to override GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the measure, which prohibits doctors from providing gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.
    Opponents of the measure have vowed to sue to block the ban before it takes effect this summer.
    Hutchinson vetoed the bill Monday following pleas from pediatricians, social workers and the parents of transgender youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk for depression and suicide.    The ban was opposed by several medical and child welfare groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.
    'This legislation perpetuates the very things we know are harmful to trans youth,' Dr. Robert Garofalo, division head of adolescent and young adult medicine at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, told reporters on a press conference call held by the Human Rights Campaign.    'They’re not just anti-trans.    They’re anti-science.     They’re anti-public health.'
    The bill’s sponsor dismissed opposition from medical groups and compared the restriction to other limits the state places on minors, such as prohibiting them from drinking.
    'They need to get to be 18 before they make those decisions,' Republican Rep. Robin Lundstrum said.
    The Family Council, a conservative group that backed the measure, praised lawmakers for enacting 'historic legislation.'
    Hutchinson said the measure went too far in interfering with parents and physicians, and noted that it will cut off care for transgender youth already receiving treatment.    He said he would have signed the bill if it had focused only on gender confirming surgery, which currently isn’t performed on minors in the state.
    'I do hope my veto will cause my Republican colleagues across the country to resist the temptation to put the state in the middle of every decision made by parents and health care professionals,' Hutchinson said in a statement after the vote.
    The law will take effect in late July at the earliest.    The American Civil Liberties Union said it planned to challenge the measure before then.
    'This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over – and we’re in it for the long haul,' Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas’ executive director, said in a statement.
    The override, which needed only a simple majority, passed easily in both chambers, with the House voting 72-25 in favor and the Senate 25-8.
    Hutchinson also recently signed legislation that allows doctors to refuse to treat someone because of moral or religious objections.
    The Legislature isn’t showing signs of letting up.    Another bill advanced Tuesday would prevent schools from requiring teachers to refer to students by their preferred pronouns or titles.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed the transgender bill, saying it went too far. Tommy Metthe/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP, File

4/10/2021 Ark. Bill Protects Teachers From ‘Misgender’ Retaliation by OAN Newsroom
Students return to in-person learning. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
    Arkansas lawmakers proposed a bill to provide protections to school teachers who may not use a student’s preferred pronouns.    The legislation, House Bill 1749, passed the House along party lines Thursday and then headed to the Senate.
    Opponents of the bill have argued it could embolden teachers who might purposefully use the wrong pronouns for their students.    However, the bill’s sponsor, State Representative Mary Bentley (R) said many teachers feel threatened and the measure could protect those who do not want to be used as political pawns.
    “It’s not compelling anyone’s speech, it’s not prohibiting anyone’s speech,” Bentley stated.    “It’s helping those professors and teachers in our schools that do not want to be sued for not using a certain person’s pronouns.”
    Bentley added, this bill is only a first step.    She believes more protections should be added.

4/11/2021 Justice’s halt Calif. rule limiting home worship - High court increasingly rejecting virus curbs by John Fritze, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has shot down a California regulation limiting religious worship at home, the latest in a series of rulings in which the justices have found that coronavirus pandemic regulations violate the First Amendment’s protections of religion.
    The 5-4 unsigned opinion, published just before midnight on Friday, highlighted the deep divisions over the issue, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with three liberals who dissented.    The court noted that it had overturned the California-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in similar cases four previous times.
    California had announced significant changes loosening restrictions on gatherings that go into effect Thursday.    The changes came after infection rates have gone down in the state.    But the court stressed in its opinion that such changes while a dispute is on appeal do not necessarily make the case moot.
    In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, California prohibited at-home gatherings in counties hit hard by the pandemic and limited those gatherings elsewhere to no more than three households.    The restrictions were challenged by two Christian pastors who wanted to hold Bible studies, prayer meetings and other services in their home.
    The court said California allows people from more than three households to gather in hair salons, retail stores, movie theaters and restaurants.    Given that, the justices said, the state would need to show that it is more dangerous for people to gather in homes for religious services than in those other places.
    “Where the government permits other activities to proceed with precautions, it must show that the religious exercise at issue is more dangerous than those activities even when the same precautions are applied,” the court wrote.    “Otherwise, precautions that suffice for other activities suffice for religious exercise too.”    In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan asserted that the majority was hurting state officials’ ability to address a public health emergency.    Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined in her dissent.
    “California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households.    If the state also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment,” she wrote.
    The court has dealt with a string of cases in which religious groups have challenged coronavirus restrictions affecting worship services.    Early in the pandemic, the court sided with state officials over the objection of religious groups, but that changed following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September and her replacement by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
    The court, where conservatives now have a 6-3 majority, began finding for churches and other religious entities in the cases after initially siding with states.    In this case, the majority was composed of Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Barrett.
    Roberts would have denied the pastors’ appeals, but he did not explain his reasoning and did not join Kagan’s dissent. Contributing: Associated Press
Members of the Islamic Center of Conejo Valley in Newbury Park, Calif., gather outside
after prayers on Feb. 12. JUAN CARLO/VENTURA COUNTY STAR

4/12/2021 Abortions by medication assailed - Advocates say procedure is safe via telemedicine by David Crary and Iris Samuels ASSOCIATED PRESS
    About 40% of all abortions in the U.S. are now done through medication – rather than surgery – and that option has become all the more pivotal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Abortion rights advocates say the pandemic has demonstrated the value of medical care provided virtually, including the privacy and convenience of abortions taking place in a woman’s home, instead of a clinic.    Abortion opponents, worried the method will become increasingly prevalent, are pushing legislation in several Republican-led states to restrict it and in some cases, ban providers from prescribing abortion medication via telemedicine.
    Ohio enacted a ban this year, proposing felony charges for doctors who violate it.    The law was set to take effect next week, but a judge has blocked it temporarily in response to a Planned Parenthood lawsuit.
    In Montana, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte is expected to sign a ban on telemedicine abortions.    The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Sharon Greef, has called medication abortions 'the Wild West of the abortion industry' and says the drugs should be taken under close supervision of medical professionals, 'not as part of a do-it-yourself abortion far from a clinic or hospital.'
    Opponents of the bans say telemedicine abortions are safe, and outlawing them would have a disproportionate effect on rural residents who face long drives to the nearest abortion clinic.
    'When we look at what state legislatures are doing, it becomes clear there’s no medical basis for these restrictions,' said Elisabeth Smith, chief counsel for state policy and advocacy with the Center for Reproductive Rights.    'They’re only meant to make it more difficult to access this incredibly safe medication and sow doubt into the relationship between patients and providers.'
    Other legislation has sought to outlaw delivery of abortion pills by mail, shorten the 10-week window in which the method is allowed, and require doctors to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions that the process can be reversed midway through – a claim that critics say is not backed by science.
    It’s part of a broader wave of anti-abortion measures numerous states are considering this year, including some that would ban nearly all abortions.    The bills’ supporters hope the U.S. Supreme Court, now with a 6-3 conservative majority, might be open to overturning or weakening the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established the nationwide right to end pregnancies.
    Legislation targeting medication abortion was inspired in part by developments during the pandemic, when the Food and Drug Administration – under federal court order – eased restrictions on abortion pills so they could be sent by mail.    A requirement for women to pick them up in person is back, but abortion opponents worry the Biden administration will end those restrictions permanently.    Abortion-rights groups are urging that step.
    Medication abortion has been available in the United States since 2000, when the FDA approved the use of mifepristone.    Taken with misoprostol, it constitutes the so-called abortion pill.
    The method’s popularity has grown steadily.    The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, estimates that it accounts for about 40% of all abortions in the U.S. and 60% of those taking place up to 10 weeks’ gestation.
    Beyond its exceptionally safe and effective track record, what makes medication abortion so significant is how convenient and private it can be,' said Megan Donovan, Guttmacher’s senior policy manager.    'That’s exactly why it is still subject to onerous restrictions.'
    Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, which includes Cincinnati, says medication abortions account for a quarter of the abortions it provides.    Of its 1,558 medication abortions in the past year, only 9% were done via telemedicine, but the organization’s president, Kersha Deibel, said that option is important for many economically disadvantaged women and those in rural areas.
    Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, countered that 'no woman deserves to be subjected to the gruesome process of a chemical abortion potentially hours away from the physician who prescribed her the drugs.'
    In Montana, where Planned Parenthood operates five of the state’s seven abortion clinics, 75% of abortions are done through medication – a huge change from 10 years ago.
    Martha Stahl, president of Planned Parenthood of Montana, says the pandemic – which increased reliance on telemedicine – has contributed to the rise in the proportion of medication abortions.
    In the vast state, home to rural communities and seven Native American reservations, many women live more than a five-hour drive from the nearest abortion clinic.    For them, access to telemedicine can be significant.
    Greef, who sponsored the ban on telemedicine abortions, said the measure would ensure providers can watch for signs of domestic abuse or sex trafficking as they care for patients in person.
    Yet advocates of the telemedicine method say patients are grateful for the convenience and privacy.
    'Some are in a bad relationship or victim of domestic violence,' said Christina Theriault, a nurse practitioner for Maine Family Planning who can perform abortions under state law.    'With telemedicine, they can do it without their partner knowing.    There’s a lot of relief from them.'
    The group has health centers in far northern Maine where women can get abortion pills and take them at home under the supervision of health providers communicating by phone or videoconferencing.    It spares women a drive of three to four hours to the nearest abortion clinic in Bangor, Theriault said.
    Maine Family Planning is among a small group of providers participating in an FDA-approved research program allowing women to receive the abortion pill by mail after video consultations.    Under the program, the Maine group also can mail pills to women in New York and Massachusetts.
    Samuels is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative.    Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
About 40% of all U.S. abortions are done through medication, an option that has become
more pivotal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Charlie Neibergall/AP file

4/12/2021 Supreme Court sits on key conservative cases - Justices may not take on abortion rights, gun issues by John Fritze, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – When Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett took her seat on the Supreme Court in October, Democrats openly fretted about a lopsided conservative court unwinding years of precedent on abortion, gun control and other divisive issues.
    But rather than handing conservatives a string of victories, the justices have – so far – left advocates on the right grasping for answers about why a number of pending challenges dealing with some of the nation’s biggest controversies have languished.
    From an abortion case out of Mississippi to a scorching dispute between Texas and California pitting religious freedom against gay rights, the justices are sitting on several contentious issues that will now wait until this fall – at the earliest – to get a hearing, assuming the court takes the cases at all.
    “There’s always a reason to kick the can down the road,” lamented Josh Blackman, a law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston.    “These issues linger and fester if they don’t come to any sort of resolution.    That’s sort of where we are.”
    When former President Donald Trump nominated Barrett in September, Democrats warned her confirmation would tilt the court to the “far right,” noting it would have a 6-3 split between conservatives and liberals for the first time in decades.    New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s Democratic leader, said Barrett’s confirmation would “alter the lives and freedoms of the American people while they stood in line to vote.”
    But in the months since then the court’s approach has been far less dramatic.    It sided with churches and synagogues challenging COVID-19 restrictions but dismissed a battery of appeals by Trump and his allies seeking to change the outcome of the 2020 election.    It jettisoned some controversial matters left over from the Trump administration and sidestepped others.
    Of 13 signed opinions published by the court so far this year, all but one have put conservatives and liberals together in the majority that decided the case.
    Here’s a look at some of the red hot appeals waiting in the wings of the Supreme Court’s docket.
    Easily the most closely watched pending litigation at the court deals with Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
    Many conservatives for more than a generation have sought to either overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide or at least chip away at it. Some see the Mississippi case as the first real test of the court’s resolve on the issue.
    The Supreme Court is also sitting on a dispute this term between the nation’s two most populous and perhaps most politically disparate states: California and Texas.    The case once again underscores a tension in the law between religious liberty and gay rights.
    California approved a state law in 2016 prohibiting taxpayer-funded travel to states that don’t explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.    Texas allows foster-care and adoption agencies to deny same-sex couples as parents if they object on religious grounds.
    California says it’s within bounds to set policies on using taxpayer money.
Abortion rights have been a national issue since the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade
decision, which made it legal. JACQUELYN MARTIN/AP

4/20/2021 Justices won’t hear challenges to gun ban - Gun rights groups vow to stay on message by John Fritze, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up three challenges to a federal ban on gun ownership for people convicted of nonviolent crimes, disappointing Second Amendment advocates who hoped a more conservative court would begin to chip away at the restriction.
    By not taking the appeals, the nation’s highest court let stand a series of lower court rulings that prohibited people convicted of driving under the influence, making false statements on tax returns and selling counterfeit cassette tapes from owning a gun.
    The decisions Monday, which were handed down without explanation, are the latest in a series of instances in which the Supreme Court has skirted Second Amendment questions.    The high court last issued major guns rights rulings in 2008 and 2010, cases that struck down handgun restrictions in the District of Columbia and Chicago.
    Gun rights groups vowed to continue to press the issue.
    “While we are disappointed the Supreme Court chose to allow grossly improper lower court rulings to stand, (we) will continue our aggressive litigation strategy,” said Adam Kraut, senior director of legal operations at the Firearms Policy Coalition, which represented several of the petitioners.
    Kraut said the group would “immediately move forward” with new challenges in lower courts “to address serious constitutional questions” about the extent of Second Amendment rights.
    Several of the court’s conservatives signaled in recent years that they were interested in revisiting the issue, and it’s not clear why they chose not to do so.    Four conservative justices have expressed a desire to address outstanding Second Amendment questions – enough to take a case but one vote short of the five needed to corral a majority.    Many expected Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, seated last fall, to provide that fifth vote.
    The court was considering the cases amid a spate of recent mass shootings.
    Gun control advocates applauded the decision but noted the court has several cases pending it could use to address the ownership bans and other issues.
    “If nothing else is clear from today’s decision, the court signaled that it’s not making a 180-degree turn where it’s going to take every gun case and rule for the gun lobby in every case,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

4/20/2021 Canada Court Voids Part Of Disputed Quebec Law On Religious Symbols by Allison Lampert
FILE PHOTO: People protest Quebec's new Bill 21, which will ban teachers, police, government lawyers and others in positions of authority from
wearing religious symbols such as Muslim head coverings and Sikh turbans, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
    MONTREAL (Reuters) – A Canadian court on Tuesday struck down part of a disputed Quebec law against public employees wearing religious symbols, removing limits on some teachers and provincial politicians but maintaining the ban for police officers, judges and other civil servants.
    The 2019 law, which the Quebec government said was designed to preserve secularism in the mainly French-speaking province, prohibits many civil servants, including police officers, from wearing religious symbols such as hijabs and turbans on the job.
    Multiple lawsuits have challenged the law, calling it discriminatory and unconstitutional.    Several Muslim women said they were refused teaching jobs because they wore a head scarf, or hijab.
    Legal experts predict the Quebec Superior Court ruling will be appealed to Canada’s Supreme Court.
    The law was passed by the province’s ruling centre-right Coalition Avenir Quebec although other governments had been trying for years to impose such restrictions.
    Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti said the federal government was reviewing the decision.
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made clear in 2019 that he opposed the law but has not mentioned it since.    The case is sensitive for the ruling Liberals since Quebec will be of critical importance in an election expected later this year.
    Under the ruling, the ban does not apply to teachers or administrators in Quebec’s minority English-language school boards since they hold special rights over education under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
    “It means that we can now hire any qualified teacher to work in our system regardless of whether they choose to wear a religious symbol,” said Joe Ortona, chair of the English Montreal School Board.    “We are elated.”
    The ban also exempts elected members of Quebec’s provincial parliament since “the charter gives everyone the right to run and to vote,” said constitutional lawyer Julius Grey.
    A March 2021 Leger survey said a majority of Quebecers favored a public ban on the wearing of religious symbols.
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Mark Heinrich)

4/20/2021 China, Myanmar And Others Criticised In Report On Rising Religious Persecution by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: An Ethnic Uighur demonstrator wearing a protective face mask takes part in a
protest against China, in Istanbul, Turkey October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo
    ROME (Reuters) – Violations of religious freedom are increasing and persecution takes place in more than 25 countries, with China and Myanmar among those that have the worst records, according to a report by a Vatican-backed charity.
    The Religious Freedom in the World Report, covering 2019-2020 and issued on Tuesday, said that in some countries, such as Niger, Turkey and Pakistan, prejudices against religious minorities led local residents to blame them for the COVID-19 pandemic and denial of access to medical aid.
    The 800-page report was prepared by Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN), a worldwide Catholic charity that studies violations of freedoms of all religions.
    The latest report put 26 countries in a “red” category denoting the existence of persecution, compared to 21 countries at the time of the last report two years ago.
    It put 36 countries in the “orange” category denoting discrimination, compared to 17 two years ago.
    The report describes discrimination as when laws or rules apply to a particular group and not to all, and persecution as when there is an active programme to subjugate people based on religion.
    “There has been a significant increase in the severity of religiously-motivated persecution and oppression,” the report said.
    It was particularly scathing about China and Myanmar.
    “The apparatus of repression constructed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in recent years is … fine-tuned, pervasive, and technologically sophisticated,” the report said.
    The most egregious violations were against Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang “where the atrocities have reached such a scale that a growing number of experts describe them as genocide,” it said.
    In February, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden endorsed a last-minute determination by the Trump administration that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang and has said the United States must be prepared to impose costs on China.
    China says the complexes it set up in Xinjiang provide vocational training to help stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism.    The Chinese foreign ministry has called allegations of forced labour and human rights violations “groundless rumour and slander.”
    The ACN report said Catholic hierarchy in China “continue to suffer harassment and arrest despite a landmark deal signed in 2018 between Bejing and the Vatican on the appointment of bishops on the mainland.
    Reuters reported last year that two nuns who work at the Vatican mission in Hong Kong were arrested when they went home to the mainland for a visit.
    China was increasing the use of facial recognition on worshippers of various religions, it said.
    In Myanmar, the report said Rohingya Muslims “have been the victims of the most egregious violations of human rights in recent memory.”
    Last year, the International Court of Justice ordered Myanmar to take urgent measures to protect Rohingya from genocide.    The government has denied accusations of genocide.
    The ACN report said the military coup on Feb. 1 was “likely to make things worse for all religious minorities” in Myanmar, where about 8% of the population is Christian.
    Africa would be “the next battleground against Islamic militants,” the report said.
    Militant groups were causing havoc in countries including Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, northern Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Mozambique, it said
(Reporting By Philip Pullella, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

4/22/2021 In Earth Day Message, Pope Warns That Planet Is “At The Brink” by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis delivers a video message on the occasion of Earth Day, at the Vatican,
April 22, 2021. Vatican Media/-Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said in his Earth Day message on Thursday that the planet was “at the brink” and humanity had to avoid “the path of self destruction.”
    The pope, who has issued many appeals for environmental protection since his election in 2013, spoke in two video messages, one for the Earth Day Live internet event and another for a global climate summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.
    “Now is the time to act.    We are at the brink,” Francis, who has backed the scientific consensus that global warming is partly man-made, said in the Earth Day message.
    He cited the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with the effects of climate change and said nature could not continue to be disrespected, because it would “no longer forgive.”
    “When the destruction of nature is sparked, it is difficult to stop.    But we are still in time and we will be more resilient if we work together instead of alone,” he said.
    “You do not exit from the crisis the same, we will either exit better or worse.    That is the challenge, and if we don’t exit better, we will take the path of self-destruction,” he said.
    He said now was the time for innovation and invention and urged political leaders to act with courage and justice.
    In the message to the event hosted by Biden, at which the United States and other countries hiked their targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions, Francis said people had “i>to care for nature so that it cares for us.”
    The event hosted by Biden, which Francis called a “wonderful” initiative, was meant to resurrect U.S. leadership in the fight against global warming.
The pope criticised former U.S President Donald Trump when he withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris accord to limit global warming.
The Vatican has welcomed Washington’s return to the accord. (Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by David Gregorio)

4/28/2021 US Catholic bishops may press Biden to stop taking Communion by DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer.
    When U.S. Catholic bishops hold their next national meeting in June, they’ll be deciding whether to send a tougher-than-ever message to President Joe Biden and other Catholic politicians: Don’t receive Communion if you persist in public advocacy of abortion rights.
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 file photo, President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden,
attend Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle during Inauguration Day ceremonies in Washington. When U.S. Catholic bishops
hold their next national meeting in June 2021, they’ll be deciding whether to send a tougher-than-ever message to President Joe Biden
and other Catholic politicians: Don’t partake of Communion if you persist in public advocacy of abortion rights. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    At issue is a document that will be prepared for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by its Committee on Doctrine, with the aim of clarifying the church’s stance on an issue that has repeatedly vexed the bishops in recent decades.    It’s taken on new urgency now, in the eyes of many bishops, because Biden — only the second Catholic president — is the first to hold that office while espousing clear-cut support for abortion rights.
    Such a stance, by a public figure, is “a grave moral evil,” according to Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities and believes it’s necessary to publicly rebuke Biden on the issue.
    “Because President Biden is Catholic, it presents a unique problem for us,” Naumann told The Associated Press.    “It can create confusion. ... How can he say he’s a devout Catholic and he’s doing these things that are contrary to the church’s teaching?
    The document, if approved, would make clear the USCCB’s view that Biden and other Catholic public figures with similar viewpoints should not present themselves for Communion, Naumann said.
    In accordance with existing USCCB policy, it would still leave decisions on withholding Communion up to individual bishops.    In Biden’s case, the top prelates of the jurisdictions where he frequently worships — Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware, and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. — have made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches they oversee.
    The document-in-the-works results from a decision in November by the USCCB’s president, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, to form a working group to address the “complex and difficult situation” posed by Biden’s stances on abortion and other issues that differ from official church teaching.    Before disbanding, the group proposed the drafting of a new document addressing the issue of Communion — a project assigned to the doctrine committee.
    The committee has not released details about its work.    Naumann said the matter will be discussed at the USCCB’s meeting in June and the bishops will vote on whether the committee should continue working on the document so it could be publicly released later.
    A two-thirds majority would be needed for work to proceed, Naumann said.    But even critics of the initiative, such as Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, predict the endeavor will win overwhelming approval.
    Stowe is among a relatively small group of U.S. bishops who worry that the USCCB’s emphasis on abortion is undercutting Pope Francis’ exhortations for the church to also stress such issues as climate change, immigration and inequality.    Stowe also worries that the U.S. bishops are missing a chance to find common ground with Biden on such issues.
    “If a politician is targeted as a negative example by his own church, that sets a sad context in which the church can deal with this Catholic president,” Stowe said.    “It contributes to the polarization of the church and of society.”
    Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego has expressed similar concerns.
    “I do not see how depriving the president or other political leaders of the Eucharist based on their public policy stance can be interpreted in our society as anything other than a weaponization of the Eucharist ... to pummel them into submission,” McElroy said during an online forum in February.    Nonetheless, the bishops wanting to send a tough message to Biden are determined to press ahead.
    “There’s a growing sense of urgency,” said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.    “Abortion is not just one among many important issues. ... It’s a direct attack on human life.”
    Cordileone envisions a statement from the USCCB to Biden and others “that would move them in their conscience.”
    “They need to understand the scandal that is caused when they say they are faithfully Catholic and yet oppose the church on such a basic concept,” he said.
    American Cardinal Raymond Burke has broached the possibility of Catholicism’s ultimate sanction.    He says politicians who “publicly and obstinately” support abortion are “apostates” who not only should be barred from receiving Communion but deserve excommunication.
    Bishops already troubled by Biden’s stance on abortion grew more dismayed by three measures from his administration in mid-April.
    It lifted restrictions on federal funding for research involving human fetal tissue.    It rescinded a Trump administration policy barring organizations such as     Planned Parenthood from receiving federal family planning grants if they also refer women for abortions.    And it said women seeking an abortion pill will not be required to visit a doctor’s office or clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling women to get a prescription via telemedicine and receive the pill by mail.
    Naumann, who issued strongly worded denunciations after each action, told AP he was frustrated that Biden could authorize those while identifying as a devout Catholic.
    “He doesn’t have the authority to teach what it means to be Catholic — that’s our responsibility as bishops,” Naumann said, “Whether intentional or not, he’s trying to usurp our authority.”
    The Vatican has not ruled on the specific matter of Communion and politicians supporting abortion in a major teaching document, though the church’s in-house canon law says people in a situation of persistent sin shouldn’t be allowed to receive Communion.    It has also issued guidelines for the behavior of Catholics in political life exhorting them to uphold principles consistent with church doctrine.
    The then-head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, told U.S. bishops in 2004 that priests “must” deny the sacrament if a politician goes to receive Communion despite an “obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin,” including the sin of consistently campaigning for permissive abortion laws.
    Ratzinger wrote a confidential letter outlining the principles to U.S. bishops in response to their question about whether to deny Communion to John Kerry, who was the Democratic nominee for president.    In the end the bishops ignored Ratzinger’s advice and voted instead for the policy currently in place allowing bishops to decide themselves whether to withhold it.
    The document being drafted by the doctrine committee may contain some guidelines for bishops, Cordileone said, but it will not seek to strip their decision-making authority.
    “This will put the burden of responsibility on Catholics who are prominent in public life,” he said.
    Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, who has sharply criticized Biden’s abortion stance, told the AP he favors creation of a national policy on Communion, as opposed to the current “patchwork approach.”    He said bishops should first have a private conversation with an individual deemed to be in a state of sin, and deny Communion if they persist.
    Edward Peters, who teaches canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said the USCCB would have the option of seeking Vatican approval for a unified Communion policy applying to all bishops. But he doubted such a request would be made.
    “The bishops’ conference does have broad responsibility to speak out on matters that impact the effectiveness and clarity of Church’s mission,” Peters said via email.    “The bad example being given by some high-profile Catholics who consistently fail to protect innocent human life is surely one of those matters.”
    Some Catholic academics are uneasy about the document.
    “Are you really going to deny Communion for the president of the United States?” asked Margaret McGuinness, a religion professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia.    “I don’t think this is going to shake his faith. ... I don’t see anything constructive coming out of it.”
    She noted that a majority of U.S. Catholics, according to polls, say abortion should be legal in at least some cases.
    Steven Millies, a professor of public theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, said the Catholic church received significant financial support in recent years from conservative philanthropists who are skeptical of Francis and favored Donald Trump over Biden in the 2020 election.
    “What we’re seeing now is an effort to please donors who want a church which will wage a culture war,” Millies said.
    Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.    Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

4/30/2021 President Biden tells trans youth he’s on their side by Christine Fernando, USA TODAY
    Harleigh Walker never expected the president of the United States to speak directly to her community.
    The 14-year-old from Alabama said she felt recognized when President Joe Biden called young transgender people “brave” as he urged Congress on Wednesday to pass the Equality Act during his first address to a joint session of Congress.
    “Especially with recent anti-trans legislation,” Harleigh said.    “For the president to recognize us in that way, and tell us he was on our side, was so great.    It was empowering.    It gave us hope.”
    Her father said he felt relief when he heard Biden.    “To see that at a federal level, my daughter has that support, was so heartening,” Jeff Walker said.
    “I just hope it trickles down and affects lawmakers on a state level,” he said.    “This is just the beginning of the road.”
    Advocates say Biden’s acknowledgement of trans people is a big step forward for visibility and acceptance.
    “To all the transgender Americans watching at home, especially the young people who are so brave, I want you to know that your president has your back,” Biden said Wednesday.
    In his address, Biden said he hopes Congress will pass the Equality Act “to protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans.”
    The landmark legislation would expand federal civil rights to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, protections many Americans believe had already been enshrined into law, lawmakers say.
    Serena Sonoma, communications coordinator of the national advocacy group GLAAD, said it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in almost 30 states.
    “The Equality Act would secure those basic core values of equal treatment into law,” she told USA TODAY.
    Sonoma said she hopes Biden’s words lead to greater safety and acceptance for trans people.
    “I hope that transgender people, and especially trans kids, see and hear that they are welcome and they belong just as they are,” Sonoma said.
    The Equality Act is the next step in making “significant progress in building a more inclusive world,” said Karen Graci, of chapter president of the LGBTQ advocacy nonprofit PFLAG in Charlotte, North Carolina.
    Biden’s remarks may help the country reach that step more quickly, she said.
    Biden has fallen short of his pledge to sign the Equality Act into law in his first 100 days of office, which would be Thursday.    The House passed the bill in February, but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, which is split 50-50 between Republican and Democratic members with Vice President Kamala Harris in a tiebreaking role.
    Biden’s comments come at a time when states consider legislation preventing transgender Americans from accessing gender-affirming health care or participating in sports under their gender identities.
    “It’s been a very hard year for trans people, especially for trans children and their parents,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told USA TODAY.
    Following Wednesday’s speech, the Human Rights Campaign praised Biden’s support for the Equality Act.
    “Equality and justice are not partisan goals – they are the bedrock on which our country was founded,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement.
    Keisling said she appreciates Biden listening to trans people.
Protesting anti-transgender legislation in Montgomery, Alabama. JULIE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES

4/30/2021 Pope Removes Legal Privileges For Vatican Cardinals, Bishops by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis conducts a mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, April 25, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Pope Francis ruled on Friday that bishops and cardinals who work in the Vatican will be judged by the same lay tribunal that hears other criminal cases and no longer by an elite panel of prelates.
    Francis issued a decree abrogating a provision in the Vatican’s civil criminal code whereby bishops and cardinals were judged only by the Court of Cassation, a top body made up of cardinals and other high-ranking clergy.
    In recent years, there have been several cases where lay people caught up in criminal investigations were judged and sentenced by the ordinary tribunal, which is made up of non-clerics, while cardinals involved in the same cases were not judged at all or received special treatment.
    In the preface to the decree, Francis said civil law within the Vatican, which is a sovereign city-state, should be “without privileges that go back in time and are no longer consonant” with individual responsibilities.
    The changes, expected to apply mostly to financial crimes, will streamline the process for holding Vatican-based cardinals and bishops accountable if they are accused of wrongdoing.
    The pope will still have to approve the start of any investigation or trial.
    While the changes will make it easier for Vatican-based cardinals and bishops to be investigated and prosecuted, they also broaden protections by giving them two chances to appeal, Church legal experts said.
    It was the second time in as many days that Francis had sent a clear signal to cardinals about the need for more accountability.
    On Thursday he issued another decree mandating full economic disclosure and controls for Vatican managers, including cardinals, and stipulating that no one can accept personal gifts worth more than 40 euros.
    The new rules about the court of first instance in criminal cases could affect Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who Francis fired from a top Vatican post last year after allegations of embezzlement and nepotism.    Becciu has denied any wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Catherine Evans)

5/1/2021 New bishop of Biden’s hometown mum on Communion question
    ROME – The newly appointed bishop of Joe Biden’s home diocese in Delaware said Friday he would gladly speak with the president about his views on abortion but did not say whether he would allow him to continue receiving Communion, as his predecessor has.    During a news conference in which retiring Wilmington Bishop Francis Malooly introduced Monsignor William Koenig, Koenig said he was open to having a talk with Biden on the issue and that as a bishop, he is called to teach “the fullness and the beauty of the Catholic faith.”

