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.

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4/1/2022 3 takeaways from the installation of new leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville - Fabre: ‘We need to listen to each other’ by Ana Alvarez Brinez, Louisville Courier Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK
    The Rev. Shelton J. Fabre was installed Wednesday as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville.
    Fabre, a 58-year-old Louisiana native, is the fifth archbishop and 10th bishop in Louisville’s history and the first African American to hold that title.    His installation was celebrated in a Mass at the Kentucky International Convention Center.
    “We need to listen to each other,” Fabre said in his homily.    "We in the archdiocese of Louisville are in transition.”
    Fabre served as the bishop for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in southeastern Louisiana since 2013.    The Holy See Press Office in Rome announced on Feb. 8 that he would take the position in Louisville, replacing Archbishop Joseph Kurtz.
    Here are three takeaways from the installation and Mass:
Fabre says he wants to rebuild relationships
    In his homily, the new archbishop said the people of the archdiocese will need to get to know him, and vice versa.
    “I need your voice to speak to me the needs of our family that spans 24 counties and 8,000 square miles, we are the Archdiocese of Louisville,”‘ he said. “The archdiocese is its people.”     That includes 200,000 Catholics spread across those counties.     Fabre referenced the Gospel reading from the Book of Luke, which dealt with Jesus meeting Simon Peter and telling him where to cast his nets to catch fish.    After Peter and the other fishermen did so, their nets were filled to the breaking point and the fishermen pulled their boats ashore to follow Jesus.
    Fabre did not mention his plans as archbishop, but he said the future of the community depends on the church’s unity and “keeping our eyes focused.”
Fabre lists challenges for the archdiocese
    In his homily, Fabre listed some of the challenges he sees for the church.    He mentioned the coronavirus pandemic, racism, “assaults on religious freedom,” poverty and “the need for healing the woundedness of marriage and family life.”
    He again referenced the Gospel, saying people need to be united to address these issues.    Fabre only briefly touched on those topics, but he has spoken at length about some of them previously.    In March 2021, he spoke at an online leadership institute organized by the archdiocese where he decried the “grave sin of racism” and spoke of ways to combat it in the church and community.
    He took on the role of chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism on 2018.    Two years into holding his title, he published a video directed to his colleagues to find “substantive ways to enact systemic change” after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed by police officers in Minneapolis and Louisville.
Fabre also has been outspoken in opposing same-sex marriage.
    In January 2021, he co-authored a statement with other Catholic bishops expressing concerns with President Joe Biden’s executive order to expand federal protections against sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity, which the letter called “misguided.”
Fabre gets a laugh amid all the ceremony
    Events at the convention center, which started with Fabre’s formal installation, drew hundreds of people and a multitude of clergy members.
    Archbishop Christophe Pierre – who is the Apostolic nuncio, or papal representative, to the U.S. – read the letter from Pope Francis announcing Fabre as the new archbishop in Louisville.
    Along with Pierre, others in attenis dance were officials from the Knights and Ladies of Peter Claver, an African American Catholic organization; officials from the Knights of Columbus; deacons; priests; cardinals; bishops; and the College of Consultors.    The latter a group of nine priests who will assist Fabre as archbishop, according to the archdiocese.
    The procession of church leaders at the beginning of the Mass took roughly 15 minutes.    In his homily, Fabre acknowledged their presence and expressed gratitude to Kurtz, who served as archbishop since 2007 until earlier this year when Fabre was announced as his replacement, and submitted his resignation following his 75th birthday, as is required by the church.
    Fabre said it would be an “honor” to follow Kurtz and added that “we look forward to your continued presence and ministry here with us.”
    Then he added a joke that drew laughter and applause from the congregation.
    “Please continue to answer your phone when my number pops up,” Fabre said, “because you might be seeing it a lot.”
    In his homily, Fabre listed some of the challenges he sees for the church.    He mentioned the coronavirus pandemic, racism, “assaults on religious freedom,” poverty and “the need for healing the woundedness of marriage and family life.”
Archbishop Shelton Fabre smiles Wednesday at the Kentucky International Convention Center. Fabre
is the 10th bishop and the fifth archbishop of Louisville. PHOTOS BY MATT STONE/COURIER JOURNAL
The ceremony for the installation of Archbishop Shelton Fabre was held Wednesday afternoon at the Kentucky International Convention Center.
Fabre, a 58-year-old Louisiana native, is the first African American to hold the title in Louisville.
Archbishop Shelton Fabre smiles during the ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the Kentucky International Convention
Center. Fabre is the 10th bishop and the fifth archbishop of Louisville. MATT STONE/COURIER JOURNAL

4/1/2022 Arizona abortion, trans bills signed - GOP-led states pursue conservative agendas by Bob Christie and Jonathan J. Cooper, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    PHOENIX – Arizona’s Republican governor signed a series of bills Wednesday targeting abortion and transgender rights, joining a growing list of GOP-led states pursuing a conservative social agenda.
    The measures signed by Gov. Doug Ducey will outlaw abortion after 15 weeks if the U.S. Supreme Court allows it, prohibit gender confirmation surgery for minors and ban transgender girls from playing on girls and women’s sports teams.
    Bills targeting abortion and transgender rights have been popular with the conservative base in states where Republicans dominate but could be politically risky in a battleground state where Democrats have made significant inroads.
    Ducey also signed the first of what is expected to be a host of election laws sent to him by majority Republican lawmakers in the name of election security.
    He approved a bill requiring all voters to prove their citizenship, drawing fierce opposition from voting rights advocates who say it risks canceling the voter registrations for some 200,000 longtime voters.    The bill also requires anyone newly registering to vote to provide proof of their address.
    The Arizona abortion legislation mirrors a Mississippi law now being considered by the nation’s high court.    The bill explicitly says it does not overrule a state law in place for more than 100 years that would ban abortion outright if the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that enshrined the right to abortion in law.
    'In Arizona, we know there is immeasurable value in every life – including preborn life,' Ducey said in a signing letter.    'I believe it is each state’s responsibility to protect them.'
    Ducey is an abortion opponent who has signed every piece of anti-abortion legislation that has reached his desk since he took office in 2015.    He said late last year that he hoped the Supreme Court overturns the Roe decision.
    Florida lawmakers passed a similar 15-week abortion ban last month.
    Ducey’s signing letter was sent to Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, an abortion rights supporter who is seeking her party’s nomination in November’s election to replace Ducey, who is term-limited.
    'Today marks a giant step backward in the fight for equality for women across Arizona and across the country,' Hobbs said in a statement.    'With Governor Ducey’s signature, our elected leaders have chosen to side with the extremists in their party and turn their backs on the overwhelming majority of Arizonans who support the constitutional right to choose.'
    NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, said politicians pushing abortion bans are banking on the Supreme Court upholding the Mississippi law and overturning Roe.
    'If that happens, it will open the floodgates to a barrage of dangerous legislation that gives politicians more power and control over our lives,' Caroline Mello Roberson, the group’s regional director, said in a statement.
    Other states are considering similar bans or passing versions of a ban enacted in Texas last year that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy that the Supreme Court has refused to block.
    Meanwhile, Arizona joins a dozen other states with limits on sports participation for trans girls and becomes the third state to try and limit health care options for transgender teens.    Oklahoma’s governor signed a sports ban on Wednesday.
    Until two years ago, no state had passed a law regulating gender-designated youth sports.    But the issue has become front and center in Republican-led statehouses since Idaho lawmakers passed the nation’s first sports participation law in 2020.    That law is now blocked in court, along with another in West Virginia.
    Republicans have said blocking transgender athletes from girls sports teams would protect the integrity of women’s sports, claiming that trans athletes would have an advantage.    Ducey echoed that sentiment in his signing statement, saying the bill ensures girls and woman can compete 'on a level playing field.'
    Many point to the transgender collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas, who won an individual title at the NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championship last week.
    But there are few trans athletes in Arizona schools.    Since 2017, about 16 trans athletes have asked for waivers to play on teams that align with their gender identities out of about 170,000 high school athletes in the state and not all were granted, according to the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
    Skyler Morrison, a transgender teen who lives in Phoenix, testified against the Legislation and called for Ducey to veto it, tweeted that she was 'truly disgusted and terrified for all of my trans family here.'
    Critics said the legislation dehumanizes trans youth to address an issue that hasn’t been a problem.    They said decisions about health care should be left to trans children, their parents and their health care providers.
    'We’re talking about legislating bullying against children who are already struggling just to get by,' Democratic Rep. Kelli Butler said during the House debate on the sports bill last week.

4/1/2022 LGBTQ groups sue Fla. over law by Anthony Izaguirre, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gay rights advocates sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday to block a new law that forbids classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
    The law has catapulted Florida and DeSantis, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, to the forefront of the country’s culture wars.    Critics call it the “Don’t Say Gay” law and argue that its true intent is to marginalize LGBTQ people and their families.
    The challenge filed in federal court in Tallahassee on behalf of Equality Florida and Family Equality alleges that the law violates the constitutionally protected rights of free speech, equal protection and due process of students and families.
    “This effort to control young minds through state censorship – and to demean LGBTQ lives by denying their reality – is a grave abuse of power,” the lawsuit says.
    “The State of Florida has no right to declare them (LGBTQ people and their families) outcasts, or to treat their allies as outlaws, by punishing schools where someone dares to affirm their identity and dignity,” the lawsuit says.
    The law deliberately employs broad terms and invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement, empowering parents to be roving censors who can sue school boards for damages based on any perceived violation, the lawsuit adds.

4/1/2022 Biden honors Transgender Day, calls GOP bills ‘wrong’ by Darlene Superville, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Thursday commemorated Transgender Day of Visibility by celebrating prominent transgender Americans and advocating against what his administration terms 'dangerous anti-transgender legislative attacks' in statehouses across the country.
    Biden’s actions come as Republican leaders have advanced measures targeting transgender people as part of a broader push to stoke culture wars heading into a critical election season. The Democratic president has said such legislation is 'wrong.'
    The administration announced new measures Thursday aimed at making the federal government more inclusive for transgender people, including through the use of a new 'X' gender marker on U.S. passport applications, beginning on April 11, and new Transportation Security Administration scanners that are gender-neutral.
    It is working to expand the availability of the 'X' gender marker to airlines and federal travel programs and will make it easier for transgender people to change their gender information in Social Security Administration records.
    Visitors to the White House complex soon will also be able to choose an 'X' gender marker option in the White House Worker and Visitor Entry System, which is used to conduct screening background checks.
    At airports, changes will be made to screening scanners along with the introduction of the use of an 'X' for travelers going through Precheck who do not identify as male or female.    Transportation Security Administration agents will receive new instructions on how to make screening procedures less invasive and will work with airlines to promote acceptance of the 'X' gender marker.
    'Transgender Americans continue to face discrimination, harassment, and barriers to opportunity,' Biden wrote in a proclamation marking the day.    'In the past year, hundreds of anti-transgender bills in states were proposed across America, most of them targeting transgender kids.    The onslaught has continued this year.    These bills are wrong.'
    Biden planned to release a video message to transgender Americans on Thursday.
    The administration’s actions follow recent steps at the state level to limit activity by transgender people.    At least 10 states have banned transgender athletes from participating in sports at all levels in a way that is consistent with their gender identity.
    In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is seeking reelection, has ordered the state’s child welfare agency to probe reports of gender-confirming care for kids as abuse.
    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is running for reelection and considering a 2024 presidential bid, on Monday signed into law a measure, dubbed by opponents as the 'Don’t Say Gay' bill, that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.    The law has drawn intense national scrutiny from critics who argue it marginalizes LGBTQ people.
    Republicans and advocates of the law argue that discussion of these topics should be between parents and their children.
The Biden administration on Thursday announced measures
intended to boost transgender inclusion in the government. Patrick Semansky/AP

4/2/2022 Pope apologizes to the Indigenous - Native children suffered abuse at Canada schools by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Friday made a historic apology to Indigenous peoples for the “deplorable” abuses they suffered in     Canada’s Catholic run residential schools and said he hoped to visit Canada in late July to deliver the apology in person to survivors of the church’s misguided missionary zeal.
    Francis begged forgiveness during an audience with dozens of members of the Metis, Inuit and First Nations communities who came to Rome seeking a papal apology and a commitment from the Catholic Church to repair the damage.    The first pope from the Americas said he hoped to visit Canada around the Feast of St. Anna, which falls on July 26.
    More than 150,000 native children in Canada were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes and culture.    The aim was to Christianize and assimilate them into mainstream society, which previous Canadian governments considered superior.
    The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse was rampant at the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages.    That legacy of abuse and isolation from family has been cited by Indigenous leaders as a root cause of the epidemic rates of alcohol and drug addiction now on Canadian reservations.
    After hearing their stories all week, Francis told the Indigenous that the coelder lonial project ripped children from their families, cutting off their roots, traditions and culture and provoking intergenerational trauma that is still being felt today.    He said it was a “counter-witness” to the same Gospel that the residential school system purported to uphold.
    “For the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask forgiveness of the Lord,” Francis said.    “And I want to tell you from my heart, that I am greatly pained.    And I unite myself with the Canadian bishops in apologizing.”     The trip to Rome by the Indigenous was years in the making but gained momentum last year after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at some residential schools in Canada.    The three groups of Indigenous met separately with Francis over several hours this week, telling him their stories, culminating with Friday’s audience.
    The president of the Metis National Council, Cassidy Caron, said the Metis sitting next to her burst into tears upon hearing what she said was a long overdue apology.
    “The pope’s words today were historic, to be sure.    They were necessary, and I appreciate them deeply,” Caron told reporters in St. Peter’s Square.    “And I now look forward to the pope’s visit to Canada, where he can offer those sincere words of apology directly to our survivors and their families, whose acceptance and healing ultimately matters most.”
    First Nations’ Chief Gerald Antoine echoed the sentiment, saying Francis recognized the cultural “genocide” that had been inflicted on Indigenous people.
    “Today is a day that we’ve been waiting for.    And certainly, one that will be uplifted in our history,” he said.    “It’s a historical first step, however, only a first step.”
    Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, thanked Francis for addressing all the issues the Indigenous people had brought to him.    “And he did so in a way that really showed his empathy towards the Indigenous people of Canada,” he said.
    Nearly three-quarters of Canada’s 130 residential schools were run by Catholic missionary congregations.
    Last May, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation announced the discovery of 215 gravesites near Kamloops, British Columbia, that were found using ground-penetrating radar.    It was Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school and the discovery of the graves was the first of numerous, similar grim sites across the country.
    Even before the grave sites were discovered, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission specifically called for a papal apology to be delivered on Canadian soil for the church’s role in the abuses.
    In addition, as part of a settlement of a lawsuit involving the Canadian government, churches and the approximately 90,000 surviving students, Canada paid reparations that amounted to billions of dollars being transferred to Indigenous communities.    The Catholic Church, for its part, has paid over $50 million and now intends to add $30 million more over the next five years.
    Francis said he felt shame for the role that Catholic educator had played in the harm, “in the abuse and disrespect for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values,” he said.    “It is evident that the contents of the faith cannot be transmitted in a way that is extraneous to the faith itself.”
    “It is chilling to think of determined efforts to instill a sense of inferiority, to rob people of their cultural identity, to sever their roots, and to consider all the personal and social effects that this continues to entail: unresolved traumas that have become inter-generational traumas,” he said.
An Indigenous artist from Canada performs in St. Peter’s Square at the
Vatican on Friday. Many Indigenous people met with the pope. ALESSANDRA TARANTINO/AP

Pope Francis

4/3/2022 FROM WIRE REPORTS Appeal filed for ex-clerk who refused marriage licenses
    ASHLAND, Ky. – Attorneys for a former Kentucky clerk who wouldn’t issue marriage licenses to two same-sex couples have appealed a federal court ruling that she violated the couples’ constitutional rights and might have to pay damages.    Kim Davis briefly went to jail in 2015 over her refusal, which she based on her belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.    A jury trial will be needed to determine any damages the couples might be owed.    A date was not set during a hearing Friday pending the appeal.

4/5/2022 Putin proves religion, politics are a bad mix
    Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has framed his country’s brutal invasion of Ukraine as part of a “metaphysical” battle against Western values that bless so-called sins like gay pride parades.
    But the patriarch’s concern for sexual morality hasn’t stopped him from jumping into bed with Russian President Vladimir Putin, politically.    And that is a sin.
    Strange bedfellows pose a perennial problem for religious leaders – and not just for them but for their faith communities as well.    As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wisely said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.”    King knew what he was talking about.    All manner of politicians offered him worldly power if he was willing to sanction their policies.    But without the Black church’s prophetic witness – which always requires distance from the powers that be – there would have been no civil rights movement.
Governments need accountability
    What’s true in the United States also is true in Ukraine and Russia.    Will religion be reduced to a tool of authoritarians, as King warned, or will it be the critic and guide that he said governments always need?
    The situation now – and importance of moral leadership in Russia – could not be more urgent: Russian bombs are raining down on hospitals, schools, desperate families and vulnerable children.    The world is watching in horror.
    As Pope Francis told Kirill during a virtual meeting between the two church leaders on March 16, “The church must not use the language of politics but the language of Jesus.”
    Naming Putin’s war and the Russian military machine’s assault on an entire country as “evil” should be the first thing religious leaders do during a moral outrage like this one.    The good news is that religious leaders are rising up around the world and directly challenging Patriarch Kirill to rethink his support for his country’s immoral invasion.
Use influence to end war
    I was part of one such effort: More than 100 U. S. church leaders, including heads of denominations and charities, prominent writers and activists, wrote to Kirill and said: 'With broken hearts, we are making an earnest plea that you use your voice and profound influence to call for an end to the hostilities and war in Ukraine and intervene with authorities in your nation to do so.'
    Our letter was neither political nor ideological, but rather “ecclesial” – a message from one community of faith leaders to another.
    The message we wanted to impart was that Kirill’s support for Russia’s invasion might be good for his relationship with Putin, who gave him the country’s highest award in November, but it is disastrous for the people of Ukraine and for his relationship with other Christians, including members of his Orthodox tradition.
    An increasing number of Orthodox Christian leaders are cutting ties with Kirill.    At least 20 have taken the symbolic but spiritually significant step of removing his name from their ritual prayers during worship services, citing his failure to condemn the war, while clergy groups also are demanding their church declare independence from the Moscow Patriarchate, according to National Catholic Reporter.    At least one Russian Orthodox church in Amsterdam announced it would sever its ties with the patriarch.
Partisanship overwhelms the faith
    In the United States, we’ve seen similar divisions erupt among white evangelicals over their staunch support for former President Donald Trump.    As columnist David Brooks wrote recently in The New York Times, “Partisan politics has swamped what is supposed to be a religious movement.”
    “This politicization is one reason people have cited to explain why so many are leaving the faith,” Brooks continued, pointing to surveys that show white evangelicals declining as a percentage of the American population.
    Sociologist David Campbell argues that the religious right’s obsession with partisan politics – with political power, really – is costing them a generation of disciples.
    “Many Americans – especially young people – see religion as bound up with political conservatism, and the Republican Party specifically,” Campbell writes.    “Since that is not their party, or their politics, they do not want to identify as being religious.”
    It’s not easy to stand up to political power.    As the Bible tells us, the prophets were rarely popular in their home countries, especially in the royal courts and corridors of power.    King’s decision to speak out against the Vietnam War resulted in immense criticism.
    But prophetic courage is required of religious leaders, even when great risk is involved, and we must accept that criticism comes with the territory.    It shouldn’t stop us from examining our relationships to people in power: Are we bedfellows, court chaplains or prophets?
    As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reminded President Joe Biden last month during an address to Congress, being a leader in this world means being a “leader of peace.”    Our lives depend on it.
    The Rev. Jim Wallis is founding director and holds the chair in Faith and Justice of the Georgetown University Center on Faith and Justice.    He is an author, theologian and founder of the Christian social justice advocacy organization and publication Sojourners.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill releases doves to mark Annunciation Day in Moscow. Kirill has framed Russia’s
invasion of Ukraine as part of a “metaphysical” battle against Western values. YURI KOCHETKOV/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Jim Wallis Georgetown University Center on Faith and Justice

4/6/2022 Okla. abortion bill headed to governor by Sean Murphy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House gave final legislative approval on Tuesday to a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
    With little discussion and no debate, the Republican-controlled House voted 70-14 to send the bill to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has previously said he’d sign any anti-abortion bill that comes to his desk.
    The bill is one of several anti-abortion measures still alive in Oklahoma’s Legislature this year, part of a trend of GOP-led states passing aggressive antiabortion legislation as the conservative U.S. Supreme Court is considering ratcheting back abortion rights that have been in place for nearly 50 years.
    The Oklahoma bill, which passed the Senate last year, makes an exception only for an abortion performed to save the life of the mother, said GOP state Rep. Jim Olsen, of Roland, who sponsored the bill. Under the bill, a person convicted of performing an abortion would face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
    “The penalties are for the doctor, not for the woman,” Olsen said.
    Similar anti-abortion bills approved by the Oklahoma Legislature and in other conservative states in recent years have been stopped by the courts as unconstitutional, but anti-abortion lawmakers have been buoyed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow new Texas abortion restrictions to remain in place.    The new Texas law, the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the U.S. in decades, leaves enforcement up to private citizens, who are entitled to collect what critics call a “bounty” of $10,000 if they bring a successful lawsuit against a provider or anyone who helps a patient obtain an abortion.    Several states, including Oklahoma, are pursuing similar legislation this year.
    The Oklahoma bill’s passage came on the same day as more than 100 people attended a “Bans Off Oklahoma” rally outside the Capitol in support of abortion rights.
    “These legislators have continued their relentless attacks on our freedoms,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes.    “These restrictions are not about improving the safety of the work that we do.    They are about shaming and stigmatizing people who need and deserve abortion access.”
    Wales said Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic in Oklahoma has seen an 800% increase in the number of women from Texas after that state passed its new anti-abortion law last year.
    The Texas law bans abortion once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy, without exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
    Also Tuesday, the Oklahoma House adopted a resolution to recognize lives lost due to abortion and urge citizens to fly flags at half-staff on Jan. 22, the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.
Protesters attend a “Bans Off Oklahoma” rally Tuesday on the steps
of the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN VIA AP

4/1/2022 Hungary to see EU funding cut over breach by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BRUSSELS – The European Commission will launch proceedings to suspend support payments to Hungary for breaching the 27-nation bloc’s rule-of-law standards, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday.
    It will be the first time that the new conditionality mechanism allowing the European Union to take measures to protect its budget will be used after the EU’s highest court ruled in February that it had been adopted on sound legal basis.
    Von der Leyen’s announcement at the European Parliament came two days after Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared victory in Sunday’s election, claiming a mandate for a fourth term.
    Hungary, a large recipient of EU funds, has come under increasing criticism over the past few years for veering away from democratic norms with policies such as exerting excessive control over the judiciary, stifling media freedom and denying the rights of LGBT people.
    Von der Leyen said her team was not convinced by Hungary’s responses to questions relating to the rule of law.

4/6/2022 Katie Hobbs Refuses To Say If Abortion Should Be Limited by OAN Newsroom
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs looks over the Arizona Presidential Electoral Ballot from the members
of Arizona’s Electoral College, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
    Democrat candidate for Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs refused to give an answer about at what point in a pregnancy she would allow abortion to be banned.    While speaking to local media on Tuesday, Hobbs was pressed on her abortion stance.
    Instead of answering the question when asked if there should be a limit, Hobbs said that abortion is a right and her record speaks for itself.    She was pressed by the host again and she replied that it’s not up to her, just the woman and her doctor.
    “I mean, you know, if it’s not 15-weeks, is it 24-weeks?” she asked.    “Where do you draw the line and say okay, abortions after this point in time, no, it’s a no go.    Abortion is a personal decision between a woman and her family and her doctor.    And that’s something that needs to be discussed in the medical exam room, not by politicians.”
    Banning abortion is never going to stop abortion—the abortion bans we're seeing in Arizona & across the nation aren't just ineffective, they're harmful & dangerous to women.
    I firmly believe in the right to choose & the freedom to do so safely, alongside a trusted care provider.
— Katie Hobbs (@katiehobbs) April 2, 2022
    Hobbs’s comments come on the heels of Republican Governor Doug Ducey signing into law a bill which bans abortions in the state after 15-weeks.

4/7/2022 Oklahoma moves to outlaw abortions by Sean Murphy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House gave final legislative approval on Tuesday to a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
    With little discussion and no debate, the Republican-controlled House voted 70-14 to send the bill to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has previously said he’d sign any anti-abortion bill that comes to his desk.
    The bill is one of several anti-abortion measures still alive in Oklahoma’s Legislature this year, part of a trend of GOP-led states passing aggressive anti-abortion legislation as the conservative U.S. Supreme Court is considering ratcheting back abortion rights that have been in place for nearly 50 years.
    The Oklahoma bill, which passed the Senate last year, makes an exception only for an abortion performed to save the life of the mother, said GOP state Rep. Jim Olsen, of Roland, who sponsored the bill.
    Under the bill, a person convicted of performing an abortion would face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
    “The penalties are for the doctor, not for the woman,” Olsen said.
    Also Tuesday, the Oklahoma House adopted a resolution to recognize lives lost due to abortion and urge citizens to fly flags at half-staff on Jan. 22, the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

4/7/2022 Transgender girls sports ban vetoed by governor of Kentucky by Bruce Schreiner, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky’s Democratic governor on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would bar transgender girls and women from participating in school sports matching their gender identity from sixth grade through college.     In his veto message, Gov. Andy Beshear said the Republican-backed measure “most likely” violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection rights because it “discriminates against transgender children seeking to participate in girls’ or women’s sports.”
    The state’s GOP-dominated legislature will have a chance to override the veto when lawmakers reconvene April 13 for the last two days of this year’s session.    The transgender bill sparked emotional debate at times but cleared both chambers with support from large majorities.
    Republican-led states increasingly have adopted such prohibitions on transgender girls or women, though the culture war-related bans have been challenged in several states as violations of federal law.    Beshear noted that similar measures drew vetoes from Republican governors.
    Under the Kentucky bill, a student’s gender would be determined by the “biological sex” indicated on the student’s original birth certificate issued at the time of birth.
    Republican Sen. Robby Mills, the bill’s lead sponsor, has said the measure would ensure girls and women compete against other “biological females.”
    In vetoing the measure, Beshear said its backers had failed to present a “single instance” in Kentucky of someone gaining a competitive advantage as a result of a ”sex reassignment.”
    “Transgender children deserve public officials’ efforts to demonstrate that they are valued members of our communities through compassion, kindness and empathy, even if not understanding,” the governor wrote.
    Mills has said the bill reflects concerns from parents across the Bluegrass State.    He said it “thinks ahead” to prevent situations where girls or women are unfairly competing against biological males.
    “It would be crushing for a young lady to train her whole career to have it end up competing against a biological male in the state tournament or state finals,” Mills said during a debate on the bill.
    The governor’s veto was hailed by the Fairness Campaign, a Kentucky based LGBTQ advocacy organization.
    The group’s executive director, Chris Hartman, called it a “harmful piece of legislation that would deprive transgender girls and young women of the opportunity to grow and learn from being on a team, simply because of who they are.”
    During a committee hearing, lawmakers heard firsthand accounts from a young transgender girl about how important playing for a middle school field hockey is in her life.

4/8/2022 STATE LEGISLATURE- Gov. Beshear vetoes 8 bills - Includes measures on CRT, trans athletes by Olivia Krauth and Joe Sonka, Louisville Courier Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK
    Among eight vetoes issued Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear aimed at two of education’s most controversial topics this year: transgender student-athletes and “critical race theory.”
    The omnibus Senate Bill 1, Beshear wrote in his veto message, “represents a step backward for public education in the Commonwealth.”
    Its shift of principal and curriculum selection away from school-level councils of teachers and parents to superintendents “lessens, if not eliminates” parent voice, Beshear wrote.
    It “unfairly singles out” Jefferson County’s school board, he continued, by limiting the board to one meeting a month and moving additional authority from the board to the superintendent.    Such conditions would not apply elsewhere in Kentucky.
    And language aimed at CRT fervor tacked into the bill would police needed classroom conversations on race and dictate how history is taught, Beshear wrote.
    In a separate veto message, Beshear said Senate Bill 83 would ban transgender girls and women from playing on girls and women’s sports teams, beginning in sixth grade and running through college, without giving any reason why such a move would be necessary.
    “If it were truly the intention of the General Assembly to prevent unfair advantage in women’s sports, it needed to look no further than the policies of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association,” Beshear wrote in his veto of SB 83.
    Beshear said lawmakers failed to point out a single instance of a Kentucky child gaining an unfair advantage due to being transgender, nor did they share any examples of current KHSAA policy failing to maintain a fair playing field.
    Fairness Campaign Executive Director Chris Hartman said SB 83 has always “been more about fear than fairness.”
    “In Kentucky’s entire school system, there is only one openly transgender girl we know about who is playing on a school sports team,” Hartman said in a statement.
    “But rather than tackle any of the state’s real issues, legislators decided to use their time and power to bully this student and others like her.”
    The Family Foundation issued a statement expressing disappointment over Beshear’s veto.
    “Kentucky girls and women deserve a fair playing field,” said executive director David Walls.    “Kentuckians overwhelmingly support this commonsense bill, but unfortunately, Gov. Beshear chose to side with his woke political base instead of Kentucky’s female athletes.”
    Kentucky’s Republican-dominated legislature will get a chance to override vetoes when they reconvene next week.    SB 83 passed easily with veto-proof margins in both chambers.
    Lawmakers will likely have a tighter vote on Senate Bill 1, which was initially aimed at school councils before ballooning to cover other topics.
    After the House expanded the bill, it narrowly received final passage in the Senate with 21 ‘yes’ votes — one more than the 20 needed to override Beshear’s veto.
Beshear also takes aim at Jefferson County new cities bill
    Among the eight bills vetoed Wednesday by Beshear was House Bill 314, which would dramatically ease the process for creating new cities within Jefferson County by no longer requiring Louisville Metro Council approval.
    Under the bill, a new city or annexation request would be approved if at least 66% of residents in the area signed a petition to do so, while the maximum number of terms a Louisville mayor could serve would be reduced from three to two.
    Echoing the arguments of Democratic elected officials against the bill, Beshear wrote in his veto statement that it “undoes the votes of the citizens of Louisville and Jefferson County to have a consolidated government” in their 2002 ballot initiative.
    The governor added that HB 314 “threatens the success of that merger by putting millions of dollars of revenue at risk” and may cause the city to lose millions more in federal pandemic aid.
    Beshear wrote that the bill “imposes changes on Louisville’s government, without the consent of the people of Louisville,” adding that legislators outside the city who supported it “should think twice, because it sets a terrible precedent under which the General Assembly could turn around and aim similar disruptive actions at other local governments.”
    Republican House members from Louisville who pushed for the bill said this would give South End residents more say over their local services, arguing the city and its police department provide insufficient services.
Here are the other bills Beshear vetoed Wednesday:
* House Bill 248, which states the Kentucky Attorney General is the only statewide constitutional officer who is allowed to expend taxpayer funds on litigation challenging the constitutionality of a bill — a direct response to several lawsuits filed by Beshear to block Republican-led legislation from going into effect.    In his veto statement, Beshear wrote that HB 248 violated several sections of the constitution and was “a blatant attempt by the General Assembly to shield unconstitutional laws it passes from judicial review.”
* House Bill 334, which removes the governor’s ability to make all appointments to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and instead gives the majority of appointments to other statewide constitutional officers — who are all currently Republicans.    In his three page veto statement, Beshear wrote that HB 334 violated the constitution and “is yet another attempt at a power grab” by the legislature.
* House Bill 773, which removes the governor’s authority to appoint any members to the Prosecutors Advisory Council.    Beshear’s veto statement added that it would also eliminate any mechanism for the removal of any member of the council.
* House Bill 271, which moves the Agritourism Advisory Council under the control of the Department of Agriculture and removes the role of Tourism Cabinet.    Beshear’s veto statement called it another power grab.
* Senate Bill 217, which Beshear said he vetoed due to it giving “sole power over procurement and all personnel appointments in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to one person — the commissioner” —then cited critical audits of the department under its current leadership.
    Reach Olivia Krauth at okrauth@ and on Twitter at @oliviakrauth.
Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed Wednesday bills relating to transgender student-athletes
and “critical race theory.” SCOTT UTTERBACK/COURIER JOURNAL

4/8/2022 Religious freedom bill signed - ACLU says measure may put churches above law by Joe Sonka, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    Gov. Andy Beshear signed a religious freedom bill Tuesday that was largely a Republican response to his actions in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, forbidding government discrimination against churches during a state of emergency.
    In addition to prohibiting government agencies from restricting religious organizations “to the same or any greater extent than” other organizations or businesses deemed “essential,” House Bill 43 also creates a cause of action for religious groups to sue the government if discriminated against.
    Beshear’s signature on the bill came over the objections of the ACLU of Kentucky, which had argued the bill could unintentionally go much further, allowing religious groups to violate any laws with impunity during such an emergency.
    Kate Miller, the advocacy director for the ACLU, said her organization repeatedly shared its concerns with legislators and the governor about the bill’s wording, specifically a section defining a discriminatory action as including any imposition of monetary fines, civil or criminal penalties and injunctions.
    “We believe the law, perhaps unintentionally, puts churches, or anyone loosely affiliated with one, above the law,” Miller said.
    “The First Amendment does a fine job protecting religious liberty and we don’t need Kentucky lawmakers tinkering with our constitutionally protected liberties.”
    The bill passed with large majorities in both chambers, with every Republican present voting for it and a majority of Democratic legislators voting against it.
    Though all Republicans voted for it, two GOP members in a Senate committee expressed concerns along the same lines as the ACLU about the right of action against the state, with Sen. Chris McDaniel saying “we’re heading down a dangerous road in response to a dangerous action.”
    “I think that we may be opening ourselves up to some unintended consequences that have not been thought through very well with this,” said McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill.    “I think we have the potential to be headed in some dangerous territory here.”
    In a statement on the signing of HB 43, Beshear spokeswoman Scottie Ellis suggested the new law would still allow the government to take certain regulatory actions against religious organizations without leading to a lawsuit.
    “HB 43 does not eliminate, but instead sets parameters and a process for regulation of religious services and organizations in times of pandemic, which could provide a path for future leaders to take the necessary steps to protect Kentuckians without having those actions challenged in court,” Ellis stated.
    Adding that most of Kentucky’s clergy and houses of worship went virtual during the worst of the pandemic to prioritize the health of their congregants, Ellis said Beshear “believes this is a workable framework for his administration and future leaders.”
    Republican advocates for HB 43 directly cited the executive orders and actions of the Beshear administration early in the pandemic, as cases and hospitalizations of the new virus began to rise and before much was known about combating the virus — and long before a vaccine had been created.
    The first major pushback against Beshear’s new pandemic restrictions occurred in April 2020, when a Bullitt County church refused to suspend in-person services for Easter.    Kentucky State Police officers recorded license plates of attendees that day and placed notices on their vehicles about how they would have to self-quarantine, leading to the church filing a lawsuit and Republican officials blasting Beshear.
    The governor’s order at the time had prohibited all mass gatherings of individuals, “including civic, public, leisure, faithbased, or sporting events as well as concerts, festivals and conventions,” while some businesses deemed “essential” were allowed to continue operating, such as grocery stores.
    Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Sean Southard issued a statement Tuesday saying Beshear’s signature of HB 43 means he “has suddenly decided churches are essential, hoping to cover for his actions towards religious institutions during the pandemic."
    Make no mistake: when Andy Beshear had a choice to treat churches as essential in the pandemic, he didn’t.    He banned church gatherings and sent state troopers to track church-goers.    He may hope voters are dumb, but he can’t rewrite history.”
    Alliance Defending Freedom — a conservative Christian legal group that has sparred with Beshear in the past over the closures of private schools — issued a statement commending both the governor and the legislature “for taking this significant step to defend religious liberty for all Kentuckians.”
    Reach reporter Joe Sonka at and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka.

4/8/2022 Trans youth medication ban passes in Ala. - Bill now goes to desk of Republican governor by Kim Chandler, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama lawmakers approved sweeping legislation Thursday to outlaw gender-affirming medications for transgender kids and advanced a separate measure prohibiting early classroom instruction on sexual and gender identity, a bill critic have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”
    The Alabama House of Representatives voted 66-28 for legislation to make it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a doctor to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones or perform surgery to aid in the gender transition of people under age 19.
    The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature as Alabama becomes the latest red state to promote legislation and policies aimed at trans youth.    Ivey has not indicated whether she will sign it.
    Rep. Neil Rafferty, the only openly gay member of the Alabama Legislature, appeared to struggle to hold back his anger and maintain composure as lawmakers headed to the vote.
    “This is wrong,” Rafferty said.    “Y’all sit there and campaign on family being the foundation of our nation … but what this bill is doing is totally undermining that.    It’s totally undermining family rights, health rights and access to health care.”
    Republican Rep. Wes Allen of Troy, sponsor of the House version of the bill, argued during debate Thursday morning that transgender youth are not old enough to make decisions about gender- affirming medication.    “Their brains are not developed to make the decisions long term about what these medications and surgeries do to their body,” Allen said.
    Rep. Chris England, who serves as chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, said the measure targets already vulnerable children and essentially tells them they are not welcome in Alabama.
    “You’re saying this is about children.    It’s not.    What it is about is scoring political points and using those children as collateral damage,” England said.
    The bill would also require school counselors, nurses and others to tell parents if a child discloses they believe they are transgender.
    A spokeswoman for Ivey did not immediately reply to a text message asking if the governor will sign the measure.
    “I want the governor to know that she doesn’t have to sign this, she can veto it,” Jeff Walker, whose 15-year-old daughter, Harleigh, is transgender, said Thursday afternoon.    “All you are doing is hurting Alabama families with these bills.”
    Arkansas approved a similar law in 2021, but it was put on hold by the courts.    Advocacy groups in Alabama have vowed to quickly challenge the measure if Ivey signs it into law.
    In a written statement, Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, called the Alabama measure “the most deadly, sweeping, and hostile law targeting transgender people in the country.”
    White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice has warned states such laws and policies may violate the Constitution and federal law.
    “Today’s vote in Alabama will only serve to harm kids,” she said.
    The Alabama Senate advanced separate legislation Thursday related to public school bathrooms and discussions of gender and sexual identity in early grades.
Rep. Neil Rafferty, the only openly gay member of the Alabama Legislature, appeared
to struggle to hold back his anger, saying, “This is wrong.” MICKEY WELSH/AP


4/9/2022 Beshear mulls action on medical pot - Governor to ‘explore’ potential executive order by Bruce Schreiner, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    FRANKFORT – If a bill legalizing medical marijuana doesn’t reach his desk, Gov. Andy Beshear says he’s ready to consider taking action himself to give some ailing Kentuckians access to medicinal cannabis.
    The Democratic governor’s comments Thursday reflected his growing frustration as the latest medical marijuana bill is currently stalled in the state Senate.
    Asked if he could potentially issue an executive order making medical marijuana accessible if the bill dies, the governor told reporters: “We’re going to explore that.”
    “It’s something that we will look at,” he said.    “Its time has certainly come.”
    But the governor called on lawmakers to send him a bill that would allow Kentucky to join the majority of states that legalized medical marijuana.
    The high-profile Kentucky measure cleared the Hous e on a 59-34 vote last month but it has made no headway in the Senate. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.
    The bill would strictly regulate the use of cannabis for a list of eligible medical conditions.    Beshear said the measure has overwhelming support among Kentuckians.
    “You see people from every part of every spectrum that are in favor of this,” Beshear said.
    The bill’s prospects appear to be bleak in the Senate. Senate President Robert Stivers said Thursday that “it would be difficult” to pass the measure once lawmakers reconvene next week for the final two days of this year’s 60-day session.
    Instead, Stivers touted another pending bill that would create a cannabis research center at the University of Kentucky to study the use of cannabis to treat certain medical conditions.
    “Most definitely, I think there is that desire to help individuals,” Stivers said.    “But with any drug, I think you need to have the full-blown studies.”
    Those studies at the state’s flagship university would shed more light on the medicinal and therapeutic values of marijuana, the Senate leader told reporters.
    “That would give us the impetus to come back maybe within a year and say this is what marijuana could be used for or not be used for,” Stivers said.
    The governor said the passage of legislation legalizing medical marijuana is already along overdue.
    Under the current bill, doctors could prescribe medical cannabis for a specified list of conditions that include cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, epilepsy and chronic nausea.
    The measure also includes “home rule” provisions.    It would make medical cannabis legal statewide but county fiscal courts or commissions could vote to disallow it.    However, cities in those counties would have the option to allow it.
    Supporters say medical marijuana would ease the suffering of many Kentuckians.
    Eric Crawford, a steadfast medical marijuana advocate in Kentucky, has told lawmakers that he uses medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids to deal with pain and muscle spasms from injuries he suffered in a vehicle crash more than two decades ago.
    Opponents say they worry that Kentucky’s cannabis policy would become more lenient over the years if medical marijuana gets a legal foothold.    That would worsen drug addiction woes, they said.
    If medical cannabis becomes legal in Kentucky, four types of related ventures would result – cannabis farmers, processors, dispensaries and safety testers.    Republican Rep. Jason Nemes, the bill’s lead sponsor, has stressed that it would be a home-state enterprise.
    Meanwhile, the governor also made a late pitch Thursday for a bill that would legalize sports betting in Kentucky.    That measure also passed the House but has languished in the Senate.
    “You can drive across virtually every border in Kentucky and place a bet on your phone,” Beshear said.    “It’s time for Kentucky not to be last and to step up and to join the rest of the world.”
    Stivers downplayed the bill’s potential as a revenue generator for the state.
    “If you think about a dollar, this wouldn’t even be a penny in receipts for what it may generate,” he said.    “So I’m kind of ambivalent towards it. As for entertainment value, it would be what I would call either an appetizer or dessert in a menu of options you would have here for entertainment.”
    Tax revenue generated from sports betting would flow into the state public pension system.    Sports wagering is expected to generate at least $22.5 million a year in revenue, its sponsors have said.
    “It’s something that we will look at.    Its time has certainly come,” Gov. Andy Beshear on the possibility of an executive order in Kentucky on medical marijuana.

4/9/2022 Why Kentucky must ban the vape companies that prey on students by Your Turn, Benjamin M. Gies, Guest columnist
    For the first time in more than a year, the Food and Drug Administration got a permanent leader when Dr. Robert Califf was sworn in last month.    He comes into office with a long— and critically important—to-do list.    At the top of that list should be keeping harmful vaping products away from our kids and off the market.
    The FDA is currently six months past its deadline for evaluating the dangerous effects of vapes and e-cigarettes.    It’s critical for students in Kentucky and across the country that Califf quickly ban companies like Juul that have a record of preying on middle and high school students.    Taking concrete steps to save lives can’t come soon enough.
    Kentucky still has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation.    Our rates of cancer are tragic and show little sign of improvement.    Each year, nearly 9,000 Kentucky adults die from tobacco use.
    The advent of vaping products took this problem and made it a whole lot worse.    Even with new laws at the state and federal levels that have raised the tobacco purchase age to 21, young people are getting hooked on vaping products and setting themselves up for a lifetime of addiction and health challenges.
    Last year’s National Youth Tobacco Survey showed over 40% of current high schoolers who vape used a device on at least 20 of the last 30 days.    Kentucky leads every other state surveyed in the number of middle schoolers who report using tobacco.    These nicotine-packed products alter a child’s brain chemistry and set them up for a lifetime of dependence and the chronic health consequences that come with it.
    Parents have watched their children as young as 10, start down this dangerous path and wondered how to stop it.    As educators, advocates and citizens, we know more must be done.
    Sadly, we’re also finding the high rates of vaping among middle and high school students aren’t an unintended consequence. For some, it was the goal.
    When vaping producers like Juul came under fire for their youth-targeting flavored products, they turned to multi-billion-dollar consulting giants like McKinsey and Company.    That firm advised Juul how to revamp its product line with innocuous-sounding flavors that will still get children hooked.
    Instead of fruit pods, Juul sold mint flavors.    The effect was the same — more kids vaping and getting addicted to dangerous nicotine.
    It’s no secret that nearly 90% of current adult smokers got their first hit of nicotine before age 18.    Companies know that if they don’t get someone hooked by age 26, they’re unlikely to ever become a reliable customer.
    The decision to target teens is an effort to pad a company’s bottom line, regardless of the very real human cost.    The FDA must crack down on the vaping companies and their advisers, like McKinsey, who made this possible.
    Those of us in Kentucky may remember the name McKinsey for the multi-million settlement it paid last year from when it helped 'turbocharge' the opioid epidemic.    There are too many outstanding questions about how McKinsey has profited off our pain.    Until they’re answered, we must remain on high alert.
    Kentucky students have faced so many challenges over recent years.    At the Prichard Committee, we work every day to promote policies that will advance their education and help set them on a course for a fulfilling life.    The FDA must support these young people and restrict products deliberately designed to harm them.
    Unfortunately, the FDA has dragged its feet for months on its regulation efforts.    When the stakes are this high, our nation’s health policy organizations can’t take their eye off the ball, and Dr. Califf can lead the charge to ban Juul’s vaping products and hold accountable firms like McKinsey that put short-term profits ahead of the consequences for real people.
    Benjamin M. Gies is the director of early childhood policy and practice at the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.    He previously served on the Jefferson County Board of Education.
Dez Milliner-Bryant exhales a cloud of smoke as he vapes outside Akikos karaoke bar on a
chilly night on Bardstown Road in Louisville on Jan. 17, 2020. Alton Strupp/Courier Journal

4/9/2022 Girl Scouts’ suit on recruitment rejected by Larry Neumeister, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    NEW YORK – A federal judge on Thursday rejected Girl Scouts’ claims that the Boy Scouts created marketplace confusion and damaged its recruitment efforts by using words like 'scouts' and 'scouting' in recruitment drives.
    Manhattan Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ruled that the Boy Scouts of America can describe their activities as 'scouting' without referring to gender and that the matter does not need to be put to a jury.
    Hellerstein said his written decision caps a 'serious, contentious and expensive' litigation and necessitates dismissal of the lawsuit brought by the Girls Scouts of the United States of America.
    The lawsuit was filed in late 2018, a year after the Boy Scouts announced that boy scouting and cub scouting would be open to girls, leading the organizations to compete for members after social trends and a rise in sports league participation drove down membership for decades.    The pattern worsened when the pandemic hit.
    'The Boy Scouts adopted the Scout Terms to describe accurately the co-ed nature of programming, not to confuse or exploit Girl Scouts’ reputation,' Hellerstein wrote.    'Such branding is consistent with the scout-formative branding Boy Scouts has used for a century, including in its co-ed programs that have existed since the 1970s.'
    The term 'scout' is descriptive of both the Boy Scouts’ and Girl Scouts’ programming, the judge wrote.
    'The Boy Scouts’ decision to become co-ed, even if it affects Girl Scouts’ operations, does not demonstrate bad faith,' the judge added.
    Hellerstein’s decision comes while the Boy Scouts are in bankruptcy proceedings in Delaware that began in February 2020.    The Irving, Texas-based organization sought bankruptcy protection after it was named in hundreds of lawsuits brought by individuals claiming they were molested by scout leaders as minors.
    Messages seeking comment left with lawyers in the case were not immediately returned.
A federal judge said his decision caps a 'serious, contentious and expensive' litigation and
necessitates dismissal of the lawsuit brought by the Girls Scouts. Elaine Thompson/AP

4/10/2022 Veto of sports transgender bill a rare victory in sea of LGBTQ hate by Mike Freeman, USA TODAY NETWORK
    In the entire Kentucky school system, according to the Fairness Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, there is one openly transgender athlete playing on a school sports team.
    One.    Out of hundreds of thousands of students.
    'In Kentucky’s entire school system, there is only one openly transgender girl we know about who is playing on a school sports team,' Fairness Campaign executive director Chris Hartman said in a statement.
    'But rather than tackle any of the state’s real issues, legislators decided to use their time and power to bully this student and others like her.'
    Republican legislators there created Senate Bill 83, which would ban transgender girls and women from playing on girls and women’s sports teams starting in sixth grade and continuing through college.    The bill gave no reason why it was needed.
    That’s because there is no reason other than one.
    Hartman said the bill is 'more about fear than fairness.'
    So, to be clear, a Republican-dominated legislature, like so many others across the nation, wanted to enact a law that would ban transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s sports, when in the entire state, there is just one such known athlete, according to activists there.
    Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed the bill. As he pointed out in his veto, and as is the case in so many instances, lawmakers failed to note a singular instance in Kentucky of a child gaining an unfair advantage due to being transgender.
    It’s a win, though it could be a temporary one.    Wrote the Courier Journal: 'Kentucky’s Republican-dominated legislature will get a chance to override vetoes when they reconvene next week.    SB 83 passed easily with veto-proof margins in both chambers.'
    This was still one piece of good news (even if it’s temporary) in what’s been an avalanche of ugly bigotry and extremism aimed at the LGBTQ community.    So much of it through the use of sports.
    In state after state, extremist legislatures are enacting laws that essentially attempt to erase their existence.
    According to the Human Rights Campaign, last year was one of the worst ever in terms of state legislatures attacking the LGBTQ community.
    It’s getting worse this year.    Far worse.
    'When most people start paying attention to politics again, they’re going to be shocked at how suddenly and viciously anti-gay the far-right has become,' tweeted NBC’s Ben Collins, who monitors online extremism.    'The mask came off when many were looking at Ukraine or tuning out.    Most people are in for a real surprise at normalized hatred.'
    Hatred is like a drug to some people.    It fuels them.    It powers them.    It gives them reason to exist.    As facts have become less important to a certain set of people, hatred and dogma fill in the blanks.    This is one of the scariest times in the recent history of this country because large swaths of people have decided that hate, not truth, makes them feel whole.    There’s an entire right-wing media and political ecosystem that injects this into their systems, creating a hate-dopamine feedback loop.
    The bigotry is so extreme that anti-LGBTQ organizations, politicians and members of the media are using old tactics, demonizing gay people by claiming they are grooming children.    This is an ancient lie but social media, Fox News, and politicians incapable of feeling shame make this lie more pernicious and dangerous than ever.
    I don’t think many people fully understand what is happening now.    The level of hatred the LGBTQ community is facing is historically significant.    It is the worst many of us have seen in our lifetimes.     There will be wins along the way in this light, like Beshear’s veto, and even if some of those victories are temporary, we will need them all.
    Each and every one.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks to reporters following the signing of bills related to the
American Rescue Plan Act at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on April 7. Timothy D. Easley/AP

4/10/2022 Parental rights laws show political hostility - Florida’s newly signed HB 1557 misconstrued by media, liberals by Your Turn, Brandon Cooper - Guest columnist
    There’s no hiding the fact that the current state of American politics is rife with hostility – divided along partisan lines, propelled by misguided and misinformed activism and an onslaught of disillusioned complacency.    As our Nation further divides along ‘red states and blue states,’ our public policy and civil discourse suffer.
    Though, what we have all seen in recent headlines regarding Florida’s controversial 'Don’t Say Gay' bill, House Bill 1557, is yet another example of overtly partisan posturing and a stab into the heart of democracy.    When pundits, politicians and so-called advocates postured for the camera and flexed for the tweets, the American people lost an opportunity for important, needed, complex conversations on issues impacting American students and families.
Wordplay and democratic decay
    As is the case with many so-called ‘hot button’ issues (abortion, guns, school boards, CRT…the list goes on), the real issue at hand in HB 1557 is lost in the clouds of heated rhetoric and dangerous hyperbole.
    To my friends on the left, their use of hyperbolic messaging against this bill – regardless of their motivation – is a failure of democracy. For instance, the word ‘gay’ does not appear at all in the text of the bill and the phrase ‘sexual orientation’ appears only twice.    Also of important note, the bill applies only to the youngest groups of students – kindergarten through third grade.    Couple these facts with the onslaught of misplaced activism displayed on media networks, activists, leaders and media elites failed the American people by creating a faux crisis.
    Though, let me be very clear, any piece of legislation that even seems to discriminate against or single out a single group should be analyzed with the strongest, most ethical scrutiny.    The language of the bill may not explicitly harm or discriminate against any LGBTQ student, concerns regarding the broad, vague language are aptly valid – vague legislation can have massive consequences.
    I also find grave concern with the fact that HB 1557 allows parents to 'decline…consent' to mental health services (although, the bill follows this with a clause stating that it 'does not prohibit a school district from adopting procedures that permit school personnel to withhold such information from a parent if a reasonable prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect').
    The bill’s Republican supporters have argued that the legislation is necessary to help protect America’s youth 'from so-called ‘sexualization’ in our public schools.'    Though, many opponents of the bill, and some Republican outsiders such as GOP strategist, Gavin Smith, say these claims are 'blatantly wrong and hypocritical.'
    Those who admonished the controversial legislation with such a hyperbolic, clickbait name failed gay students – they failed democracy.    Those on the left who misconstrued the Parental Rights in Education Act as some war on gay teens are the liberal equivalents to the bewildering conservatives shouting about their guns being snatched from their hands.    In fact, many of the plaintiffs in a suit against the state, following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of the bill into law, are high school-aged students that would not be impacted by the sexual orientation and gender identity instruction provisions of the bill.
    Of note, a similar bill, with over twice the number of pages, has been filed in Ohio.    HB 616 is perhaps a more appropriate opportunity for critics to suggest conservatives are attacking minority students as the bill is much more specific in its language - such as its explicit ban on curriculum that 'promotes any divisive or inherently racist concept.'
    The Ohio bill is much more limited in terms of parental rights in public education, which may suggest that the conservatives behind the bill have much more bigoted motives than as found in Florida’s HB 1557.
    Though, we should all be worried that the left has 'cried gay' too soon - making real organizing efforts against the bill all the more difficult.
    HB 1557, as written, is about much more than LGBTQ rights, rather the motivation of the bill rests upon growing support amongst conservatives for policies instituting more parental voice into school activities and students’ education.    That is a conversation worth having, and one the American people were unable to adequately host amid the turmoil and inflated outrage that has only contributed to further dividing Americans into groups of left and right – blue and red.
    Those students and advocates suing the state against the bill fail to address the very blatant student mental health risks this bill poses by allowing parents to decline mental health treatment – failing Florida students by ignoring the opportunity for conversations on student mental health and creating hysteria amongst vulnerable, impressionable LGBTQ students.    Such behavior is politically manipulative and members of our LGBTQ community should be offended by the constant 'cry of wolf' that our rights are being stripped away in the dead of night.
    Those Republicans using this bill to gain admiration from homophobic and bigoted voters – leaning into to hate LGBTQ students face across the nation daily – have failed morally.    Representation matters and feeling safe in schools is such an important part of effective education.    Specifically targeting minority students is an irresponsible and abusive use of legislative power – although, I don’t believe this bill does that as written.
    Tyler Morgan, an Eastern Kentucky public school teacher who recently resigned from his job following backlash for his vocal support of diversity and a pride flag in his classroom, has embodied this idea of representation in daily life.    'I firmly believe more work needs to be done in Kentucky... to ensure that more resources are provided to make sure all students feel safe, secure, and seen,' Morgan wrote in a Facebook post following his resignation.
A war with no winners
    All of that to say, our democracy is – and has been at risk. Our democracy will only further stagnate, and our public policy will suffer so long as our political discourse occurs only in 140-character tweets and primetime headlines.    So long as policymakers pit Americans against each other by misconstruing and distorting truth for their own deceptive ambitions, solutions are ignored, dialogue obliterated and democracy mocked.
    Is HB 1557 a good bill?    No, it is overly broad, a risk to student health, and ultimately a haphazard political token.    That does not excuse the media and liberal leaders from their outright dangerous, irresponsible rhetoric misconstruing the actual language and implication of the bill.
    What we have all witnessed the past several weeks – and for quite some time, really – is a growing complacency amongst American voters and an emboldened strategic mindset amongst political elites that have instilled such a strong sense of identity politics into our national discourse.    When we reach the point where our public policy is only achieved along party lines – when conversations happen in micro-dialogue bolstered by hostility – the democracy enshrined upon us by our Constitution will be no more.
    Fear-stoking has no home in a democratic society.
    We cannot continue to use our differences to pit ourselves against our American neighbors.    What makes us different, makes us great and there are no winners in [partisan] war.
    Brandon Cooper is a senior political science major at the University of Louisville.    He has worked in the Kentucky House of Representatives and the Louisville Metro Council.    Brandon will begin a graduate program at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management in the fall.
Fort Walton Beach High School student Ivan Gutierrez holds a sign protesting the recent Florida legislation
that some have called the 'Don’t Say Gay' bill. DEVON RAVINE/Northwest Florida DAILY NEWS

4/10/2022 Woman faces murder charge after abortion by Ken Miller and Heather Hollingsworth, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A 26-year-old woman has been charged with murder in Texas after authorities said she caused “the death of an individual by self-induced abortion,” in a state that has the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S.
    It’s unclear whether Lizelle Herrera is accused of having an abortion or whether she helped someone else get an abortion.
    Herrera was arrested Thursday and remained jailed Saturday on a $500,000 bond in the Starr County jail in Rio Grande City, on the U.S.-Mexico border, sheriff’s Maj. Carlos Delgado said in a statement.
    “Herrera was arrested and served with an indictment on the charge of Murder after Herrera did then and there intentionally and knowingly cause the death of an individual by self-induced abortion,” Delgado said.
    Delgado did not say under what law Herrera has been charged.    He said no other information will be released until at least Monday because the case remains under investigation.
    Texas law exempts her from a criminal homicide charge for aborting her own pregnancy, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck said.
    A 2021 state law that bans abortions in Texas for women who are as early as six weeks pregnant has sharply curtailed the number of abortions in the state.    The law leaves enforcement to private citizens who can sue doctors or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion.
    The woman receiving the abortion is exempted from the law. However, some states still have laws that criminalize self-induced abortions “and there have been a handful of prosecutions here and there over the years,” Vladeck said.
    “It is murder in Texas to take steps that terminate a fetus, but when a medical provider does it, it can’t be prosecuted” due to U.S. Supreme Court rulings upholding the constitutionality of abortion, Vladeck said.
    Lynn Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women also noted the state law exemption.
    “What’s a little mysterious in this case is, what crime has this woman been charged with?” Paltrow said.
    “There is no statute in Texas that, even on its face, authorizes the arrest of a woman for a self-managed abortion.”
    Another Texas law prohibits doctors and clinics from prescribing abortion inducing medications after the seventh week of pregnancy and prohibits delivery of the pills by mail.