5/3/2021 Zoom bombing new form of antisemitism by Holly Meyer, Nashville Tennessean USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE
    A new form of antisemitic harassment emerged during the pandemic: Zoom bombing.
    In 2020, the Anti-Defamation League tracked 196 instances of people disrupting webinars and virtual meetings with antisemitic messages and images, according to the ADL’s annual audit of antisemitic incidents in America.     These online events were held by synagogues, schools and other entities.
    “Sometimes the perpetrators of Zoom bombings were hardcore antisemites or white supremacists, but most incidents appear to have been conducted by individuals without a history of notable antisemitism,” the anti-hate organization’s 2020 report stated.
    The Zoom bombings were among the 2,024 antisemitic incidents recorded by the ADL last year.     These incidents include assault, harassment and vandalism against Jews in the U.S.
    Last year’s total is about a 4% drop from 2019’s historic high of 2,107 incidents.
    However, the 2020 number is still the third-most antisemitic incidents the ADL has recorded since it started tracking them in 1979, the organization said in a news release.
    One of the incidents listed in the ADL’s antisemitic incident tracker is the June 2020 desecration of the Nashville (Tenn.) Holocaust Memorial, which was rededicated by Jewish leaders in September.
    On June 27, 2020, Rabbi Shai Cherry was leading a Shabbat service on Zoom for his congregation in Elkins, Pennsylvania, when several guests with suspicious usernames began posting pornographic images and antisemitic messages like “Hitler should have finished the job.”    One of them posted Cherry’s home address near the synagogue for Congregation Adath Jeshurun.
    Zoom said it recently updated default settings and added features to make it easier for meeting hosts to control screen sharing, remove and report abusive participants and lock meetings.     The company recommends keeping private meeting links and passwords off social media or other public forums.
Contributed: Associated Press
Rabbi Shai Cherry was leading a Shabbat service on Zoom for his congregation
in a Philadelphia suburb in June 2020 when several guests with suspicious usernames
began posting pornographic images and antisemitic messages. MATT ROURKE/AP

5/6/2021 Snag hit in bid to ban transgender athletes - Bill falls 1 vote shy of moving out of House committee by Aria Jones, Austin American-Statesman USA TODAY NETWORK
    An effort to ban transgender student athletes from competing in sports within their gender identity was dealt a significant setback Tuesday after a Texas House committee voted not to advance a Senate-approved bill to the full House.
    With a 6-5 vote in favor of the legislation, Senate Bill 29 was one vote short of the seven needed for a majority of the 13-member Public Education Committee – the minimum number of votes required to move the bill forward. Democratic state Rep. Harold Dutton didn’t vote.    Republican Rep. Dan Huberty wasn’t at the dais; he was presenting a bill before a different House committee when the vote was taken on Senate Bill 29, an aide said.
    The bill and others like it have faced opposition from parents, activists and transgender Texans who say it is cruel, targets vulnerable children and would deprive them of the benefits that come with sports.    The bill’s supporters have said it is necessary to level the playing field for girls who shouldn’t have to compete against athletes who were born male and that it is a question of safety.
    Texas Rep. Mary González, a Democrat on the committee, said legislators need to work together to ensure the bill doesn’t move forward.
    “We don’t need this pieceof legislation,” González said.    “The consequences of the legislation could go literally off the rails, and that’s not going to be helpful to the House, to the future and most importantly to kids.”
    Democratic Rep. James Talarico said at the hearing that voting the bill out of committee would result in a contentious day on the House floor and waste precious legislative time.
    “If we vote for this bill, I fear it’ll be a stain that we can’t remove,” Talarico said ahead of the vote.    “It will be enough to tarnish the good name of this committee.    It’ll be enough to overshadow the good work we did last session.    I know we all have to vote on our conscience, and I pray for forgiveness for this committee and for the members on this committee that I love very much.”
    GOP Rep. Ken King had introduced a committee substitute to the bill that Dutton said would remove the phrase “biological sex” to align with state birth certificate standards.    It also removed a section relating to official birth certificates.
    “As my mother would say, it’s putting lipstick on a pig,” Talarico said.
    The bill could be revived, however, for committee members to reconsider their votes.
    House Bill 4042, a companion bill sponsored by Rep. Cole Hefner, R-Mount Pleasant, was the subject of a lengthy committee hearing last month but hasn’t received a vote.
    A person working in Hefner’s office Tuesday told the American-Statesman that Hefner wasn’t expecting it to receive a vote after SB 29 did not advance.
    SB 29, approved a partyline vote in mid-April, would require athletes in Texas public high schools and grade schools to compete in sports based on the “biological sex” listed on their original birth certificate.    Under that definition, biological boys would be banned from competing in girls’ sports, although girls could compete in boys’ sports if a comparable female sport was not available.
    Amended birth certificates, which can be issued to reflect gender changes for transgender people, would no longer be accepted by the University Interscholastic League, which oversees extracurricular athletic events.
    More than 40 corporations based or doing business in Texas issued a statement opposing the athletics bills, and the NCAA has warned states contemplating limits on transgender athletes that they risk losing championship events, which can pump millions of dollars into local economies.

5/7/2021 Poland, Hungary Block “Gender Equality” From EU Social Summit by Gabriela Baczynska
European Parliament President David Sassoli speaks with Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven during a panel discussion at an
EU summit at the Alfandega do Porto Congress Center in Porto, Portugal May 7, 2021. Luis Vieira/Pool via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Lobbying by Poland and Hungary has led to the removal of the phrase “gender equality” from a Friday declaration on advancing social cohesion in the European Union as it strives to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Poland’s nationalist ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) and eurosceptic ally Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban promote what they call traditional social values at home and have repeatedly clashed with their more liberal Western peers over the rights of women, gay people and migrants.
    The two countries opposed mentioning “gender equality” directly in a statement by the bloc’s 27 national leaders, who are meeting in the Portuguese city of Porto on Friday and Saturday to look for ways to reduce social and economic inequalities that widened during the pandemic.
    While an earlier draft said the bloc would “promote gender equality,” the later version seen by Reuters avoids the phrase and reads: “We will step up efforts to fight discrimination and work actively to close gender gaps … and to promote equality.”
    European Union diplomats said Warsaw and Budapest had sought the looser language.    Both governments support Catholic, conservative social values in contentious stances that have gone hand-in-hand with increasing state control and political influence over media, courts and academics.
    The European Commission’s gender equality strategy for 2020-2025 spells out its goal as a “Union where women and men, girls and boys, in all their diversity, are free to pursue their chosen path in life, have equal opportunities to thrive, and can equally participate in and lead our European society.”
    Arriving in Porto, Orban told reporters: “The fact is that men and women should be treated equally.”    He said he was against speaking of “gender," which he considered an “ideologically motivated expression
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also spoke only of the need to “eliminate the gap between men and women” in the workplace, rather than of wider social equality for groups with various sexual orientation.
    In Poland, some areas have proclaimed themselves “LGBT-free zones” and received government support after losing EU funding over such discrimination.
    ILGA Europe, an advocacy group for LGBTI rights, said erasing the language meant erasing gender equality as a principle.
    “Attacking the term gender is a strategy widely applied by anti-human rights actors to undermine advancements of women’s rights, sexual and reproductive rights and LGBTI rights,” it said.
    Despite the rumpus over language, the leaders will nonetheless commit to an inclusive recovery from the bloc’s record recession triggered by the pandemic, which has killed nearly 700,000 people in Europe, shut businesses and travel, and confined millions to their homes.
    Women, young people, gig economy workers and victims of domestic violence are among groups that have been particularly adversely affected as pre-existing inequalities deepened.
    “The priority will be to move from protecting to creating jobs and to improve job quality,” the leaders’ statement says, and welcomes a proposal to look beyond GDP readings to measure economic and social progress.
    Twenty-four leaders are attending in person, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and two others dialling in for discussions that also cover divisions on waiving patents for COVID-19 vaccines, and the EU’s fraught ties with Russia.
(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by John Stonestreet, Hugh Lawson and Alison Williams)

5/7/2021 Olympics: Females Told To ‘Be Quiet’ On Transgender Issue – Ex-Weightlifter
FILE PHOTO: Weightlifting - Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games - Women's +90kg - Final - Carrara Sports Arena 1
- Gold Coast, Australia - April 9, 2018. Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand competes. REUTERS/Paul Childs
    (Reuters) – Former Olympic weightlifter Tracey Lambrechs says females are being told to “be quiet” when they complain about the fairness of transgender New Zealand athlete Laurel Hubbard competing in women’s competitions.
    Hubbard is on track to become the first transgender athlete to compete at an Olympics after the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) modified qualifying requirements for the Tokyo Games on Wednesday.
    The 43-year-old still has to satisfy the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) of her fitness and performance standards before selection for the team but the prospect she will compete in Tokyo has already raised hackles.
    “I’m quite disappointed, quite disappointed for the female athlete who will lose out on that spot,” Lambrechs, who won a bronze medal for New Zealand at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, told TVNZ.
    “We’re all about equality for women in sport but right now that equality is being taken away from us."
    “I’ve had female weightlifters come up to me and say, ‘what do we do?    This isn’t fair, what do we do?.’    Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do because every time we voice it we get told to be quiet.”
    Hubbard, 43, competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before transitioning in 2013.
    She has been eligible to compete in the Olympics since 2015, when the International Olympic Committee issued guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.
    Many scientists have criticised these guidelines, saying they do little to mitigate the biological advantages of those who have gone through puberty as males, including bone and muscle density.
    In a statement on Thursday, the IOC said that while committed to inclusion, it was currently reviewing its guidelines to take into account the “perceived tension between fairness/safety and inclusion/non-discrimination.”
    “The IOC is developing new guidance to help ensure that athletes – regardless of their gender identity and/or sex characteristics – can engage in safe and fair competition,” it said.
    The exact criteria for transgender participation in elite sport is determined by the international federations and some have already adjusted the IOC guidelines for power events.
    World Rugby banned transgender athletes from the elite women’s game last year for safety reasons.
    The NZOC does not expect nomination and selection for its weightlifting team to happen until June but New Zealand’s Olympic weightlifting coach Simon Kent told TVNZ that Hubbard met the current IWF criteria.
    “The rules are in place, that’s the playing field we’re playing in, so that’s how we’re going to move forward,” he said.
    Australia’s weightlifting federation sought to block Hubbard from competing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast but organisers rejected the move.
    Rival weightlifters and coaches at the Commonwealth Games also complained. Hubbard suffered a potentially career-ending injury while lifting in the 90+kg division.
    Lambrechs finished fifth in that event after winning bronze in the 75+kg division at the Glasgow Games four years earlier.    She was 13th in the lower weight division at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Michael Perry)

5/10/2021 Catholic bishops at odds over Biden Communion - Catholic bishops at odds over Biden Communion by David Crary ASSOCIATED PRESS
    They share Roman Catholicism as a faith and California as their home base.    Yet there’s a deep gulf between Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego in the high-stakes debate over whether politicians who support abortion rights should be denied Communion.
    Cordileone, who has long established himself as a forceful anti-abortion campaigner, recently has made clear his view that such political figures – whose ranks include President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – should not receive Communion because of their stance on the issue.    The archbishop issued a pastoral letter on the topic May 1 and reinforced the message in an hourlong interview Friday with the Catholic television network EWTN.
    'To those who are advocating for abortion, I would say, ‘This is killing.    Please stop the killing.    You’re in position to do something about it,’' he told the interviewer.
    In neither the letter nor the interview did Cordileone mention Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, by name.    But he has criticized her in the past for stances on abortion that directly contradict Catholic teaching.
    McElroy, in a statement published Wednesday by the Jesuit magazine America, assailed the campaign to exclude Biden and other like-minded Catholic officials from Communion.
    'It will bring tremendously destructive consequences,' McElroy wrote.    'The Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare.    This must not happen.'
    The polarized viewpoints of the two prelates illustrate how divisive this issue could be if, as expected, it comes before the U.S. Conference of Catholic     Bishops at its national assembly starting June 16.    There are plans for the bishops to vote on whether the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine should draft a document saying Biden and other Catholic public figures with similar views on abortion should refrain from Communion.
    In accordance with existing conference policy, any such document is likely to leave decisions on withholding Communion up to individual bishops.
    Biden attends Mass regularly.
    The archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, has made it clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches he oversees.    Bishop William Koenig, appointed April 30 to head the Wilmington diocese, said he would gladly speak with Biden about his views on abortion but did not say whether he would allow him to continue receiving Communion, as Koenig’s predecessor had done.
    It’s considered unlikely that Biden would heed any call to forgo Communion, but a conference document urging him to do so would be a remarkable rebuke nonetheless.
    Cordileone, in his pastoral letter, wrote that it’s the responsibility of Catholic clergy 'to correct Catholics who erroneously, and sometimes stubbornly, promote abortion.'
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone hopes his fellow bishops will message of disapproval
to Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion rights. Jeff Chiu/AP file

5/10/2021 Global Governance is a movement towards political cooperation among transnational actors, aimed at negotiating responses to problems that affect more than one state or region.
    Institutions of global governance:
The United Nations or UN
The International Criminal Court or ICC
The World Bank or WB
The World Health Organization or WHO
    This tends to have limited or demarcated power to enforce compliance.    Global governance involves multiple states including international organizations with one state having more of a lead role than the rest.    The modern question of world governance exists in the context of globalization and globalizing regimes of power: politically, economically and culturally.    In response to the acceleration of worldwide interdependence, both between human societies and between humankind and the biosphere, the term "global governance" may name the process of designating laws, rules, or regulations intended for a global scale.
    The show "The End Of The Age" on 5/9/2021 aired their show on the subject of Global Governance and as I have shown you the above information you need to know what it is.    The show promoted the idea that it was the European Union was the concept of its rise and I think they believe that because the country Italy is part of it and has the famous biblical concept of Rome being reflected into our final days and the idea has its merits, but is not the total picture.
    I am amused that they are now catching up to me since I have been promoting that since 1995 that there will be Globalist Socialist One World Government which exist already and as their attempt above to understand it was amusing to me as they our just now catching up to me on that subject.
    I did like their references to the Bible as seen below:
    Luke 17:29-30 29 "But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all." 30 "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed."
    2 Timothy 3:1-5 and 3:15-17
1 "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come."
2 "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,"
3 "Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,"
4 "Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;"
5 "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."
15 "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 "That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

    The above will be financed by the SDR or Special Drawing Rights as an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement its member countries' official reserves.    So far SDR 204.2 billion (equivalent to about US$293 billion) have been allocated to members, including SDR 182.6 billion allocated in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis.    The value of the SDR is based on a basket of five currencies-the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Chinese renminbi, the Japanese yen, and the British pound sterling.
    The SDR was created as a supplementary international reserve asset in the context of the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate system.    The collapse of Bretton Woods system in 1973 and the shift of major currencies to floating exchange rate regimes lessened the reliance on the SDR as a global reserve asset.    Nonetheless, SDR allocations can play a role in providing liquidity and supplementing member countries' official reserves, as was the case amid the global financial crisis.
    The SDR serves as the unit of account of the IMF and some other international organizations.
    The SDR is neither a currency nor a claim on the IMF.    Rather, it is a potential claim on the freely usable currencies of IMF members.    SDRs can be exchanged for these currencies.

5/11/2021 Gay unions get German blessing by Kirsten Grieshaber by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BERLIN – Germany’s Catholic progressives are openly defying a recent Holy See pronouncement that priests cannot bless same-sex unions by offering such blessings at services in about 100 different churches all over the country this week.
    The blessings at worship services are the latest pushback from German Catholics against a document released in March by the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which said Catholic clergy cannot bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin.”
    The document pleased conservatives and disheartened advocates for LGBTQ Catholics around the globe.    But the response has been particularly acute in Germany, where the German church has been at the forefront of opening discussion on hot-button issues such as the church’s teaching on homosexuality as part of a formal process of debate and reform.
    The dozens of church services celebrating blessings of gay unions are the latest escalation in tensions between conservatives and progressives that have already sparked alarm, primarily from the right, that part of the German church might be heading into schism.
    Pope Francis, who has championed a more decentralized church structure, has already reminded the German hierarchy that it must remain in communion with Rome during its reform process, known as a “synodal path.”
    In Berlin, the Rev. Jan Korditschke, a Jesuit who works for the diocese preparing adults for baptism, was to lead blessings for the couples at a worship service Sunday.

5/11/2021 US restores protections for LGBTQ health care - Action also promises investigations of abuses by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WASHINGTON – The U.S. will protect gay and transgender people against sex discrimination in health care, the Biden administration announced Monday, reversing a Trump-era policy that sought to narrow the scope of legal rights in sensitive situations involving medical care.
    The action by the Department of Health and Human Services affirms that federal laws forbidding sex discrimination in health care also protect gay and transgender people.    The Trump administration had defined “sex” to mean gender assigned at birth, thereby excluding transgender people from the law’s umbrella of protection.
    “Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.    “Everyone – including LGBTQ people – should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”
    It marked the latest step by President Joe Biden to advance the rights of gay and transgender people.
    Becerra said in a statement the policy shift will bring HHS into line with a landmark 6-3 Supreme Court decision last year in a workplace discrimination case, which established that federal laws against sex discrimination on the job also protect gay and transgender people.
    Despite that ruling, the Trump administration proceeded to try to narrow the legal protections against health care discrimination, issuing rules that narrowly defined “sex” as biological gender.    A federal judge had blocked those rules from taking effect, although Trump administration officials argued that as a legal matter, health care discrimination was a separate issue from the employment case the Supreme Court decided.
    Monday’s action means that the HHS Office for Civil Rights again will investigate complaints of sex discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.    Hospitals, clinics and other providers can face government sanctions for violations of the law.
    The Biden administration action essentially restores the policy established during the Obama years.    The Affordable Care Act included a prohibition on sex discrimination in health care but did not include the term “gender identity.”    The Obama administration interpreted the law as shielding gay and transgender people as well.    It relied on a broad understanding of sex shaped by a person’s inner sense of being male, female, neither or a combination.
    LGBTQ groups say explicit protections are needed for people seeking gender transition treatment, and even for transgender people who need care for illnesses such as diabetes or heart problems.
    More than 1.5million Americans identify as transgender, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank focusing on LGBT policy at the UCLA School of Law.    A bigger number – 4.5% of the population – identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to Gallup.
    Professional groups like the American Medical Association, along with civil rights organizations, have supported health care protections for gay and transgender people, while social and religious conservatives sought to narrow their scope.
The Biden administration says the government will protect transgender and gay people
against sex discrimination in health care. CAROLYN KASTER/AP FILE


    The above left image is from of the Scarlet Woman on the Beast, and the one to the right is my oil painting representing Revelation 13:1-2 the "Beast from the Sea" with seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name, like a leopard, feet of a bear, mouth of a lion, dragon gave him his power, throne, and great authority.
    This chapter is a flashback of the revived Roman Empire’s rise to world dominion.    The two main figures are a Harlot and a seven-headed, ten-horned beast, a judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters a mystery Babylon (Babel) and the judgment of the Great Whore, who controlled many nations which she seduced with a false world religious system.

Rev. 17:4-6 The Mystery of the Scarlet Woman riding on the Beast
    17:4 And the woman was arrayed (‘Periballo’ to cast around or about, to put on, array, to cloth oneself)
in purple (‘Porphureos’ purple, a reddish purple; some have ‘Porphura’ a purple garment)
and scarlet colour (‘Kokkinos’ derived from ‘kokkos’, used of the “berries” from insect eggs, whose Arabic name is girmiz, whence the word crimson came from; used here of the clothing of the “woman” as seen sitting on the “beast”; of interest is that Pope Paul II, made it a crime for anyone but cardinals to wear hats of scarlet),
and decked with gold (‘Chrusoo’ a verb, deck, to gild with gold, chrusos, gold; pp. jewelry made of gold)
and precious stones (‘Lithos’ is used as the adornment of religious Babylon;: gems)
and pearls (‘Margarites’ a pearl),
having a golden (‘Chruseos’ denotes overlaid with gold) cup (‘Poterion’ denotes a drinking vessel of the evil deeds of Babylon; pp. a golden goblet) in her hand full (‘Gemo’ to be full, heavily laden with abominations)
of abominations (‘Bdelugma’ denotes an object of disgust, an abomination used here of the contents of the golden cup in the hand of the evil woman and of the name ascribed to her in verse 5) and filthiness of her fornication (pp. full of obscenities; thus the world-power gives up its hostility and accepts Christianity externally; the beast gives up its God-opposed character, the woman gives up her Divine one.    Christianity becomes worldly, the world becomes Christianized.    The world gains, the Church loses.    The beast for a time receives a deadly wound in Rev. 13:3, but will return worse than ever in Rev. 17:11-14.):

Rev. 17:5 Babylon the Great, Mother of Prostitutes and Idol Worship around the world.
    17:5 And upon her forehead (‘Metopon’ meta with ops ‘eye’; a mark in the forehead means a public profession; pp. A mysterious caption was written on her forehead; as harlots usually had; in contrast inscribed on the mitre on the high priest) was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
    (Paraphrased: “Babylon the Great, Mother of Prostitutes and of Idol Worship Everywhere around the World.”) (This implies a spiritual fact or mystery which was hidden, and incapable of discovery by mere reason, but now revealed.    This is called “the mystery of iniquity,” so when she is destroyed, it is revealed in the man of iniquity, the open embodiment of all previous evil.    Since it was Rome that crucified Christ, it will compromise for political power as in verse 3 the portion of Christianity still in its creed, and thus prepare the way for Antichrist’s manifestation.    The name Babylon, which in the image, Daniel 2, is given to the head, is here given to the harlot, which marks her as being connected with the fourth kingdom, Rome, the last part of the image.    The invisible Church of true believers is hidden and dispersed in the visible Church, the boundary lines which separate harlot and woman are not denominational nor drawn externally, but can only be spiritually discerned.    Some believe that the Roman Church is a harlot, whereas the evangelical Protestant Church is in principle and creed, a chaste woman; with the Reformation as a protest of the woman against the harlot.    Whatever it is today you can be sure that it was caused by all three.)

    Rev. 17:6 The Woman and the Blood of the Saints
    17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus (‘Methuo’ signifies to be drunk with wine; of being in a state of mental intoxication, through the shedding of men’s blood profusely; thus success in eliminating all who opposed her):
and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration (‘Thambos’ amazement, ‘thauma’,admiration; pp. I stared at her in horror).

    So to continue with disturbing news:

5/11/2021 US restores health protections for gay and trans people by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WASHINGTON – The United States will protect gay and transgender people against sex discrimination in health care, the Biden administration announced Monday, reversing a Trump-era policy that sought to narrow the scope of legal rights in sensitive situations involving medical care.
    The action by the Department of Health and Human Services affirms that federal laws forbidding sex discrimination in health care protect gay and transgender people.    The Trump administration defined “sex” to mean the gender assigned at birth, thereby excluding transgender people from the law’s umbrella of protection.
    “Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said.    “i>Everyone – including LGBTQ people – should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”
    Becerra said the policy shift will bring HHS into line with a landmark 6-3 Supreme Court decision last year in a workplace discrimination case, which established that federal laws against sex discrimination on the job protect gay and transgender people.
    Despite that ruling, the Trump administration tried to narrow the legal protections against health care discrimination, issuing rules that defined “sex” as biological gender.    A federal judge blocked those rules from taking effect, although Trump administration officials argued that as a legal matter, health care discrimination was a separate issue from the employment case the Supreme Court decided.
    Monday’s action means that the HHS Office for Civil Rights will again investigate complaints of sex discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.    Hospitals, clinics and other medical providers can face government sanctions for violations of the law.
    The Biden administration essentially restored the policy established during the Obama years.    The Affordable Care Act included a prohibition on sex discrimination in health care but did not include the term “gender identity.”    The Obama administration interpreted the law as shielding gay and transgender people.    It relied on a broad understanding of sex shaped by a person’s inner sense of being male, female, neither or a combination.
    Under the Obama-era rule, a hospital could be required to perform gender-transition procedures such as hysterectomies if the facility provided that kind of treatment for other medical conditions.
    LGBTQ groups said protections are needed for people seeking gender transition treatment, and even for transgender people who need care for illnesses such as diabetes or heart problems.
    More than 1.5 million Americans identify as transgender, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA School of Law.    A bigger number – 4.5% of the population – identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to Gallup.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra says the Biden administration’s reversal of discriminatory laws against transgender people
in health care will bring HHS in line with a landmark Supreme Court decision last year. JACK GRUBER/USA TODAY

5/11/2021 Vatican warns US bishops over get-tough Communion proposals by DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer
    The head of the Vatican’s doctrine office is warning U.S. bishops to deliberate carefully and minimize divisions before proceeding with a possible plan to rebuke Roman Catholic politicians such as President Joe Biden for receiving Communion even though they support abortion rights.
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 file photo, President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden,
attend Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle during Inauguration Day ceremonies in Washington. When U.S. Catholic bishops hold their
next national meeting in June 2021, they’ll be deciding whether to send a tougher-than-ever message to President Joe Biden and other
Catholic politicians: Don’t partake of Communion if you persist in public advocacy of abortion rights. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    The strong words of caution came in a letter from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, addressed to Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.    The USCCB will convene for a national meeting June 16, with plans to vote on drafting a document on the Communion issue.
© Provided by Associated Press Catholic Bishops Communion and Politics
    There is division among the bishops, with some pressing for Biden and other Catholic public figures to be excluded from Communion over their abortion stance, and other bishops warning that such a move would be politically polarizing.
    Ladaria, in his letter, said any new policy “requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”
    Even then, Ladaria advised, the bishops should seek unanimous support within their ranks for any national policy, lest it become “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”
    Ladaria made several other points that could complicate the plans of bishops pressing for tough action:
— He said any new statement should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but broadened to encompass all churchgoing Catholics in regard to their worthiness to receive Communion.
Video: U.S. Catholic bishops may push Biden to stop taking Communion (Yahoo! News)
— He questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as “the preeminent” moral issue, saying it would be misleading if any new document "were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics.”
— He said that if the U.S. bishops pursue a new policy, they should confer with bishops’ conferences in other countries “both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church.”
— He said any new policy could not override the authority of individual bishops to make decisions on who can receive Communion in their dioceses.    Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.
    Among the leaders of the campaign to rebuke Biden is Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who recently issued a pastoral letter arguing that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not receive Communion.    A few days later, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego published an essay saying such an initiative “will bring tremendously destructive consequences.”
    Ladaria's letter was dated May 7.    It was first reported Monday by Catholic News Service and the Jesuit magazine America.    Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.    Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S.    The AP is solely responsible for this content.

5/11/2021 Catholic congregations rejoice at renegade blessing of same sex couples by Christoph Strack
    Well over 100 Catholic priests in Germany have offered blessings to same sex couples this week.    It's a sensation, and a natural decision for many, though it goes against the Vatican and the German Church's rules.
© Felix Hörhager/dpa/picture alliance Across Germany, Catholic priests have been blessing same-sex couples
    From Munich to Münster, Cologne to Konstanz and Berlin to Buxtehude, more than 100 Catholic congregations in Germany have been offering blessings to same-sex couples in recent days.    The Church in Germany does not permit this, while the Vatican forbids it.    Priests have been offering the blessings all the same.
    "The Latin for 'bless' is 'benedicere,' literally 'to speak well of.'    That definitely has something to do with recognition," Burkhard Hose tells DW.    The university chaplain issued invites to the ceremony in the church of St. Augustine in Würzburg under the motto: "Wir können doch nicht anders als zu segnen" (We have no choice but to bless.)
    "If we bless loving same sex couples today, then we also recognize their relationships," Hose says.    "It's a piece of recognition for the realities of life, for diversity, and for the creation and the manner in which people of different sexual orientations live out their relationships.    And quite simply, that's the contrast to what officially stands in the catechism."
    The catechism, official Catholic teachings, refuses to recognize homosexual love and sees it as "contrary to the natural law."
© Felix Hörhager/dpa/picture alliance #liebegewinnt (love wins) was the hashtag for the action on May 10
Church bodies outraged at initiative
    The conflict began with a surprising statement — to bishops and the laity alike — from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.    This body responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine once formed to protect the Church from perceived heresy issued a sternly worded responsum (response or reply) forbidding blessings for same-sex partnerships.
    The very fact that it was called a responsum speaks volumes about the Vatican's idea of dialogue, for, at that point, the question had not been asked.    The Congregation put an abstract question to itself, whether the Church would authorize the blessing of "connections" between people of the same sex, and then answered definitively in the negative.    Their text was, the authors stressed, "endorsed" by Pope Francis.
    Outrage followed in Germany, first among individuals but it soon spread.    Lay groups, priests, theologians, and eventually several German bishops.    Soon thereafter, Hose and Bernd Mönkebüscher, a priest in Hamm in the western state of North Rhine-Westpalia, called for a national day of action on May 10 under the banner and the hashtag "Love wins" (Liebe gewinnt).
    Hose speaks of a "very positive atmosphere, that so many people came together to show the public an optimistic and a reconciliatory signal."    The evening news was full of images of couples standing before priests, motionless but perhaps moved, as they received their blessings.
© Benedikt Spether/dpa/picture alliance In Baden-Baden priest Norbert Kasper blessed the same-sex couple Jürgen and Jürgen
Rebellion in the land of Luther
    The controversy has rumbled on ever since.    It's becoming more and more clear that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led by Spanish Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, does not approve of the reform processes being explored by the Catholic Church in Germany.    That includes the so-called synodal path (synodaler Weg), a gathering of bishops and laypeople working on desired reforms.    One of their leading calls is for allowing the ordination of women as priests and deacons.
    This is a real no-go for the Vatican, ever since the highly conservative Pope John-Paul II "definitively" exclaimed in 1994 that the Catholic Church was not authorized to ordain women.
    But the issue runs deeper.    To some powerful people in the Vatican, Germany, the birthplace of reformer-in-chief and father of Protestantism Martin Luther, is still the home of the great reformation-era divider of the faith.    The Roman Curia, along with conservative Catholics from Europe and the US in particular, recently said as much of the reform discussions in Germany, accusing the German Catholic Church of apostasy and of dividing the Church.    Both charges were curtly rejected by German theologians.
    On the other side of this divide stand a great many of the larger Church organizations in Germany, which continue rifling through the history of sexual abuse by the clergy, and the Church's handling of it, with an outrage that's still growing.    Each year, thousands of Catholics are disappointedly and hopelessly turning their backs on their Churches.
International criticism of the Vatican
    It's not just German Catholics wrestling with their Church's approach to same-sex couples, bishops in several countries and continents have voiced doubt about the Vatican's hard-line.
    The Bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, who spent 10 years in the Curia himself until 2008, was probably the most explicit.    He said that thousands in his diocese, overwhelmingly younger believers, wanted to leave the Church after Rome's repeated no.
    As for Pope Francis himself, he has contributed notably little to the question since one of his very first "flying press conferences," heading from Europe to Brazil, when he warned against condemning same-sex couples but rejected the idea of gay marriage.    According to rumors allowed to emanate from the Vatican, he had in no way endorsed the March paper from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, but that's impossible to know.    Francis might be a particularly cuddly Catholic, keen to bless many things, but the 84-year-old has so far shied away from conflicts cutting right to the theological bone as pope.
    For the Church, it's not just prejudice and discrimination in a celibate male world that permeates this debate, but also some of its most fundamental theological concepts.    Vatican thinking is still branded by its almost immovable concept of natural law which, to oversimplify, is not easily reconciled with modernity.    It's becoming ever more clear that the Church, still grappling with the questions of sexual abuse by supposedly celibate clerics the world over, struggles with the reality of creation and with the equality of all people.
    Priest Burkhard Hose speaks of the "seriousness of the conflict that is currently playing out in the Church."    He is hoping for "less fearfulness, that by blessing same-sex couples in the tradition of the Church then something would be lost from the sacrament of marriage."
    Next conflict days away?
    The next chance to pin a little note in on the Vatican's door regarding the mood of the German flock comes as soon as this Saturday evening in Frankfurt.    From Thursday through Sunday, the largely virtual annual German ecumenical church gathering is taking place.    And on Saturday evening, some     Catholic and Protestant groups are hosting services — crucially, including the Eucharist and the Catholic ritual of communion — with a focus on ecumenically welcoming each side.    Sharing that, too, is taboo in the Vatican.    Strange as this may seem, it might ruffle even more feathers than "Love wins" did.
    While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society, with an eye toward understanding this year’s elections and beyond.    You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing, to stay on top of developments as Germany enters the post-Merkel era.

5/11/2021 Vatican warns U.S. bishops about rebuking Biden, other Catholic pols by Associated Press
    The head of the Vatican’s doctrine office is warning U.S. bishops to deliberate carefully and minimize divisions before proceeding with a possible plan to rebuke Roman Catholic politicians such as President Joe Biden for receiving Communion even though they support abortion rights.
© Andrew Medichini/AP Photo Then-Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Pope Francis during
a congress on the progress of regenerative medicine held at the Vatican on April 29, 2016.
    The strong words of caution came in a letter from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, addressed to Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.    The USCCB will convene for a national meeting June 16, with plans to vote on drafting a document on the Communion issue.
    There is division among the bishops, with some pressing for Biden and other Catholic public figures to be excluded from Communion over their abortion stance, and other bishops warning that such a move would be politically polarizing.
    Ladaria, in his letter, said any new policy “requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”
    Even then, Ladaria advised, the bishops should seek unanimous support within their ranks for any national policy, lest it become “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”
    Ladaria made several other points that could complicate the plans of bishops pressing for tough action:
— He said any new statement should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but broadened to encompass all churchgoing Catholics in regard to their worthiness to receive Communion.
— He questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as “the preeminent” moral issue, saying it would be misleading if any new document “were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics.”
— He said that if the U.S. bishops pursue a new policy, they should confer with bishops’ conferences in other countries “both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church.”
— He said any new policy could not override the authority of individual bishops to make decisions on who can receive Communion in their dioceses.    Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.
    Among the leaders of the campaign to rebuke Biden is Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who recently issued a pastoral letter arguing that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not receive Communion.    A few days later, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego published an essay saying such an initiative “will bring tremendously destructive consequences.”
    Ladaria’s letter was dated May 7. It was first reported Monday by Catholic News Service and the Jesuit magazine America.

5/11/2021 Cameroonian Transgender Women Convicted Of ‘Attempted Homosexuality’
Mildred Loic, a local social media celebrity called Shakiro, is seen in this picture obtained
from social media on March 24, 2021. Shakiro237/Facebook/via REUTERS
    DOUALA (Reuters) – A court in Cameroon sentenced two transgender women on Tuesday to five years in prison for “attempted homosexuality” and other offences after they were arrested for the clothes they wore in a restaurant, their lawyers said.
    A local social media celebrity known as Shakiro, who also is identified as Loic Njeukam, and Patricia, also identified as Roland Mouthe, were arrested on Feb. 8.    Human rights activists say their detention is part of the growing criminalization of sexual minorities and transgender people in Cameroon.
    The two received the maximum sentence of five years in prison and fines of 200,000 CFA francs ($372.44), their lawyers told Reuters.    Besides “attempted homosexuality,” they were convicted of public indecency and failing to carry identification.
    “This is a political decision,” said one of the lawyers, Alice Nkom, who vowed to appeal the verdict.    “It’s Yaounde (the central government) that said these people must not bring homosexuality to Cameroon.”
    A government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Cameroon is one of more than 30 African countries where same-sex relations are illegal.    Its courts have previously sentenced people to multi-year prison sentences for their alleged homosexuality.
    Human Rights Watch said last month that Shakiro and Patricia’s arrests seemed to be part of “an overall uptick in police action” against sexual minorities.
    Fifty-three people have been arrested in raids on HIV and AIDS organisations since May 2020, with some reporting having been beaten and subjected to forced “anal examinations” to confirm accusations of homosexuality, the rights group said.
($1 = 537.0000 CFA francs)
(Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

5/13/2021 State, Baptist group at odds - New protections for LGBTQ youth proposed by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    Kentucky child welfare officials stopped placing children with Sunrise Children’s Services at least four months ago after the private Baptist agency refused to accept a state contract that bans discrimination because of sexual orientation, according to filings in a federal lawsuit.
    Meanwhile, the state is proposing sweeping new regulations for private agencies that accept children who have experienced abuse or neglect that include rules against promoting any particular religion and ensuring a child’s sexual orientation or gender identification is respected
    The proposed regulations, subject to legislative review, include detailed requirements that children not be forced to pray or attend religious services as well as protections for LGBTQ children.
    The regulations ban programming that “characterizes in any manner any sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression as immoral, unnatural, unacceptable or invalid.”    And the regulations require access to “genderaffirming medical care by medical and mental health providers.”
    The Southern Baptist Convention views homosexuality as a sin and recognizes marriage only between a man and woman.
    Details of the proposed regulations — and the state’s decision to stop placing children with Sunrise, an affiliate of the Kentucky Baptist Convention — are included in a long-running federal lawsuit involving Sunrise that the state is attempting to settle with the new regulations.
    Lawyers for Sunrise have objected to the proposed settlement, saying in a pleading the 21-year-old case has cost Sunrise “millions of dollars in legal fees” and that it wants a judgment in its favor.
    Sunrise — one of the state’s largest private providers of foster care, adoption and other children’s services — cares for about 1,000 children a year, according to its website.
    Todd Gray, the Baptist convention’s executive director, told The Courier Journal last week that the dispute comes down to a conflict over one sentence in the new contract the state has refused to delete and that Sunrise won’t accept.
    He declined to say whether it involved discrimination because of sexual orientation, a controversial subject for the Baptist convention, which has cut ties with Baptist churches, including several in Louisville, over LGBTQ-inclusive policies.    He said only that it involved “a deeply held religious conviction.”
    But Gov. Andy Beshear, in response to a reporter’s question at a news conference Monday, said the dispute is over a clause in the contract barring discrimination because of sexual orientation.    Though Baptist officials claim previous administrations have waived that clause, Beshear said the state cannot do that because it is required by federal law as well as a U.S. Supreme Court case decided last year.
    Beshear was apparently referring to the Supreme Court decision in June 2020 in which it ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian and transgender employees from discrimination.
    “When I’m told something has to be included because of federal law, that’s something you don’t get much of a choice in,” Beshear said.
Sunrise ‘will not surrender’
    Sunrise’s last contract with the state, awarded July 1, 2019, expired June 30, 2020, according to a copy provided by the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services following an open records request by The Courier Journal.
    Meanwhile, a prominent Southern Baptist leader has weighed in on the dispute, declaring Sunrise “will not surrender” its religious principles.
    “It hasn’t surrendered,” Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Louisville’s Southern Baptist Theological Serminary, said in a pair of online commentaries Friday.    “But the state of Kentucky is demanding surrender.”
    Mohler referred to the contract dispute between Sunrise and the state as a “collision” of secular views versus religious liberty.
    “But now you can see right here in Kentucky that inevitable collision between the newly invented sexual liberties of the LGBTQ and religious liberty, actually ensconced in and respected in the text of the United States Constitution, even in the First Amendment,” he said.
    Mohler blames the change of administration in Frankfort and in Washington.
    Sunrise’s previous contract was awarded under the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican and conservative Christian.    Bevin was defeated in 2019 by Beshear, a Democrat.    And in 2020, Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican President Donald Trump.
    “The presidency has changed in the White House and the governorship has changed in the governor’s mansion of Kentucky,” Mohler said.     “And in both cases they were elected with the open support of the LGBTQ community.”
    The current dispute isn’t Sunrise’s first collision over sexual orientation.
    In 2000, a former children’s worker sued Sunrise and the state, alleging she was fired after the agency learned she was a lesbian.    That sparked two decades of litigation that continues with the federal lawsuit the state is attempting to settle.
    And in 2008, The Courier Journal reported that two gay men objected after Sunrise rejected them as foster parents.    They later registered with another private agency.
    In 2013, the Sunrise board rejected the recommendation of its then-president, Bill Smithwick, that the agency open employment to gay and lesbian staff.    Smithwick resigned soon afterward following a no-confidence vote in his leadership by the state Baptist convention.
    Sunrise’s website said it accepts foster and adoptive parents who have been married for at least one year and that “co-habitating couples are not permitted
    Sunrise President Dale Suttles did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
    Many agencies welcome LGBTQ individuals.
    Contracts between the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and private agencies that provide foster care and adoption services bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.
    About 5,000 of the state’s 9,100 children in state care are in foster homes or other placements managed by the state.    And about 4,000 are cared for through private children’s agencies such as Sunrise.
    For many such agencies that contract with the state, including faith-affiliated organizations, LGBTQ individuals are welcome as employees and foster parents.
    “Sunrise hasn’t had experience of seeing the enormous love and affection that can flow from gay and lesbian couples,” said Charlie Baker, a former CEO of Buckhorn Child and Family Services, based in Eastern Kentucky.    “To deny them an opportunity to give it to some of the kids of Kentucky who really need it the most is a shame.    And the same, of course, goes for staff that they don’t hire.”
    Grace Akers, CEO of St. Joseph Children’s Home in Louisville, said her program accepts the state anti-discrimination language.
    “Not only are we abiding by that, we are actively recruiting gay and lesbian families for adoption and married couples regardless of sexual identification,” Akers said.
    She said her agency also strives to recognize and accept LGBTQ children in its programs.
    “At St. Joe’s and at many other child care organizations, we’re going to work with the child holistically,” she said.    “We’re going to embrace that child.”
Lawyers for Sunrise object to settlement
    Meanwhile, a fight continues in federal court in Louisville that grew out of the original lawsuit Alicia Pedreira, the former Sunrise employee, filed in 2000 against Sunrise and the state alleging discrimination because of her sexual orientation after she was fired as a therapist.    She later amended the lawsuit to allege Sunrise was imposing religious indoctrination on children in its care.
    The court rejected the discrimination claim but allowed her allegations of proselytization by Sunrise to proceed.    Pedreira was joined by Protestant ministers who alleged that state funding of the Baptist agency violated a constitutional prohibition on state funding of religion.
    In 2014, the state reached a settlement with Pedreira and the ministers as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
    But in 2016, after Bevin was elected governor, his administration challenged the settlement, saying his position differed from the previous governor, Steve Beshear, a Democrat and the father of Andy Beshear.
    The settlement was twice rejected by a federal appeals court, largely because it was styled as a “consent decree” that required monitoring of agencies such as Sunrise.
    The current proposal represents the state’s third attempt to settle the case with Pedreira and the other plaintiffs.
    It proposes new state regulations to govern contracts with private children’s agencies that would include protections against religious proselytization and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
    Lawyers for Sunrise have objected to the proposed settlement, calling it “fools’ gold” that will result only in further litigation.
    “Their first two attempts only led to more litigation, more appeals, more expense and more waste of judicial resources,” the Sunrise objection says.    “They resolved nothing.    There is no reason to expect a different result this time.”
    The case remains pending before U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III.
    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@ or 502-5824228.    Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:
The headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn., is shown in 2011. The Baptist convention has
cut ties with Baptist churches, including several in Louisville, over LGBTQ-inclusive policies. MARK HUMPHREY/AP FILE

5/14/2021 Texas State Legislature Passes Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Bill by OAN Newsroom
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
    On Thursday, a new pro-life bill was passed through both chambers of the Texas State Legislature.    In a win for pro-life advocates, the heartbeat bill is headed to the desk of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
    Abbott signaled he’s determined to sign the bill into law.    If introduced, it would mean abortions performed after the detection of a fetal heartbeat would be banned.    However, there would be no criminal repercussions.
    Instead, the law would be enforced by private citizens, which would give them the ability to sue abortion providers and others who help a woman terminate a pregnancy.    This would even include someone providing a ride to the abortion clinic.
    While the bill does not suggest a specific time frame, proponents say a heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks.
    Critics such as Democrat State Rep. Donna Howard have argued that medical experts assert there is no fully developed heart at the point of gestation, but instead the sound referred to as a heartbeat is actually electrically induced flickering of fetal tissue.
    The legislation only makes an exception for medical emergencies and does not include any exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
    Despite pointing out that most women are often unaware they are even pregnant at six weeks, proponents are steadfast and have said that the baby is still a baby whether the mother is aware of it or not.
    Georgia and Ohio have passed similar bills, but Texas’ heartbeat bill is likely to face legal challenges.    Although, the authors of the legislation are confident the structure of the bill will make it harder to block.

5/17/2021 Gay police group blasts NYC Pride for banning cops by John Bacon, USA TODAY
    A gay officers group said it was disheartened after a “shameful” decision by organizers of certain Pride gatherings in New York City to ban police from their events.
    NYC Pride said its new policy banning “corrections and law enforcement exhibitors” through at least 2025 will improve safety as violence against marginalized groups, specifically BIPOC – Black, Indigenous, people of color – and trans communities, has escalated.
    “NYPD is not required to lead first response and security at NYC Pride events,” the group said.    “All aspects of first response and security that can be reallocated to trained private security, community leaders and volunteers will be reviewed.”
    The Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) said NYC Pride has long been a valued partner.
    “The abrupt about-face in order to placate some of the activists in our community is shameful,” GOAL said.
    The first Gay Pride parades in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in 1970 came a year after an uprising in 1969 outside Manhattan’s Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, after a police raid.
    Plans for marches in 2020 were ruined by the pandemic.    In 2019, there were two marches in Manhattan amid concerns that the annual parade had become too commercialized.    Some participants in the alternative Queer Liberation March claimed the Pride march was too heavily policed by the department responsible for the Stonewall raid.
    June is Pride Month, and the annual parade is set to return June 27. The theme is “The Fight Continues,” reflecting the “multitude of battles” the city and country face, NYC Pride said.    The group cited the pandemic, police brutality, the alarming murder rate for trans people of color, economic hardship, climate disasters, violent efforts to disenfranchise voters and “our rights as a community being questioned.”
    GOAL President Brian Downey said NYC Pride is aware that the city will not allow a large-scale event to occur without police presence.
    “So their response to activist pressure is to take the low road by preventing their fellow community members from celebrating their identities and honoring the shared legacy,” Downey said.    “It is demoralizing that (NYC Pride) didn’t have the courage to refer to GOAL by name in its announcement, referring to us only as ‘law enforcement exhibitors.’    The label is not only offensive but dehumanizing for our members.”
    NYC Pride said it will increase its budget for security and first response, so it can build an emergency plan using private security and trained volunteers.    NYPD will provide first response and security only when absolutely necessary as mandated by city officials, NYC Pride said.
    The group said it was unwilling to “contribute in any way to creating an atmosphere of fear or harm for members of the community.”
    “The sense of safety that law enforcement is meant to provide can instead be threatening, and at times dangerous, to those in our community who are most often targeted with excessive force and/or without reason,” NYC Pride said.    “The steps being taken by the organization challenge law enforcement to acknowledge their harm and to correct course moving forward.”

5/17/2021 The Supreme Court just took a case that poses a major threat to Roe v. Wade by Ian Millhiser
    The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to a Mississippi law that prohibits nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.    That means that Dobbs will be the first abortion case to be fully briefed and argued before the Supreme Court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation last October.
© Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and her husband
Jesse Barrett during her ceremonial swearing-in at the White House on October 26.
    Barrett is an outspoken opponent of abortion, and she joined a Court that almost certainly already had five votes to roll back abortion rights before her confirmation gave Republicans a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court.
    Last June, four justices voted to uphold a Louisiana anti-abortion law that was virtually identical to a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016.    Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts cast a surprising vote in that June case, June Medical Services v. Russo, to strike down Louisiana’s law.    But Roberts’s opinion emphasized that he disagreed with many of the Court’s seminal abortion rights decisions, and that he only voted the way he did in June Medical out of respect for the principle that the Court should not simply ignore a ruling that it handed down just a few years earlier.
    With Barrett on the Court, the four dissenters in June Medical no longer need Roberts’s vote to make significant incursions on reproductive freedom.    And the legal issue in Dobbs is sufficiently distinct from the one in June Medical that Roberts is unlikely to vote with his liberal colleagues again on those grounds.
    The legal issue in Dobbs is straightforward.    A 2018 Mississippi law prohibits all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, “except in a medical emergency or in the case of a severe fetal abnormality.”    Notably, this law applies even before the fetus is viable — meaning that it is capable of surviving outside the uterus.    But, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed, “a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.”
    Notably, the Supreme Court decided to focus its argument in Dobbs on a single question — “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional” — which suggests that the Court could use this case as a vehicle to end the rule providing that an abortion patient gets to make the final decision whether to “terminate her pregnancy before viability.”
    A conservative federal appeals court struck down the Mississippi law, with even Judge James Ho, a staunch opponent of abortion, conceding that existing Supreme Court precedent “establishes viability as the governing constitutional standard.”
    Now that the case is before the justices themselves, however, Dobbs gives the Court’s new majority a vehicle it could use to toss out this longstanding rule.    Indeed, it potentially gives them a vehicle to overrule Roe v. Wade in its entirety and permit outright bans on abortion.
    The Court’s new majority, moreover, has already signaled that it is eager to roll back protections for abortion rights.    Earlier this year, the Court handed down a decision permitting the Food and Drug Administration to impose limits on an abortion-inducing drug that it does not impose on any other medication.
    The Court did not publish a majority opinion in that earlier case, FDA v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, so the American College decision did not make any explicit changes to the Court’s existing abortion rights doctrine.    Nevertheless, the Court’s anti-abortion decision in American College may well foreshadow what’s to come.

5/17/2021 Pope appoints new Hong Kong bishop after long delay
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis named on Monday Stephen Chow as the new bishop of Hong Kong, a long-delayed appointment that comes amid Sino-Vatican frictions and growing Western concern over human rights in the global financial hub.
© Reuters/REMO CASILLI Pope Francis celebrates Holy Mass for the community of the faithful of Myanmar resident in Rome
    Chow, 61, head of Hong Kong's Jesuit order, will replace Cardinal John Tong, who has held the post in a caretaker capacity following the death of the previous bishop, Michael Yeung, in January 2019.
    Senior clerics in Hong Kong familiar with the situation said the new bishop must ease tensions among a flock divided between those wanting the diocese to do more to defend Hong Kong's waning freedoms and others, including some powerful establishment figures, who want a less confrontational approach.
    For decades, the former British colony has been a strong Catholic beach-head on the edge of a mainland China under officially-atheist Communist Party rule.
    Many of Hong Kong's senior government and business figures are Catholics, including the city's leader Carrie Lam, as well as opposition activists, such as tabloid media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who was recently detained under a sweeping new national security law.
    The appointment of Chow follows two failed attempts to fill the post.    Previous potential candidates were considered either too close to Beijing for the comfort of many local Catholics, or potentially unacceptable to mainland officials due to their prominence during the months of sometimes-violent pro-democracy protests that rocked the city through 2019.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella and Greg Torode, Editing by Crispian Balmer)

5/18/2021 U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Major Challenge To Abortion Rights by Lawrence Hurley
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S. May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider gutting the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, taking up Mississippi’s bid to revive a Republican-backed state law that bans the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
    By hearing the case in their next term, which starts in October and ends in June 2022, the justices will look at whether to overturn a central part of the landmark ruling, a longstanding goal of religious conservatives.
    The eventual ruling by the conservative-majority court, expected next year, could allow states to ban abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb, upending decades of legal precedent. Lower courts ruled against Mississippi’s law.
    In the Roe v. Wade decision, subsequently reaffirmed in 1992, the court said that states could not ban abortion before the viability of the fetus outside the womb, which is generally viewed by doctors as between 24 and 28 weeks.    The Mississippi law would ban abortion much earlier than that.    Other states have backed laws that would ban the procedure even earlier.
    “Alarm bells are ringing loudly about the threat to reproductive rights.    The Supreme Court just agreed to review an abortion ban that unquestionably violates nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and is a test case to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is among those challenging the law.
    Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, a Republican, said she is committed to defending the law’s constitutionality.
    “The Mississippi legislature enacted this law consistent with the will of its constituents to promote women’s health and preserve the dignity and sanctity of life.    I remain committed to advocating for women and defending Mississippi’s legal right to protect the unborn,” Fitch said.
    The Roe v. Wade ruling recognized that a constitutional right to personal privacy protects a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.    The court in its 1992 decision, coming in the case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, reaffirmed the ruling and prohibited laws that place an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.
    Abortion opponents are hopeful the Supreme Court will narrow or overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.    The court has a 6-3 conservative majority following the addition last year of Republican former President Donald Trump’s third appointee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
    White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration is committed to defending abortion rights.    Psaki said abortion and access to healthcare have come under “withering and extreme attack” in recent years including through “draconian state laws.”
    The Supreme Court in a 5-4 June 2020 ruling struck down a Louisiana law that imposed restrictions on doctors who perform abortions.    The late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was still on the court at the time, and conservative Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the court’s liberal wing in the ruling.    Roberts, however, made it clear that he voted that way because he felt bound by the court’s 2016 ruling striking down a similar Texas law.
    The 2018 Mississippi law, like others resembling it passed by Republican-led states, was enacted with full knowledge that was a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
    After the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, sued to block the measure, a federal judge in 2018 ruled against the state.    The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 reached the same conclusion.
    “States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right, but they may not ban abortions.     The law at issue is a ban,” 5th Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote.
    Abortion remains a divisive issue in the United States, as in many countries.    Christian conservatives are among those most opposed to it.    U.S. abortion rates have steadily declined since the early 1980s, reaching the lowest levels on record in recent years, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute.
    Jeanne Mancini, president of the anti-abortion group March for Life, said a ruling limiting abortion to early pregnancy would be in line with many other countries.
    The Louisiana case ruling marked the court’s first major abortion decision since Trump appointed Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and Neil Gorsuch in 2017 as justices.    Both voted in favor of Louisiana’s restrictions.    If Barrett were to vote on similar lines, conservatives could have a majority to curb abortion rights regardless of how Roberts votes.    Trump promised during the 2016 presidential race to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
    The Mississippi appeal had been pending at the court since June 2020. During that time, Ginsburg died and was replaced by Barrett and Trump lost his re-election bid, to be replaced by Biden, who supports abortion rights.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Merdie Nzanga; Editing by Will Dunham)

5/20/2021 Texas abortion ban is signed into law - Procedure prohibited after heartbeat detected by Madlin Mekelburg, Austin American-Statesman USA TODAY NETWORK
    AUSTIN, Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Wednesday legislation that prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, effectively banning most abortions in the state.
    The restriction puts Texas at the vanguard among states challenging the boundaries of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case that established a woman’s legal right to an abortion.
    The measure, which was a priority for Republican lawmakers during this year’s legislative session, would allow virtually any private citizen to sue an abortion provider or others who “aid and abet” an abortion in violation of the new ban.
    The bill passed easily through both the Senate and House, despite fervent opposition from Democrats.
    Abbott indicated support of the measure early in the session and made good on his pledge to sign it on Wednesday, at a ceremony that was closed to members of the press.
    “Our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Abbott said during a live video of the ceremony shared to Facebook.
    “In Texas, we work to save those lives and that’s exactly what the Texas Legislature did this session.”
    The law is slated to go into effect Sept. 1.
    At that point, abortions will be allowed in Texas only before the presence of a fetal heartbeat, barring a medical emergency.
    There is not a specific time frame tied to the restriction, and fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks gestation – or six weeks from a woman’s last menstrual period, not since the start of her pregnancy – according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.     Opponents of the law argue that it will prohibit abortions before most women are even aware they are pregnant, effectively outlawing the procedure.
    It also does not include exceptions in cases of rape or incest, a caveat that has long been the standard in abortion laws.    “For a person with a normal menstrual cycle, that is only two weeks after a missed period,” said Dyana Limon-Mercado, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, in a statement.
    “When you factor in the time it takes to confirm a pregnancy, consider your options and make a decision, schedule an appointment and comply with all the restrictions politicians have already put in place for patients and providers, a six-week ban essentially bans abortion outright.”
    The proposal was part of an aggressive agenda from abortion opponents during this year’s legislative session, which included numerous proposals designed to severely limit the availability of the procedure, with an eye to the changing power dynamics at the Supreme Court.
    Conservatives now hold a 6-3 majority.
    Drucilla Tigner, a policy and advocacy strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said the law is “the most extreme abortion ban in the country.”
    “Not only does this ban violate more than half a century of Supreme Court caselaw, it paves the way for anti-choice extremists to use our court system to go after anyone who performs abortions or considers supporting a person that has one,” Tigner said in a statement.
    “But make no mistake, abortion is both legal in Texas and supported by the majority of Texans. The governor’s swipe of a pen can’t change the Constitution.”
    Federal judges have blocked similar laws in other states, but proponents of the legislation in Texas are hopeful that by prohibiting public officials from enforcing the law and leaving it up to private citizens to sue violators, the law can pass legal muster.
    This provision of the law has drawn intense criticism from lawyers, 400 of whom wrote a letter to lawmakers warning that the language used in the legislation is “exceptionally broad” and would create an “unprecedented” cause of action that “subverts the foundations of our judicial system.”
    Plus, legal experts have said that prohibiting enforcement of the ban by public officials will not protect the law from legal challenges.
    Elizabeth Sepper, a law professor at the University of Texas, told the American- Statesman in March that it is “unlikely that a federal court is going to fall for this” strategy employed in the legislation.
    “You can’t attempt to strip constitutional rights by requiring someone to go into state court when they face a lawsuit from another private citizen,” she said.
    “Federal courts would immediately say, ‘Hey, wait a second: You can’t cut off the U.S. Constitution by framing what’s really a state law as a private matter between citizens.’”    Elizabeth Nash, principal policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, said the civil action created through the law is “uniquely cruel.”
    “By allowing anyone, anywhere to sue people involved in providing or obtaining an abortion, this ban would open the floodgates for frivolous lawsuits, bury clinics under court cases and legal fees, and make it difficult for providers to remain open,” Nash said in a statement.
    “This ban in Texas is clearly about controlling pregnant people’s bodies and preventing them from making decisions about their lives and futures.”
    Lawmakers tweaked one element of the proposal before sending it to Abbott for approval.
    They opted to explicitly limit the civil action created through the law to violations of the ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
    Opponents argued that the original version of the legislation could have allowed for lawsuits to be filed against abortion providers and others for violations of any abortion-related regulation.
    Lawmakers also added language to prohibit a person who impregnated a woman through rape, sexual assault or incest from bringing a lawsuit under the bill.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed legislation that prohibits abortion after
a heartbeat is detected. BOB DAEMMRICH/FOR USA TODAY NETWORK

5/21/2021 ‘Running Out Of Time’: Tibetan President-Elect Warns Of Cultural Genocide by Cate Cadell and Sanjeev Miglani
FILE PHOTO: Tibet's exiled Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Penpa Tsering (in grey), speaker of the
Tibetan Parliament-in-exile and Samdhong Rinpoche (R), Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, observe a minute's
silence during a ceremony in the northern Indian hilltown of Dharamsala March 10, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer
    BEIJING/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The top political leader of Tibet’s government in exile said on Friday that there is an urgent threat of “cultural genocide” in Tibet, and the international community must stand up to China ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
    Penpa Tsering, who was this month elected president of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), told Reuters that they are committed to a peaceful resolution with China, but Beijing’s current policies threaten the future of Tibetan culture.
    “Time is running out,” said Tsering, speaking from Dharamshala in India.    “Once it is eliminated, it doesn’t make sense to fight for anything,” he said.
    Rights groups and Tibetans in Tibet say the government has put strict controls on religion, language education and labour, while encouraging immigration by Han people, China’s largest ethnic group.
    “I have always said we are not against multiculturalism … but one single majority population completely overwhelming a minority population, that amounts to cultural genocide, especially when it’s enforced by the state,” Tsering said.
    Beijing denies it breaches the human rights of Tibetan people.    It says its development policies have eradicated absolute poverty in the region and are backed by all residents.
    China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday evening.
    Chinese troops seized Tibet in 1950 in what Beijing calls a “peaceful liberation.”    In 1959, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled into exile, following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
    Founded after the exile, the CTA maintains its own executive, legislative and judicial bodies in Dharamshala.    As many as 150,000 Tibetans are living in exile.
    Tibet has since become one of the world’s most restricted and sensitive areas. Journalists, diplomats and other foreigners are barred from travelling there outside of tightly managed government tours.
    “If you are not challenging China’s practices right now, then China will get away with everything,” said Tsering, responding to a question about the 2022 Winter Olympics.    “There has to be a stop to this.”
    China this month celebrates the 70th anniversary of its control over Tibet with press events and a government-sponsored tour to the region.
    It’s part of a broader effort to formalise Beijing’s claim over Tibet, and share a positive narrative of the Communist Party’s role there.
    In a white paper released in state media on Friday, Beijing said that prior to China’s intervention, Tibet was a “wretched and backward feudal serfdom” that was “doomed to die out.”
    “Money alone does not bring happiness,” said Tsering.    “If we had been independent we could have been economically as developed as Tibet is today,” he said.
    Dialogue between Beijing and the CTA has stalled since 2010. Tsering said that the Dalai Lama’s return to China was crucial to reopen a dialogue.
    “We’ll use all ways and means to reach out to the Chinese government,” said Tsering.    “If the Chinese don’t respond to us the only way we can keep the issue alive is to reach out to the international community,” he said.
    The CTA and Tibetan advocacy groups have received a boost in international support amid rising criticism of China’s human rights record, particularly from the United States.
    In November, Tsering’s predecessor Lobsang Sangay visited the White House, the first such visit by a CTA president in six decades.
    A month later, the U.S. Congress passed the Tibet Policy and Support Act, which calls for the right of Tibetans to choose the successor to the Dalai Lama, and the establishment of a U.S. consulate in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.
    Tsering reiterated that when the 14th Dalai Lama passes he will only be reincarnated in a “free country,” according to his wishes.    China says it has a right to select the Dalai Lama’s successor according to Chinese law.
    “Why are they so concerned with the 15th Dalai Lama?” said Tsering.    “The 14th Dalai Lama is still living and he wishes to go to China … the Chinese government leaders need to learn about Buddhism first.”
(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Giles Elgood)

5/21/2021 Pope Francis To Get First Electric Popemobile From U.S. Firm Fisker
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis waves before leaving after the weekly general audience,
in San Damaso courtyard, at the Vatican, May 19, 2021. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    BERKELEY, California (Reuters) – Los Angeles-based Fisker Inc plans to supply the first pure electric vehicle for Pope Francis next year, it said on Friday, with features such as a solar roof and carpets made of recycled plastic bottles from the ocean.
    Fisker will covert its all-electric Ocean sport utility vehicle for use by the pope, providing a retractable glass cupola and sustainable interior materials, such as the carpets.
    Co-founders Henrik Fisker, formerly a designer for British luxury carmaker Aston Martin, and Dr. Geeta Gupta-Fisker met the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Vatican City, the company said.
    “I got inspired reading that Pope Francis is very considerate about the environment and the impact of climate change for future generations,” said Fisker.
    Production of the Ocean electric SUV is planned to start in November next year, through contract manufacturer Magna International Inc in Europe.
    The firm did not reveal the cost of the modified vehicle intended for the pope, but the Fisker Ocean starts at $37,499 in the United States, and 32,000 euros ($39,152) in Germany.
    Last year, Francis received a hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai sedan specially designed to ensure his mobility.
($1=0.8173 euros)
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

5/22/2021 NYC Pro-Israel Protesters Attacked, Dem Leadership Called Out For Staying Largely Silent by OAN Newsroom
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 18: Members of the Palestinian community, fellow Muslims and their supporters rally in support of the Palestinian people in the wake
of the recent violence in the Gaza Strip, during a rally in Times Square, May 18, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
    New York Democrat leaders are facing criticism from members of their own party for staying silent as Middle East tensions spill over into the “Big Apple.”    There have been reports of fighting as demonstrations linked to the conflict in Israel continue in New York City.
    Police repeatedly had to break apart fighting after pro-Israel activists were attacked by pro-Palestinian protesters. Furthermore, videos have emerged depicting the violence, including a scuffle after someone who was holding an Israeli flag had it pulled from his hands before being punched upon trying to retrieve it back.
    The continued violence has subjected more than two dozen additional individuals to custody after officers were forced to step into a larger fight that broke out.    Police have also reportedly said a group of pro-Palestinian agitators threw fireworks into a crowd of pedestrians, injuring at least one bystander and two officers.
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 20: Pro Palestinian protesters face off with a group of Israel supporters and police in a
violent clash in Times Square on May 20, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
    A 29-year-old Jewish man has also spoke out after he was beaten by a group of people in the city earlier in the week. Police say Joseph Borgen was taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries following the attack. He said he couldn’t understand why there was so much hate directed at him.
    Police said one 23-year-old suspect was taken into custody and faces a litany of charges that include assault as a hate crime, aggravated harassment as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon. Officers are still searching for six more people connected to the attack.
    Critics are calling on New York leadership to address the violence, saying some of the biggest names in the state have been largely absent amongst the chaos.    Although, in an appearance on Friday in Times Square, Senate Majority Leader and New York lawmaker Chuck Schumer (D) did make a comment saying he’s glad there’s a ceasefire in the Middle East.
    Saturday will mark the first full day of ceasefire after Hamas militants fired more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel with Israel conducting air strikes in response.    Reports say Egyptian mediators have continued to hold discussions between the two sides in the hopes of maintaining the peace.