4/10/2022 Veto of Maryland abortion measure overridden by Brian Witte, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a measure to expand access to abortion in the state was overridden on Saturday by the General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats.
    The state will end a restriction that only physicians can provide abortions.    The new law will enable nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants to provide them with training.    It creates an abortion care training program and requires $3.5 million in state funding annually.    It also requires most insurance plans to cover abortions without cost.
    Del. Emily Shetty said she was supporting the measure on the House floor as a mother who had experienced a high-risk pregnancy.    She also deverely scribed being a sexual assault survivor in college and the difficulties she experienced “with the weight of what had happened after that incident.”
    “And thankfully, the incident did not result in pregnancy but had it, it would have drastically changed my life if I had not been able to access the care that I needed at that time,” Shetty, a Democrat, said.
    Hogan, a Republican, wrote in his veto letter that the legislation “endangers the health and lives of women by allowing non-physicians to perform abortions.”
    The measure comes at a time when the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that banned states from outlawing abortion.
    If they do, at least 26 states are likely to either ban abortion outright or se-limit access, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that supports abortion rights.
    “In this context, it’s very important that we keep in mind that the strategies that this bill is using is ensuring that people can access the care that they need, when they need it, no matter what happens with the rest of the country – no matter what happens with the Supreme Court,” said Del. Ariana Kelly, a Democrat who was the lead sponsor of the bill, said.
    Republican lawmakers criticized the provision allocating $3.5 million of taxpayer money annually to pay for the training.    Del. Haven Shoemaker, the House minority whip, described the bill as “the most radical expansion of abortion in Maryland’s history in a state that already has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the country.”

4/11/2022 BESHEAR VETOES GOP’S TOP BILLS - No to tax cut, curbing abortion, public aid - Kentucky’s GOP majority stands ready to override by Deborah Yetter and Joe Sonka, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    Gov. Andy Beshear on Friday vetoed three priority bills of the legislature’s Republican supermajority — an “omnibus” abortion bill; one cutting the state income tax rate; and another significantly tightening rules for public assistance benefits.
    Republicans in both the House and Senate have the votes to override the vetoes from the Democratic governor and have already done so several times this year.
    House Bill 3, the abortion bill; House Bill 8, which cuts and could eventually phase out the state income tax; and House Bill 7, which adds multiple new rules to benefit programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, passed with overwhelming majorities.
    Here’s a look at each measure:
Omnibus abortion bill
    Beshear, in vetoing HB 3, listed what he said are multiple flaws, leading with the fact the bill makes no exemption for those who become pregnant by rape or incest, while at the same time making it harder for girls under 18 to end a pregnancy without notification to both parents.
    That sets up a potential scenario where a 12-year-old girl impregnated by her father would be required to notify him of her intent to get an abortion, Beshear said.
    “Rape and incest are violent crimes,” Beshear said.    “Victims of these crimes should have options, not be further scarred through a process that exposes them to more harm from their rapists or that treats them like offenders themselves.”
    Beshear said HB 3 also is likely unconstitutional.    And, he said, it is an “unfunded mandate” because it requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to set up a vast oversight system to monitor medication used to induce abortions.    The method, available up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, requires a patient to take two drugs two days apart to end the pregnancy and now accounts for about half of all abortions.
    HB 3, contains so many limits — including outlawing abortion medication by mail — those opponents say it would eliminate access to abortion in Kentucky.
    It also outlaws’ abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy (current state law allows it through 20 weeks), calls for an elaborate state system of certification and oversight of anyone who dispenses or distributes abortion medication and requires the state to establish a complaint website where providers of the medication must be listed.
    It limits access to abortion by girls under 18, especially those seeking permission from a judge when parental consent is not available and bans disposal of fetal remains as medical waste, instead requiring cremation or burial by a licensed establishment.
    Two previous Kentucky laws ban abortion at six and 14 weeks but currently are stalled in federal court by legal>     HB 3 is sure to face a legal challenge with Planned Parenthood already pledging to do so if the bill becomes law.
    Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, both in Louisville, are the only two abortion providers in Kentucky.
    The sponsor of HB 3, Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg, has said the measure is needed to ensure women’s safety and prevent do-it-yourself “mail-order health care.”
Cutting the state income tax
    House Bill 8 would lower the individual income tax rate from 5% to 4.5% next year, while setting up a series of triggers involving budget surpluses and the state’s rainy-day fund to reduce that rate incrementally in future years until it is eventually eliminated.
    The bill would also end the state sales tax exemption for more than a dozen services and add new fees on electric vehicles, though a fiscal note for the bill still projected it would decrease tax revenue by nearly $1.1 billion over the biennium.
    In his veto statement, Beshear wrote that HB 8 “imposes new taxes that weaken public safety, harm vital industries, undermine economic development incentives, and threaten Kentucky’s future economic security.”
    According to Beshear, among the new taxes on “35 different services and industries” would be taxes on criminal background checks, which he called “an essential public safety tool to protect our children” that would harm summer camps and youth sports.
    Beshear also criticized new taxes on conferences and events that he said would hurt the tourism industry, as well as new taxes on hybrid and electric vehicles “at a time when Kentucky is poised to become a world leader in manufacturing those vehicles and their batteries.”
    The governor added that HB 8 would put at risk up to $413 million of incentive packages for more than 207 economic development projects under the Kentucky Business Investment Program.
    “The General Assembly should be supporting Kentucky’s growing industries and events that promote the Commonwealth, not targeting them with tax increases,” Beshear wrote.
    Beshear also asserted that HB 8 would violate the constitution by allowing public service companies like railroads, airlines and utilities to assess the value of their own property in certain cases.
    As for the tax cuts, Beshear said HB 8 “i>threatens Kentucky’s economic future,” citing the large tax cuts implemented in Kansas in 2012 that harmed its economy before having to be rolled back five years later.
    “The General Assembly should learn from Kansas’s mistakes,” Beshear wrote.    “Instead, House Bill 8 repeats them.”
    Beshear also criticized the process by which HB 8 passed into law, as its final version was revealed to members just hours before it was passed, writing that doing so “without public scrutiny ensures that only lobbyists and special interest groups can have their voices heard.”
    The Republican Party of Kentucky issued a statement blasting Beshear’s veto.
    “With the highest inflation rate since 1982, Kentucky Republicans led the charge in cutting the income tax rate to deliver relief to Kentucky workers and families.    Andy Beshear vetoed that relief,” stated RPK spokesman Sean Southard.    “At a time when Kentuckians are facing historic inflation and the state coffers are brimming with money, Andy Beshear believes your money belongs to him.    Kentucky Republicans believe your money belongs to you.”
Limiting public benefits
    In vetoing HB 7, Beshear said “it will hurt Kentuckians by threatening access to health care and making it harder for those in need to access crucial benefits.”
    “This bill will hurt our families, seniors, children and those with disabilities and it will disproportionately affect the regions of the commonwealth that lack access to health care, food, child care and other assistance,” Beshear said in a veto message.
    Further, it would hurt grocers, hospitals, physicians and many other entities that provide services funded through public benefits, he said.
    HB 7 adds new layers of rules to Kentucky’s public benefit programs, such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.    It won final passage despite fierce opposition from advocacy groups and individuals who argue it would force many people off benefits who are entitled to them.
    House Republican leaders who sponsored the bill, including Speaker Pro Tem David Meade and House Speaker David Osborne, argued HB 7 is needed to reduce fraud and encourage people to move off public aid into jobs and self-sufficiency.
    But advocates say many people who receive state aid already work in low paying jobs but simply don’t make enough money for basics such as food and health care.
    They also questioned the estimated cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to set up additional systems to verify information and approve and monitor people who receive benefits.
    Beshear, in vetoing HB 7, said it contained no funds for the enormous effort involved in setting up such systems and hiring employees to staff them.
    “An agency is under no obligation to carry out an unfunded mandate,” he said.
    The bill was openly opposed by about 200 individuals and groups including Kentucky Voices for Health, Kentucky Youth Advocates and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Beshear has called HB 7 “cruel” and said it would “decimate” the state’s safety net for poor Kentuckians.
    Here are other bills Beshear vetoed Friday:
    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@    Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.
    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:
    “At a time when Kentuckians are facing historic inflation and the state coffers are brimming with money, Andy Beshear believes your money belongs to him.”
GOP response to veto of House Bill 8
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear listed what he said are multiple flaws in the

4/11/2022 Pope calls for Easter truce in Ukraine - Francis denounces war at Palm Sunday Mass by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis opened Holy Week Sunday with a call for an Easter truce in Ukraine to make room for a negotiated peace, highlighting the need for leaders to “make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”
    Celebrating Palm Sunday Mass before crowds in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since the pandemic, Pope Francis called for “weapons to be laid down to begin an Easter truce, not to reload weapons and resume fighting, no!    A truce to reach peace through real negotiations.”
    Francis did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the reference was clear, and he has repeatedly denounced the war and the suffering brought to innocent civilians.
    During the traditional Sunday blessing following Palm Sunday Mass, the pontiff said leaders should be “willing to make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”
    “In fact, what a victory would that be, who plants a flag under a pile of rubble?
    During his Palm Sunday homily, the pontiff denounced “i>the folly of war” that leads people to commit “senseless acts of cruelty.”
    “When we resort to violence … we lose sight of why we are in the world and even end up committing senseless acts of cruelty.    We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time,” he said.
    Francis lamented “the unjust death of husbands and sons” … “refugees fleeing bombs” … “young people deprived of a future” … and “soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters.”
    After two years of celebrating Palm Sunday Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica without a crowd due to pandemic distancing measures, the solemn celebration returned to the square outside.    Tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists clutched olive branches and palms emblematic of the ceremony that recalls Jesus’ return to Jerusalem.
    Traditionally, the pope leads a Palm Sunday procession through St. Peter’s Square before celebrating Mass.    Francis has been suffering from a strained ligament in his right knee that has caused him to limp, and he was driven in a black car to the altar, which he then reached with the help of an aide.    He left the Mass on the open-top popemobile.
    Palm Sunday opens Holy Week leading up to Easter, which this year falls on April 17.
Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass on Sunday. GREGORIO BORGIA/AP

4/11/2022 No murder charge in abortion case - Texas DA will ask judge to dismiss indictment by Terry Wallace, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A Texas district attorney said Sunday that he will ask a judge to dismiss a murder charge against a woman over a self-induced abortion.
    Lizelle Herrera was arrested Thursday in Rio Grande City, a community of about 14,000 people along the Mexico border, after a Starr County grand jury indicted her on March 30 for murder for allegedly causing “the death of an individual … by self-induced abortion.”
    District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez said Sunday that his office would move to dismiss the charge Monday.
    “In reviewing this case, it is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her,” Ramirez said in a>     Ramirez went on to say, “It is my hope that with the dismissal of this case it is made clear that Ms. Herrera did not commit a criminal act under the laws of the State of Texas.”
    Authorities haven’t released details about what Herrera allegedly did, and Ramirez didn’t immediately respond to an email Sunday seeking further information about the case.    From his statement Sunday and a previous statement put out by a Starr County Sheriff’s Office official, it wasn’t clear if Herrera was accused of giving herself an abortion or assisting in someone else’s self-induced abortion.
    In a tweet Sunday, Planned Parenthood called the decision “Such NEEDED news.”
    “While the charges against Lizelle have been dismissed, we know the fight against the criminalization of pregnancy outcomes has only just begun,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s president and CEO.
    A leading Texas anti-abortion group said it understood the decision, saying that state law provides only civil remedies, not criminal ones.
    “The Texas Heartbeat Act and other Pro-Life policies in the state clearly prohibit criminal charges for pregnant women.    Texas Right to Life opposes public prosecutors going outside of the bounds of Texas’ prudent and carefully crafted policies,” said Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz.
    Herrera was released Saturday from the Starr County jail after posting a $500,000 bond.
    The indictment alleged that Herrera, on Jan. 7, “did then and there intentionally and knowingly cause the death of an individual … by self-induced abortion.”
    Sheriff’s Maj. Carlos Delgado said no further information would be released until Monday.

4/12/2022 Dismissal of charge in Texas challenged by Jamie Stengle, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    DALLAS – A Texas judge formally dismissing a murder charge Monday against a 26-year-old woman over a self-induced abortion did not quiet outrage or questions surrounding the case, including why prosecutors ever brought it to a grand jury.
    A woman who ends her own pregnancy cannot be charged with a crime under Texas law. Officials in rural Starr County, along the U.S.Mexico border, have not released details about why they decided to pursue a case against Lizelle Herrera after being contacted by a hospital.
    “There should have been no reason for a report to have been made.    There should have been no reason for a criminal investigation to take place,” said Farah Diaz-Tello, senior counsel and legal director at If/ When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice.    News of Herrera’s arrest on Thursday raised alarms for abortion rights advocates, and sparked people to gather in protest outside the jail where she was being held on $500,000 bond.    Her March 30 indictment alleges she “intentionally and knowingly” caused the death of “an individual … by a self-induced abortion” in early January.
    Authorities have not described what exactly Herrera allegedly did, and it wasn’t clear if she was accused of giving herself an abortion or assisting in someone else’s self-induced abortion.    An attorney for Herrera, who was released from jail Saturday after posting bond, did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press.
    Starr County District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez said in a Sunday statement that he would file the motion to dismiss the charge, saying, “it is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her.”    But he did not explain why the case was presented to a grand jury, nor did he reply Monday to an email from AP seeking information.
    Texas last year passed a law known as Senate Bill 8, or SB8, that bans abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy.    The law leaves enforcement to private citizens who can sue doctors or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion.
    Another new Texas law prohibits doctors and clinics from prescribing abortion-inducing medications after seven weeks and prohibits the delivery of the pills by mail.
    Neither law authorizes any action against the woman who ends her pregnancy, Diaz-Tello said.

4/12/2022 Families contest Alabama transgender treatment ban - Suits filed Monday in federal court by Kim Chandler, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Families with transgender teens sued the state of Alabama in federal court on Monday to overturn a law that makes it a crime for doctors to treat trans youth under 19 with puberty blockers or hormones to help affirm their gender identity.
    The two lawsuits – one on behalf of two families and another on behalf two families and the physicians who treat their children – pose legal challenges to legislation signed into law Friday by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey.    “Transgender youth are a part of Alabama, and they deserve the same privacy, access to treatment, and data-driven health care from trained medical professionals as any other Alabamian,” Tish Gotell Faulks, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said in a statement.    Faulks added that lawmakers are using children, as, “political pawns for their reelection campaigns.”    Ivey and legislators face primaries next month.
    Unless blocked by the court, the Alabama law will take effect May 8, making it a felony for a doctor to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones to aid in the gender transition of anyone under age 19.    Violations will be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.    It also prohibits gender transition surgeries, although doctors told lawmakers those are not performed on minors in Alabama.
    “The level of legislative overreach into the practice of medicine is unprecedented.    And never before has legislative overreach come into pediatric examination rooms to shut down the parent voice in medical decision making between a parent, their pediatrician and their child,” Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a medical provider and a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits, told The Associated Press in an interview.
    Ivey signed the legislation Friday, a day after it was approved by the Alabama Legislature.    At a campaign stop Monday, the governor invoked religion when asked about her decision to sign the legislation.
    “If the good Lord made you a boy at birth, then you are a boy.    If the good Lord made you a girl at birth, then you are a girl,” she said.    “We should especially focus our efforts on helping these young people become healthy adults just like God wanted them to be rather than self-induced medical intervenors.”
    Asked if the law would survive a court challenge, she replied, “We’ll wait and see.”
    The two lawsuits were filed by advocacy groups on behalf of families with transgender children, as well as by two medical providers.    The children were not identified in the lawsuits because of their age, “I know that I am a girl and I always have been,” one of the 15-year-old plaintiffs said in a statement provided by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama.    “Even before I learned the word ‘transgender’ or met other trans people, I knew myself.”
    In one lawsuit, parents described their fears that their transgender daughter, called “Mary Roe” in the suit, would harm herself or try to commit suicide if she loses access to the puberty blockers she began taking last year.    “For Mary to be forced to go through male puberty would be devastating; it would predictably result in her experiencing isolation, depression, anxiety, and distress,” the lawsuit states.
    Similar measures have been pushed in other states, but the Alabama legislation is the first to lay out criminal penalties for doctors.
    “If the good Lord made you a boy at birth, then you are a boy.    If the good Lord made you a girl at birth, then you are a girl.” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey
Jeff Walker and his daughter Harleigh of Auburn, Ala., pose for a photo outside the White House
on March 31, where they were guests for Transgender Day of Visibility. COURTESY OF JEFF WALKER VIA AP

4/12/2022 LGBTQ museums link community to history - Activists archive queer life, look ahead to new space by Cady Stanton, USA TODAY
    Amari McGee has an ambitious goal for 2022: visiting every LGBTQ museum or relevant exhibit in the USA.
    McGee, 23, is an activist and consultant who works with people in the LGBTQ+ community on identity empowerment and transgender education. He has a list of 34 art galleries, museums and archives to visit.
    He hopes to educate himself on the history and culture of a community he’s part of as a transgender man and use the knowledge to improve the services he can provide.
    “I felt as though taking the initiative to visit all the LGBTQ+ museums is going to actually give me another foot toward exactly truly understanding not only just the transgender community but the LGBTQ+ community as a whole,” McGee said.
    Museums focused on queer history and culture play a pivotal role for the LGBTQ community, which has faced decades of marginalization and discrimination that continue, advocates said.    A next step will be the American LGBTQ+ Museum, set to open in New York City in 2024.
    A couple of years away from a formal opening, the organization already hosts and plans events with partner organizations around the city, raising funds and hiring staff.
    The museum’s first exhibition space will open as part of the New-York Historical Society’s planned expansion in the Upper West Side: One floor of the building’s 70,000-foot expansion will house exhibits from the American LGBTQ+ Museum.
    “We have this partnership with the New-York Historical Society, which is phenomenal, which is enabling us to launch the museum in a physical space, and that’s such a fantastic partnership from one of the oldest museums in the city to one of the newest,” Urvashi Vaid, board secretary of the American LGBTQ+ Museum, said.    “We will have that physical space while building toward our own space in the future.”
    Executive Director Ben Garcia said the costs for the project are “considerable” compared with elsewhere, but there’s potential for visitors: New York City was the most visited destination for gay and lesbian tourists in 2019, according to a Community Marketing & Insights survey.    Though the data came from pre-pandemic tourism, the American LGBTQ+ Museum conducted more recent surveys to prepare for the museum’s launch.
    “I think that as we look at our history, this just seems to be a moment for museums like ours, museums that focus in on a piece of history that has been undertold,” Garcia said.    “The LGBTQ+ identity, which is such a large set of identities, has really exploded in terms of its expression, its understanding and its acceptance over the past 10 years.”
    Andrew Shaffer, interim coexecutive director and director of development and communications at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, is a historian who helped build the Madison LGBTQ Archives in 2015.    The archives were Madison, Wisconsin’s, first permanent physical LGBTQ archives, according to the GLBT Historical Society’s website.
    “I don’t think you can tell any history without including queer history, because queer people are and always have been everywhere,” he said.
    Before the creation and maintenance of queer archives, LGBTQ history was relegated to organizational and institutional documentation, such as police records and census data, obscuring the full picture of queer culture and visibility, Shaffer said.
    It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that queer activists stepped up to build their own archives, at first informally, by gathering artifacts such as journals, meeting notes and protest banners, then in more formal collections such as the GLBT Historical Society, founded in 2011 , according to Shaffer.
    Other formal collections include the Stonewall National Museum & Archives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California; the Lambda Archives of San Diego; and the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn.
    The coalescence of increased social and cultural acceptance with this archival activism opened the door for the museums, archives and exhibits, Shaffer said.
    A Gallup poll released last month found that 7.1% of U.S. adults identify as LGBTQ, double the percentage from 2012, when Gallup first measured identity, and up over last year’s poll that showed 5.6% of adults identify as LGBTQ.
    The uptick was steered by young people: About 21% of Generation Z Americans – those born from 1997 to 2003 – identified as LGBTQ in the poll, which was based on aggregated 2021 data.
    “We’re seeing come to fruition decades of work and activism and archiving practice by queer people,” Shaffer said.    “I think it’s both of those things sort of coming to fruition at the same time: broader social acceptance but also just a broader data set.    Without the archives, we’d have really limited stories to tell.”
    The GLBT Historical Society is the only stand-alone museum in the country dedicated solely to American LGBTQ history and culture, according to its website.
    “The LGBTQ story is actually a very local and a national and an international story,” Vaid said.    “So there’s queer stories in Ohio, there’s queer stories in Iowa, there’s LGBTQ history in Nebraska.”
    Shaffer, whose primary role at the GLBT Historical Society is fundraising, said the rising cost of living in cities affects the queer museums and archives.
    “So much of our institutions were built at a time when it was possible to live in San Francisco or New York or LA or Boston and not be wealthy, and that time is quickly disappearing,” Shaffer said.    “Long term, that is a concern for every queer organization: How do you survive in a city that maybe no longer has a place for a sort of scrappy upstart institution?
    Garcia and other museum directors consider traveling exhibits, online exhibitions and other opportunities to ensure access to queer history isn’t limited to metro areas such as New York City and San Francisco.
    “What we hope to be is a place where those histories are held and told in an ongoing way, sort of a wellspring or a source for all these other possible manifestations of history exhibitions or storytelling that can happen around the country,” Garcia said.    “I think that is the role of a culturally specific organization or a LGBTQ archive library or museum is to be that holder of documentation that will last in perpetuity.”
    As interest and access in LGBTQ museums expand, organizations reflect on their audience and the makeup of those who visit.    Museums and archives focused on queer culture and history are safe and accepting spaces for the LGBTQ community but also teach straight and cisgender visitors about queer history, according to Shaffer.
    “Our audience is really, really broad,” he said.    “I think it is a large part of our mission to not only educate queer people about their history but to educate everyone about their history. ... I think everyone should be able to access it, and it should be done in a way that is presentable and understandable.”
A segment of one of the original rainbow flags created for San Francisco Gay Freedom Day 1978
in its case at the GLBT Historical Society Museum in San Francisco. PROVIDED BY ANDREW SHAFFER

4/12/2022 CDC warns gay men of meningitis outbreak by Asha C. Gilbert, USA TODAY
    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging gay and bisexual men to get the meningococcal vaccine after an outbreak in Florida has led to an increase in cases.
    Multiple meningitis cases have been reported across the state in the past few months, and some involved college students and those living with HIV, according to a news release from the CDC.
    “Anyone who has been exposed or develops symptoms should be evaluated by a health care provider right away,” the release from the Florida Department of Health of Leon County said.    “This is a rare but potentially devastating infection.”    For every 100 people who contract meningococcal disease, 10 to 15 will die, according to the CDC.    One in 5 people who recover can suffer from long-term disabilities such as loss of limbs, brain damage and deafness.
    The Florida Department of Health said the number of cases in 2022 has surpassed the five-year average, and it is investigating three confirmed cases in Tallahassee in people ages 18 to 22.
    The disease is a more serious form of meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
    It is caused by the bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, which is less contagious than germs that cause the common cold or flu, the release said.    Meningococcal can be contracted after long periods of close contact, or direct contact such as kissing or sharing a drink.
    Fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting are some of the early symptoms of the disease.    The Florida Health Department said anyone exposed should contact their health care provider immediately.
Contributing: Tallahassee Democrat
Meningococcus seen under a scanning electron microscope. BSIP/UNIVERSAL IMAGES GROUP VIA GETTY IMAGES

4/13/2022 Oklahoma governor signs bill to make abortion illegal - Opponents say measure will face legal challenge by Sean Murphy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law on Tuesday that makes it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as part of an aggressive push in Republican-led states across the country to scale back abortion rights.
    The bill, which takes effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns next month, makes an exception only for an abortion performed to save the life of the mother.    Abortion rights advocates say the bill signed by the GOP governor is certain to face a legal challenge.
    Its passage comes as the conservative U.S. Supreme Court considers ratcheting back abortion rights that have been in place for nearly 50 years.
    “We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma,” Stitt said during a signing ceremony for the bill, flanked by anti-abortion lawmakers, clergy and students.    “I promised Oklahomans that I would sign every pro-life bill that hits my desk, and that’s what we’re doing here today.”
    Under the bill, anyone convicted of performing an abortion would face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.    It does not authorize criminal charges against a woman for receiving an abortion.
    Sen. Nathan Dahm, a Broken Arrow Republican now running for Congress who wrote the bill, called it the “strongest pro-life legislation in the country right now, which effectively eliminates abortion in Oklahoma.”
    Dahm said the bill would apply to any physicians in Oklahoma who dispense abortion medication to women, which accounted for about 64% of all abortions performed in Oklahoma in 2020, the most recent year for which statistics were available.    There is no enforcement mechanism in the bill for women who order abortion medication online from out-of-state suppliers.    Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill last year to prevent women from ordering abortion medication online, but that measure was blocked by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
    Abortion rights advocates say the bill is clearly unconstitutional, and similar laws approved recently in Arkansas and Alabama have been blocked by federal courts.
    White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released a statement Tuesday describing the bill as an “unconstitutional attack on women’s rights.”
    “Protecting the right recognized in Roe v. Wade continues to be a priority for the Biden-Harris Administration, and we call on Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would shut down these attacks and codify this long-recognized, constitutional right,” Psaki said.
    Although similar anti-abortion bills approved by the Oklahoma Legislature in recent years have been stopped as unconstitutional, anti-abortion lawmakers have been buoyed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow new Texas abortion restrictions to remain in place.
    The new Texas law, the most restrictive anti-abortion law to take effect in the U.S. in decades, leaves enforcement up to private citizens, who are entitled to collect what critics call a “bounty” of $10,000 if they bring a successful lawsuit against a provider or anyone who helps a patient obtain an abortion.
    Several states, including Oklahoma, are pursuing legislation similar to the Texas law this year.
    The Texas law bans abortion after roughly six weeks of pregnancy and makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.    Abortions in Texas have plummeted by about 50% since the law took effect, while the number of Texans going to clinics out of state and requesting abortion pills online has gone up.
    If the Oklahoma bill were allowed to take effect, women from Texas seeking abortions would be forced to travel further distances to Democratic-led states like Colorado and New Mexico, which have recently passed laws to protect abortion access.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt poses Tuesday in Oklahoma City with the bill he signed
that makes it a felony to perform an abortion. SUE OGROCKI/AP

4/13/2022 Bill against trans girls in girls’ sports passes House in Pa. by Mark Scolforo, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania House voted Tuesday after a tense debate to approve a bill that would prohibit transgender girls from competing in girls’ school sports.
    All but one Republican and four Democrats voted for the proposal to restrict players on K-12 school teams, college sports, intramurals and club teams sponsored by school entities to male or female teams based on their reproductive organs, biology or genetics at birth.
    “Identities do not play sports, bodies do,” argued the measure’s prime sponsor, Rep. Barb Gleim, R-Cumberland.    She said allowing transgender girls in girls’ sports gives them an “immense unfair advantage” and takes away spots on teams from other girls.
    “Sports are not about what we look like or the stereotype or identities we adopt,” Gleim said.
    The bill, given to the state Senate for its consideration on a 115-84 vote, would prevent “students of the male sex” from playing on athletic teams designated for women or girls.    It would offer a way for students and schools to sue, including against athletic organizations.
    “This bill demonstrates a lack of empathy and, sadly, outright hate to win imaginary political points,” said Rep. Austin Davis of Allegheny County, one of several Democrats to speak against it.    “And to those that formulated this game plan, I pray your eyes will open to the harm you are doing.”
    A spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday if the bill makes it to him he will veto it.
    Gleim spoke about the University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a transgender woman who recently won a title at the national NCAA Women’s Division I championship.
    “Thomas’s case shows us how only one biological male competing in women’s sports can decimate an entire league,” Gleim said.

4/15/2022 DeSantis signs 15-week abortion ban by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban into law Thursday as the state joined a growing conservative push to restrict access ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could limit the procedure nationwide.
    The new law marks a significant blow to abortion access in the South, where Florida has provided wider access to the procedure than its regional neighbors.
    The new law, which takes effect July 1, contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality.    It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.    Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.
    “This will represent the most significant protections for life that have been enacted in this state in a generation,” DeSantis said as he signed the bill at the “Nación de Fe” (“Nation of Faith”), an evangelical church in the city of Kissimmee that serves members of the Latino population.
    DeSantis, a Republican rising star and potential 2024 presidential candidate, signed the measure after several women delivered speeches about how they chose not to have abortions or regretted having done so.    Some of the people in attendance, including young children, stood behind the speakers holding signs saying “Choose life,” while those who spoke stood at a podium to which was affixed a sign displaying an infant’s feet and a heartbeat reading, “Protect Life.”
    Debate over the proposal grew deeply personal inside the Florida legislature, with lawmakers recalling their own abortions and experiences with sexual assault in often tearful speeches on the House and Senate floors.
    Elsewhere in the United States, Republican lawmakers have introduced new abortion restrictions, some similar to a Texas law that bans abortion after roughly six weeks and leaves enforcement up to private citizens, which the U.S. Supreme Court decided to leave in place.
    Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt recently signed a bill to make it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to a decade in prison.    Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in March signed legislation to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks if the U.S. Supreme Court leaves Mississippi’s law in place.
    In Kentucky, abortion-rights groups went to court Thursday seeking to restore abortion services, a day after the two remaining abortion clinics signaled, they couldn’t immediately comply with new restrictions imposed by the state’s Republican legislature.    Two lawsuits filed in federal court asked that a judge block the law from taking effect while the case is litigated.    Kentucky’s Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, said he is ready to defend the new law.
    If Roe is overturned, 26 states are certain or likely to quickly ban or severely restrict abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that supports abortion rights.    During debate of the Florida legislation, Republicans have said they want the state to be well placed to limit access to abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Mississippi’s law.
A new abortion ban signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis marks a
significant blow to abortion access in the South. REBECCA BLACKWELL/AP FILE

4/15/2022 Pope visits Italian prison for Holy Week foot-washing ritual by Frances D'Emilio, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis traveled to a prison near Rome to wash the feet of a dozen inmates, a Holy Thursday ritual that symbolizes humility and highlights his papacy’s attention to those on society’s margins.
    He arrived Thursday afternoon in a motorcade that included Italian police cars, which entered through a gate of the prison in Civitavecchia, a port city, 50 miles northwest of Rome.    The ritual was closed to the public for security reasons and to protect the privacy of the inmates.
    Hours earlier, during a Holy Thursday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis advised the 1,800 priests in attendance not to focus on worldly concerns such as power or status but exhorted them to “serve, with a clear conscience, the holy and faithful people of God.”
    Francis made no reference to decades of scandals involving Catholic priests who sexually abused children and were often transferred from parish to parish by bishops who tried to avoid embarrassment rather than protect minors.
    This year’s Holy Week celebrations come as the pope is struggling with mobility issues.    Francis suffers pain from a knee ligament problem and for years has been plagued by sciatica, a nerve inflammation affecting the legs and back.
    During the Holy Thursday Mass, large urns of oil are blessed for use in ceremonies in churches in the Rome area.    When Francis went to bless the oil by breathing into it, an aide helped him rise from his chair and walk toward the silver urn.    At the end of the ceremony, Francis descended the steps down from the altar clinging to an aide’s arm, and even while assisted limped his way out of the basilica.
This year’s Holy Week celebrations come as the pope is struggling with mobility issues. Pope Francis suffers pain from a knee ligament
problem and for years has been plagued by sciatica, a nerve inflammation affecting the legs and back. GREGORIO BORGIA/AP

4/16/2022 Ukrainian Jews mark Passover, if they can - Cara Anna and Oleksandr Stashevskyi by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VASYLKIV, Ukraine – The final hours before Passover found the chief rabbi for Kyiv and Ukraine in a cemetery.    Before he could mark the Jewish people’s escape from slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago, he was burying a man who didn’t escape a Russian bullet.
    Rabbi Moshe Azman doesn’t know how many Jewish people have been killed in Russia’s invasion.    But on Friday, on a rural hillside, he buried one more.
    “People of all nationalities, they are in this tragedy,” he said.
    The dead man was from Bucha, the community outside Kyiv whose name is now shadowed by horror.    The man last posted on his Facebook page in the earliest days of March.    His body was only recently found after the Russians withdrew.
    No family attended his burial, and the rabbi didn’t know where they are.
    “He was a quiet man,” the rabbi said.    “A very good guy.”    He had been shot and his body showed signs of possible torture.
    This Passover, “I pray to God he will make miracles, the way he made miracles for the Jewish people in Egypt,” the rabbi said.
    When asked what he thought about the Russian government’s claims of “de-Nazifying” Ukraine, the rabbi paused, then turned and indicated the grave.
    “This is the answer,” he said.    “They killed him. And not only him.”    The Russians are killing Russians, Ukrainians, Jewish people, including children, even at hospitals, without asking who they are, he said. He believes these are war crimes.
    The rabbi’s message to Jewish people in Ukraine who can’t celebrate Passover because they’re trapped or have no food is simple, direct and meaningful: “We pray for you.”    He worries about the people in the besieged city of Mariupol and the bombarded city of Kharkiv.
    The rabbi said he and colleagues had been working to get the needed Jewish food to hundreds of thousands of people throughout Ukraine.    “Be strong,” he said.    “Believe in God.”    He wished for a “new, good world, without war.”
    Passover also was being celebrated in the Ukrainian cities of Odesa, Dnipro and Kharkiv, the rabbi said, though he wasn’t sure about Chernihiv.
    At the synagogue in Kyiv shortly before the dinner, a young boy said “Ooh!” as wine bottles were popped open.    It was not clear how many people would attend because of the curfew.    One attendee, Natan Skybalskyi, said he usually marked Passover elsewhere but saw fellow wartime volunteers like him as a new family.    He had been pitching in as a driver to help with evacuations, he said.
    Some people are still waiting for that deliverance.
    “I hope this is the last Passover we have in war,” Skybalskyi said.
Moshe Reuven Azman, the chief rabbi for Kyiv and Ukraine, looks at preparations
before Passover on Friday at the synagogue in Kyiv. EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

4/16/2022 War in Ukraine weighs on pope’s Good Friday Colosseum procession by Frances D’Emilio, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ROME – The war in Ukraine loomed over the traditional Good Friday Colosseum procession in Rome, after the Vatican’s choice of a Russian woman to share bearing the cross with a Ukrainian woman had angered Ukrainians.
    In an apparent attempt to defuse the objections, when the moment arrived for the two women, who work together at a Rome hospital, to walk with the cross together, the ceremony’s participants were invited to pause in “prayerful silence” and pray in their heart for peace in the world.
    The original script, written with the women’s input, had spoken of prospects for “reconciliation.”    That wording had sparked protests by both the Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See and a Kyiv archbishop. They objected to projecting what they saw as the idea of reconciliation while Ukraine is ravaged by war unleashed by Russia.
    For the first time since before the pandemic, the solemn torch-lit procession returned to the ancient arena in Rome Friday night.    Thousands of pilgrims and tourists held small, lit candles as Pope Francis, looking pensive and wearing a white coat against the damp night air, sat under a canopy placed on an elevated viewing point.
    At each Station of the Cross, reflecting details of Jesus’ suffering and death by crucifixion, a different family walked with the cross, and meditations, written by them, were read aloud.
    The women were identified only by their first names in interviews on Italian Rai state TV: Irina, a nurse from Ukraine, and Albina, a Russian nursing student.    Ahead of the procession, Albina told Rai that it was important to “pray for the children who are no more, for the soldiers who lost their lives and can’t even be buried.”    Irina described the sharing of the cross-carrying as a “great responsibility.”
    The Vatican didn’t respond to the protests.    But apparently in reaction to the flap, the original meditation to be read while they shared bearing the cross was shortened considerably for the procession.
    The meditation said that “in the face of death, silence is the most eloquent of words.”    Participants were then invited to pause and “pray for peace in the world.”    The two women looked somberly into each others eyes for a long moment as they carried the cross.     Francis made no reference to the flap. Instead, he prayed that God “bring adversaries to shake hands, so that they taste reciprocal forgiveness.”    He also prayed that God “disarm the hand raised by brother against brother, so that where there is hatred, harmony will bloom.”
Pope Francis waves to worshippers by the Colosseum in Rome as he presides over
the Way of the Cross on Good Friday. VATICAN MEDIA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

4/17/2022 Ukrainian officials join vigil at Vatican - Pope addresses ‘horror of war’ ahead of Easter by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Saturday invoked “gestures of peace in these days marked by the horror of war” in an Easter vigil homily in St. Peter’s Basilica attended by the mayor of the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol and three Ukrainian lawmakers.
    The pontiff noted that while “many writers have evoked the beauty of starlit nights, the nights of war, however, are riven by streams of light that portend death.”
    Francis did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but he has called for an Easter truce in order to reach a negotiated peace.    That call appeared in vain Saturday, as Russia resumed missile and rocket attacks on Kyiv, western Ukraine and beyond in a stark reminder that the whole country remains under threat.
    At the end of his homily, the pontiff directly addressed Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov and Ukrainian lawmakers Maria Mezentseva, Olena Khomenko and Rusem Umerov, who sat all together in the front row.
    “In this darkness of war, in the cruelty, we are all praying for you and with you this night.    We are praying for all the suffering.    We can only give you our company, our prayer,” Francis said, adding that “the biggest thing you can receive: Christ is risen,” speaking the last three words in Ukrainian.
    Fedorov was abducted and held for five days by Russian troops after they occupied Melitopol, a strategic southern city.    Fedorov and the lawmakers have been visiting European capitals asking for more aid for their war-torn country and met earlier Saturday with the Vatican’s No. 2, Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.
    For Christians, Easter is a day of joy and hope, as they mark their belief that Jesus triumphed over death by resurrection following his crucifixion.
    “For with Jesus, the Risen Lord, no night will last forever; and even in the darkest night, the morning star continues to shine,” the pope said in his homily.
    Francis, who has been suffering from an inflamed ligament, did not participate in a candle-lit procession up the aisle of the darkened basilica at the start of the Mass.    He instead sat in front of the altar on a wooden upholstered chair in white robes. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re said the Mass instead.
    Arrayed before the steps of the altar was a row of cardinals, wearing ivory robes and face masks for the first Easter vigil Mass with the faithful present since the pandemic.
    Among those in the basilica were seven adults who were baptized by the pope during the Mass. The Vatican said these new faithfuls are from Italy, the United States, Albania and Cuba.    From a shell-shaped silver dish, Francis poured holy water over the bowed heads of the seven, after they walked up to him one by one and listened to him calling their first names.
    On Sunday, Francis celebrates Easter Mass in the late morning in St. Peter’s Square and gives a speech from the basilica balcony, known by its Latin name “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and to the world), in which he recounts the trials and conflicts facing the world.
An American is one of seven adults baptized by Pope Francis during the Easter vigil Mass
on Saturday at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. VATICAN MEDIA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

4/17/2022 Planned Parenthood moving into Oregon-Idaho border town - Org braces for law changes in west by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ONTARIO, Ore. – Planned Parenthood is renting medical office space in the town of Ontario on the Oregon-Idaho border.
    Planned Parenthood has not confirmed its plans for the space, but has said it’s preparing for an influx of outof- state patients seeking abortions in Oregon because of multiple legal challenges to abortion rights, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
    Earlier this year they successfully lobbied the Oregon legislature to set aside $15 million in an unrestricted fund for reproductive health equity.
    “No matter what happens we will be there for our in-state and out-of-state neighbors, and continue to meet the needs of our patients,” said Kenji Nozaki, the chief of affiliate operations at Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.    “We are prepared to support anyone who seeks their legal right to decide whether and when to become pregnant.”
    The office space Planned Parenthood is renting in Ontario was previously home to the Four Rivers Health Clinic, a nonprofit serving people without health insurance.
    Joe Recla, the group’s executive director, said Four Rivers will use the rental income to continue to support uninsured patients.
    A Planned Parenthood clinic in Ontario could be a significant high desert outpost for access to abortion and other reproductive health care services, in advance of a U.S. Supreme Court decision anticipated this summer that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old landmark abortion ruling.
    The small town of Ontario is about an hour’s drive from Boise, Idaho.
    Idaho has two trigger laws criminalizing abortion at all stages of pregnancy that would take effect in the event of a successful legal challenge to Roe v. Wade.
    Oregon has no legal restrictions on abortion, but the state has one clinic that performs abortions east of the Cascade Mountains, in Bend.    For those seeking abortions in eastern and northeastern parts of the state, the closest clinics are out of state.

4/17/2022 Pope Uses Sexual Fetish Term To Slam Reports Claiming He's Pro-Putin by Brendan Cole. Newsweek
    Pope Francis reportedly referenced a sexual fetish in hitting back at those who have criticized him for not condemning Vladimir Putin by name over the Ukraine war.
    The head of the Catholic Church has spoken repeatedly about the war since Russia's invasion on February 24 but has not named Putin directly.    On April 6, he said "end this war" and "stop sowing death and destruction."
    He has also condemned the murder of civilians, women and children in Bucha, but has has not explicitly blamed Putin.    This has led some news outlets in his home country of Argentina to accuse him of not speaking out in favor of Ukraine.
    The pope referred to this in responding to a letter sent to him by Argentine journalist Gustavo Sylvestre in which he wrote that reporters who accused him of having a pro-Putin stance were guilty of "disinformation, slander, defamation, and coprophilia."
    The Pope had previously used the word—a technical term for a sexual fetish involving human excrement—in his criticism of media for, he says, reporting scandalous or salacious stories, Catholic news outlet Crux reported.
    Pope Francis wrote on April 7 that those accusing him of a pro-Putin stance could be being paid to write such articles.
    He added that it was "sad" that "such a noble vocation" was being "soiled," according to a translation of the letter, which appeared on Sylvestre's blog and was reported by Crux.
    It comes as the Vatican faced criticism over its decision to put a Ukrainian and a Russian side by side during a Good Friday celebration.
    Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said that it equated victims to their aggressors.    Shevchuk and the Ukrainian government appealed to the Vatican to change its plans.
    While other Ukrainians viewed the gesture as backing Russia's propaganda that Russians and Ukrainians are brothers and should be part of one nation, the Vatican said the gesture simply symbolized reconciliation, The Straits Times reported.
    Newsweek has contacted the Kremlin and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry for comment.
    The Argentine Bishops' Conference has issued a statement in support of the pope's stance on the Ukraine war.
    In a response by Bishop Ariel Torrado Mosconi of the Diocese of 9 de Julio said "he has been crystal clear and did not mince words: 'Crime', 'atrocity', 'barbarity', 'sacrilege' are forceful words."
    "They reach the minds and hearts of the majorities much more than some of the convoluted and tendentious language of so many 'opinion makers' of the moment," the statement added, according to Crux.
    The pope has actively tried to end or at least suspend the fighting, and called for an Easter truce.
    According to Vatican News, He has also spoken with Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia's Orthodox Church who is a supporter of Putin.
    Newsweek has contacted the Vatican for comment.

4/18/2022 Pope makes Easter plea for peace - An estimated 100,000 turn out to hear Francis by Frances D'Emilio, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – On what is supposed to be Christianity’s most joyful day, Pope Francis made an anguished Easter Sunday plea for peace in the 'senseless' war in Ukraine and in other armed conflicts raging in the world, and voiced worry about the risk of nuclear warfare.
    'May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of this cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged,' Francis said, speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Square.
    The pontiff had just finished celebrating Easter Mass in the square packed by faithful for the holiday for the first time since the pandemic began in early 2020.    Applause erupted from many of the crowd, estimated by the Vatican to number 100,000 in the square and on a nearby avenue, when he mentioned Ukraine.
    'Please, please, let us not get used to war,' Francis pleaded, after denouncing 'the flexing of muscles while people are suffering.'    Yet again, the pontiff didn’t cite Russian President Vladimir Putin for the decision to launch the invasion and attacks against Ukraine on Feb.24.
    People’s hearts are filled with 'fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing,' the pontiff said.
    'Let us all commit ourselves to imploring peace, from our balconies and in our streets,' Francis said.    'May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace.'
    In a clear reference to the threat of nuclear warfare, Francis quoted from a noted declaration of 1955: '‘Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?’'
    He was quoting from a manifesto written by philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist Albert Einstein.    The manifesto’s text, sounding a grim warning against the consequences of nuclear warfare, was issued a few months after Einstein died.
    Meanwhile, in Britain, the leader of the Anglican church, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, called for Russia to declare a cease-fire and withdraw from Ukraine.
    Noting that in the Eastern Orthodox church followed by many in Russia and Ukraine Sunday marks the start of Holy Week – with Easter coming on April 24 – Welby exhorted Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and commit to talks.
    Francis also drew attention to other wars in the speech known by its Latin name 'Urbi et Orbi' – to the city and to the world.
    'May the conflict in Europe also make us more concerned about other situations of conflict, suffering and sorrow, situations that affect all too many areas of our world, situations that we cannot overlook and do not want to forget,' Francis said.
    Two days after Palestinians and Israeli police clashed in Jerusalem, Francis prayed that 'Israelis, Palestinians and all the inhabitants of the Holy City, together with pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, of living in brotherhood and of accessing Holy Places' in reciprocal respect.
    He called for peace and reconciliation for the peoples of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Libya.
    Francis spoke plaintively about Yemen, 'which suffers from a conflict forgotten by all, with continuous victims.'    He expressed hope that a recent truce would restore hope to that country’s people.
    He also prayed that God grant 'reconciliation for Myanmar, where a dramatic scenario of hatred and violence persists,' and for Afghanistan, which is gripped by a humanitarian crisis, including food shortages.
    Francis denounced the exploitation of the African continent and 'terrorist attacks – particularly in the Sahel region,' as well as the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and violence in Congo.
    In Latin America, many have seen their plight worsen during the coronavirus pandemic, aggravating social problems stemming from corruption, violence and drug trafficking, the pontiff said.
    But Francis found hope in the 'open doors of all those families and communities that are welcoming migrants and refugees throughout Europe,' referring to the some 10 million people who have either fled Ukraine or are internally displaced by the>     At the Polish border station of Medyka, a paramedic from Warsaw helped set out a traditional Easter breakfast with ham, cheese and Easter cakes for some of the latest refugees from Ukraine, the majority of whom have streamed into neighboring Poland.
    'They lost their homes.    They are seeking refuge in our country,' said volunteer Agnieszka Kuszaj.    She hoped that the meal would help them 'forget for a moment about all the terrible things' that have happened.
    Maria Dontsova, 31, who is from Kharviv, the heavily bombed city in eastern Ukraine said: 'I wish all families peace who are suffering in Ukraine at this great holiday Easter.'    Speaking in English, she expressed hope that war will end 'as soon as possible, and people stop suffering, and we can prevent the war (from) spreading to Europe'.
    Earlier, the pontiff, who has a knee ligament problem, limped badly as he made his way to an altar set up in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.    After Easter morning Mass, Francis boarded the white popemobile for a whirl through the square among the cheering ranks of the crowd.
Faithful attend the Catholic Easter Sunday Mass led by Pope Francis in
St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Sunday. Photos by Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Pope Francis blesses the altar at Easter Mass on Sunday at the Vatican.

4/18/2022 Archbishop: UK’s Rwanda migrants plan goes against God by Jill Lawless, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LONDON – The leader of the Anglican church strongly criticized the British government’s plan to put some asylum-seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda, saying “sub-contracting out our responsibilities” to refugees can’t stand up to God’s scrutiny.
    Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby made the unusually direct political intervention in his Easter Sunday sermon, saying there are “serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas.”    He said “sub-contracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well, like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures.”
    Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral in southeast England, Welby said that while “the details are for politics and politicians, the principle must stand the judgment of God – and it cannot.”
    Britain and Rwanda announced Thursday that they had struck an agreement that will see some people arriving in the U.K. as stowaways on trucks or in small boats sent 4,000 miles to the East African country, where their asylum claims will be processed and, if successful, they will stay in Rwanda.
    Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government says the plan will discourage people from making dangerous attempts to cross the English Channel, and put people smuggling gangs who run the treacherous route out of business.    More than 28,000 migrants entered the U.K. across the Channel last year, up from 8,500 in 2020.    Dozens have died, including 27 people in November when a single boat capsized.
    Refugee and human rights groups called the plan inhumane, unworkable and a waste of taxpayers’ money.    The U.N. refugee agency said it was “contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.”
    Another senior Anglican cleric, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, called the Rwanda plan “depressing and distressing.”
    “After all, there is in law no such thing as an illegal asylum-seeker,” he said in an Eastern sermon at York Minster cathedral in northern England.    “It is the people who exploit them that we need to crack down on, not our sisters and brothers in their need.”
    The deal – for which the U.K. has paid Rwanda 120 million pounds ($158 million) upfront – leaves many questions unanswered, including its final cost and how participants will be chosen.    The U.K. says children, and families with children, won’t be sent to Rwanda.
    Senior civil servants in the Home Office, the government department responsible for immigration policy, raised concerns about the plan but were overruled by Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby criticized the British government’s plan
to put asylum-seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda. GARETH FULLER/PA VIA AP

4/18/2022 Parents fear laws will hurt LGBTQ kids - States restrict sports, education, health care by Romina Ruiz-Goiriena, USA TODAY
    Jeff Walker pulled up to the school driveway in his white SUV, his mind racing: Will my daughter be able to use the bathroom at school?    Where will I take her to the doctor?    Where do I get her medicines?
    On April 8, Alabama became the newest state to pass restrictions on LGBTQ children, and Walker worried about what it meant for his daughter, Harleigh, 15, who is transgender.    Was she safe?    And then: Should they move?
    Parents of LGBTQ children and youth are worried as nearly 20 states follow in the footsteps of Florida and Texas, which banned gender-affirming medical care and barred public school teachers from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in what critic’s call “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.
    “This group of children have been targeted in a way that you have put their health, their mental well-being in jeopardy and their lives in jeopardy.    There’s just no other way to paint this picture,” said Walker, 46, of Auburn, Alabama.
    Walker was emphatic: “You have not protected one child; you have made these children more at risk.”
    Since 2018, the number of anti-LGBTQ bills filed across the USA soared from 41 to 238, and 191 of them were proposed in the past year, according to Freedom for All Americans, a bipartisan lobbying group working to end discrimination against LGBTQ people.
    Some laws ban transgender kids from playing sports.    Others prevent them from receiving medical care or therapy services that recognize their gender.    Some states want to keep students and faculty from talking about LGBT issues at school.
    Alabama’s slate of laws had Walker working the phones and shooting off emails.
    He needed to get in touch with his daughter’s doctors and therapists in Birmingham about how the laws banning gender-affirming medical care would affect them.
    “We’re going to have to figure it out, we have to see what our options are,” Walker said.    “This isn’t an urgent care where there’s one in every city, right?    This is very specialized care.”
    His health insurance provider is based in another state, meaning Harleigh’s medicines were still covered. Without insurance, it would be $11,000 for a three-month supply.
    Walker wondered if he would have to split up his family and move across state lines, so his little girl could get the care she needed.    That would mean leaving his 20-year-old son serving in the Alabama National Guard.
    “The impact of just saying we’ve got to pick up and load up the wagons and move would be devastating to both of my children,” Walker said.
    “For Harleigh, moving away from her friends and where she’s lived her entire life,” he said.    “For my son Robbie – he can’t go anywhere – which means one of the parents would need to stay here and be supportive.”
    Experts said one of the biggest issues with anti-LGBTQ legislation is that the language is intentionally vague, so students, parents and teachers will be afraid to discuss topics perceived as prohibited and to seek out guidance or medical care.
    Tobias Barrington Wolff, a law professor specializing in constitutional law and LGBT rights at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, said state directives about medical treatment raise questions about the constitutional protection afforded the parent child relationship in the 14th Amendment, which allows parents to direct the care, upbringing and education of their children.
    When it comes to education laws, “the state has broad leeway in choosing its own curriculum, even if it chooses an approach that fosters ignorance,” Barrington Wolff said.    “Parents of trans, gay, lesbian and bisexual young people should be very concerned.”
    Censoring school curricula and imposing felony charges on doctors who provide best-practice medical care are examples of a much larger anti-LGBTQ legislative wave, said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, a nonprofit based in West Hollywood, California, that focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth.
    A majority of U.S. adults would be comfortable if their child came out to them as LGBTQ, and many of them oppose the laws, a poll by the Trevor Project found.
    “These cruel policies may be out of step with reality and public opinion, but they are increasing in frequency and severity,” Ames said.
    Kevin McDonald, 47, a school teacher in Edmond, Oklahoma, feels the pressure at school and at home.    His 15-year-old daughter identifies as a lesbian.
    “As a teacher, it feels like there’s so much conversation about what we are doing in the classroom,” McDonald said.    “But now is my family going to get dragged out openly because somebody wants to out you as a bad actor because of the way your child understands themselves?” McDonald, who is originally from San Antonio, Texas, said he remembers how hard it was for friends who came out as gay in the 1980s and 1990s.    As he sees states propose restrictions, it sends chills down his spine.
    “This feels like we’re being shoved back in that direction,” McDonald said.
    Parents and advocates said the mounting restrictions and attacks will take a toll on the mental health of LGBTQ kids and teens.
    “I won’t lie.    As a trans person myself, this constant barrage of attacks on people who look like me or share my experience is hard,” said Shaun Connors, chapter engagement manager for PFLAG National, the country’s largest organization uniting parents, families and allies with the LGBTQ community.
    “Instead of planning for a summer vacation, some families are planning to uproot or move,” Conners said, “or they’re safety planning and putting ‘go bags’ together.    There is real fear because lawmakers are giving permission to harm trans kids.”
    Receiving gender-affirming care is associated with 60% lower odds of depression and 73% lower odds of suicide, according to a study published by the JAMA Network.
    “It is clear that this type of legislation will continue to present itself for the foreseeable future,” said Christopher Carpenter, professor of economics and the director of the LGBT Policy Lab at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
    “Research clearly shows that mental health status of LGBTQ+ youth are worse in states that have policy environments that are anti-LGBT.”
    In Alabama, the Walkers sat around their table, venting their frustration over Gov. Kay Ivey signing the legislation into law.
    It was especially hard for Harleigh, who spent her spring break at the state Capitol meeting with legislators, trying to convince them to vote against the bills.
    “Don’t you think my daughter wants to spend her vacation on the beach with her friends,” Walker said.
    Stopping the bill was plan A.    Now it was time for the family to discuss next steps.