5/24/2021 Pope to Vatican's own media workers: Who reads your news? by NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press
    ROME (AP) — Pope Francis challenged the Vatican’s own media employees Monday to essentially justify their continued work, asking them how many people actually consume their news as he visited the office that costs the Holy See more than all its embassies around the world combined.
@ Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis leaves after a visit to Radio Vaticana offices in Rome Monday, May 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
    Francis paid a visit to the Dicastry of Communications to mark the 90th anniversary of Vatican Radio and the 160th anniversary of the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. He appeared to use the occasion to lay down the gauntlet for the Vatican's in-house media to remain relevant in a challenging media landscape and fraught time for the Holy See financially.
    Facing a major pension funding shortage and a projected 50-million-euro ($61 million) deficit this year, Francis has ordered salary cuts from 3% to 10% for senior Vatican employees, both lay and religious, and paused seniority bonuses for two years.
    Francis has vowed not to fire anyone to offset the economic crisis created by COVID-19 and the pandemic-related shuttering of one of the Holy See’s main sources of revenue, ticket sales from the Vatican Museums.
    But in a warning of sorts to the Vatican communications staff, he opened his unscripted remarks Monday with a pointed question.
    “There are a lot of reasons to be worried about the Radio, L’Osservatore, but one that touches my heart: How many people listen to the Radio? How many people read L’Osservatore Romano?” Francis asked.
    He said their work was good, their offices nice and organized, but that there was a “danger” that their work doesn’t arrive where it is supposed to.    He warned them against falling prey to a “lethal" functionality where they go through the motions but don't actually achieve anything.
    The cost-benefit question of the Vatican's in-house media operations has been posed many times, since the communications office consumes more of the Holy See's annual budget than any other department.    According to the latest figures, the Dicastry for Communications had a 43 million euros ($52.5 million) budget for 2021, around 20 percent of the whole.
    Its expenses are greater than the combined expenses of the 10 smallest Vatican departments.
    The Vatican has long justified the costs because its communications operations are at the core of the Holy See’s main mission: to communicate the Catholic faith to all corners of the globe.
    The head of the office, Paolo Ruffini, said he took the pope's words as an invitation to creatively look to the future, even while acknowledging the reality of today's media realities.    He recalled Francis had told L'Osservatore Romano staff to “let themselves be slapped by reality," and that the comment was a wake-up call of sorts.
    Reality “sometimes it challenges us in a harsh way, it gives us slaps," Ruffini told Vatican News.    “We must react with the strength to make it change."
    Vatican Radio is transmitted by 1,000 radio networks worldwide in a variety of languages.    L'Osservatore Romano says it is seen by 21,500 readers each day via its printed and online version, though that figure rises to 40,000 if its different language editions distributed by dioceses are taken into account.
    Vatican News, the main online news portal of the Holy See, averages around 21 million page views per month, though it was unclear if those are unique page views.
    The cuts Francis has imposed across the board have sparked a minor revolt among Vatican employees.    They penned a blistering open letter May 20 expressing their “dismay and profound discouragement” at salary cuts, lack of overtime and uncompensated increased workload, which they said didn't conform to the Catholic Church’s social doctrine.
    They lamented in particular the great disparities in pay and benefits, especially for some lay managers and outside consultants on whom the Holy See relies heavily to oversee and clean up its finances.
    “One cannot ignore the economic difficulties that families are today called to confront as a result of the pandemic,” they lamented in asking for a meeting to discuss their concerns.

5/25/2021 Lithuania Parliament Votes Against Debating Same-Sex Partnership Bill by Andrius Sytas
FILE PHOTO: Tomas Raskevicius, first gay rights activist to be elected to parliament, poses in the
parliament in Vilnius, Lithuania April 27, 2021. REUTERS/Andrius Sytas
    VILNIUS (Reuters) – Lithuania’s parliament on Tuesday voted narrowly against debating a bill legalising same-sex civil partnerships, but supporters said they would adjust the proposal and eventually resubmit it to the assembly.
    In a razor thin vote, 63 lawmakers voted in favour and 65 against accepting the measure for discussion, with some opponents declaring same-sex partnerships to be a gateway to same-sex marriage, a status they reject.
    A representative poll in April commissioned by the president’s office found 70% of adult Lithuanians against same-sex partnerships.
    “The vote illustrates that ensuring human rights is a long-term process which needs much more work” Tomas Raskevicius, an openly gay member of parliament who sponsored the bill, told Reuters.
    He said he would try to introduce the bill again in autumn, with some unspecified changes to try placate critics.
    A third of parliamentarians from the conservative ruling Homeland Union party voted against debating the bill, a signature policy of a junior liberal partner of the ruling coalition, with 15 of them signing a petition to put it to a referendum.
    Homeland Union leader Gabrielius Landsbergis, who is also the Foreign Minister and co-sponsored the bill, said he would work in his party to change wording in the bill before trying again.    “We need to talk more, we need more discussions,” he told reporters, according to BNS wire.
    Police estimate 10,000 thousand people took part in an event in Vilnius in mid-May to protest against the partnership legislation, billed as The Great Family Defence March.
    The nation of 2.8 million, once ruled from Moscow, has been a member of the European Union and NATO since 2004.
    A Lithuanian artist has raised over $6,000 for LGBT groups by selling a digital collage of homophobic messages that were sent to Raskevicius, the first gay rights activist to be elected to parliament.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, Editing by William Maclean)

5/26/2021 Pope Kisses Tattoo Number On Auschwitz Survivor’s Arm by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis greets a Holocaust survivor Lidia Maksymowicz after the weekly general audience
at the San Damaso courtyard, at the Vatican, May 26, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -Pope Francis kissed the number tattooed on the arm of a survivor of medical experiments at the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp when she was introduced to him on Wednesday.
    The pope listened intently as a Polish priest who accompanied Lidia Maksymowicz, 80, told him of her story during a general audience in the Vatican’s San Damaso Courtyard.
    She then rolled up her left sleeve to show him the number – 70072.    He kissed it and she hugged him.
    Maksymowicz and her family were taken from their home in Belarus to the Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland in December 1943, shortly before her third birthday.
    She was put in a children’s barracks, where she and others were the subjects of medical experimentation by Doctor Josef Mengele, according to a documentary about her life.
    “Mengele was an atrocious person, without limits and without scruples,” she told the official Vatican News website after the audience, adding that she still remembers the pain he inflicted.    “After the war, books were found with references to tattooed numbers, among them mine.”
    After the liberation of the camp in 1945, Soviet soldiers assumed her mother Anna – tattooed with the number 70071 – was dead.    She was adopted and raised by a Catholic Polish family.
    Born Ludmila Boczarowa, she did not know her birth mother had survived and they were briefly reunited shortly before her mother’s death in the early 1960s.
    Maksymowicz, who lives in Krakow, Poland, is the subject of a documentary called “70072: The Girl Who Couldn’t Hate.    The true story of Lidia Maksymowicz.”
    She often meets young people in schools to discuss the dangers of extremism and populism.
    The Nazis and their allies murdered around 6 million Jews, as well as others, in German-occupied Europe.
    More than a million people, most of them Jews, were killed at Auschwitz.    The vast majority were gassed to death.
    Francis visited Auschwitz in 2016.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella;Editing by Alison Williams and Alistair Bell)

5/27/2021 Belgian Abbey Raises Brewery From Ashes After 200 Years by Philip Blenkinsop
Father Karel Stautemas and abbot Erik toast after blessing beer tanks at the Belgian Abbey of Grimbergen, which returns to brewing after a
break of more than 200 years with a new microbrewery in Grimbergen, Belgium May 26, 2021. Picture taken May 26, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman
    GRIMBERGEN, Belgium (Reuters) – Priests of Belgium’s Grimbergen Abbey have begun brewing for the first time in more than two centuries, with a microbrewery making special editions of the mass-market beer bearing their abbey’s name.
    The abbey, whose emblem is a phoenix with the Latin motto “Ardet nec consumitur” (Burned but not destroyed), was twice burned down and ransacked by French troops in 1798, ending a tradition of beer-making dating back to the 12th century.
    Karel Stautemas, the white-robed abbey sub-prior who is on the verge of completing brewing studies, said beer-making was a “second life” for Belgian abbeys and the community of 15 Norbertine canons was enthusiastic about its return.
    “The core business was religion, but brewing was necessary because water at the moment in the Middle Ages wasn’t drinkable and also it was a kind of payment,” he said.
    The abbey, founded in 1128, has been tied to commercial brewers since 1958 when local firm Maes paid the monks to use the Grimbergen name and phoenix emblem on its “abbey beer.”    Denmark’s Carlsberg now has the global rights.
    The new microbrewery aims to combine the 900-year tradition of beer making, evident in books in the abbey’s library, with new techniques and innovation.    To celebrate the opening on Thursday, it is releasing three new Grimbergen beers.
    Marc-Antoine Sochon, a brewmaster from Carlsberg overseeing the 10,000 hectolitre-per-year facility, said one of the new beers drew on a tradition from the Middle Ages to use smoky malt.
    “That’s the idea I think to make trials, experiments and try new things, in terms of raw materials, small samples,” he said.
    The project aims to focus on using local crops and to that end, the abbey has planted hops and herbs in its garden, discovering in the plot an old cow bone used to clarify beer.
    Grimbergen’s monks will follow the rules of Belgium’s Trappist beer makers, even if they are not a Trappist order, requiring them to brew within the abbey walls, control the operation and steer profits towards the abbey upkeep and charitable causes.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

5/28/2021 Polish Ultra-Conservatives Launch University To Mould New Elites
FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Law and Justice party walk with a portrait of late Pope John Paul II
during a pro-government demonstration in Warsaw, Poland December 13, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – An ultra-conservative Polish think tank on Friday inaugurated a university intended to mould future leaders who espouse the conservative Christian values that the nationalist government champions, and push back against Western liberalism.
    The project reflects a wider backlash in central Europe against what many ruling politicians and right-wing commentators view as a tide of discrimination against conservative ideas and research.
    Although independent of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, the think tank, Ordo Iuris, has gained prominence in recent years, and seen several of its former members reach senior positions in the Polish government and judiciary.
    It offers legal aid to parents who oppose discussion of gay and lesbian rights in schools, and to local authorities that say they oppose “LGBT ideology” in order to preserve Poland’s traditional Roman Catholic culture.
    Ordo Iuris officials said their Collegium Intermarium, would mirror the Central European University (CEU), founded and funded by liberal-minded Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, in seeking to become a springboard for future leaders in the region
    “This is our undertaking: Integrating central Europe based on our cultural values and on our interests,” said Tymoteusz Zych, vice-president of Ordo Iuris and dean of the new university.
    The CEU was forced out of Hungary by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has accused Soros of trying to destroy European civilisation with his efforts to support immigrants. Soros says his support for refugees is a humanitarian mission.
    “The new university aspires to the noble goal of creating an academic community that dedicates itself to protecting Christian conservative principles,” said Gergely Gulyas, Orban’s chief of staff, said on Friday.
    “It aims to become a bulwark against human rights fundamentalism and political correctness that have become rampant in today’s Europe.”
    Poland’s education minister has proposed a law that would exempt academic teachers from disciplinary measures for expressing religious or philosophical views.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

5/28/2021 UK PM Told Hungary’s Orban Of Significant Human Rights Concerns
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban
at Downing Street in London, Britain May 28, 2021. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Viktor Orban he had significant concerns about human rights in Hungary, including gender equality, LGBT rights and media freedom in a meeting between the two leaders in London on Friday.
    “The Prime Minister raised his significant concerns about human rights in Hungary, including gender equality, LGBT rights and media freedom,” a spokeswoman for Johnson’s office said.
    “The leaders also discussed a number of foreign policy issues including Russia, Belarus and China.    The Prime Minister encouraged Hungary to use their influence to promote democracy and stability.”
(Reporting by Kate Holton; editin by William James)

5/28/2021 Pope Orders Inquiry Into German Church’s Handling Of Abuse Allegations
FILE PHOTO: The UNESCO World Heritage Cologne Cathedral is seen on the banks of the
river Rhine in Cologne, Germany, March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
    BERLIN (Reuters) – The Pope has dispatched two senior foreign bishops to investigate the Archbishop of Cologne’s handling of sexual abuse allegations in Germany’s largest archdiocese, the pontiff’s representative in Germany said on Friday.
    Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki has been criticised for his handling of historic child sex abuse allegations, in particular for his decision to shelve a report into earlier wrongdoings by priests because of unspecified methodological shortcomings.
    An 800-page follow-up report into the handling of abuse cases in the Cologne archdiocese between 1975 and 2018 found more than 200 abusers and more than 300 victims mostly under the age of 14.
    “Pope Francis has ordered an Apostolic Visitation to the Archdiocese of Cologne,” Nikola Eterovic, the Papal Nuncio to Germany, said in a statement.
    “The Holy See’s delegates will form a comprehensive picture of the complex pastoral situation in the Archbishopric and consider any possible failings by Cardinal Woelki and his excellency Stefan Hesse, Archbishop of Hamburg,” he added.
    Cologne, by some measures the world’s richest diocese – with a bigger income than the Vatican itself – is at the centre of a crisis in the German Catholic Church, with thousands quitting the Church in protest at its handling of abuse cases and at its refusal to bless same-sex relationships.
    Woelki welcomed the decision to send the inspectors – Anders Cardinal Arborelius, the Bishop of Stockholm, and Johannes van der Hende, Bishop of Rotterdam.
    “I am glad that the Pope wants to form his own picture of our independent inquiry and its consequences,” Woelki said in a statement.    “I will support Cardinal Arborelius and Bishop van den Hende in their work.”
    Centred on the renowned Cologne Cathedral, the tallest twin-spired church in the world, the Rhineland diocese is home to Germany’s largest community of Roman Catholics.
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

5/30/2021 Pope invites Lebanese Christians to Vatican for peace prayer by NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press
    VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has invited representatives of Lebanon’s Christian community to the Vatican on July 1 for a day of prayer and reflection “about the worrisome situation in the country.”
© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the
window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, May 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
    Francis announced the encounter during his Sunday noon blessing, saying the aim was to “pray together for the gift of peace and stability."    He asked for prayers ahead of the meeting and for Lebanon itself so the country can enjoy “a more serene future.”
    Lebanon, a Mediterranean nation of 5 million, has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East and is the only Arab country with a Christian head of state.    Christians make up a third of the population.
© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window
of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, May 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
    Lebanon has been enduring an unparalleled financial, economic and political crisis for months, which has been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.    Francis met in April at the Vatican with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and urged all Lebanese political leaders to “urgently commit themselves to the benefit of the nation.”
© Provided by Associated Press A nun takes pictures as Pope Francis recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window
of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, May 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
    Because of political deadlock, the country has been without a government since the Cabinet resigned days after a massive blast at Beirut’s port on Aug. 4, killing 211, wounding more than 6,000 and damaging entire neighborhoods.
    In recent weeks, with foreign currency reserves dwindling at the central bank, Lebanon has been witnessing severe shortage in medicines as well as fuel, with people having to wait in line at gas stations to fill their cars.    Electricity cuts last more than 12 hours a day.
© Provided by Associated Press People attend Pope Francis Angelus noon prayer in
St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, May 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
    Cardinal Bechara Rai, head of the Maronite Catholic church that is the largest in Lebanon, has criticized the country’s political class and urged them to quickly form a Cabinet to bring Lebanon out of its crisis.
© Provided by Associated Press People attend Pope Francis Angelus noon prayer in
St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, May 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
    “Excuses are not convincing anyone regarding delays in the formation of a government,” Rai said last week.    “It looks like Cabinet formation is in a long vacation.    The stalemate is a killing to the country and the people.    It must stop.”
    During his meeting with Hariri, Francis reaffirmed his desire to visit Lebanon as soon as conditions permit.    The July 1 meeting, presumably, will be an opportunity for the pope to express his solidarity now, given that a visit in the near future isn’t possible.
    According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president has to be a Maronite Christian and the parliamentary speaker a Shiite Muslim, while the prime minister has to be a Sunni.    Parliament and Cabinet seats are equally split between Muslims and Christians.
    It wasn't immediately clear which representatives of Lebanon's Christian community would be coming to Rome.
----- AP reporter Bassem Mroue contributted from Beirut.

5/30/2021 UPDATE 1 - Pope to hold crisis summit with Lebanon Christian heads by Philip Pullella, Reuters
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis, who has promised to visit Lebanon if fractious politicians agree on a new government, said on Sunday he would meet its Christian leaders to discuss the country's worst crisis since its civil war that ended in 1990.
    He told pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square for his weekly blessing that the meeting in the Vatican on Tuesday would be a "day of reflection on the worrying situation in the country."
    Lebanon is still reeling from a huge chemical explosion at the Beirut port last year that killed 200 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage, further weakening an economy already facing meltdown.
    Prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri has been at loggerheads for months with President Michel Aoun over cabinet positions.
    Lebanon's three main Christian denominations are Maronite Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Melchite Catholics.    There are a number of other smaller Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic denominations.
    The Vatican did not say which would be represented at the Vatican meeting.
    Hariri, a three-time prime minister, resigned in 2019 after nationwide protests against a political elite blamed by demonstrators for pushing the country into crisis.
    He was nominated as prime minister again in October but has been unable to form a new government.
    Hariri said after meeting the pope at the Vatican in April that the pontiff told him he would visit the country but only after a government is formed.
    Traditionally, invitations for the pope to visit a country are made by both civil and religious leaders.
    Francis has urged the international community to help Lebanon get back on its feet.
    He said on Sunday that the meeting with Lebanon's Christian leaders would be an opportunity to "pray together for the gift of peace and stability."
    Lebanon's economic meltdown has pushed much of the population into poverty and poses the biggest threat to stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.
(Additional reporting by Valentina Za; editing by Jason Neely and Giles Elgood)

6/1/2021 Envisioning time when ‘coming out’ isn’t needed - Many factors complicate issue for LGBTQ people by David Oliver, USA TODAY
    The lump lodged in your throat.    The tears fast and furiously flowing from your eyes.    The uncomfortable crack in your voice.
    “I’m gay.”    “I’m transgender.”    “I’m nonbinary.”
    Every out member of the LGBTQ community has said these words, or a variation, to the person or people they love, not knowing how they’ll react.    But what if they lived in a world where they didn’t have to disclose anything?
    Joshua Bassett, the actor/singer from “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and man who apparently broke co-star Olivia Rodrigo‘s heart, recently called Harry Styles hot during a fan Q& A video, and added, “This is also my coming out video, I guess.”
    He later followed up with a statement on Twitter that neither explicitly confirmed nor denied his sexuality.    “Love who you love shamelessly,” he wrote.    “It’s ok to still be figuring out who you are.    Life’s too short to let ignorance and hatred win.    I choose love.”
    This type of statement raises the question: Could the traditional “coming out” narrative someday be a thing of the past?
Removing pressure about coming out would ease anxiety about it, experts say. ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    The answer, much like the experience itself, is more nuanced than waving a pride flag.    A future in which LGBTQ members don’t feel obligated to explain or qualify their sexuality will require sweeping societal change.    That day is coming and it’s inevitable, says SA Smythe, an assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.
    “There’s going to be a future where coming out is not relevant because I politically believe that there’s going to be a future where gender is irrelevant,” Smythe says.    “That’s part of why we have to come out: It’s because there is an overwhelming norm, that is called the patriarchy that is called heterosexuality that is presumed.    And I fundamentally believe that that’s going to be abolished in our lifetimes.”
    For now though, a post-coming out world seems more attainable for some than others.
    “It may be that for young people in well-educated progressive families, no one really cares who they love,” says Tonia Poteat, an associate professor of social medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.    “However, the world is not yet there.”
    She points to recent Williams Institute data that suggests being rejected for sexual orientation or gender identity is harder today for LGBTQ youth because they have some expectation of fairness that doesn’t always exist.
    Where did ‘coming out’ originate?
    Gay men in the late 19th century and early 20th century borrowed the term “coming out” from high society debutantes, writes UCLA sociology professor Abigail C. Saguy in “The Conversation.”    Gay life became more hidden in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s following societal rejection to increased visibility.
    Following the Stonewall riots in 1969 – a major catalyst for the LGBTQ rights movement where Black transgender women led a protest outside the Stonewall Inn in New York – “coming out” became more of a political statement and an antidote to shame.    That has evidently led to increased rights.
    “To be sure, homophobia and transphobia are still alive and well,” Saguy writes.    “Still, LGBTQ people have made clear strides in the past half-century and coming out politics has been part of their success."
    Coming out inspires people to embrace their authentic selves, though not everyone’s coming out melody carries the same tune.
    “Coming out is an incredibly personal decision, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it,” says Carrie Davis, chief community officer for The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth.    “The key is to do it in your own time, whenever it feels right and safe for you.    Coming out can be an ongoing or even lifelong process for many people, especially those who are fluid in their sexuality and gender identity.”
    More U.S. adults than ever are coming out as LGBTQ (5.6%), and 1 in 6 members of Generation Z identifies as LGBTQ, according to a 2021 Gallup poll.
    “Young adults, in particular, feel empowered to publicly claim their identities – a compelling finding and validation for the past generations of LGBTQ advocates who have long fought for full equality,” according to Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
    LGBTQ pop culture figures have undoubtedly had an influence on LGBTQ children.    Celebrities such as Demi Lovato, Elliot Page and Sam Smith all came out as queer and later opened up about their gender identities.
    More than 80% of LGBTQ youth said celebrities who are LGBTQ positively impact how they feel about their queer identities, according to research from The Trevor Project.
    Escalating visibility, however, begets escalated backlash.    The LGBTQ community, particularly transgender people, continually faces harassment on social media.
    “(Social media) platforms have all of the tools at their disposal to stop the abuse, and they choose not to do anything.    Each time they choose not to, it harms our community,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis previously told USA TODAY.    “Social media has moved into the space of being the great culture creator of today, and when you have a community that has been the No. 1 target for harassment, it’s time we hold them accountable.”
    Online hate can lead to real-life violence.    At least 27 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed so far in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign.    Most of these people in past years have been Black or Latino transgender women.
    “As we’ve seen in the transgender and nonbinary community, our progress and increased visibility have been met with a backlash, particularly at the expense of trans young people and especially those who are BIPOC,” Davis says.
    What does that world look like?
    A world with no assumptions about heterosexuality.    Where boys can hold hands on the playground.    Where women can kiss without a stranger’s stare.
    LGBTQ people could encounter a unique opportunity to reinvent how they congregate and see themselves.
    “What does it mean to be queer if we’re not just based in trauma?” Smythe asks.    “Coming out comes with the risk of being murdered by a domestic partner, as trans women of color overwhelmingly face today.    What does it mean if you come out, and you don’t have an increased risk of being kicked out of your home, as queer and trans people have to deal with, like houselessness at exponential rates compared to cis or heterosexual people?
    In the meantime, Davis says, “we must all come together to foster the creation of a safer, more affirming world for LGBTQ youth.    Hopefully, one day, coming out won’t be necessary or newsworthy at all because we will have reached a greater level of understanding and acceptance for all LGBTQ people.”

6/1/2021 Pope Extends Church Law to Target Sexual Abuse of Adults by Priests by Jason Horowitz, The New York TImes
    ROME — Pope Francis has broadened the Roman Catholic Church’s definition of sexual abuse by revising its penal code to explicitly acknowledge that adults, and not only children, can be victimized by priests and powerful laypeople who abuse their offices and standing among the faithful.
© Pool photo by Filippo Monteforte Pope Francis leading a prayer in May in the Vatican> He has said the new rules were the result of 14 years of study.
    The Vatican announced on Tuesday that Francis had made changes to the Vatican’s Code of Canon Law, the legal framework for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, after years of consultations.    The revisions are part of the church’s continued process of seeking to address gaps in its response to the sexual abuse scandal that has devastated the Roman Catholic faith over the last quarter century.
    While they incorporate recent rules already in force, the changes also go beyond, to reflect a new appreciation in the church, which previously considered sexual relationships between clerics and consenting adults as sinful, but not a crime, that power dynamics are a key factor in abuse.
    Francis has consistently viewed the clerical sexual abuse scandal of minors through the prism of priests abusing their power.    The new rules extend that vision to adults.
    Francis said last month that the new text the Vatican published on Tuesday “introduces various modifications to the law in force and sanctions some new criminal offenses, which respond to the ever more widespread need in the various communities to see the re-establishment of justice and order broken by the crime.”
    In recent years, Pope Francis seems to have made strides to overcome a dangerous blind spot when it comes to the plague of abuse.    He has cracked down on the sexual abuse of minors by passing church laws to punish bishops and religious superiors for negligence and failing to protect their flocks from predators.
    In his remarks, he incorporated and added to those norms in the new law by writing that “it became clear” that after 14 years of study the penal code first proclaimed by St. John Paul II in 1983 needed to be revised.
    “I hereby promulgate the revised text of Book VI of the Code of Canon Law as it has been ordered and revised,” Francis said.
    One article of the new law makes it clear that abuse can extend to adults, and not just minors, and that a cleric “who by force, threats or abuse of his authority” violates the commandment against adultery, “or forces someone to perform or submit to sexual acts is to be punished” with penalties “not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.”
    The defrocking of a priest is among the most severe punishments in canon law.
    Another article for the first time officially criminalizes the practice of building relationships with children in order to exploit them, often used by sexual predators.    A cleric, the new law says, should also be removed from office and suffer other “just penalties” if he “grooms or induces a minor or a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason” to engage in pornography “whether real or simulated.”
    The new law also extends harsh penalties to lay leaders in the church who, though not priests, exercise considerable power by holding church office or by founding lay religious movements.    While those people cannot be defrocked, they will be justly punished, the law says.
    “A member of an institute of consecrated life or of a society of apostolic life, or any one of the faithful who enjoys a dignity or performs an office or function in the Church, who commits” sexual abuse is to be punished “according to the gravity of the offense,” the law states.
    In his remarks, Francis said he hoped the law would be applied to priests “when necessary, with justice and mercy,” adding that a pastor had the responsibility to “impose penalties when the good of the faithful demands it.”
    The new law, which enters into force on Dec. 8, 2021, also improves technical aspects such as a right to defense, clarifies the statute of limitations for trying crimes and more clearly defines penalties and sentencing guidelines, Francis said.
    The new guidelines remove the discretion given to bishops and other church leaders which allowed for offenders to sidestep accountability and church authorities to cover up abuse.    The new law makes clear that the failure to investigate and punish offending priests will have consequences, and seeks to speed up a process that victims and their advocates have criticized as lengthy and cumbersome.

6/1/2021 Pope Revises Church Law, Updates Rules On Sexual Abuse by Philip Pullella
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Tuesday issued the most extensive revision to Catholic Church law in four decades, insisting that bishops take action against clerics who abuse minors and vulnerable adults, commit fraud or attempt to ordain women.
    The revision, which has been in the works since 2009, involves all of section six of the Church’s Code of Canon Law, a seven-book code of about 1,750 articles.    It replaced the code approved by Pope John Paul II in 1983 and will take effect on Dec. 8.
    The revised section, involving about 90 articles concerning crime and punishment, incorporates many existing changes made to Church law by Francis and his predecessor Benedict XVI.
    It introduces new categories and clearer, more specific language in an attempt to give bishops less wiggle room.
    In a separate accompanying document, the pope reminded bishops that they were responsible for following the letter of the law.
    One aim of the revisions, Francis said, was to “reduce the number of cases in which the imposition of a penalty was left to the discretion of authorities.”
    Archbishop Filippo Iannone, head of the Vatican department that oversaw the project, said there had been “a climate of excessive slack in the interpretation of penal law,” where some bishops sometimes put mercy before justice.
    Sexual abuse of minors was put under a new section titled “Offences Against Human Life, Dignity and Liberty,” compared to the previously vague “Crimes Against Special Obligations.”
    The new section was expanded to include crimes such as “grooming” of minors or vulnerable adults for sexual abuse and possessing child pornography.
    It includes the possible defrocking of clerics who use “threats or abuse of his authority,” to force someone to have sexual relations.
    Last year, an internal report found that former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had abused his authority to force seminarians to sleep with him.    He was defrocked in 2019 on charges of the sexual abuse of minors and adults.
    According to the new code, lay persons in positions of responsibility in the Church and found guilty of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults can be punished by the Church as well as by civil authorities.
    While the Church has historically prohibited the ordination of women and the ban has been re-affirmed by popes, the 1983 code says only in another section that priestly ordination was reserved for “a baptised male.”
    The revised code specifically warns that both the person who attempts to confer ordination on a woman and the woman herself incur automatic excommunication and that the cleric risks being defrocked.
    Kate McElwee, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, said in a statement that while the position was not surprising, spelling it out in the new code was “a painful reminder of the Vatican’s patriarchal machinery and its far-reaching attempts to subordinate women.”
    Reflecting the series of financial scandals that have hit the Church in recent decades, other new entries in the code include several on economic crimes, such as embezzlement of Church funds or property or grave negligence in their administration.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Bernadette Baum)

6/2/2021 Vatican law criminalizes sexual abuse of adults - Changes aim to address church’s shortcomings by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has changed Catholic Church law to explicitly criminalize the sexual abuse of adults by priests who abuse their authority and to say that laypeople who hold church office also can be sanctioned for similar sex crimes.
    The new provisions, released Tuesday after 14 years of study, were contained in the revised criminal law section of the Vatican’s Code of Canon Law, the in-house legal system that covers the 1.3-billion-member Catholic Church and operates independently from civil laws.
    The most significant changes are contained in two articles, 1395 and 1398, that aim to address shortcomings in the church’s handling of sexual abuse.    The law recognizes that adults, not only children, can be victimized by priests who abuse their authority.    The revisions also say that laypeople holding church positions, such as school principals or parish economists, can be punished for abusing minors as well as adults.
    The Vatican also criminalized priests “grooming” minors or vulnerable adults to compel them to engage in pornography.    The update represents the first-time church law has officially recognized as a criminal act the method used by sexual predators to build relationships with victims they have targeted for sexual exploitation.
    The new law, which is set to take effect on Dec. 8, also removes much of the discretion that long allowed bishops and religious superiors to ignore or cover up abuse, making clear those in positions of authority will be held responsible if they fail to properly investigate or sanction predator priests.
    Ever since the 1983 code first was issued, lawyers and bishops have complained it was inadequate for dealing with the sexual abuse of minors since it required time-consuming trials.    Victims and their advocates, meanwhile, argued the code left too much discretion in the hands of bishops who had an interest in covering up for their priests.
    The Vatican issued piecemeal changes over the years to address problems and loopholes, most significantly requiring all cases to be sent to the Holy See for review and allowing for a more streamlined administrative process to defrock a priest if the evidence against him was overwhelming.
    More recently, Francis passed new laws to punish bishops and religious superiors who failed to protect their flocks.    The new criminal code incorporates those changes and goes beyond them, while also recognizing accused priests are presumed innocent until proved otherwise.
    The Vatican has long considered any sexual relations between a priest and an adult as sinful but consensual, believing that adults are able to offer or refuse consent purely by the nature of their age.    But amid the #MeToo movement and scandals of seminarians and nuns being sexually abused by their superiors, the Vatican has come to realize that adults can be victimized, if there is a power imbalance in the relationship.
    That dynamic was most clearly recognized in the scandal over ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington.    Even though the Vatican knew for years he slept with his seminarians, McCarrick was only put on trial after someone came forward saying McCarrick had abused him as a youth.    Francis eventually defrocked McCarrick in 2019.
The most significant changes made by Pope Francis are contained in two articles that aim to address
shortcomings in the church’s handling of sexual abuse. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/POOL PHOTO VIA AP

6/2/2021 Chile’s Pinera To Push Same-Sex Marriage Bill Long Stuck In Congress by Fabian Cambero
FILE PHOTO: People take part in the annual Gay Pride parade in support of LGBT community,
in Santiago, Chile, June 22, 2019. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido/File Photo
    SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said on Tuesday he would seek to expedite a same-sex marriage bill that has languished in the historically conservative South American nation for years.
    Chile’s LGBT community has long pushed for the legislation, but the country’s ruling conservative coalition has until now been slow to advance the bill in Congress.
    “I think the time for equal marriage has come in our country,” Pinera said during his annual address to lawmakers.
    “All people, regardless of their sexual orientation, will be able to live, love and form a family with all the protection and dignity they need and deserve.”
    The bill, if passed, would cement an increasingly progressive tack in Chile, an Andean nation until recently dominated by a conservative, Catholic culture.
    Chilean lawmakers in 2015 passed a measure that empowers couples, including same-sex ones, to register for a Civil Union Agreement (AUC) that confers some legal benefits.
    But the more universal same-sex marriage bill, presented by left-leaning President Michelle Bachelet in 2017, has been stalled in Congress for years.
    Chile legalized divorce in 2004, one of the last countries in the world to do so.
    The country’s ban on abortion, one of the strictest in the world, was lifted in 2017, though for special circumstances only.
(Reporting by Fabian Cambero in Santiago; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

6/3/2021 McConnell: Government shouldn’t dictate curriculum - Ky. senator previously critical of 1619 Project by Morgan Watkins, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that while he’s critical of the way initiatives like the 1619 Project frame American history, he does not think government should dictate what students are taught in schools about issues like systemic racism.
    “Bringing more balance is not necessarily a bad idea, but I don’t think the government ought to be able to dictate, in effect, what’s taught,” he said in a press conference at Citizens Union Bank in Shelbyville, where he answered reporters’ questions on various topics after he met with local businesspeople.
    In Kentucky, Rep. Joseph Fischer, RFt. Thomas, just prefiled a bill for the state legislature’s 2022 session that effectively would limit how systemic racism can be discussed in public-school classes.
    Fischer floated that proposal amid a controversial push by conservatives in some other states to restrict how racerelated issues can legally be taught in schools.
    In light of that, The Courier Journal asked McConnell Wednesday if he supports or opposes putting constraints on public schools’ and teachers’ ability to teach their students about systemic racism.
    The senator did not weigh in on Fischer’s particular bill, but did say he’s concerned about efforts to downplay significant events in American history.
    He specifically criticized the 1619 Project, a New York Times initiative that emphasized the importance of the year 1619 — when American slavery essentially began — and reframed U.S. history through that lens.
    “There was a lot of slavery going on around the world in the early 1600s,” McConnell said Wednesday.    “We fought the Civil War in order to put our original sin behind us.    We passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 in order to further enfranchise minorities in our country."
    “It’s been a long arc of trying to improve race relations in this country,” he continued.    “But I think trying to completely denigrate and downgrade American historical moments like 1776, 1787, 1965 – critical moments – is a mistake.”    However, McConnell also expressed concern about issuing government edicts that lay down rules about how students are allowed to be educated on such topics.
    “But I don’t think the government’s any better at prescribing what ought to be taught than the universities themselves,” he said Wednesday.    “But they ought to be open to criticism about what they’re doing.”    McConnell recently joined many other Senate Republicans in sending a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona criticizing a proposed plan to prioritize educational efforts that focus on systemic racism in U.S. history. A spokesman for The New York Times defended the Pulitzer Prizewinning 1619 Project at the time, saying: “It deepened many readers’ understandings of the nation’s past and forced an important conversation about the lingering impact of slavery, and its centrality to the American story.”
    McConnell publicly criticized the 1619 Project again during a visit to the University of Louisville’s ShelbyHurst campus in early May.
    During that stop, he said he doesn’t think 1619 is one of the most important points in U.S. history.
    His comments that day led to a rare, public rebuke of the longtime senator and U of L alumnus by the university’s leadership.
    Reach reporter Morgan Watkins: 502-582-4502;; Twitter: @morganwatkins26.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, walks into a meeting room for a news conference after
meeting with local businesspeople in Shelbyville on Wednesday. JEFF FAUGHENDER/COURIER JOURNAL

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he’s concerned about efforts to downplay significant events
in American history during a news conference at Citizens Union Bank in Shelbyville. JEFF FAUGHENDER/COURIER JOURNAL

6/3/2021 Lawmakers: Outlaw ‘conversion therapy’ - Push for LGBTQ bills kicks off Pride Month by Morgan Watkins, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    Rep. Lisa Willner celebrated the first day of Pride Month by reintroducing a proposed ban on the scientifically discredited practice of “conversion therapy,” which she hopes the state legislature will finally approve next year.
    “Happy Pride Month!” she told a crowd of people who gathered at Louisville’s First Unitarian Church Tuesday afternoon to show their support for banning “conversion therapy” and two other LGBTQ-centric bills Willner also prefiled for Kentucky’s 2022 legislative session.
    Those other proposals are:
    A long-sought statewide fairness law that would ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity;
    A bill that would require public school districts to provide inclusive “healthy relationship” instruction that gives students age-appropriate and affirming information on sexual orientation and gender identity, teaches them how to recognize and report abusive behavior, and provides information about safe sex and the benefits of abstinence.
    “What they all have in common is that they honor and protect LGBTQ+ Kentuckians of all ages and they would all make Kentucky a better, safer and more loving place for all of us,” Willner, D-Louisville, said of this trio of bills.
    “Conversion therapy” aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or their gender identity.    It has been disavowed by the broader medical community and involves substantial risks of harm for people subjected to it.
    The proposed ban would prohibit licensed mental health professionals — including physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists and others — from engaging in “conversion therapy” with a person who’s under 18 years old.
    Willner was joined Tuesday by Louisville Democratic state Reps. Nima Kulkarni and Attica Scott, by leaders from various organizations, and by several young Kentuckians who voiced their support for these bills, which would directly impact their generation if they’re approved.
    “Children should never have to fear for their safety, especially when trying to be who they are,” said Sage Townsend, a recent graduate of Iroquois High School who identifies as a transmasculine person.    “Demand we ban ‘conversion therapy’ and save the lives of our queer and trans people.”    Aaliyah Cox, an incoming college freshman who’s part of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky’s Teen Council, spoke about the need for more inclusive sex education in schools.
    Growing up, Cox said she wasn’t taught how to “affirm myself or love myself in my queerness and also in my Blackness.”
    “I was raised in a homophobic household and grew up hating everything that I learned to love about myself,” she said.
    By providing inclusive and LGBTQaffirming sex education, Cox said schools can give students like her a much-needed safe space where they can learn and express themselves, which is important for their mental health.
    Willner is one of many people trying to build bipartisan support for all three of the proposals she pre-filed Tuesday, which have been introduced before but have never been passed by the state legislature.
    The next chance to try to make that happen will come early next year. (The 2022 session begins in January.)    Willner said GOP Rep. Kim Banta of Fort Mitchell already signed on as primary co-sponsor of the fairness law and “conversion therapy” ban.
    Those bills, as well as the one that would require more inclusive education for students concerning sex, healthy relationships and LGBTQ+ identities, will need significant support from Republican lawmakers to become law.
    As Pride Month dawned on Tuesday, Willner stressed that these bills deserve wide-ranging support and shouldn’t have a partisan stamp on them.
    “While I’m honored to carry these three bills again this year, it’s important to note that these are big issues affecting thousands and thousands of Kentuckians and Kentucky families,” she said.    “These bills are not the exclusive property of any political party or any individual legislator.”
    Reach reporter Morgan Watkins: 502-582-4502;; Twitter: @morganwatkins26.
State Rep. Lisa Willner speaks Wednesday. LRC PUBLIC INFORMATION

6/3/2021 Va. teacher objects to gender policy - District places him on leave for comments by Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY
    A Virginia school district placed a teacher on paid administrative leave after he spoke against a proposed policy that would have faculty refer to students using pronouns based on what aligns with the students’ gender identity.
    Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, spoke out against the “Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students” policy May 25 at a Loudoun County Public Schools board meeting.
    Cross said the policy would go against his religious beliefs and he was “speaking out of love for those who are suffering from gender dysphoria.”
    He spoke of a “60 Minutes” episode that featured a segment about young people who identified as transgender individuals, then changed their minds.
    “It’s not my intention to hurt anyone, but there are certain truths that we must face when ready,” Cross said.    “I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them, regardless of the consequences.    I’m a teacher, but I serve God first, and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion, it’s lying to my child, it’s abuse to a child and it’s sinning against our God.”
    Two days after the board meeting, Cross was sent a letter that he was being placed on paid administrative leave for “allegations that you engaged in conduct that has had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.”    The letter, signed by interim Assistant Superintendent Lucia Sebastian, was released by Cross’ attorney, Tyson Langhofer.
    In a May 28 letter to Sebastian, Langhofer demanded that Cross’ suspension be rescinded, that he be reinstated, that his suspension be removed from his file and that Cross would be protected from any retaliation.
    “Public schools have no business compelling teachers to express ideological beliefs that they don’t hold, but it’s beyond the pale to suspend someone simply for respectfully providing their opinion at a public meeting, which is what such meetings are designed for,” part of the letter to Sebastian read.
    “This isn’t just about a pronoun; this is about endorsing an ideology.    The school favors certain beliefs, and it wants to force Tanner to cry uncle and endorse them as well."
    “That’s neither legal nor constitutional, and neither was the school’s move to place Tanner on leave,” Langhofer said in a statement.
    Cross did not immediately respond to USA TODAY requests for comment.    A Loudoun County Public School spokesperson confirmed to USA TODAY that Cross is still on leave.
    The district has been subject to scrutiny by community members who say it is pushing racial and LGBTQ ideas into the classrooms, which has resulted in an effort to recall six board members, according to Fox 5 Washington D.C.
    “This isn’t just about a pronoun; this is about endorsing an ideology.    The school favors certain beliefs, and it wants to force Tanner to cry uncle and endorse them as well.    That’s neither legal nor constitutional, and neither was the school’s move to place Tanner on leave.” Tyson Langhofer.
    Attorney for physical education teacher Tanner Cross.

6/4/2021 Canada’s Trudeau Blasts Catholic Church For Ignoring Role In Indigenous Schools by Steve Scherer and Anna Mehler Paperny
FILE PHOTO: Children's shoes line the base of the defaced Ryerson University statue of Egerton Ryerson, considered an architect
of Canada's residential indigenous school system, following the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the site of British Columbia's
former Kamloops Indian Residential School, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 2, 2021. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
    OTTAWA (Reuters) -The Catholic Church must take responsibility for its role in running many of Canada’s residential schools for indigenous children, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday, after the discovery of the remains of 215 children at one former school last month.
    “As a Catholic, I am deeply disappointed by the position the Catholic Church has taken now and over the past many years,” Trudeau told reporters.    “We expect the Church to step up and take responsibility for its role in this.”
    The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops did not respond to a request for comment.
    Between 1831 and 1996, Canada’s residential school system forcibly separated about 150,000 children from their homes.    Many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide.”
    Run by the government and church groups – the majority of them Catholic – the schools’ stated aim was to assimilate indigenous children.
    The discovery this week of the remains of the children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, which closed in 1978, has reopened old wounds and is fueling outrage about a persistent lack of information and accountability.
    From 1893 to 1969, a Catholic congregation called the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate ran the Kamloops school, which was once Canada’s largest.
    On Friday, Tk?emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir, on whose land the Kamloops school still stands, told reporters the nation has not received any records from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate that would help identify the children.
    “We do want an apology” from the Catholic Church, Casimir said.    “A public apology.    Not just for us, but for the world.”
    In 2008, the Canadian government formally apologized for the system.    Trudeau said many are “    ondering why the Catholic Church in Canada is silent, is not stepping up.”
    He added: “Before we have to start taking the Catholic Church to court, I am very hopeful that religious leaders will understand this is something they need to participate in and not hide from.”
    Trudeau has not directed such pointed comments at the Catholic Church over the residential schools since taking office in 2015.
    On Wednesday, Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller said on Twitter “the Church was unquestionably wrong” and his archdiocese would be transparent with its archives and records regarding residential schools.
    The Conference said on its website that each diocese is separate and responsible for its own actions.
    “The Catholic Church as a whole in Canada was not associated with the residential schools, nor was the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops,” it said.
    Separately, United Nations human rights experts on Friday called on both Canada and the Vatican to further investigate the deaths of the children found in Kamloops.
    “It is inconceivable that Canada and the Holy See would leave such heinous crimes unaccounted for and without full redress,” they said in a statement.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

6/4/2021 Australian Media Fined $840,000 For Gag Order Breach In Pell Sex Assault Case by Sonali Paul
FILE PHOTO: Australian Cardinal George Pell gestures as he speaks during an
interview with Reuters in Rome, Italy December 7, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) - An Australian court on Friday ordered a dozen media firms to pay a total of A$1.1 million ($842,000) in fines for breaching a suppression order on reporting the conviction, since overturned, of former Vatican treasurer George Pell for child sexual assault.
    The 12 media outlets, mostly owned by Nine Entertainment Co and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, pleaded guilty in February to breaching the gag order on reporting on the trial and conviction of the cardinal, after the state agreed to drop all charges against journalists and editors.
    Reporters, editors and radio and television presenters had faced the threat of jail.
    Supreme Court of Victoria Justice John Dixon convicted the media firms saying they had “frustrated the suppression order as they diminished its purpose or efficacy by reporting information contrary to the terms of the order.”
    Pell’s conviction for abusing two choirboys was overturned in April last year after he was jailed for more than a year.    He was the most senior Catholic church official to have gone to prison for child sex assault.
    Reporting on his trial and verdict in 2018 was gagged Australia-wide by the County Court of Victoria to ensure the cardinal received a fair trial on further charges he was due to face. Those charges were later dropped.
    After he was convicted by a jury in December 2018, foreign media published the outcome, naming Pell and the charges.
    Australian media then published reports saying they were unable to cover major news about an unidentified high-profile person, with some pointing out the news could be found online.
    Dixon on Friday said he did not accept the media’s argument that their breaches of the suppression order were due to an honest but mistaken belief that their reporting would not contravene the order.
    He imposed the heaviest total fine on Nine Entertainment’s The Age newspaper, at A$450,000, for two articles and an editorial, while imposing the heaviest single fine on News Corp’s website, at A$400,000, for an online article.
    The Age and News Life Media “deliberately took a risk by intentionally publishing information derived from the trial to advance a particular purpose – a collateral attack on the role of suppression orders in Victoria’s criminal justice system – that was obviously in conflict with the purpose of the suppression order,” Dixon said in his judgment.
    The maximum penalty for a breach of a suppression order is nearly A$500,000 for companies.
    In setting the penalties, Dixon said he had taken into account the media firms’ agreement to pay A$650,000 to cover the prosecutor’s costs and their “sincere and unreserved apology” to the courts.
    Media law experts said the case highlighted the difficulties facing those operating in a global media market, while courts are seeking to protect fair jury trials.
    “Suppression orders may not be wholly effective in an online world, but that does not mean they are useless,” said Michael Douglas, a senior lecturer at the University of Western Australia.
    “The media may not think these orders are important, but that does not mean they are not bound by the law of contempt,” said Douglas, who is also a consultant at media law firm Bennett + Co.
    Nine Entertainment and News Corp’s Australian arm had no comment on the penalties.
($1 = 1.3060 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin and Hugh Lawson)

6/5/2021 Trump-Era Policy Limiting Unofficial Flags On Military Installations Is Continued By DOJ by OAN Newsroom
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Friday, June 4, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
    The Department of Justice have made the decision to maintain a Trump-era policy that limits unofficial flags to be displayed at military installations.    The Pentagon announced on Friday that the department will maintain the 2020 policy because they believe rescinding it would cause greater problems.    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that after close consideration, flying the LGBTQ+ flag will not be an exception.
    June is recognized as Pride Month, which represents the recognition and celebration of the LQBTQ+ community.    Kirby went on to say that this decision did not stem from any lack of respect or admiration for this group and that the Defense Department will continue to celebrate and honor LGBTQ+ members who serve the U.S.
    “This was really more about the potential for other challenges that could arise from that exception, that specific exception,” he expressed.    “It’s certainly not a statement of anything other than the fact that full respect and admiration for that service.”
    The Pentagon policy only allows National League of POW/MIA flags, U.S. state flags and those for military units and allied countries.

6/6/2021 What is critical race theory? - Bill wants to limit school instruction by Olivia Krauth, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    A national push to stifle classroom conversations about systemic racism has arrived in Kentucky.
    A bill filed ahead of Kentucky’s 2022 legislative session by Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, would bar teachers from talking about a 12-point list of concepts touching on discrimination, privilege and anything seen as “promoting division” between different groups of people.    Fischer’s bill mirrors legislation in statehouses across the country as conservatives push against conversations about systemic racism, white privilege and critical race theory in K-12 classrooms, often calling such topics divisive or alleging districts are indoctrinating children.
    The wave of legislation comes as school districts are seeking to rectify the root causes of racial disparities in student outcomes and make history curriculum more accurate and inclusive.
    Kentucky’s proposed measure runs headlong into education leaders who have made racial equity and inclusion a priority in both state policy and some of the state’s largest school districts.
What is critical race theory?
    “Critical race theory” has recently become a buzzword used as a catch-all to refer to racial equity efforts being implemented in schools.    But that is not quite what it actually is.
    Critical race theory, or CRT for short, is a theoretical framework that examines how institutions may perpetuate systemic racism in the United States.    It holds that racism is real and is ingrained in systems, like the legal system or public schools, to the detriment of people of color and the benefit of white people.

Protesters gather May 18 outside a school district building in Springfield, Mo., to oppose the
teaching of critical race theory in local schools. NATHAN PAPES/SPRINGFIELD NEWS-LEADER FILE
    The theory focuses on systemic issues rather than individuals and their personal actions.    “It is not a targeting of any other group,” Kalasia Ojeh, a Pan-African Studies professor at the University of Louisville, said.
    A majority of people likely do not study CRT, she noted, and if they do, it is likely in college.
    Critical race theory is widely adopted in Black history departments at the collegiate level, Ojeh said, but it “is not the general assumption” used throughout college courses.
Why is everyone talking about critical race theory?
    Several school districts doubled-down on — or began — diversity, inclusion and equity efforts as the nation faced a racial justice reckoning over the past year.    Those initiatives vary from district to district but they often seek to reverse racial disparities in education, including gaps in test scores, unequal placement in advanced courses and lopsided suspension rates.
    Part of addressing those disparities may include training teachers on implicit biases or reviewing history curriculum to make it more inclusive for students of color.    Such efforts sparked some opposition from parents and lawmakers who think race should be taught by parents or find equity efforts divisive or inherently racist.    Bills to limit discussions on racism have cropped up in states including Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma over the past several months.
What is in Kentucky’s bill?
    Kentucky’s bill, Bill Request 60, would limit teachers from using curriculum or learning materials that promote the following topics:
    The proposed legislation would also ban teachers from “promoting or advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government” or saying Kentucky or the United States is “fundamentally or irredeemably” racist or sexist.    The list of prohibited topics is “so vague and so broad” that the measure “will undoubtedly chill” classroom conversations involving racism and sexism, attorney Michael Abate said.    A citizen would be allowed to file a complaint to the Attorney General if they think the bill has been violated.    The Attorney General, which is an elected office, would be able to unilaterally require state education officials to cut funding to school districts it deems to have violated the law — raising additional potential legal issues, Abate said.    “That’s a serious separation- of-powers problem,” Abate, who focuses on First Amendment issues, said.
Why was the bill filed?
    Fischer said some of his constituents requested he file the bill after a high school in his district tried to start a “Social Equity” course.    Highlands High School, a predominantly white and wealthy school in Fort Thomas, initially approved the creation of the course in December, the school’s student newspaper reported.    It would cover a range of social justice issues, including how race intersects with education and the criminal justice system, according to a draft syllabus shared with The Courier Journal.    A copy of the unfinished syllabus created “unnecessary division” in the community, Highlands Principal Matthew Bertasso said.    Highlands is not offering the course next year due to scheduling issues, but it will remain in the course catalog, the student paper reported last month.    “Critical race theory is not based on facts or evidence but rather serves as a dangerous diversion from education priorities that are actually proven to eliminate disparities,” Fischer said in a press release.    “It is a powerful tool for those who seek to divide us into categories and destroy the very institutions that have seen generations of Americans of all races and backgrounds build successful futures.”
    How did people react to Kentucky’s bill?
    Leaders in Kentucky quickly criticized Fischer’s bill, saying it would limit free speech in classrooms and hinder efforts to improve academic outcomes for students of color. Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass said he was “disappointed” in the proposed measure.    “Discussing difficult issues is how we prepare our students to be citizens in our democratic republic and our state has a long tradition of empowering our local educators to make the best decisions for their students,” Glass said in a statement Tuesday.    When asked about the bill during a     Tuesday COVID- 19 press conference, Gov. Andy     Beshear called the bill “more than a little concerning.”    “I think once you start legislating what can and can’t be taught in schools, especially in the framework of politics, it gets really dangerous,” Beshear, a Democrat, said.    “This is not only educational censorship, but a reaffirmation of white supremacy by barring teachers from discussing it in a substantive way,” Ricky Jones, a Courier Journal columnist and the chairman of the University of Louisville’s Pan-African Studies department, tweeted.
    Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio said he opposes the bill, noting that it could thwart the district’s efforts to close longstanding gaps in academic achievement between students of color and their white classmates.
    “In JCPS, we believe all of our students deserve to feel a sense of belonging in their school and in the curriculum, and research clearly shows that a student’s sense of belonging improves academic outcomes,” Pollio said.    “How can we expect students to succeed if they do not see themselves and their history in the curriculum?
    Reach Olivia Krauth at okrauth@courierjour and on Twitter at @oliviakrauth.

6/5/2021 Canadian Indigenous Tribe Calls For Public Apology From Catholic Church For Abuse Against Students by OAN Newsroom
Judy Sackaney and her grandson Creedence, 10, stand in front of an honor staff with tobacco ties at the Centennial Flame after
participating in a Pipe Ceremony to honor the 215 children whose remains were found at the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian
Residential School at Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, British Columbia. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP)
    The chief of the Tk’emlups te Sewepemc First Nation in Canada said they want the Catholic Church to publicly apologize for the decades of abuse it inflicted on Indigenous students.    Chief Rosanne Casimir’s statement came on Friday, one week after the remains of more than 215 children were discovered at a former residential school for Native students in British Columbia.
    Investigators said they found evidence of widespread cultural genocide inside the institutions that separated Indigenous children from their families.    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report on Canada’s residential school system detailed the mistreatment of Indigenous children at the government-funded, Catholic Church run schools where at least 4,100 children were reported dead.
    Casimir noted, “in the end, what we do want we do want an apology, a public apology, not just for us, but for the world who also shared in those suffrages.    Holding the Catholic Church to account, there has never been an apology from the Roman Catholics.”
    The chief went on to say, tribal members decided to keep the school buildings on the burial site as a reminder for future generations of where their culture and language was targeted to be eradicated.

6/8/2021 German Catholic Abuse Victims Meet Papal Investigators
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators pose for a picture next to a carnival float showing an unnamed bishop from the 2019 "Rosenmontag" (Rose Monday)
parade of Duesseldorf placed in front of the Cologne Cathedral by activists of the Giordano Bruno Foundation to protest against sexual abuse by
Catholic priests in Cologne, Germany, March 18, 2021. Float reads "11 years of brutal honest reconnaissance of sexual abuse". REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Victims of Catholic Church sex abuse met on Tuesday with two senior bishops sent by the Pope to investigate the German archdiosese of Cologne, which has come under increasing pressure after a report found hundreds of historic cases.
    The Pope’s two envoys are looking at possible mistakes committed by Germany’s largest archdiocese, after an 800-page report in March found more than 200 abusers and more than 300 victims, mainly children, in cases from 1975-2018.
    “We were allowed to decide what we said, how long we talked. We were not cut off,” said Patrick Bauer, who had resigned from the Cologne advisory board in protest against the archdiocese’s handling of the scandal.
    “When I told them about my sadness, they clearly showed they felt it, they were empathetic,” he told Reuters TV.
    Cologne Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki has drawn criticism for his handling of the historic allegations, including a decision not to publish an earlier report into wrongdoing after he disagreed with its methodology. The study published in March was commissioned instead.
    Last week, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a former head of the Catholic Church in Germany and leading liberal figure, offered to resign as archbishop of Munich, citing shared responsibility for the sexual abuse “catastrophe” by clerics in past decades.    Marx’s move increased the pressure on Woelki to step down, but he has so far refused.
    Karl Haucke, another victim who resigned from the Cologne advisory board in protest at the handling of the scandal, welcomed Tuesday’s meeting.
    “I sensed a clear, active listening.    I felt a lot of empathy,” Haucke told Reuters TV.
    Papal investigators Anders Cardinal Arborelius, the Bishop of Stockholm, and Johannes van der Hende, Bishop of Rotterdam, are expected to stay in Cologne for about a week and write a report for the Pope.
(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Madeline Chambers)

6/8/2021 Ghana Court Denies Bail For 21 Detained LGBT Activists
FILE PHOTO: People who were detained by police on suspicion of promoting an LGBT+ agenda at an unlawful assembly
arrive at a court for a bail hearing in Ho, Volta Region, Ghana June 4, 2021. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko
    HO, Ghana (Reuters) – A Ghanaian court on Tuesday denied bail to 21 gay rights activists arrested nearly three weeks ago for what police described as an unlawful gathering, their lawyer said.
    The 16 women and five men were told to reappear in court on June 16 for their next hearing.    Some were seen weeping after the ruling in the southeastern city of Ho.
    LGBT people face widespread persecution in the West African nation, where gay sex is punishable with up to three years imprisonment.    Ghana has not prosecuted anyone for same-sex relations in years, but the LGBT community has reported a crackdown by authorities in recent months.
    The activists were arrested on May 20 at a hotel, police said in a statement at the time of their arrest.    The statement accused them of having advocated LGBT activities with books and flyers with titles including “Coming out” and “All about Trans
    The organisation LGBT+ Rights Ghana said there was no lawful reason for the arrests, and that the activists had met for a workshop on how to document and report human rights violations.    Promoting LGBT rights is not illegal in Ghana.
    Julia Selman Ayetey, a lawyer for the defendants, told Reuters that they were denied bail, without giving further details.    The activists had already been denied bail at the Ho High Court before taking their application to the Circuit
(Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Peter Graff)

6/10/2021 Report: Cops didn’t clear Lafayette Park for Trump by Michael Collins, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – A government report concludes that federal police did not clear protesters from Lafayette Park near the White House last summer so President Donald Trump could walk to a nearby church for a photo op.
    The report, released Wednesday by the Interior Department’s inspector general, says U.S. Park Police and the U.S. Secret Service determined it was necessary to remove protesters from the area in and around the park last June 1, so contractors could install security fencing.
    Federal police didn’t learn of Trump’s plans to walk through the park and examine damage from a fire at St. John’s Episcopal Church until mid- to late afternoon – hours after they had begun planning for the security fencing and the contractor had arrived in the park, the report says.
    “The evidence we obtained did not support a finding that the USPP cleared the park to allow the president to survey the damage and walk to St. John’s Church,” the report said.
    Federal and military police clashed with protesters and drove them out of the park and nearby streets on June 1 shortly before Trump walked through the park and stood in front of St. John’s to hold up a Bible.
    Police used pepper spray and other chemical irritants to clear protesters, who had filled the area for days after George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis.
    Shortly after the report was released, Trump issued a statement thanking the inspector general “for completely and totally exonerating me in the clearing of Lafayette Park!
President Donald Trump at St. John’s Church on June 1, 2020. AP

6/10/2021 Trans athletes fight draconian laws by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY
    Former University of Montana runner Juniper “June” Eastwood ran a 1500meter time in 3 minutes and 51 seconds before she transitioned as a transgender woman.    The women’s world record is 3:55 by Romania’s Paula Ivan in 1988.
    Eastwood said she wants people to know that as part of her journey as a trans woman, she followed Montana’s state rules for transitioning athletes and cares deeply about participating in sports in a way that’s fair and transparent.
    In 2019, Eastwood became the first Division I transgender cross-country runner.    As a successful trans athlete, her presence on the track is transcendent.    And the spirit she brings to her sport has little to do with a desire to dominate her peers.    It’s bigger than that.
    Eastwood’s trans identity saved her own life from suicide and the demons of gender dysphoria.
    She had to sit out a year and take hormone and testosterone blockers as part of her transition to adhere to NCAA rules.    As a result, her 1500-meter time dropped by more than 30 seconds – down to around 4:24.
    “There’s a gray area that gets lost because people see it in (black and white)– you’re born a man or a woman.    In reality, it’s a life or death issue for (transitioning) transgender women who have a sport as their sanctuary through dark times,” Eastwood told USA TODAY Sports.
    “It becomes, quit the sport that’s saved you or keep competing but be open to scorn.”
    The overarching inability of seeing that the gray area is further exacerbated by 69 proposed bills in 34 U.S. states that have been deemed discriminatory by LGBTQ advocacy support groups.
    Science has taken a back seat to a political civil war in high school sports, LGBTQ rights experts say.    According to the American Civil Liberties Union, seven states – Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee and West Virginia – have signed bills into law that do not allow transgender girls to compete in high school athletics regardless of hormone therapy; athletes must compete according to the sex they were assigned at birth.
    Joanna Harper, physicist and researcher at Loughborough University in London, has been an adviser to the International Olympic Committee on transgender inclusion.
    She said the bills neglect the science that outlines how a proper transition (and one year off the sport) can ensure fairness at the high school level, as has been administered at the NCAA level for the past decade.
    Her research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in March show that hemoglobin levels in transgender women fall to levels in line with cisgender women in the space of three to four months on average.
    “What we have is transgender female athletes taking drugs to be fair and limit their ability, it’s sort of the opposite of an athlete who takes (steroids) to be unfair,” said Harper, who transitioned from male to female in 2004 and has experienced the changes in athletic ability firsthand.
    “There isn’t much of an issue before puberty with boys and girls, but if we have a successful trans girl who was successful in boys sports before puberty, then goes into girls sports before hormone therapy, their performance would be world-beating.    That isn’t fair.    But that’s not what is being proposed.    Since every state education system rules its own state, that’s resulted in every state seeming to have a different policy,” Harper said.
    Mack Beggs, a trans man, drew national attention in 2018 when he became the Texas state champion in girls’ wrestling.
    He wanted to compete in boys’ wrestling, but the state’s University Interscholastic League wouldn’t allow him because he was assigned female at birth.    He had taken testosterone enhancers initially when transitioning from female to male but then opted to take hormone blockers to offset the unfair testosterone.    Parents and fellow athletes protested.
What these laws are doing is pushing transgender athletes back into the closet,” Beggs said.
    “I try to understand the other side, but the main case is ‘we’re trying to protect our children.’ That’s an unrealistic fear.”
    “As transgender athletes, we’re not trying to compete where it’s unfair,” said Eastwood, the Montana high school boys cross-country class A state champion in 2014.    “But this doesn’t become an issue unless we’re winning.    I wanted to win fairly but compete in the sport I love as who I really am.”
    Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports, said the extremism of outright bans has a dangerous connotation for a disenfranchised group at a young age.
    “A lot of people focus on who is winning and losing,” Zeigler said.    “I can see that in professional sports, the Olympics or collegiate sports.    But kids who are in middle school and high school most of the time just want to compete.    That should be driving policy.     When people educate themselves, whether Democrats or Republicans, they can realize that outright bans are cruel and unnecessary."
    “We should be having a conversation about how to include trans girls, not ban them.    Should there be a transition period?    Yes.    But bans are just political posturing.”
    Eastwood said politicians are failing to see the issue on a human level.
    “I never would have wanted to be a world record holder as a (transgender) woman,” Eastwood said.    “But it’s important for lawmakers to understand why we transition in the first place: So we don’t contemplate suicide."
    “My biggest worry is that these bills will marginalize and we’ll see an increase in trans suicides.    The easiest way to see the gray is acknowledge our suffering."
    “If lawmakers aren’t willing to sit across the table from transgender athletes and listen, then it’s harder to humanize and easier to discriminate.”
June Eastwood competes at a cross-country meet in her senior season. COURTESY OF JUNE EASTWOOD

6/10/2021 Gov. DeSantis Says He Would Sign Bill That Bans Transgender Procedures For Children by OAN Newsroom
Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) has shared his stance on signing a bill that would ban transgender procedures for children.    In a recent interview with The Daily Caller, DeSantis stated his opposition to the chemical castration of minors.
    So far, Arkansas has been the only state to sign a law banning transgender procedures for children.    DeSantis admitted he wasn’t aware of the practice until a few years ago, but has since taken steps to stand up against the transgender agenda.
    Studies have shown that when allowed to develop naturally, children outgrow the feeling of being born the wrong gender.    A Swedish study also reported an increase in suicide rates among minors who do transition.
    Earlier this month, DeSantis signed a bill banning transgender athletes who are biological males from participating in women’s sports and argued this decision ensures fairness.