Jeff and Harleigh Walker were guests at the White House on March 31 for Transgender Day of Visibility. AP

Faithful attend the Catholic Easter Sunday Mass led by Pope Francis in
St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Sunday. Photos by Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Jeff Walker, wife Lisa, and their children Robert and Harleigh fought an Alabama law banning gender-affirming medications
for trans youth under 19 and prohibiting trans students from using K-12 bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity. AP

4/19/2022 EMW WOMEN’S SURGICAL CENTER - Anti-abortion protesters given warning, citations - ‘Safety zone’ hasn’t resolved all harassment, abuse, owner says by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK
    The sight of an arriving patient, on foot or by car, is a call to action for anti-abortion protesters who gather regularly outside EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville.
    Protesters, including self-proclaimed sidewalk counselors and preachers, move toward the patient, following her along the sidewalk or gathering around the vehicle, as they offer literature and urge against abortion.
    “Ma’am, please don’t kill your baby,” one man called out on a recent morning to a woman entering the clinic.    “They murder babies here,” yelled another through a portable microphone.
    But, for the most part, protesters are staying out of a 10-foot wide “safety zone” on the public sidewalk at the clinic entrance, meant to ensure patients can enter without being accosted or blocked at the door.
    After some initial delays, Louisville Metro Police are now enforcing the 2021 “safety zone” ordinance that calls for a written warning for the first offense and citations and fines for subsequent violations.
    Since September, 14 protesters have received warnings — one of them cited for multiple offenses.    Three others have been charged with criminal trespassing for coming onto clinic property.
    That enforcement is making a difference, says clinic operators, who have repeatedly called on Louisville officials to do more about instances where protesters follow patients to the door, touch or grab them, or attempt to block them from entering.
    “We hear directly from patients that this 10-foot narrow space is appreciated and makes them feel safer as they enter and exit our facility,” Ona Marshall, clinic co-owner, said in a March 22 memo to Louisville Metro Council.
    EMW suspended offering abortion services last week while its lawyers challenge in federal court a new state law effective April 13 that they say is so restrictive it makes providing abortions impossible.
    But that has not stopped protesters, who continue to gather daily outside the clinic to sing, pray, shout and approach anyone entering or exiting the clinic, Marshall said.
    “It’s been the same out there every day so far,” she said.
    The ordinance applies to any health facility that seeks a safety zone, but it was prompted by reports of aggressive protest tactics and altercations outside the storefront-style EMW clinic at 136 W. Market St.
    While the yellow-striped safety zone hasn’t eliminated all behavior clinic owners believe is illegal, such as stalking, harassment or obstructing the sidewalk, the ordinance approved last year has had a “tremendous impact” in improving patient access and public safety, Marshall’s memo said.
    Further, almost all of the individuals issued warnings by LMPD for violating the safety zone have ceased doing so, Marshall’s memo said.
    Chuck Jones, an Indiana man who said he received a warning for taking too long to walk through the safety zone, said he now walks around it, and from his regular station just outside the yellow line, he cautions other protesters to avoid it Hunter Norwick, a pastor with a church in Shelbyville who received a warning, calls the marked-off area “silly” but now stops at the yellow line.    Norwick, who was using a clip-on microphone on a recent weekday outside EMW, said the safety zone doesn’t stop him from expressing his anti-abortion message.
    “Young man, you need to stand up for life,” he called out to the companion of a woman entering the clinic.
    “Shut the **** up,” the man replied.    However, one protester described by a county prosecutor in court records as a “repeat offender,” is facing seven criminal complaints alleging 17 violations of the Louisville ordinance after an initial warning.
    Donna Durning, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, has been ordered by a judge not to come within 500 feet of the clinic and is facing a potential contempt of court charge for the additional violations.
    Durning, 85, in an interview, said she’s staying away from EMW while she attempts to resolve the charges but said it’s painful not being able to go to the clinic where she’s been protesting regularly for 26 years.
    “I cannot get within 500 feet of the abortion mill,” Durning said.    “I just miss being able to talk to the girls about abortion.”
    Durning’s next court hearing is Aug. 4.
‘Swarming’ cars that drop off patients
    Several anti-abortion groups and protesters have filed lawsuits challenging the safety zone as unconstitutional, saying it violates their free speech rights.    A federal judge in February refused their request to block its enforcement while the case is pending.
    Marshall, in her memo, said the safety zone hasn’t resolved all the problems at the clinic, which she said include harassment, stalking and verbal and physical abuse amid protests that sometimes become loud and chaotic.
    Barred from the clinic entrance, some protesters now rush into the street and “swarm” cars that pull up to drop patients off at the curb where the safety zone ends, her memo said.
    Others gather outside the nearby public parking garage used by many patients and follow them to and from their cars to “frighten and harass them,” her memo said.
    And some protesters set up loudspeakers and blast the clinic with antiabortion rhetoric, in violation of city noise ordinances, she said.
    “In spite of this new tool, this area of downtown remains dangerous and unsafe,” Marshall’s memo said.    “There is increasingly hostile and aggressive behavior occurring on a public sidewalk.”
    Protesters said they also experience risks.
    Norwick said last week a woman accompanying a patient to the clinic displayed a gun in her purse and threatened to use it on anyone who tried to talk with her.
    Others protesters say they have been cursed or threatened.
    And Durning, in 2019, suffered a broken leg after she was bumped by a woman she approached outside the clinic.
    Volunteer escorts, who stand watch outside the clinic and help patients in and out, also have been subject to hostile actions, Marshall said.
    In one instance, a man on Sept. 25 was captured on video appearing to kick or trip a volunteer escort as they tried to lead a patient into the clinic.    Marshall said EMW is trying to determine the man’s identity in order to seek a criminal complaint and has provided the video to police and the FBI.
Charged with stepping onto clinic property
    In a statement, LMPD said it is working with EMW to enforce the safety zone ordinance, “as we would with any law.”
    As for violations outside the safety zone, LMPD can only enforce violations it observes and is working with the Jefferson County Attorney’s office to determine how to “appropriately enforce” them, the statement said.
    Marshall, in an interview, said LMPD has told clinic staff they don’t have enough officers to have someone regularly patrol the area outside EMW.
    So for now, the bulk of enforcement falls to the clinic and volunteers who assist in reviewing hours of security camera footage, identifying alleged violations and forwarding information to police and the county attorney, Marshall said.
    “I do want to give credit to LMPD and the county attorney for the work that they’ve done,” Marshall said.    “But there is so much more work that needs to be done for public safety.”
    Three protesters have been charged with criminal trespassing for coming onto EMW property.
    Indiana residents Joseph Spurgeon, of Clarksville, and Isaiah Howard, of Sellersburg, are charged with misdemeanors for stepping onto clinic property, according to complaints filed by EMW in Jefferson District Court.
    It said Spurgeon, pastor of Sovereign King Church in Sellersburg, approached the employee parking lot at the rear of the clinic and yelled at staff as they drove in.    Howard, a complaint said, stepped onto EMW property twice after having been warned repeatedly to stay off the property marked with “No Trespassing” signs.
    Court records show Spurgeon entered an Alford guilty plea on Monday and was fined $145.    Howard is to be arraigned April 18.
    And Angela Minter, president of Sisters for Life, an anti-abortion group which says it conducts a “sidewalk ministry,” has been charged with criminal trespass after she allegedly passed by “No Trespassing” signs in 2019 to follow a patient inside EMW through a secure entryway where patients are admitted to the locked facility.
    Minter, a regular protester at EMW, has pleaded not guilty to the charge.    Her trial is scheduled for Sept. 6.
    Minter, along with the Kentucky Right to Life Association, also is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging the ordinance establishing the safety zone, saying it is unconstitutional because it prevents them from their work of “sidewalk counseling.”
    U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings in February denied the plaintiff’s request for an injunction barring enforcement of the safety zone, saying their likelihood of success based on the merits of their claim “is not strong.”    The case remains pending.
    Ed Harpring, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, visits EMW regularly to pray and try to dissuade patients from getting an abortion.
    He said he opposes the safety zone because it limits contact with patients and companions.
    “It violates First Amendment freedom of speech,” he said.
    Also, he said volunteer escorts get in his way.
    “Many times, I have an escort between me and a woman getting out of the car,” Harpring said.    “We just don’t have the access we used to.”
    Protesters acknowledge not everyone welcomes their efforts.
    But occasionally a patient they approach will change her mind and leave or visit the Beside U Pregnancy Center next door to EMW, which offers a free ultrasound and counseling about alternatives, such as adoption.
According to protester Chuck Jones, “That makes it all worthwhile.”
    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@courier- Find her on Twitter at @d_ yetter.
Volunteers escort a patient through a safety zone at the EMW Clinic on April 9. MICHAEL CLEVENGER/COURIER JOURNAL

Chuck Jones positioned his chair at the edge of the safety zone at EMW Women's Surgical Center in
a photo taken after the city approved the no-trespassing strip. DEBORAH YETTER/COURIER JOURNAL

Protesters and escorts stand outside of a marked safety zone at the EMW Clinic on April 9. MICHAEL CLEVENGER/COURIER JOURNAL

4/20/2022 NJ diocese agrees to $87.5M deal to settle sex abuse suits by Mike Catalini, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    TRENTON, N.J. – A New Jersey Catholic diocese has agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle claims involving clergy sex abuse with some 300 alleged victims in one of the largest cash settlements involving the Catholic Church in the United States.
    The agreement between the Diocese of Camden, which encompasses six counties in southern New Jersey on the outskirts of Philadelphia, and plaintiffs was filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden on Tuesday.
    The settlement must still go before a U.S. bankruptcy judge. If approved, the settlement would exceed the nearly $85 million settlement in 2003 in the clergy abuse scandal in Boston, although it’s less than other settlements in California and Oregon.
    “I want to express my sincere apology to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse in our Diocese,” Bishop Dennis Sullivan said in a statement.    “My prayers go out to all survivors of abuse and I pledge my continuing commitment to ensure that this terrible chapter in the history of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey never happens again.”
    Details about what allegedly happened to the roughly 300 victims were not included in the proposed settlement, according to an attorney for some 70 of the victims.
    “This settlement with the Bishop of Camden is a powerful advance in accountability,” said Jeff Anderson, an attorney representing 74 of the roughly 300 survivors.    “The credit goes to the survivors for standing up for themselves and the truth.”
    The alleged sexual abuse occurred from the 1950s into the 1990s, Anderson said.
    The diocese said the deal calls for setting up a trust, which will be funded over four years by the diocese and “related Catholic entities” to compensate survivors of sexual abuse.    Part of the deal also requires maintaining or “enhancing” protocols to protect children.
    Abuse survivors who filed a claim in the bankruptcy could get $290,000, according to victims’ attorneys Jay Mascolo and Jason Amala.
    The agreement comes more than two years after New Jersey expanded the window of its civil statute of limitations to allow for victims of sexual abuse by priests to seek legal compensation.    The legislation lets child victims sue up until they turn 55 or within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused them harm.    The previous statute of limitations was age 20 or two years after first realizing the abuse caused harm.
    The diocese, like others across the country, had filed for bankruptcy amid a torrent of lawsuits stemming from the relaxed statute of limitation.

4/21/2022 Years of fruitful relations at risk between Disney, Florida - Political factions now warring over Walt Disney’s economic juggernaut by Mike Schneider and Curt Anderson, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Eastern seaboard architecture during turn-of-the-century America was recreated in Main Street U.S.A.
at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Theme Park in Orlando, Fla., November 1970. AP
    ORLANDO, Fla. – The idea was presented to Florida lawmakers in a movie house outside Orlando 55 years ago, with Walt Disney, who had died less than two months earlier, helping make the pitch from the screen: Let Disney form its own government and in exchange it would create a futuristic city of tomorrow.
    That city never materialized, but Walt Disney World became an economic juggernaut with four theme parks and two dozen hotels, while its government retained unprecedented powers in deciding what and how to build, issuing bonds and holding the ability to build its own nuclear plant if it wanted.
    Now, five decades later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking lawmakers to end Disney’s government in a move that jeopardizes the symbiotic relationship between the state and company.    The high-profile attack by a politician from a GOP party that has historically championed its ties to business follows the company’s opposition to what critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law barring instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
    Republican Rep. Randy Fine, sponsor of the bill to scrap the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the Disney government entity is known, said it is time for a change.     “You kick the hornet’s nest, things come up.    And I will say this: You got me on one thing – this bill does target one company.    It targets the Walt Disney Co.,” Fine said.    “You want to know why?    Because they are the only company in the state that has ever been granted the right to govern themselves.”
    In an email fundraising pitch Wednesday, DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, put it this way: “Disney has gotten away with special deals from the state of Florida for way too long.    It took a look under the hood to see what Disney has become to truly understand their inappropriate influence,” the governor’s email said.
    “If Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy,” the email added.
    Disney, based in Burbank, California, had more than $67 billion in revenue in 2021 and has declined comment on the Florida legislation, which passed the state Senate on Wednesday and is being considered by the House in a special session of the Republican-dominated Legislature.    The effective date of the measure would be June 2023, leaving time to develop a compromise short of completely abolishing the district.
    Before Reedy Creek became Disney’s government, it was a drainage district created to help manage the 27,000 acres that the company secretly acquired parcel by parcel in the mid-1960s.
    At first, news accounts speculated that “a new and large industrial complex” might be coming to the area.    Some reports linked it to the Kennedy Space Center about an hour’s drive away in Cape Canaveral.    Finally, on Oct. 21, 1965, the Orlando Sentinel broke a story with this headline: “We Say: ‘Mystery Industry’ is Disney.’”    A few days later, then-Gov. Haydon Burns confirmed the Disney plan, saying it would be “the greatest attraction in the history of Florida.”
    That would prove true over the decades as metro Orlando became the most visited destination in the U.S., attracting 75 million tourists annually before the pandemic.    The metro area, which added Universal and SeaWorld theme park resorts, grew from 305,000 residents in 1970, the year before Disney World opened, to almost 2.7 million residents last year.
    In some ways, the Reedy Creek Improvement District was built on a misrepresentation when company officials came to Florida lawmakers with their plans to build an East Coast Disneyland.    After the company’s first theme park in southern California was built in the 1950s, motels and tourist shops encroached around the property, and Walt Disney wanted to make sure the same thing didn’t happen in Florida.
    Along with a theme park, Disney officials led by Roy Disney, Wat’s brother, told Florida lawmakers in 1967 that they planned to build a futuristic city – the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, known as Epcot.
    The proposed city would include a rapid transit system and urban planning innovations, so Disney needed autonomy in the district for building and deciding how to use the land, they said.    The futuristic city never materialized, and instead Epcot morphed into a second theme park that opened in 1982.
    “They said they were going to do one thing and they did another,” said retired Rollins College political scientist Richard Foglesong, whose book, “Married to the Mouse” recounted the formation of Reedy Creek.    “In that respect, it was legally infirm.    I think that is a factual argument.”
    Reedy Creek was allowed to build its own roads, run its own wastewater treatment plants, operate its own fire department, set its own building codes and inspect Disney buildings for safety.    In the current budget year, the district had $169 million in revenues and $178 million in expenditures.
    Reedy Creek essentially runs a midsize city. On any given day, as many as 350,000 people are on Disney World property as theme park visitors, overnight hotel guests or employees.    The district has to manage the traffic, dispose of the waste and control the plentiful mosquitoes in a territory once called Mosquito County.
    Even though Reedy Creek’s primary task is to operate Disney World, it is home to less than 50 residents living in manufactured homes in two tiny communities, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista.    The two municipalities were formed to support the legal framework of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which is governed by a five-member Board of Supervisors with four-year terms.    The supervisors must be landowners within Reedy Creek, and to qualify, Disney gives them a small piece of land that they must give back once they leave the board.
    Disney also has been a major political player in Florida and the country.    The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political campaign spending, reported that in the 2020 campaign cycle, Walt Disney Co. and affiliates made more than $20 million in political contributions to both Republicans and Democrats.
    That year, the most recent in which figures are available, Disney-related entities funneled $10.5 million to the America First Action committee, which supports former President Donald Trump.    Disney also contributed $1.2 million to support President Joe Biden’s campaign.
    “I think Disney is stuck a bit,” Foglesong said.    “They thought they could have it both ways – be the company of motherhood and apple pie and fund these reactionary Republican politicians.”
The Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is seen with the crest to celebrate
the 50th anniversary of the theme park Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. JOHN RAOUX/AP FILE

4/22/2022 Groups work to aid women navigating state’s new abortion law by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    Some women seeking abortion just need gas money for what often is an hours-long drive to the nearest clinic.
    Others need help with child care, lodging, the cost of an abortion — generally from about $500 to $800 — or simply locating the nearest clinic.
    Kentucky became the only state with no abortion services after a new state law took effect April 13 that the only two abortion providers say forced them to suspend services while a legal challenge is pending.
    A federal judge on Thursday issued a temporary order to block the law — which had placed Kentucky in the national spotlight — from taking effect.
    Before the injunction went into effect, two non-profit groups had redoubled their efforts to help women with the costs and logistics of obtaining abortions — and shifted their work to identifying resources in other states.
    “Women of means will always be able to access abortion,” said Kate Cunningham, president of A Fund, a Louisville-based group that helps low-income women pay for abortions.    “The question is, how do poor women manage to access basic health care?
    Another group, the Kentucky Health Justice Network, has been helping patients locate the nearest clinic, schedule appointments and assists with expenses ranging from travel to the procedure itself.
    It also helps clients navigate the various regulations of each state. For example, most states have waiting periods for abortion after counseling about the procedure; some allow counseling by telehealth and others require in-person visits.
    Some states require an in-person visit to a physician by patients seeking medication to terminate an early pregnancy; others, including Illinois, permit telehealth visits.
    Kentucky’s two abortion providers, Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, both in Louisville, suspended abortion services April 14, though they are still taking calls from patients and advising them of options.
    Both have filed federal lawsuits alleging the new law, House Bill 3, is unconstitutional and asking judges to at least temporarily block it while their challenges are pending.
    Among restrictions: The law bans abortions after 15 weeks; outlaws abortion medication by mail; imposes new restrictions on abortions for girls under 18; requires cremation or burial of fetal remains; and requires creation of an extensive new bureaucracy for regulating abortion medication, which now accounts for about half all pregnancy terminations.
    Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is charged under the new law with enforcing it, had filed a response in federal court asking the judge not to block the law, saying it “enacts a number of much-needed reforms to laws regulating abortion within the Commonwealth.”
    “All of these reforms are common sense,” said Cameron, a Republican.
    Opponents say HB 3, a priority of the Republican-controlled General Assembly, is so broad with so many new requirements that is impossible to comply with, forcing them to suspend abortion services.    Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat who supports abortions rights, vetoed the bill but lawmakers overrode the veto.
    Meanwhile, members of A Fund and KHJN say they are continuing the work they have done for years to help women and girls in Kentucky find access to and pay for abortions, relying on donations and volunteers.
    Erin Smith, executive director of KHJN, says its volunteers are helping patients schedule visits elsewhere.     “We are now only able to connect people to other states,” she said.
    Those states include West Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.    Appointments depend on where the client lives and how far she is able to travel.
    KHJN works through a hotline people may call to get help arranging an abortion.
    KHJN last year paid $144,650 to help 1,041 clients with the costs of abortion, according to its annual report on its website.    It also spent about $5,600 on gas and the same amount on lodging expenses for clients.    It also, when possible, will provide volunteers to drive clients to appointments, especially low-income women who lack transportation.
    “These kinds of restrictions hit women harder who are already on the margins,” said Meg Sasse Stern, support fund director for KHJN.
    Cunningham said a surge in donations arrived because of the law.
    “A Fund is getting donations from all over the United States,” she said.    “Word is getting out.    People want to help people in Kentucky get care.”
    A Fund last year received $175,974 in donations and spent $166,517 to help with abortion costs for 1,433 women, according to its website.    A Fund works directly with clinics to help patients who need help with costs, Cunningham said.    Patients in need of assistance should check with the clinic to determine what financial help is available, she said.
Here’s where to find information on abortion services
    The Kentucky Health Justice Network hotline number is 855-576-4576.    Its website is
    Information about the A Fund is on its website,
    Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri has established a “regional logistics center” for accessing abortion services.    The phone number is 618-607-5080.
    The National Network of Abortion Funds also provides information on how to find help paying for an abortion on its website,
    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@    Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:

4/22/2022 13 Nassar victims seek $130M from FBI over bungled probe by Ed White, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    DETROIT – Thirteen sexual assault victims of Larry Nassar are seeking $10 million each from the FBI, claiming a bungled investigation by agents led to more abuse by the sports doctor, lawyers said Thursday.
    It’s an effort to make the government responsible for assaults that occurred after July 2015.    The Justice Department’s inspector general concluded last year that the FBI made fundamental errors when it became aware of allegations against Nassar that year.
    Nassar was a Michigan State University sports doctor as well as a doctor at USA Gymnastics.    He is serving decades in prison for assaulting female athletes, including medal-winning Olympic gymnasts.
    'This was not a case involving fake 20-dollar bills or tax cheats,' attorney Jamie White said.    'These were allegations of a serial rapist who was known to the FBI as the Olympic U.S. doctor with unfettered access to young women.'
    Nassar, he added, continued a 'reign of terror for 17 unnecessary months.'
    An email seeking comment was sent to the FBI.    White is not suing the FBI yet.    Under federal law, tort claims must be a filed with a government agency, which then has six months to reply.    A lawsuit could follow, depending on the FBI’s response.
    'No one should have been assaulted after the summer of 2015 because the FBI should have done its job,' said Grace French, founder of a group called The Army of Survivors.    'To know that the FBI could have helped to avoid this trauma disgusts me.'
    White noted the 2018 massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.    The FBI received a tip about five weeks before 17 people were killed at the school, but the tip was never forwarded to the FBI’s South Florida office.    The government agreed to pay $127.5 million to families of those killed or injured.
    The inspector general’s investigation was spurred by allegations that the FBI failed to promptly address complaints made in 2015 against Nassar.    It took months before agents opened a formal investigation.
    White said more than 100 women were assaulted after July 2015.    Nassar wasn’t arrested by state authorities until November 2016 during an investigation by Michigan State University police.
    FBI Director Christopher Wray has said he’s 'deeply and profoundly sorry' for delays in Nassar’s prosecution and the pain it caused.
    The Michigan attorney general’s office ultimately handled the assault charges, while federal prosecutors in Grand Rapids, Michigan, filed a child pornography case against Nassar.
    Michigan State University agreed to pay $500 million to more than 300 women and girls who were assaulted.    USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee made a $380 million settlement.
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the FBI’s handling of
the Larry Nassar investigation on Sept. 15 in Washington. Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP File

4/22/2022 Judge blocks Montana’s transgender birth certificate law by Amy Beth Hanson, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    HELENA, Mont. – A Montana judge on Thursday temporarily blocked enforcement of a law that required transgender people to have undergone a “surgical procedure” before being allowed to change their sex on their birth certificates.
    District Judge Michael Moses of Billings ruled the law is unconstitutionally vague because it does not specify what surgical procedure must be performed.    The law also required transgender people to obtain a court order indicating they had a surgical procedure.
    Because he could grant the temporary injunction based on the vagueness issue, Moses said he did not further analyze the constitutionality of the law.
    “We are thrilled that the court recognized the substantial and unnecessary burdens this law places upon transgender individuals in violation of their constitutional rights,” said Akilah Lane, staff attorney at the ACLU of Montana.
    The plaintiffs – Amelia Marquez of Billings and a transgender man who is not identified in court records – wanted to change the sex on their birth certificates without undergoing costly surgical procedures.
    “Plaintiffs provided unrebutted evidence describing that neither genderaffirming surgery nor any other medical treatment that a transgender person undergoes changes that person’s sex,” Moses wrote.
    “Instead, gender-affirming surgery aligns a person’s body and lived in experience with the person’s gender identity, which already exists.”
    The temporary injunction remains in place until the full case is decided.
    Before the 2021 Legislature passed the challenged law, transgender residents seeking to change their birth certificate needed only to provide an affidavit to the state health department.    The temporary injunction puts that process back in place.
    Republican state Sen. Carl Glimm, who sponsored the legislation, has argued that the health department overstepped its authority in changing the designation on a birth certificate from “sex” to “gender” and then setting rules for how it could be changed.
    The office of Attorney General Austin Knudsen, which is defending the state in this case, did not immediately respond to an email seeking to learn if the state planned to appeal the injunction.
Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Montana State Capitol in Helena protesting

4/23/2022 Judge blocks restrictive new Kentucky abortion law by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK
    A federal judge has issued a temporary order blocking Kentucky’s sweeping new abortion law that forced the state’s only two providers to stop offering the procedure.
    The law, House Bill 3, put Kentucky in the national spotlight for becoming the first state to eliminate access to all abortion services since the law took effect April 13.
    In a ruling issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings granted a request from one of the state’s two abortion providers for a temporary restraining order, finding that the law took effect immediately with no opportunity for clinics to comply with its many new rules.
    “The plain language of HB 3 is clear that the entire law became effective and enforceable on April 13, 2022,” Jennings’ opinion said.
    Jennings said her order is not a ruling on the constitutionality of HB 3; she will consider that argument at a hearing on whether to grant a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of HB 3 before her temporary order expires in 14 days.
    Thursday’s ruling was celebrated by Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the state’s only abortion providers, though acknowledging it is only temporary.
    “This is a win but it is only a first step,” said Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood’s six-state group that includes Kentucky “We’re prepared to fight for our patients’ right to basic health in court and to continue doing everything in our power (to) ensure abortion access is permanently secured in Kentucky.”
    Heather Gatnarek, a lawyer who represents EMW, said the ruling clears the way for providers to resume abortion services.
    “Abortion remains legal and is once again available in Kentucky,” said Gatnarek, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.    “We will always fight to keep it that way here and across the country.”
    But Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican who is defending HB 3 in federal court, said he “disappointed that the court chose to temporarily halt enforcement of the law.”
    “This law is constitutional and we look forward to continuing to defend it,” Cameron said.
    Jennings’ order comes eight days after Planned Parenthood and EMW, both in Louisville, filed separate lawsuits seeking emergency relief in federal court from HB 3, an “omnibus” abortion law with so many restrictions the clinics said it would be impossible to comply with it.
    Jennings’ ruling comes in the case of Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit though it affects both clinics.    EMW’s lawsuit is pending before U.S. District Judge David Hale, who has not yet ruled.
    Both lawsuits claim the law results in an unconstitutional ban on abortion.    They also argue it would be impossible to continue to provide abortions and comply with new rules and reporting requirements the state says it would take months to establish.
    Cameron, in opposing any delay of HB 3, argued in the Planned Parenthood case that the law contained “much needed regulatory reforms.”    Abortion providers would not have to comply with forms and regulations not yet developed, said Cameron, who is charged in HB 3 with enforcing it.
    But Planned Parenthood said it faced significant risks for any violation of the law which contains criminal penalties, fines and loss of professional licenses— with no guarantee it would not be enforced.
    “Plaintiff and the other abortion provider in Kentucky are at significant risk of civil, criminal and professional liability for any violation of this act,” said the response from lawyer Michael P. Abate.
    Jennings found that there is no exemption in the law for clinics to provide abortions while the state develops extensive new regulations, reporting systems and oversight HB 3 requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to establish.
    “The court finds that based on the plain language of HB 3, the Kentucky legislature intended for the entire law to become effective immediately, regardless of whether the cabinet has created a means for compliance,” her opinion said.
    HB 3 took effect the same day the Republican- controlled General Assembly overrode a veto by Gov. Andy Beshear.
    Beshear, a Democrat who supports abortion rights, vetoed the law he said is likely unconstitutional; he also objected to it because it lacks an exemption for those who become pregnant because of rape or incest.
    But Republicans, with super-majorities in both chambers, easily overrode the veto and with an emergency provision, it immediately became law.
    Among its many restrictions on abortion, HB 3 outlaws sending medication by mail used to terminate an early pregnancy, although that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.    It requires the state to create a new, extensive system to certify, register and monitor anyone who produces, ships or dispenses the medication.
    The cabinet would enforce rules for producing and providing the medication.
    It also requires the state to create an online site listing names and addresses of anyone who provides abortion medication where people can file complaints, anonymously if they choose.    The cabinet would be required to investigate all complaints.
    Beshear has called the new requirements for the cabinet and “unfunded mandate” and said it could cost $1 million to create and staff the oversight system called for in HB 3.
    HB 3 also bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy — current Kentucky law bans it after 20 weeks, puts new restrictions on abortions for girls under 18, including those seeking permission from a judge in certain circumstances and requires fetal remains to be disposed of through cremation or burial.
    And it creates new reporting requirements for abortion opponents say would violate patient privacy.
    The scramble to try to block the law is similar to that of 2019, when lawmakers passed a bill to ban abortions after six weeks, and then-Gov. Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican, signed it into law the same day.
    That forced EMW, then the state’s only abortion provider, to cancel appointments and suspend abortions for a day until the law was blocked by a federal judge.    That law remains suspended while the legal challenge is pending.
    Meanwhile, abortion opponents remained focused on a Mississippi case that could curtail or overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized the right to abortion nationwide.    A ruling is expected by June.
    The Mississippi case bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy although the Supreme Court has allowed abortion to the point where a fetus is considered viable, generally around 24 weeks.
    Kentucky added the provision banning abortion after 15 weeks so that the state would have a similar law in place if the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law but stops short of overturning Roe v. Wade altogether.
    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@courier-    Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:
REVELATION 6:11 “And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”

4/24/2022 Easter is ‘very strange’ for Ukrainian Orthodox in US - Many find it difficult to summon joy for holy day by Peter Smith, ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Rev. Mykola Ivanov leads the procession of the Holy Shroud in Shamokin, Pa. CAROLYN KASTER/AP
    The rituals leading up to Easter are the same.    The solemn Good Friday processions.    The Holy Saturday blessings of foods that were avoided during Lent.    The liturgies accompanied by processions, bells and chants.    Although Easter is the holiest of holy days on the church calendar, marking the day Christians believe Jesus triumphed over death, many members of Ukrainian Orthodox churches across the United States are finding it difficult to summon joy at a time of war.
    Many are in regular contact with relatives or friends suffering amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has laid waste to cities and claimed thousands of civilian lives, according to the Ukrainian government.
    “This is a very strange Easter for us,” said the Rev. Richard Jendras, the priest at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Allentown, Pennsylvania.    “It should be a joyous holiday, and it’s all about new life, and yet here we are being confronted with the harbingers of murder and killing and genocide and death.”
    Many believers “are walking around like zombies,” he said.    “We are going through the motions of Easter right now because it’s what we have to hang on to.”
    Orysia Germak, a member of the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Volodymyr in New York City, said news from the war summons bad memories: She was born in a camp for displaced persons after her mother fled Ukraine post-World War II, she said.
    “Easter is such a joyous occasion, but this underlines everything,” she said.    “It’s surreal.”
    Both cathedrals are part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, whose parishes include many people with recent or ancestral ties to the old country.    Most Catholics and Protestants celebrated Easter on April 17, but Eastern Orthodox are celebrating Sunday.    They usually do so later than Western churches because they use a different method of calculating the date for the holy day, which they call Pascha.
    Some Ukrainian Catholics, particularly in Ukraine, also are celebrating Sunday.    But many Ukrainian Catholics in the U.S. celebrated last week.
    Among those celebrating Easter last weekend were congregants at Transfiguration of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, one of the oldest surviving Ukrainian Catholic churches in America.
    Their priest, the Rev. Mykola Ivanov, 41, came from Ukraine in 2005.    His elderly parents are in the city of Lviv, which has been thronged with refugees from elsewhere in Ukraine; his older brother is fighting with the Ukrainian army on the eastern front.
    At every Mass since the war started, the service has included a “Prayer for Ukraine.”    It includes a plea to God to crush the invaders who threaten the Ukrainians’ “precious land.”
    For Orthodox Ukrainians, Easter is being marked on both sides of the battle lines.    Eastern Orthodoxy is the predominant religion in Ukraine and Russia, as well as in several neighboring lands.    A schism among Ukrainian Orthodox – with one group asserting independence and the other historically loyal to the patriarch of Moscow – has reverberated worldwide amid competing claims of legitimacy.    But the two main Orthodox bodies in Ukraine have fiercely opposed the Russian invasion.
    In the United States, many people with ties to Ukraine are monitoring the war closely and sending funds to individuals and aid groups there, said Andrew Fessak, president of the board of trustees at St. Volodymyr.
    Although Orthodox in America can celebrate freely, “our relatives and friends in Ukraine are under pressure from an invading army and aren’t as free to celebrate as they wish,” Fessak said.    “They may not be able to get to churches.    They may not be able to walk about town like they wish.    They may not be able to have traditional foods they might have on Easter.”
    And yet he takes heart in the strength of the Ukrainian resistance.
    “The Ukrainian population has shown they are highly keen on retaining Ukrainian independence,” he said.    “That’s at least a strong comfort to us, to see there is such a strong civic pride and sense of patriotism.”
    The Rev. John Charest of St. Peter & St. Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, said it’s important to carry out the historic rituals even in somber times – in part to defy Russian President Vladimir Putin.    Even though believers in the U.S. might have “a feeling of survivor’s guilt,” they have a duty to continue traditions that are under such threat in Ukraine, Charest said.
    “We do need to be strong now and we do need to be celebrating this feast,” he said.    “If we’re not celebrating our traditions, that’s exactly what Putin wants.”
    Jendras said the holy day offers a timeless message: “We have to look at the evil in front of us and say no, good does triumph and will always triumph.”
    “The Ukrainian population has shown they are highly keen on retaining Ukrainian independence.    That’s at least a strong comfort to us, to see there is such a strong civic pride and sense of patriotism,” Andrew Fessak, President of the board of trustees at St. Volodymyr.
A girl holds a candle during Good Friday service at St. Mary’s
Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Allentown, Pa. WONG MAYE-E/AP

A girl watches as her mother kisses the Gospel book as she enters St. Mary’s Ukrainian
Orthodox Cathedral in Allentown, Pa.. for a Good Friday service. WONG MAYE-E/AP

4/25/2022 Beshear announces steps to legal medical marijuana by Joe Sonka, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
A Cresco Labs employee cares for marijuana plants in the newly opened Cresco Labs medical
marijuana plant in Yellow Springs, Ohio, on Oct. 8, 2018. ALBERT CESARE/CINCINNATI ENQUIRER
    Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced a process Thursday that may lead to executive action allowing medical marijuana in the state, citing widespread support from the public and the failure of a bill to legalize it in the recently- ended legislative session.
    Beshear did not give any specific examples of executive orders he may take, but laid out steps for the coming months that involve the creation of an advisory team and a listening tour around the state to receive input from the public on the issue.
    “Most of these steps are about hearing from you, the public, so that your voice is heard by the executive branch — even if it’s ignored by the legislative branch,” Beshear said.
    A bill to legalize and strictly regulate medical marijuana passed the state House in March by a wide margin for the second time in three years, only to stall and die in the Senate, where the majority of the GOP caucus and top leaders like President Robert Stivers and Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer remain opposed.
    Not referring to any legislators by name, Beshear said “it’s time that a couple of individuals that are out of touch with the vast majority of Kentuckians on this issue stop obstructing it and we’re able to move forward.”
    Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, the main sponsor of bills to legalize medical cannabis in the last few sessions, told The Courier Journal he totally agrees with the governor’s sentiments on the need for such treatment options, but flatly disagrees that the governor has the legal authority to do so.
    “If he were to have (legal authority), I would be trumpeting it — this is a huge issue for me, and nobody has fought as hard for it,” Nemes said.    “But he doesn’t have the authority, and I’m concerned that he’s giving people false hope.”
    Beshear signaled two weeks ago that he is considering executive action on medical marijuana, with attorneys in his office already conducting “in-depth research and analysis” to provide a framework of potential options he can take on his own.
    “I believe that we have an opportunity to set up the right regulatory framework where we don’t see abuse,” Beshear said.    “And this gives us a chance over the next couple of months to be thoughtful — but we will be looking at action and a culmination into some form of action, depending on our legal options, at the end of that timeframe.”
    Kentucky remains one of just 14 states to have not legalized either medical or recreational marijuana.    Asked if he also supports recreational marijuana, Beshear said he instead prefers expanding decriminalization.
    Stivers responded to Beshear with a statement that “the public should be concerned with a governor who thinks he can change statute by executive order."
    “He simply can’t legalize medical marijuana by executive order; you can’t supersede a statue by executive order because it’s a Constitutional separation of powers violation,” Stivers stated.
    The GOP Senate president added that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is prohibited from rescheduling any controlled substance to a less restrictive numerical schedule as provided under federal law.
    Beshear said he will put out information soon on membership for the governor’s medical cannabis advisory team and its four listening tour stops in the state, while Kentuckians can submit their own email statements at GovMedicalCannabisAdvisoryTeam@    “I want to make sure that I’m getting advice from all corners of Kentucky and that we can hear directly people’s stories, people’s experience, the need that is out there,” Beshear said.
    Beshear said he hoped lawmakers would be a part of the advisory teams’ efforts and “not obstruct what the vast majority of Kentuckians want, and what many suffering from chronic pain, PTSD and other issues need.”
    While legislation to legalize medical marijuana failed this session, another bill pushed by legalization opponents did pass into law to create the Kentucky Cannabis Research Center at the University of Kentucky, along with $2 million of funding.
    Stivers supported the bill, saying that more research is needed on the effectiveness and safety of medical cannabis instead of “shooting blindly into the dark” with legalization.
    Reach reporter Joe Sonka at and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today at the top of this page.
Ky. Gov. Andy Beshear, photographed April 13, announced a process Thursday that may lead to
executive action allowing medical marijuana in the state. MATT STONE/COURIER JOURNAL

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, talks after his House Bill 136 to
legalize medical marijuana cleared a House committee on March 10. JOE SONKA

4/26/2022 Tenn. bill focuses on trans athletes by Kimberlee Kruesi, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee will soon add harsh penalties against public schools that allow transgender athletes to participate in girls’ sports, under legislation recently signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Lee.
    Lee quietly signed the proposal last Friday without comment. The governor had previously signed a measure last year mandating that student athletes must prove their sex matches that listed on the student’s “original” birth certificate.    If a birth certificate was unavailable, then the parents must provide another form of evidence “indicating the student’s sex at the time of birth.”
    This year, the GOP-controlled Legislature decided to add penalties to that ban – which is in effect even as a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality makes it way through court.
According to the bill, Tennessee’s Department of Education would withhold a portion of state funds from local school districts that fail to determine a student’s gender for participation in middle or high school sports.    The bill will go into effect July 1.
    “Telling transgender students that they can’t participate as who they really are amounts to excluding them from sports entirely – depriving them of opportunities available to their peers and sending the message that they are not worthy of a full life,” said Henry Seaton, ACLU of Tennessee’s transgender justice advocate, in a statement.

4/27/2022 Abortions still hard to get despite law’s suspension by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
EMW Women’s Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood are the state’s only two abortion providers, and filed
separate legal challenges to HB 3, arguing it is unconstitutional. ALTON STRUPP/COURIER JOURNAL
    Abortions still are not available to patients in Kentucky who are 15 weeks pregnant or more, despite a federal judge’s April 21 ruling temporarily suspending a new, restrictive abortion>     That’s because EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the only provider of abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy, is seeking clarification from U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings about her order barring enforcement of House Bill 3.
    EMW wants to make sure the order also covers a portion of the law banning abortions after 15 weeks, according to a court filing Monday on behalf of the clinic by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union.
    Meanwhile, EMW has been turning away women who are 15 weeks pregnant or more, the filing said.    A previously enacted Kentucky law bans abortion after 20 weeks.
    EMW and Planned Parenthood, both in Louisville, are the state’s only two abortion providers, and filed separate legal challenges to HB 3, arguing it is unconstitutional.
    Jennings’ ruling temporarily blocking HB 3 came in the lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, which offers abortions services only through 14 weeks of pregnancy.
    So far, 23 patients 15 weeks pregnant or more have been refused abortions at EMW since the sweeping new law went into effect April 13 with a host of new restrictions for abortion services in Kentucky, its motion said.
    One or more such patients per day are being turned away from EMW, the court filing said.    Clinic operators have said they counsel patients on other options, such as locating a provider in another state.
    And non-profit organizations including the Kentucky Health Justice Network and the A Fund are available to help women locate a clinic and provide financial assistance.
    Jennings ordered a temporary suspension of HB 3 that for eight days made Kentucky the only state with no access to abortion after both clinics said they were forced to cease services because the new law took effect immediately.
    Abortion services for most patients resumed April 22 at EMW and at Planned Parenthood.
    But because Jennings ruled only in the challenge filed by Planned Parenthood, EMW is concerned the ruling doesn’t specifically apply to abortions provided after 15 weeks, its motion said.
    Both Planned Parenthood and EMW filed challenges to the new law immediately after it took effect.
    But EMW filed its challenge before U.S. District Judge David Hale, seeking to add it to its ongoing lawsuit challenging two other Kentucky laws from 2019, one banning abortion after six weeks and the other banning abortion because of the race, gender or disability of a fetus.
    However, in an order entered Friday, Hale denied the request saying it would “unduly complicate the existing litigation.”
    So on Monday, EMW’s lawyers returned to federal court, asking Jennings’ permission to join the Planned Parenthood lawsuit and clarify whether her temporary restraining order applies to the 15-week ban in HB 3.
    Jennings’ April 21 order said she will try to schedule a hearing on whether to grant an injunction to block HB 3 indefinitely before her temporary order expires in 14 days.
    Parties to the case include Attorney General Daniel Cameron, whose office is defending the law.    Cameron has said he opposes any delay in the enforcement of HB 3.
    Kentucky has enacted more than a dozen new laws seeking to ban or restrict abortion since Republicans won full control of the General Assembly in 2016.
    Meanwhile, abortion opponents remained focused on a Mississippi case that could curtail or overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized the right to abortion nationwide. A ruling is expected by June.
    The Mississippi case bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy although the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed abortion to the point where a fetus is considered viable, generally around 24 weeks.
    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@courier-    Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:

4/27/2022 Nonbinary birth certificates banned in Oklahoma - State is first in US to write prohibition into law by Sean Murphy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed a bill prohibiting the use of nonbinary
gender markers on state birth certificates. ALONZO ADAMS/AP FILE
    OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill Tuesday explicitly prohibiting the use of nonbinary gender markers on state birth certificates, a ban experts say is the first of its kind in the nation.
    The bill followed a flap last year over the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s agreement in a civil case allowing a nonbinary option.
    The birth certificate in that case was issued to an Oklahoma-born Oregon resident who sued after the agency initially refused the request.    People who are nonbinary do not identify with traditional male or female gender assignments.
    News of the settlement prompted outrage among Republicans, including Stitt, and his appointee to lead the agency abruptly resigned the next day.    Stitt then promptly issued an executive order prohibiting any changes to a person’s gender on birth certificates, despite the settlement agreement.    A civil rights group has challenged the executive order in federal court, but the state has not yet responded.
    Many states only offer male or female gender options on birth certificates, but Oklahoma is the first to write the nonbinary prohibition into law, according to Lambda Legal, the civil rights group suing Oklahoma.
    Currently, 15 states and the District of Columbia specifically allow a gender marker designation outside of male or female, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.    That number will increase on July 1 when Vermont’s new statute goes into effect.
    “People are free to believe whatever they want about their identity, but science has determined people are either biologically male or female at birth,” said Oklahoma Rep. Sheila Dills, the House sponsor of the bill, in a statement.    “We want clarity and truth on official state documents.    Information should be based on established medical fact and not an ever-changing social dialogue.”
    Oklahomans in 2020 elected the nation’s first openly nonbinary legislator in the country, Oklahoma City Democrat Rep. Mauree Turner, who said it was painful to have colleagues single out those who are gender diverse.
    “I find it a very extreme and grotesque use of power in this body to write this law and try to pass it – when literally none of them live like us,” Turner tweeted the day the bill was debated.
    The U.S. State Department recently announced it had issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation, marking a milestone in the recognition of the rights of people who do not identify as male or female, and expects to be able to offer the option more broadly next year.

4/26/2022 Former High School Football Coach Takes Religious Case To Supreme Court by OAN Newsroom
    The Supreme Court hears oral arguments which could be a test to religious freedom in public schools.    One America’s Justine Brooke Murray has more from Washington.

4/28/2022 Judge’s order allows clinic to resume all abortions - EMW had asked for clarification after new state law was halted by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK
    Abortions are again available for patients in Kentucky who are 15 weeks pregnant or more.
    In an order issued late Tuesday, Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings said her previous ruling suspending enforcement of a new, restrictive state abortion law applies to the entire law — including the ban on abortions after 15 weeks.
    EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the only provider of abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy, had asked the judge for clarification about her April 21 order barring enforcement of House Bill 3.
    EMW wanted to make sure the order also covered a portion of the law banning abortions after 15 weeks, according to a court filing Monday on behalf of the clinic by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union.
    EMW had been turning away women who are 15 weeks pregnant or more, the filing said.    A previously enacted Kentucky law bans abortion after 20 weeks.
    EMW and Planned Parenthood, both in Louisville, are the state’s only two abortion providers, and filed separate legal challenges to HB 3, arguing it is unconstitutional.
    On Tuesday, Jennings granted EMW’s request to join Planned Parenhood in a joint challenge to the new law.     Jennings’ ruling temporarily blocking HB 3 came in the lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, which offers abortion services only through 14 weeks of pregnancy.
    The judge has scheduled a hearing Monday on Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction to suspend enforcement of the law beyond the 14 days allowed under her temporary restraining order.
    So far, 23 patients 15 weeks pregnant or more have been refused abortions at EMW since the sweeping new law went into effect April 13 with a host of new restrictions for abortion services in Kentucky, its motion said.
    One or more such patients per day were being turned away from EMW, the court filing said.    Clinic operators have said they counsel patients on other options, such as locating a provider in another state.
    And non-profit organizations including the Kentucky Health Justice Network and the A Fund are available to help women find a clinic and provide financial assistance.    Jennings ordered a temporary suspension of HB 3 following eight days in which it made Kentucky the only state with no access to abortion after both clinics said they were forced to cease services because the new law took effect immediately.
    Abortion services for most patients resumed April 22 at EMW and at Planned Parenthood.
    But because Jennings ruled only in the challenge filed by Planned Parenthood, EMW was concerned the ruling doesn’t specifically apply to abortions provided after 15 weeks, its motion said.
    Both Planned Parenthood and EMW filed challenges to the new law immediately after it took effect.
    But EMW filed its challenge before U.S. District Judge David Hale, seeking to add it to its ongoing lawsuit challenging two other Kentucky laws from 2019, one banning abortion after six weeks and the other banning abortion because of the race, gender or disability of a fetus.
    However, in an order entered Friday, Hale denied the request saying it would “unduly complicate the existing litigation.”
    So on Monday, EMW’s lawyers returned to federal court, asking Jennings’ permission to join the Planned Parenthood lawsuit and clarify whether her temporary restraining order applies to the 15-week ban in HB 3.
    Jennings advised lawyers Tuesday to be prepared to outline their cases for and against enforcement of the law at Monday’s hearing.
    Parties to the case include Attorney General Daniel Cameron, whose office is defending the law.    Cameron has said he opposes any delay in the enforcement of HB 3.
    Kentucky has enacted more than a dozen new laws seeking to ban or restrict abortion since Republicans won full control of the General Assembly in 2016.
    Meanwhile, abortion opponents remained focused on a Mississippi case that could curtail or overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized the right to abortion nationwide.    A ruling is expected by June.
    The Mississippi case bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy although the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed abortion to the point where a fetus is considered viable, generally around 24 weeks.
    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@    Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:
So far, 23 patients 15 weeks pregnant or more have been refused abortions at EMW since the sweeping new law went into effect April 13 with
a host of new restrictions for abortion services in Kentucky, its motion said. PHOTOS BY ALTON STRUPP/COURIER JOURNAL

EMW had been turning away women who are 15 weeks pregnant or more, the filing said.
A previously enacted Kentucky law bans abortion after 20 weeks.

4/28/2022 Vatican trial places pope, top aide at center of London deal by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – The former director of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency testified Wednesday that Pope Francis asked him to help the Vatican secretariat of state get full control of a London property, once again putting the pope and his top deputies in the spotlight for their roles in the problematic deal.
    Tommaso Di Ruzza is one of 10 people accused in the Vatican’s sprawling financial trial, which is centered on the secretariat of state’s 350-million-euro investment in a luxury London property.    Vatican prosecutors have accused brokers and Vatican officials of fleecing the Holy See of millions of euros in fees, much of it donations from the faithful, and then extorting the Vatican of 15 million euros to get full control of the property.
    Di Ruzza, the former director of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, or AIF, is accused of abuse of office for allegedly failing to block the 15-million-euro payment to broker Gianluigi Torzi and of allegedly failing to alert Vatican prosecutors to a seemingly suspicious deal.
    Di Ruzza testified Wednesday that he had neither the authority to block the payment, nor the sufficient evidence at the time to flag it to Vatican prosecutors as suspicious under international norms or the Vatican’s own anti-money laundering laws.
    Furthermore, he testified that AIF’s involvement in the deal was correct, noting that as soon as he learned about the deal, he launched a multi-pronged, international financial intelligence investigation that was active when Vatican police raided his headquarters on Oct. 1, 2019.
    “I have always acted in compliance with the rules and to protect the interests of the Holy See,” he said.
    At issue in the case are contracts signed between Torzi and the secretariat of state in November and December 2018 asserting that the Vatican would own 30,000 shares in the London property’s holding company and Torzi 1,000.    But Torzi’s shares were the only ones with the right to vote, meaning he controlled the building.
    By December 2018, the Vatican realized it had an empty box on its hands, and scrambled to figure out a way to get full control of the building: either by buying out Torzi’s shares or launching legal action against him for what the Vatican considered to be a fraudulent deal.
    The No. 2, or substitute in the secretariat of state, Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, has already told prosecutors that based on Francis’ desire to “turn the page,” and spend as little as possible to get control of the building, the Vatican decided to pay off Torzi rather than take him to court.
    Di Ruzza testified that he met with Francis on or around March 26, 2019, and that Francis told him that he wanted to have a “direct management, without intermediaries” in the property.
    Pena Parra had sought AIF’s opinion to get a loan from the Vatican bank, known as IOR, to obtain a 150-million-euro loan to extinguish the mortgage on the property since the existing mortgage was too onerous, Di Ruzza said.    AIF was asked to make sure the loan was compliant, which Di Ruzza said it was.
    Di Ruzza said AIF opened an investigation into the deal on March 18, 2019, sending requests for financial information to a half-dozen countries’ financial intelligence units, soon after it learned about it from Pena Parra.
Pope Francis and his top deputies are once again in the spotlight for their
roles in a problematic London property deal. ANDREW MEDICHINI/AP

4/28/2022 Canadian census shows first snapshot of transgender population by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    TORONTO – Changing a question on last year’s census has resulted in a snapshot of Canada’s transgender population, with data released Wednesday showing 0.33 per cent of the country’s 38.3 million people identify as a gender that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
    For the first time, Statistics Canada differentiated between “sex at birth” and “gender” in the census.    While the agency and advocates agree the new numbers likely underestimate the true size of the population, they say the data will offer crucial insight into a marginalized community.
    The data collected during last year’s national household survey shows about 100,815 people are transgender or non-binary, including 31,555 who are transgender women, 27,905 who are transgender men and 41,355 who are non-binary.
    Fae Johnstone, a transgender advocate, said population- level data backing up trans people’s lived experience has thus far been slim, so this new information is important both symbolically and practically.
    “It says something when our government is recognizing the existence of trans folks who have historically been kept out of these conversations and uncounted,” Johnstone said.    “But it also is useful to us to better understand how we can focus interventions and address health inequities experienced by trans folks across this country.”
    While previous censuses asked only about sex, the 2021 edition asked about both “sex at birth,” which it said is “determined by a person’s biological characteristics,” and “gender,” which it said could differ from what’s indicated on legal documents.
    Under “gender,” respondents were able to choose either male or female, or write in a third option.
    The inclusion of transgender people in the census is part of a broader move by the Liberal government to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ community.

4/29/2022 Oklahoma House sends abortion ban to governor - Stitt expected to sign Texas-style bill into law by Sean Murphy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House gave final approval Thursday to a Texas-style abortion ban that prohibits the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
    The bill approved by the GOP-led House without discussion or debate now heads to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it within days.    The assault on abortion rights is one of several culture-war issues conservatives in GOP-led states have embraced that drive the party’s base in an election year.
    A coalition of Oklahoma abortion providers and abortion rights advocates immediately filed separate legal challenges in state court to both the Texas style ban and a separate bill Stitt signed earlier this month to make abortion a felony.    Legal experts say it’s likely both measures could be temporarily halted before they take effect.
    House members also voted Thursday to adopt new language prohibiting transgender students from using school restrooms that match their gender identity and requiring parental notification ahead of any classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    “They’re all concerned about their elections coming up and making sure they have something they can put on a postcard to talk about,” said Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Midwest City.
    The abortion bill, dubbed the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, prohibits the procedure once cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo, which experts say is roughly six weeks into a pregnancy.    A similar bill approved in Texas last year led to a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions performed in that state, with many women going to Oklahoma and other surrounding states for the procedure.
    Like the Texas law, the Oklahoma bill would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion for up to $10,000.    After the U.S. Supreme Court allowed that mechanism to remain in place, other Republican-led states sought to copy Texas’ ban.    Idaho’s governor signing the first copycat measure in March, although it has been temporarily blocked by the state’s Supreme Court.    Although Stitt already signed a bill this year to make performing an abortion a felony crime in Oklahoma, that measure is not set to take effect until this summer.    The bill approved by the House on a 68-12 vote on Thursday has an “emergency” provision that allows it to take effect immediately after the governor signs it.
    Abortion providers say it will immediately end most abortions in Oklahoma unless a court intervenes.
    “We are more concerned at this point about these Texas-style bans because they have, at least recently, been able to continue and remain in effect,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates two abortion clinics in Oklahoma.    “We’re serving as many Texans as Oklahomans right now, in some cases more Texans than Oklahomans.”
A person holds flags during the Bans Off Oklahoma Rally on the steps of
Oklahoma’s state Capitol in Oklahoma City on April 5. SARAH PHIPPS/USA TODAY NETWORK


4/30/2022 Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene just slammed the US Catholic Church's leadership in a 700-word statement, calling them 'monsters' who are 'controlled by Satan' by (Matthew Loh)
© John Bazemore-Pool/Getty Images
    Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene slammed the US Roman Catholic Church's leaders on Wednesday, calling its bishops "criminals and abusers."
    In a 700-word statement, Greene demanded an apology from Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who had earlier criticized her for saying that "Satan's controlling the Church."    Greene had made the comment during an interview with the right-wing site Church Militant.
    Donohue had also called Greene a "loose cannon" and a "disgrace," adding that she had slandered the entire Church and "needs to apologize to Catholics immediately."
    However, Greene's official statement did just the opposite, with the congresswoman doubling down on her earlier comments instead.
    "Donohue should have called my office, or had a staffer check Google, before firing off a hysterical-sounding statement.    He doesn't know this, but I am a cradle Catholic," she wrote.
    Related video: Marjorie Taylor Greene says Christians who support undocumented migrants are in Satan's control.mp4 (The Independent)
    Marjorie Taylor Greene says Christians who support undocumented migrants are in Satan's control.mp4.
    Greene said that she stopped attending Catholic Mass after becoming a mother because she couldn't trust the Church leadership to "protect my children from pedophiles."    She also claimed that the Church "harbored monsters even in their own ranks."
    The Catholic Church still faces a widespread scandal involving thousands of reports from all over the world — including US cities — of children being abused by members of the clergy.
    Greene continually referenced the scandal in her statement, accusing US church leaders of covering up the crimes.
    "Just so we're clear, bishops, when I said 'controlled by Satan,' I wasn't talking about the Catholic Church.    I was talking about you," she added.     "I can tell you that it's the bishops' wickedness that has driven me away from the Church, and I make no apologies for saying so," said the congresswoman.    "America's Catholic bishops are some of the worst in the world."
    She also accused them of supporting an "illegal invasion" by using federal funds to resettle undocumented immigrants — one of the main talking points of her interview with Church Militant.
    "What more can we expect from criminals and abusers living unaccountable lives of luxury funded by the rest of us, draped in fine linens while choirboys are raped?" Greene wrote in her statement.
    "Until the people running the Catholic Church stop abusing children and stop covering up the abuse of children, I will continue to hold them to account," she added.
    The Catholic League did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
    Read the original article on Insider.
[I have seen that the Scarlet Woman is riding the back of the Beast.
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.):]

4/30/2022 Pope issues mandate for sex abuse commission - Warns of lost trust without accountability by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis gave a new mandate to his sex abuse advisory commission Friday, telling its members to work with bishops around the world to establish special welcome centers for victims and to audit the church’s progress on fighting abuse from its new perch within the Vatican.
    Francis warned that without more transparency and accountability from the church, the faithful would continue to lose trust in the Catholic hierarchy after decades of revelations about priests who raped and molested children, and bishops and religious superiors who covered up those crimes.
    Francis issued the new orders during a meeting with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he created in 2013 as an ad hoc body to advise the church on best practices to protect minors and prevent abuse.
    “The testimony of the survivors represents an open wound on the body of Christ, which is the church,” he told them.
    Despite the fanfare that greeted its creation, the commission’s limited mandate has frustrated survivors, its outsider status generated resistance in the Vatican, and one of its biggest initial recommendations – a special Vatican tribunal to prosecute bishops who covered up for pedophiles – went nowhere.
    But Francis has sought to breathe new life into the commission.    In his recent reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, he gave it greater institutional weight by making it part of the newly named Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that processes clergy sex abuse cases around the world.
    Boston Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, who heads the commission and helped craft Francis’ reforms, said the commission’s new location inside the doctrine office represented a “watershed moment in the life of the commission” and would let it “animate the entire church.”
    The institutional legitimacy means the commission now has access to reports the bishops conferences prepare for the Vatican about their work, and can engage with the doctrine office on how cases are being handled, said O’Malley’s deputy, the Rev. Andrew Small.    “There have been some conversations ... to see how we grasp this mantle of access to information of criminal processes,” Small said.    “I’m enthusiastic that that will be a priority.”
    One of the new mandates for the commission is to help bishops conferences establish survivor welcome centers where victims can find healing and justice.    That could help answer a longstanding complaint from survivors who often report negative experiences when they report a priestly abuser.
    “So many survivors around the world are asking, ‘Where is my case?    What is happening?’ ” said Juan Carlos Cruz, a commission member and Chilean abuse survivor.    He said the “dark hole” where canonical cases remain in limbo for years without any information given about their status “can be incredibly retraumatizing” for survivors.
Boston Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, left, is head of the Pontifical
Commission for the Protection of Minors. ANDREW MEDICHINI/AP

4/30/2022 Justice Dept. challenges Alabama transgender law - Motion comes following warning to 50 state AGs by Kim Chandler, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday challenged an Alabama law making it a felony for doctors to treat transgender people under age 19 with puberty-blockers and hormones to help affirm their new gender identity.
    The department’s motion seeks to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional and seeking to block it from taking effect on May 8.
    The action comes after the department sent a letter to all 50 state attorneys general warning that blocking transgender and nonbinary youth from receiving gender-affirming care could be an infringement of federal constitutional protections.
    Doctors and others would face up to 10 years in prison for violating the Alabama law. Trans youth and parents have said Alabama is trying to ban what they consider necessary, and sometimes lifesaving care for them.
    “The law discriminates against transgender minors by unjustifiably denying them access to certain forms of medically necessary care,” the complaint states.    “As a result of S.B. 184, medical professionals, parents, and minors old enough to make their own medical decisions are forced to choose between forgoing medically necessary procedures and treatments or facing criminal prosecution.”    Alabama Republicans who supported the law have maintained it is needed to protect children.    A spokeswoman for Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said, “we are prepared to defend our Alabama values and this legislation.”
    Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Friday that the “Biden Administration has chosen to prioritize leftist politics at the expense of Alabama’s children.”    “As we will show in this case, DOJ’s assertion that these treatments are ‘medically necessary’ is ideologically driven disinformation.    The science and common sense are on Alabama’s side.    We will win this fight to protect our children,” Marshall said in a statement.
    State lawyers in an initial court appearance last week argued the science of the treatments is in doubt and thus the state has a role in regulation.    Marshall said there is a “growing body of evidence that using experimental drugs on vulnerable children suffering from gender dysphoria will lead to significant, lifelong harm.”
    Doctors who provide the treatments and medical groups said the treatments follow evidence-based accepted standards of care.
    As the effective date of the law draws closer, some Alabama parents with trans kids say they feel that their children are being exploited for political gain in a region that can already feel unwelcoming.
    “LGBTQ have always been a part of our community, but we’re silenced into hiding and beaten down by the Bible Belt,” said Pamela Northington, the mother of a trans teen boy.
    She said that telling kids they have to wait is just adding years to their struggle.    “The emotional state of the youth in transition is already in a heightened state because of the bullying, and the fear of not being accepted.    I fear that for some of them, it may become tragic.”
    U.S. District Judge Liles Burke has scheduled a May 5 hearing on a request to stop Alabama officials from enforcing the law while the court challenge goes forward.
    Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign – an LGBTQ advocacy group – said they are “encouraged to see the Department of Justice weigh in on this law that so severely interferes in the lives of Alabama families.”
    Alabama is among several states with Republican-controlled legislatures that have advanced bills regarding transgender youth and LGBTQ issues.    The Alabama law is the furthest reaching and the first to criminalize the treatments.    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had ordered the state’s child welfare agency to investigate as abuse reports of gender confirming care for kids.    Arkansas also banned gender-affirming medications, but that law has been blocked from taking effect.

5/3/2022 Report: Draft opinion suggests high court would overturn Roe - Unclear if document represents final word by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WASHINGTON – A draft opinion circulated among Supreme Court justices suggests that earlier this year a majority of them had thrown support behind overturning the 1973 case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a report published Monday night in Politico.    It’s unclear if the draft represents the court’s final word on the matter.
    The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the draft Politico posted, which if verified marks a shocking revelation of the high court’s secretive deliberation process, particularly before a case is formally decided.
    The news outlet published what was labeled as a “1st Draft” of the “Opinion of the Court” in a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks, a case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
    The Supreme Court has yet to issue a ruling in the case, and opinions – and even justices’ votes – have been known to change during the drafting process.    The court is expected to rule on the case before its term is up in late June or early July.
    The draft is signed by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush.
    “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” the draft opinion states.
    “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” it adds, referencing the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey that affirmed Roe’s finding of a Constitutional right to abortion services but allowed states to place some constraints on the practice.    “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
    The draft opinion in effect states there is no Constitutional right to abortion services and would allow individual states to more heavily regulate or outright ban the procedure.
    Politico said only that it received “a copy of the draft opinion from a person familiar with the court’s proceedings in the Mississippi case along with other details supporting the authenticity of the document.”

5/3/2022 Ban is extended on Kentucky abortion law - Clinics get time to explain objections by Dylan Lovan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A federal judge in Kentucky has extended a temporary ban on the enforcement of a new state law that effectively ended abortions because the state’s two clinics said they can’t comply with all its requirements.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings is giving the clinics more time to explain their objections to the law.    Jennings extended a temporary restraining order until May 19, after the existing one expires Thursday.
    Jennings said, however, some parts of the law not in dispute by the two clinics and state officials would go into effect.
    “I think there are pieces of this legislation that can be complied with right now,” Jennings said.
    The judge is planning an order on those parameters this week.
    Lawyers for the clinics, Planned Parenthood and the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, were in court Monday to ask for a preliminary injunction on the law, which would be an extended ban.
    Attorneys for the clinics went through line-by-line objections to Kentucky’s new law during the four-hour hearing in Louisville’s federal courthouse.,br>     Lawyers with Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office, which is defending the new law, argued throughout the hearing that the clinics need to provide facts on why they can’t comply with the law.
    “We maintain that there is no reason this law should be stopped from taking effect,” Cameron said in a prepared statement Monday.
    Lawyers for the clinics argued the law is complicated and the state has not yet set up the guidelines for them to comply with.
    “We are hopeful the judge will take into consideration the arguments made today and prevent the state from enforcing these impossible requirements on abortion providers in the state of Kentucky,” Julie Murray, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood, said after the hearing.
    Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature passed the new law in March and then overrode Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the measure in April.    Both of the clinics resumed abortion services after Jennings temporarily halted the law last month.
    The new law bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and requires women to be examined by a doctor before receiving abortion pills.    It contains new restrictions and reporting requirements, and enforcement of that compliance with stiff fines, felony penalties and revocation of physician and facility licenses.
    Lawyers for the clinics argued the law is complicated and the state has not yet set up the guidelines for them to comply with.
Protesters hold a sign outside Louisville Metro Hall on April 21, where supporters and opponents of Kentucky's
new abortion law gathered. A federal judge blocked the law while the protest was underway. ALTON STRUPP/COURIER JOURNAL

Abortion-rights supporters earned a small victory when a federal judge temporarily blocked
a state law that effectively eliminated abortions in Kentucky. BRUCE SCHREINER/AP FILE

5/4/2022 Pope offers to meet with Putin in attempt to help
    Three weeks into the invasion in Ukraine, Pope Francis offered to meet with President Vladimir Putin to try to end the war.    He has yet to hear back.

5/4/2022 Pope still waiting to hear from Putin - Francis says he offered to meet in effort to end war by ASSOCIATED PRESS
Pope Francis has denounced the weapons industry and the announced increases in defense spending by the West in recent
weeks. But he has also defended the right of Ukrainians to protect their territory. REMO CASILLI/POOL/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis told an Italian newspaper he had offered to travel to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin to try to end Russia’s war in Ukraine and suggested the invasion might have been provoked by NATO’s eastward expansion.
    Francis said he made the offer about three weeks into Russia’s invasion, via the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, but has yet to hear back.
    Francis’ lengthy interview with Corriere della Sera newspaper underscored the Vatican’s complicated policy on Ukraine, where it is caught between denouncing the atrocities while not alienating Russia and its Orthodox Church.
    Popes for decades have sought to visit Moscow as part of the longstanding effort to heal relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, which split with Rome more than 1,000 years ago.    But an invitation has never been forthcoming.
    “Of course, it would be necessary for the leader of the Kremlin to make available some window of opportunity.    But we still have not had a response and we are still pushing, even if I fear that Putin cannot and does not want to have this meeting at this moment,” Francis was quoted as saying by Corriere della Sera.
    Francis recalled that he spoke in March with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, for 40 minutes by videoconference and for the first half “with paper in hand, he read all of the justifications for the war.”
    “I listened and told him: ‘I don’t understand any of this. Brother, we are not clerics of the state, we cannot use language of politics, but that of Jesus.    For this we need to find the paths of peace, to stop the firing of arms.’”    He added that Kirill “cannot turn into Putin’s altar boy,” a dismissive term used by a top U.S. Ukrainian Greek Catholic archbishop.
    Francis has frequently denounced the weapons industry and the announced increases in defense spending by the West in recent weeks.    But he has also defended the right of Ukrainians to protect their territory from the Russian invasion, in line with Catholic social doctrine.    He told Corriere he felt he was too removed to judge the morality of resupplying the Ukrainian armed forces from the West.
    But he also said he was trying to understand why Russia had reacted as it had.    Maybe “this barking of NATO at Russia’s door” had prompted it, he was quoted as saying, “An anger that I don’t know if you can say was provoked, but maybe facilitated.”
    Francis has given a handful of interviews of late to friendly media emphasizing his call for an end to the war and initiatives to provide humanitarian relief to Ukrainians.    He has defended his decision to not call out Putin or Russia publicly, saying popes don’t do so.    But he freely named Putin in his remarks to Corriere, and seemed to equate the carnage in Ukraine with the genocide in Rwanda a quarter-century ago.
    “Such brutality, how can you not try to to stop it?    Twenty-five years ago in Rwanda we saw the same thing,” he was quoted as saying.

5/4/2022 Oklahoma governor signs ban on most abortions by Sean Murphy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a Texas- style abortion ban on Tuesday that prohibits abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, part of a nationwide push in GOP-led states hopeful that the conservative U.S. Supreme Court will uphold new restrictions.     Stitt’s signing of the bill comes on the heels of a leaked draft opinion from the nation’s high court that it is considering weakening or overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago.
    The bill Stitt signed takes effect immediately with his signature, but abortion rights advocates already have challenged the new law in court.    It’s not clear when the Oklahoma Supreme Court might issue a ruling in the case, but abortion providers say once the new law is in place, they will immediately stop providing services unless the court intervenes.
    “There will be people who lose access, even if the halt in services is only brief,” said Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates abortion clinics in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
    The new law prohibits abortions once cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo, which experts say is roughly six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.    A similar bill approved in Texas last year led to a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions performed in that state, with many women going to Oklahoma and other surrounding states for the procedure.
    Dr. Iman Alsaden, the medical director of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said Texas’ law that took effect in September has given their employees an idea of what a post-Roe country might look like.
    “Since that day, my colleagues and I have regularly treated patients who are fleeing their communities to seek care,” Alsaden said.    “They’re taking time off of work, taking time out of school and taking time away from their family responsibilities to get the care that until September 2021 they were able to get safely and readily in their communities.”
    The bill authorizes abortions if per- formed as the result of a medical emergency, but there are no exceptions if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
    Like the Texas law, the Oklahoma bill would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion for up to $10,000.    After the U.S. Supreme Court allowed that mechanism to remain in place, other Republican-led states sought to copy Texas’ ban.    Idaho’s governor signed the first copycat measure in March, though it has been temporarily blocked by the state’s Supreme Court.
    Stitt earlier this year signed a bill to make performing an abortion a felony crime in Oklahoma, but that measure is not set to take effect until this summer, and legal experts say it’s likely to be blocked because the Roe v. Wade decision still remains the law of the land.
    The number of abortions performed each year in Oklahoma, which has four abortion clinics, has declined steadily over the last two decades, from more than 6,200 in 2002 to 3,737 in 2020, the fewest in more than 20 years, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.    In 2020, before the Texas law was passed, about 9% of the abortions performed in Oklahoma were women from Texas.
    Before the Texas ban took effect on Sept. 1, about 40 women from Texas had abortions performed in Oklahoma each month, the data shows.    That number jumped to 222 Texas women in September and 243 in October.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an abortion bill Tuesday that prohibits
abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN

5/5/2022 ABORTION RIGHTS DEBATE - Abortion opponents are having a moment - Conservative forces have fought for decades by Marc Ramirez, USA TODAY
    Anti-abortion forces across the country cautiously celebrated a possible victory nearly five decades in the making after a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion suggested the court is preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision granting a constitutional right to abortion.
    “This was our primary mission, to elect a strong pro-life Senate and a president who would appoint pro-life justices,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a political organization promoting anti-abortion women in politics.    “It’s super-simple, as democracy is – but it was only achieved through much focus and a very powerful, organic pro-life movement.”
    Dannenfelser said that although her organization applauded the opinion, she described her reaction as one of “hurry up and wait to celebrate.”
    “We are going to celebrate by doing the work that we need to do,” she said.
    In the leaked draft opinion, Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote: “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. ... We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled.”
    Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, a group working to instill anti-abortion efforts on college campuses, said that should Roe be overturned, it would mark a milestone she had been working to make real her entire adult life.
    “It’s a heavy responsibility that we now engage in as we look into 50 state battles where we’ll be fighting,” Hawkins said.    “It’s certainly not the end.    It’s only the beginning.”
    The draft decision, reported by Politico, represents decades of concerted efforts by conservative activists nationally who in many cases made overturning Roe v. Wade a singular issue for their voters.    But it was President Donald Trump, who campaigned on the issue as a candidate, who would put the final pieces in place by installing a 6-3 Supreme Court majority.
    “We are entering a new reality,” Craig DeRoche, president and CEO of Family Policy Alliance, a conservative Christian lobbying group based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said in a statement.    “This is the moment the pro-life movement has been waiting for.    For the first time in nearly 50 years, states will have the chance to fully protect their youngest citizens.”
Anger at the leak
    On Facebook, the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of televangelist Billy Graham, wrote: “Praise God! …. I don’t know if this report is true, but if it is, it’s an answer to many years of prayers.”
    Dannenfelser said the opinion paves the way for the democratic process to play out by sending the question to the states.
    “Some will move very quickly, and some will have robust debate, which of course is how this whole democracy thing works,” she said.    “Democrats think their position of abortion up until."
    “We are entering a new reality.    This is the moment the pro-life movement has been waiting for.” Craig DeRoche.
    Family Policy Alliance the end is going to win them something.    "But consensus wins over extremism every time.”
    The leak of the draft decision not only unleashed furor around one of the nation’s hot-button culture war issues, but it also raised questions about the court’s deliberations and ability to keep those discussions under wraps.    While a number of Republican leaders applauded the opinion, they simultaneously demanded an investigation into how the leak occurred.
    “If this report is true, this is nothing short of a massive victory for life and will save the lives of millions of innocent babies,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Twitter.    “But while I continue to wait for the Supreme Court’s ultimate opinion, I am appalled by the shocking breach of trust posed by this leak.”
    In a separate tweet, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas called for the Supreme Court and U.S. Department of Justice to “get to the bottom of this leak immediately using every investigative tool necessary.    In the meantime, Roe was egregiously wrong from the beginning & I pray the Court follows the Constitution & allows the states to once again protect unborn life.”
    A joint statement from House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican whip Steve Scalise and Republican conference chair Elise Stefanik called the leak a “clearly coordinated campaign to intimidate and obstruct the Justices of the Supreme Court.”
    “House Republicans are committed to upholding the sanctity of life, and we will continue to fight to be a voice for the truly voiceless,” they said.    “There is nothing more special, extraordinary and worth fighting for than the miracle of life.”     President Joe Biden on Tuesday called the leaked opinion “quite a radical decision” signaling “a fundamental shift in American jurisprudence” that could foreshadow future arguments against same-sex marriage or constitutional protections for birth control.
    “Every other decision based on the notion of privacy is thrown into question,” he said.
‘Hearts and minds’
    Jennifer Holland, an associate professor of history at the University of Oklahoma, said that while the movement’s greatest successes have taken place in the past 10 to 15 years, she said, the groundwork was laid over nearly 50 years.
    “The movement has been an incredibly successful grassroots movement,” Holland said, starting with modest, largely Catholic roots that initially faced skepticism for religious influences viewed as infringing on women’s rights.
    Over time, however, it found strength in the rise of religious conservatism as a significant voting bloc and the introduction of fetal imagery, such as fetus dolls or rosaries featuring fetuses, in the expression of faith.    Those images, along with proliferating ultrasound images, were adopted by a growing grassroots movement of “getting in your life and changing people’s hearts and minds,” she said.
    Holland said that as the movement became more influential, its political power took off in the late 1990s and early 2000s with leaders who saw the debate as more than just a vehicle to office.
    “You started to see more Republicans elected who were anti-abortion ideologues, or people like Donald Trump, who was not an ideologue but knew where his bread was buttered,” she said.    “It was partly luck that he got as many justices as he did.    But it was also a product not only of the way that the party took up the issue but the way that the movement reshaped the party.”
    In May 2016, Trump released a list of conservative judges he’d pick from if elected, specifically citing his hope that they would overturn Roe v. Wade if appointed to the bench.    At the time, the court was down one justice after Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a vote on President Barack Obama’s choice to replace him.
    Trump ultimately appointed three justices – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – cementing a 6-3 conservative majority.    Abortion rights activists have since called on Biden to consider “packing” the Supreme Court by adding liberal justices to protect Roe v. Wade.
    Kristi Hamrick, chief media and policy strategist for Students for Life Action, also credited ultrasound images with helping alter public opinion.
    “The prevalence of ultrasounds is a game-changer,” Hamrick said.    “Everybody’s first picture is an ultrasound.    There’s that image of life in the womb.”
    Hamrick said influencing the makeup of the Supreme Court has been a motivating factor for anti-abortion voters for years.
    “A lot of us have voted halfheartedly for candidates we found lackluster,” she said, with the simple hope that those candidates, given the opportunity, would install judges that would advance the cause.    “The court has an oversized role, and obviously President Trump fulfilled his promises and performed as a pro-life leader more than many people expected.”
    “Abortion is not in the Constitution,” Hamrick added.    “Roe v. Wade is a fabrication.    It’s something created by seven men in 1973 and that can just as easily be discarded as the mistake that it is.”
Contributing: Trevor Hughes
It’s not time to celebrate yet, says Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List. DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

Demonstrators in Knoxville, Tenn., rally Tuesday to preserve the landmark
decision that protects abortion rights by CALVIN MATTHEIS/USA TODAY NETWORK

5/5/2022 Abortion rights backers, foes hope allies fired up - With Congress closely divided, issue will be key by Donovan Slack and Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – They gathered outside the court within hours of the leaked draft opinion being published Monday night.    Young people protesting the potential overturning of the right to abortion decided by the Supreme Court long before their birth – nearly 50 years ago.
    Sam Heller, a 21-year-old student at Cornell University, said she was shaking when she first read the leaked court opinion, a draft from February published by Politico that called the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling making abortion legal “egregiously wrong from the start.”
    Heller and other abortion rights supporters were not the only demonstrators.    Passionate anti-abortion advocates also showed up to voice support for overturning Roe.
    “I’m even more motivated to vote,” Heller said.    “It’s something I can do instead of feeling helpless.”
    At a time when President Joe Biden’s approval rating has been underwater for months, the leaked opinion and possible overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court could energize Democratic voters in a way the president has so far been unable to do and give Democrats a better shot at maintaining control of Congress, some experts say.    But interviews with anti-abortion advocates indicate their supporters would be energized, too.
    “I think the wholesale reversal of Roe is a wild card,” said David Axelrod, a top Democratic consultant and former senior adviser and chief strategist for President Barack Obama.    “Democrats are facing ferocious headwinds this fall. But if the court follows through on this, the backlash could provide some counterweight – particularly if it brings more pro-choice women and younger voters to the polls.”
Much is at stake in November
    Republicans are eager to win control of both chambers of Congress, which would stifle Biden’s legislative agenda and open the door to a litany of congressional investigations of his administration.
    The midterm elections will determine who controls Congress for the second half of Biden’s term.    The Senate is now tied with 50 members caucusing with each party and Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tiebreaking vote for Democrats.    In the House, a swing in a handful of seats could tip control from Democrats to Republicans.
    Republicans have had a considerable lead in voter enthusiasm.    A recent ABC News/IPSOS survey found 55% of Republicans are very enthusiastic about voting in the midterm elections, compared with 35% of Democrats.
    Enthusiasm among younger voters has been lagging, he said, but a CNN poll in January found 58% of Democrats under 45 would be “angry” if the court overturns Roe v. Wade, compared with 35% overall.    “If that anger results in higher turnout, it could make a difference in some closely contested elections,” said Axelrod, director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics and host of “The Axe Files” podcast.
    Even as much of America was just learning about the draft decision, Democrats were firing off fundraising appeals and statements to juice up supporters.    “Make no mistake: Reproductive rights will be on the ballot this November,” the Democratic National Committee said in a midnight email Monday.
    The president of abortion rights group Emily’s List expressed confidence in an interview with USA TODAY that the leaked opinion will galvanize Democrats to vote in November.
    “What I think we will see is the coming together of this country, people who may not have thought the same or voted the same last cycle,” Laphonza Butler said.    “I think we will see communities of color, Native communities standing together with suburban women and urban women.”
    For anti-abortion advocates, the potential decision raises the prospect of realizing a culmination of everything they’ve been working toward for years, and they say their supporters will also be energized – to vote for candidates looking to restrict abortion access.
    If the draft opinion overturning Roe is handed down, abortion access would be up to the states.
    “Pro-life voters will be energized to say we can really, finally debate and enact legislation and laws that will protect life and law and service,” Students for Life Action President Kristan Hawkins said.
    Both sides held up polling to support their argument – for and against abortion access.
    Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement that the party “will always stand for the sanctity of life, speak up for the unborn, and protect vulnerable mothers.”    She pointed to polling that showed most Americans want some form of abortion restrictions.
    A Marist poll published in January found 71% of respondents wanted restrictions.    They either wanted abortion limited to the first three months of a pregnancy (22%); to cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother (28%); just to save the mother (9%); or outlawed outright (12%).
    But Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota and former executive vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood in the state, said the Republican Party and its candidates are “completely out of step with what most Americans believe and want.”    She referenced a CNN poll released in January that found roughly 70% of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.
    Smith said she thinks voters will come out for Democrats in the midterms to protect abortion rights.    But some Democrats expressed frustration and said the leaked opinion and the final decision, if the court overturns Roe, could do the opposite.
    Zaena Zamora, executive director of Frontera Fund, an organization in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas that advocates for abortion rights and raises money to help women get access to abortions, said she can also see voters feeling disenfranchised by the court’s potential decision – adding she herself has become a little apathetic but has nevertheless voted in every election.
    “We have a completely controlled Democratic House, Democratic Senate, Democratic White House, and look where we’re at,” she said.    “We are doing what we’re supposed to do, right?    We vote in these politicians to fight for abortion rights, and they’re not doing anything for it.”
    Last year, Texas passed a law known as the Texas Heartbeat Act.    It bans physicians from performing or inducing an abortion after the detection of embryonic or fetal cardiac activity, which usually occurs around six weeks of pregnancy.    It also allows private citizens to bring lawsuits against those who help individuals get an abortion.
    The state also has a “trigger law” in place that would outlaw almost all abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
    According to Emily’s List, in 2022 alone, 536 abortion restrictions have been introduced in 42 states.
    Zamora said she hopes more people will begin asking politicians what their stance is on abortion.    She said few candidates consistently talk about protecting abortion access and said many bring the topic up only when it’s in the news.
    “We’ve been saying for months that this was coming, and this is a huge possibility and that we need to prepare for it,” she said.    “And it’s not until, you know, this leaked draft comes out that they start really homing in on their messaging around abortion.”
    ‘It’s written plain as day’
    Kristin Ford, vice president of communications and research at NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, said she believes the draft opinion closes a believability gap some voters had – voters who believed there was no way the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade.
    “A majority of people just couldn’t fathom that the Supreme Court was going to strike down the constitutional right to abortion and we could lose the constitutional right that we’ve held here for half a century,” Ford said.    “And now it’s in black and white, like it’s written plain as day.”
    Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, an anti-abortion organization, said she believes both sides may be energized by the decision, but she said Democrats would use abortion to try to distract voters from other key issues, such as inflation and rising gas prices, that could hurt them in the midterms.
    “It’s not what Americans are interested in right now,” Rose said.
    Ford, of NARAL, said the deeply personal decisions on whether you are going to have a family are “fundamental to how people operate in the world” and are interconnected with pocketbook issues, including inflation, career growth and education.
    “They’re all interconnected in people’s lived experiences and their real lives,” she said.    “I think they will manifest that way when it comes to people’s behavior at the voting booth.”
    Contributing: Mabinty Quarshie, Candy Woodall, Dylan Wells
Protesters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, after the
draft opinion on abortion was leaked. MEGAN SMITH/USA TODAY

5/6/2022 President Biden names first Black woman, LGBTQ press secretary - Jean-Pierre to take over from Psaki next week by Zeke Miller, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Thursday named Karine Jean-Pierre to be the next White House press secretary, the first Black woman and openly LGBTQ person to serve in the role.    Incumbent Jen Psaki is set to leave the post next week.
    Jean-Pierre takes on the role as the White House faces an uphill battle to help Democrats hold onto the House and Senate in this fall’s midterm elections, and as the administration struggles to address Americans’ concerns about soaring inflation and the state of the economy.    She also comes into the job as Biden faces a daunting array of foreign policy challenges, including the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and North Korea’s escalating nuclear testing program.    Biden is set to visit South Korea and Japan later this month and Europe in June.
    Biden is also bringing back longtime Democratic strategist Anita Dunn as his senior adviser.    She had served in the Biden White House last year for several months after Biden was sworn into office.
    “Karine not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris administration on behalf of the American people,” Biden said in a statement praising Jean-Pierre, who has served as his principal deputy press secretary since Inauguration Day.
    Psaki, who leaves the White House on May 13, praised her successor as a “partner in truth,” noting the significance of the history-making appointment.
    “Representation matters and she is going to give a voice to so many and show so many what is truly possible when you work hard and dream big,” Psaki said.
    Taking the lectern briefly while Psaki briefed the press Thursday, Jean-Pierre said she was “still processing” the significance of her hire, calling it “an honor and privilege to be behind this podium.”
    “This is a historic moment, and it’s not lost on me,” she said.    “It’s a very emotional day.”
    Psaki said Biden offered the job to Jean-Pierre Thursday in the Oval Office.    White House staffers were gathered after the offer and greeted Jean-Pierre with applause, an official said.    Two “warm bottles” of champagne were procured for a toast in White House paper cups, the official added, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal gathering.
    Jean-Pierre has occasionally taken the lectern in the press briefing room instead of Psaki and more frequently held off-camera “gaggles” with reporters when Biden was traveling on Air Force One.    She traveled with Biden to Europe last fall and in March instead of Psaki, who had tested positive for COVID- 19 before both trips.
    Before joining the Biden presidential campaign, Jean-Pierre was the chief public affairs officer of the progressive group and a former political analyst for NBC and MSNBC.    She also worked in political affairs in the Obama White House and on his reelection campaign.
    The press secretary is responsible for holding daily briefings with the news media and leading a department of more than a dozen staffers who help address queries from the press.
    When she took the job, Psaki, who has two young children, said publicly she aimed to remain in the job for about a year.    She is expected to join MSNBC later this year.    She was expected to remain as the public face of the administration until her departure next Friday.
    Biden said Psaki “has set the standard for returning decency, respect and decorum to the White House briefing room.”
    “I want to say thank you to Jen for raising the bar, communicating directly and truthfully to the American people, and keeping her sense of humor while doing so,” Biden said.    “I thank Jen for her service to the country, and wish her the very best as she moves forward.”
    Dunn is a partner at the Democratic consulting firm SKDK, and was a senior adviser on Biden’s 2020 campaign and previously chief strategist and communications director for President Barack Obama.    The White House said she is returning to “assist in advancing the President’s policy and communications objectives.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, right, listens as incoming press secretary
Karine Jean-Pierre takes the lectern at the White House on Thursday. EVAN VUCCI/AP

5/6/2022 Cardinal: Pope OK’d spending for ransom - Revelation could pose security risks for church by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis authorized spending up to 1 million euros to free a Colombian nun kidnapped by al-Qaida-linked militants in Mali, a cardinal testified Thursday, revealing previously secret papal approval to hire a British security firm to find the nun and secure her freedom.
    Cardinal Angelo Becciu’s bombshell testimony could pose serious security implications for the Vatican and the Catholic Church, since he provided evidence that the pope was apparently willing to pay ransom to Islamic militants to free a nun, who was eventually let go last year.
    Ransom payments are rarely if ever confirmed, precisely to dissuade future kidnappings, and it’s not known how much – if any Vatican money – actually ended up in the hands of the militants.    Prosecutors have accused a Becciu codefendant of embezzling around half the amount on high-end luxury items for herself.
    Becciu, who was once one of Francis’ top advisers as the No. 2 in the Vatican secretariat of state, had withheld his testimony from the Vatican tribunal for nearly two years as a matter of state and pontifical secret.    But he spoke freely Thursday in his own defense after Francis released him from the confidentiality requirement, providing the most anticipated testimony of the yearlong trial to date.
    Becciu is one of 10 people accused in the Vatican’s sprawling financial fraud trial, which originated in the Holy See’s 350-million-euro investment in a London property and expanded to cover other alleged crimes.
    Prosecutors have accused the defendants of a host of crimes for allegedly fleecing the Holy See of millions of euros in fees, commissions and bad investments.
    Becciu, the lone cardinal on trial, is accused of embezzlement, abuse of office and witness tampering, all of which he denies.     On Thursday, his testimony covered the charges concerning his relationship with an Italian self-styled intelligence specialist, Cecilia Marogna.
    Marogna has told Italian media that she helped negotiate the release of Catholic hostages in Africa on behalf of the Holy See.    Vatican prosecutors accuse her of embezzling 575,000 euros, citing bank records from her Slovenian holding company that show nine wire transfers from the Vatican in 2018-2019 for unspecified humanitarian ends, and expenditures out of the account at Prada, Luis Vuitton and fancy hotels.    Marogna has said the transfers were reimbursements for expenditures and compensation for her services.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was once one of Pope Francis’ top advisers, is one of 10
people accused in the Vatican’s sprawling financial fraud trial. GREGORIO BORGIA/AP, FILE

5/7/2022 Cardinal: Pope authorized ransom - Revelation could pose security risks for Vatican by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was once one of Pope Francis’ top advisers as the No.2 in the Vatican secretariat
of state, is one of 10 people accused in the Vatican’s sprawling financial fraud trial. Gregorio Borgia/AP, File
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis authorized spending up to 1 million euros to free a Colombian nun kidnapped by al-Qaida-linked militants in Mali, a cardinal testified Thursday, revealing previously secret papal approval to hire a British security firm to find the nun and secure her freedom.
    Cardinal Angelo Becciu’s bombshell testimony could pose serious security implications for the Vatican and the Catholic Church, since he provided evidence that the pope was apparently willing to pay ransom to Islamic militants to free a nun, who was eventually let go last year.
    Ransom payments are rarely if ever confirmed, precisely to dissuade future kidnappings, and it’s not known how much – if any Vatican money – actually ended up in the hands of the militants.    Prosecutors have accused a Becciu co-defendant of embezzling around half the amount on high-end luxury items for herself.
    Becciu, who was once one of Francis’ top advisers as the No.2 in the Vatican secretariat of state, had withheld his testimony from the Vatican tribunal for nearly two years as a matter of state and pontifical secret.    But he spoke freely Thursday in his own defense after Francis released him from the confidentiality requirement, providing the most anticipated testimony of the yearlong trial to date.
    Becciu is one of 10 people accused in the Vatican’s sprawling financial fraud trial, which originated in the Holy See’s 350 million euro investment in a London property and expanded to cover other alleged crimes.
    Prosecutors have accused the defendants of a host of crimes for allegedly fleecing the Holy See of millions of euros in fees, commissions and bad investments.
    Becciu, the lone cardinal on trial, is accused of embezzlement, abuse of office and witness tampering, all of which he denies.    On Thursday, his testimony covered the charges concerning his relationship with an Italian self-styled intelligence specialist, Cecilia Marogna.
    Marogna has told Italian media that she helped negotiate the release of Catholic hostages in Africa on behalf of the Holy See.    Vatican prosecutors accuse her of embezzling 575,000 euros, citing bank records from her Slovenian holding company that show nine wire transfers from the Vatican in 2018-2019 for unspecified humanitarian ends, and expenditures out of the account at Prada, Louis Vuitton and fancy hotels.    Marogna has said the transfers were reimbursements for expenditures and compensation for her services.
    Becciu testified Thursday that he hired Marogna as an external security consultant, impressed by her grasp of geopolitical affairs and the trust she enjoyed of two of Italy’s top secret service officials, Gens. Luciano Carta and Gianni Caravelli, who accompanied her to a meeting with Becciu in the Vatican in October 2017.
    Becciu said he turned to Marogna for help following the February 2017 kidnapping of a Colombian nun, Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, in Mali.    She had been kidnapped by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which has bankrolled its insurgency by kidnapping Westerners. During her captivity, the group periodically showed Narvaez on video asking for the Vatican’s help.
    Becciu said he had heard from the Vatican’s nuncio in Colombia as well as other sisters from the nun’s religious order asking for help.    He said he brought the matter to Francis as well as Marogna, who he said advised him that she could work with a British intelligence firm, The Inkerman Group, to secure the nun’s release.
    Becciu testified that Francis authorized him to proceed with the Inkerman operation, and forbade him from telling anyone else about it, including the Vatican’s own police chief. Francis was concerned about the security and reputational implications if the news leaked, Becciu said.
    Becciu said he and Marogna met with Inkerman officials at their London office in mid-January 2018.
Inkerman officials said there were no assurances of success and that the total expenditure could reach 1million euros, Becciu said.
    Because the Vatican wanted to remain external to any operation, Marogna became the key intermediary and the one to receive periodic payments from the Vatican secretariat of state for the operation, Becciu testified.     Becciu said he provided Francis a preliminary oral readout of the London meeting on Jan.15, 2018, while the pope was en route to Peru.
    'He listened to me and confirmed my intention to proceed,' Becciu testified.    'In a subsequent meeting with the Holy Father, once in Rome, I spoke to him in more detail about the conversation we had with the Inkermans and the sum that we should have estimated in broad terms: about 1million euros, part to pay for the creation of a network of contacts, and part for the effective liberation of the nun.'
    'I pointed out that we shouldn’t have gone beyond that figure.    He approved.    I must say that every step of this operation was agreed with the Holy Father,' Becciu testified.
    Narvaez was released in October 2021, after more than four years in captivity.    Soon after, she met with Francis at the Vatican.
    Vatican prosecutors say they have evidence that the secretariat of state, in addition to the transfer of 575,000 euros sent to Marogna’s Slovenian accounts, sent an equivalent amount directly to a British bank account held by Inkerman.
    Becciu also responded to claims against him concerning Cardinal George Pell, who left his job as the Vatican’s financial czar in 2017 to face historic sex abuse charges in his native Australia, for which he was ultimately acquitted.    Pell clashed repeatedly with Becciu during his time at the Vatican and has repeated Italian media claims that Becciu approved money transfers from the Vatican to Australia that in some way aided in the sex abuse prosecution against him.
    Becciu on Thursday produced two letters to refute the claims: One from the current secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, explaining that the 1.46 million euros that was wired to Australia was to pay for a domain name ‘ catholic.'    And the other, a Sept.11, 2015, letter authorizing that expenditure, signed by none other than Pell.

5/8/2022 Tenn. bans trans women from women’s college sports by Cora Hall and Becca Wright, Knoxville News Sentinel, USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE
Gov. Bill Lee signed into law Friday a bill that bans transgender women from competing in 'intercollegiate or intramural
sports that are designated for females' at public and private universities. Stephanie Amador/Nashville Tennessean
    KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee lawmakers are sharpening their efforts to block transgender athletes from competition with new legislation aimed at sports from all levels.
    Gov. Bill Lee signed into law Friday a bill that bans transgender women from competing in 'intercollegiate or intramural sports that are designated for females' at public and private universities.
    Friday’s action is the latest in a series of restrictions on transgender athletes.    Tennessee last year banned transgender athletes from competing at the middle and high school levels, and Lee signed off on a provision in late April that adds penalties to that ban.    School districts that fail to determine a student’s gender for participation in middle or high school sports can now have state dollars withheld by the Tennessee Department of Education.
    There has been a surge nationwide this year of bills focusing on participation in sports, access to medical care and discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.    Twelve other states have laws banning transgender girls and women from competing, and 24 introduced similar legislation without passing it in 2021.
    Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, who sponsored the bill, said it is 'setting a level playing field for all of our female athletes' because he said he thinks those who experience testosterone-driven puberty have skeletal, muscle and fat distribution advantages.
    There aren’t many examples of openly transgender athletes playing, let alone dominating, in college sports.    One of the few examples is Lia Thomas, who became the first known transgender athlete to win a Division I national championship in any sport when she won the 500-yard freestyle.
    Her achievements spurred a national conversation about transgender athletes.    Before winning the championship in March, anonymous parents of Penn’s swim team members asked the NCAA to disqualify her.    She quickly became the face of transgender women in sports, and her experience was brought up in nearly every committee meeting surrounding the Tennessee bill.
    Cisgender women who testified in support of HB 2316 spoke to the same concerns that have been brought against Thomas: Their competitive space is changing, in their eyes, unfairly.    They said they might miss out on scholarship opportunities, or they don’t have the same competitive advantage as transgender women have.
    But Thomas didn’t even make the podium in her other two races at the NCAA championships in March.    Lauren Hubbard, the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympic Games, placed last in her group in August.
    'Every young person deserves the opportunity to participate in sports to challenge themselves, improve fitness, and be part of a team,' said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee in a statement.    'We urge Gov. Lee to veto this discriminatory bill and protect trans students.'
    'This harmful legislation tells trans students that they can’t participate in sports as themselves – excluding them from receiving the benefits of being on a team that their peers have, and sending the message that they do not belong.'

5/8/2022 Francis decries divisions by Frances D’Emilio, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ROME – Pope Francis on Saturday blasted Catholics who, hewing to old-school versions of liturgy like the Latin Mass, have made an ideological battleground of the issue, decrying what he described as devil-inspired divisiveness in the church.
    Francis pressed his papacy’s battle against traditionalists, whose prominent members include some ultraconservative cardinals.    They have resisted restrictions, imposed last year by the Vatican, on celebrations of the old Mass in Latin in St. Peter’s Basilica and, more generally, for years have disparaged the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
    Speaking at the Vatican to instructors and students of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Francis said it’s not possible to worship God while using the liturgy as a “battleground” for nonessential questions that divide the church.
    Francis has made clear he prefers Mass celebrated in local languages, with the priest facing the congregation instead of with his back to the pews.    That was the way Mass was celebrated before the Vatican Council reforms more than a half century-ago.
    “I underline again that liturgical life, and the study of it, must lead to greater ecclesial unity, not to division,” the pope told the institute’s participants.    “When liturgical life is a bit of a banner for division, there is the odor of the devil being inside there, the deceiver.”
    “It’s not possible to render worship to God and at the same time make a battleground of liturgy for questions that aren’t essential,” Francis added.

5/9/2022 Abortion issue stirs religious rift by Deepa Bharath and Luis Andres Henao, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Anti-abortion protesters from Christ Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, Missouri,
pray May 3 outside the Hope Clinic, in Granite City, Ill. Laurie Skrivan/AP
    America’s faithful are bracing – some with cautionary joy and others with looming dread – for the Supreme Court to potentially overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and end the nationwide right to legal abortion.
    A reversal of the 49-year-old ruling has never felt more possible since a draft opinion suggesting justices may do so was leaked this week.    While religious believers at the heart of the decades-old fight over abortion are shocked at the breach of high court protocol, they are still as deeply divided and their beliefs on the contentious issue as entrenched as ever.
    National polls show that most Americans support abortion access.    A Public Religion Research Institute survey from March found that a majority of religious groups believe it should be legal in most cases – with the exception of white evangelical Protestants, 69% of whom said the procedure should be outlawed in most or all cases.
    In conservative Christian corners, the draft opinion has sparked hope.    Faith groups that have historically taken a strong anti-abortion stance, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have urged followers to pray for Roe’s reversal.
    The Rev. Manuel Rodriguez, pastor of the 17,000-strong Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic church in New York City’s Queens borough, said his mostly Latino congregation is heartened by the prospect of Roe’s demise at a time when courts in some Latin American countries such as Colombia and Argentina have moved to legalize abortion.
    'You don’t fix a crime committing another crime,' Rodriguez said.
    Bishop Garland R. Hunt Sr., senior pastor of The Father’s House, a nondenominational, predominantly African American church in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, agreed.
    'This is the result of ongoing, necessary prayer since 1973,' Hunt said.    'As a Christian, I believe that God is the one that gives life – not politicians or justices.
    I certainly want to see more babies protected in the womb.'
    No faith is monolithic on the abortion issue.    Yet many followers of faiths that don’t prohibit abortion are aghast that a view held by a minority of Americans could supersede their individual rights and religious beliefs.
    In Judaism, for example, many authorities say abortion is permitted or even required in cases where the woman’s life is in danger.
    'This ruling would be outlawing abortion in cases when our religion would permit us,' said Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, scholar in residence at the National Council of Jewish Women, 'and it is basing its concepts of when life begins on someone else’s philosophy or theology.'
    In Islam, similarly, there is room for 'all aspects of reproductive choice from family planning to abortion,' said Nadiah Mohajir, co-founder of Heart Women and Girls, a Chicago nonprofit that works with Muslim communities on reproductive rights and other gender issues.
    'One particular political agenda is infringing on my right and my religious and personal freedom,' she said.
    According to new data released Wednesday by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, 56% of U.S. Muslims say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, a figure that’s about on par with the beliefs of U.S. Catholics.
    Donna Nicolino, a student at Fire Lotus Temple, a Zen Buddhist center in Brooklyn, said her faith calls on followers to show compassion to others. Restricting or banning abortion fails to consider why women have abortions and would hurt the poor and marginalized the most, she said.
    'If we truly value life as a culture,' Nicolino said, 'we would take steps like guaranteeing maternal health care, health care for children, decent housing for pregnant women.'
    Sikhism prohibits sex-selective killings – female infanticide – but is more nuanced when it comes to abortion and favors compassion and personal choice, said Harinder Singh, senior fellow of research and policy at Sikhri, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that creates educational resources about the faith.
    A 2019 survey he co-led with research associate Jasleen Kaur found that 65% of Sikhs said abortion should be up to the woman instead of the government or faith leaders, while 77% said Sikh institutions should support those who are considering abortions.
    'The surveyed Sikh community is very clear that no religious or political authority should be deciding this issue,' Singh said.
    Compassion is a virtue emphasized as well by some Christian leaders who are calling on their ardently anti-abortion colleagues to lower the temperature as they speak out on the issue.
    The Rev. Kirk Winslow, pastor of Canvas Presbyterian Church in Irvine, California, said he views abortion through a human and spiritual lens instead of as a political issue.    Communities should turn to solutions such as counseling centers, parenting courses, health care and education, he said, instead of getting 'drawn into a culture war.'
    He has counseled women struggling with whether to have an abortion, and stresses the importance of empathy.
    'Amidst the pain, fear and confusion of an unexpected pregnancy, no one has ever said, ‘I’m excited to get an abortion,’' Winslow said.    'And there are times when getting an abortion may be the best chance, we have to bring God’s peace to the situation.    And I know many would disagree with that position.    I would only respond that most haven’t been in my office for these very real and very difficult conversations.'
    Likewise, Caitlyn Stenerson, an Evangelical Covenant Church pastor and campus minister in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area, called on faith leaders to 'tread carefully,' bearing in mind that women in their pews may have had abortions for a variety of reasons and may be grieving and wrestling with trauma.
    'As a pastor my job isn’t to heap more shame on people but to bring them to Jesus,' Stenerson said.    'We are called to speak truth, but with love.'
    Ahead of a final court ruling expected to be handed down this summer, faith leaders on both sides are preparing for the possibility of abortion becoming illegal in many states.
    'Our faith calls us to be responsive to those in need,' Rev. Sarah Halverson-Cano, senior pastor of Irvine United Congregational Church in Irvine, California, said.    'It’s time to stand with women and families and look into how to respond to this horrible injustice.'

5/9/2022 Alabama law bans hormone medicines for trans children by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. – An Alabama law banning the use of gender-affirming medications to treat transgender minors took effect Sunday, as a federal judge continues to consider a request to block the state from enforcing it.
    U.S. District Judge Liles Burke said Friday that he and his staff would do “nothing else” but work on making a decision about the request for a preliminary injunction.    The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act makes it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, to prescribe or administer puberty blockers and hormones to transgender people under age 19 to help affirm their new gender identity.    It also requires school counselors, teachers and other school officials to tell parents if a minor discloses if they think they are transgender.
    Four families with transgender children and others filed a lawsuit that the U.S. Department of Justice joined challenging the law as discriminatory, an unconstitutional violation of equal protection and free speech rights and an intrusion into family medical decisions.
    The plaintiffs asked Burke to issue an order blocking enforcement of the statute while the lawsuit goes forward.    Twenty-three medical and mental health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have also urged the judge to enjoin the law.

5/10/2022 Ala. outlaws gender-affirming medicines for trans kids
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. – It’s now a crime in Alabama to administer or prescribe gender-affirming puberty blockers and hormones to transgender people under age 19, as a new law took effect Sunday without intervention from the courts.    Alabama is the first state to enact such a ban.    A similar measure in Arkansas to halt the treatments was blocked by a federal judge before it took effect.    A federal judge has not yet ruled on a preliminary injunction request to block Alabama from enforcing the law while a court challenge goes forward.