6/10/2021 Caitlyn Jenner Compares Herself To President Trump: “We Need Another Disrupter” by OAN Newsroom
Caitlyn Jenner, a Republican candidate for California governor, is interviewed in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew,File)
    GOP gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner (R-Calif.) revealed she hopes to approach public office the same way President Trump did.    During an interview on The View, Jenner discussed her campaign to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) in an upcoming recall election.
    Host Joy Behar brought up the 2020 election repeatedly in an attempt to get Jenner to weigh in on the outcome of the presidential race.    Jenner refused to cave to the pressure by continuing to express why she admires Trump and why she’s running to lead the Golden State.
I think Donald Trump did do some good things and what I liked about Donald Trump is he was a disruptor,” she explained.    “I want to do the same thing.    I want to go in and be a thoughtful disruptor in Sacramento.    We need to change the system and I want to change that system for the positive.”
    Jenner went on to say she’s in the race for the people and not the special interests before getting cut off by the hosts.

6/11/2021 Sen. Ted Cruz Pressures NCAA On Transgender Issues by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this April 28, 2021 file photo, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, listens during the the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation
hearing in Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington. On Friday, May 28, 2021, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online
incorrectly asserting that a video shows Cruz swallowing a fly during a Fox News interview. On June 27, 2019, Cruz, a Republican,
appeared on the Fox News show “Hannity,” but there was no insect in the original clip. (Tom Williams/Pool via AP, File)
    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently questioned the NCAA for their policy on transgender athletes and fairness in women’s sports.    On Wednesday, Mark Emmert, the president of the nonprofit organization, appeared before the Senate to testify about college athlete compensation.
    When Cruz was able to speak, he pressured the organization on threats to punish states who don’t allow biological men to compete in women’s sports.    The Republican then voiced his concerns about how political the NCAA has become regarding women’s sports laws.
    “Now, it used to not be controversial to observe that there are biological differences between boys and girls, and when it comes to athletics, there are,” stated the Texas lawmaker.    “Can be significant physical advantages for those who are born biologically male in terms of strength and size, and that’s why we have girls sports and boys sports and men’s sports and women’s sports in organized athletics.”
    The NCAA claimed it’s trying to provide an inclusive balance while not putting women athletes at a disadvantage.    The association has threatened to pull state championships from states who do not allow transgender athletes to play on teams associated with their gender identity.

6/11/2021 N.C. Ban On Down Syndrome Abortions Heads To Dem Governor by OAN Newsroom
N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper speaks to the gathered media after his tour of a COVID-19 vaccine
clinic at the Pine Hall Brick plant in Madison, N.C. (Woody Marshall/News & Record via AP, File)
    The GOP-led North Carolina Senate approved a bill that would ban abortions based on race, sex or a diagnosis of Down syndrome.    The legislation would require abortion providers in the state to sign a statement confirming that a woman is not seeking to end her pregnancy based on those specific reasons.
    Supporters of the bill argue prenatal tests for Down syndrome can sometimes be wrong leading women who otherwise wouldn’t, to seek an abortion.    Others argue the legislation would prevent discrimination and modern-day eugenics.    “Children should not have to pass a genetic test to earn the right to be born,” argued Joyce Krawiec (R-N.C.).
Thai surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua (L) with her baby Gammy, born with Down syndrome, at the Samitivej
hospital, Sriracha district in Chonburi province on August 4, 2014. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)
    Although, opponents of the bill argue it denies women their constitutional right to an abortion.    Sen. Sarah Crawford (D-N.C.) said, “this bill is not about the joy that people with disabilities bring to the world.    This bill is about controlling women.    Simple as that.”
    The bill is now headed to Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper (N.C.) who is unlikely to sign it into law considering his reputation for rejecting similar restrictions in the past.

6/11/2021 Ghana Court Grants Bail To 21 LGBT+ Activists
FILE PHOTO: Julia Selman Ayetey, lawyer for the twenty-one people, who where detained by police and accused of unlawful assembly and promoting
an LGBTQ agenda, speaks to journalists at the Ho Circuit Court in Ho, Volta Region, Ghana June 4, 2021. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko/File Photo
    HO, Ghana (Reuters) – A high court in Ghana has granted bail to 21 gay rights activists arrested three weeks ago for what police described as an unlawful gathering, the prosecutor said on Friday.
    The 16 women and five men, who were arrested on May 20 at a hotel where they were attending a rights advocacy training, were released on a 5,000 Ghana cedi ($866) bail, the prosecutor said.     The arrest has drawn condemnation as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face widespread persecution in the West African nation, where gay sex is punishable by up to three years imprisonment.
    Ghana has not prosecuted anyone for same-sex relations in years, but the LGBT+ community has reported a crackdown by authorities in recent months.
    The group was denied bail twice, drawing condemnation from advocacy group the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, which said in a statement that it was appalled by the court’s handling of the matter.
    “It is clear that gathering to educate people at a hotel venue on LGBT+ issues is not a criminal act or crime under the constitution or any statute,” the advocacy group said.
    The case is expected to resume on a later date.
(Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

6/12/2021 GOP bill would bar transgender women from playing school sports in Kentucky by Joe Sonka, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    FRANKFORT –A Republican legislator prefiled a bill for next year’s session of the Kentucky General Assembly that would prohibit transgender women from playing women’s sports in public K-12 schools and colleges.
    In a press release, Rep. Ryan Dotson, R-Winchester, called his legislation the “Save Women’s Sports” bill, saying it is intended “to protect the integrity of women’s sports.” “Research shows that transgender women have a muscle-mass advantage over biological women, even if they take a testosterone suppressant,” Dotson stated.    “Allowing transgender women to participate in women’s sports gives transgender women an unfair advantage.”
    Similar legislation has been filed by Republican legislators in the past two sessions and largely ignored.
    However, several states, including neighboring Tennessee and West Virginia, have now signed such bills into law.    Chris Hartman, executive director of the Louisville-based Fairness Campaign, told The Courier Journal bills such as this seeking to exclude LGBTQ students from full participation in school life “are incredibly harmful to some of our most vulnerable LGBTQ youth, who already experience disproportionately high rates of depression and suicide.
    “Rep. Dotson and others should take the time to talk with LGBTQ constituents to understand their lives before they introduce legislation to further marginalize our community,” Hartman said, adding the bill’s filing is “especially offensive in the middle of Pride Month, but I imagine that’s intentional.”
    In his press release, Dotson said sports provide opportunities for women to go to college and receive scholarships and financial aid, adding “we need to be realistic about the weight of these lifechanging opportunities and ensure that fairness prevails.”    Dotson is a Pentecostal pastor serving in his first term.
    The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has a policy that recognizes the ability of transgender student-athletes to compete in sports “free from unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation.”    But some still view the KHSAA policy as restrictive, as it requires transgender athletes to undergo sex reassignment surgery either before or after puberty in order to compete in sports based on their gender identity.
    Hartman stated last year that “few, if any” transgender students can meet the current KHSAA guidelines, making such legislation unnecessary.    He added the bills’ proponents could not provide a single “We ought to be celebrating the diversity of Kentucky students, and protecting them from harassment and discrimination rather than bringing forward gratuitous bills that can have a harmful impact.”    Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville instance when this became an issue.
    Other legislation filed but not passed in recent years targeting transgender students include bills to prohibit transgender students from using restrooms that align with their identities and create criminal penalties for doctors providing transgender youth with identity-related medical treatments.
    Rep. Lisa, D-Louisville, said it’s been “heartbreakingz” to see the rise of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country and fears Willner this type of bill “could have a tragic impact” on transgender youth already at high risk for depression and suicide.    “As state leaders, we ought to be celebrating the diversity of Kentucky students, and protecting them from harassment and discrimination rather than bringing forward gratuitous bills that can have a harmful impact,” Willner said.
    Reporter Billy Kobin contributed to this story.    Reach reporter Joe Sonka at jsonka@ and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today.

6/15/2021 Fla. Gov. Signs Bill Mandating Minute Of Silence For Prayer In Schools by OAN Newsroom
Surrounded by state legislators and Jewish leaders, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, holds up two bills that
he signed at the Shul of Bal Harbour, a Jewish community center in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) signed a bill that mandates a moment of silence at the start of each school day on Monday.    The legislation will require all teachers at K-12 public schools across the state to provide one to two minutes of silence.
    The time gives students the opportunity to pray according to their religious beliefs before classes begin.    The bill also prohibits teachers from offering any suggestions on how their students take the moments of silence to reflect.
    When passed in the Florida House, it received massive bipartisan support passing 94 to 24 in the chamber.    The State Senate saw much of the same bipartisanship by passing 32 to six.
    “We think it’s something that’s important to be able to provide each student the ability at every day to be able to reflect and to be able to pray as they see fit,” DeSantis explained.    “The idea that you can just push God out of every institution and be successful, I’m sorry, our founding fathers did not believe that.”
    The Supreme Court banned state sponsored prayer in schools in 1963 as they found it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.     However, it is currently unknown if calling the time a generic moment of silence circumvents this ruling.

6/15/2021 Hungary’s Parliament Passes Anti-LGBT Law Ahead Of 2022 Election
FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of demonstrators are seen as they march around the Hungarian parliament to protest against Hungarian
Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the latest anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest, Hungary, June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus/File Photo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary’s parliament passed legislation on Tuesday that bans the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change, amid strong criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties.
    Hardline nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who faces an election next year, has grown increasingly radical on social policy, railing against LGBT people and immigrants in his self-styled illiberal regime, which has deeply divided Hungarians.
    His Fidesz party, which promotes a Christian-conservative agenda, tacked the proposal banning school talks on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues to a separate, widely backed bill that strictly penalises paedophilia, making it much harder for opponents to vote against it.
    The move, which critics say wrongly conflates paedophilia with LGBT issues, triggered a mass rally outside parliament on Monday, while several rights groups have called on Fidesz to withdraw the bill.
    Fidesz lawmakers overwhelmingly backed the legislation on Tuesday, while leftist opposition parties boycotted the vote.
    Under amendments submitted to the bill last week, under-18s cannot be shown any content that encourages gender change or homosexuality.    This also applies to advertisements.    The law sets up a list of organisations allowed to provide education about sex in schools.
    Gay marriage is not recognised in Hungary and only heterosexual couples can legally adopt children.    Orban’s government has redefined marriage as the union between one man and one woman in the constitution, and limited gay adoption.
    Critics have drawn a parallel between the new legislation and Russia’s 2013 law that bans disseminating “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations” among young Russians.     Poland’s conservative ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), Fidesz’s main ally in the European Union, has taken a similarly critical stance on LGBT issues.    Budapest and Warsaw are at odds with the European Union over some of their conservative reforms.
    The European Parliament’s rapporteur on the situation in Hungary, Greens lawmaker Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, slammed the new law on Tuesday:
    “Using child protection as an excuse to target LGBTIQ people is damaging to all children in Hungary.”
    Orban has won three successive election landslides since 2010, but opposition parties have now combined forces for the first time and caught up with Fidesz in opinion polls.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Gareth Jones)

6/16/2021 Court may decide Ky. Case - Ruling on LGBTQ foster parents expected in June by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    In a case that could decide a dispute between Kentucky child welfare officials and a Baptist children’s agency, the U.S. Supreme Court is close to ruling on whether private agencies may reject LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents because of religious beliefs.
    Sunrise Children’s Services, citing religious convictions, has refused to sign a contract with Kentucky to care for abused and neglected children that would ban discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” as well as race, age and other factors.
    Officials with the administration of Gov. Andy Beshear have said they will stop placing children with the agency by July 1 if Sunrise refuses to sign a standard contract that contains anti-discrimination language the state says is required by federal regulations.
    But a ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia could require Kentucky to recognize the religious convictions the Baptist agency has cited as grounds for refusing to sign the current contract.
    The case is among 18 still pending before the Supreme Court expected to be decided by the end of the June term, according to SCOTUSblog, a non-partisan legal blog that follows the court.
    It involves a legal challenge by Catholic Social Services, which sued Philadelphia after the city excluded it from some services when the agency, citing religious freedom, declined to consider same-sex couples as foster parents.
    A decision in the case would come one year after a Supreme Court ruling that federal civil rights law protects gay and transgender workers from employment discrimination.
    The decision was widely celebrated by LGBTQ advocates as one that strengthened federal anti-discrimination protections.
    But a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services will provide “a big loophole” to those who cite religious reasons for declining to accept LGBTQ antidiscrimination terms, said Sam Marcosson, a professor at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law who teaches constitutional law and has been following the case.
    “The decision of that case is very likely to ultimately determine whether the state is compelled to continue to contract with Sunrise on Sunrise’s terms,” Marcosson said.
    Marcosson said the dispute between Catholic Social Services and Philadelphia is virtually identical to the dispute between Sunrise and Kentucky in that it involves a faith-based agency’s rejection of a contract that bans discrimination against gay or same-sex couples as foster or adoptive parents.
    The case hinges on the protection of religious freedom, which Marcosson predicted will become a key issue for the right-leaning Supreme Court, dominated by conservative justices including three appointed by former President Donald Trump.
    “It is the most prominent and significant area in which the court is poised to move significantly from the current jurisprudence,” Marcosson said.    “It is ground zero.”
    Sunrise is controlled by the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which views homosexuality as a sin and marriage as only between a man and woman.
    The subject has sparked several controversies over the years involving Sunrise’s refusal to hire openly gay employees or accept gay couples as foster parents.
    Sunrise’s website said it offers a “Christ-centered foster care ministry” and accepts adults as foster parents.    It accepts married couples but not couples who are “cohabitating.”
    Kentucky Today, an online publication of the Baptist convention, reported the agency refers same-sex couples seeking to become foster-adoptive parents to other agencies and does the same for LGBTQ job applicants.
    Catholic Social Services, in its arguments before the Supreme Court in November, said it refers same sex couples to other agencies.
    Sunrise has contracted with the state since the 1970s to help care for children removed from homes because of abuse or neglect, Dale Suttles, president of Sunrise, told a legislative committee June 2.
    Sunrise is one of multiple outside agencies, most non-profit and many faith-based, the state contracts for child and family services.
    But prior to the Beshear administration, Sunrise had been exempted from certain provisions, said its lawyer, John Sheller, speaking at the June 2 meeting of the joint House-Senate Appropriations and Revenue meeting.
    “Sunrise has always found a way to partner with the commonwealth by tweaking a few words in the contract,” Sheller said.
    But last year, when the annual contract came up for renewal under the Beshear administration, “they wanted Sunrise to sign the exact same contract that every other provider signs,” Sheller said.
    Sunrise has been operating without a contract since July 1.
    Over the past year, the state has paid Sunrise about $16 million to care for children and provide other services, such as family counseling, Suttles told the committee.
    The dispute also has created a partisan divide, with Republicans who control the Kentucky House and the state’s five elected constitutional officers, all Republican, urging Beshear, a Democrat, to reinstate the Sunrise contract.
    The Beshear administration is forcing Sunrise to choose between continuing to serve Kentucky children or abandon its religious beliefs,” Attorney General Daniel Cameron, one of the five constitutional officers, said in a statement.    But others see the issue differently, including Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, who lives in Louisville and is a fellow with the Faith and Progressive Policy Institute at the Center for American Progress.
    The focus should be on finding the best possible homes and services for children who have experienced abuse or neglect, rather than excluding some foster and adoptive parents because of sexual orientation, he said.
    “Turning the message of love preached by Jesus into a reason to discriminate doesn’t help children in any way,” Graves-Fitzsimmons said.
    “Baptists have a long history of championing religious liberty.    People are turning it into a license to discriminate.”
    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@ or 502-5824228.    Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal. com/subscribe.
Supporters celebrated outside the Supreme Court in June 2015 after the high court ruling
that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

6/16/2021 Texas Gov. Abbott Signs Freedom To Worship Act Into Law by OAN Newsroom
Gov. Greg Abbott at the Capitol in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Montinique Monroe/Getty Images)
    Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) signed a new law to protect religious liberties within his state.    The Freedom to Worship Act went into effect on Tuesday, which protects the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
    The law will prohibit any government agency or public official from issuing an order that closes churches or other places of worship in Texas.    It was backed by several Republicans amid pandemic closures, including Rep. Scott Sanford, who has been a strong supporter of religious liberty and the freedom to worship.
    “Friends if we don’t have liberty, we have the opposite, it’s tyranny.” he explained.    “…So to hang onto our liberties, we must hang on to scripture.”
    Sanford went on to assert churches provide essential spiritual, mental and physical support especially times of crisis.    Many religious leaders across the Lone Star state supported his efforts.
    Jordan River Church Pastor Jorge Tovar argued, “Though our constitution defends us, but this is I think a little more important to have clarity and assurance that the house of worship will not be closed or even regulated.”
    On Twitter, Abbott went on to vow the First Amendment will never be compromised.

6/18/2021 Court sides with religious group - LGBTQ adoption decision will likely impact Ky. by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a private children’s agency in Philadelphia has the right to reject same-sex couples as foster and adoptive parents in a case that could affect the outcome of a Baptist children’s agency’s dispute with Kentucky child welfare officials.
    In a unanimous ruling, the court found Catholic Social Services cannot be excluded from some foster and adoptive services through a public contract with the city of Philadelphia because of the agency’s religious beliefs.
    But because the ruling in the case is narrow – focused on how Philadelphia worded and administered its contract – it’s not clear how it would apply to the ongoing dispute between Kentucky and Sunrise Children’s Services over a contract that includes language banning LGBTQ discrimination.
    In Thursday’s ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said foster and adoption services simply don’t fit under the “public accommodation” category, such as buses, restaurants and hotels, that Philadelphia relied on for its anti-discrimination requirements.
    He also found that because the city is able to grant exceptions to contract requirements in other instances, it “undermines” its argument that it can’t provide an exception for the Catholic agency unwilling to accept LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents.
    The agency “seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs,” Roberts’ opinion said.    “It does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.”
    Reaction to Thursday’s ruling varied, with some declaring it a victory for religious freedom but others pointing to its limited scope.
    Dales Suttles, president of Sunrise, provided a statement calling the decision “a resounding victory” in favor of religious protections.
    Meanwhile, Suttles said his agency will “continue to work in good faith with our governor towards a resolution regarding a contract so Sunrise can continue to serve Kentucky’s most vulnerable.”
    Sunrise has refused to sign a contract with Kentucky to care for abused and neglected children that would ban discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” as well as race, age and other factors.
    Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, praised the ruling, saying it “unanimously upholds the religious freedoms enshrined in our constitution.”
    Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, speaking at a news conference Thursday, said his administration’s goal is to follow federal law that governs contracts involving public money and requires anti-discrimination provisions.
    “That doesn’t mean some people haven’t tried to throw a whole lot of politics into it and start a culture war,” he said.
    Beshear said his staff is reviewing the ruling and “if the decision resolves the entire matter, it resolves the entire matter.”
    But Beshear said he remains concerned about any agency that would refuse to accept LGBTQ couples as foster and adoptive parents at a time when many Kentucky children “are crying out” for homes.    He also expressed concern about children placed with any agency that rejects homosexuality.
    “We know that our LGBTQ youth are among the most marginalized,” he said.    “It concerns me that they would go to anyplace... that would tell them who they are is wrong.”
    Southern Baptists believe homosexual relationships are sinful and recognize marriage only as between a man and woman.    Sunrise has been embroiled in several controversies over the years for not accepting openly LGBTQ employees or same-sex couples as foster parents.
    Sam Marcosson, a constitutional law professor at the University of Louisville, said Thursday’s ruling, for now, appears limited.
    The court “is going out of its way to issue narrow rulings when it does favor religious claims,” he said in a text message.
    Marcosson said whether the ruling applies to the Sunrise dispute depends on Kentucky’s policy on discrimination language in contracts and whether it allows any exceptions.
    If Kentucky does not permit exceptions, “This could be the next big case to test how far the court will go in this direction,” he said.    Sunrise has been asked to sign the same contract with anti-discrimination language required of all children’s agencies, Beshear has said.
    Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, said he does not believe the decision will have a direct impact on the Sunrise dispute.
    “I still believe Kentucky has every right to refuse to make exceptions for discrimination in state-funded foster and adoption care,” he said.
    Though unanimous, the decision also created some division on the Supreme Court.
    All nine justices agreed with the outcome, but only five joined Roberts in the majority opinion: Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
    A series of concurring opinions challenging some aspects of the decision were released by justices including Neil Gorsuch, who accused the court of “dodging” a central question – how far government can go in imposing laws that affect exercise of religion as long as they are neutrally applied.
    “These cases will keep coming until the court musters the fortitude to supply an answer,” Gorsuch wrote.    “Respectfully, it should have done so today.”
    In the Philadelphia case, the Catholic agency had declined to accept any unmarried couples as foster parents, including same sex couples, and views marriage “as a sacred bond between a man and a woman,” the opinion said.
    Officials with the Beshear administration have said they will stop placing children with the agency by July 1 if Sunrise refuses to sign a contract that contains anti-discrimination language.
    Sunrise, which is controlled by the Kentucky Baptist Convention, had provided children’s services under contract to the state since the 1970s.    It is one of multiple outside agencies, most non-profit and many faith-based, the state contracts with for child and family services.
    But prior to the Beshear administration, Sunrise had been exempted from certain provisions, its officials have argued.
    Beshear has said federal regulations don’t allow the state to waive LGBTQ anti-discrimination provisions for Sunrise.
    Sunrise’s website said it offers a “Christ-centered foster care ministry” and accepts adults as foster parents.    It accepts married couples but not couples who are “cohabitating.”
    Kentucky Today, an online publication of the Baptist convention, reported the agency refers same-sex couples seeking to become foster-adoptive parents to other agencies and does the same for LGBTQ job applicants.
    The Supreme Court decision comes one year after the court found that federal civil rights law protects gay and transgender workers from employment discrimination, a decision widely celebrated by LGBTQ advocates as one that strengthened federal anti-discrimination protections.
    It also comes after President Joe Biden recently proclaimed June as LGBTQ Pride Month and a time for “hope, progress and promise” for Americans who have experienced “relentless attacks” on their rights over the past four years, according to a press release from the White House.
    Robert’s opinion acknowledged the interests of LGBTQ citizens, citing a previous ruling which found: “Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.”
    But, he concluded, the facts in the Philadelphia case don’t allow the city to refuse to allow the Catholic agency to participate in some foster services because of its religious beliefs.
    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@ or 502-5824228.    Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal. com/ subscribe.
Supporters celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision that same sex couples
have the right to marry, ALEX WONG, GETTY IMAGES

6/18/2021 Orban’s Tighter Laws Stoke Taboos, Fear Among Hungary’s LGBT People by Krisztina Fenyo and Krisztina Than
Transgender woman Daniella Milla Tokodi gestures while putting on makeup at
home in Budapest, Hungary, June 12, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) -Daniella Milla Tokodi says she feels finally free as she dances in spectacular costumes in a drag show at a Budapest bar popular with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
    Asssigned male at birth, the 31-year old Hungarian said after having an operation in 2018 to complete her gender transition she broke into tears when she saw herself in the mirror and that she felt “whole.”
    “It was a relief … Since then I am able to look into people’s eyes.    I can communicate with people, I feel whole.”
    That feeling is now overshadowed by worry over a string of laws passed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government that critics say undermine LGBT+ rights, with the latest this week that bans the “display and promotion” of homosexuality and gender change among under-18s, in schools and in the media.
    It follows another law last year banning gender change in identity documents, something Daniella was able to do after she started her transition in 2014.
    “I am obviously concerned by it and how the next generation will grow up.    It is not by chance that there are a lot of gay, transgender suicides because if someone cannot become fulfilled what can they do?    Should they hide?,” Daniella said.
    A survey of 2,000 people by the HATTER society, a Hungarian LGBT+ group, showed that 42% thought about suicide while 30% had attempted it.    Suicide thoughts occurred mostly among teenagers, about 64% of respondents, it said.
    Orban defended the new legislation on Thursday, writing on his website in English that it “does not conflict with any lofty ideals or European laws.    The new Hungarian law simply states clearly that only parents can decide on the sexual education of their children.”
    His critics say Orban, who faces an election next year, has grown increasingly radical on social policy, railing against LGBTQ+ people and immigrants, which has deeply divided Hungarians and upset the LGBT+ community.
    Orban’s Fidesz party, which promotes a Christian-conservative agenda, tacked the proposal banning school talks on LGBT+ issues to a separate, widely-backed bill that strictly penalises paedophilia.
    The move, which critics say wrongly conflates paedophilia with LGBT+ issues, prompted a mass rally on Monday, while rights groups have called on Fidesz to withdraw the bill and the European Commission has opened an inquiry into it.
    The new law also sets up a list of organisations allowed to provide education about sex in schools.
    Drag queen “Elona Musk," who did not want to use his real name, has worked in a volunteer group that visits schools to educate children about diversity.
    Elona himself had a tough time in high school, feeling that he had to hide that he was gay.    He grew up in Romania where he said homosexuality was a “huge taboo.”
    He moved to Hungary from Transylvania 10 years ago and in his day job, he works for a multinational company.    The new law scares him as he fears he will not be able to continue his volunteer work.
    “I think this is just one step and it will continue with new and new laws.”
    Critics have likened the new legislation to Russia’s 2013 law that bans disseminating “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations” among young Russians.
    It also affects the LGBT+ community’s main media outlet, Humen magazine and online news portal.
    Its editor Zsolt Erdei says it is still unclear whether they will be able to display their free printed magazine in public places.    The online version will have to be preceded by an age 18 warning.
(Writing by Krisztina Than; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

6/18/2021 Speaker Pelosi Dodges Reporter’s Question On Abortion by OAN Newsroom
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters just after the Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the
Obama-era health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
    A reporter asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about her take on an upcoming Supreme Court case regarding a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
    During a press conference Thursday, the reporter inquired about Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which the Supreme Court will review this fall after a lower court blocked the law earlier this year.    Pelosi was asked: is an unborn baby at 15 weeks a human being? Here’s her response:
    “Let me just say that I’m a big supporter of Roe v. Wade.    I am a mother of five children in six years.    I think I have some standing on this issue as to respecting a woman’s right to choose.”b     Sen, Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called Pelosi’s answer “barbaric” in a tweet Thursday morning.
    This is not the first time the Speaker has answered this way when asked about abortion.    In 2015, she was asked if a 20-week-old unborn child is a human and she responded similarly.    There was no “yes” or “no,” just another personal anecdote.    She made the following statement:
    “In fact, one day many years ago, perhaps before you were born when I was a new member of Congress, as a Catholic and a mom of five, opposing some of the initiatives similar to what–in the same vein as–what we have today, one of the Republicans stood up and said: Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the pope.    Yeah, Yeah.    That would be true.”
    A San Francisco archbishop slammed Pelosi after her response, stating “no good Catholic can dissent in good conscience” from church teaching on the sanctity of life.
    Both Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are prominent Catholic politicians who are at odds with their church on the issue of abortion and have faced criticism from church leaders.    More than 200 catholic bishops will gather virtually this week to discuss whether high-profile Catholic politicians who support abortion should be given Holy Communion.

6/18/2021 SCOTUS Unanimously Sides With Catholic Foster Agency That Excludes Same-Sex Couples by OAN Newsroom
FILE – This June 8, 2021 file photo shows the Supreme Court building in Washington. A Thursday, June 17, 2021
Supreme Court ruling that favored Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
    The Supreme Court unanimously voted to protect a Catholic foster agency’s First Amendment rights.    In a unanimous decision on Thursday, the high court ruled in favor of the group Catholic Social Services (CSS), allowing them to continue participating in Philadelphia’s foster care system.    The city was attempting to exempt CSS from receiving contracts due to their belief of not fostering to same sex couples.
    Lori Windham, a lawyer who argued on behalf for the Catholic foster agency, said Philadelphia violated free speech guarantees while demonstrating hostility toward the group’s religious beliefs.    She said the decision made by the highest court in the land is a “common sense ruling in favor of religious social services.”
    “We have certainly heard concern leading up to the decision and we heard the arguments in in the courts below, but I think that today’s decision, because it is unanimous, shows that the courts have really shown that there is a right way to do this,” Windham stated.    “And that is to leave options open for religious agencies and those who want to partner with them, and so what I’m hopeful we will see is common sense solutions that leave room for everyone to be able to participate in the foster care system.”
    Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:
    “CSS only wishes to continue serving children in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs and the city refusing access to contracts would violate the group’s First Amendment rights.”
    For more than a century, CSS has helped provide foster care services throughout the U.S.