5/12/2022 Pritzker calls for federal abortion law - ‘Be like Illinois,’ governor pleads to US senators by John O'Connor, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday urged Congress to act – and activists to take to the streets – to ensure abortion remains widely accessible even if the Supreme Court rolls back its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide.
    The Democratic governor spoke from a Planned Parenthood Regional Logistics Facility in the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis.    He said the U.S. Senate must step up in defense of the personal health care decisions of women.    A test vote Wednesday failed 51-49.
    “Women are under siege.    Basic rights to privacy, to healthcare, to the rights of women to control their own bodies, are about to be stripped away,” Pritzker said.    “The world is watching.    Here in Illinois, we trust women.    To the U.S. Senate we say, ‘Be like Illinois.’”    He finished with an offhanded pitch for protests, recalling how in her work for women’s rights, his mother taught him “how important it is to turn protest into action.”    Later he emphasized they must be peaceful.
    The debate over access to abortion – which has never fallen far from the top tier of political debate in the past half century – has roiled the nation since Politico reported last week on a leaked preliminary opinion suggesting the Supreme Court will overturn Roe in a case over a Mississippi law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks.
    “This decision doesn’t ban abortions,” Cahokia Democratic Sen. Christopher Belt said.    “It bans safe abortions.”
    Overwhelming Democratic majorities that control the Illinois General Assembly have been preparing for a Roe rollback for years, particularly because the state would be a virtual island in an ocean of states eager to restrict abortions should the landmark 1973 ruling fall.
    In 2017, they approved public funding of abortion and repealed a 1975 “trigger” law that committed the state to an abortion ban if Roe were overturned.    Abortion became legal under state law after the Reproductive Health Act of 2019.    Last fall, lawmakers dropped parental notification for minors seeking abortions, action that abortion-rights proponents considered the last roadblock to unfettered access in Illinois.
    “We have been preparing for the day Roe falls and we are ready …,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.    “We are a safe place not just for Illinoisans, but for anyone who needs abortion in a post-Roe world.”     The Regional Logistics Center, which provides travel, lodging, financial assistance and other help to out-of-state patients seeking abortions in Illinois, has helped 1,000 people from seven states since it opened in January, Rodriguez said.    A clinic in Memphis, Tennessee, announced this week that it is expediting its plans to open an office more than 200 miles to the north in the southern Illinois city of Carbondale to ease the process for patients.
    Additional legislative action includes a House-approved measure that would protect the Illinois licenses of medical professionals who face lawsuits or other sanctions from out-of-state interests if they perform abortions in Illinois.
    State funding has supported Planned Parenthood for years. Pritzker said he wants that funding to increase and is studying whether state funds can go directly to patients who need help getting to Illinois.
    “When women come here to this state, you are welcomed in Illinois,” Pritzker said.    “You are supported, you are safe.”
The world is watching. Here in Illinois, we trust women,” Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker
said as he called on Congress to act. DERIK HOLTMANN/BELLEVILLE NEWS-DEMOCRAT VIA AP

5/14/2022 Texas ruling allows trans youth parent investigations by Paul J. Weber, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Supreme Court on Friday allowed the state to investigate parents of transgender youth for child abuse while also ruling in favor of one family that was among the first contacted by child welfare officials following an order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
    The court did not rule on the merits of the investigations – which were the first of its kind in the U.S. – only that lower courts in Texas overstepped by trying to block all cases from going forward.
    The mixed ruling by Texas’ highest civil court, which is entirely controlled by nine elected Republican justices, comes at a moment when GOP lawmakers across the U.S. are accelerating efforts to impose restrictions on transgender rights.
    Lambada Legal, which helped bring the lawsuit against Texas on behalf of the parents of the 16-year-old girl, called the decision a win because it put the state’s investigation into their family on hold.    Although the ruling does not prevent Texas from launching investigations into other families, the state would be foolish to do so now because those families could also seek an injunction, said Omar Gonzalez-Paden, counsel and health care strategist for Lambada Legal.
    'It would be both futile and a complete waste of resources for them to do so,' Gonzalez-Paden said.
    Texas went farther than any state in February when Abbott issued a first-of-its-kind order that instructed welfare officials to investigate reports of gender-confirming care for kids as abuse.
    A judge in Austin put that order on hold after a lawsuit brought on behalf of the the 16-year-old girl whose family said the state was already investigating their family.    It was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal.
    The lawsuit marked the first report of parents being investigated following Abbott’s directive and an earlier nonbinding legal opinion by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton labeling certain gender-confirming treatments as 'child abuse.'    The Texas Department of Family and Protective Service has said it opened nine investigations following the directive and opinion.
    Across the country, Republicans have leaned into the debates over transgender rights as LGBTQ Americans have grown increasingly visible in society and pop culture.
    In March, the Arizona Legislature passed bills to prohibit gender confirmation surgery for minors and ban transgender athletes from playing on girls sports teams, and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed them.
    Two GOP governors in Indiana and Utah bucked their party and vetoed legislation to ban transgender players from girls sports.
    In Texas, the groups bringing the lawsuit also represent a clinical psychologist who has said the governor’s directive forces her to choose between reporting clients to the state or losing her license and other penalties.
    The governor’s directive and Paxton’s opinion go against the nation’s largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which have opposed Republican-backed restrictions on transgender people filed in statehouses nationwide.
Demonstrators speak against transgender-related bills being considered
on May20, 2021, at the Texas Capitol in Austin. Eric Gay/AP file

5/14/2022 Pope to apologize in Canada for abuses by Frances D’Emilio, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis, who has been using a wheelchair because of a bad knee, is going ahead with plans to visit Canada this summer so he can apologize in person for abuse suffered by Indigenous people at the hands of the Catholic Church.
    The Vatican on Friday announced that Francis will head to Canada on July 24 and visit Edmonton, Alberta; Quebec City; and Iqaluit, Nunavut, a small town in the country’s far north. About half the population of Iqaluit is Inuit.    The pope leaves Canada on July 29, arriving the next day in Rome.
    Last month, Francis made a historic apology for abuses in Canada’s church run residential schools and expressed “sorrow and shame” for the lack of respect for Indigenous identities, culture and spiritual values.
    He said he wanted to go to Canada to deliver the apology personally to survivors of misguided Catholic missionary zeal.
    Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said Francis was “accepting the invitation of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities and the Indigenous communities” in making what the Holy See termed an “apostolic journey.”
    The Vatican said details of the Canada trip would be made public in the coming weeks.    Canadian bishops said the pope was expected to visit the site of a former residential school, as well as “other locations of particular significance.”
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted that Francis was coming to “formally deliver the Roman Catholic Church’s apology for its role in operating residential schools that caused lasting pain and suffering to Indigenous Peoples in this country.”
    “His Holiness’ upcoming visit would not be possible without the bravery and determination of the Survivors, Indigenous leaders, and youth who shared their stories,” the prime minister said in a written statement.
    Trudeau said that a formal, in-person apology, would be “an important – and necessary – step for the Roman Catholic Church to continue engaging in dialogue with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis in order to advance meaningful reconciliation for Indigenous Peoples in our country.”
    “For far too long, this has been a burden carried by Indigenous Peoples alone.    I encourage all Canadians to watch this historic moment and reflect on the impacts of colonialism,” Trudeau said of the upcoming papal visit.
    On April 1, while Indigenous representatives were visiting the Vatican for private encounters with Francis, the pontiff voiced “sorrow and shame” for the abuse and lack of respect for Indigenous identities, culture and spiritual values in the residential school system.
    “Given the vast landscape of Canada, the limited time for the visit and considering the health of the 85-year old pontiff,” only three communities will serve as a base for the trip, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.
    “The locations will limit travel for the Holy Father while still allowing an opportunity for both intimate and public encounters, drawing on participation from all regions of the country,” the statement said.
Pope Francis said he wanted to go to Canada to personally apologize to
survivors of misguided Catholic missionary zeal. ANDREW MEDICHINI/AP

5/15/2022 Abortion rights rallies held across US - Anger expressed as Roe’s fate hangs in balance by Ashraf Khalil and David Sharp, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Protesters begin crossing the Brooklyn Bridge during a rally by abortion rights supporters in New York. JEENAH MOON/AP
    WASHINGTON – Abortion rights supporters demonstrating at hundreds of marches and rallies Saturday expressed their outrage that the Supreme Court appears prepared to scrap the right to abortion that has endured for nearly a half-century and their fear about what that could mean for women’s reproductive choices.
    Incensed after a leaked draft opinion suggested the court’s conservative majority would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, activists spoke of the need to mobilize quickly because Republican- led states are poised to enact tighter restrictions.
    In the nation’s capital, thousands gathered in drizzly weather at the Washington Monument to listen to fiery speeches before marching to the Supreme Court, which was surrounded by two layers of security fences.
    The mood was one of anger and defiance, three days after the Senate could not muster enough votes to codify Roe v. Wade.
    “I can’t believe that at my age, I’m still having to protest over this,” said Samantha Rivers, a 64-year-old federal government employee who is preparing for a state-by-state fight over abortion rights.
    Caitlin Loehr, 34, of Washington, wore a black T-shirt with an image of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “dissent” collar on it and a necklace that spelled out “vote.”
    “I think that women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and their lives.    And I don’t think banning abortion will stop abortion.    It just makes it unsafe and can cost a woman her life,” Loehr said.
    A half-dozen anti-abortion demonstrators sent out a countering message, with Jonathan Darnel shouting into a microphone, “Abortion is not health care, folks, because pregnancy is not an illness.”
    From Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, and Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands participated in events, where chants of “Bans off our bodies!” and “My body, my choice!” rang out.    The gatherings were largely peaceful, but in some cities, there were tense confrontations between people on opposing sides of the issue.
    Polls showed that most Americans want to preserve access to abortion – at least in the earlier stages of pregnancy – but the Supreme Court appeared to be poised to let the states have the final say.    If that happens, roughly half the states, mostly in the South and Midwest, are expected to quickly ban abortion.
    The fight was personal for some who came out Saturday.    In Seattle, some protesters carried photographic images of conservative justices’ heads on sticks.
    Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend the Chicago rally, said she fears for women in states that are ready to ban abortion.    She said she might not be alive today if she had not had a legal abortion when she was 15.
    “I was already starting to self harm and I would have rather died than have a baby,” said Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Illinois.
    At that rally, speaker after speaker said that if abortion is banned, the rights of immigrants, minorities and others will also be “gutted,” as Amy Eshleman, wife of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, put it.
    “This has never been just about abortion.    It’s about control,” Eshleman told the crowd of thousands.    “My marriage is on the menu and we cannot and will not let that happen.”
    In New York, thousands of people gathered in Brooklyn’s courthouse plaza before a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan for another rally.
    “We’re here for the women who can’t be here, and for the girls who are too young to know what is ahead for them,” Angela Hamlet, 60, of Manhattan, said to the backdrop of booming music.
    Robin Seidon, who traveled from Montclair, New Jersey, for the rally, said the nation was at a place abortion rights supporters have long feared.
    “They’ve been nibbling at the edges, and it was always a matter of time before they thought they had enough power on the Supreme Court, which they have now,” said Seidon, 65.
    The upcoming high court ruling in a case from Mississippi stands to energize voters, potentially shaping the upcoming midterm elections.
    In Texas, which has a strict law banning many abortions, the challenger to one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress marched in San Antonio.
    Jessica Cisneros joined demonstrators just days before early voting begins in her primary runoff against U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, which could be one of the first tests over whether the court leak will galvanize voters.
    In Chicago, Kjirsten Nyquist, a nurse toting daughters ages 1 and 3, agreed about the need to vote.    “As much as federal elections, voting in every small election matters just as much,” she said.
    Polls show that most Americans want to preserve access to abortion – at least in the earlier stages of pregnancy – but the Supreme Court appeared to be poised to let the states have the final say.    If that happens, roughly half the states... are expected to quickly ban abortion.
Demonstrators against abortion turned out during a rally at the Texas Capitol
in Austin on Saturday. Texas has a strict law banning many abortions. ERIC GAY/AP

5/16/2022 Pope ignores knee, proclaims 10 saints by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Pope Francis leads a canonization mass at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican
on Sunday, creating 10 saints. VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis created 10 new saints Sunday, rallying from knee pain that has forced him to use a wheelchair to preside over the first canonization ceremony at the Vatican in over two years.
    Francis stood for a long period at the start to greet priests celebrating the Mass, presided over the nearly two-hour ceremony and then stood and walked for a good 15 minutes after it ended to greet dozens of cardinals and bishops.
    Vatican cameras lingered on the scene as if to showcase the pope’s mobility and refute speculation about his health and the future of his pontificate.
    Francis, 85, then took a popemobile ride around St. Peter’s Square and the boulevard leading to it to greet some of the tens of thousands of people who came out to celebrate the Catholic Church’s newest saints.    They include a Dutch priest-journalist who was killed by the Nazis, a lay Indian convert who was killed for his faith and a half-dozen French and Italian priests and nuns who founded religious orders.
    Francis has been complaining of strained ligaments in his right knee for months, and has recently been seen using a wheelchair at public audiences.    Sunday’s ceremony was evidence that Francis is able to walk, but appears to be taking it as easy as possible to let the ligaments heal before an intense period of travel starting in July: The Vatican has confirmed two trips that month, one to Congo and South Sudan and one to Canada.
    It was the first canonization Mass at the Vatican since before the coronavirus pandemic.
    The Italian president, Dutch foreign minister, French interior minister and the minister for minorities of India, as well as tens of thousands of faithful packed the sunny piazza, which was adorned with Dutch flowers in honor of the Rev. Titus Brandsma, a martyr saint who was killed at the Dachau concentration camp in 1942.
    In addition to Brandsma, the new saints include the 18th century Indian convert Lazarus, who mixed with India’s lower castes and was considered treasonous by India’s royal palace, which ordered him arrested and executed in 1752.

5/16/2022 Deadly attack at California church - 1 killed before attendees hog-tie shooter by Damian Dovarganes and Christopher Weber, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LAGUNA WOODS, Calif. – A man opened fire during a lunch reception at a Southern California church on Sunday before being stopped and hog-tied by parishioners in what a sheriff’s official called an act of “exceptional heroism and bravery.”
    One person was killed and four others were critically wounded at Geneva Presbyterian Church in the city of Laguna Woods, Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials said.    The suspect in the shooting, an Asian man in his 60s, was in custody and deputies recovered two handguns at the scene, Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said.    A motive for the shooting wasn’t immediately known but investigators don’t believe the gunman lives in the community, he said.
    The majority of those inside the church at the time were believed to be of Taiwanese descent, said Carrie Braun, a sheriff’s spokesperson.
    Between 30 and 40 people were gathered for lunch after a morning church service when gunfire erupted shortly before 1:30 p.m., officials said.    When deputies arrived, parishioners had the gunman hog-tied and in custody.
    “That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect.    They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities,” Hallock said.    “I think it’s safe to say that had people not intervened, it could have been much worse.”
    A man died at the scene and a fifth injured person suffered minor injuries, officials said.    All the victims were adults.    The investigation was in its early stages, Hallock said.    He said the many unanswered questions included whether the assailant attended the church service, if he was known to church members and how many shots were fired.
    The afternoon lunch reception was honoring a former pastor of a Taiwanese congregation that has services at Geneva, according to a statement from the Presbytery of Los Ranchos, a church administrative body.    “Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for the those traumatized by this shooting,” the presbytery’s Tom Cramer said in a statement on Facebook.
    Federal agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded.    The FBI also sent agents to the scene to assist the sheriff.
    Laguna Woods was built as a senior living community and later became a city.    More than 80% of residents in the city of 18,000 people about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles are at least 65.
    Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said on Twitter that he was closely monitoring the situation.    “No one should have to fear going to their place of worship.    Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event,” the tweet said.
Investigators gather outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif.,

A patrol vehicle is seen outside Geneva Presbyterian Church in
Laguna Woods, Calif., after a fatal shooting Sunday. DAMIAN DOVARGANES/AP

5/16/2022 ABORTION RIGHTS DEBATE - Thousands gather for abortion rights rallies - ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’ draws crowds nationwide by N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Claire Thornton, David Jackson and Ella Lee, USA TODAY
Demonstrators march in New York City during the “Bans Off Our Bodies”
abortion-rights rally on Saturday. MICHELLE HANKS/USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – Abortion rights advocates gathered in the nation’s capital and by state capitols Saturday for a challenging task: persuading the Supreme Court not to reverse the 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
    After listening to speeches from activists, elected officials and faith leaders in the nation’s capital, thousands of demonstrators embarked on an hourlong march to the Supreme Court under cloudy skies and occasional drizzle, joining several hundred other demonstrators there.
    Many attendees wore ponchos and carried umbrellas and shouted chants such as “Hands off our bodies” and “We will fight back” to the beat of bucket drums.
    Some said they doubted the conservative Supreme Court would change course and vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, but they wanted their voices heard.
    “We can put some pressure on them,” said Sandra Harrington, 61, a retired public education administrator from Warrenton, Virginia.    “I, unfortunately, do think it’s a done deal, and I’m terribly sad about that.”
    Sponsors of the daylong event included Women’s March, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, UltraViolet, MoveOn, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Rights Action League.
    Planned Parenthood began organizing the nationwide “day of action” months before a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision leaked, sparking celebrations from antiabortion demonstrators and protests outside the Supreme Court, which is surrounded by a security fence, and the justice’s homes.
    Before Saturday’s protests, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have enshrined a nationwide right to abortion.
    More than 1,000 demonstrators gathered at Legislative Plaza in Nashville, Tennessee, Saturday afternoon.    Amy Griffith said she is a Christian but does not believe abortion should be outlawed.
    “We are not a theocracy,” she said, echoing the sign she carried.
    Her daughter Leah said public support is largely in favor of keeping abortion legal, pointing to polls that found more than half of Americans support it.    She said she’s afraid that state bans will make abortion unsafe, especially for people without the resources to access it in other states.
    “It’s going to happen, regardless of if it’s legal,” Leah Griffith said, holding a sign featuring a snake in the shape of a uterus that read, “Don’t tread on me.”
    Seeta Begui, one of the speakers at Saturday’s rally in Viera, Florida, said one formative experience of her childhood occurred when a family member died in Trinidad and Tobago after a “backstreet” abortion.
    “We’re still fighting for reproductive rights.    We cannot allow hate and ignorance and disinformation to win,” she said.    “We’re not going backwards.”
    Hundreds gathered in Fort Collins’ Old Town Square in Colorado for a rally featuring a dozen speakers, including a labor and delivery nurse who worked in a pre-Roe world.
    Many people brought homemade signs with drawings of hangers saying, “Never again,” or phrases such as “Shame SCOTUS,” “Accept my existence or expect resistance” and “Women are no one’s property.”
    Annmarie Izuel Evans, vice president of NoCo National Organization for Women, who helped plan and emcee the event, said it was “horrifying” that demonstrators had to gather.
    “Roe v. Wade was signed into law in (1973),” she told the crowd.    “We need to unite, we need to mobilize, we need to act and, I will say this throughout the day, we need to vote.”
    About 400 people rallied in front of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, including mothers and daughters.    Pink was the predominant color of the day, on T-shirts sporting messages including “Bans Off Our Bodies” and signs that said, “Abolish the Supreme Court” and “Abortion is health care.”
    Across the street from the rally, Margo Weiss and her 3-year-old daughter, Amelie, painted a giant mural in primary colors that said, “Bans Off Our Bodies.”
    “This issue is important to me,” Weiss said.    “It’s good to show our children what’s possible if you use your voice.”
    Deborah O’Brien was one of several hundred protesters who gathered with flags, signs and coat hangers outside the Ohio Statehouse.
    “I just can’t believe we’re back at this again,” the 70-yearold said.    “I’m really, really upset.”
    Crowds blocked the streets directly outside the Statehouse and chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, abortion bans have got to go.”
    Anti-abortion advocates, including the group Created Equal, held signs outside the rally as well, with photos of aborted fetuses.
    In Austin, demonstrators stood at the steps of the Texas Capitol, banging drums, singing and chanting, “Abortion is a human right,” KVUE reported.    Texas passed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, prohibiting the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.
    In New York, thousands gathered in Brooklyn’s courthouse plaza before marching across the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan.
    Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend a rally in Chicago, said she fears for women in states that are ready to ban abortion.    She said she might not be alive if she had not had a legal abortion when she was 15.
    “I was already starting to self-harm, and I would have rather died than have a baby,” said Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Illinois.
    In Washington, a sole antiabortion activist stood off to the sidelines with a megaphone, yelling, “They’re not your bodies,” but the marchers shouted louder to drown him out.
    “I’m here for my daughter, and my daughter’s daughter,” said Jen Giordano, 51, a salesperson who traveled from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on Saturday morning to attend the rally.
    Deborah Stoll, 70, a retired clinical psychologist from Takoma Park, Maryland, carried a handmade sign that read, “The hardest decision a woman can make isn’t yours.”
    Protesters predicted more rallies, especially after the Supreme Court issues its final ruling on Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy as some state legislatures consider outright bans.
    Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., told the Washington crowd that congressional Republicans would probably go for a national ban on abortion, ignoring states that allow the practice.    Thanking the crowd for its “righteous indignation,” Lee said, “We fought these battles 50 years ago,” but they will have to do so again.
    “We all know that this is a crisis moment,” Lee said, recalling how afraid she was to get an abortion at 15 in Mexico.
    Contributing: Rachel Wegner and Molly Davis, The Tennessean; Molly Bohannon, Fort Collins Coloradoan; Thomas Hanks, The Columbus Dispatch; Linda Borg, The Providence Journal; The Associated Press
    “We’re still fighting for reproductive rights.    We cannot allow hate and ignorance and disinformation to win.    We’re not going backwards.”    Seeta Begui, Speaking at Saturday’s rally in Viera, Florida.

5/17/2022 HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT - Persuade a friend to reject being gay - Christian Academy draws ire for classwork by Lucas Aulbach, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
A screenshot of a homework assigment given to a number of students at
Christian Academy of Louisville. PROVIDED TO THE COURIER JOURNAL
    A homework assignment given to several middle-schoolers at Christian Academy of Louisville encourages students to persuade an imaginary friend to reject homosexuality.
    And parents, members of the LGBTQ community and others aren’t pleased.
    The assignment, which was due Thursday, came to the light Friday, when JP Davis, a Kentucky-based business owner, posted screenshots of the assignment on social media.
    CAL officials confirmed the assignment late Friday afternoon.
    Davis told The Courier Journal he was shown the homework by a close friend with a child who attends CAL who was “visibly and understandably upset about the assignment.”     “Her kid is in the class that was given the assignment, and he and her are both uncomfortable with it,” Davis, owner of the JP Davis Partners consulting agency, said.    “She doesn’t know how to handle it. … And her kid’s upset.”
    Screenshots show the assignment required students to write a letter to a hypothetical friend “struggling with homosexuality” and persuade them “God’s design for them is good,” “homosexuality will not bring them satisfaction” and “you love them even though you don’t approve of their lifestyle.”
    “Assume that you have known this friend since kindergarten, that you go to the same church and that you have been pretty good friends over the years until now,” the screenshot of the assignment read.    “… The aim of your letter should be to lovingly and compassionately speak truth to the person you’re talking to in a way that does not approve of any sin.    Instead, TRY TO PERSUADE THEM OF THE GOODNESS OF GOD’S DESIGN for them.”
    In an email Friday, Christian Academy of Louisville School System Superintendent Darin Long said the assignment had been given to students in a middle school Bible elective class.
    The homework was “part of a unit of study which discusses ‘What are humans and where is their identity?’” Long wrote, and “in context, was how a person could discuss homosexuality with a friend from a biblical perspective with compassion and love.”
    “This hypothetical friend conversation was for our students to review the class discussions and their perspectives on the subject,” his statement said.    “Moving forward, we will review this assignment to ensure there is clarity in its purpose and language.”
    The Christian Academy School System is a private school system in the region with a Christianity-based curriculum.    It has four campuses in Louisville and Southern Indiana. More than 3,000 children are in the school system.
    Davis said the issue is personal to him.    He spent the first 23 years of his life hiding his homosexuality, he said, before coming out as a gay man.
    It took him a long time to gather the courage to go public, he said, and as he gets closer to 40, Davis said he doesn’t want the next generation to face the same struggles.
    “The statistics speak for themselves on suicide among LGBTQ+ people, and these are seventh-graders that are being subjected to hate and division, and it’s not necessary,” Davis said.    “I know it’s a Christian school, but that’s not my Christianity.    That’s not my values.    And that’s not what Jesus, if they want to make that argument, represented.    Jesus didn’t go around asking people to judge and tell other people how they’re wrong and shame.”
    A 2002 CAL graduate with ties to the school, Kylee Marcy told The Courier Journal she was also outraged when she heard about the assignment Friday through a social media post.    She said she reached out to other alumni, as well as parents who have kids at CAL.
    She was angry, she said.    But she wasn’t surprised.
    “I would not call this out of character in any way,” she said.    “But I was still really disappointed because I’ve been gone 20 years, and I would’ve hoped that in 20 years maybe they would have learned that love is the way to go, as opposed to the fire-and-brimstone hate.    But it doesn’t seem like it to me.”
    Marcy said the text and contents of the assignment indicate it was homework issued in the school’s Christian Worldview class.    She questioned why CAL would focus an assignment targeting one sin — “if you do believe homosexuality is a sin, which I personally do not” – and called on the school to make some changes moving forward.
    “I would like them to issue an apology and change the Christian Worldview class curriculum, and I would like that this specific teacher issues an apology to at least the parents and the students,” Marcy said.
    In Long’s statement, he said CAL teaches content “with a biblical worldview” and said it believes marriage should be between a man and a woman and that it encourages tolerance.
    “We believe that God created the marriage covenant to be between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27, Gen. 2:24).    We believe that sex is a good gift of God, to be celebrated within the confines of the marriage covenant, agreeing that all other sexual expressions go against God’s design. (1 Cor. 6:18, Gal. 5:19),” Long’s statement said.
    “We believe that all individuals are created in the image of God, and therefore should be treated with compassion, respect, dignity and love at all times even in disagreement.”
    “The aim of your letter should be to lovingly and compassionately speak truth to the person you’re talking to in a way that does not approve of any sin.”
Christian Academy assignment

5/18/2022 Vatican foreign minister visiting Ukraine as pope toes delicate line by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Pope Francis has drawn criticism from some in the West for refusing to condemn Russia
or President Vladimir Putin by name for launching the invasion. DOMENICO STINELLIS/AP FILE
    VATICAN CITY – The Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, is heading to Kyiv this week as the Holy See seeks to balance its concern for Ukrainians amid Russia’s war with its efforts to keep open a channel of dialogue with Moscow.    Gallagher is due to arrive Wednesday and meet Friday with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, a visit that was originally scheduled for before Easter but was postponed after Gallagher came down with COVID-19.
    The Vatican said that Gallagher would stop first in Lviv to meet with refugees and regional officials, and then move onto Kyiv for the meeting with Kuleba and to tour the destruction nearby.
    The secretariat of state tweeted Tuesday that the visit would mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Ukraine and show the closeness of the pope and Holy See to Ukraine, “reaffirming the importance of dialogue to reestablish peace.”
    The trip comes as the Holy See toes a delicate line in trying to keep alive newly improved ties with the Russian Orthodox     Church while offering support to the “martyred” Ukrainian faithful.    At the same time, the Holy See is reconciling Pope Francis’ frequent denunciation of the weapons industry and “crazy” recourse to rearming Ukraine with Catholic teaching that says states have a right and duty to repel an “unjust aggressor.”
    “It has to be proportional,” Gallagher told RAI state television.    “Yes, Ukraine has the right to defend itself and it needs weapons to do it, but it has to be prudent in the way it’s done.”
    Gallagher, a 68-year-old career Vatican diplomat from Liverpool, becomes the third papal envoy dispatched to the region by Francis, after two trusted cardinals went to Ukraine and bordering countries to assess the humanitarian needs of Ukrainian refugees and bring them the pope’s solidarity.
    Francis has drawn criticism from some for refusing to condemn Russia or President Vladimir Putin by name, though he has stepped up his criticism of the “barbaric” war and recently met with the wives of two Ukrainian soldiers holding out at the besieged steel mill in Mariupol, a gesture of “our concern and participation in the suffering of these families,” Gallagher said.
    Francis’ down-the-middle line is evidence of the Holy See’s diplomatic tradition of not calling out aggressors by name and its efforts to keep open paths of dialogue with both sides in a conflict.    This so-called “Ostpolitik” dictated the Vatican’s Cold War policy of maintaining relations with the same Communist regimes that were persecuting the Catholic faithful.
    In the case of Ukraine, the Holy See is keen not to sever newly improved relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, which took a big step forward in 2016 when Francis met in Havana with the Russian Patriarch, Kirill.
    Francis has so far declined an invitation from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to visit Ukraine, recently saying he wants to go to Moscow first.    Francis has said he asked early on to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but that the Russian leader hasn’t yet replied.
    Francis, however, called off a planned June meeting with Kirill, who has justified Putin’s war on ideological and spiritual grounds.

5/18/2022 Judge strikes down Tenn. bathroom law - Would have required signs for transgender people by Jonathan Mattise, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A federal judge on Tuesday struck down Tennessee’s first-of-its-kind law requiring businesses to post special signs if they allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice.
    The ruling by U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger makes permanent her previous decision from July 2021 that blocked enforcement of the law just days after it took effect.    Businesses had sued over the law, arguing the signs would violate their First Amendment rights by compelling them to communicate language they find offensive.
    In her latest decision, the judge deemed the law “a brazen attempt to single out trans-inclusive establishments and force them to parrot a message that they reasonably believe would sow fear and misunderstanding about the very transgender Tennesseans whom those establishments are trying to provide with some semblance of a safe and welcoming environment.”
    The 2021 law was signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who has approved a wide range of bills targeting the LGBTQ community with the support of the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature.    In the past several years, Tennessee has enacted more anti-LGBTQ laws than almost any other state in the country, with five approved last year and more signed this year.
    The signage law was quickly met by multiple federal lawsuits.    It was inserted into the state building codes and threatened potential violators with a warning followed by a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $500 fine.    Officials had conveyed unclear messages about how the measure was going to be enforced.
    The law would have required that signs be posted in bold, uppercase letters outside public multiperson bathrooms, locker rooms or changing rooms wherever transgender people are not prevented from using the facilities of their choice.    The sign, topped by the word “Notice,” would say: “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”
    The law also applied to public facilities on government-owned grounds.
    The state of Tennessee has argued in court that the signs are merely factual.    A spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office did not immediately comment in response to the ruling.
    The law’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Tim Rudd, has said the law was needed because he is concerned about sexual predators taking advantage of loose restroom policies to assault or rape other restroom users.

5/18/2022 La. panel rejects bills restricting race lessons - Lawmaker: Measures target ‘indoctrination’ by Kevin McGill, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    NEW ORLEANS – A state lawmaker’s attempt to set restrictions on what public schools in Louisiana can teach about race was rejected by a House committee Tuesday, with some panel members saying the legislation needlessly encroached on state and local education officials’ duties, and other critics saying the legislation was so broadly written it could squelch classroom debate.
    Both bills were by Rep. Ray Garofalo, a St. Bernard Parish Republican who lost his chairmanship of the House Education Committee last year after pushing similar legislation over the objections of the House leadership.    Garofalo was back before the same panel during a livestreamed meeting at the Capitol in Baton Rouge.
    His House Bill 1014 listed several teaching restrictions, including forbidding teaching that anyone of any race bears “collective guilt” for past actions by members of the same race; that the United States is “systemically racist” or that anyone should be “adversely or advantageously treated” on the basis of race.
    Similar bills have been proposed or passed in a number of Republican controlled states in response to the recent spate of publicity about “critical race theory,” an academic framework dating to the 1970s that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions.
    Critical race theory is not a fixture of K-12 education but has become a catchall political buzzword for any teaching in schools about race and American history.
    Garofalo’s other measure, House Bill 747, would require the teaching of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech coupled with a prohibition on teaching that “a particular sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin is inherently superior, inferior, advantaged, disadvantaged, privileged, underprivileged, biased, or oppressed relative to another.”
    Garofalo said his legislation was needed to prevent “indoctrination” and said he’s had numerous complaints from students, parents and faculty members who said such legislation is needed but are afraid of retaliation if they come forward publicly.
    Panel members largely criticized the measures as unnecessary.    “We have tried to cut down on the Legislature trying to dictate curriculum,” said committee chairman Lance Harris, a Rapides Parish Republican.    Motions to defer action on both bills, effectively bottling them up in the committee, were approved without objection.

5/19/2022 US warns abortion ruling could increase violence by Ben Fox, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WASHINGTON – The leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion striking down the constitutional right to abortion has unleashed a wave of threats against officials and others and increased the likelihood of extremist violence, an internal government report says.
    Violence could come from either side of the abortion issue or from other types of extremists seeking to exploit tensions, according to a memo directed to local government agencies from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
    It’s an added element to what is already a volatile environment in the U.S., where authorities have warned repeatedly over the past two years that the threat posed by domestic extremists, such as the gunman who committed the racist attack over the weekend in Buffalo, surpasses the danger from abroad.
    The memo, dated May 13 and obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, seeks to differentiate between illegal activity and the intense but legal outpouring of protests that are all but guaranteed when the Supreme Court issues its ruling at the end of its term this summer, regardless of the outcome.
    “DHS is committed to protecting Americans’ freedom of speech and other civil rights and civil liberties, including the right to peacefully protest,” the agency said in a written response to questions about the memo.
    Those protests could turn violent.    The memo warns that people “across a broad range of various … ideologies are attempting to justify and inspire attacks against abortion-related targets and ideological opponents at lawful protests.”
    Violence associated with the abortion debate would not be unprecedented nor would it necessarily be confined to one side or the other, the memo says.
    Opponents of abortion have carried out at least 10 killings as well as dozens of arson and bomb attacks against medical facilities in their long campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade.
    DHS said there is also a potential for violence from the other side, citing recent damage to buildings used by abortion opponents in Wisconsin and Oregon.
The federal government is warning law enforcement agencies around the nation of the increased potential for
extremist violence following the recent leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion. ALEX BRANDON/AP FILE

5/20/2022 Illinois an ‘oasis’ to access abortions - State’s clinics prep for post-Roe v. Wade by Andrew Adams, Springfield State Journal-Register USA TODAY NETWORK
Pro-choice protesters gathered outside the Springfield Federal Courthouse on May 3 after a draft Supreme Court decision
that would strike down Roe v. Wade was published the day before. THOMAS J. TURNEY/SPRINGFIELD STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
    The number of out-of-state patients seeking abortions in Illinois tripled between 2015 and 2020. But with the future of federal abortion protections uncertain, it’s no longer just patients crossing the border.
    Clinics from other states have plans to set up shop in Illinois.
    Between Illinois and the five states that border it, Illinois is the only state not expected to restrict or outright ban abortion access if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
    A Tennessee health care organization called CHOICES is among out of state abortion providers with plans to operate in Illinois.    The Memphis based non-profit recently announced an August opening for a Carbondale, Illinois, clinic.
    Though two states to the north, the Illinois opening is a way to maintain abortion access for patients if a high court decision triggers a 2019 Tennessee law that bans the practice.
    “It’s not looking good in our part of the country,” said Holly Calvasina, the development director for CHOICES.
    The Carbondale facility will offer medication abortions and gender-affirming care on the first day it opens, with plans to expand into procedural abortions, birthing services and other reproductive health care offerings as it hires staffŤ and settles into the community.
    Calvasina expects the clinic to serve patients from several southeastern states, including Kentucky and Tennessee.    Carbondale is just over a three-hour drive from Memphis and Nashville and is just under a four-hour drive from Louisville, home to Kentucky’s only licensed abortion provider.    Being the closest abortion clinic to many in those areas, Calvasina hopes CHOICES doesn’t remain the sole provider in the region for long.
    “We’re comfortable being the first, but we don’t want to be only,” said Calvasina.    “We cannot serve everyone who needs it.”
    Though Calvasina said CHOICES so far has been welcomed in Carbondale’s nonprofit and health care community, it is waiting to release details about the new facility’s location until it has fulltime security on site.
    “We’re used to hostile receptions,” said Calvasina.
    Neighboring Planned Parenthood affiliates also are looking to Illinois.    The Planned Parenthood affiliate in St. Louis operates Missouri’s only remaining abortion clinic and in January opened a facility across the border in Illinois’ Fairview Heights.
    The new facility, operated in partnership with Granite City-based Hope Clinic for Women, will serve as a regional center to offer financial aid, travel assistance, and other services to those seeking abortions in Illinois.
    People from out of state have drawn the attention of elected leaders.
    “We are looking at whether or not we can provide state dollars for out-of-state people directly to help them,” said Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker during a recent press conference.    “But indirectly, we absolutely already are doing that.”
    Pritzker and other Democrats in the state have taken an increasingly progressive stance on the issue.
    In 2019, Illinois passed the Reproductive Health Care Act, protecting abortion rights in the state.    Illinois is one of 16 states to have laws or constitutional amendments explicitly protecting abortion access.
    With abortion providers and reproductive health groups seeing Illinois as welcoming to them, some in Illinois state-level organizing think the state has gone too far in its abortion policies.
    “By and large, the people of Illinois don’t want Illinois to be the center of abortion extremism,” said Amy Gehrke, the executive director of Illinois Right to Life.
    Gehrke cited some of Illinois’ most progressive policies, such as the 2021 repeal of a requirement that parents be notified if their minor children receive an abortion, as areas in which the state went further than what she said is the majority view.
    Illinois’ neighboring states have more restrictive policies on abortion care, leading abortion providers in the region to say Illinois is unique.
    “We really are a haven state, this oasis in the Midwest,” said Paula Thornton Greear, head of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Illinois.
    Of the five states that border Illinois, three have laws that could ban most or all abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned.    Wisconsin has a law from before the original Roe decision that, though unenforced, remains in effect.
    Wisconsin’s law bans abortions, with an exception that allows for abortions “to save the life of the mother.”    Like Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky have “trigger laws,” which would ban most abortions if Roe is overturned.
    Iowa’s abortion stance is more complicated.    In 2018, the state’s highest court found that the Iowa constitution protected abortion as a fundamental right.    The court rejected a proposal from the state’s conservative legislature that would have banned abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.
    The Iowa Supreme Court is now considering a case that could overturn the decision, an outcome which 60 Iowa state lawmakers argued for in an amicus brief filed with the court.
    Similarly, Indiana does not ban abortions, though the state restricts abortions after 20 weeks, requires an ultrasound for patients, allows doctors and institutions to refuse to provide the service and bans public funding for the procedure, according to their state’s law.
    Republican lawmakers in Indiana also asked Gov. Eric Holcomb to call a special session of the legislature to address abortion-related issues if Roe is overturned “to ensure that our state laws are aligned with the Supreme Court’s decision,” according to a letter they sent Holcomb in March.
    The more restrictive laws in neighboring states have Illinois abortion providers preparing for increased numbers of patients seeking abortions and other reproductive healthcare.
    “We could see as many as 30,000 abortion patients a year,” said Greear.
    In 2020, providers in the state performed 46,000 abortions overall, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.    Of those, 9,700 were for patients from out of state.
    Planned Parenthood of Illinois has been preparing for Roe to be overturned for several years.    In 2018, it opened a clinic in Flossmoor, 13 miles from the Indiana border.    In 2020, it opened a clinic in Waukegan, 12 miles from the Wisconsin border.    In February, it expanded a downtown Chicago location.
    The organization now operates 18 locations across the state which can provide abortion services.
    Planned Parenthood also has expanded in-state access to medication abortions by offering to mail Mifepristone, a pill that can induce abortions in the first or second trimesters of pregnancy. However, patients can only receive the pill in Illinois after a telehealth consultation.
    “There are over 20 years of data demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of medication abortion using Mifepristone,” said Amy Whitaker, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of Illinois.    “Not only is this a safe method, but it also increases access to care, especially for people of color, people living in rural areas and people with low incomes who already face barriers to care.”
    Pills such as Mifepristone accounted for 51.3% of abortions in Illinois in 2020, according to the IDPH data.
    Illinois Right to Life considers its work as an alternative to abortion care.    Services include direct grants paid to pregnant women and new mothers, which Gehrke said recently have been in the $1,600 to $1,800 range.    Since the program started in the mid-1990s, Gehrke said they have given out over $500,000.
    Given the expected increase in patients seeking abortion in Illinois, Gehrke said her organization’s goal is to expand the program in the coming years.
    The group also coordinates with “pregnancy resource centers,” facilities and organizations which aim to provide resources and information to pregnant women who are considering abortions or who need support.
    “The pro-life movement is here to offer women life-affirming choices,” said Gehrke.
    A decision is expected in the ongoing U.S. Supreme Court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, sometime this summer.    Based on a leaked draft ruling, the case is expected to overturn precedent protecting abortion rights.
    Greear, of Planned Parenthood, said “even if — when — the Supreme Court decides, abortion will remain legal in Illinois.”

5/20/2022 Abortion clinics making plans as ruling looms by Emily Wagster Pettus and Rachel La Corte, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Staff members of the Family Planning Association clinic greet abortion-rights demonstrators Saturday in Chicago.
Illinois has easy abortion access but is surrounded by more restrictive states in the Midwest and South. MATT MARTON/AP FILE
    JACKSON, Miss. – Leaders of a Tennessee abortion clinic calculated driving distances and studied passenger rail routes as they scanned the map for another place to offer services if the U.S. Supreme Court lets states restrict or eliminate abortion rights.
    They chose Carbondale in Illinois – a state that has easy abortion access but is surrounded by more restrictive states in the Midwest and South.    It will be the southernmost clinic in Illinois when it opens in August.
    “I think at this point, we all know the stark reality that we’re facing in Tennessee.    We are going to lose abortion access this year,” said Jennifer Pepper, chief executive officer of CHOICES: Memphis Center for Reproductive Health.
    With the Supreme Court poised to let states tightly limit or ban abortion, reproductive rights advocates are planning to open new clinics or expand existing ones in states where lawmakers are not clamping down on access.
    Some Democrat-led states in the West and Northeast also are proposing public money for an expected influx of people traveling from other places to terminate pregnancies.
    When it opened in 1974, a year after the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide, CHOICES became the first abortion provider in Memphis, a commercial hub for rural Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and southern Missouri.
    Carbondale is a three-hour drive north of Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee’s two largest cities.    It’s also on a New Orleans-to-Chicago Amtrak route through areas where abortion access could disappear, including Mississippi, western Tennessee and western Kentucky.
    “Its location and geography were the original reason that drew us to Carbondale, but the incredible heart of the Carbondale community is what led us to know we had found a second home for CHOICES,” Pepper said in announcing the plan last week.
    The Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming months in a case directly challenging Roe.    Justices heard arguments in December over a 2018 Mississippi law to ban most abortions after 15 weeks.    The court has allowed states to regulate but not ban abortion before the point of viability, around 24 weeks.
    A draft opinion leaked May 2 showed a majority of justices were ready to overturn Roe v. Wade.    If the final ruling is similar, states would have wide latitude to restrict abortion.    The Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, says 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion if the Roe is weakened or overturned.
    Diane Derzis owns Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization.    She told The Associated Press that the clinic, also known as the Pink House, will close if Roe is overturned because Mississippi has a “trigger” law to automatically prohibit abortion.
    Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation, and women would face even steeper hurdles to have access to abortion – arranging time off work, finding ways to pay for travel and lodging and, in many cases, arranging for child care while they are gone.
    “Mississippi is a prime example of what’s going to happen to the women of this country,” Derzis said.    “Those who have the means will be able to fly to New York.    The poor women and women of color will be desperately trying to find the closest clinic.”
    Derzis said an abortion clinic she owns in Columbus, Georgia, also would quickly close if Roe disappears.
    Derzis said she plans to open an abortion clinic soon in Las Cruces, New Mexico, about an hour’s drive north of El Paso, Texas.    Since Texas enacted a law last year banning most abortions at about six weeks, women have traveled to New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and other states to end pregnancies.    Earlier this month, a Texas-style abortion ban that prohibits abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy took effect in Oklahoma.
    “You can’t stop a woman who’s pregnant and doesn’t want to have a baby,” Derzis said.
    An association of abortion providers, the National Abortion Federation, gives health and travel information as well as money to pregnant women who have to travel to obtain an abortion.    The federation’s chief program officer, Melissa Fowler, said many lives will be>     “The reality for many people in the country is going to be days of travel, days off of work,” Fowler said.    “Even if we fully fund someone’s travel, some people’s lives just don’t allow them to make the trip.”
    Jennifer Allen, CEO of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, which covers Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky and     Washington, said even in states like Washington, where there’s strong support for abortion rights, “it’s going to take a whole lot more to be ready for the future.”
    Washington has more than 30 abortion clinics, though just five are east of the Cascade Mountains, in the more conservative part of the state.    Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure this year authorizing physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practitioners and other providers acting within their scope of practice to perform abortions.    Abortion-rights supporters said that will help meet the demand from out-of-state patients.
    Allen said it’s impossible to predict how many out-of-state residents will seek care in Washington, but the increase could be in the thousands.    She said reproductive rights advocates are working to anticipate the needs.
    “We are building this plane while we’re flying it,” Allen said.
    In response to the leaked Supreme Court draft, Inslee promised Washington would provide sanctuary for those seeking abortions.
    His office said discussions are underway on a range of possibilities.    But the Legislature is not likely to reconvene before its regular session begins in January.
    Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed $57 million in abortion funding on top of $68 million proposed in January.    The Democrat said the new proposals include $40 million to pay for abortions for women not covered by Medicaid or private insurance, $15 million for a public education campaign, $1million for a website listing abortion service and $1 million for research into unmet needs for reproductive health care services.
    Newsom has already signed a law to make abortions cheaper for people with private insurance.    The Legislature is considering other bills to increase abortion access, including proposals to let more nurse practitioners perform them.
    New York will make $35 million available for abortion services and security, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced last week.    She said some of that money could be spent on abortions for out of state residents traveling to New York.
    In March, Oregon lawmakers approved $15 million to pay for abortions and support services such as travel and lodging for in-state or out-of-state patients who travel long distances, and to expand abortion availability.    Details are still being discussed, including the possibility of mobile clinics or hiring more workers for existing clinics.
    “We do know that, likely, Oregon will be a place that people will be forced to travel to get care,” said An Do, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.
    The Guttmacher Institute reported Oregon could see a 234% increase in women coming from other states, many from Idaho, if the court overturns Roe v. Wade.
    Overwhelming Democratic majorities in the Illinois General Assembly have been preparing for a Roe rollback for years, particularly because the state would be an island amid neighbors with restrictions.
    In 2017, Illinois approved public funding for abortion and repealed a 1975 “trigger” law.    The state’s Reproductive Health Act of 2019 established the fundamental right for people to make their own decisions about contraception and abortion.    As of June 1, minors will no longer be required to notify a parent or guardian before getting an abortion, an action that abortion-rights proponents considered the last roadblock to unfettered access in Illinois.
    “We have been preparing for the day Roe falls and we are ready,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.
    Fowler, with the National Abortion Federation, said even though providers in states without restrictive abortion laws “are doing all they can to preserve and expand access, the current system just does not have the capacity to handle the number of patients who will be without care.”
    “We need to be just as creative and robust in our solutions as our opponents have been in designing these terrible restrictions,” she said.

5/20/2022 Oklahoma passes strict abortion ban - Providers in state say services expected to stop by Sean Murphy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
At least three anti-abortion bills have been sent this year by
state lawmakers to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt. SUE OGROCKI/AP FILE
    OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill prohibiting all abortions with few exceptions, and providers said they would stop performing the procedure as soon as the governor signs the bill.
    Two of the state’s four abortion clinics already stopped providing abortions after the governor signed a six-week ban earlier this month, and an attorney for the two other independent clinics said they will no longer offer services once the bill is signed.
    “This bill could go into effect at any time, and once it does, any person can sue the clinic, the doctors, anyone else who is involved in providing an abortion in Oklahoma,” said Rabia Muqaddam, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Oklahoma clinics in legal challenges against several proposed anti-abortion laws.
    The bills are part of an aggressive push in Republican-led states across the country to scale back abortion rights.    It comes on the heels of a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that suggests justices are considering weakening or overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago.
    The bill by Collinsville Republican Rep. Wendi Stearman would prohibit all abortions, except to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.
    “Is our goal to defend the right to life or isn’t it?”    Stearman asked her colleagues before the bill passed on a 73-16 vote mostly along party lines.
    The bill specifically authorizes doctors to remove a “dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion” or to remove an ectopic pregnancy.
    The bill is one of at least three antiabortion bills sent this year to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has indicated he’ll sign it.    Another Texas-style abortion bill that prohibits the procedure after cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo, which experts say is about six weeks, already has taken effect and has already dramatically curtailed the practice in Oklahoma.    Another bill set to take effect this summer would make it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.    That bill contains no exceptions for rape or incest.
    “At this point, we are preparing for the most restrictive environment politicians can create: a complete ban on abortion with likely no exceptions,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which stopped providing abortions at two of its Oklahoma clinics after the six-week ban took effect earlier this month.    “It’s the worst-case scenario for abortion care in the state of Oklahoma.”     Like the Texas law, the Oklahoma bill would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman obtain abortion.    After the U.S. Supreme Court allowed that mechanism to remain in place, other Republican-led states sought to copy Texas’ ban.    Idaho’s governor signed the first copycat measure in March, although it has been temporarily blocked by the state’s Supreme Court.
    After Texas passed its bill last year, there was a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions performed in that state, with many women going to Oklahoma and other surrounding states for the procedure.
    There are legal challenges pending in Oklahoma to both the bill to criminalize abortion and the six-week Texas ban, but the courts have so far failed to stop either measure.

5/21/2022 LAW CHALLENGED - Judge blocks abortion ban in Ky. - State AG Cameron calls ruling ‘disappointing’ by Morgan Watkins and Joe Sonka, Louisville Courier Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK
    A federal judge issued an order Thursday that preliminarily blocks a new ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy in Kentucky from taking effect for now.
    In addition to putting the 15-week abortion ban on ice, the judge also blocked enforcement of major parts of the law that would restrict access to abortion medication and place new restrictions on abortion access for people under 18 years old.
    This ruling means abortion services remain available to Kentuckians without being impacted by these restrictions under the law, the ultimate legality of which is still unresolved in this court case.
    “I would declare it as a total victory for the plaintiffs,” Michael Abate, an attorney representing Planned Parenthood in this case, said of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings.
    “She’s rejected every argument by the attorney general (Daniel Cameron) about statutory interpretation or the ability to comply.    She rejected their narrow interpretation of existing rights to abortion… And basically, as far as I can tell, enjoined just about, if not literally, every single provision that the plaintiffs had asked (her) to enjoin.”
    Cameron, who’s defending the antiabortion law in court, called Thursday’s order “disappointing.”
    “We immediately filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals and will take every available measure to continue defending this important law, which protects unborn life and women’s health,” he said in a statement.
    This ruling comes at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade decision that established abortion as a constitutional right in America — an about-face with massive implications for abortion access in Kentucky and across the country.
    Jennings previously suspended the enforcement of this new law overall, which took effect in April after Kentucky’s Republican-run state legislature passed it, via a temporary restraining order.    That order was expiring, and this new ruling blocks several key parts of the law for now.
    In Thursday’s decision, the judge did not order Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services to issue forms or regulations related to the law’s requirements because the legislature did not specifically appropriate funds for them to do so.    Her ruling does not stop the cabinet from going ahead and doing that if it so chooses.
    In her decision, Jennings acknowledged that how the U.S. Supreme Court rules this summer on the case concerning Roe v. Wade could greatly impact what happens with this litigation over the legality of Kentucky’s new law.
    The Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, based on a draft opinion that recently leaked to the public.
    Kentucky’s new law has drawn national attention for essentially ending abortion access in the commonwealth.    The state’s only abortion providers, Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, quickly sued over it.
    The anti-abortion Kentucky Right to Life Association’s executive director, former state Rep. Addia Wuchner, said the organization is disappointed in Thursday’s ruling, “but this matter is far from over.”
    Wuchner expressed trust in Cameron and his team and said the association she leads stands behind that law in its entirety.
    “We’re pro-woman, but we’re unwavering in our support for the unborn,” she said.
    With the Supreme Court expected to make a big decision on Roe v. Wade soon, Wuchner said this is a “pivotal time” in what has been a 50-year struggle over abortion rights that has featured “passion on both sides” and “moments of dialogue, moments of anger, moments of battle on this issue.”
    Staff attorney Heather Gatnarek of the ACLU of Kentucky, which represents EMW in this case, called Thursday’s ruling “great news and a great relief.”
    “It means that Kentuckians will still be able to access abortions in their state, and it means that people will get the care that they need,” she said.    “…I hope that we can keep that reality for as long as possible.”
A look at this controversial new law
    Kentucky’s new anti-abortion law doesn’t just ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It also outlaws mail delivery of medication used to induce early abortions, imposes new restrictions on abortions for people under 18 years old and requires fetal remains to be buried or cremated.
    Moreover, it requires the state to set up an extensive new bureaucracy to certify and oversee anyone who manufactures, distributes or dispenses medication used prior to 10 weeks gestation to terminate a pregnancy.
    That method now accounts for about half of abortions nationwide and in Kentucky, which reported 4,104 abortions for 2020, the most recent numbers available.
    The state’s remaining abortion providers, Planned Parenthood and EMW, say the law is unconstitutional, and that it’s essentially impossible to comply with all its new rules.    That’s why they’ve challenged it in court.
    Both organizations suspended abortion services for eight days when the law initially took effect, citing fears about potential enforcement actions, such as criminal charges, fines and loss of health professionals’ licenses.
    The judge’s temporary restraining order allowed them to start providing those services again.    And Thursday’s ruling ensures they will continue to be able to provide those services for now, while the larger legal challenge to this law remains ongoing and while the country awaits a potentially seismic decision on Roe v. Wade from the Supreme Court.
    In a statement Thursday, a Planned Parenthood representative emphasized the need to keep abortion services available in Kentucky moving forward.
    “Kentuckians can breathe a sigh of relief that these extreme restrictions will remain blocked and abortion will remain accessible for now,” said Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky.
    “For nearly a week, we were blocked from providing this critical and timesensitive health care.    We can’t go back.    Planned Parenthood will work day by day to safeguard the ability of our patients to access essential health care, no matter what.”
    Reporter Deborah Yetter contributed to this article.    Morgan Watkins is The Courier Journal’s chief political reporter. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter: @morganwatkins26.

5/21/2022 Harris talks to abortion providers on front lines by Chris Megerian, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Vice President Kamala Harris talks with abortion providers Thursday during
a virtual meeting from the White House complex in Washington. Susan Walsh/AP
    WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris, embracing her role as one of the administration’s most outspoken defenders of abortion rights, spoke Thursday with abortion providers from states with some of the country’s strongest restrictions, saying they are 'on the front lines of this war on women’s rights.'
    The virtual conversation, which Harris hosted from the White House complex, came weeks after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting that justices are on the brink of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
    Justices are expected to issue their final ruling in the next six weeks, but some states with Republican leaders are already laying the groundwork to ban abortion outright if the court allows individual states to set their own rules for the procedure.
    Shortly before Harris began her meeting, Oklahoma lawmakers passed what might be the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, preventing the procedure in all cases except to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest reported to law enforcement.
    'It’s outrageous, and it’s just the latest in a series of extreme laws from around the country,' Harris said. She said the rules were designed to 'punish and control women.'
    In addition to Oklahoma, the abortion providers who participated in the meeting were from Kansas, Texas, Missouri and Montana. Other states with less restrictive laws are preparing for a potential influx of patients if more bans go into effect.
    Much as President Joe Biden has done, Harris said other court rulings that allowed access to contraception and legalized same sex marriage could also be at risk.
    'It would be a direct assault on the fundamental right of self-determination, to live and love without interference from the government,' she said.
    The Biden administration has few options available to protect abortion, especially since legislation to safeguard access failed in the Senate last week.

5/21/2022 Pelosi to be denied Communion at church - Archbishop cites her abortion stance by Olga R. Rodriguez, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    SAN FRANCISCO – The conservative Catholic archbishop of San Francisco said Friday that he will no longer allow U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.
    Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said he sent Pelosi a letter April 7 expressing his concerns after she vowed to codify the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion into law because of the Texas law banning most abortions.    Cordileone also said Pelosi never responded.
    Cordileone said he told Pelosi in the letter that she must either repudiate her support of abortion rights or stop speaking publicly about her Catholic faith and that if she didn’t, he would have no other choice but to declare she is not allowed to receive Communion.
    “I am hereby notifying you that you are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you (publicly) repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance,” Cordileone’s letter said.
    Cordileone said in a separate letter Friday to church members that he asked six times to meet with Pelosi but that her office didn’t respond or told him she was busy.
    “After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion,” Cordileone wrote.
    Pelosi’s office did not immediately respond to email and phone messages seeking comment on Friday.
    Cordileone over the past year has been among the most outspoken U.S. bishops advocating that Communion be denied to President Joe Biden and other politicians who support abortion rights.
    However, each bishop has authority in his own diocese on this matter, and the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, has affirmed Biden is welcome to receive the sacrament there.
    The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last November overwhelmingly approved a long-anticipated document on Communion that stopped short of calling for withholding the sacrament from politicians who support abortion rights but offered justifications for individual bishops to do so.
Revelation 9-11
9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.].

5/22/2022 New Heavenly Mother debate breaks out between LDS feminists and LGBTQ activists by Peggy Fletcher Stack – Salt Lake Tribune
© Provided by Salt Lake Tribune
    In the past few months, the Latter-day Saint concept of Heavenly Mother has been discussed, debated and disputed in endless conversations online and in person, including in a talk at the faith’s April General Conference.
    In apostle Dale Renlund’s speech, he urged members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not to speculate about the divine feminine but rather stick to what is known in the faith’s Gospel Topics essay about her.
    That is still a lot, say authors McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding, who posted on YouTube a six-minute video in which interviewees describe what the doctrine means to them.
    Clearly, others want to take it beyond official pronouncements.
    One somewhat surprising split among proponents, however, has pitted some feminists who celebrate Mother God against some LGBTQ advocates who fear their exclusion from the deity.
    In a just-released special issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, three pieces examine the conflict from various angles.
    The solution to the dilemma cannot be to eliminate the physical nature of the feminine deity, Margaret Toscano argues in her article, “In Defense of Heavenly Mother.”
    She can be “an indispensable figure and source of hope, comfort, and liberation for all the oppressed, the vulnerable, and the powerless,” Toscano writes.    “...But Mormon theology and practice also require Heavenly Mother to be more than a symbol since the embodiment of the divine is a central doctrinal tenet…a coequal of Heavenly Father…a real personage who acts as the Other to the male God.”
    Still, it is possible to believe in “an embodied Mother and Father Gods of equal status,” she writes, “while promoting free choice and fluidity of sex, gender, and sexuality for them and their children.”
    After all, Toscano notes, the “doctrine of eternal progression implies movement, not statis.”
    It is acceptable “within a Mormon framework to accept sex differences as biological realities,” Toscano reasons, “while favoring fluid categories and porous boundaries, rejecting simple dichotomies, and moving to multiple gender identities.”
A ‘queer heavenly family’
    Like Toscano, Charlotte Scholl Shurtz rejects the suggestion to remove Mother God’s physicality.
    The creation of a “genderless god erases gendered experiences, whether [they] are those of a transgender or a cisgender individual,” Shurtz writes in “A Queer Heavenly Family: Expanding Godhood Beyond a Heterosexual, Cisgender Couple.”    “Claiming that a genderless god is inclusive is parallel to claiming that ‘colorblindness’ solves racial issues.”
    Shurtz accepts “the premise that gender is an essential characteristic of an individual’s eternal existence and assume[s] that sexuality is similarly essential,” but rejects the gender binary.
    “If I, a queer woman, only know the story of God as a cisgender, heterosexual individual or couple,” she asks, “how can I see godliness in myself?
    The writer suggests expanding Mormonism’s “concept of godhood” to include a “queer heavenly family.”
    That would offer “hope instead of exclusion,” Shurtz says, and provide a “way to see godliness in all humanity.”
    Recognizing such divinity “leads to greater respect, compassion, and affirmation of ourselves and one another, and offers everyone hope for godhood and joy,” she writes.    “Without a diverse heavenly family, anyone may struggle to see godliness in themselves or in their earthly family or friends.”
God is ‘they’
    The third writer in the series, Blaire Ostler, also builds a case for multiple divinities on Latter-day Saint theology that all humans are gods in embryo.
    God is “they” in Mormonism, Ostler writes in “I Am a Child of Gods,” but most believers presume that means the heterosexual couple of a Heavenly Mother and Father.
    Yet, for many queer Latter-day Saints, God is “they” because God is “composed of diverse genders, orientations, abilities, races, bodies, and families,” she writes.    “God is ‘they’ because if we are all made in the image of God, ‘they’ is the only pronoun we have in English to adequately signify the plurality and diversity that exists within the heavenly family.”
    The Latter-day Saint understanding of Heavenly Mother is “carving a path to a more inclusive physicalist theology” but is too limiting as currently described, Ostler believes.    “...We are all made in the image of God, which includes queer, intersex, trans, and nonbinary bodies.”
    Mortals are not just “children of God,” she writes.    “We are children of gods in an endlessly creative, dynamic community of diverse deities reflected in our earthly existence.”
    This much is clear from these conversations: Talk of God the Mother in Latter-day Saint theology is not going away — and will likely grow as more and more voices weigh in and speak up.

5/22/2022 Nancy Pelosi barred from Communion by Olga R. Rodriguez, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    SAN FRANCISCO – The conservative Catholic archbishop of San Francisco said Friday that he will no longer allow U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.
    Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said he sent Pelosi a letter April 7 expressing his concerns after she vowed to codify the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion into law because of the Texas law banning most abortions that will take effect if the high court overturns Roe. Cordileone also said Pelosi never responded.
    Cordileone said he told Pelosi in the letter that she must either repudiate her support of abortion rights or stop speaking publicly about her Catholic faith and that if she didn’t, he would have no other choice but to declare she is not allowed to receive Communion.
    “I am hereby notifying you that you are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you publically repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance,” Cordileone’s letter said.
    Cordileone said in a separate letter Friday to church members that he asked six times to meet with Pelosi but that her office didn’t respond or told him she was busy.
    Cordileone has been among the most outspoken U.S. bishops advocating that Communion be denied to President Joe Biden and other politicians who support abortion rights.