6/19/2021 Thousands March For LGBT Equality In Polish Capital by Alan Charlish
People attend the "Equality Parade" rally in support of the LGBT community, in Warsaw, Poland June 19, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Thousands marched through central Warsaw on Saturday in an “Equality Parade” demanding an end to discrimination against the LGBT community, amid what campaigners say has been a rising tide of homophobia in Poland in recent years.
    LGBT rights have become a central part of a wider struggle in the country between liberals, who stress the need for a more tolerant and inclusive society, and religious conservatives, who denounce what they say is an attempt to subvert traditional values in the predominantly Catholic nation.
    In a sea of rainbow flags, the symbol of the LGBT community, marchers gathered outside the towering neo-Gothic Palace of Culture in central Warsaw, as a DJ played dance music from a stage before the start of the march.
    “The Equality Parade is a celebration of LGBT people and all those who have to fight for their rights,” said 22-year-old restaurant worker Sylwester Cimochowski.
    “Homophobia is a huge problem in Poland … there are lots of people who can’t cope with it, they kill themselves.    The situation of LGBT people in Poland is tragic and that’s why I’m here – to support them.”
    Both politicians and clergy have been accused of stoking homophobia in Poland.
    Some conservatives say they have nothing against gay people; they only oppose what they call “LGBT ideology.”
    Meanwhile, in Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist government, which is allied with Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, has introduced a new law banning the “display and promotion of homosexuality” among under-18s.
    “It’s getting more and more difficult … but at the same time there is more and more resistance,” said Marta Borkowska, a 37-year-old business consultant, referring to the situation of LGBT people in central and eastern Europe.
    Asked what she would say to people who are opposed to the march, she replied, “I would say ‘don’t be afraid'
(Reporting by Alan Charlish Additional reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Mark Potter)

6/19/2021 Pope Puts Robert Schuman, A Father Of Europe, On Sainthood Path by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis waves as he leaves after holding the weekly general audience at the San Damaso courtyard,
amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at the Vatican June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Saturday put 20th century statesman Robert Schuman, one of the founders of modern Europe, on the path to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.
    A Vatican statement said the pope approved a decree recognising the “heroic virtues” of Schuman, who died in 1963. The recognition is one of the earliest stages of the long process that can lead to canonisation.
    Schuman’s work was instrumental in the founding of today’s European institutions, such as the European Union.
    Schuman, who served as French prime minister and foreign minister in the immediate post-World War II period, also played a role in the founding of NATO.
    In 1950 the “Schuman Plan” proposed a supranational community for coal and steel.    It evolved to become the European Economic Community in 1957 and the European Union in 1993.
    Along with Italy’s Alcide de Gasperi, France’s Jean Monnet and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer, he is considered one of the “Fathers of Europe” for promoting democratic, supranational principles to thwart the possibility of another war on the continent.
    A devout Catholic, Schuman’s role in trying to break the cycle of wars in Europe has been praised by several popes
    Francis’ approval of the decree means Schuman now has the title “venerable.”
    One miracle would have to be attributed to Schuman for him to be beatified and then another for him to be made a saint.
    The Roman Catholic Church teaches that only God performs miracles, but that saints who are believed to be with God in heaven intercede on behalf of people who pray to them.    A miracle is usually the medically inexplicable healing of a person.
    The France-based Institut Saint Benoît has been promoting sainthood for Schuman for several decades.
    Its theologians and historians heard witnesses and examined all of his writing for documentation that was sent to the Vatican and that resulted in Saturday’s decree.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Frances Kerry)
[So is the Catholic Church in Italy connected to the European Union which has grown into a Globalist Socialist One World Government along with the beast with 7 heads and connected to Revelation 17?]

6/21/2021 Catholic bishops ponder rebuke of president by David Crary, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    U.S. Catholic bishops overwhelmingly approved the drafting of a “teaching document” that many of them hope will rebuke Catholic politicians, including President Joe Biden, for receiving Communion despite their support for abortion rights.
    The result of the vote – 168 in favor and 55 against – was announced Friday near the end of a virtual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.    The bishops had cast their votes privately after impassioned debate.
    Supporters of the measure said a strong rebuke of Biden was needed because of his recent actions protecting and expanding abortion access, while opponents warned that such action would portray the bishops as a partisan force during a time of bitter political division across the country.
    As a result of the vote, the conference’s doctrine committee will draft a statement on the meaning of Communion in the life of the church that will be submitted for consideration at a future meeting, probably an in-person gathering in November.
    Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, said during debate that he speaks with many people who are confused by a Catholic president who advances “the most radical pro-abortion agenda in history,” and action from the bishops conference is needed.
    Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego countered that the conference would suffer “destructive consequences” from a document targeting Catholic politicians.    “It would be impossible to prevent the weaponization of the Eucharist,” McElroy said.    Biden, who attends Mass regularly, says he personally opposes abortion but doesn’t believe he should impose that position on Americans who feel otherwise.
The Bidens attend Mass during Inauguration Day ceremonies in Washington, D.C. EVAN VUCCI/AP

6/21/2021 Why Pope Francis probably isn't worried about U.S. bishops' vote on Communion guidance by Tim O'Donnell, The Week
© Provided by The Week
    Despite opposition from the Vatican, which has cautioned Catholic leaders against politicizing the Church, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Friday voted 168-55 to advance draft guidance that could call into question whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, including President Biden, are eligible to receive Communion.
    Pope Francis has remained silent about the vote so far, which Vatican officials told The New York Times is a sign he's not concerned the final version of the guidance will actually pass.    Per the Times, Church law says that would require either unanimous support, or two-thirds support and Vatican approval.    Both of those possibilities seem unlikely, even if a majority backs the document.    "It's not going to get to that point," one senior Vatican official said.    "It's inconceivable."    Paolo Rodari, a Vatican reporter at Italy's La Repubblica, said he doesn't "think they are worried at Casa Marta," referring to the papal residence.
The more likely scenario is that the final document will strongly assert "the importance of the Eucharist" while reflecting "the pope's concerns" about calling for denying Communion to "Biden and other influential political and cultural figures who support abortion rights," the Times reports.    Read more at The New York Times.

6/21/2021 Vatican dismisses pressure to ban Communion for abortion-supporting Catholics by Mica Soellner, Washngton Examiner
    The Vatican dismissed the idea of denying Holy Communion to abortion-supporting Catholics, including President Joe Biden, despite a push by a group of U.S. Catholic bishops seeking such a move.
© Provided by Washington Examiner
    The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted on Friday in favor of drafting "a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church" that could deny high-profile officials who have spoken on their stance in favor of abortion rights.
    Vatican officials have reportedly said Pope Francis's silence on the matter is reflected in his confidence that a doctrinal declaration to ban Communion is unlikely to come to fruition.
    "It’s not going to get to that point,” one senior Vatican official told the New York Times.    "It’s inconceivable."
    Austen Ivereigh, a biographer of Francis who wrote The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, said the vote by the bishops is not aligned with the pope's top priorities, noting that he's disapproved of the congregate getting too involved in culture wars.
    "For Francis, a majority vote by a deeply divided bishops’ conference is not a sign that one should proceed but the opposite,” Ivereigh told the outlet.    "Francis has been consistent in his message to the American bishops: ‘Don’t get trapped in culture wars and give a witness of unity.' I don’t think this vote does that."
    Less than a week before the bishops' vote, the Vatican sent warning messages not to politicize the Eucharist, according to a separate report by the New York Times.
    "The concern in the Vatican is not to use access to the Eucharist as a political weapon," Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit priest and ally of the pope, said.
    On Friday, Biden said that he didn't think the bishops would be successful in their endeavors but added that it is a "private matter."
    The bishops' conference voted 168-55, with six abstentions, to draft the statement, which would include guidance on public officials who support abortion rights.    The organization's Committee on Doctrine has been tasked with working on the document.
    The statement is expected to be presented in November.

6/22/2021 Canadian Lawmakers Pass Bill Criminalizing LGBT Conversion Therapy
FILE PHOTO: People walk on Parliament Hill the morning after the federal election
in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada October 22, 2019. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle
    OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s House of Commons on Tuesday passed a bill criminalizing LGBT conversion therapy 263 to 63, handing a win to the minority ruling Liberal party which promised to ban the practice during an unveiling of its election platform in 2019.
    Aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, conversion therapy can include talk therapy, hypnosis, electric shocks and fasting.    The American Medical Association has condemned the practice as “harmful and ineffective.”
    The vote took place as the House tried to clear its legislative agenda before the summer break set to begin on Wednesday, and possible elections later this year.    The bill now goes to the Senate.
    The government’s budget bill, which includes key pandemic supports set to expire at the end of the month, remained in limbo.
    The summer recess ends on Sept. 20 and an election could come as early as September.
    The Liberals lead the main opposition Conservatives 34 to 30 according to a Leger poll published on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

6/23/2021 Polish Education Minister Says LGBT March ‘Insult To Public Morality’
FILE PHOTO: People attend the "Equality Parade" rally in support of the LGBT community, in Warsaw, Poland
June 19, 2021. The writing reads: "People, not ideology". REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s education minister said on Wednesday a march held in support of equal rights for LGBT people was an “insult to public morality” and questioned whether participants were normal, prompting angry protests from the opposition.
    Thousands joined last Saturday’s march through central Warsaw to call for an end to discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, amid what campaigners say is an increasingly hostile atmosphere as politicians and Roman Catholic clergy attack what they call “LGBT ideology.”
    “You’ve seen the pictures of the so-called Equality Parade, and that has nothing to do with equality,” Przemyslaw Czarnek said on state-run news channel TVP Info.
    “You saw people dressed bizarrely, a man dressed like a woman, are they normal people in your opinion?
    He later clarified his remarks, saying he had meant their behaviour, not the participants themselves, were not normal.
    Czarnek also rejected the idea that “inclusive language” should be used in schools.
    “In Polish schools, the Polish language is obligatory, not any language of inclusiveness,” he said.    “In Polish… satisfying sexual desire in a way different from the accepted norm is called perversion and deviation.”
    His remarks drew condemnation from the opposition.
    “The only language you know is the language of hate,” said Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bak, a lawmaker from the Left grouping.     “Language that leads to students, who you should be looking out for, killing themselves, self-harming,” she added.
    The appointment of Czarnek, a conservative lecturer at a Catholic university, drew criticism last year from some quarters, with the Chief Rabbi of Poland and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights expressing concern in a statement over his views on LGBT rights and on Polish-Jewish history.
    The education ministry has recently announced planned reforms, including boosting the role of government-appointed school inspectors and changing students’ reading lists to include more patriotic texts and the works of the late Polish pope, John Paul II.
    Hungary, a close ally of Poland’s ruling conservatives, approved last week a bill that bans the dissemination of material in schools deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change.
    European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday the EU executive would take action against Hungary over the bill.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Gareth Jones)

6/23/2021 The Supreme Court Won't Settle Religious Liberty Issues | Opinion by Brady Earley and Daniel Frost, Newsweek
    Though anticipated as perhaps "the most important religious liberty case in the last decade," Fulton v. City of Philadelphia left many unsatisfied.    The decision appears to be a big win for religious liberty—a unanimous Supreme Court decided that the city of Philadelphia cannot exclude Catholic Social Services (CSS) from foster care services.    But go a millimeter beneath the surface, and the lasting relevance of this case becomes murky.    The holding was incredibly narrow, and cities with minimally competent lawyers can easily evade its reach.    If anything, this case (and the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before it) suggests that the Court has no appetite to "settle" controversies between religious liberty and LGBTQ rights.    And given the complexities and interests in this area, we should applaud the Court's willingness to leave these issues to the people.
© Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
    A morning commuter walks passed the U.S. Supreme Court on June 22, 2021 in Washington, DC.    The court is expected to release more opinions for cases related to voting rights, donor disclosure and student’s first amendment rights, as it finishes up the final days of it’s annual term.
    But first, some background on the case.    The Catholic Church has been providing care for needy and orphaned children in Philadelphia since the 1700s.    After it came to light in 2018 that Catholic Social Services would not certify same-sex couples to be foster parents, but would instead refer them to other foster agencies in Philadelphia, city officials determined to freeze all foster referrals to CSS and end their contract with the agency.    This began the path of litigation that (for now) concluded in the Supreme Court's decision on June 17.    The Court sided 9-0 with CSS, determining that the city's actions violated the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause by requiring CSS to choose between its religious beliefs and helping foster children in need.
    But the 9-0 ruling hides a great deal of disagreement over why CSS should have won.    The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by five other justices, argued that because Philadelphia's nondiscrimination statute gave a government official the (never exercised) ability to grant exemptions at his or her "sole discretion," the law was not "generally applicable," and thus failed to satisfy the Free Exercise Clause.    As Justice Samuel Alito noted in a scathing concurrence, it will not be hard for Philadelphia to close this loophole: "if the City wants to get around today's decision, it can simply eliminate the never-used exemption power.    If it does that, then, voilà, today's decision will vanish—and the parties will be back where they started."    Alito wrote at length about how the case should have revisited the Court's standards for adjudicating religious liberty cases, but his opinion could only attract two other votes (Thomas and Gorsuch).
    The majority's decision is reminiscent of its 2018 decision Masterpiece Cakeshop v. CCRC, in which the Court also decided a highly controversial gay rights-religious liberty case on narrow grounds.    Masterpiece dealt with a Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding.    The Court said that a few critical comments from government officials were enough to show that the government had not treated the baker's religious beliefs neutrally, and thus the Free Exercise Clause had been violated.    The decision entirely sidestepped the substantive issues in the case, leaving them for another day (and, predictably, the baker is back in court).
    Fulton and Masterpiece suggest that the Court does not want to draw firm lines in disputes over religious liberty and LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws.    Those who care about pluralism and nuance should applaud this approach. Bright-line legal rules often fail to accommodate as many interests and parties as a legislative approach could.    As Harvard Law professor Martha Minow writes, "accommodation and negotiation can identify practical solutions where abstract principles sometimes cannot."
    The facts in Fulton seem to be a prime example of a scenario in which the government can accommodate all parties at very little cost.    Gay couples are not barred from fostering children in Philadelphia, and CSS is only one of nearly 30 agencies which certify couples or individuals for foster care in the city.    According to the record, no gay couple had ever been turned away from foster care certification at CSS. If the city grants CSS an accommodation, gay couples who wish to be certified for foster care can do so with no additional obstacles, and CSS can continue to help children in need.    What's not to like?
    Critics might say that if a gay couple contacted CSS about becoming certified for foster care service, they would be turned away, thus suffering a dignitary harm.    Again, the fact that this has never happened with CSS suggests it is likely not a major threat, but there are ways that     Philadelphia could preempt even these unlikely affronts.    For example, Philadelphia could create a pre-screening process that gathers basic information about people interested in fostering and then use that information to match or suggest agencies they could work with.    That way, no gay couple would be turned away, and faith-based groups like CSS could continue to do the work they feel called to do. While this approach may not completely satisfy all sides, it is an example of something that the legislative process but not the judiciary can accomplish.
    The benefit of leaving the issue to the legislative process is that thoughtful approaches can be crafted to recognize the interests of each side.    Courts do not have the same tools and leeway for negotiating complex social issues that legislatures do, and one side always has to be declared the winner.    The downside of this approach is the central downside of democracy: it requires a lot of effort. Compromise is often necessary, and compromise (by definition) means that both parties get less than they want.    However, in a pluralistic society, there is no better way to address differences.
    The most well-known success story in this area is Utah.    Since the passage of the 2015 Utah Fairness for All compromise, a law prohibiting employment, housing and other forms of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity while also recognizing religious interests, there has been much more than a legal change. Significant cultural shifts have occurred as well.    In 2019, the Public Religion Research     Institute released data that showed 77 percent of Utahns favored state nondiscrimination protection for LGBTQ persons.    This meant Utah was tied for the second highest percentage of support for such laws in the United States (only New Hampshire ranked higher with 81 percent).    Although advocates on both sides have criticized Utah's approach for not going far enough one way or the other, it continues to be the most workable model in the United States.    And while no other states have followed Utah's lead, there are at least 10 counties that have embraced this approach and enjoy similar benefits.
    LGBTQ people are not going anywhere.    Religious people who believe that marriage is a union of a man and a woman are not going anywhere.    The individuals in these groups are going to have to find a way to live alongside each other, aiming for practicality over ideology.
    Rather than looking for a total victory, we should read Fulton as an invitation to recognize the dignity and interests of both sides, and seek to accommodate as many interests as we can in good conscience.    The Supreme Court didn't do much to resolve the conflict—and we shouldn't expect it to.    That burden falls on each of us.
    Brady Earley is a senior at BYU planning to attend the University of Chicago Law School in the fall.    Daniel Frost is an assistant teaching professor in the School of Family Life at BYU.
    The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.

6/23/2021 Germany’s Merkel Criticises Hungary’s Anti-LGBT Bill
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators protest against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the latest
anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest, Hungary, June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus/File Photo
    BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday criticised Hungary’s planned new law to ban the dissemination of materials in schools on homosexuality and gender change.
    “I think this law is wrong and also not compatible with my ideas,” Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament, adding the bill was something she rejected politically.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Paul Carrel)

6/23/2021 It ‘Is A Shame’ – EU To Take Steps Against Hungary Over Anti-LGBT Bill by Sabine Siebold
FILE PHOTO: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a joint news conference with
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi (not pictured), in Rome, Italy, June 22, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    (Reuters) – The European Commission will take action against Hungary over planned new restrictions on LGBT rights, the head of the bloc’s executive announced on Wednesday, saying they violated fundamental EU values.
    Hungary’s parliament last week approved a bill that bans the dissemination of material in schools deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change, despite protests and criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties.
    “The Hungarian bill is a shame,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels, stressing the EU would not compromise on principles such as human dignity, equality and the respect for human rights.
    “I have instructed my responsible commissioners to write to the Hungarian authorities expressing our legal concerns before the bill enters into force.”
    Hungary’s president, a former lawmaker from the ruling Fidesz party, is expected soon to sign the bill into law.
    On Tuesday, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Ireland and other European countries condemned Hungary over the law.    A Swedish minister described it as “grotesque.”
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday called the bill wrong and not compatible with her ideas, while her Christian Democrat Party’s most prominent gay politician, Health Minister Jens Spahn, vented his anger about UEFA.
    The governing body of European football had prevented the Munich soccer stadium from being illuminated in rainbow colors – a symbol of gay pride – for Germany’s Euro 2020 match against Hungary later in the day.
    “This decision angered me,” Spahn told Handelsblatt newspaper, adding he found it “very irritating” that UEFA had an issue with the colours of the rainbow, but not with sponsors from “authoritarian states” such as China, Qatar and Russia.
    Facing an election next year, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has grown increasingly combative on social issues, saying he wants to protect traditional Christian values against what he sees as the excesses of Western liberalism.
    He rejected von der Leyen’s remarks as “shameful” and based on false statements.
    “The recently adopted Hungarian bill protects the rights of children, guarantees the rights of parents and does not apply to the sexual orientation rights of those over 18 years of age, so it does not contain any discriminatory elements,” Orban said in a statement.
    Von der Leyen said the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bill clearly contradicted the very values on which the European Union was founded.
    “I strongly believe in a European Union where you are free to love whom you want.    And I believe in a European Union that embraces diversity, this is the foundation of our values,” she told a news conference in remarks greeted by applause.
    “So I will use all the powers of the Commission to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed – whoever you are and wherever you live.”
    The EU has long accused Hungary of undermining the rule of law and has launched a formal legal investigation of Orban’s government.
    In a decade in power, Orban has used public money including EU funds to build a loyal business elite while curbing the independence of the media, nongovernmental organisations and universities, his critics say.    Orban, who has a large parliamentary majority, denies undermining Hungarian democracy.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Caroline Copley in Berlin, Francesco Guarascio and Marine Strauss in Brussels, Gergely Szakacs in Budapest and Karolos Grohmann in Munich; Editing by Gareth Jones and Matthew Lewis)

6/24/2021 Vatican Defends Intervention Over Italy Anti-Homophobia Law by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Secretary of State of the Holy See Cardinal Pietro Parolin arrives to address the 74th session of the United Nations
General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican on Thursday defended a request for changes to a draft law in Italy aimed at combating homophobia, saying it was not an interference in another country’s domestic affairs and was not seeking to block it.
    The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said the draft law was too “vague and uncertain” about what would be criminalised.
    The leak this week of an internal diplomatic “verbal note” given to the Italian ambassador to the Vatican on June 17 caused a political furore and dominated Italian newspapers.
    Even Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a practicing Catholic, intervened to defend Italy as a lay state with a sovereign>     Centre-left parties protested, accusing the Vatican of interference.    Right-wing parties applauded, saying the traditional family, religious freedom and free speech had to be protected.
    The Vatican, a city-state surrounded by Rome and headquarters of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, fears that the law could lead to criminalisation of the Church in Italy for refusing to conduct gay marriages, for opposing adoption by homosexual couples, or refusing to teach gender theory in Catholic schools.
    “This was not in any way an attempt to block the law,” Parolin told the official VaticanNews website.
    “We oppose any behaviour or gesture of intolerance or hate towards people because of their sexual orientation, their ethnicity or religious belief,” he said.
    But Parolin, who ranks second only to Pope Francis in the Vatican hierarchy, said the draft law was too vague.
    “There is a risk of lumping all kinds of attitudes together and making it possible to punish every possible distinction between a man and a woman,” he said.
    The diplomatic note concerned the “Zan bill,” named for Alessandro Zan, a gay legislator of the centre-left Democratic Party.    It has passed in the lower house of parliament and is being discussed in a committee in the Senate.
    The Vatican says the current version violates the 1929 Lateran Pacts, which established Vatican City as a sovereign state, and an updating in 1984 that stripped Roman Catholicism of its status as state religion but included protections for the Italian Church’s pastoral activities.
    Parolin said the Vatican decided it would be better to seek modifications before the law passed and suggested that the Vatican made the diplomatic move because concerns expressed by the Italian Bishops Conference had fallen on deaf ears.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Giles Elgood)

6/25/2021 Respect LGBT Rights Or Leave EU, Hungary’s Orban Is Told by Gabriela Baczynska
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators protest against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the
latest anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest, Hungary, June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus/File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Respect LGBT rights or leave the European Union, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Hungary’s premier as EU leaders confronted Viktor Orban over a law that bans schools from using materials seen as promoting homosexuality.
    Several EU summit participants spoke of the most intense personal clash among the bloc’s leaders in years on Thursday night.
    “It was really forceful, a deep feeling that this could not be.    It was about our values; this is what we stand for,” Rutte told reporters on Friday.
    “I said ‘Stop this, you must withdraw the law and, if you don’t like that and really say that the European values are not your values, then you must think about whether to remain in the European Union’.”
    French President Emmanuel Macron called it a “cultural battle,” acknowledging a deepening rift with increasingly assertive illiberal leaders that is hurting EU cohesion.
    “To fight against homophobic laws is to defend individual freedoms and human dignity,” he said, adding that Hungary should remain a member of the EU.
    Unless it rows back, Hungary faces a legal challenge at the EU’s highest court. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said Orban should also be subject to an as-yet untested procedure to cut EU funding for those who violate rules.
    The new mechanism was introduced as closely aligned conservative governments in Poland and Hungary have shielded one another for years from sanctions under existing measures to protect EU democratic and human rights values.
    The provisions for schools have been included in a law primarily aimed at protecting children from paedophiles, a link that Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo described as “primitive.”
    Orban, who has been Hungary’s prime minister since 2010 and faces an election next year, has become more conservative and combative in promoting what he says are traditional Catholic values under pressure from the liberal West.
    Describing himself as a “freedom fighter,” Orban told reporters before the meeting that the law was not an attack on gay people but aimed at guaranteeing parents’ right to decide on their children’s sexual education.
    The EU is pushing Orban to repeal the law – the latest in a string of restrictive policies towards media, judges, academics and migrants.
    Seventeen of the 27 EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, signed a joint letter reaffirming their commitment to protecting gay rights
    “We all made it very clear which fundamental values we adhere to,” Merkel said.
    She said she shared Macron’s assessment that some EU countries have “very different ideas” about Europe.
    Bettel, who is openly gay, said the only country other than Poland to support Orban in the discussion was Slovenia, whose prime minister has also been accused of undermining the independence of the media.
    Bettel said it was time for Brussels to test its new procedure: “Most of the time, money is more convincing than talk.”
(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Timothy Heritage)

6/25/2021 U.N. Rights Expert Decries Hungary’s New Anti-LGBT Law by Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds the LGBT flag during a protest against a law that bans LGBTQ content in schools
and media at the Presidential Palace in Budapest, Hungary, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – A Hungarian law banning the use of material in schools seen as promoting homosexuality and gender change will perpetuate stigma and discrimination, a U.N. human rights expert said on Friday.
    Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said that the legislation was challenging the “values base” of the European Union (EU).
    Hungary’s parliament passed legislation last week that bans the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change, amid strong criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties.
    Madrigal-Borloz said that he had voiced his concerns to the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban over the last months.
    “This legislation tends to perpetuate stereotypes and stigma around sexual orientation and gender identity,” he said.    He also said the bill wrongly portrayed homosexuality as linked to paedophilia, which he said was “disgraceful.”
    Comprehensive sexual and gender education helps break down stigma, and “allows teachers to be well-equipped to address questions of pupils and to address bullying which as we know is a basic problem in schools all over the world,” he added.
    In 69 countries worldwide it remains a crime to be homosexual or transgender, which has no justification under international human rights law, Madrigal-Borloz told the Human Rights Council earlier on Friday.
    “I urge them to dismantle such criminalisation,” he said.
    “These criminalising provisions, even when they are not applied, create a context that is hostile to the existence of LGBT persons that is also conducive to blackmail and to significant violence affecting the every day lives of these persons,” he said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Peter Graff)

6/25/2021 Pride Parade Fills Tel Aviv Streets As COVID-19 Curbs Creep Back
People take part in an annual gay pride parade in Tel Aviv, Israel June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Rainbow flags billowed in the Mediterranean breeze as revellers poured onto Tel Aviv’s streets on Friday for the city’s annual Pride parade, though some voiced concerns over a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
    Israel’s rapid vaccination drive enabled the sea-side march to go ahead after being cancelled last year over coronavirus concerns. An estimated 100,000 attended.
    “It’s still surreal.    It’s so crazy to see so many people outside, and the music, and happiness … I’m still getting used to it,” said Mor Eliezri, 26, one of a minority of marchers wearing a face mask.
    Over 55% of Israel’s population is vaccinated, new COVID-19 infections have plummeted and the country has eased most health restrictions.
    But a recent uptick in cases attributed to the highly-infectious Delta variant prompted health officials on Friday to mandate masks indoors again and recommend they be worn during large outdoor events – specifically mentioning the pride parade.
    “There is a sense in Israel that everything is done, COVID is behind us.    But it seems it’s not … will it ever end? I’m not so sure,” Eliezri said.
    As crowds waved blue-and-white Israeli flags emblazoned with hearts and danced through the streets, some said the hardships endured during the pandemic had made them less afraid of a new outbreak.
    “We overcame so many things, and we can overcome this too.    It’s the reality of the world today,” said Maayan Sharet, 33.
    “If we have (to) lockdown for a while, we’ll find a way to do it happily, and get back to life.”
(Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

6/25/2021 Gibraltar Votes To Ease Strict Abortion Law by Marco Trujillo
FILE PHOTO: Women, among the organisers of the Yes and No campaign, pose for a photograph during the abortion referendum
outside a polling station, in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/File Photo
    GIBRALTAR (Reuters) - Gibraltar voted to ease a strict abortion law, officials said on Friday, after a referendum which some locals said marked a long overdue advancement of women’s rights in the tiny British territory.
    Around 62% of voters who took part backed the change in Thursday’s ballot, where turnout was about 52% of the 23,000 odd eligible voters, Gibraltar’s parliament said.
    “Gibraltar does have to keep up with the times, you cannot live in the past,” said Jacqueline, a Gibraltarian woman who declined to give her last name, on Friday morning.
    The vote “is an excellent result for women,” chief minister Fabian Picardo, who backed ‘yes’ in a divisive campaign, said on Twitter.    “We will also work to introduce the new services we will require to ensure counselling and safe and legal abortions,” he added.
    Criminal law in the British enclave on Spain’s southern tip had banned abortion in all circumstances, with a maximum punishment in theory of life in prison.    While no one has ever been convicted, citizens and residents were forced to go to Spain or travel to Britain to have an abortion.
    The referendum had originally been scheduled for March 2020, but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
    Even with the amendment approved on Thursday, the law remains more restrictive than in most of the rest of Europe.
    The amendment to the criminal law approved by the referendum allows pregnancies to be terminated by a registered physician within the first 12 weeks in cases where the pregnancy carries more risk to the mother’s health than termination.
Abortions would be permitted at a later stage of pregnancy under a narrow set of circumstances.
    Pro-life groups, who opposed the new bill, say the wording of the law could be interpreted in a way that would ultimately allow most abortions after 12 weeks of conception.
    Others said the bill did not encourage abortion but that it was important the choice should rest with the woman.
    “I am not pro-abortion, but I am pro-choice,” said Sheela, another Gibraltar resident.    “I think every person should have, at the end of the day, their own right to do what they want.”
(Reporting by Marco Trujillo in GIBRALTAR and Inti Landauro in MADRID; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Philippa Fletcher)

6/26/2021 Turkish Police Fire Tear Gas To Disperse Pride March In Istanbul
    A demonstrator reacts as police officers prevent them to gather for a Pride parade, which
was banned by local authorities, in central in Istanbul, Turkey June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd that gathered for a Pride parade in central Istanbul on Saturday, detaining some of those seeking to take part in an event banned by local authorities.
    Reuters TV video showed police in riot gear pushing and dragging people, some waving rainbow flags as they assembled for the event in a side street off the city’s central Istiklal Avenue.
    Some 20 people, including a photo journalist, were detained, according to media reports.
    Turkish authorities have repeatedly banned Pride events in recent years.    Before then, thousands of people used to take part in the parade on the Istanbul street.
    Turkey has long been a candidate to join the European Union but its accession process has been languishing for years amid tensions over a variety of issues including human rights.
    On Thursday, a majority of European Union leaders vowed to continue combating discrimination against the LGBTI community in a joint letter amid a standoff with Hungary, whose parliament last week approved a bill that bans the distribution of material in schools deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change.
(Reporting by Mehmet Emin Caliskan, Umit Bektas and Dilara Senkaya; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Mark Potter)

6/26/2021 Thousands March In Paris’ First LGBT Pride Since Lockdown
Participants holding rainbow flags and placards sit on a monument during the traditional LGBTQ Pride march, amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, on the Republic Square in Paris, France June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
    PARIS (Reuters) – An LGBT Pride march drew thousands of people to the streets of Paris on Saturday, with many using the first event of its kind since the coronavirus pandemic to denounce the situation in Hungary.
    Marchers, who chanted slogans such as “Gay rights are human rights!,” made their way in a joyful atmosphere from Pantin on the outskirts of Paris to Place de la Republique on the city’s Right Bank, amid rainbow flags and colourful placards.
    Asked about the situation in Hungary, where a new law bans the distribution of material in schools deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change, one marcher said it was unacceptable.
    “No country in the world, no part of the world should criminalise homosexuality.    Its representation shouldn’t be banned, it’s absurd,” Marc Pauli, 58, told Reuters TV.
    More than 200 LGBT rights marches were postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic last year, according to the European Pride Organisers Association.
(Reporting by Ardee Napolitano; writing by Michel Rose and Christina Fincher)