5/22/2022 Okla. abortion ban raises questions - Details sketchy on who decides medical emergency exception by Sean Murphy and John Hanna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    OKLAHOMA CITY – With Oklahoma only days away from enacting the toughest state ban on abortion in the U.S., providers were preparing to stop terminating pregnancies as questions remained Friday about enforcing the law’s limited exceptions.
    The law allows abortions to save a woman’s life 'in a medical emergency' and in cases of rape, sexual assault or incest that have been reported to law enforcement.
    But it doesn’t spell out who decides what is considered a medical emergency, and the rape and incest exception won’t help victims who don’t report the crimes to police.
    State officials didn’t immediately have answers for how the life-of-the-mother exception will be applied going forward.
    Abortion providers said they are likely to be cautious because the new law, like a ban at about 6 weeks enacted earlier and similar to a 2021 law in Texas, will expose them to potentially expensive lawsuits over alleged violations.    They’re planning to refer some patients to states such as Colorado or Kansas, but some won’t be able to manage the extra time or travel involved.
    Oklahoma will provide a preview of what is in store for other states if the U.S. Supreme Court follows through on a draft opinion leaked earlier this month overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.    The law also is likely to prompt Oklahoma residents – and Texans who traveled to the neighboring state – to go elsewhere to end their pregnancies.
    'An abortion ban in one state doesn’t stay just in that state,' said Neta Meltzer, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, which operates two dozen health centers in Colorado and New Mexico.    'It absolutely has ripple effects in neighboring states and across the country.'
    The Republican-dominated Oklahoma Legislature approved the abortion ban Thursday, and GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt, a strong anti-abortion advocate, is expected to sign it once it reaches his desk, probably early next week. The bill contains a clause that said it takes effect as soon as he signs it.
    'This bill furthers our efforts to protect the life of the unborn and to stop those who participate in their deaths,' said state Rep. Sean Roberts, a Republican from a small northeast Oklahoma town.    'The sanctity of life is our most precious gift.'
    The two Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma, in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, suspended abortion services after Stitt signed the six-week ban earlier this month.    A clinic run by the abortion-rights group Trust Women in Oklahoma City is providing abortion services until Stitt signs the new law.
    Abortion rights advocates hope to challenge the new law in state courts, despite a provision saying that no court has the authority to issue an order blocking the law temporarily in response to such a challenge.
    Even if a challenge were successful, Rabia Muqaddam, a senior Center for Reproductive Rights attorney said, 'It may be some time and the results will just continue to be catastrophic for patients.'
    The push for the law is part of a larger effort to restrict or ban abortion in Republican-led states, anticipating a U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe. About two dozen states are poised to ban abortion.
    But because Oklahoma moved first toward a ban beginning at the 'fusion' of sperm and egg, the White House labeled it the most extreme anti-abortion measure so far.
    Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement: 'In addition, it adopts Texas’ absurd plan to allow private citizens to sue their neighbors for providing reproductive health care and helping women to exercise their constitutional rights.'
    Supporters and critics of the new law agreed the threat of civil lawsuits, which could be filed up to six years after an abortion, and fines of up to $10,000 are powerful incentives for providers to avoid running afoul of it.
    'I don’t know how much clearer we can be.    We believe life begins at conception, and we’re going to protect life in Oklahoma,' Stitt said in a Fox News interview last week.
    Another Oklahoma law, signed by Stitt in April and set to take effect in August, will make it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.    It is being challenged in state district court.
    'Ultimately, a lot of this is going to come down to a risk assessment by each abortion provider to decide what level of risk they’re able to take on,' said Jessica Arons, a senior American Civil Liberties Union attorney on abortion issues.
    Part of the risk for abortion providers is parsing out how the new law’s limited exceptions apply.    The office of Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor wouldn’t speculate and referred questions to the bill’s legislative sponsors.
    The exception allowing abortions to save a pregnant person’s life doesn’t specify who has the final say on what constitutes a medical emergency, for example.
    Mallory Schwarz, executive director of Pro-Choice Missouri, suggested such an exemption is 'hollow,' saying such language requires the patient 'to basically be on their deathbed.'
    'If they’re not sick enough yet, then they might not qualify for that medical emergency,' Schwarz said.    'If they’re not on their deathbed, is it an emergency?'
    By requiring victims of rape, sexual assault and incest to report the crimes to law enforcement, the law likely means that most won’t be able to obtain abortions, providers and abortion rights advocates said.    Victims have a variety of reasons for not reporting, including a fear of retaliation or because they believe police won’t act.    The law doesn’t say whether a verbal report to an officer is sufficient.
    And, said Jessie Hill, a law professor at Case Western University in Cleveland, 'Is there any clear way to basically say we think women are going to lie about being assaulted?'
    'I don’t think they’ve thought through any of this,' said Hill, an attorney in challenges to abortion laws in Ohio.    'I’m not sure they even know how any of it works, honestly.'

5/23/2022 Florida abortion clinic ordered to be shut down by Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal, USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA
American Family Planning is the only operating abortion clinic on the
Gulf Coast between Tallahassee and New Orleans. Jim Little/News Journal
    PENSACOLA, Fla. – A Pensacola abortion clinic was ordered closed by the state of Florida after three women were hospitalized and required major medical intervention in the last nine months.
    American Family Planning was the only operating abortion clinic on the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Tallahassee.
    Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration issued an emergency order late Friday to suspend the clinic’s operations until an administrative hearing can be held in Tallahassee.
    The News Journal, a USA TODAY Network newspaper, was unable to reach a representative at American Family Planning for comment on Saturday.
    The order details three cases where the doctor and staff at the clinic failed to report necessary hospitalizations of the three patients required within 10 days and failed to keep any record of the patients’ vital signs during the procedures.
    In one procedure in August 2021, the patient had to be hospitalized and have parts of her colon removed, according to the emergency order.
    In March, another woman started bleeding following an abortion and the clinic’s staff determined the woman needed to go to the hospital.    When Emergency Medical Services personnel arrived to transfer the woman to a local hospital, they documented 'pools of blood on the floor,' the order said.    The woman was cool to the touch, did not have a pulse detectable in her wrist and had extremely low blood pressure.
    At the hospital, she had emergency surgery where a doctor found a 'big hole on the left wall of the uterus and another on the right side' along with lacerations to her cervix, according to the emergency order.    After surgery failed to save her uterus, the woman had to undergo a complete hysterectomy and received 10 pints of blood to stabilize her.
    In May, another woman arrived for an abortion, and after being administered drugs, she was told to wait in her car despite regulations requiring her vital signs be monitored in an exam room, the order said.    Her procedure was halted before it was complete after she received lacerations to her cervix and a possible rupture of her uterus.
    The clinic staff told her and her spouse to go to a hospital in Mobile, Alabama, rather than a local hospital in Pensacola requested by the woman’s spouse and as required under the clinic’s license, according to ACHA’s emergency order.    The clinic did not document the woman’s discharge, though her spouse was given discharge paperwork.
    The woman’s spouse told ACHA that the staff of the clinic was unable to get a blood pressure reading from the woman.    She was driven by her spouse to the hospital in Mobile, and when she arrived the hospital recorded that she had no blood pressure and her blood oxygen level was at 80%.
    She was resuscitated at the hospital and had to have a blood transfusion to 'replace egregious blood loss,' according to the ACHA’s emergency order.
    The doctor at the clinic, who is not named in the report, 'candidly' admitted to ACHA officials 'that he is unfamiliar with (the clinic’s) policies and procedures' and that he relies on the clinic’s manager for direction.    The manager holds no medical or clinical license, the order noted.

5/23/2022 Runoff in Texas tests abortion’s resonance - Will Democrats be animated by primary? by Paul J. Weber, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    SAN ANTONIO – By the time Dr. Hector Gonzalez arrived in Laredo, Texas, in 2001, the last abortion clinic had already closed.    He spent the next 20 years experiencing firsthand where the largely Hispanic and heavily Catholic community along the border with Mexico usually sided.
    “Definitely it was, ‘No abortion,’” said Gonzalez, the city’s former public health director.
    That culture has helped protect the region’s nine-term congressman, Henry Cuellar, who is one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress. But he’s facing the stiffest challenge of his career on Tuesday in a runoff election against progressive rival Jessica Cisneros, a 28-year-old immigration attorney who supports abortion access.
    With the U.S. Supreme Court possibly poised to overturn abortion rights in a ruling this summer, the runoff is being closely watched for clues about whether the issue will animate Democratic voters. An infusion of money that outside groups have poured on the ground and across TV in South Texas is an indicator of an important race, with abortion rights advocates trying to lower expectations about broader implications.
    “National trends are not set by one election and not determined by one election,” said Laphonza Butler, president of Emily’s List, which backs women who support abortion rights and has endorsed Cisneros.
    Regardless, the race will provide insight about the direction of the Democratic Party.    Progressives have scored some notable wins so far this primary season, defeating a moderate candidate in last week’s Senate primary in     Pennsylvania and potentially unseating an incumbent congressman in Oregon, where vote counting is still underway.
    Eager to protect an incumbent, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stood by Cuellar even as she reaffirms her staunch support of abortion rights.    Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House, campaigned with Cuellar in Texas this month, saying the most important priority should be keeping the seat in the party’s hands. Cisneros, he argued, was at risk of losing to a Republican.
    Still, a leaked draft of the court’s ruling in April has shaken up what was already a close – and increasingly costly–race.    In the March primary, Cisneros finished roughly 1,000 votes behind Cuellar, forcing the runoff after neither candidate met the majority threshold to win outright.    It was as close as Cuellar has come to losing his 17-year grip on the seat.
    But the runoff has also illustrated the uphill climb America’s abortion rights movement faces this fall in mounting an all-out attack on opposing incumbents – a challenge that is on display even here in a solidly Democratic region, to say nothing of the fight ahead in Republican- leaning districts.    The outcome could reveal the limits of abortion as a galvanizing issue for voters.    National polling before the leaked draft found abortion trailing other concerns, including high inflation and gun control.
    “People here are pretty liberal,” said Martha Cerna, 76, a retired schoolteacher in San Antonio who supports abortion access.    “But the further south you go in Texas, the worse it gets.”
    Cerna lives in a slice of Cuellar’s district that is more than a two-hour drive north of his hometown of Laredo.    She had showed up early in downtown San Antonio for an abortion-rights march and took shade from the blazing South Texas sun in a plaza outside City Hall, where the current mayor and a predecessor, former presidential candidate Julian Castro, are outspoken for abortion rights.
    Cisneros joined the march, but Cerna said the voters around here aren’t the ones who need convincing.
    “That’s why I think it’s going to be a hard sell for her, because there will be some Democrats that are going to want to go with Cuellar,” she said.
    Cisneros, who once interned for Cuellar but now carries the endorsements and agenda of Democrats’ left wing, has leaned into the contrast over abortion in the final weeks.
    When a grand jury in South Texas indicted a woman on murder charges in April over a self-induced abortion, it happened in one of the district’s rural counties.    The charges were swiftly dropped after drawing national outrage, but     Cisneros pointed to it as a case of prosecution for seeking health care.
    “When we take the time to talk to people about what it really means to be pro-choice, meaning believing government shouldn’t be in the middle of these type of private decisions and seeking abortion, then people usually realize that they’re pro-choice,” she said in an interview.
    Cuellar brushed off the impact of the Supreme Court leak at a San Antonio rally this month, saying voters know his position.    His powerful allies in Congress have defended their support for Cuellar, saying a loss would open the door to Republicans flipping the district that also leans more conservative when it comes to gun rights and border security.
    In Laredo, where Cuellar’s brother is the county sheriff, Gonzalez recalls taking “a lot of heat” when his health department began offering contraceptive pills.    He retired in 2019 and expressed disappointment that women seeking abortions had to drive hours either to the Rio Grande Valley – which now has the only clinic on the Texas-Mexico border – or San Antonio.
    At a food truck outside San Antonio, Citi Ramos, 64, teared up describing her opposition to abortion while taking a break from serving tacos and burgers to customers.    She called herself a Democrat and strong Catholic who typically doesn’t get involved in politics.    But, she said, Cisneros’ position is one she can’t sit out.
    “I’m pushing everybody to vote,” she said.    “It’s a strong issue for me.”

5/23/2022 Report: Top Southern Baptists stonewalled sex abuse victims by Deepa Bharath, Holly Meyer and David Crary, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, stonewalled and denigrated survivors of clergy sex abuse over almost two decades while seeking to protect their own reputations, according to a scathing 288-page investigative report issued Sunday.
    These survivors, and other concerned Southern Baptists, repeatedly shared allegations with the SBC’s Executive Committee, “only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC,” said the report.
    The seven-month investigation was conducted by Guidepost Solutions, an independent firm contracted by the Executive Committee after delegates to last year’s national meeting pressed for a probe by outsiders.
    “Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse … and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC,” the report said.
    “In service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation,” the report added.
    The report asserts that an Executive Committee staffer maintained a list of Baptist ministers accused of abuse, but there is no indication anyone “took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches.”
    The most recent list includes the names of hundreds of abusers thought to be affiliated at some point with the SBC.    Survivors and advocates have long called for a public database of abusers.
    SBC President Ed Litton, in a statement Sunday, said he is “grieved to my core” for the victims and thanked God for their work propelling the SBC to this moment.    He called on Southern Baptists to lament and prepare to change the denomination’s culture and implement reforms.
    “I pray Southern Baptists will begin preparing today to take deliberate action to address these failures and chart a new course when we meet together in Anaheim,” Litton said, referring to the California city that will host the SBC’s national meeting on June 14-15.
    Among the report’s key recommendations:
    The interim leaders of the Executive Committee, Willie McLaurin and Rolland Slade, welcomed the recommendations, and pledged an all-out effort to eliminate sex abuse within the SBC.
    “We recognize there are no shortcuts,” they said.    “We must all meet this challenge through prudent and prayerful application, and we must do so with Christ-like compassion.”
    The Executive Committee is set to hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the report.
    The sex abuse scandal was thrust into the spotlight in 2019 by a landmark report from the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News documenting hundreds of cases in Southern Baptist churches, including several in which alleged perpetrators remained in ministry.
    Last year, thousands of delegates at the national SBC gathering made clear they did not want the Executive Committee to oversee an investigation of its own actions.    Instead they voted overwhelmingly to create the task force charged with overseeing the third-party review. Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, appointed the panel.
    The task force had a week to review the report before it was publicly released.    The task force’s recommendations based on Guidepost’s findings will be presented at the SBC’s meeting in Anaheim.
    The report offers shocking details on how Johnny Hunt, a Georgia-based pastor and past SBC president, sexually assaulted another pastor’s wife during a beach vacation in 2010.    In an interview with investigators, Hunt denied any physical contact with the woman, but did admit he had interactions with her.
    On May 13, Hunt, who was the senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board, the SBC’s domestic missions agency, resigned from that post, said Kevin Ezell, the organization’s president and CEO.    Ezell said, before May 13, he was “not aware of any alleged misconduct” on Hunt’s part.
    The report details a meeting Hunt arranged a few days after the alleged assault between the woman, her husband, Hunt and a counseling pastor.    Hunt admitted to touching the victim inappropriately, but said “thank God I didn’t consummate the relationship.”
    Among those reacting strongly to the Guidepost report was Russell Moore, who formerly headed the SBC’s public policy wing but left the denomination after accusing top Executive Committee leaders of stalling efforts to address the sex abuse crisis.
    “Crisis is too small a word.    It is an apocalypse,” Moore wrote for Christianity Today after reading the report.    ”As dark a view as I had of the SBC Executive Committee, the investigation uncovers a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be.”
    According to the report, Guidepost’s investigators, who spoke with survivors of varying ages including children, said the survivors were equally traumatized by the way in which churches responded to their reports of sexual abuse.
    Survivors “spoke of trauma from the initial abuse, but also told us of the debilitating effects that come from the response of the churches and institutions like the SBC that did not believe them, ignored them, mistreated them, and failed to help them,” the report said.
    It cited the case of Dave Pittman, who from 2006 to 2011 made phone calls and sent letters and emails to the SBC and Georgia Baptist Convention Board reporting that he had been abused by Frankie Wiley, a youth pastor at Rehoboth Baptist Church when he was 12 to 15 years old.
    Pittman and several others have come forward publicly to report that Wiley molested and raped them and Wiley has admitted to abusing “numerous victims” at several Georgia Southern Baptist churches.
    According to the report, a Georgia Baptist Convention official told Pittman that the churches were autonomous and there was nothing he could do but pray.
    The report also tells the story of Christa Brown, who says she was sexually abused as a teen by the youth and education minister at her SBC church.
    When she disclosed the abuse to the music minister after months of abuse, she was told not to talk about it, according to the report, which said her abuser also went on to serve in Southern Baptist churches in multiple states.
    Brown, who has been one of the most outspoken survivors, told investigators that during the past 15 years she has received “volumes of hate mail, awful blog comments, and vitriolic phone calls.”
    After reading through the report, Brown told The Associated Press that it “fundamentally confirms what Southern Baptist clergy sex abuse survivors have been saying for decades.”
    “I view this investigative report as a beginning, not an end.    The work will continue,” Brown said.    “But no one should ever forget the human cost of what it has taken to even get the SBC to approach this starting line of beginning to deal with clergy sex abuse.”


5/23/2022 Christianity and marriage by Rev. David Wilson Rogers, Carlsbad Current-Argus
    According to Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, American parents were recently polled regarding their greatest fears for their children and decision to marry.    “In the old days parents would worry about their children marrying outside their religion or outside their race,” Goodwin says.    She then goes on to cite the recent poll which indicates that today, a parent’s worst fear is a child marrying outside of the parent’s political party. This marks a very troubling reality for both America and the Christian faith.
    The poll is illustrative of the fact that, more so than at any time since the American Civil War, Americans have allowed partisan politics and political ideology become more important than our Christian faith, our national identity, and our community as a whole.    There is no single cause for this massive political divide, but approaching the reality from a prayerful perspective of biblical faith, there are three vital—and genuinely uncomfortable—realities that faithful Christians must face if we are to hold together the fragile democracy that has sustained the United States for nearly 246 years.
    First, much of American Christianity has been hijacked by partisan politics. The evangelical pastor and social justice advocate Jim Wallace has stated that Jesus is not a Democrat or a Republican and proclaims that Christians need to return to a place where biblical faith defines our politics rather than allow partisan political agendas define our religious beliefs.     Unfortunately, both sides of the partisan divide have used political agendas in order to define Christian theology and in many cases the validity of one’s Christian walk hinges on how one votes, the political opinions one holds, and the partisan platform upon which one stands.    This is not Jesus!    The Messiah was not concerned with advancing a modern political agenda.    His focus was—and still is—justice, mercy, righteousness and love.    When he preached to love the neighbor as one’s self, Jesus was demanding that people stop defining human relationships in terms of belief systems and understand the biblical truth that all humanity is crated in God’s image and called good.    When a political party or religious belief system deems others to be inferior, unworthy, or deserving of lesser grace, it is a violation of God’s creation.
    Second, Christians must learn that most of what passes for “news” in our modern culture is really nothing more than emotionally-charged entertainment that exists solely for the purpose of generating revenue for the industry.    That is not to say that Christians should avoid news, current events, and remaining informed.    But, to quote Jesus, as Christians engage the realities of the complex world, we must be “wise as serpents.”    That necessarily means Christians must do the hard work of prayerfully examining the realities of the world rather than simply buying into the hyper-emotionalized sensationalism of modern news media.    This is why Ephesians 4:14 explicitly warns the Christian to look out for the winds of doctrine and people’s trickery.    Modern news does not serve the cause of Christ.    Rather it fosters the hate and division that disrupts the Body of Christ.
    Finally, Christians must truly identify followers of Jesus Christ and not members of a religious tradition, a denomination, or citizens of a particular nation.    Membership, citizenship, and denominational identity all have their necessary place, but Jesus Christ never died on a cross to found a religion, justify a denomination, or bless a special nation.    Jesus died that humanity may know salvation, wholeness, and love through him.    For Christianity to be authentic, it must be grounded in life-affirming relationship.
    This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Christianity and marriage.

5/24/2022 SF Examiner editorial board demands Pope remove archbishop who barred Pelosi from communion over abortion
    It is sad that a San Franciso Democrat believes that she has the power to remove an Archbishop who is following the word of God is demanding the Pope to remove him for letting Pelosi know what sins she is committing in the Bible and it sounds like she is doing an Insurrection to the Catholic faith.    LOCK HER UP, LOCK HER UP, hopefully with Hillary Clinton soon.

5/24/2022 SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION - Sexual abuse report details SBC inaction - Leaders stalled, denigrated victims to protect reputations by Liam Adams, Nashville Tennessean | USA TODAY NETWORK
Johnny Hunt, former Southern Baptist Convention president from 2008-2010, faces an allegation of sexual assault in a report containing
findings from an investigation by Guidepost Solutions into SBC leadership and their handling of sexual abuse. MATT MILLER/BP
    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Southern Baptist Convention leaders perpetuated a cycle of abuse for two decades by ignoring reports of sexual abuse and dismissing recommendations for reform, enabling a culture that retraumatized survivors, investigators found in a historic report released Sunday.
    The nearly 300-page report from Guidepost Solutions contains explosive details about how the nation’s largest Protestant denomination responded to a growing sexual abuse crisis within its ranks.
    The report publicly details, for the first time, a credible allegation of sexual assault against former SBC President Johnny Hunt a month after his term ended in 2010 and how high-ranking staff maintained a list with hundreds of names of ministers accused of sexual misconduct, but did nothing with it.
    “Almost always the internal focus was on protecting the SBC from legal liability and not on caring for survivors or creating any plan to prevent sexual abuse within SBC churches.”
Guidepost report
    Meanwhile, leaders spoke poorly about abuse survivors behind their backs and downplayed the extent of the crisis.    The SBC’s law firm repeatedly advised leaders not to take action when they were approached with concerns about abuse or reform, the report concluded.
    “Almost always the internal focus was on protecting the SBC from legal liability and not on caring for survivors or creating any plan to prevent sexual abuse within SBC churches,” Guidepost said in its report.
    In the report, Guidepost makes 17 recommendations, including urging the SBC to establish an offender database, formally apologize to survivors and clarify standards for churches and clergy.
    Guidepost’s team interviewed 330 people and reviewed five terabytes of data to investigate the SBC Executive Committee and its handling of abuse claims, treatment of victims, and resistance to reform between January 2000 to June 2021.
    Thirty employees and an 86-member board of elected officials lead the executive committee, which manages denomination business when the Southern Baptist Convention isn’t gathered at its annual meeting.
    This year’s annual meeting is three weeks away in Anaheim and Guidepost’s report will be front-and-center.    Thousands of delegates, called messengers, will likely vote on measures related to Guidepost’s findings and recommendations.
    The Nashville, Tennessee-based Southern Baptist Convention has more than 47,000 cooperating churches and 13.6 million members and is one of the most influential within American Christianity.
    “This is the beginning of a season of listening, lamenting, and learning how to address sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention,” executive committee board chair Rolland Slade and interim president/CEO Willie McLaurin said in a statement on Sunday.    “In striving for this goal, we recognize there are no shortcuts.”
    Executive committee members will meet for a special session on Tuesday, Slade and McLaurin said.
    An independent task force of SBC leaders oversaw Guidepost’s work for the past seven months.
    “We must resist the temptation to minimize, to look away, to find the easy ‘scapegoats’ for what was uncovered in this report, and instead ask ‘what could we have done better?’ and ‘what should we do now?’” the task force said in a cover letter accompanying the report.
    After decades of survivors raising the alarm, a Houston Chronicle investigation in 2019 triggered a series of events that led to Southern Baptists calling for a third-party investigation.    At the SBC annual meeting in June 2021, messengers overwhelmingly approved a motion that set the parameters of the investigation, including the establishment of the task force.
    Last fall, executive committee members debated for weeks whether to waive attorney-client privilege and thus grant investigators access to confidential records.    The members ultimately voted to waive privilege, a decision that Guidepost said in its report was “integral” for its investigation.
    Abuse survivor Tiffany Thigpen said in an interview she met with investigators and told them that if they connected the dots and found the “buddy systems,” they would find corruption.
    “And I feel like that is exactly what they found here,” she said.
    Investigators reviewed correspondence between executive committee staff and members, and attorneys from Guenther, Jordan & Price, the Nashville based law firm that served as legal counsel to the SBC and the executive committee for 56 years.
    Due to a fear of legal liability, “the lawyers were advising to say nothing and do nothing, even when the callers were identifying predators still in SBC pulpits,” investigators stated.
    As these leaders sought to avoid these costs, however, it’s clear in the report they incurred a debt that future leaders will be paying off years to come.
    “There are not adequate words to express my sorrow at the things revealed in this report,” SBC President Ed Litton said in a statement after the report’s release.
    “I am grieved to my core for those who have suffered sexual abuse in Southern Baptist contexts, both for those named in this report and the many who are not.”
Allegations against former SBC president
    Hunt is accused in the report of sexually assaulting a woman at a beachside condo in Florida a month after he finished his second and final term as SBC president.
    Guidepost investigators say Hunt pulled down the woman’s shorts, made sexual comments to her and then pinned her to a couch before groping her and violently kissing her.    Later, in a separate conversation, he told the woman “he would like to have sex with her three times a day,” according to the report.
    Hunt told Guidepost investigators in an interview he had no physical contact with the woman, but investigators determined Hunt was not credible.    Investigators spoke with the woman and her husband, who is a pastor and had known Hunt for 25 years by the time of the alleged assault, four additional people, and reviewed other documentation the couple had retained.
    Ahead of the release of Guidepost’s report, Hunt resigned May 13 from his job as vice president of evangelism at the SBC-affiliated North American Mission Board, a spokesperson confirmed Saturday.
    Hunt released a statement on Sunday following the report’s release.    “To put it bluntly: I vigorously deny the circumstances and characterizations set forth in the Guidepost report,” Hunt said.    “I have never abused anybody.”
    The woman and her husband have not shared the story publicly until they spoke with Guidepost investigators.
    Shortly after the alleged incident in July 2010, the woman and her husband met with Hunt, who was then senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia, and another pastor who works with Hunt.    Hunt and the other pastor told the couple to not discuss the incident.
    In the first meeting, Hunt tried to downplay the incident and stated, “thank God I didn’t consummate the relationship,” the woman and her husband told investigators.
    Guidepost did not mention additional allegations against any other current or former executive committee members between 2000-2021.    The SBC president, an elected position that presides over the annual meeting, holds a de facto seat on the executive committee.
Systemic inaction by SBC leaders
    A select cohort of mainly executive committee staff, in consultation with attorneys from Guenther, Jordan & Price, did not escalate reports of abuse and sought ways to discontinue or slow down pushes for policy changes, investigators explain throughout the report.
    Those leaders and lawyers “were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations,” the Guidepost report states.    “In service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with constant refrain.”
    The most prominent figure in the report is August “Augie” Boto, who worked for the executive committee between 1998 to 2019, first as a vice president then as general counsel and then interim CEO/president.
    Boto’s long tenure puts him at the center of many flashpoints in the debate over sex abuse accountability in the SBC.
    He led the charge in 2008 against a proposal for a clergy abuser database, resisted efforts by SBC President J.D. Greear to ensure greater accountability, and was among a group of staff and attorneys who influenced and then later mishandled the fallout of an inaccurate Baptist Press article about abuse survivor Jennifer Lyell.
    Boto also ignored several reports about pastors accused of misconduct and said in an internal email that some survivor advocacy was due to “the devil being temporarily successful.”
    Boto met with Guidepost investigators and said he still opposes a database and still believes the devil is responsible for the “magnitude” of focus on abuse in the SBC.
    Meanwhile, Boto and another executive committee vice president maintained a list of accused ministers between 2008-2018 “yet never took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches,” investigators found.
    The most recent version of that list had 703 names, nine of which are still active in ministry, investigators determined.    Guidepost said it will engage with the credentials committee, which evaluates church cooperation, about the list.
    Boto faced criticism in the report for at least 33 different examples, according to an analysis of Guidepost’s report.
    Ronnie Floyd, former executive committee CEO and president from 2019-2021, and his deputy Greg Addison faced criticism in the report for 23 different examples collectively, according to a Tennessean analysis of the report’s findings.     Investigators found attorneys with Guenther, Jordan & Price were often implicated in decisions to ignore or deter survivors, opt out of reform proposals and pressured Baptist Press to sanitize its coverage of the Caring Well Conference, an event to raise awareness about sexual abuse.
    “They had no problem providing creative ideas on ways to reduce legal liability,” investigators concluded.    “Overall, the legal advice focused on liability created a chilling effect on the ability of the EC to be compassionate towards survivors of abuse.”
    Guidepost investigators interviewed attorneys Jim Guenther and Jaime Jordan, who acknowledged they lacked expertise in sexual abuse and clergy abuse.    They noted, however, an instance in 2007 when Guenther sent Boto a plan for implementing an abuser database.
    Boto and the attorneys weren’t the only ones who faced scrutiny.    A total of 20 SBC leaders were specifically referenced in the report for actions related to sexual abuse claims.
    Two of those were criticized for not following up with survivors via phone or email. Others faced criticism for events at their own churches, such as former SBC presidents Steve Gaines and Jack Graham for their handling of situations involving people at their churches who were accused of misconduct.
    In a statement, Graham’s church denied how it is characterized in the report.
    Survivor-inspired changes Concluding its report, Guidepost issued an extensive list of recommendations to create new infrastructure for abuse response and prevention.
    Specifically, Guidepost said the credentials committee needs significant improvements, including trauma and abuse training for credentials committee members, better communication to the public about the credentials committee’s purpose and limits, and new standards for evaluating churches, and 13 others.
    For the whole convention, Guidepost is recommending an offender registry to include the names of convicted and credibly accused abusers, which churches can voluntarily report to.
    Guidepost’s recommendation for an offender registry “is a strong acknowledgment for a need for a network system,” said abuse survivor Christa Brown, who has been calling for a database in the SBC since 2006.
    Brown said she has some questions about the recommendation at the outset.    “But of course, this has always been a long game and advocacy work in this arena will continue for a very long time and into the future,” she said.
    The firm’s 17 recommendations include survivor-focused proposals, including a compensation fund program, survivor support program, written apologies to survivors and a public memorial in front of the SBC office in Nashville.
    “I thank God for the courage and persistence of the survivors and advocates who brought the Southern Baptist Convention to this moment,” Litton, the current SBC president, said in his statement.
    “Amid my grief, anger, and disappointment over the grave sin and failures this report lays bare, I earnestly believe that Southern Baptists must resolve to change our culture and implement desperately needed reforms.”
Southern Baptists gather in prayer during the annual Southern Baptist Convention
meeting June 15 at Music City Center in Nashville. ANDREW NELLES/THE TENNESSEAN

Author and retired lawyer Christa Brown of Denver says she was abused
by a Southern Baptist minister as a child. JULIE BENNETT/AP

5/24/2022 Lee University considers limiting student speech - Discussions on sexuality, gender would be banned by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    CLEVELAND, Tenn. – A private Christian university is considering strictly limiting the free speech rights of its students when it comes to sexuality and gender, from how they behave to what they wear and what they can say on campus or even online, according to published reports.
    If approved, the policy presented to faculty and staff at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, this month would not allow students to identify as anything other than their biological sex. They also would be forbidden from questioning these restrictions or any other university policy, according to a leaked draft.
    The proposal has sparked criticism from some former students, including the Affirming Alum Collective, a group of alumni from Lee University, who posted on Facebook that they were “deeply saddened and frustrated by the new anti-LGBTQIA+ policies” under consideration.
    A university spokesperson, Kendra Mann, released a statement to WTVCTV and the Chattanooga Times Free Press saying the policy has been in the works for years and is in line with longstanding theological beliefs.
    “The statement in question does not represent sweeping changes in policy at Lee; it is an explanation of the beliefs underpinning a group of policies that have been in place for quite some time,” the statement said.
    The school, which gets its funding in part from The Church of God, had planned to get more feedback before publishing its “Statement of Beliefs Concerning Human Sexuality and Gender” ahead of the fall semester, the statement said.
    The draft policy declares that biological sex is binary and “humans do not have the ability, or observed right, to choose a gender.”    “No member of the Lee University community may publicly identify or behave as a gender that does not correspond to his or her biological sex,” the draft states.
    “No member of the Lee University community may promote or advocate, in person, in writing, or online, for sexual acts, behaviors or lifestyles that are contrary to Scripture, this statement of belief, or any other university policy,” it says.
    The policy also forbids sex between unmarried heterosexuals.
    “I feel like this is just their last-ditch effort to try to, at the very least, scare students into silence, hence why a lot of the policies within the statement are about advocacy and what you can and cannot say on public platforms in support of LGBTQ+ students and people,” said Taylor Lane, a lesbian who left the school in December.
    Federal law bars discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity for education programs receiving federal funds, but religious schools like Lee are exempt if those protections interfere with the religious tenets of the organization, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

5/25/2022 Top Southern Baptists plan to release secret list - Pastors in database accused of sexual abuse by Deepa Bharath, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A cross and Bible sculpture stands outside the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. During a virtual
meeting Tuesday called in response to a report about the mishandling of allegations of sex abuse, top leaders vowed to work
toward changing the culture of the denomination and to listen more attentively to survivors’ voices and stories. HOLLY MEYER/AP
    Top administrative leaders for the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, said Tuesday that they will release a secret list of hundreds of pastors and other church-affiliated personnel accused of sexual abuse.
    An attorney for the SBC’s Executive Committee announced the decision during a virtual meeting called in response to a scathing investigative report detailing how the committee mishandled allegations of sex abuse and stonewalled numerous survivors.    The committee anticipates releasing the list Thursday.
    During the meeting, top leaders and several committee members vowed to work toward changing the culture of the denomination and to listen more attentively to survivors’ voices and stories.
    The 288-page report by Guidepost Solutions, which was released Sunday after a seven-month investigation, contained several explosive revelations.    Among those were details of how D. August Boto, the Executive Committee’s former vice president and general counsel, and former SBC spokesman Roger Oldham kept their own private list of abusive pastors.    Both retired in 2019.    The existence of the list was not widely known within the committee and its staff.
    “Despite collecting these reports for more than 10 years, there is no indication that (Oldham and Boto) or anyone else, took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches,” the report said.
    Boto joined the Executive Committee in 1995 and became executive vice president and general counsel in 2007.
    On Tuesday, the committee released a statement singling out and denouncing Boto’s words written in a communication to survivors and their advocates on Sept. 29, 2006 that “continued discourse between us (the Executive Committee and survivors’ advocates) will not be positive or fruitful.”
    The committee, in its new statement, said it “rejects the sentiment (of Boto’s words) in its entirety and seeks to publicly repent for its failure to rectify this position and wholeheartedly listen to survivors.”
    Gene Besen, the committee’s interim counsel, said during Tuesday’s virtual meeting that releasing the list is an important step toward transparency.    The names of survivors, confidential witnesses and any uncorroborated allegations of sexual abuse will be redacted from the list that will be made public, he said.
    Besen said the committee’s leaders will also look into revoking retirement benefits for Boto and others who were involved in the cover-up.    He urged committee members to set aside past divisions and stay united in a collective commitment to end sexual abuse in the SBC.
    Willie McLaurin, the Executive Committee’s interim president and CEO, issued a formal public apology to all those who suffered sexual abuse within the SBC, which has a membership of over 47,000 churches.
    “We are sorry to the survivors for all we have done to cause pain and frustration,” he said.    “Now is the time to change the culture.    We have to be proactive in our openness and transparency from now.”
    Executive Committee Chair Wally Slade began the virtual meeting by acknowledging the survivors.
    “Our commitment is to be different and do different,” he said.    “We can’t come up with half-baked solutions.”
    After the report’s release, more sexual abuse survivors have been contacting the Executive Committee to tell their stories, Besen said.    He said he has asked Guidepost to open up a hotline so survivors who reach out “are directed to the proper place and receive the proper care.”    The committee will publicize the hotline number as soon as it goes live, McLaurin said.
    The Sexual Abuse Task Force, appointed at the demand of SBC delegates during last year’s meeting in Nashville, expects to make its formal motions based on the Guidepost report public next week.    Those recommendations will then be presented to the delegates for a vote during this year’s national meeting scheduled for June 14-15 in Anaheim, California, according to Pastor Bruce Frank who led the task force.
    Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, North Carolina, said the crux of the task force’s recommendations based on Guidepost’s report would be to prevent sexual abuse, to better care for survivors when such abuse does occur and to make sure abusers are not allowed to continue in ministry.
    Survivors and advocates have long called for a public database of abusers.    The creation of an “Offender Information System” was one of the key recommendations in the report by Guidepost Solutions, an independent firm contracted by the SBC’s Executive Committee after delegates to last year’s national meeting pressed for an investigation by outsiders.
    The proposed database is expected to be one of several recommendations that resulted from Guidepost’s seven-month investigation presented to thousands of delegates attending this year’s national meeting Lawyer and writer Christa Brown, who says she was sexually abused as a teen by the youth minister at her SBC church, has been pressing the SBC since 2006 to create a publicly accessible database of known abusers.    She was heartened by Tuesday’s announcement that the secret list would be made public.
    “I hope that will happen in the very near future.    I’ll be watching and waiting,” she told The Associated Press.    “It boggles my mind to try to imagine how they could have rationalized keeping this list secret for so many years – since 2007.    It suggests a level of moral bankruptcy that I find incomprehensible.”

5/25/2022 Pelosi pushes back on archbishop who denies her Communion
© Provided by Associated Press
    WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back Tuesday on the decision by San Francisco's conservative Catholic archbishop to deny her Communion over her support of abortion rights, saying she respects that people have opposing views but not when they impose them on others.
    The California Democrat says she comes from a large family with many members who oppose abortion.    “I respect people’s views about that.    But I don’t respect us foisting it onto others.”    Pelosi added, “Our archbishop has been vehemently against LGBTQ rights.    In fact he led the way in an initiative on the ballot in California.”
    Pelosi made her comments on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”    In a letter last week to Pelosi, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said he would refuse her Communion after she vowed to codify into law the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion.    That legislation passed the House but died last week in the Senate.
    Pelosi said women and families need to know this is about more than abortion.    “These same people are against contraception, family planning, in vitro fertilization.    It’s a blanket thing and they use abortion as the front man for it.”
Related video: Pelosi communion ban divides Catholics in San Francisco (CBS SF Bay Area)
Pelosi communion ban divides Catholics in San Francisco.
    Cordileone has said he told Pelosi that she must either repudiate her support of abortion rights or stop speaking publicly about her Catholic faith.    In a separate letter to church members, he said he had asked several times to meet with Pelosi but that her office didn’t respond or told him she was busy.
    “After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion,” Cordileone wrote.
    Over the past year, Cordileone has been among the most outspoken U.S. bishops advocating that Communion be denied to President Joe Biden and other politicians who support abortion rights.
    However, each bishop has authority in his own diocese on this matter, and the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, has affirmed that Biden is welcome to receive the sacrament there.
    No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois, who has been denied Communion for years by his Springfield, Illinois, diocese due to his abortion-rights views, voiced support Tuesday for Pelosi.    “I still believe that the authorities in the church believe that we have issues that can only be decided by our own conscience and not by some bishop’s conference,” Durbin told reporters.

5/25/2022 Barred in San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi finds open door, receives Communion in DC by Heather Hamilton – Washington Examiner
    Despite being barred from taking Holy Communion in her home city of San Francisco, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) received the Eucharist at a Catholic church in Washington, D.C.
© Provided by Washington Examiner Barred in San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi finds open door, receives Communion in DC
    On Friday, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone issued a letter saying Pelosi should not present herself to a priest for Communion at Mass because of her stance on abortion, namely her calls to protect access to abortion at the federal level.
    The speaker reportedly found open reception at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown Sunday.    The church is the same parish President Joe Biden has been known to attend.
    In a statement to the Washington Examiner, the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., said Archbishop Wilton Gregory does not have plans to implement Cordileone’s ban.
    “Cardinal Gregory has no new comment about the issue of Catholic politicians receiving Communion,” Washington, D.C., Archdiocese spokeswoman Patricia Zapor wrote.    “The actions of Archbishop Cordileone are his decision to make in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Cardinal Gregory has not instructed the priests of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington to refuse Communion to anyone.”
    The Washington Archdiocese had intended to ignore the Washington Examiner’s request for comment but mistakenly sent a blunt response acknowledging that the public, too, desires Gregory to speak out against Pelosi’s pro-abortion position.
    “Just sharing for you to know what comes in,” the email unintentionally sent to the Washington Examiner stated.    “Email since Saturday, when I last checked the comms inbox has just been a couple of random people wanting to tell the Cardinal to bring down the hammer on Pelosi.    Aside from Jack Jenkins at RNS, this is the only new media inquiry.    It will be ignored, too.”
    Rev. John Beal, a canon lawyer and Catholic University of America professor, said that Cordileone’s ban does not apply outside his scope of influence in California.
    “It applies only to ministers, ordained and non-ordained, in the Archdiocese of San Francisco,” Beal told Religious News Service.    “It does not apply outside the Archdiocese.”
    Bishops from Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin have since joined Cordileone’s strong rebuke against Pelosi.

5/26/2022 Stitt signs Okla. abortion ban - Last clinics in state expected to close as nation’s strictest law takes effect by Sean Murphy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed into law the nation’s strictest abortion ban. State lawmakers approved
the ban enforced by civil lawsuits rather than criminal prosecution, similar to a Texas measure. The law takes
effect immediately upon Stitt’s signature and prohibits all abortions with few exceptions. SUE OGROCKI/AP FILE
    OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday signed into law the nation’s strictest abortion ban, making the state the first in the nation to effectively end availability of the procedure.
    State lawmakers approved the ban enforced by civil lawsuits rather than criminal prosecution, similar to a Texas law that was passed last year.    The law takes effect immediately upon Stitt’s signature and prohibits all abortions with few exceptions.    Abortion providers have said they will stop performing the procedure as soon as the bill is signed.
    “I promised Oklahomans that as governor I would sign every piece of pro-life legislation that came across my desk and I am proud to keep that promise today,” the first-term Republican said in a statement.    “From the moment life begins at conception is when we have a responsibility as human beings to do everything, we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother.    That is what I believe and that is what the majority of Oklahomans believe.”
    Abortion providers across the country have been bracing for the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court’s new conservative majority might further restrict the practice, and that has especially been the case in Oklahoma and Texas.
    “The impact will be disastrous for Oklahomans,” said Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for the abortion-rights supporting Guttmacher Institute.    “It will also have severe ripple effects, especially for Texas patients who had been traveling to Oklahoma in large numbers after the Texas six-week abortion ban went into effect in September.”
    The bills are part of an aggressive push in Republican- led states to scale back abortion rights.    It comes on the heels of a leaked draft opinion from the nation’s high court that suggests justices are considering weakening or overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago.
    The only exceptions in the Oklahoma law are to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.
    The bill specifically authorizes doctors to remove a “dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion,” or miscarriage, or to remove an ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life-threatening emergency that occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, often in a fallopian tube and early in pregnancy.
    The law also does not apply to the use of morning- after pills such as Plan B or any type of contraception.     Two of Oklahoma’s four abortion clinics already stopped providing abortions after the governor signed a six-week ban earlier this month.
    With the state’s two remaining abortion clinics expected to stop offering services, it is unclear what will happen to women who qualify under one of the exceptions.    The law’s author, State Rep. Wendi Stearman, says doctors will be empowered to decide which women qualify and that those abortions will be performed in hospitals.    But providers and abortion-rights activists warn that trying to prove qualification could prove difficult and even dangerous in some circumstances.
    Oklahoma’s law is styled after a first-of-its-kind Texas law that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed to remain in place that allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion.
    “It will also have severe ripple effects, especially for Texas patients who had been traveling to Oklahoma in large numbers after the Texas six-week abortion ban went into effect in September.” Elizabeth Nash
Guttmacher Institute state policy analyst.

5/26/2022 Theology, politics and abortion - Opinion by Cal Thomas - The Abilene Reporter-News
    The archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, has announced he no longer will allow Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive communion because of her refusal to adhere to Catholic doctrine on unborn human life.
© Tribune Content AgencyCal Thomas
    This continues a battle between Catholic politicians who claim fealty to their church – but not to one of its central tenets – and some of their church’s leadership.
    Pelosi, who invokes her faith when it comes to “climate change,” recently claimed Catholic opinion about abortion goes back only a few hundred years and theologians have been divided over many centuries.    This brought a rebuke from several Catholic prelates, who said the Catholic catechism has remained consistent on human life since the first century.
    The creeping influence of what Scripture calls “the world” has not only infected many Roman Catholics, like Pelosi and     President Biden, but also certain self-proclaimed evangelicals.    One is the left-leaning Sojourners magazine.    In a recent issue, Sojourners president, Adam Russell Taylor, attempted to justify upholding Roe v. Wade, which the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn, based on “precedent” and the 14th Amendment.    Taylor also uses the contemporary jargon “pregnant persons.”
    Abraham Lincoln was confronted by contradictory religious opinions over slavery.    Some used Scripture to justify keeping the inhumane practice.    Others used Scripture to urge him to abolish it.
    In his second inaugural address, Lincoln alluded to the conflicting advice he received from different clergymen: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God and each invokes his aid against the other.”
    Except when it comes to abortion, the left does not and cannot accurately use Scripture to justify its pro-choice position.    Our right to life, wrote Thomas Jefferson, is “endowed by our Creator,” not the state.
    I suspect most Catholics and evangelicals would claim a high view of Scripture and that it means what it says (like conservatives view the Constitution).    Why, then, do so many seek a fusion between church and state that harms both?
    Some people try to “cherry pick” Scripture to justify positions on contemporary issues, but when it comes to human life it doesn’t work.
    Here are a few verses that Pelosi and Taylor might wish to consider:
    Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.    Before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5).
    “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14)
    In the New Testament, when the pregnant Mary visits the pregnant Elizabeth – a distant cousin, the unborn John the Baptist leaps within Elizabeth’s womb, prompting her to say, “…why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43).    Not the mother of her fetal or potential Lord, but present tense.
    Too many Christians (including many conservatives when it comes to some politicians and issues) are increasingly embracing attitudes of the secular world.    Here’s a verse that warns against such thinking: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.    Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2).
    Perhaps the most sobering verse of them all is this one: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?    Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."    (James 4:4)    All verses are from the NIV translation.
    The late columnist Joseph Sobran, a Roman Catholic, summed up the danger of Christians conforming to the world’s thinking: “It can be exalting to belong to a church that is five hundred years behind the times and sublimely indifferent to fashion; it is mortifying to belong to a church that is five minutes behind the times, huffing and puffing to catch up.”
    Speaker Pelosi, President Biden and Mr. Taylor, take note.
    Email Cal Thomas at
    This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Theology, politics and abortion.

5/27/2022 Column: 'It's really none of his business.' On abortion, San Francisco sides with Pelosi over archbishop by Opinion by Mark Z. Barabak – LA Times
© Provided by LA Times
    Jeff Fleckenstein was headed to the gym for his usual routine — work on various muscle groups, strengthening his core — but even before he got there he was exercised.
    "Cordileone is an ass," he said of San Francisco's archconservative archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, who made national headlines last week by cutting off House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a devout Catholic, from Holy Communion.    The reason was her heretical stance on abortion.
    "It's just such a hateful way to come at people," said the 70-year-old retiree who, like Pelosi, supports abortion rights.    "Instead of being this inclusive church of love, it's just very strict and hateful."
    Connie Lopez agreed.    Like Fleckenstein, she was raised Catholic but no longer practices the faith.
    "I don't find that very Christian of him," Lopez said of the archbishop's punitive action.    "Forcing your religious beliefs on other people?    That's what makes wars."
    Cordileone, 65, who fiercely opposes same-sex marriage and birth control along with abortion, has long been at odds with this city, where permissiveness and embrace of the countercultural are widely considered two of its great civic virtues.
    He fought against COVID-19 restrictions, allowing priests to secretly hold indoor services, and undermined public health experts by spreading misinformation about vaccines — no need, Cordileone said, because of his "strong" immune system — and claiming asymptomatic people "very rarely" pass on the deadly disease.
    (Pelosi fought her church's leader over that issue, too.    "With all due respect to my archbishop," the congresswoman said, "I think we should follow science on this.")
© (Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times) Jeff Fleckenstein said it was "hateful" to deny
Communion to Rep. Nancy Pelosi because of her abortion stance. (Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times)
    The formal ostracizing of Pelosi, in a tweet and a letter to members of the San Francisco archdiocese, garnered Cordileone the widespread attention he seems to crave and was celebrated by critics of the powerful Democrat as a well-deserved comeuppance.
    "The archbishop’s notification might mark the beginning of the end for another experiment run amok: the notion that Catholics can simultaneously rattle rosary beads in public while working overtime against bedrock teachings," one conservative commentator wrote in the Washington Post.    "The phrase 'pro-choice Catholic' should no more run trippingly off the tongue than 'carnivorous vegetarian,' say, or 'rampaging pacifist'"
    The sanction has played quite differently, however, among Pelosi's constituents, who for more than 30 years have routinely sent her back to Congress with overwhelming victory margins.
© (Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times) Susan George said Pelosi's position on abortion
is none of Archbishop Cordileone's business. (Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times)
    It was an unseasonably warm day in the city, the sun beating harshly down, when Susan George stopped to talk as she toted her grocery bags home to Bernal Heights.    "I think he should be reassigned, or let go," the 65-year-old physician said of San Francisco's assertive archbishop.
    George was raised Catholic by parents who left the church, five children into their marriage, because of its official opposition to birth control.
    "It's really none of his business where she publicly stands on abortion," George said.    "Pelosi represents all the people.    Not just the Catholics."
    Even some of those who are not necessarily fond of their congresswoman, or who harbor ambivalence about abortion, said Cordileone had overstepped.
    Nicky Starr recalled the dust-up over Pelosi's solo visit to a hair salon amid COVID restrictions — "like she's so special" — and suggested, at age 82, it was well past time for her to retire.    Still, the 65-year-old pet store manager said, it's not Cordileone's place to weigh in on public policy.
    "Religion shouldn't get involved," Starr said while unloading cartons of dog kibble.    "The whole thing of state and religion, to me those are two different things."
© (Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times) Connie Lopez said it was un-Christian
for the archbishop to deny Pelosi Communion. (Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times)
    A few blocks away, Lopez was on a morning walk through Glen Park, a tidy village-like neighborhood tucked in the south end of the city.    She wore a San Francisco Giants hoodie to complement her San Francisco 49ers face mask.
    Lopez, who is 68 and retired after many years as an office receptionist, recalled working in an OB-GYN clinic soon after abortion became legal and thinking "it was a good way to get out of a really bad situation."    Then, Lopez said, she became pregnant, and "once I felt the baby growing inside me, I had to take a different opinion."
    "I don't know if I could ever do it for myself," Lopez said of having an abortion.    But, she went on, "everybody ought to have the right to choose and nobody ought to tell someone else you must have this baby."
    Pelosi, for her part, responded to Cordileone this week on MSNBC, accusing him of a double standard by allowing proponents of the death penalty, which the church also opposes, to continue receiving Communion.
    "I come from a largely pro-life Italian American Catholic family," said Pelosi, whose mother hoped she would become a nun.    "So, I respect people's views about that.    But I don't respect us foisting it onto others."
    Lauren Sujeeth agreed that Cordileone's action seemed arbitrary.
    "There are lots of canons the church likes to ignore," said the 38-year-old attorney, as she hurried to an appointment in the Mission District.    "I think it's probably just going to drive people away, which is not what they want."
    Outside Chinatown, Chris House, 61, paused across the street from Old Saint Mary's Cathedral, the oldest in California.    The executive chef hailed the wisdom of "our Founding Fathers" for the separation of church and state.
    "Pelosi has been a very proud Catholic over the years," House said over the clatter of passing cable cars, "and for the church to objectify her in a way and certainly politicize her position is, I think, horrible."
    That was the overwhelming consensus.    In nearly two dozen interviews around the city, only one person was even moderately supportive of the archbishop.
    "I don't like it," Jim Wolff, 63, a fitness center manager, said of Cordileone's decision to deny Pelosi the holy rite.    "But I guess he's just representing the church's views."
    Cordileone, of course, is not subject to the whims of public opinion, vehement as they may be. Nor are faith and religious belief the sort of things that are put up for a popular plebiscite.
    But if San Francisco voters were asked to choose between the prelate and the politician, it's clear that Pelosi would win in a landslide.
    This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

5/28/2022 Alumni rally against anti-gay assignment - CAL asked students to sway person not to be gay by Rae Johnson, Louisville Courier Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK
    Earlier this month, Christian Academy of Louisville was outed on Twitter for assigning students to write a letter to convince an imaginary friend to reject homosexuality.
    On Wednesday, queer alumni of the school and allies dressed in Pride gear, held posters and waved flags across the street from its English Station campus at a love-in rally in response.
    The rally was held to “be a healing space for the community,” said Eden Jade Otis, an alum and the primary organizer of the rally.
    The night before, Otis said they were overwhelmed and unable to check themselves “emotionally, physically or spiritually” and hadn’t even prepared their speech for the event.
    “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” they said.    During the rally, which was also coordinated in part by the Fairness Campaign, Free Mom Hugs and inclusiveWe, Otis said they thought it was going well and that they were happy to see alum sharing their stories with one another.
    A school spokesperson did not immediately return a call Wednesday afternoon seeking comment about the rally.     Among the crowd were parents of queer kids and other queer alumni of the school.
    Lilly Higgs, an alum and educator, held a sign that said, “We are here ... and always have been. You are not alone!!!” in pink and purple lettering.
    Higgs said she attended the rally because she experienced feelings of isolation as a closeted student at the school, adding that Wednesday was the first time she was able to say she was queer on the school’s campus.
    “We are made just like God intended to make us, so I wanted the kids inside to see that there are kids like them and that they aren’t alone,” she said.
    Faith plays a role in Higgs’ life even after her time at the school, but she said her relationship with Christianity has changed.
    “The more that I learned about God, and the more that I learned about my own faith, I realized that God made me this way,” she said.    “Why would God ever stand in the way of love?
    And Higgs’ current understanding of faith has influenced her understanding of purpose.
    “That’s become my reason for living, to care for LGBT kids who are trapped in a church that their parents are bringing them to and they feel like they don’t belong and they feel worse, like they shouldn’t exist at all,” she said.    Other alums, like Silas Wendelin, said the recent assignment to write an anti-gay letter was similar to work they had been assigned as students there.
    Otis, Higgs and alum Maggie Smith, also an educator, expressed similar sentiments.
    “So many of us went through the same trauma,” Otis said.
    Otis said their biggest heartbreak as a young person growing up in a Christian school was realizing the love, they were given was conditional.
    “I didn’t think I would make it to live this long, I wish I could go back and tell myself people will still love you outside these walls,” they said.
    Their advice, to both queer and straight youths, is “    strive to be your most authentic selves; life isn’t worth living if you’re not living that truth.    It gets better.”
    Contact reporter Rae Johnson at RNJohnson@    Follow them on Twitter at @RaeJ_33.
    “We are made just like God intended to make us, so I wanted the kids inside to see that there are kids like them and that they aren’t alone.”    Lilly Higgs, Christian Academy of Louisville alum and an educator.
A Love-in Rally in front of Christian Academy of Louisville was organized by Eden Jade Otis, not pictured,
along with the Fairness Campaign, Free Mom Hugs and Inclusive We. It followed a controversial assignment for
students to persuade a hypothetical friend not to be gay. PHOTOS BY SCOTT UTTERBACK/COURIER JOURNAL

Lilly Higgs, a Christian Academy alum and an educator, held a sign that said,
“We are here ... and always have been. You are not alone!!!” in pink and purple colors.

5/28/2022 List of accused ministers published - SBC’s action a response to sexual-abuse inquiry by Liam Adams and Katherine Burgess, Nashville Tennessean USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE
    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Southern Baptist Convention leaders published Thursday a list of accused abusive ministers that previous staff maintained in secret for more than a decade.
    The list’s release is seen as an important first step in response to a historic report from investigative firm Guidepost Solutions into SBC leaders’ failure to address sexual abuse for more than two decades.
    The list contains the names of nine individuals who remain in ministry, two of whom reportedly are at SBC-affiliated churches.    There were 14 men affiliated with Southern Baptist churches in Kentucky on the list released by the SBC; they worked at churches in towns ranging from Whitesburg to Henderson to Owensboro to Jeffersontown.
    Releasing the list is “an initial, but important, step towards addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the Conventio,” Rolland Slade, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, and Willie McLaurin, the committee’s interim president and CEO, said in a statement accompanying the release.
    “Each entry in this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction brought about by sexual abuse,” they said.    “Our prayer is that the survivors of these heinous acts find hope and healing, and that churches will utilize this list proactively to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us.”
    The list, published on the SBC’s website at, itself is 205 pages long, including numerous links to news articles as well as descriptions of charges and convictions.
    It is being released in the exact form in which it was provided to Guidepost Solutions, with entries included in their entirety that referenced “an admission, confession, guilty plea, conviction, judgment, sentencing, or inclusion on a sex offender registry.”
    Names of survivors and other individuals not related to the offender were redacted.
    “Other entries where preliminary research did not indicate a disposition that fits within the described parameters have been redacted,” Slade and McLaurin said in the statement.    “Entries that do not relate to sexual abuse or that resulted in an acquittal are also redacted.”
    Some of the redacted entries may be released after further research, they said.
    In 2007, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee staff began logging news articles and other public reports of ministers accused of sexual misconduct.
    A year later, one of those officials led the committee to reject a proposal for a clergy abuser database.
    “Releasing this list is a symbolic gesture.    ‘This is the bare minimum thing we can do,’” Todd Benkert, an Indiana pastor who has pushed for abuse reform initiatives in the SBC, said in an interview Tuesday.
    The executive committee manages denomination business when the full convention isn’t in session during the annual meeting, and is made up of about 30 staff and a board of elected members.
    The staff who maintained that list no longer work for the executive committee.    The list’s existence was largely a secret until the release on Sunday of Guidepost’s report, which revealed many shocking examples of leaders habitually blocking abuse awareness and reform.
‘Nothing wrong with our doing it’
    An unnamed employee and Roger “Sing” Oldham, former executive committee vice president for convention communications, maintained the log for August “Augie” Boto, former executive committee general counsel and then interim president/CEO, Guidepost investigators found.    “No action was ever taken to share these materials outside a small cadre of people, or to take action to address the possibility that these accused individuals might continue in ministry in SBC churches,” Guidepost’s report found.
    In August 2013, Boto asked the unnamed staff member to send the list to Jim Guenther, an attorney with the executive committee’s longtime law firm, Guenther, Jordan & Price.
    “We are going to keep doing this and there is absolutely nothing wrong with our doing it.    Basically, we are stuffing newspaper clippings in a drawer,” Boto emailed the employee, according to Guidepost’s report.    “Anybody could do that.”
    Guidepost investigators confirmed the list was sent to Guenther, but the attorney told investigators his firm didn’t receive it.
    In May 2019, Oldham mentioned the list in an email to Ronnie Floyd, then executive committee president and CEO, and others, saying officials previously considered publishing the list, but were concerned about subsequent liability.     Floyd told investigators he never received the list.
‘Tip of the iceberg’
    Investigators said at one point, the list contained 703 names, with 409 believed to have been at SBC-affiliated churches.
    A motion from Benkert at the 2021 SBC annual meeting led to an assessment of sexual abuse in the SBC, which is different from Guidepost’s investigation into the executive committee and is set to conclude by 2024.    That assessment will survey the issue throughout SBC churches and potentially identify cases of abuse that have not been publicly reported.
    The list published this week is based on information already out there.    “That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Benkert said.

5/29/2022 Once-powerful Vatican prelate dies by Frances D'Emilio, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ROME – Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a once-powerful Italian prelate who long served as the Vatican’s No. 2 official but whose legacy was tarnished by his support for the pedophile founder of an influential religious order, has died.    He was 94.
    The Vatican said Sodano had died on Friday.    Italian state radio said that Sodano recently had contracted COVID-19, complicating his already frail health.    Corriere della Sera said he died in a Rome clinic where he had been admitted a few weeks ago.
    Pope Francis in a condolence telegram Saturday to Maria Sodano, the retired prelate’s sister, noted that Sodano had held many roles in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, culminating in his being named secretary of state on June 28, 1991, by the then-pontiff, John Paul II.    A day later, John Paul, who later was made a saint, elevated Sodano to the rank of cardinal.
    In the condolence message, Francis expressed “sentiments of gratitude to the Lord for the gift of this esteemed man of the church” and paid tribute to his long service as a Vatican diplomat in Ecuador, Uruguay and Chile in South America, Francis’ native continent.
    But late in his Vatican career, Sodano’s church legacy was tarnished by his staunch championing of the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the deceased Mexican founder of the Legion of Christ, a religious order, who was later revealed to be a pedophile.    Maciel’s clerical career was discredited by the cult-like practices he imposed on the order’s members.    An internal investigation identified 33 priests and 71 seminarians in the order who sexually abused minors over some eight decades.
    Sodano for years, while secretary of state under John Paul, had prevented the Vatican from investigating sex abuse allegations against Maciel.    The Holy See had evidence dating back decades that the founder of the religious order – an organization that was a favorite of John Paul’s for producing so many priests – was a drug addict and a pedophile.
    Sodano’s funeral is to take place on Tuesday in St Peter’s Basilica.    It will be celebrated by the dean of the College of Cardinals, Giovanni Battista Re, while Pope Francis will perform a traditional funeral rite at the end of the ceremony.
Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Angelo Sodano as they arrive for a special consistory with cardinals
and bishops in the Synod Hall at the Vatican in February 2015. Sodano, a once-powerful Italian prelate
who long served as the Vatican’s No. 2 official, died on Friday. ANDREW MEDICHINI/AP FILE

5/29/2022 Pope names 21 new cardinals, from Asia, Africa, elsewhere by FRANCES D'EMILIO, Associated Press
© Provided by Associated Press
    VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis named 21 new cardinals Sunday, most of them from continents other than Europe — which dominated Catholic hierarchy for most of the church's history — and further putting his mark on the group of people who might someday elect the next pontiff.
    Sixteen of those who will receive the prestigious red cardinal's hat from Francis in a consistory ceremony at the Vatican on Aug. 27 are younger than 80 and thus would be eligible to vote for his successor if a conclave — in which pontiffs are secretly elected — were to be held.
© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis delivers the Regina Coeli noon prayer from his studio
window overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, 29, 2002. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
    Francis read out the names of his choices after delivering traditional Sunday remarks from an open window of the Apostolic Palace to the public in St. Peter's Square.
    Among those tapped by the pontiff to receive the prestigious red hat will be two prelates from India and one each from Ghana, Nigeria, Singapore, East Timor, Paraguay, and Brazil, in keeping with Francis’ determination to have church leaders reflect the global face of the Catholic church.
© Provided by Associated PressFaithful listen to Pope Francis' Regina Coeli noon prayer in
St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, 29, 2002. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
    With church growth largely stagnant or at best sluggish in much of Europe and North America, the Vatican has been attentive to its flock to developing countries, including in Africa, where the number of faithful has been growing in recent decades.    Only one new cardinal was named from the United States: Robert Walter McElroy, bishop of San Diego, California.
    This is the eighth batch of cardinals that Francis has named since becoming pontiff in 2013.    A sizeable majority of those who are eligible to vote in a conclave were appointed by him, increasing the likelihood that they will choose as his successor someone who shares his papacy's priorities, including attention to those living on society's margins and to environmental crises.
    A total of 131 cardinals would be young enough to elect a pope once the new batch are included, while the number of cardinals too old to vote will rise to 96.
    Pontiffs traditionally have chosen their closest advisors and collaborators at the Vatican from among the ranks of cardinals, who have been dubbed the “princes of the church.”
    These are the churchmen named by Francis:
    Pope Francis marks second Easter of COVID-19 pandemic
— Jean-Marc Aveline, archbishop of Marseille, France; Peter Okpaleke, bishop of Ekwulobia, Nigeria; Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, archbishop of Manaus, Brazil; Filipe Neri Antonio Sebastao di Rosario Ferrao, archbishop of Goa and Damao, India; Robert Walter McElroy, bishop of San Diego, California; Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva, archbishop of Dili, East Timor; Oscar Cantoni, bishop of Como, Italy; Anthony Poola. archbishop of Hyderabad, India; Paulo Cezar Costa, archbishop of Brasilia, Brazil; Richard Kuuia Baawobr, bishop of Wa, Ghana; William Goh Seng Chye, archbishop of Singapore; Adalberto Martinez Flores, archbishop of Asuncion, Paraquay; and Giorgio Marengo, apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
© Provided by Associated PressFILE - Secretary General of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil
Leonardo Steiner, speaks in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Pope Francis said Sunday,
May 29, 2022 he has tapped 21 churchmen to become cardinals, most of them from continents other than
Europe, which has dominated Catholic hierarchy for most of the church's history. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

    In addition to those churchmen, also under 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave are three prelates who work at the Vatican: Arthur Roche of Britain, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments; Lazzarro You Heung-sik of South Korea, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy; and Fernando Vergez Alzaga of Spain, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and president of the Vatican City State's Governorate.

© Provided by Associated PressFILE - Fernando Vergez Alzaga leaves the altar after he was elevated to bishop
by Pope Francis, during a Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Pope Francis
said Sunday, May 29, 2022 he has tapped 21 churchmen to become cardinals, most of them from continents other than Europe,
which has dominated Catholic hierarchy for most of the church's history. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
    Francis in his choices kept up a tradition of naming some who are too old to vote in a conclave, but whose long decades of dedication to the Catholic church is honored by bestowing cardinal's rank on them. In this latest batch of nominations, they are Jorge Enrique Jimenez Carvajal, emeritus archbishop of Cartagena, Colombia; Lucas Van Looy, emeritus archbishop of Ghent, Belgium; Arrigo Miglio, emeritus archbishop of Cagliari, Sardinia; the Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a Jesuit professor of theology; and Fortunato Frezza, canon of St. Peter's Basilica.
    Presiding over the consistory this summer adds to an already ambitious schedule in the months ahead for Francis, who has taken to using a wheelchair or a cane of late due to a knee ligament problem.    On Saturday, the Vatican released details of the 85-year-old pontiff's pilgrimage, from July 2 to 7, to Congo and South Sudan.    He is also scheduled to make a pilgrimage to Canada later in July to apologize in person for abuse committed by churchmen and church institutions against Indigenous people in that country.
© Provided by Associated PressFILE - Bishop Lucas van Looy, foreground, attends the opening of the
15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. Pope Francis said
Sunday, May 29, 2022 he has tapped 21 churchmen to become cardinals, most of them from continents other than Europe,
which has dominated Catholic hierarchy for most of the church's history. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)
    Almost as significant as those chosen to be cardinals are those who were not chosen, despite holding posts that in the past would have traditionally earned them the red hat.
    In Francis’ selection on Sunday, he passed over the prominent archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone.    Earlier this month, Cordileone said he will no longer allow U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.
    While Francis hasn’t publicly weighed in on the soon-expected U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights, in the past he has decried the political weaponizing of Communion.

© Provided by Associated PressFILE - Robert W. McElroy, bishop of the diocese of San Diego, arrives to
attend a conference on nuclear disarmament, at the Vatican, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Pope Francis said Sunday,
May 29, 2022 he has tapped 21 churchmen to become cardinals, most of them from continents other than
Europe, which has dominated Catholic hierarchy for most of the church's history. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
    The new U.S. cardinal, McElroy, holds very different views from Cordileone.    He was among the relatively few U.S. bishops who several years ago called for U.S. church policy to better reflect Francis' concerns for the global poor.    He also signed a statement last year expressing support for LGBTQ youth and denouncing the bullying directed at them.

© Provided by Associated PressFILE - Anthony Poola, archbishop of Hyderabad, bends to kiss the gospel during
Maundy Thursday service at St Joseph Cathedral Church in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, April 1, 2021. Pope Francis
said Sunday, May 29, 2022 he has tapped 21 churchmen to become cardinals, most of them from continents other than
Europe, which has dominated Catholic hierarchy for most of the church's history. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A., File)

© Provided by Associated PressFILE - Small drops of blood stain Pope Francis' white cassock as he speaks with
Jorge Enrique Jimenez Carvajal, emeritus archbishop of Cartagena after knocking his face next to his eye on
the popemobile in Cartagena, Colombia, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. Pope Francis said Sunday, May 29, 2022
he has tapped 21 churchmen to become cardinals, most of them from continents other than Europe, which has
dominated Catholic hierarchy for most of the church's history. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

© Provided by Associated PressFILE - Pope Francis is flanked by Arrigo Miglio, emeritus archbishop of Cagliari,
during his one-day visit to the island of Sardinia, in Cagliari, Italy, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Pope Francis
said Sunday, May 29, 2022 he has tapped 21 churchmen to become cardinals, most of them from continents other
than Europe, which has dominated Catholic hierarchy for most of the church's history. (AP Photo/File)

© Provided by Associated Press Vatican New Cardinals

5/30/2022 Pope names San Diego bishop a cardinal - McElroy, Francis ideological allies by David Crary, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Robert W. McElroy, bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, was named by the pope
on Sunday as one of 21 new cardinals. ANDREW MEDICHINI/AP
    Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, one of Pope Francis’ ideological allies who has often sparred with more conservative U.S. bishops, was named by the pope on Sunday as one of 21 new cardinals.
    The San Diego diocese said McElroy will be installed by Pope Francis on Aug. 27 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
    Among his notable stances, McElroy, 68, has been one of a minority of U.S. bishops harshly criticizing the campaign to exclude Catholic politicians who support abortion rights from Communion.
    “It will bring tremendously destructive consequences,” McElroy wrote in May 2021.    “The Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare.    This must not happen.”
    In selecting McElroy, Francis passed over the higher-ranking archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone. Earlier this month, Cordileone said he will no longer allow U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.
    McElroy, in a statement, said he was “stunned and deeply surprised” by the news of his appointment.
    “My prayer is that in this ministry I might be of additional service to the God who has graced me on so many levels in my life,” he said.    “And I pray also that I can assist the Holy Father in his pastoral renewal of the Church.”
    Cordileone issued a brief statement noting that McElroy is a native San Franciscan and offering congratulations on the appointment.    The statement made no mention of the two clerics’ differences.
    McElroy received a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard in 1975 and a master’s in history from Stanford in 1976.    He studied at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, California, and in 1985 received a theology degree at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.    He obtained a doctorate in moral theology at the Gregorian University in Rome the following year and a Ph.D in political science at Stanford in 1989.
    He was ordained a priest in 1980 and assigned to the San Francisco diocese, where he served in a parish before becoming personal secretary to Archbishop John Quinn.    Other California parish assignments included Redwood City and San Mateo.    He became an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco in 2010.    In 2015, early in Francis’ pontificate, he was named bishop of San Diego.
    Over recent years, McElroy has been among the relatively few U.S. bishops who questioned why the bishops’ conference insisted on identifying abortion as its “preeminent” priority. He has questioned why greater prominence was not given to issues such as racism, poverty, immigration and climate change.
    “The death toll from abortion is more immediate, but the long-term death toll from unchecked climate change is larger and threatens the very future of humanity,” he said in a speech in 2020.
    Last year, he was among a small group of bishops signing a statement expressing support for LGBT youth and denouncing the bullying often directed at them.
    The bishops’ statement said LGBT youth attempt suicide at much higher rates, are often homeless because of families who reject them and “are the target of violent acts at alarming rates.
    “We take this opportunity to say to our LGBT friends, especially young people, that we stand with you and oppose any form of violence, bullying or harassment directed at you,” it read.    “Most of all, know that God created you, God loves you and God is on your side.”
    Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for greater LGBTQ acceptance in the Catholic church, hailed McElroy’s appointment.
    He represents the kind of prelate our church needs, one who will stretch out a hand, not a fist, to the LGBTQ community,” DeBernardo said.    “As an elector of future popes, McElroy can play a role in making sure that the next papacy will continue in the welcoming spirit of Pope Francis.”
    The Diocese of San Diego runs the length of California’s border with Mexico and serves more than 1.3 million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties.    It includes 98 parishes, 49 elementary and secondary schools, and, through Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San Diego, various social service and family support organizations throughout the region.

5/30/2022 Christian nationalism on rise in GOP - Movement champions need for divine guidance by Peter Smith and Deepa Bharath, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, has become the most prominent example this election cycle
of what some observers call a surge of Christian nationalism among Republican candidates. JULIO CORTEZ/AP FILE
    PITTSBURGH – The victory party took on the feel of an evangelical worship service after Doug Mastriano won Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial primary this month.    As a Christian singer led the crowd in song, some raised their arms toward the heavens in praise.
    Mastriano opened his remarks by evoking Scripture: “God uses the foolish to confound the wise.”    He claimed Pennsylvanians’ freedom would be “snatched away” if his Democratic opponent wins in November, and cast the election in starkly religious terms with another biblical reference: “Let’s choose this day to serve the Lord.”
    Mastriano, a state senator and retired Army colonel, has not only made faith central to his personal story but has woven conservative Christian beliefs and symbols into the campaign – becoming the most prominent example this election cycle of what some observers call a surge of Christian nationalism among Republican candidates.
    Mastriano – who has ignored repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press, including through his campaign last week – has rejected the “Christian nationalist” label in the past.    In fact, few if any prominent candidates use the label.    Some say it’s a pejorative and insist everyone has a right to draw on their faith and values to try to influence public policy.
    But scholars generally define Christian nationalism as going beyond policy debates and championing a fusion of American and Christian values, symbols and identity.
    Christian nationalism, they say, is often accompanied by a belief that God has destined America, like the biblical Israel, for a special role in history, and that it will receive divine blessing or judgment depending on its obedience.
    That often overlaps with the conservative Christian political agenda, including opposition to abortion, samesex marriage and transgender rights.    Researchers say Christian nationalism is often also associated with mistrust of immigrants and Muslims.         Many Christian nationalists see former President Donald Trump as a champion despite his crude sexual boasts and lack of public piety.
    Candidates seen as Christian nationalists have had mixed success in this year’s Republican primaries, which typically pitted staunch conservatives against opponents even further to the right.
    There were losses by some high-profile candidates, such as U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn and an Idaho gubernatorial hopeful, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.    The former spoke of a “spiritual battle” on Capitol Hill and a need for “strong, God-fearing patriots.”    The latter was photographed holding a gun and a Bible and said, “God calls us to pick up the sword and fight, and Christ will reign in the state of Idaho.”
    Some of Idaho’s Republican primaries for the Legislature were won by candidates touting Christian values or sharing priorities with Christian nationalists, such as sports bans for transgender athletes. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who uses biblical phrasing to “be a watchman on the wall” against those seeking to “destroy our faith,” easily won her primary.
    Watchers of Christian nationalism consider Mastriano’s win – in a rout, with 44% in a crowded field despite opposition from the state party establishment – by far the highest-profile victory for the movement.
    Mastriano has called the separation of church and state a “myth.”     After his victory, the comments section of his campaign Facebook page had the feel of a revival tent: “Praise Jesus!” “God is smiling on us and sending His blessings.”    “Thank you Father God!!
    Mastriano “is a unique case where he really does in his speeches highlight this apocalyptic idea” where his supporters and causes are on God’s side, said Andrew Whitehead, sociology professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and co-author of “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.”
    “It literally is good and evil,” he continued.    “There’s no room for compromise, so that is the threat to democracy.”    In the book, Whitehead and co-author Samuel Perry measured rates of Christian nationalism by drawing on a 2017 Baylor University survey.    It gauged opinions on such things as America’s role in God’s plan and whether the U.S. should be declared a Christian nation, advance biblical values and allow school prayer and religious displays in public places.
    Their research found about one in five Americans align with many of those views.    That’s down from nearly one in four a decade earlier, just as Americans have become less religious overall.    But Whitehead said Christian nationalists, who are more numerous among Republicans, can be expected to maintain their fervor.
    Christian nationalism is emerging alongside and in some cases overlapping with other right-wing movements, such as the conspiratorial QAnon, white supremacy, and denialism over COVID- 19 and the 2020 election.    Christian prayers and symbols featured prominently in and around the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection there.
    Mastriano, who sought to overturn Pennsylvania’s vote for Joe Biden in 2020, attended the rally preceding the attack and chartered buses to bring others.    Though he says he left when things turned violent, video showed he passed through “breached barricades and police lines,” according to a Senate Judiciary Committee report.
    Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, said those Jan. 6 displays were not surprising.
    According to a recent survey by the institute, white evangelical Christians were among the strongest supporters of the assertion that God intended America as a “promised land” for European Christians.    Those who backed that idea were far more likely to agree that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence … to save our country.”
    “To my mind, white Christian nationalism is really the threat,” Jones said.
    Conservative Christian themes are also playing a role in local elections, including in blue states, although many proponents say they view it not as nationalism but as supporting their religious freedom and values.
    Pastor Tim Thompson of 412 Church in Murrieta, California, who hosts a YouTube channel with more than 9,600 subscribers and envisions a conservative future for the state, recently started a political action committee aiming to “take back our school boards” and give parents authority over curriculum.
    “We don’t want teachers or any other adults talking to our kids about sex,” Thompson said.    “We don’t want teachers categorizing our kids into oppressed or oppressor.    These are not political issues. They are moral and biblical issues.”
    Judeo-Christian values are the foundation of America, he argued.
    “People are afraid to speak up for these values because they are afraid that the left is going to slap a label like ‘racist’ or ‘Christian nationalist’ on them,” Thompson said.    “I don’t care about those labels, because my wife, children, church and community know who I am.”
    Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino Hills, California, has also sought to influence local elections.
    While he does not let candidates campaign at the church, he frequently offers endorsements as a way of signaling to his flock those who are “pro-family, pro-life and pro-freedom.”
    But “the hair on my neck goes up” when he hears the term “Christian nationalism,” he said.    And he was embarrassed to see Christian imagery during the Jan. 6 riot: “That was a sad day, to see those sacred symbols and words pimped like that.”
    Elizabeth Neumann, chief strategy officer for Moonshot, a tech company that aims to counter online violent extremism, disinformation and other harms, said Christian nationalism began picking up steam around 2015 amid a rising narrative of purported persecution of Christians.
    Neumann, who served in the George W. Bush and Trump administrations and grew up in an evangelical Christian household, called the movement “heretical and idolatry” and an “apocalyptic vision (that) very often leads to violence.”    Many pastors are pushing back against it, she added.
    “I see Christian nationalism as the gasping, dying breath of the older generation in America that is afraid that Christians are going to be replaced,” she said.
Members of the audience sing songs of worship during a primary night election celebration in Chambersburg, Pa.,
May 17 for Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania. CAROLYN KASTER/AP FILE

5/30/2022 Pope names 21 new cardinals, putting stamp on Church's future by Philip Pullella - Reuters
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -Pope Francis announced on Sunday that he would appoint 21 new cardinals in August, including an Italian leading the Church in Mongolia, again putting his stamp on the future of Catholicism.
    Of the 21, 16 are cardinal electors under 80 years old and thus eligible to enter a conclave to elect his successor after his death or resignation.
    After the Aug. 27 ceremony to officially install them, known as a consistory, Francis will have appointed about 83 of the some 133 cardinal electors, increasing the possibility his successor will be a man reflecting his position on key issues.
    By then Francis will have appointed about 63% of cardinal electors, further increased their presence in the developing world, and again loosening the grip Europe had on the College of Cardinals.
    The new electors include Archbishop Giorgio Marengo, an Italian who is currently the Catholic Church's administrator in Mongolia.    The country borders with China, where the Vatican is trying to improve the situation for Catholics.
    Other cardinal electors come from France, Nigeria, Brazil, India, the United States, East Timor, Italy, Ghana, Singapore, and Paraguay.    Three Vatican officials to be made cardinals in August come from South Korea, Britain and Spain.
    Once again, Francis passed over archbishops of major cities that traditionally had cardinals before his election in 2013, preferring to appoint men in far-flung places where the Church is small or growing and more vibrant than in Europe.
    By appointing cardinals in Singapore, Mongolia, India and East Timor, Francis appears to be seeking to increase the Church's prestige and clout in Asia, a growing economic and political powerhouse.
    New cardinals from other developing countries include archbishops in Ekwulobia in Nigeria, Manaus and Brasilia in Brazil, Goa and Hyderabad in India, Wa in Ghana, and Asuncion in Paraguay.
    The promotion to cardinal of Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, California, is significant because he has been an outspoken ally of Francis' pastoral approach in issues such as protection of the environment and a more welcoming approach to gay Catholics.
    In making McElroy a cardinal, Francis passed over the conservative archbishops of San Francisco and Los Angeles, two large cities that traditionally had cardinals in the past.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Mark Potter)

5/31/2022 SF archbishop who banned Pelosi from Communion passed over in cardinal assignment by Heather Hamilton, Washington Examiner
    Pope Francis has passed over higher-ranking San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and named Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, California, as one of 21 new cardinals in the Catholic Church.
    Francis announced those who will be elevated and receive the prestigious red cardinal’s hat following traditional remarks Sunday at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, Rome.
    Cordileone congratulated McElroy and recognized his San Francisco connections.
© Provided by Washington Examiner Pope Francis (center) named Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, California (left) as one of 21 new cardinals,
passing over higher-ranking San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (right) Sunday, May 29, 2022. (AP Photos)
    “Cardinal-elect McElroy is a native San Franciscan who was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1980,” Cordileone stated.    “He served at several parishes, including St. Cecilia, St. Pius X, and St. Gregory.    He was an auxiliary bishop here in the Archdiocese from 2010-2015 before being appointed to lead the Diocese of San Diego where he has served ever since.    We send congratulations to Cardinal-elect McElroy.”
    While Francis’s reasons for passing over Cordileone were unclear, the San Francisco archbishop has been at the center of controversial debate concerning whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be allowed to receive Holy Communion.
    On May 20, Cordileone announced that Pelosi should not present herself to a priest for Communion at Mass because of her stance on abortion and her recent calls to protect access to abortion at the federal level.
    Despite a growing number of bishops coming together to support Cordileone’s barring of Pelosi, the House speaker received the Eucharist at a Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., last week.
    Those set to be elevated to cardinal will reportedly participate in a consistory ceremony at the Vatican on Aug. 27.    Among the 21 selected, 16 are younger than 80 and will be eligible to vote for Francis’s successor.

6/1/2022 NC parents’ school bill advances - Critics say measure would harm LGBTQ youth by Gary D. Robertson, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Tyler Beall, of Greensboro, speaks out Tuesday against the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” measure
during a Senate committee meeting in Raleigh, N.C. ETHAN HYMAN/THE NEWS & OBSERVER VIA AP
    RALEIGH. N.C. – Republican legislation that supporters argue would give North Carolina parents more say over their children’s public schooling and health, but critics say would intimidate and harm LGBTQ youth, is heading to the Senate floor after another affirmative committee vote Tuesday.
    The “Parents’ Bill of Rights” legislation includes a provision that would prevent instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in public school curriculum for kindergarten through third grade.    Schools would have to notify parents about changes to their child’s health and services that they are receiving – like psychological treatment – or before they could change a child’s name or pronouns in records.
    LGBTQ activists likened these provisions to those in a recently approved Florida law opponents dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.    Several urged GOP lawmakers Tuesday to stop the measure, saying more young people would have their sexuality revealed against their will if it became law.    Other youth will keep their sexuality hidden, increasing further the threat of suicide, bill opponents said.
    “This bill proposes forced outing of queer kids,” the Rev. Vance Haywood, senior pastor of St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh, told reporters.    “It’s creating an environment where we’re telling folks that it’s not OK to be yourself.”
    The measure, which passed the Senate Rules Committee on a divided voice vote, was expected to receive floor debate and a vote Wednesday.    If approved, the bill would go to the House, which like the Senate is controlled by Republicans.
    Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper already signaled his opposition, calling the bill a “Republican political ploy” and warning legislators to “keep the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ culture wars out of North Carolina classrooms.”    GOP lawmakers would need help from several Democrats to override any Cooper veto.    An override has not been successful since December 2018.    The bill could turn into a Republican election-year cudgel used against Democrats in elections.
    The measure would enumerate and broaden the rights parents already have in state and federal laws.    Parents would be offered complaint and appeals procedures if they believe districts or administrators are not complying with the rules.
    “We are seeing too many instances these days where the interests of parents and families are being overlooked or being ignored and are being even condemned,” said John Rustin with the North Carolina Family Policy Council, who spoke for the measure.
    Senators shepherding the bill say the prohibition of instruction on LGBTQ issues is different than the Florida law, but some speakers Tuesday disagreed.
    “All students and families deserve to see themselves represented in their curriculum, and that includes LGBTQ+ students and families,” said Taylor Cordes, a recent North Carolina teacher.
    Sen. Ralph Hise, a Mitchell County Republican, said Tuesday that ensuring parents are notified before or when medical services are changed is reasonable.    Hise described a situation where he and his son’s physician had to sign forms so he could take an over-the counter antacid at school.
    “Compare that in the context where … a child would be diagnosed and receive mental health treatment or physical health treatment without ever notifying a parent,” Hise said.    “And we’ve got to go get a doctor and a parent signature for an antacid?
    The bill also would subject health care providers to disciplinary action by licensing boards and fines should they fail to receive parental consent for nonurgent medical treatments for a minor.

6/1/2022 Supreme Court to decide whether businesses may refuse LGBTQ couples for same-sex wedding services by John Fritze, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – Cindy Wilker, a retired Marine who jokingly describes herself as an "angry old lesbian," isn’t easily offended – or pushed around.
Legal experts weigh in on the overturning of Roe V. Wade by the Supreme Court
    But the 62-year-old Floridian was dumbstruck when a florist declined to sell her roses she hoped to buy for the woman she has loved for decades.    She left the shop in tears.     "When she realized who they were for I could see that it was not going to happen. She said, 'What are you?'" Wilker recalled.    "Every time now when I walk into a store I wonder, are they going to say something? Are they going to embarrass me?"     Seven years after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in a watershed civil rights case, business owners and LGBTQ rights groups remain locked in a battle over whether businesses that sell goods and services to the public may reject LGBTQ couples as customers based on religious objections – particularly when matrimonial services for same-sex weddings are involved.     Wilker’s interaction with the florist is controlled by a byzantine patchwork of laws and court decisions that vary by state.    The nation’s highest court will revisit one key aspect of that morass later this year:     Whether the First Amendment's protection of free speech allows business owners who object to same-sex marriage to refuse wedding services to LGBTQ couples. Creative: Supreme Court to decide if web designer may decline same-sex weddings
    Rights: If Roe falls, could rights to same-sex marriage, contraception be next?
    Business owners involved in similar recent litigation say it’s not about denying service because of a person’s sexual orientation.    Instead, they say, florists, wedding planners and other businesses shouldn’t be compelled by the government to endorse same-sex marriage through their services and products if it’s counter to their beliefs.
© Cindy WilkerCindy Wilker, a Florida woman who has faced discrimination as a lesbian, in 2022.
    "No one should be forced to say something that they don’t believe," said Kristen Waggoner, general counsel at the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing a website designer in the pending Supreme Court case.    "It’s not the government that should be making that choice."
    That question arrives at the court as LGBTQ rights have reemerged as a potent political issue with some conservative states targeting conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and others passing laws to ban transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams.    About 7% of Americans identify as LGBTQ, double the number who identified as something other than heterosexual in 2012, a Gallup poll showed.
    Four years ago, a 7-2 majority of the high court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple.    But that decision was focused narrowly on how the state’s civil rights commission treated the baker, Jack Phillips.    The court dodged deeper questions about where to draw the line between a business owner’s religious freedom and LGBTQ rights.
    The lack of clarity from the court has prompted more lawsuits, including from a florist in Washington state who declined to create an arrangement for a same-sex wedding as well as the Colorado website developer.    It has also left business owners and LGBTQ customers on uncertain legal footing in many states.
    "We always have to be leery," Wilker said.    "The only way we can fight back is to shop in places that support us, or at least acknowledge that we exist."
© Alliance Defending Freedom Lorie Smith, owner of 303 Creative, a Denver-based website design business.
'It's who I am'
    Lorie Smith, owner of 303 Creative, the Denver-based website design firm, doesn’t have a problem serving LGBTQ customers.    That's a point she and her attorneys have stressed repeatedly in their appeal to the Supreme Court and in interviews.
    But same-sex marriage itself, Smith says, flies in the face of her religious beliefs, and she wants to decline to make websites for such ceremonies despite a Colorado law barring her from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.    How can the government, Smith asks, require her to build a website for a ceremony that conflicts with a core belief?
    "Everything that I create is art…it’s not just me producing what a client has asked for,” said Smith, who started her business in 2012.    "I’m a Christian artist.    Everything I do is intertwined with my faith.    It's not something I can check at the door.    It's who I am."
    Colorado, like 24 other mostly Democratic-led states, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation by businesses.    Roughly half of the states also have laws that prohibit the government from burdening a person's exercise of their religion.
    Smith’s appeal challenged the Colorado anti-discrimination law under two clauses in the First Amendment: One that protects Americans' ability to exercise their religion without government interference and another that protects free speech.
    "The artwork that I create to glorify and honor God – that’s what drives my business," Smith said.    "What I'm asking for is to create artwork that is consistent with my beliefs."
    The Supreme Court agreed to decide only the speech claim presented in the case.
    Because Smith's websites are custom they represent her speech as well as that of her customers, her lawyers say.    But critics say that argument, which the Colorado baker also raised, would open a door to all sorts of businesses being able to skirt anti-discrimination laws.    What about a makeup artist, restaurant chef or limousine chauffeur?    Could they also claim their work is a form of speech deserving of recognition and protection under the First Amendment?
    "You have a view that a cake can be speech because it involves great skill and artistry," Associate Justice Elena Kagan pressed during the 2017 oral arguments in Jack Phillips' case.    "I guess I'm wondering, if that's the case, you know, how do you draw a line?    How do you decide, 'Oh, of course, the chef and the baker are on one side...versus the hairstylist or the makeup artist?"
    Waggoner, who represented Phillips, told the justices that the line is drawn at whether the product is "communicating something" and whether the medium is similar to others the court has recognized.
    But David Cole, national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the couple in the wedding cake case, asserted that non-discrimination laws "don’t single out religion."    Instead, Cole said, "they regulate business conduct serving customers, and they simply require that you serve all customers equally."
    "There can't be a different rule for those businesses that deem themselves expressive or religious,” he said.
    A three-judge panel of the Denver-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit last year ruled against Smith.    The court agreed that her websites are a form of speech.    It also said the state’s anti-discrimination law compelled Smith to create speech that celebrated same-sex marriage.    But in a 2-1 ruling, the court said that Colorado had an interest in preventing discrimination and ensuring "equal access" to goods and services.    And so it upheld Colorado's law.
Roberts' prediction
    Similar disputes about discrimination arose during the civil rights movement as Black Americans fought discrimination at restaurants, hotels and other businesses in the Jim Crow South.    In a 1964 decision, a unanimous Supreme Court held that the anti-discrimination provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were permitted under the federal government’s constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce.
    Lawyers for the religious plaintiffs today draw a distinction between racial discrimination, which is based on a person’s identity, and the message that business owners such as Smith are being asked to amplify in the case of same-sex marriage.
    "It's never about the individual," said Matt Sharp, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.    "It's always about the specific message."
    In a decision that was widely celebrated on the political left and by some Republicans, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that states cannot deny marriage rights to LGBTQ individuals.    For many people, the ruling was a reflection of an evolution the nation had already undergone in its views on gay marriage.
    "They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law," said Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has since retired.    "The Constitution grants them that right."
    Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote a dissent in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, predicted then the types of disputes that are coming to the high court now.
© Alex Wong, Getty Images Jim Obergefell at the Supreme Court in 2015.
    “Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage," Roberts wrote.    "There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this court."
    But William Eskridge, a professor at Yale Law School and expert on LGBTQ rights, questioned just how often conflicts over same-sex marriage are occurring in practice.    Most business owners, he said, are probably happy to have as many customers as they can.    Most LGBTQ people, he predicted, are probably not interested in shopping at businesses where an owner has a strong religious objection to their sexual orientation.
    In other words, the market is likely more of a driving force than the court.
    "The law is peripheral to all of that," Eskridge said.    "The world has changed."
1 of 11 Photos in Gallery©Seth Harrison, The Journal News/USA TODAY Network
    The NYC Pride March was held in the streets of Manhattan June 27, 2021.    Thousands of people lined the streets of lower Manhattan for the march, which was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.    This year's Pride celebration was a combination of live and virtual events.
    This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court to decide whether businesses may refuse LGBTQ couples for same-sex wedding services

6/2/2022 ‘Theocratic’ US abortion bans will violate religious liberty, faith leaders say by Melody Schreiber – The Guardian
© Provided by The Guardian
    Misha Sanders was starting over.    She had just left an abusive relationship, and she was in her first semester of seminary, all while caring for her child, a teenager with a pressing health problem.
    That’s when she found out she was pregnant.    Sanders took misoprostol and mifepristone, the two drugs known collectively as the abortion pill, to end the pregnancy.
    The decision, she says, was deeply entwined with her religious beliefs, which include respecting full bodily autonomy and caring for other people – core beliefs of Unitarian Universalism, which she practices.
    “The only decision that I could make, as a loving mother, was to focus on mothering this child that I brought into the world and terminating this new pregnancy,” Sanders said.    “It was absolutely the right decision.”
    But Sanders now lives in Georgia, which could pass restrictions on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy if Roe v Wade is overturned in the coming weeks.
    Reproductive rights are under threat in the US as states implement harsher restrictions and the supreme court weighs a case that is widely expected to reverse the constitutional right to abortion.
    But while religious arguments around the issue are commonly associated with the anti-abortion movement, abortion restrictions can violate the right to religious liberty, faith leaders and legal experts say.    And some organizations are already gearing up for possible legal challenges to looming abortion bans.
    Religious liberty for people of all faiths is protected under the US constitution, state constitutions and federal statutes.
    In Judaism, abortion is usually seen as permissible and even required in cases where the patient’s life is at risk.    In Islam, scholars contend that abortion is allowed for the first 120 days, after which it’s seen as a civil – not a criminal – issue, and it’s permitted at any time when the health of the mother is in danger.    Other believers, including within Christianity, focus on the sacredness of the individual or the family to make such decisions, rather than prosecutors or lawmakers.
© Provided by The Guardian - Rabbi Stephen Einstein of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley, California, and the Rev Sarah Halverson-Cano
of Irvine United Congregational church at a rally supporting abortion access on 3 May. Photograph: Felicity Figueroa/AP
    Personal beliefs can even contravene the dictums of established religions; for instance, Catholics for Choice believe they have a religious duty to protect reproductive health despite the Catholic church’s stance against abortion.
    Nearly half of Protestants and 56% of Catholics believe abortion should be legal in some or all cases, according to a Pew Research survey published in May. More than half of Muslims, 82% of Buddhists and 83% of Jews believe the same, according to a different Pew study from 2014.
Related video: Liberal states seek to expand abortion providers (Associated Press)
    “You don’t have to be a member of an organized religion,” said Katherine Franke, a professor of law at Columbia University and the faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project.    “Your religious beliefs could be your own idiosyncratic beliefs.    They have to just be religious to you.”
    With abortion bans, some clergy object to what they see as a “Christian theocratic imposition on entire swaths of our country,” as Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, scholar-in-residence at the National Council of Jewish Women, put it.
    “There are very serious religious liberty questions here,” Ruttenberg said.    “If you ban abortion, when my religious tradition tells me that I am a) permitted and b) possibly required to access abortion care, you are limiting my free exercise of religion.”
    The same questions arise in other faiths.
    “In the Muslim tradition, scholars from the medieval time had taken the position that until a fetus is ensouled, it is not a life,” said Abed Awad, a lawyer and commentator on Islamic law.
    “A Muslim woman living in Texas, or living in Alabama, who has a sincerely and genuinely held religious belief that in her tradition, she can terminate her pregnancy and it is not a violation of her religious requirements or theology up to 120 days, is going to be prevented from exercising her religious right to control her reproductive health,” Awad continued.
    The first amendment has two components to protecting religious rights: first, the state can’t substantially burden the free exercise of religion, and second, the establishment clause prohibits the government from endorsing some forms of religion and condemning others, or embracing faith-based perspectives on public policy.
    For example, if states adopt laws on fetal personhood, which would recognize fertilized eggs as people, those laws could violate the establishment clause, because such a view hews closely to Catholicism but not to other religious beliefs on ensoulment and personhood.
    Legal challenges on the basis of religious liberty could be “the next stage of reproductive rights,” Awad said, and the National Council of Jewish Women is exploring the possibility of such a challenge, Ruttenberg said.
    “Our tradition not only permits us to access abortion but also commands us to pursue justice,” she said.    “We, as a religious minority with a long and complicated history, know all too well that the separation of church and state is one of the great gifts that our constitution offers.    And it is critical that it be taken seriously.”
    There is precedent for people with sincerely held religious beliefs fighting against criminal charges for actions that violate the law.
    Scott Warren, a humanitarian aid worker for No More Deaths, successfully argued that his work helping migrants crossing the US-Mexico border was in line with his religious beliefs about helping others, and he was acquitted of federal charges in 2019.     Religious leaders or adherents may feel compelled by their beliefs to provide care, funds, transportation, housing or counseling around abortion, Franke said.    “It’s not a stretch to see the work that they do in this area as part of a ministry.”
    Sanders, who is now a minister, feels compelled by her beliefs to support access to reproductive healthcare, and she’s now preparing to offer support however she can.    “I have a spare room, and I’m in the middle of sprucing it up right now with exactly that in mind.”
    Sanders is particularly concerned about the ways restrictions on reproductive rights and trans rights are growing and intersecting.    “It’s so terrifying,” she said.    She believes it is “an egregious sin” to cause harm to someone by denying them healthcare or human rights.
    “We, as Unitarian Universalists, believe fully that all human beings should have bodily autonomy, and anything that happens in or to my body should be my choice,” she said.
To me, the law of the land and [religious] law are two separate and distinct things.    It’s great when they overlap. And when they don’t, I’m going to choose morality over the law every time. And for me, that includes helping people in whatever way I can, for whatever reason they are seeking abortion.”

    You may see a variety of flags around during Pride month, celebrated each June.    This includes, of course, the iconic rainbow flag that has represented pride in the LGBTQ community for more than 40 years.    Since the pride flag’s creation in 1978, it has been altered to include references to other underrepresented communities.
    Please note this isn’t a full list of flags within the LGBTQ community; these are some of the most common.
Rainbow flag with black and brown stripes
    In 2017, for the city of Philadelphia’s pride kickoff, two additional stripes were added to the traditional rainbow design: black and brown.
    The flag was intended as an inclusionary message for LGBTQ people of color.

The progress pride flag
    The progress flag features the same six rainbow stripes but includes five additional colors.    Like Philadelphia’s flag, the progress flag includes the colors black and brown to represent LGBTQ people of color, but it also includes light blue, pink and white for the transgender flag.
    It was created by Daniel Quasar in an attempt to reboot the pride flag “with an emphasis on inclusion and progression,” according to his Kickstarter.

Historic pride flag
    Artist and veteran Gilbert Baker was asked by activist Harvey Milk to create an emblem for the empowerment of LGBTQ people, according to Baker’s website.
    Baker’s original flag included eight colored stripes, each with a different meaning: pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for serenity and purple for spirit.
    Following the assassination of Milk in 1978, the demand for pride flags went up, and the Paramount Flag Company removed hot pink from the fabric because it was too expensive, according to Baker’s website.    Baker did the same to his production of the flag.
    In 1979 it was modified again, removing the turquoise stripe, according to Baker’s website.
    Tracie Meyer works on the board of directors of CFAIR, the Political Action Committee of the Fairness Campaign.    While Meyer said she has multiple rainbow-themed items in her house and office, she wants the flag she flies outside her home to be the original design.
    “It was really important for me to have a historic one,” Meyer said.    “It was more accurate to what was designed back then.”

Traditional pride flag
    The most common flag at pride festivals today is the six-striped rainbow flag.
    Baker never placed a copyright on the flag because he wanted it to “owned by everyone,” according to Baker’s friend Charles Beal, as reported by
    Meyer said the flag represents intersectionality, or the overlapping of groups within the LGBTQ community, and highlights the differences between such groups.
    “I think the flag allowed individuals historically to come together and identify as a group and to bring that power together and to protest together,” Meyer said.    “... Like we are one under this flag..”

Lesbian flag
The lesbian flag. EMILY GWEN MORRIS
    There have been several lesbian flags since the first one was introduced in the 1990s.    The most updated version was designed by blogger Emily Gwen Morris in 2018, with a 7-stripe and 5-stripe variation.
    Often described as “the sunset flag,” the design features shades of orange, pink and white.    The stripes represent gender nonconformity, independence, community, unique relationships to womanhood, serenity and peace, love and sex and femininity.

Bisexual flag
The bisexual pride flag represents people who are attracted to people of multiple gender identities. GETTY IMAGES
    About 20 years after the creation of the pride flag, Michael Page designed the bisexual flag, which aims to bring visibility to the bisexual community, according to
    The flag contains two wider stripes, pink and blue, to represent the male and female genders.    A smaller purple stripe is between them representing sexual attraction to both men and women.

Transgender flag
The transgender flag. GETTY IMAGES

    Designed in 1998 by Monica Helms, the transgender flag includes blue, pink and white stripes.    The flag is for transgender people, who have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
    The blue and pink stripes represent the socially dictated male and female coded gender colors, and white is for those who are transitioning or don’t feel they fit into male or female gender categories.

Pansexual flag
Pansexual flag. GETTY IMAGES
    According to, the pansexual flag was created on the internet in 2010 as a way for pansexual people to distinguish themselves from bisexual people.    Similar to the bisexual flag, the pink and blue stripes represent attraction to men and women, but the pansexual flag’s yellow stripe represents attraction to nonbinary, gender-nonconforming and transgender people.
    Nonbinary refers to individuals whose gender is not male or female, such as agender, bigender or genderfluid.

Asexual flag
The asexual flag is for people who do not experience sexual attraction. GETTY IMAGES
The asexual flag was also created in 2010. It was meant to promote visibility for asexuals, demisexuals and graysexuals, according to
    Asexuality refers to people who don’t experience sexual attraction, whereas demisexuality refers to people who only experience sexual attraction to people with whom they have an emotional bond, according to the Demisexuality Resource Center.
    Graysexuality refers to individuals who experience occasional or mild sexual attraction, according to the Telegraph.

Aromantic flag
    While the asexual flag uses purple to symbolize lack of sexual attraction, this flag uses green for lack of romantic attraction.    This flag also went through several iterations, and currently includes green, light green, white, gray and black stripes.

Intersex flag
    The intersex flag was designed in 2013 and purposefully designed with colors that don’t represent any gender, according to    It was created by Intersex International Australia, now called Intersex Human Rights Australia.

Genderfluid flag
Genderfluid pride flag on glitter texture. GETTY IMAGES
    The genderfluid flag is meant to encompass all gender identities.    According to, the pink stands for femininity, blue for masculinity, purple for masculinity and femininity, white for lack of gender and black for all genders.
Genderqueer flag
    The genderqueer flag was created in 2011. Its lavender stripe represents androgyny, agender identities are represented with white and nonbinary with green, according to

Nonbinary flag
Non-binary pride flag on glitter texture. GETTY IMAGES
    Some people refer to the genderqueer flag as the non-binary flag if they feel the word “queer” is a slur, according to    But a separate flag, the nonbinary flag was created by a 17-year-old in 2014 for people who felt misrepresented by the genderqueer flag.
    The flag wasn’t meant as a replacement but rather to offer another option, stated.    The yellow stripe represents gender outside of the binary. The white represents many genders. Purple is for those who feel fluidity between genders.    The black represents the agender community.

Philadelphia’s altered gay pride flag seen outside City Hall. MATT SLOCUM/AP

The intersex flag was designed to include colors that don’t represent any gender. GETTY IMAGES

Progress pride flag on glitter texture. GETTY IMAGES

Genderqueer pride flag. GETTY IMAGES

6/5/2022 Pope Francis fuels new speculation on future of pontificate by NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press
© Provided by Associated Press
    ROME (AP) — Pope Francis added fuel to rumors about the future of his pontificate by announcing he would visit the central Italian city of L'Aquila in August for a feast initiated by Pope Celestine V, one of the few pontiffs who resigned before Pope Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013.
    Italian and Catholic media have been rife with unsourced speculation that the 85-year-old Francis might be planning to follow in Benedict’s footsteps, given his increased mobility problems that have forced him to use a wheelchair for the last month.
    Those rumors gained steam last week when Francis announced a consistory to create 21 new cardinals scheduled for Aug. 27.    Sixteen of those cardinals are under age 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect Francis’ successor.
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - The salvaged remains of Pope Celestine V are guarded by a firefighter in the
13th-century Santa Maria di Collemaggio basilica, the symbol of the city of L'Aquila, whose roof partially caved in during
the quake, Tuesday, April 28, 2009. Pope Francis added fuel to rumors about the future of his pontificate on Saturday by
announcing he would visit the central Italian city of L'Aquila in August for a feast initiated by Pope Celestine V, one
of the few pontiffs who resigned before Pope Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)
    Once they are added to the ranks of princes of the church, Francis will have stacked the College of Cardinals with 83 of the 132 voting-age cardinals.    While there is no guarantee how the cardinals might vote, the chances that they will tap a successor who shares Francis’ pastoral priorities become ever greater.
    In announcing the Aug. 27 consistory, Francis also announced he would host two days of talks the following week to brief the cardinals about his recent apostolic constitution reforming the Vatican bureaucracy.    That document, which goes into effect Sunday, allows women to head Vatican offices, imposes term limits on priestly Vatican employees and positions the Holy See as an institution at the service of local churches, rather than vice versa.
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful and to a group of soldiers in Coppito, near
L'Aquila, Italy, Tuesday April 28, 2009. Pope Francis added fuel to rumors about the future of his pontificate on Saturday
by announcing he would visit the central Italian city of L'Aquila in August for a feast initiated by Pope Celestine V,
one of the few pontiffs who resigned before Pope Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013. (AP Photo/Sandro Perozzi, File)
    Francis was elected pope in 2013 on a mandate to reform the Roman Curia.    Now that the nine-year project has been rolled out and at least partially implemented, Francis’ main task as pope has in some ways been accomplished.
    All of which made Saturday’s otherwise routine announcement of a pastoral visit to L’Aquila carry more speculative weight than it might otherwise have.
    Notable was the timing: The Vatican and the rest of Italy are usually on holiday in August to mid-September, with all but essential business closed.    Calling a major consistory in late August to create new cardinals, gathering churchmen for two days of talks on implementing his reform and making a symbolically significant pastoral visit suggests Francis might have out-of-the-ordinary business in mind.
    “With today’s news that @Pontifex will go to L’Aquila in the very middle of the August consistory, it all got even more intriguing,” tweeted Vatican commentator Robert Mickens, linking to an essay he had published in La Croix International about the rumors swirling around the future of the pontificate.
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - Pope Francis is helped by his aide Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, left,
as he walks with a cane to his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican on
June 1, 2022. Pope Francis added fuel to rumors about the future of his pontificate on Saturday by announcing
he would visit the central Italian city of L'Aquila in August for a feast initiated by Pope Celestine V, one of
the few pontiffs who resigned before Pope Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)
    The basilica in L’Aquila hosts the tomb of Celestine V, a hermit pope who resigned after five months in 1294, overwhelmed by the job.    In 2009, Benedict visited L’Aquila, which had been devastated by a recent earthquake and prayed at Celestine’s tomb, leaving his pallium stole on it.
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - Pope Benedict XVI kisses a baby being held up to him, in Coppito, near
L'Aquila, Italy, Tuesday April 28, 2009. Pope Francis added fuel to rumors about the future of his pontificate on Saturday
by announcing he would visit the central Italian city of L'Aquila in August for a feast initiated by Pope Celestine V,
one of the few pontiffs who resigned before Pope Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013. (AP Photo/Sandro Perozzi)
    No one at the time appreciated the significance of the gesture.    But four years later, the 85-year-old Benedict would follow in Celestine’s footsteps and resign, saying he no longer had the strength of body and mind to carry on the rigors of the papacy.     The Vatican announced Saturday Francis would visit L’Aquila to celebrate Mass on Aug. 28 and open the “Holy Door” at the basilica hosting Celestine’s tomb.    The timing coincides with the L’Aquila church’s celebration of the Feast of Forgiveness, which was created by Celestine in a papal bull.
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - Pope Francis arrives in a wheelchair to attend an audience with nuns and religious superiors
in the Paul VI Hall at The Vatican, Thursday, May 5, 2022. Pope Francis added fuel to rumors about the future of his pontificate
on Saturday by announcing he would visit the central Italian city of L'Aquila in August for a feast initiated by
Pope Celestine V, one of the few pontiffs who resigned before Pope Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
    No pope has travelled to L’Aquila since to close out the annual feast, which celebrates the sacrament of forgiveness so dear to Francis, noted the current archbishop of L’Aquila, Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi.
    “We hope that all people, especially those harmed by conflicts and internal divisions, might (come) and find the path of solidarity and peace,” he said in a statement announcing the visit.
    Francis has praised Benedict’s decision to retire as “opening the door” for future popes to do the same, and he had originally predicted a short papacy for himself of two to five years.
    Nine years later, Francis has shown no signs he wants to step down, and he has major projects still on the horizon.
    In addition to upcoming trips this year to Congo, South Sudan, Canada and Kazakhstan, in 2023 he has scheduled a major meeting of the world’s bishops to debate the increasing decentralization of the Catholic Church, as well as the continued implementation of his reforms.
    But Francis has been hobbled by the strained ligaments in his right knee that have made walking painful and difficult.    He has told friends he doesn’t want to undergo surgery, reportedly because of his reaction to anesthesia last July when he had 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his large intestine removed.
    This week, one of his closest advisers and friends, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, said talk of a papal resignation or the end of Francis’ pontificate was unfounded.
    “I think these are optical illusions, cerebral illusions,” Maradiaga told Religion Digital, a Spanish-language Catholic site.
    Christopher Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, noted that most Vatican watchers expect Francis will eventually resign, but not before Benedict dies.    The 95-year-old retired pope is physically frail but still alert and receiving occasional visitors in his home in the Vatican gardens.
    “He’s not going to have two former popes floating around,” Bellitto said in an email.    Referring to Francis' planned visit to L'Aquila, he suggested not reading too much into it, noting that Benedict’s gesture in 2009 was missed by most everyone.
    “I don’t recall a lot of stories at the time saying that Benedict’s visit in 2009 made us think he was going to resign,” he said, suggesting that Francis’ pastoral visit to l’Aquila might be just that: a pastoral visit.