6/27/2021 Blinken Visit To Pope Will Reset U.S-Vatican Ties After Trump Years by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a visit at Holocaust Memorial as a part
of Holocaust Dialogue signing event in Berlin, Germany June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The last time a U.S. secretary of state visited the Vatican, the diplomatic sparks flew and Pope Francis declined to receive Mike Pompeo.
    When Antony Blinken meets the pope and top Vatican officials on Monday, the new secretary of state’s visit will put relations between Washington and Holy See on a new footing.
    It will also set the scene for a visit to the pope by Joe Biden, only the second Catholic U.S. president, expected for October.
    The visit follows a conference at which U.S. Roman Catholic bishops voted to draft a statement on Communion that may admonish Catholic politicians, including Biden, who support abortion rights despite opposing the practice personally.
    Pompeo’s visit last September was widely seen as a diplomatic blunder.
    He irked the Vatican before arriving, saying on Twitter and in an editorial that it was “endangering its moral authority” by continuing a bilateral deal with China over the appointment of bishops there.
    Pompeo published the editorial in a conservative Catholic journal that has been highly critical of Pope Francis and whose editor in 2019 wrote a long critique titled “A Failing Papacy”
    One Vatican official rebuked Pompeo for violating “one of the rules of diplomacy” by making public demands.    Another said his request for an audience with the pope was denied because it was too close to the U.S. presidential election and the Vatican did not want it used for domestic political purposes.
    “Pompeo did an own goal on China.    The way he broached it in such a brusque, arrogant way made it easier for the Vatican to justify the renewal of the deal,” said Massimo Franco, a columnist for Italy’s Corriere della Sera who has written extensively on U.S.-Vatican relations.
    “The Biden administration will be much more subtle in reminding the Vatican about freedom of religion in China,” Franco told Reuters.
    After NATO took a tough line on China at Biden’s debut summit, Washington could press the Vatican to be more outspoken on human rights in China and Hong Kong, said Alberto Melloni, an Italian Church historian and advisor to the European Commission.
    “The question is ‘will the U.S. let the Vatican be exempt from criticising China just because of its deal on the bishops’?” he told Reuters.
    One of the main points of contention between the Vatican and the White House while Donald Trump was U.S. president was climate change. Trump was dismissive of the problem as he dismantled climate policies and regulations on fossil fuels.
    The pope criticised Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris accord to limit global warming.    The Vatican welcomed Biden’s return to the accord.
    Francis, who in May received Biden’s climate envoy, Roman Catholic John Kerry, has urged nations to work together to save the planet.
    “We see working together (with the Vatican) as an opportunity to raise countries’ collective ambition and to address the climate crisis by raising and implementing national emissions reduction targets, for instance,” said Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.
    The Vatican will host world religious leaders and scientists before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November in Britain, which many expect the pope to attend.
    In another scratchy moment, the pope criticised Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border as “not Christian.”    Trump said it was “disgraceful” for the pope to question his faith but later called him “a wonderful guy.”    They met at the Vatican in 2017.
    Blinken and Vatican officials are also expected to discuss ways to combat human trafficking and encouraging debt relief for poor countries.
(Additional reporting by Humeyra PamukEditing by Timothy Heritage)

6/27/2021 Pope Francis compares work of U.S. priest whose ministry affirms LGBTQ people to the work of God by Michelle Boorstein, Chico Harlan, The Washington Post
    Pope Francis has sent an encouraging letter to a U.S. priest known for his ministry affirming LGBTQ Catholics, comparing his work to Jesus and God.
Fabio Cimaglia/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender community take part in the Rome Pride parade in Rome, on June 26.
    The pope’s letter comes in the wake of more oppositional moves from the Vatican — that were authorized by Francis — on the topic of gay rights.    And it adds to the confusion facing many LGBT Catholics about where the pontiff stands eight years after he said, famously, “Who am I to judge?
    The Rev. James Martin, one of the country’s best-known Catholic priests for his work on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and for his advocacy for gay Catholics, on Sunday shared the June 21 letter from Pope Francis.    In the letter, which was written in Spanish, Francis thanks Martin for a conference that Martin oversaw Saturday with 1,000 attendees about ministry to LGBTQ Catholics.
    “I want to thank you for your pastoral zeal and your ability to be close to people, with the closeness Jesus had, and which reflects the closeness of God … Thinking of your pastoral work, I see that you are continually seeking to imitate this style of God,” Francis wrote.    “And I pray for your faithful, your ‘flock,’ and all those whom the Lord places in your care.”
    The Vatican’s press office did not respond immediately Sunday to a message seeking to confirm the authenticity of the letter.    But the Vatican’s official news organization reported on the note.
    The letter amounted to an affectionate affirmation of Martin’s ministry.    But it also said nothing concrete about the issues LGBT Catholics have long pressed for, including the right for unions and marriages to be blessed by the church.    Francis has frustrated many of his liberal supporters by continually speaking about gay rights in welcoming terms, while also upholding, and sometimes reaffirming, official church law and teachings that call LGBT acts “disordered” and say a fluid idea of gender identity is not “based on the truths of existence.”
    In that respect, the past week has been a prime example.    On Tuesday, the Vatican confirmed that it had formally protested a bill under debate in the Italian Senate aimed at preventing hate and violence against LGBT people, making such offenses tantamount to hate crimes.    The Vatican, in a diplomatic note sent to Italy, argued that such a measure would violate the “concordat” that guides its relationship with the Italian state — in particularly aspects related to religious freedom and freedom of expression.
    In an interview several days ago with Il Messaggero, a Roman daily newspaper, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re said that the pope had approved of the unusual intervention.    Re said that the Vatican wants the potential Italian law amended, not spiked.    He said that the church is “not against gay people.”
    “We are all children of God, and these people are loved as much as others,” Re said.
    Several months ago, in a declaration that gay Catholics found especially disappointing, the Vatican’s doctrinal body said that Catholic priests can’t bless same-sex marriages.    Though that merely reaffirmed past teaching, the decree was signed by Francis, who had previously raised hopes that he might take a softer line.    In a documentary released last year, the pontiff had been quoted as advocating civil union laws.
'A moment of grace': Priest says he wants Pope Francis to apologize for residential schools
    But the Vatican decree in March said that even though LGBT relationships might have “positive elements,” that “cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing.”    Bestowing a blessing on a same-sex couple’s relationship would also be an “imitation” of the nuptial blessing, the Vatican said.    God, the Vatican said, “does not and cannot bless sin.”
A new Martin Scorsese-backed documentary follows a priest who ministers to LGBT Catholics
    Martin noted in a June 16 interview with The Washington Post that he doesn’t challenge church teachings.    He focuses on doing things like providing forums for Catholic clergy — who are celibate — to talk about their sexual identity, to make more familiar the faces of gay people.    He has also questioned why other church teachings that are widely disagreed with, such as the ban on artificial birth control, aren’t highlighted the way the teachings on gay people are.
    Pope Francis says priests cannot bless same-sex unions, dashing hopes of gay Catholics.
    The conference Martin oversaw Saturday, aimed at people who minister to LGBTQ Catholics, included a bishop and other clergy.    Martin said what makes his ministry unusual is that it’s focused on welcoming.    There are very few such programs in dioceses, he said, and most are about the theological underpinnings of the church’s teaching.
    The Catholic Church still promotes conversion therapy, Martin told The Post. Conversion therapy most commonly consists of psychotherapy from mental health professionals or religious counselors in an attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation or sexual identity.    An increasing amount of research shows that such interventions are ineffective and harmful, and many major medical and mental health associations have condemned them.
    Monsignor Stephen Rossetti, a Catholic University professor and well-known psychologist on mental health issues within the church, said that it is a “mistake to overanalyze each papal statement” and that Francis’s words come in the context of Church teaching.
    “I believe he is trying to maximize the church’s pastoral outreach and compassionate care and yet be faithful to its doctrine.    He knows that to encourage people to violate church teaching is a false compassion,” Rossetti said.
    Aurelio Mancuso, former head of Arcigay, Italy’s leading gay rights group, said that even Francis’s words alone had made a tangible difference.
    “[Francis] said, regardless of catechism, tradition and theology, that these people are finally within the church,” Mancuso said.    “From condemnation to reception.”
    But Mancuso also worried that the changes for LGBT Catholics could be wiped out — including in the case of a conservative successor — if they aren’t crystallized by changes in teaching.
    Msr. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior analyst at the Religion News Service, said that Francis’s views and actions on the topic of homosexuality and gay rights were difficult for Americans to understand, because they don’t fit neatly into either the left-wing or right-wing camps.
    “It seems like at one moment Francis is in one camp and the next moment he’s in the other camp,” Reese said.    “We feel confused.”

6/27/2021 Texas Legal Group Says IRS Violated First Amendment In Denying Tax Exemption Of Religious Group by OAN Newsroom
IRS certified letter (AP)
    A Texas legal group has said the IRS violated the First Amendment in its decision to deny tax-exempt status to a Christian organization.    In a recent appeal to the IRS, the legal group First Liberty Institute argued Christian advocacy group Christians Engaged had been mischaracterized as a political organization.
    The non-partisan group seeks to teach Christians how to civically engage using their religious values.    Yet, the IRS argued Christian values typically align with the Republican Party, making Christians Engaged a partisan organization.
    In an interview, president and CEO of First Liberty, Kelly Shackelford, said if this continues, he fears the IRS could use the same tactics to shut down other religious non-profits.
    GOP lawmakers have also started taking aim at the IRS. In a letter to the agency on Friday, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and 14 other lawmakers called for the removal of the official who decided against granting tax exemptions to the group.
    The IRS clapped back, saying the group lacks neutrality in its educational actives about the Bible and engaged in activity prohibited for non-profits.    However, GOP lawmakers have called the decision “blatantly biased, discriminatory and flawed” and are asking the IRS director to personally review the case.
    They additionally fear if this standard is broadly applied, churches across the country may lose tax exemptions.

6/28/2021 Poland Should Copy Hungarian LGBT Law, Says Polish Minister
FILE PHOTO: People attend the "Equality Parade" rally in support of the LGBT community,
in Warsaw, Poland June 19, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland should copy a Hungarian law that bans schools from using materials seen as promoting homosexuality, the Polish education minister said in comments published on Monday, as the nationalist government attacks what it calls “LGBT ideology.”
    Hungary’s premier, Viktor Orban, has outraged other European Union leaders with the law, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte telling Orban he should respect LGBT rights or leave the European Union.
    In an interview with conservative weekly Sieci published on Monday, Polish Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek praised the regulations.
    “This law states that school lessons touching on questions of sexuality must not promote gender reassignment or homosexuality,” he was quoted as saying.
    “We should copy these regulations on Polish soil in their entirety!
    Czarnek, whose views on LGBT rights and Polish-Jewish history led some to question his appointment in 2020, drew sharp criticism from the opposition last week for comments about an LGBT Equality Parade in Warsaw, when he questioned if the behaviour of its participants was normal.
    “These people come out onto the street, offend Catholics in a vulgar way … behave obscenely, and that is supposed to be OK?” he was quoted as saying on Monday.
    Poland’s nationalist government has also proposed legislation that would bar people living in same-sex couples from adopting children even as single parents.
    “While respecting the rights of people with a different sexual orientation … one should always remember the most important value, which should be the best interest of the child in any society,” the Polish justice ministry told Reuters by email on Monday.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Alicja Ptak, writing by Alan Charlish; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

6/28/2021 Czech President Zeman Calls Transgender People ‘Disgusting'
FILE PHOTO: Czech President Milos Zeman gestures in Vienna, Austria April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czech President Milos Zeman, commenting on a Hungarian law that bans LGBT material from schools, told a television interview on Sunday that he finds transgender people “disgusting.”
    Zeman, who has often espoused views outside the mainstream, was responding to a question about the law Hungary passed earlier this month, which bans the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change.
    “If you undergo a sex-change operation you are basically committing a crime of self-harm,” Zeman told CNN Prima.    “Every surgery is a risk and these transgender people to me are disgusting.”
    The Hungarian law has been strongly criticised by opposition parties at home, rights groups and by many of Hungary’s fellow European Union members.    At an EU summit last week, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Hungarian premier Viktor Orban to respect LGBT rights or leave the bloc.
    More than half of the EU’s 27 member states have opposed the law but so far the Czechs have not done so.    Zeman said the condemnation amounted to meddling in a country’s internal affairs.
    Czech presidents have limited executive powers but Zeman and his predecessors have had a strong influence on public debate.    The president has also leaned toward Russia and China and criticized immigration from Muslim countries.
    “Viktor Orbán says that he is not against homosexuals, but that he is against the manipulation not only of parents, but also of children in sex education,” Zeman said.    “I see no reason to disagree with him, because I am completely annoyed by the suffragettes, the Me Too movement and Prague Pride.”
    Unless it rows back on the law, Hungary faces a legal challenge at the EU’s highest court. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said Orban should also be subject to an as-yet untested procedure to cut EU funding for those who violate rules.
    Orban, who has been Hungary’s prime minister since 2010, has become more conservative and combative in promoting what he says are traditional Christian values from what he sees as excessive Western liberalism.    Before last week’s summit he told reporters the law was aimed at guaranteeing parents’ right to decide on their children’s sexual education.
(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Frances Kerry)

6/28/2021 Blinken And Pope Meet But Unclear If U.S. Bishops’ Vote Discussed by Philip Pullella and Humeyra Pamuk
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accompanied by tour guide Alessandro Conforti and Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy to
the Holy See Patrick Connell gets a tour of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, June 28, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday in the wake of a decision by American Catholic bishops that could lead them to deny communion to President Joe Biden.
    But it was not clear if the topic came up in talks at the Vatican as Blinken became the highest-ranking U.S. administration official to visit since Biden’s inauguration in January.
    He held 40 minutes of private talks with the pope in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace after a separate meeting with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister.
    The visit follows a conference at which U.S. Roman Catholic bishops voted to draft a statement on Communion that may admonish Catholic politicians, including Biden, who support a woman’s right to abortion despite opposing the practice personally.
    The bishops decided to move forward with the document, mostly disregarding a Vatican warning that it would be highly divisive.     The topic did not appear in statements by State Department spokesperson Ned Price and the Vatican and, when asked specifically at a news conference afterwards, Blinken would not be drawn.
    He said the meeting with the pope was “extremely warm and very wide ranging” but he did not answer directly, saying that domestic politics was not part of his job.
    Price said that Blinken in his talks with Parolin and Gallagher discussed various topics including human rights and religious freedom in China.
    Price said Blinken also discussed China with the pope, as well as refugees, climate change, Lebanon, Syria and Ethiopia.
    Since the Vatican and Beijing signed an agreement in 2018 on the naming of bishops in China, critics of the deal have appealed to the Vatican to speak out more about religious freedom in Hong Kong and mainland China.
    NATO took a tough line on China at Biden’s debut summit earlier this month.
    Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that the atmosphere was cordial and that it gave the pope a chance “to express his affection for and attention to, the people of the United States of America.”
    The Vatican and the Biden administration agree on the dangers of climate change, which was a main point of contention with the White House while Donald Trump was president.
    Trump was dismissive of the problem as he dismantled climate policies and regulations on fossil fuels.
    The pope criticised Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris accord to limit global warming.    The Vatican welcomed Biden’s return to the accord.
    Blinken gave the pope a gold and silver sculpture of a dove holding an olive branch and pope gave him copies of several of his writings, including the landmark 2015 encyclical “Laudado Si” on the protection of the environment.
(Humeyra Pamuk reporting from Rome; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Steve Orlofsky)

6/28/2021 Texas Pastor Robert Jeffress: Joe Biden Is Weak And Aimless On Religious Liberty by OAN Newsroom
Senior Pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress at the Southern Baptist megachurch First Baptist Dallas
during a Celebrate Freedom Rally in Dallas. (Photo by Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo)
    A Texas pastor has called on Americans to stand up for the First Amendment and warned religious liberty was not safe under the Biden administration.    In an interview with WBAP over the weekend, Dr. Robert Jeffress said it has been clear Joe Biden has become weak and aimless on First Amendment rights.
    The Pastor of First Baptist Dallas Church was asked to weigh in on a recent effort by the far-left to push a case through the court system, which aims to block religious schools from receiving federal funds.    Biden’s Department of Justice initially promised to “vigorously” defend the interests of religious liberty for Christian public colleges and universities.
    Jeffress criticized Biden for quickly caving to backlash from the radical left and amending the words “vigorously” and “ultimate objective” from the court filing.
    “The Biden administration responded by saying we will ‘vigorously’ defend the religious exemption and they got such backlash from the LGBTQ community that they quickly revised their filing and removed their word vigorously,” he explained.    “The fact is they’re not going to defend religious liberty at all.”
Joe Biden in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images)
    During the interview, Jeffress also pointed out religiosity is central to America’s founding and cited many quotes and documents used by the majority of our Founding Fathers that come straight from the Bible.
    “It can be concluded that the Bible, perhaps more than the Constitution, is America’s founding document,” he expressed. “…So many of our ideas about freedom and governance come straight from the Bible.”
    Jeffries also argued Biden has created a culture that is hostile to this.
    “America is a Christian nation.    You can’t look at our history and deny that fact,” he asserted.    “The fact is, there are people not only trying to cancel that truth, they are trying to erase our history.”
    Jeffries went on to mention he does not believe God wants Americans to put their heads in the sand and be unaware of how deeply the Biden administration is changing the nation’s culture.    He argued the nation is becoming “more ungodly” every day in consideration to how quickly Biden has transformed America from the most pro-life nation under President Trump and has become the most pro-abortion leader in history.

6/29/2021 Pope voices US ‘affection’ in meeting with Blinken - Unclear if Communion controversy discussed by Frances D’Emilio, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis expressed his “affection” for the American people as he met Monday with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
    Blinken declined to delve into “domestic politics” when later asked if they discussed a campaign by U.S. bishops to deny Holy Communion to Roman Catholic politicians like the U.S. president who support abortion rights.
    The Vatican said Francis and Blinken spoke for about 40 minutes, a long time considering that Blinken isn’t the top U.S. administration leader.
    The closed-door meeting in the Apostolic Palace “played out in a cordial atmosphere,” a Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said.    The meeting “was for the pope, the occasion to recall his 2015 visit and to express his affection and his attention to the people of the United States of America.”
    Bruni was referring to the pontiff’s U.S. pilgrimage, which included a meeting at the White House with former President Barack Obama.    In recent years, the U.S. church hierarchy has been increasingly more polarized about U.S. politics and politicians.
    Many of the more conservative U.S. bishops have been clamoring for a clear directive from their ranks against giving Communion to U.S. political figures who are Roman Catholics and support women’s right to abortion.    This campaign puts the heat on President Joe Biden, a Catholic who has said that while he personally opposes abortion, he supports abortion rights.
    Earlier this month, the U.S. churchmen decided to craft a document about Communion.    A month earlier, Francis’ top official on doctrinal orthodoxy had urged the bishops to think the matter through thoroughly and aim to keep divisions to the minimum.
    Blinken declined to wade into the issue when he was asked in Rome after his Vatican visit if he and Francis had discussed the divisive issue.
    “One of the luxuries of my job is that I don’t do domestic politics,” said Blinken, who described his talks with the pope as “extremely warm and very wide-ranging.”
    Francis hasn’t weighed in publicly on the latest squabble in the long-running wrangling over the Communion issue within the U.S. Conference of Bishops.
    Blinken had high praise for Francis and the opportunity to be the highest level official in the fledgling Biden administration to have a meeting with the pontiff.
    “I was very gratified by the meeting and gratified as well by the strong leadership of His Holiness on the pandemic, on climate change” and on “the challenge that we have to address on irregular migration and refugees,” Blinken said.
    Blinken was also given a guided, private tour of the Sistine Chapel and other Renaissance masterpieces.
    He had meetings with Italian officials before his scheduled evening flight to southern Italy for Tuesday’s Group of 20 meeting of foreign ministers, which is focused on improving collaboration among nations on climate change, health issues and development.
Pope Francis and Antony Blinken spoke for about 40 minutes, a long time since
Blinken isn’t the top U.S. administration leader. VATICAN MEDIA VIA AP PHOTO

6/29/2021 Justices won’t hear trans bathroom case - Ruling that found school’s policy to be discriminatory will stand by John Fritze, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday declined to wade into a dispute over whether schools may bar transgender students from using a bathroom that reflects their gender identity, permitting a lower court ruling against those prohibitions to stand.
    At issue in the case was whether federal anti-discrimination law applied to LGBTQ students.    Gloucester County School Board in Virginia argued its policy of requiring transgender students to use unisex bathrooms was permitted under a 50-year-old law that prohibits discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.
    By not taking the case, the Supreme Court without comment let stand a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that found the school’s policy discriminated against Gavin Grimm, a transgender man who was denied access to the boys’ bathroom years ago when he was a high school student.
    “I am glad that my years-long fight to have my school see me for who I am is over,” Grimm said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented him in the case.    “Trans youth deserve to use the bathroom in peace without being humiliated and stigmatized by their own school boards and elected officials.”
    Neither the school district nor its attorneys responded to a request for comment.
    Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said they would have taken the case, though they did not elaborate on their position.    The     Supreme Court did not rule on the underlying legal questions and experts say more cases involving transgender rights will arrive at the high court as conservative states pass a bevy of laws restricting those rights.
    The case returned to the court at a time when the Biden administration is seeking to expand legal protections for transgender students.    In one of his first executive orders, President Joe Biden said the federal government would seek to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
    The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case once before, in 2016, based on guidance from the Obama administration that nudged schools to adopt policies favoring transgender students.    But the court dropped the case months later, wiping out a lower court ruling for Grimm, when the Trump administration withdrew the guidance.    Biden’s administration reinstated the Obama-era guidance earlier this month.
    Grimm’s case, meanwhile, continued to wind its way back through the federal courts, even as he graduated from high school and moved to California for college.    In the meantime, the Supreme Court held last yearthat prohibitions on workplace discrimination on the basis of “sex” also extended protections to LGBTQ Americans.    The legal fight between LGBTQ advocates and their opponents has since shifted to whether other laws that bar “sex” discrimination similarly protect people in other settings based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
    That debate featured prominently in Grimm’s case.
    Grimm was a rising sophomore when he changed his first name to Gavin and began using male pronouns.    Officials at Gloucester High School were supportive, but blowback from parents prompted the school board to bar Grimm from the boys’ bathroom, directing him instead to unisex bathrooms – three of which were built in response to the controversy.
    Grimm said the mandate made him feel “stigmatized and isolated.”    The unisex bathrooms were unavailable when he attended football games and afterschool activities.    Grimm would often “hold it,” leading to urinary tract infections.    He sued in 2015, claiming the board’s policy violated Title IX and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
    Though the ACLU and LGBTQ advocates applauded the court’s decision as a victory, the legal ramification was less clear.    Appeals courts in Chicago and Atlanta, as well as the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, have held that schools violate federal law when they prohibit transgender boys from using the same restrooms as cisgender boys. Butthat legal question remains unsettled at the national level.
    “The Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the Grimm case is a victory for trans students and it might influence how some lower courts view similar cases,” said Jami Taylor, political science professor at The University of Toledo and an expert on LGBTQ policies.    “However, it does not set national precedent.”
    That lack of clarity comes amid an onslaught of state laws attempting to limit transgender rights.    Those include a Tennessee law requiring transgender students to compete in school sports according to their sex assigned at birth.    Arkansas this year became the first state to ban gender-affirming treatments for transgender minors.
A federal court upheld Gavin Grimm’s choice of bathroom facilities. GETTY IMAGES

6/29/2021 Supreme Court Wraps Up Session With Rulings On Immigration, Tax Code & More by OAN Newsroom
The U.S. Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
    The Supreme Court issued rulings on a number of high profile cases involving immigration law, tax code and more.
    Justice Clarence Thomas delivered a rare statement saying federal marijuana laws may no longer be necessary.    His comments kicked off a packed day for the high court on Monday.    Thomas went on to say the federal government uses a “half-in, half-out” approach both tolerating and forbidding local use of marijuana at the same time.    The statement followed a court decision to deny hearing the appeal of a Colorado medical marijuana dispensary after they were not granted federal tax breaks like other businesses.
    The court also denied an appeal in a case regarding transgender students at a Virginia school using the restroom of their choice.    The supreme court revealed it will not be considering a school board’s challenge to a ruling, striking down its bathroom policy.    This leaves in place a decision in favor of now former high school student Gavin Grimm who had first launched a lawsuit on part of wanting to use the bathroom of his choice.
    Another major ruling the court handed down involved a conflict between New Hampshire and Massachusetts.    New Hampshire argued such Massachusetts’s decision to tax out-of-state workers working from home as if they were in-state worker violated their citizens’ rights as those working from home were physically working in New Hampshire.    The Supreme Court stated, however, if individuals have grievances with Massachusetts’ tax law then they should fight it themselves.
    Perhaps the biggest news coming from the bench, however, was the addition of Patel v. Garland to the docket.    The case in which an immigrant from India argues he should avoid deportation and be given a green card after lying about his citizenship on a driver’s license application.    Patel entered the United States illegally in 1992 and is relying on a provision of immigration law granting discretionary relief in certain circumstances.
    The decisions mark some of the last to come from the high court for the current session before the summer recess.

6/29/2021 Calif. Bans State Funded Travel To 17 States Over Anti- LGBTQ Laws by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this April 23, 2021, file photo, California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks
in Sacramento, Calif. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP, Pool, File)
    Woke California lawmakers passed legislation banning state-funded travel to five additional states whose stance on transgender and LGBTQ rights do not align with California’s.    The state’s far-left attorney general, Rob Bonta, announced the ban on Monday and said he’s committed to protecting transgender children from “a recent dangerous wave of discriminatory new bills signed into law in states across the country.”
    “California is adding the following five states to our restrictions list: Arkansas, Florida, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia,” Bonta stated.    “Of those states, most are being added in part because they are working to prevent transgender women and girls from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.”
    Meanwhile, many have accused the California’s attorney general of using divisive tactics to target conservative states.    Of the now 17 states on California’s “no fly list,” not one voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.    This suggests the restrictions are not about protecting LGBTQ rights, but rather about preventing the spread of conservatism.
    Bonta went on to say California is only going to spend money on travel to state’s whose values align with their own.
    “Let me start by saying I don’t know that its punitive so much as it’s aligning how we spend our dollars in California, how we choose to spend our dollars consistent with our values,” he stated.    “We want to spend on state travel when our employees and our people are going to states that have values similar to ours.”
    Meanwhile, some states on California’s list have argued the ban is unconstitutional.    Back in April, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge brought fourth by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) who argued the California law is a misguided attempt to police other states.
    Bonta did not provide information on the financial impact the travel ban will have on the 17 listed states.

6/30/2021 Canada’s Senate Puts LGBT Conversion Therapy Bill On Hold For Summer
FILE PHOTO: The transgender pride (L), pride (C) and Canada 150 pride flags fly following a flag raising
ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo
    OTTAWA (Reuters) – A pledge by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ban LGBT conversion therapy has been delayed until at least September, after an attempt to recall the Senate over the summer to deal with the bill failed late on Tuesday.
    Canada’s Senate, or upper chamber, held special sittings earlier this week to deal with a raft of bills passed last week by House of Commons lawmakers ahead of their summer break, adopting the key budget bill late last night.
    A push by independent senators to add summer sittings to deal with other bills, like the conversion therapy one, was blocked by some Conservative senators.
    Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday told reporters that she was frustrated that the Senate did not see through Bill C-6, which passed by Canada’s House of Commons 263 to 63 last week.
    “Disappointed is too weak a word,” she said.    “This is something that would really help Canadians and not doing it really hurts a lot of people.”
    Aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, conversion therapy can include talk therapy, hypnosis, electric shocks and fasting.    The American Medical Association has condemned the practice as “harmful and ineffective.”
    The bill will be considered when the Senate reconvenes in late September, though if an election is called before then, the legislation will die with all other unfinished business.
    Trudeau, whose Liberals have a minority government, is eyeing a snap election in September to capitalize on Canada’s emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic, two sources told Reuters.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, Editing by Nick Zieminski)

6/30/2021 A Church In Brazil Takes On A New Mission, Baking Bread For The Poor
Residents of Cidade de Deus slum, receive food and bread from members of the Institute doAcao, which was produced
at the Santuario de Nossa Senhora de Fatima (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima), amid the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 24, 2021. Picture taken June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
    RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – As Brazil battles a pandemic that has taken over half a million lives and thrust millions more further into poverty, a church in the west of Rio de Janeiro has assumed a new mission: to bake thousands of loaves of bread.
    Since its creation in April of last year, the Pão de Fátima – or Fátima’s Bread – social action program has donated more than 2 million hunks of freshly baked bread to Brazilians hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The program is supported by volunteers who take bread, hot food and other basic goods to low-income families, rehabilitation centers, homes for the elderly and the homeless.
    Approximately 12.8% of Brazil’s population now lives below the poverty line of 246 reais ($49.35) a month, according to estimates from think tank Getulio Vargas Foundation – the highest rate in a decade.
    More than half of the country’s households experienced some degree of food insecurity as unemployment and food prices surged during the pandemic, giving rise to long soup kitchen queues and people begging for grocery money on the streets.
    “We are very happy to be able to help, but seeing the hardship and misery on people’s faces is very painful,” said Berthaldo Souza Soares, one of the program’s leaders.    “We are talking about the city of Rio de Janeiro – of 5, 10, 15, 20 kilometers of poverty hot spots and people who suffer from hunger.”
    The government’s emergency cash payments to the country’s most vulnerable helped alleviate poverty levels in 2020, but have been reduced as slow vaccination efforts and continuing high infection rates curb Brazil’s economic recovery.
($1 = 4.9853 reais)
(Reporting by Sergio Queiroz; writing by Jimin Kang; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

6/30/2021 Gender Equality Makes Democracy Stronger, Says Kamala Harris
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris makes virtual remarks from the South Court Auditorium at the White House Complex
in Washington, U.S., during the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, June 30, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
    PARIS (Reuters) – Women deprived of freedom of speech or the freedom to vote should fight for their rights and know that the United States stands beside them, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said on Wednesday.
    Harris told the Generation Equality Forum at a summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron that gender equality was paramount to strengthening democracy.
    “Use the tools for democracy, whether that is the freedom of speech or the freedom to vote.    And if you do not yet have those freedoms, fight for them and know we will fight alongside you,” Harris told the summit by video link.
    Democracy was in peril in countries around the world, Harris said.
    “If we want to strengthen democracy, we must fight for gender equality.    Because here is the truth: Democracy is strongest when everyone participates and it is weaker when people are left out,” the vice president said.
    Two months after entering office, Harris said President Joe Biden’s administration would revitalize Washington’s partnership with U.N. Women – a U.N. body dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
    Under former President Donald Trump, the United States led a push at the United Nations against the promotion of women’s sexual and reproductive rights and health because it saw that as code for abortion.
    Harris struck a different tone.
    “When women have access to reproductive healthcare to stay healthy, they can participate more fully and our democracy grows stronger,” she said.
    Melinda Gates said the Gates Foundation would direct $2.1 billion in new money to strengthening gender equality.    More than half would go to sexual health and reproductive rights, while $100 million would be spent on helping get women into positions of power in government and the workplace.
    “Women should not only have a seat at the table, they should be in every single room where policy and decisions are being made,” Gates said.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Giles Elgood)

    This page created on 4/1/2021, and updated each month by 4/30/2021, 5/31/2020, 6/30/2021.

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