6/5/2022 Pope Francis pleads with world leaders to ‘not lead humanity to ruin’ amid Ukraine war by Adam Schrader – UPI News
© Stefano Spaziani/UPI
    June 5 (UPI) -- Pope Francis on Sunday reiterated his calls for a diplomatic end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, pleading with world leaders to "not lead humanity to ruin."
    "I renew my appeal to those who govern nations: do not lead humanity to ruin.    Please!    Do not lead humanity to ruin!" Francis said Sunday after the recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer.
    "Carry out real negotiations, concrete talks for a ceasefire and for a sustainable solution.    Listen to the desperate cry of the people who are suffering.    We see it every day in the media.    Respect human life. Stop the macabre destruction of cities and villages everywhere."
    Friday marked the 100 days since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and the pontiff has been a vocal critic of the war since it began.
    "But today, 100 days from the invasion in beloved Ukraine, the nightmare of a new war has again fallen on humanity," he said.
    "This is the denial of God's dream: peoples who fight, peoples who kill each other, persons whom -- instead of growing closer -- are forced from their homes."
    Francis' comments throughout the invasion have stood in direct contrast to those made by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.
    Kirill, believed to have profited from his ties to Putin, escaped the latest round of European Union sanctions last week meant to punish Russia for the war in Ukraine, Fortune reported.
    "It is my firm belief that its initiators are not the peoples of Russia and Ukraine, who came from one Kyivan baptismal font, are united by common faith, common saints and prayers, and share common historical fate," Kirill said in a letter in March.
    "The origins of the confrontation lie in the relationships between the West and Russia.    By the 1990s Russia had been promised that its security and dignity would be respected.    However, as time went by, the forces overtly considering Russia to be their enemy came close to its borders."
    Russian missiles on Sunday targeted the Ukraine capital Kyiv for the first time since April 29.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blasted Russia on Sunday for the destruction of Skete of All Saints, the largest wooden church in Ukraine, which burned down in the Svyatohirsk Lavra in the Donetsk region after Russian shelling.
    Zelensky said that Russia has destroyed and damaged 113 churches including "ancient ones" that he said have "withstood World War II but did not withstand the Russian occupation."

6/6/2022 At least 50 feared dead in Nigeria attack - Gunmen also detonate explosives at Catholic church, abduct priest by Chinedu Asadu, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A view of St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state in Nigeria after gunmen opened fire and detonated
explosives there. It was not immediately known who was behind the attack. RAHAMAN A YUSUF/AP
    ABUJA, Nigeria – Gunmen opened fire on worshippers and detonated explosives at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria on Sunday, leaving dozens feared dead, state lawmakers said.
    The attackers targeted the St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state just as the worshippers gathered on Pentecost Sunday, legislator Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole said.    Among the dead were many children, he said.
    The presiding priest was abducted, as well, said Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents the Owo area in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber.
    “Our hearts are heavy,” Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu tweeted Sunday.
    “Our peace and tranquility have been attacked by the enemies of the people.”
    Authorities did not immediately release an official death toll.    Timileyin said at least 50 people had been killed, though others put the figure higher.    Videos appearing to be from the scene of the attack showed church worshippers lying in pools of blood while people around them wailed.
    Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said “only fiends from the nether region could have conceived and carried out such dastardly act,” according to a statement from his spokesman.
    “No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome light.    Nigeria will eventually win,” said Buhari, who was elected after vowing to end Nigeria’s prolonged security crisis.
    In Rome, Pope Francis responded to news of the attack.
    “The pope has learned of the attack on the church in Ondo, Nigeria and the deaths of dozens of worshippers, many children, during the celebration of Pentecost.    While the details are being clarified, Pope Francis prays for the victims and the country, painfully affected at a time of celebration, and entrusts them both to the Lord so that he may send his spirit to console them,” according to a statement issued by the Vatican press office.
    It was not immediately known who was behind the attack on the church.    Although much of Nigeria has struggled with security issues, Ondo is widely known as one of Nigeria’s most peaceful states.    The state, though, has been caught up in a rising violent conflict between farmers and herders.
    Nigeria’s security forces did not immediately respond to questions about how the attack occurred or if there are any leads about suspects.    Owo is about 215 miles east of Lagos.
    “In the history of Owo, we have never experienced such an ugly incident,” Oluwole said.    “This is too much.”

6/6/2022 Over 50 feared dead in Nigeria church attack, officials say
    ABUJA, Nigeria – Gunmen opened fire on worshippers and detonated explosives at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria on Sunday, leaving dozens feared dead, state lawmakers said.    Legislator Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole said the attackers targeted the St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state just as the worshipers gathered on Pentecost Sunday.    Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents the Owo area in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber, said the presiding priest was abducted as well and at least 50 people had been killed.

6/8/2022 Vatican shuffles top clergy in charge of Catholic Church's ethical investing practices by Timothy Nerozzi – Fox Business
© Franco Origlia/Getty Images
    The Holy See has announced the creation of an official Investment Committee for the Vatican – meant to prevent a repeat of the past decade of financial scandals that rocked the church.
    Cardinal Kevin Farrell of the United States is assuming the position of chairman for the committee, heading a team of financial professionals hired from inside and outside the Catholic Church.
    The committee will oversee and guide the investment of funds by the Holy See.    The body will be expected to ensure all investments and financial pursuits are ethical and in line with church morality.
    The Investment Committee will also include: RegHedge CEO Jean Pierre Casey, Boston College investment manager John Zona, SKAGEN Funds partner David Harris, and Union Investment Group head Giovanni Gay.
    The committee was approved for creation in Pope Francis's apostolic constitution Praedicate evangelium, which states the group will oversee now only the moral implications of Vatican finances, but also the appropriateness and risk considerations.
    Pope Francis has redoubled efforts to clean out the Vatican Bank after years of scandal related to improper investments and questionable connections to money laundering.
    American cardinals were among the most vocal in demanding a wholesale reform of the Vatican bureaucracy — and the Vatican bank — in the meetings running up to the March conclave that elected Francis pope.    The demands were raised following revelations in leaked documents that told of dysfunction, petty turf wars and allegations of corruption in the Holy See's governance.
    The Vatican bank was founded in 1942 by Pope Pius XII to manage assets destined for religious or charitable works. Located in a tower just inside the gates of Vatican City, it also manages the pension system for the Vatican's thousands of employees.
    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

6/8/2022 Same-sex marriage protections sought by Sam Metz, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    SALT LAKE CITY – As the nation awaits a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding a Mississippi law that calls for banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, LGBTQ advocates are pushing to codify protections for same-sex marriage in states throughout the country.
    Since the leak of a draft opinion alluded to the court potentially overturning abortion rights, concerns have grown over whether justices could next move to reverse other decisions that rely on the “right to privacy” that the court outlined in the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide nearly 50 years ago.
    The leaked opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, explicitly says the decision concerns abortion and no other rights.
    But legal experts have speculated that similar logic could be used to reverse other decisions, including Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case in which the court ruled same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional.
    “We need states across this country to say, ‘We see you.    You exist.    You deserve respect.    And you deserve protections, because your relationship is no different than any other,’” said Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the landmark case, who is now a Democratic candidate trying to become an Ohio state lawmaker.
    Before the Supreme Court struck down bans and legalized same-sex marriage, 31 states had enacted laws banning same-sex couples from marrying.    The laws have not been in effect since courts ruled them unconstitutional, but they remain on the books in most of those states.
    For years they were considered defunct and attracted little attention, but the shifting composition of the Supreme Court has led several states to remove them from their statutes and constitutions.    Virginia and Nevada repealed their defunct bans in 2020 and New Jersey codified marriage rights for same-sex couples in 2021.
    “We should all be worried about our other fundamental rights that have been obtained through the courts over the last decade or so,” said Utah state Sen. Derek Kitchen, a Democrat and the state’s only LGBTQ lawmaker said on the steps of the statehouse on Tuesday.
    Kitchen and New Jersey Assemblyman Don Guardian, a Republican, want more states to remove same-sex marriage bans from their laws and codify rights for LGBTQ couples to prepare for a scenario in which the Supreme Court decides to overturn the 2015 same-sex marriage decision.
    “I would very concerned for any state that doesn’t take up the same type of legislation now before the court rules (on abortion) so they can protect their LGBTQ+ residents that have gotten married,” said Guardian, who is gay.
    Though the New Jersey law passed with bipartisan support, similar moves to codify same-sex marriage rights could face uphill battles in Republican-led legislatures that have begun to revisit LGBTQ issues with newfound zeal.
    At least a dozen, including Utah, have passed laws limiting participation in sports for transgender youth.
    Kitchen likened the state bans to “trigger laws” that many GOP-led states enacted to prepare for a scenario in which Roe v. Wade is overturned and states can limit abortions.
    But he expressed optimism that same-sex marriage has been embraced widely enough in Utah that codifying protections for LGBTQ couples will win widespread support.
    “Utah is a family friendly state.    We support families we know how important it is to provide stable units for children to grow,” he said.
Jim Obergefell, left, speaks during a news conference as Utah Sen. Derek Kitchen,
D-Salt Lake City, right, looks on Tuesday in Salt Lake City. RICK BOWMER/AP

6/8/2022 Dozens Of Women File Tort Claims Against FBI Seeking More by OAN NEWSROOM
FILE – United States gymnasts from left, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, arrive to
testify during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Larry Nassar
investigation on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Washington. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP, File)
    Dozens of women filed federal tort claims against the FBI over it’s mishandling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced former USA gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar.
    The claims were reportedly filed Wednesday, on behalf of more than 90 women who were abused by Nassar and seek more than $1 billion in damages.    Among those seeking damages are Olympic winning gold medalist Simon Biles, Aly Raisman and Mckayla Maroney.
    “If the FBI had simply done it’s job, Nassar would have been stopped before he ever had the chance to abuse hundreds of girls, including me,” said former University of Michigan gymnast Samantha Roy.
    A report from the DOJ’s inspector general last year found the agency failed to act after agents received the first allegations against Nassar back in 2015.    FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged major mistakes.
    “I’m especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed," voiced Wray.    “That’s inexcusable.”
    At that same hearing, Biles shared that an “entire system” enabled the abuse.    Maroney recalled “dead silence” when she talked to FBI agents about Nassar.
    The Justice Department in May said that it would not pursue criminal charges against former agents who were accused of giving inaccurate or incomplete responses during the inspector general’s investigation.
    Michigan State University agreed to pay $500 million to more than 300 women and girls who were assaulted by Nassar.    USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee made a $380 million settlement.

6/8/2022 Colorado bishops pen letter of condemnation to Catholic politicians by Nick Wills – KDVR-TV Denver
© Provided by KDVR-TV Denver
    DENVER (KDVR) – Back in mid-March, a record-breaking debate ensued in the state house over HB22-1279, a bill that would solidify a woman’s right to an abortion in Colorado.
    After gaining approval in both chambers, the Reproductive Health Equity Act made its way to the governor’s desk, and on April 4, Governor Jared Polis put pen to paper, codifying it into law.
    Now, another group is putting their pens to paper in protest of the move they predict will turn Colorado into an abortion destination.
    According to a letter sent out on Tuesday by “the united voice of the Catholic Bishops of Colorado, who serve the Archdiocese of Denver and the Dioceses of Pueblo and Colorado Springs,” any Catholic senator or representative who voted in favor of HB22-1279’s passing is now encouraged to refrain from taking part in the sacrament of Eucharist.
    The passage of the Reproductive Health Equity Act was fast-tracked in response to the leaked Supreme Court Justice’s opinion that suggested the potential overturning of the longstanding federal abortion ruling set in Roe v. Wade was in the works.
    “It rests upon the consciences and souls of those politicians who have chosen to support this evil and unjust law.    We pray that this letter and our request to refrain from receiving Jesus in the Eucharist spurs sincere reflection and conversion in the hearts of those who have participated in allowing this grave act of injustice to become law,” the letter from the Colorado Bishops demanded.
    The letter also included a statement taken from a separate demand recently put out by U.S. bishops:
    "To receive the Body and Blood of Christ while in a state of mortal sin represents a contradiction.    The person who, by his or her own action, has broken communion with Christ and his Church but receives the Blessed Sacrament, acts incoherently, both claiming and rejecting communion at the same time.        It is thus a counter sign, a lie-it expresses a communion that in fact has been broken."
The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church – U.S. bishops
    The authors responsible for the letter includes the Archbishop of Denver Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, Bishop of Pueblo Reverend Stephen J. Berg, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver Reverend Jorge H. Rodriguez, and Bishop of Colorado Springs Reverend James R. Golka.
    “Until public repentance takes place and sacramental absolution is received in Confession, we ask that those Catholic legislators who live or worship in Colorado and who have voted for RHEA, to voluntarily refrain from receiving Holy Communion,” the letter reads.
    According to the group of Coloradan clergymen, attempts were made to communicate with several lawmakers, but responses were minimal.
    “This request is not one that we make lightly, but since it is our duty to safeguard the faith and care for the souls of all the faithful – including these politicians – we must make it,” the letter concluded.

6/9/2022 Mexican megachurch leader gets more than 16 years over abuse by Brian Melley, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Naasón Joaquín García, the former leader of the fundamentalist Mexico-based church La Luz del Mundo, sits during
his sentencing in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday. PHOTOS BY CAROLYN COLE/LOS ANGELES TIMES VIA AP, POOL
    LOS ANGELES – The leader of the Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo was sentenced Wednesday to more than 16 years in a California prison for sexually abusing female followers who said he made them his sex slaves.
    Naasón Joaquín García, 53, abruptly pleaded guilty last week in Los Angeles Superior Court to three felonies on the eve of a long-awaited trial.
    García, who is considered the “apostle” of Jesus Christ by his 5 million worldwide followers, used his spiritual sway to have sex with girls and young women who were told it would lead to their salvation – or damnation if they refused.
    “I never cease to be amazed at what people do in the name of religion and how many lives are ruined in the guise of a supreme being,” said Judge Ronald Coen, who called García a sexual predator.
    The sentence came after nearly three hours of emotional statements by five young women García had been charged with abusing.    They had once been his most devoted servants – even after the abuse began.    But in court they called him “evil” and a “monster,” “disgusting human waste” and the “antichrist.”
    “I worshipped my abuser,” said a woman identified as Jane Doe 4, who said she was his niece. “He used me over and over again like a sacrificial lamb taken to slaughter.”
    García, dressed in orange jail scrubs and wearing a surgical mask pulled under his glasses, didn’t turn to face the women. He sat upright and looked straight ahead with this hands shackled at his waist.
    García pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of forcible oral copulation involving minors and one count of a lewd act upon a child who was 15.    In exchange, prosecutors dropped 16 counts that included allegations of raping children and women, as well as human trafficking to produce child pornography.
    The victims objected to the plea deal, saying they only learned about it at the last minute and were not consulted.    They implored Coen to impose a stiffer sentence but he said his hands were tied by the agreement.
    “The world has heard you,” he told the five weeping Jane Does and their supporters.    “I promise you that.”
    The church, which is also known as the Light of the World, said in a statement that García pleaded guilty because he didn’t think he could get a fair trial after prosecutors withheld or doctored evidence.    The agreement would allow him to be freed sooner.
    “The Apostle of Jesus Christ has had no choice but to accept with much pain that the agreement presented is the best way forward to protect the church and his family,” the church said.
    Patricia Fusco, supervising deputy attorney general, tearfully praised the victims for their bravery in standing up to García and his followers who have rallied around him and shamed the young women.    She said their courage had saved others’ lives.
    “They trusted him.    They thought he was basically God on Earth,” Fusco said of the victims.    “We know, of course, he’s not God.    Not even close. … Anyone who still believes he’s God is complicit and they’re supporting a child molester.”
    Prosecutors said he used his spiritual sway to have sex with female followers and was aided by others in the church who groomed the women and facilitated the abuse.
    The women said they were called angels and were told they were García’s property.
    “They reminded me I must serve the Lord without question,” said Jane Doe 5, who described how she was told to dance in lingerie for García and it quickly escalated to painfully losing her virginity.
    Defense lawyers had said prosecutors were operating under a far-fetched legal theory that García used spiritual coercion for sexual pleasure.
    “It is a fantasy seemingly invented out of whole cloth,” defense attorney Alan Jackson wrote in a court filing.
    But prosecutors said the victims were essentially brainwashed by García and felt they would be ostracized by the insular church community if they didn’t submit to his desires.
Patricia Fusco, supervising deputy attorney general, lowers her head as victims of
Naasón Joaquín García speak of the plea deal in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday

6/10/2022 Latest from Mormon Land: Could an LDS politician be ‘Pelosi-ed’ and barred from the sacrament? by David Noyce – Salt Lake Tribune
© Provided by Salt Lake Tribune
    The Mormon Land newsletter is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Support us on Patreon and get exclusive access to Tribune subscriber-only religion content, extended newsletters, podcast transcripts and more.
Nancy Pelosi, abortion and the sacrament
    The Catholic archbishop of San Francisco has barred House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Communion over the California Democrat’s public support of abortion rights.
    That begs a question: Could, or should, a Latter-day Saint bishop do the same if one of his congregants, perhaps an elected leader, adopts a vocal stance on the volatile issue that runs contrary to church teachings?
    The faith’s lay leaders can, of course, forbid members from taking the sacrament (as Latter-day Saints call it) for disciplinary purposes.    But doing so for taking a public position on abortion, it seems, would be a stretch.
    For starters, the church’s policy, as enumerated in the General Handbook, already allows for “possible exceptions” that would permit abortions.
    More to the point, the faith’s statement on political neutrality acknowledges that elected Latter-day Saints may, at times, stand on opposite sides from their religion.
    “Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated church position,” the statement reads.    “While the church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.”
    On other hot-button issues — including same-sex marriage — apostle D. Todd Christofferson has said that members have “a variety of different opinions, beliefs and positions on these issues.”
    A member’s standing in the church “doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders,” he said, “if that’s a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines.”
    Even so, warned Wheat & Tares blogger Dave B., “there is nothing to prevent an activist and conservative LDS bishop from taking disciplinary action against an LDS elected official who is a member of the bishop’s congregation based on public statements about abortion, despite the limited scope of the LDS abortion policy and the previous tacit hands-off policy of the church.”
This week’s podcast: ‘Soft swinging’ and LDS sexuality
© Provided by Salt Lake Tribune (Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)
    A woman who has been part of the Mormon MomTok network recently told her millions of followers that she was getting divorced.    The reason?    She said she and her husband had participated in what she called “soft swinging.”
    Though unverified, the video went viral and has been reported widely — and salaciously — on social media.    Many questions remain about the story, but whether true or not, it does shine a light on the church and its teachings about sexuality in marriage.
Related video: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building Florida's 3rd temple in Tallahassee
    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building Florida's 3rd temple in Tallahassee
    On this week’s show, Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, a licensed therapist in Chicago who specializes in working with Latter-day Saint couples on sexuality and relationship issues, discusses those issues and more.
What church leaders should be addressing but aren’t
    Top Latter-day Saint leaders face a lot of issues in overseeing a global faith of 16.8 million members.    They have to weigh doctrines (think the plan of salvation), policies (such as the 2015 LGBTQ policy and its 2019 reversal) and practices (like the two-hour Sunday meeting block).
    Needless to say, not all the challenges will be met.    Apostle Jeffrey Holland acknowledged as much in the latest General Conference.
    “If some are not resolved to the satisfaction of everyone,” he said, “perhaps they constitute part of the cross Jesus said we would have to take up in order to follow him.”
    But some important issues need to be confronted, argues Ziff, the pen name for a writer at the Zelophehad’s Daughters website.
    Here are questions the blogger believes should be top of mind for Latter-day Saint leaders:
    Ziff wonders if these “pressing” concerns would be more readily addressed if the faith’s top brass were more diverse.
    “It needs to include women, and people who have had different life experiences (no more business executives for a while, please),” the writer says, “and a greater racial diversity, and greater age diversity (maybe 72 would be a good retirement age) and people from different economic circumstances.”

6/10/2022 Report Reveals Sharp Rise in Transgender Young People in the U.S. by Azeen Ghorayshi – The New York Times
© Erik McGregor/LightRocket, via Getty Images
    About 1.6 million people in the United States are transgender, and 43 percent of them are young adults or teenagers, according to a new report providing the most recent national estimates of this population.
    The analysis, relying on government health surveys conducted from 2017 to 2020, estimated that 1.4 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds and 1.3 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds were transgender, compared with about 0.5 percent of all adults.
    Those figures revealed a significant rise among younger people: The estimate of transgender people 13 to 25 nearly doubled since the researchers’ previous report, published in 2017, though the reports used different methods.
    The data point to a stark generational shift. Young people increasingly have the language and social acceptance to explore their gender identities, experts said, whereas older adults may feel more constrained. But the numbers, which vary widely from state to state, also raise questions about the role of peer influence or the political climate of the community.
    “It’s developmentally appropriate for teenagers to explore all facets of their identity — that is what teenagers do,” said Dr. Angela Goepferd, medical director of the Gender Health Program at Children’s Minnesota hospital, who was not involved in the new analysis.    “And, generationally, gender has become a part of someone’s identity that is more socially acceptable to explore.”
    Dr. Goepferd, who is nonbinary, noted that many teenagers would not necessarily want or need medications or surgeries to transition to another gender, as was typical of older generations.
    The surveys, created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not ask younger teenagers about nonbinary or other gender identities, which also have been rising in recent years.    But nearly one-quarter of the adults in the surveys who said they were transgender identified as “gender nonconforming,” meaning they did not identify as a transgender man or woman.
    “We as a culture just need to lean into the fact that there is gender diversity among us,” Dr. Goepferd said.    “And that it doesn’t mean that we need to treat it medically in all cases, but it does mean that we as a society need to make space for that.”
    The new data were analyzed by researchers at the Williams Institute, a research center at the University of California, Los Angeles law school that produces highly regarded reports on the demographics, behaviors and policy concerns of L.G.B.T.Q. populations in the United States.
    Teenagers made up a disproportionately large share of the transgender population, the study found.    While younger teenagers were just 7.6 percent of the total U.S. population, they accounted for roughly 18 percent of transgender people.    Likewise, 18- to 24 year-olds made up 11 percent of the total population but 24 percent of the transgender population.
    Older adults had a disproportionately small share: Though 62 percent of the total population, only 47 percent of transgender people were 25 to 64.    And while 20 percent of Americans are over 65, that age group makes up only 10 percent of the total number of transgender people nationwide.
    The Williams Institute used data from two national sources: the C.D.C.’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, administered to adults across the country, and its Youth Risk Behavior Survey, given in high schools.    The surveys, which were either conducted over the phone or in person, collect data on demographics as well as a variety of medical and behavioral information, such as smoking habits, H.I.V. status, nutrition and exercise.
    Starting in 2017, the high school survey included an optional question asking if the student was transgender.    From 2017 to 2020, 15 states included this question in their high school surveys, while 41 states included the question for adults at least once in that time period.
    The Williams Institute used this data, along with statistical modeling of demographic and geographic variables, to arrive at its estimates of the transgender population nationwide.
Transgender people still face barriers to competent health care
    “It’s important to know that trans people live everywhere in the United States and trans people are a part of communities across the country,” said Jody Herman, senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute and the lead author of the report.    “We use the best available data, but we need more and better data all the time.”
    The U.S. Census Bureau began asking questions about sexual orientation and gender identity only last year, part of a new data collection effort.    And even national suicide statistics — important in the study of this vulnerable population — do not have information about sexuality or gender identity.
    “There is no one who knows how many trans people or how many gay people or bisexual people died of suicide this past year,” said Amit Paley, head of The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention group that recently released its own report based on social media polling, showing that young L.G.B.T.Q. people had high rates of mental health issues and suicidal thoughts.
    “That data does not exist because it is not collected by the government in death records,” Mr. Paley said.    “It’s something we are working to try to change.”
    When their previous report was published in 2017, the Williams Institute researchers did not have actual survey data for younger teenagers, instead using statistical modeling to extrapolate based on adult data.    At the time, they estimated 150,000 transgender teens in the country, or roughly 0.7 percent of teens.
    With the inclusion of the new high school survey data added in 2017, that estimate has now doubled to 300,000.
    It is not clear whether that jump reflects inaccuracies in the previous estimate, a true increase in the number of transgender adolescents, or both.
    “That’s the bewildering question of why this is all happening,” Dr. Herman said.
    The racial makeup of transgender adults and transgender teens was roughly the same.    About half of both groups were white, slightly less than the relative number of white people in the general population, and a disproportionately large number of each group identified as Latino.
    The data also show the distribution of trans people by state.    New York has the largest estimated population of transgender teenagers, at 3 percent, whereas Wyoming has the lowest, at 0.6 percent.    Transgender adults showed a narrower range, with 0.9 percent of adults identifying as transgender in North Carolina and 0.2 percent in Missouri.
    The adolescent numbers were based on surveys collected in 15 states: Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont and Wisconsin.    The researchers then used that survey data to create a model of how state and individual characteristics affect the probability of being transgender.    Using that model, along with demographic data from the census, they made estimates for the other 35 states and Washington, D.C. Experts who work with transgender teenagers agreed that certain social factors would unquestionably play a role in their identities, just as they did decades ago when gay and lesbian people were coming out in large numbers for the first time.
    “It signifies a new confidence among a new generation to be authentic in their gender identity,” said Phillip Hammack, a professor of psychology and director of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz.    “I think we did see something very similar — we just maybe didn’t have the exact numbers to back it up — as we saw more visibility around labeling oneself as gay, lesbian, bisexual back in the nineties.”
    Recent Gallup polling data also analyzed by the Williams Institute shows that young adults also make up a disproportionately large part of the total L.G.B.T.Q. population in the United States, which similarly varies state to state.
    Social media has been a significant catalyst for teenagers questioning their gender identities today.
    “I think a big part of it is definitely the internet,” said Indigo Giles, a 20-year-old college student in Austin who has protested against the state of Texas’s abuse investigations of parents of transgender children.
    Mx. Giles said they realized they were nonbinary after finding a community of like-minded people on Tumblr.    “People who have maybe been having these feelings for a long time, but haven’t had the words to put to them, finally can see, in such a readily accessible way, others that feel the same,” they said.
    And conversely, it may be much more difficult for older people to explore their gender identities later in life.
    Dr. Hammack described a person he interviewed who talked about how difficult it was to come out as nonbinary in their fifties because “we look around, and everybody’s so young.”    And others who identified as masculine or butch lesbians, he said, have told him, “If I was that young, maybe I would have gone down that path, but it wasn’t available.”
    Dr. Goepferd, of Children’s Hospital Minnesota, pointed to another possible reason for the smaller proportion of older transgender people: Because of lower access to health care, along with high rates of violence and suicide, transgender people are more likely to die at younger ages.
    “The harsh reality is we don’t have trans elders because they didn’t survive,” they said.
    If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273-TALK (8255), text "help" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to

6/11/2022 Texas trans investigations blocked - Judge rules against state in lawsuit from families by Andrew DeMillo, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Maeve Calvin, 19, and her mother, Alisa Miller, participate in a rally at the Texas Capitol in Austin
to protest legislation targeting gender-affirming medical care for those under 18 and barring transgender
student-athletes from participating in sports under their gender identity. JAY JANNER/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
    A Texas judge on Friday temporarily blocked the state from investigating families of transgender children who have received gender-confirming medical care, a new obstacle to the state labeling such treatments as child abuse.
    The temporary restraining order issued by Judge Jan Soifer halts investigations against three families who sued, and prevents any similar investigations against members of the LGBTQ advocacy group PFLAG Inc.    The group has more than 600 members in Texas.
    “I do find that there is sufficient reason to believe that the plaintiffs will suffer immediate and irreparable injury if the commissioner and the (Department of Family and Protective Services) are allowed to continue to implement and enforce this new Department rule that equates gender affirming care with child abuse,” Soifer said at the end of a roughly 40-minute hearing.
    The ruling comes about a month after the Texas Supreme Court allowed the state to investigate parents of transgender youth for child abuse while also ruling in favor of one family that was among the first contacted by child welfare officials following the order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
    “That families will be protected from invasive, unnecessary, and unnerving investigations by DFPS simply for helping their transgender children thrive and be themselves is a very good thing,” Brian K. Bond, executive director of PFLAG National, said in a statement.    “However, let’s be clear: These investigations into loving and affirming families shouldn’t be happening in the first place.”
    The latest challenge was brought by Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the families of three teenage boys – two 16-year-olds and a 14-year-old – and PFLAG.    An attorney for Lambda Legal told the judge that the 14-year-old’s family had learned after the lawsuit’s filing that the state’s investigation into them had been dropped.
    Spokespeople for Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.
    An attorney for the state had argued during the hearing that applying the order to any member of PFLAG was “untenable” and would be difficult for the department to comply with.    But Lambda Legal senior counsel Paul Castillo said that parents could simply show their membership receipt or some other proof of membership.
    The families had talked in court filings about the anxiety that the investigations had created for them and their children.
    The mother of one of the teens said her son attempted suicide and was hospitalized the day Abbott issued his directive.    The outpatient psychiatric facility where the teen was referred reported the family for child abuse after learning he had been prescribed hormone therapy, she said in a court filing.
    A judge in March put Abbott’s order on hold after a lawsuit brought on behalf of a 16-year-old girl whose family said it was under investigation.    The Texas Supreme Court in May ruled that the lower court overstepped its authority by blocking all investigations going forward.
    That lawsuit marked the first report of parents being investigated following Abbott’s directive and an earlier nonbinding legal opinion by Paxton labeling certain gender-confirming treatments as “child abuse.”    The Texas Department of Family and Protective Service has said it opened nine investigations following the directive and opinion.
    Abbott’s directive and the attorney general’s opinion go against the nation’s largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which have opposed Republican-backed restrictions filed in statehouses nationwide.

6/11/2022 KC church responds to hate with larger pride display by Heidi Schmidt – WDAF-TV Kansa City
© Provided by WDAF-TV Kansas City
    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City church vandalized last month invites the community to be a part of its recovery.
    Kansas City United Church of Christ plans to hold a party Saturday morning to repaint a rainbow flag on its marquee.
    The flag had been on the marquee for decades, showing the church’s love and acceptance for all LGBTQIA+ people.
    The church said someone vandalized the flag by painting over it one night in May.
    "We've been out and proud in celebrating the lives and love of all people – including our LGBTQIA+ friends and family – since 1997.    A little paint is not going to change the way we embrace God's love in the world," Jessica Palys, Pastor, said.
    Palys said the church considers the vandalism bullying and is part of an increase in the nationwide persecution of people who simply want to be accepted for being themselves.
    "Safe spaces are incredibly important to LGBTQIA+ youth and adults, and yet these spaces are under attack – not only from misguided individual acts but even from state-sponsored discrimination that has picked up at a frightening pace, endangering the lives and well-being of LGBTQIA+ people, especially young people," Palys said.
    In addition to the rainbow decal on the marquee, the church plans to also add an updated Pride Flag with symbols embracing diversity, inclusion, and Intersex people to its lawn Saturday.    The new display will face the Trolley Trail.
Hazing incident leaves Mizzou student unable to see, talk or walk
    "We are proud of our welcome and our church family's witness to God's all-encompassing love in the world," Palys said.    "And now, more than ever, it's important for our KC community to know that our congregation, as well as many other congregations in Kansas City, are safe spaces for people to live fully into the person God created in them.    You are not excluded from the love of God or from belonging to an accepting faith community.    You are welcome and you belong here."
    Saturday’s event is open to all.    It begins at 10 a.m. at the church located at 205 W. 65th Street in Kansas City, Missouri.
    The church said it will also be at the KC Pride Fest Sunday as part of the Heartland Open and Affirming Coalition.

6/12/2022 Pope Names San Diego Cleric Dolan to Replace Conservative Bishop of Phoenix by Times of San Diego
© Provided by Times of San Diego
    Pope Francis announced Friday that he has named Bishop John Dolan, auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, as the new bishop of Phoenix — a “seismic shift” according to one theologian.
    “My heart is filled with joy on this day as Pope Francis appoints me to serve as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix,” Dolan said in a statement.    “I cannot begin to express my thanks to God for his goodness to me throughout my life and I enter this new chapter with a renewed commitment to love and serve the Lord and His Church with my whole heart, soul, and strength."
    Besides thanking God and his family and fellow priests and parishioners, Dolan said he was particularly grateful to Cardinal-designate Robert McElroy of San Diego and Auxiliary Bishop Ramon Bejarano.
    “Finally, I am truly grateful to God for Bishop Thomas Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares who have warmly welcomed me to the Diocese of Phoenix.    Please pray for all three of us as we journey together on mission in Christ!
    In his own statement, McElroy said: “I rejoice in the Holy Father’s appointment of Bishop John Dolan as Bishop of Phoenix.    He is a man of deep faith, pastoral wisdom and enormous energy.    In addition, there is a profound joy in his soul that reflects the grace of God and the wonderful love of his parents and family.”
    Dolan, a Spanish speaker, will succeed Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, whose resignation was accepted effective Friday, after turning 75, the usual age of retirement for bishops.
    Dolan’s appointment would signal a change in ideology for the Arizona diocese.
    Olmsted has garnered a reputation as a staunch theological and political conservative, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
    In recent years, Olmsted has headlined the conservative-run National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, backed calls for pro-choice Catholic politicians to not receive Communion and supported religious-based exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccines, despite the Vatican and Francis’ support for those vaccines, the Reporter said.
    As an auxiliary bishop, Dolan has been an advocate of migrants and has done pastoral work with LGBTQ Catholics.    He served at St. John the Evangelist parish in Hillcrest, where he said he was “profoundly moved by members of that community.”
    Dolan also served as a spiritual advisor to the Lost Boys of Sudan and other refugees.
    At a news conference in Phoenix, Dolan spoke against “drawing a line in the sand.”
    “I’m really a person who likes to dialogue rather than shut things down,” he said.    “I think we are a better church when we have an open heart.”
    Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the nation and the Diocese of Phoenix serves 1.2 million Catholics.
    Dolan, 60, was named auxiliary bishop of San Diego in April 2017 after he had been the pastor of six parishes within the diocese.    He was ordained a priest of the diocese in July 1989 by Bishop Leo T. Maher.
    He began as an associate pastor at St. Michael’s parish in Paradise Hills before serving at Santa Sophia in Spring Valley, St. Rose of Lima in Chula Vista, St. Mary Star of the Sea in Oceanside and at St. Michael’s parish in Poway, St. John the Evangelist and St. Vincent de Paul parishes in Hillcrest and Mission Hills.
    He is the seventh of nine children in his family, born to Catherine and Gerald Dolan.
    “For the Church of San Diego and for me personally, Bishop Dolan’s departure will be a great loss," McElroy said.
    Dolan, a native of San Diego, joked in a Phoenix press conference that he would have to get rid of his coats and wear shorts.
    “Happily, I like the desert,” he said.

6/13/2022 Report finds 196 clerics abused minors in German diocese by Associate Press
© Provided by Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — A report released Monday found that at least 196 clerics in the German Catholic diocese of Muenster sexually abused minors between 1945 and 2020, adding to findings from other dioceses that have shaken the church in the country.
    The study, commissioned by the diocese in western Germany and carried out over 2˝ years by a team from the University of Muenster, pointed to a “massive leadership failure” during the tenures of the diocese's bishops between 1947 and 2008, with officials covering up scandals or making only superficial interventions, according to a statement from the university summarizing the findings.
    “The bishops and other officials in the diocesan leadership were in some cases extensively in the know” about the abuse, co-author Thomas Grossboelting said.
    The 196 allegedly abusive clerics account for about 4% of all priests in the diocese between 1945 and 2020.    About 5% of those were “serial” abusers, responsible for more than 10 acts each, the authors found.    They said there were at least 610 victims, but the real figure is likely eight to 10 times higher.
    Most of the priests suspected of abuse were merely moved rather than having their pastoral duties curtailed, the study found.
    The researchers said they were granted unhindered access to church files and spoke with numerous victims.
    Muenster Bishop Felix Genn, who said he hasn't yet seen the study and plans to respond on Friday, apologized in a statement to victims of abuse and of cover-ups by church officials.    But he acknowledged that an apology “is not enough” and vowed “further consequences” in dealing with abuse.
    In 2018, a church-commissioned report concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014.    More than half of the victims were 13 or younger, and nearly a third served as altar boys.
    The study in Muenster is one of several since then that have delved into decades of abuse in individual dioceses, their findings adding to pressure for church reform.
    In January, a report commissioned by the Munich archdiocese faulted the handling of abuse cases there by a string of church officials past and present — including retired Pope Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982.
    On Monday, the diocese of Essen said that a priest who had been convicted of abusing dozens of children in the 1970s and 1980s has been removed from the clergy.    The man, who was only identified by the initial “H," was denied permission to practice as a priest in 2010.

6/14/2022 Report: Clerics in Germany abused minors - Study points to ‘leadership failure’ by ASSOCIATED PRESS
In January, a report commissioned by the Munich archdiocese faulted the handling of abuse cases
there by a string of church officials past and present – including retired Pope Benedict XVI, who as
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982. PLINIO LEPRI/AP FILE
    BERLIN – A report released Monday found that at least 196 clerics in the German Catholic diocese of Muenster sexually abused minors between 1945 and 2020, adding to findings from other dioceses that have shaken the church in the country.
    The study, commissioned by the diocese in western Germany and carried out over 2 1/ 2 years by a team from the University of Muenster, pointed to a “massive leadership failure” during the tenures of the diocese’s bishops between 1947 and 2008, with officials covering up scandals or making only superficial interventions, according to a statement from the university summarizing the findings.
    “The bishops and other officials in the diocesan leadership were in some cases extensively in the know” about the abuse, co-author Thomas Grossboelting said.    The 196 allegedly abusive clerics account for about 4% of all priests in the diocese between 1945 and 2020.    About 5% of those were “serial” abusers, responsible for more than 10 acts each, the authors found.    They said there were at least 610 victims, but the real figure is likely eight to 10 times higher.
    Most of the priests suspected of abuse were merely moved rather than having their pastoral duties curtailed, the study found.
    The researchers said they were granted unhindered access to church files and spoke with numerous victims.
    Muenster Bishop Felix Genn, who said he hasn’t yet seen the study and plans to respond on Friday, apologized in a statement to victims of abuse and of cover-ups by church officials.    But he acknowledged that an apology “is not enough” and vowed “further consequences” in dealing with abuse.
    In 2018, a church-commissioned report concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014.    More than half of the victims were 13 or younger, and nearly a third served as altar boys.
    The study in Muenster is one of several since then that have delved into decades of abuse in individual dioceses, their findings adding to pressure for church reform.
    In January, a report commissioned by the Munich archdiocese faulted the handling of abuse cases there by a string of church officials past and present – including retired Pope Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982.
    On Monday, the diocese of Essen said that a priest who had been convicted of abusing dozens of children in the 1970s and 1980s has been removed from the clergy.
    The man, who was only identified by the initial “H,” was denied permission to practice as a priest in 2010.
    The study in Muenster is one of several since then that have delved into decades of abuse in individual dioceses, their findings adding to pressure for church reform.

6/14/2022 Southern Baptists who backed open abuse review win key roles - Defeated candidates had opposed the move by Deepa Bharath and Peter Smith, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee,
speaks during the Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Monday. JOHN MCCOY/THE TENNESSEAN
    ANAHEIM, California – The newly elected leaders of a top Southern Baptist Convention committee had all supported a more transparent investigation into allegations the denomination mishandled sex abuse reports and mistreated survivors.    They defeated candidates who had opposed that move.
    Members of the Executive Committee picked Texas pastor Jared Wellman as chair, South Carolina pastor David Sons as vice chair and Pamela Reed, a retired nurse from North Carolina, as secretary during a meeting Monday in Anaheim.
    All three winners supported waiving the top administrative body’s attorney client privilege for the outside investigation by independent firm, Guidepost Solutions.    Their challengers – Indiana pastor Andrew Hunt, Louisiana minister Philip Robertson and Missouri pastor Monte Shinkle – opposed it.
    Last year, the Executive Committee was embroiled in a heated debate about the issue, disagreeing over whether to allow investigators access to memos between lawyers and committee staff members.    Ultimately those who supported granting the access prevailed in October.
    It remains to be seen if their victory Monday foretells what is ahead for the SBC, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.    It is holding its annual meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Anaheim, where more than 8,000 local church delegates – known as messengers – are expected to elect a new president and decide whether to enact sex abuse reforms.
    A blistering 288-page report by Guidepost, released May 22 after a seven-month investigation, detailed how Executive Committee members and staff had mishandled abuse cases, stonewalled numerous survivors and prioritized protecting the SBC from liability.
    The Executive Committee’s election of new officers appeared to signal a willingness to follow through on the Guidepost investigation.
    The committee’s new chairperson, Wellman, who was elected with nearly two-thirds of a vote, had been a part of last year’s push, enabling Guidepost to do a more robust investigation – a move that proved to be crucial to the outside firm’s work.
    Both Wellman and Sons said during a Monday news conference that they were reluctant to interpret what their election means for SBC’s future.    Both agreed that waiving attorney-client privilege was a key moment for the committee and the SBC.
    “The information we’ve learned (because of the waiver) has been eye-opening to many,” Wellman said.
    Sons said he supported waiving attorney-client privilege because he “wanted to do what was right and carry out the will of the messengers.”
    The Guidepost report revealed that committee staff had for years secretly maintained a database of accused church staff members, despite claiming publicly that maintaining such a list would violate churches’ right to self-governance.    The committee subsequently made the list public.
    Two of the three candidates defeated in Monday’s elections – Robertson and Shinkle – were state chapter leaders of the Conservative Baptist Network, a group seeking to pull the conservative denomination even further to the right.
    But the Executive Committee’s votes aren’t necessarily a signal for how the overall annual meeting of church representatives will vote.
    The Conservative Baptist Network has mobilized behind assertions that the SBC is drifting left on matters such as theology and racial ideology – claims that are in dispute across the convention.    The CBN has endorsed Florida pastor Tom Ascol in an election for SBC president that will also feature Texas pastor Bart Barber.
    During Monday’s meeting, Willie McLaurin, the Executive Committee’s interim president and CEO, said “there is no network of churches without their share of challenges.”
    “Challenges are opportunities for God to move us from our comfort zone to our creativity zone,” he said, stressing the need for the denomination to unify and find solutions.
    SBC president Ed Litton, whose successor will be chosen this week, said he believes the denomination will move in the right direction.
    “We can trust the people to ultimately do what is wise and right,” he said.

6/14/2022 Pope says traditionalist Catholics "gag" church reforms by Associated Press
© Provided by Associated Press
    ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has complained that traditionalist Catholics, particularly in the United States, are “gagging” the church’s modernizing reforms and insisted that there was no turning back.
    Francis told a gathering of Jesuit editors in comments published Tuesday that he was convinced that some Catholics simply have never accepted the Second Vatican Council, the meetings of the 1960s that led to Mass being celebrated in the vernacular rather than Latin and revolutionized the church’s relations with people of other faiths, among other things.
    “The number of groups of ‘restorers’ – for example, in the United States there are many – is significant,” Francis told the editors, according to excerpts published by the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica.
    “Restorationism has come to gag the council,” he said, adding that he knew some priests for whom the 16th century Council of Trent was more memorable than the 20th century Vatican II.
President Michael D Higgins meets Pope Francis in a private audience in the Vatican
    Traditionalists have become some of Francis’ fiercest critics, accusing him of heresy for his opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, outreach to gay Catholics and other reforms.    Francis has taken an increasingly hard line against them, re-imposing restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass and taking specific action in dioceses and religious orders where traditionalists have resisted his reforms.
    Just last week, in a meeting with Sicilian clergy, Francis told the priests that it wasn't always appropriate to use “grandma's lace” in their vestments and to update their liturgical garb to be in touch with current times and follow in the spirit of Vatican II.
    “It is also true that it takes a century for a council to take root.    We still have forty years to make it take root, then!” he told the editors.
    Speaking about the church in Germany, Francis also warned that he still had an offer of resignation in hand for the archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who faced strong criticism for his handling of the church’s sexual abuse scandal.
    Francis gave Woelki a “time out” of several months last September, but still hasn’t definitively ruled on his future.    That has kept the situation in Cologne uncertain and frustrated the head of the German bishops’ conference, who has pressed for a decision one way or the other.
    “When the situation was very turbulent, I asked the archbishop to go away for six months, so that things would calm down and I could see clearly,” Francis said.    “When he came back, I asked him to write a resignation letter.    He did and gave it to me.    And he wrote an apology letter to the diocese.    I left him in his place to see what would happen, but I have his resignation in hand.”

6/16/2022 Biden signs executive order to address conversion therapy, anti-LGBTQ bills by Rebecca Morin and Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY
© Patrick Semansky, AP
    WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order aimed at supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community whose rights he said are increasingly under attack.
Why states around the US have introduced measures like Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill
    “My message to all the young people: Just be you," Biden said at a rainbow-colored White House event that was part of a celebration of Pride Month.    "I want you to know that, as your president, all of us on this stage have your back."
    Biden was introduced by Javier Gomez, an 18-year-old Floridian who helped organize statewide student walkouts over over the Parental Rights in Education law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in March.    Dubbed "Don't say Gay" by critics, the legislation bans teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity between kindergarten through third grade.
    Gomez said the "hateful legislation" means students won't be able to get the kind of support he received from his fifth-grade teacher when he was trying to understand his identity.
    At least 20 states have passed measures involving gender-affirming health care, sports participation, or discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an independent think tank in Boulder, Colorado.
    Jenny Pizer, acting chief legal officer for Lambda Legal, said Biden’s actions clarify what actions are not allowed and demonstrates that the administration is paying attention to laws like Florida’s and to a state order in Texas to investigate families of transgender children who have received gender-confirming medical care.
    “Having additional clarity from the federal government, and the attention from the federal government, can reinforce to the state actors,” Pizer said, “that this discriminatory targeting of transgender young people and their families is unlawful.”
    The order also encourages the Federal Trade Commission to consider whether “so-called conversion therapy” constitutes an unfair or deceptive practice and whether to issue consumer warnings on services about it.
    Biden is also calling on the Department of Education to release a sample school policy for achieving full inclusion for LGBTQ students.
'An out gay woman': Karine Jean-Pierre hopes to empower LGBTQ youth as White House press secretary
    In an effort to address mental health in LGBTQ youth, Biden will expand access to suicide prevention resources.    Biden is also launching a new initiative through the executive order to address discrimination and barriers that LGBTQ children and parents face in foster care.
    The executive order will also strengthen federal data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity among LGBTQ homelessness and housing insecurity, as well as access to health care.
'DIGNITY AND RESPECT': How Joe Biden became the most LGBTQ-friendly president in U.S. history
    Naomi Goldberg, a deputy director of the Movement Advancement Project, commended Biden for directing agencies to act. But the real work, she said, will be in making sure change happens quickly to both address current attacks and end longer-term disparities.
    "Advocates of LGBTQ youth, in particular, will need to be vigilant to be sure that this exploration turns into action," Goldberg said of Biden's directive to the Department of Health and Human Services to consider ways to clarify that federally-funded programs cannot offer conversion therapy.
    This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden signs executive order to address conversion therapy, anti-LGBTQ bills

6/16/2022 Pope cracks down on new Catholic religious start-ups by NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press
© Provided by Associated Press
    ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has taken another step to reign in new religious groups in the Catholic Church after their unregulated proliferation in recent decades led to abuses in governance that allowed spiritual and sexual misconduct to go unchecked.
    Francis issued a new decree published Wednesday that requires prior Vatican approval for bishops to erect new associations of the faithful, often the first step in the creation of a new apostolic society or institute of consecrate life.
    The decree follows a similar one issued in 2020 that required prior Vatican approval for diocesan-level religious orders, suggesting the Vatican was now cracking down even further to better regulate the origins of these new forms of religious life and take the decisions about them out of the hands of local bishops.
    Francis has taken a series of disciplinary and regulatory actions in recent years after some founders and leaders of religious orders and new lay institutes turned out to be religious frauds who sexually and spiritually abused their members.
    Some groups have been suppressed; others have been taken over by the Vatican for periods of reform while all have become subject to greater Vatican oversight.
    In 2021, the Vatican also imposed term limits on the leaders of lay movements, which proliferated following the second Vatican Council in the 1960s as a new way for rank-and-file Catholics to get involved in the church beyond typical parish life.    The Vatican said the term limits were necessary to prevent personality cults from arising around charismatic leaders.
© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis arrives to his weekly general audience
in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
    One lay group targeted by the new reform was Communion and Liberation, an influential group in Italy that has a consecrated branch with a few members who help run the household of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.
    Just this week, the head of the Vatican’s laity office, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, wrote to Carron’s successor complaining that Carron and his followers were still exercising influence against the Vatican’s reforms.    According to a copy of the letter, Farrell faulted what he said was the “false doctrine” Carron promoted, claiming the unique spirit of the group passed from the founder through leaders like himself.
© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis attends his weekly general audience
in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
    Farrell said Communion and Liberation's new leadership must accept the Vatican’s line and “recognize the problems and review the teachings, practices, methods of government and internal organization forms that were shown to be inadequate or even harmful.”
© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis arrives to his weekly general audience
in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

6/16/2022 Goodbye to Christian culture and all that by Gabriel Rochelle Las Cruses SunNews
    As I have maintained previously, white Anglo-Saxon male Protestantism has been the dominant force in American Christianity. with all other forms in the shadows.    Protestantism has deteriorated significantly, however, since the salad days of the first half of the 20th century, when presidents consulted deep thinkers like Reinhold Niebuhr.
    In their wake we got Billy Graham, who pushed an agenda of naive Christian nationalism that has grown to major proportions.    Graham recognized that the direction evangelical Christianity was headed during the Reagan years was misguided, but it was a bit late.    Graham had sought out leaders who were committed to what he perceived as Christian renewal, whereas today such renewal is tied to a political agenda that Graham would have foresworn.
    Today, newspapers report on Christian faith as if the only committed people, indeed the only Christianity, is right wing.    Outliers to the norm (Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Christian Orthodox) are marginalized and what sanity we bring to the table is overshadowed by non-denominational pundits like the aged Pat Robertson and his ilk, who pretend out of ignorance or claim out of arrogance to be banner bearers of the true faith.
    In my ministry, I sought to have Christianity recognized as a legitimate and intelligent philosophical and spiritual option even though the surrounding voices are overwhelming.    The depth of the tradition is lost when people do not know the history of the faith, an ignorance characteristically American about all history.    Enormous intellectual energy went into developing a Christian culture that is now almost gone.
    Some rejoice at this loss.    I am deeply saddened.    Unfortunately, the churches have undercut their own relevance.    The left has done this by hitching its wagon to the Zeitgeist as if the political and sexual agendas of our time were divinely inspired.    The right has made the same mistake, the difference being that the agenda goes 180 degrees in the opposite direction.    What’s lost in both of these is a focus on the centrality of the faith.
    At the core of Christian culture was a commitment to creativity and freedom that emerged from contemplation of an expanded and imaginative meaning of the Resurrection of Christ, the Easter-event.    This impetus enabled a worldview that centered not on life after death, but rather on seeking the fullness of life before death.    The architecture and artwork of the medieval cathedrals of Europe were a testimony to the wild and pregnant unleashing of creative forces.    The work of craft was itself a prayer that needed no further verbalization.    Of course, none would deny that patronage was at the heart of it all, but such has always been the case.    Look at Islamic art and architecture.
Pushing evangelicals into politics to create 'a Biblically-based culture'
    At the same time as creative forces were unleashed in music and art and architecture, they were also afoot in theological exploration and writing.    While never entirely successful, attempts were made to comment on every aspect of life from a Christian perspective.    Such comprehension may have been an overreach, but it was part of the development of the culture.
    That was then, this is now. Because of hitching up with political perspectives and programs, Christianity is as divided and polarized as the rest of our country.    The open space for debate once offered by churches and religious institutions has been vacated in exchange for shrill name-calling, isolation and silo mentalities.    We are, in short, not occupying any moral high ground.    We are in very deep trouble indeed, with no way out in the short term.    There is hope in the form of small groups here and there who are rebuilding, but it will take time.
Path of the Spirit: It's always time to think about our planet
Path of the Spirit: Wisdom in an ancient prayer of the church
Path of the Spirit: Facing the spiritual trials of retirement
    Fr. Gabriel Rochelle is priest emeritus of St. Anthony of the Desert Orthodox Church. Contact him as
    This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Goodbye to Christian culture and all that.

6/18/2022 Iowa Supreme court overturns state constitutional right to abortion by Doug Cunningham – UPI News
© Mike Theiler/UPI.
    June 17 (UPI) -- Iowa's Supreme Court Friday ruled there is no state constitutional right to an abortion.    The decision reverses a 2018 state Supreme Court decision that affirmed a state constitutional right to abortion.
    In Friday's decision overturning that right to abortion, Iowa Supreme Court Justice Edward Mansfield wrote, "Although we overrule (the 2018 decision), and thus reject the proposition that there is a fundamental right to an abortion in Iowa's Constitution subjecting abortion regulation to strict scrutiny, we do not at this time decide what constitutional standard should replace it."
    Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds praised the state Supreme Court decision ending Iowa's state constitutional right to abortion.
    "Today's ruling is a significant victory in our fight to protect the unborn," Gov. Reynolds said in a statement. "The Iowa Supreme Court reversed its earlier 2018 decision, which made Iowa the most abortion-friendly state in the country.    Every life is sacred and should be protected, and as long as I'm governor that is exactly what I will do."
    In Friday's decision, Justice Mansfield wrote that the state Supreme Court was not blind to the pending U.S. Supreme Court opinion on Roe vs. Wade.
    "That case could alter the federal constitutional landscape established by Roe and Casey," Justice Mansfield wrote.    "While we zealously guard our ability to interpret the Iowa Constitution independently of the Supreme Court's interpretations of the Federal Constitution, the opinion (or opinions) in that case may provide insights that we are currently lacking."
    Iowa's Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen dissented from the majority ruling, writing, "I cannot join the majority's decision to overrule Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Reynolds (PPH II), 915 N.W.2d 206 (Iowa 2018), because I do not believe any special justification 'over and above the [majority's] belief that the precedent was wrongly decided' warrants such a swift departure from the court's 2018 decision."

6/18/2022 Diocese Says Mass. School Can't Call Itself Catholic After Refusing to Remove Pride, Black Lives Matter Flags by Abigail Adams - People
    A Bishop in Massachusetts says a boys' middle school can no longer refer to itself as Catholic after flying Pride and Black Lives Matter flags on campus.
© Provided by Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Robert J. McManus, Bishop of the Diocese of Worcester,
in May 2013 Bishop Robert J. McManus, of the Diocese of Worcester, has barred the
Nativity School of Worcester from using the title "Catholic" to describe itself after the
school refused to take down the flags earlier this year, according to a decree issued Thursday by McManus.
    The decision comes "after discussions over the past few months in an attempt to find alternatives to flying the Black Lives Matter and gay pride flags outside the school," the diocese said, adding that the flags "are inconsistent with Catholic teaching."
    "The flying of these flags in front of a Catholic school sends a mixed, confusing and scandalous message to the public about the Church's stance on these important moral and social issues," McManus said in Thursday's decree.
    Nativity Worcester will appeal McManus' decision, according to a statement from the school released Wednesday, the day before the decree was published.
    In the meantime, Nativity Worcester will continue to fly both flags "to give visible witness to the school's solidarity with our students, families, and their communities," they said.
    McManus did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.    Nativity Worcester referred PEOPLE back to its original statement.
    Nativity Worcester, founded in 2003, began flying the Pride and Black Lives Matter flags outside in January 2021 "following our students' (the majority of whom are people of color) call to express support for making our communities more just and inclusive," according to Wednesday's statement.
    In March 2022, McManus allegedly "told the school to remove the flags." and then threatened to bar the school "from identifying itself as a Catholic school" in late May, Nativity Worcester said.
    In an April 3 statement referenced in Thursday's decree, McManus emphasized that the two flags "embody specific agendas or ideologies (that) contradict Catholic social and moral teaching."
    "It is my contention that the 'Gay Pride' flag represents support of gay marriage and actively living a LGBTQ+ lifestyle," McManus said in Thursday's decree.    He said the same is true for Black Lives Matter, which he believes "has co-opted the phrase" and "seeks to disrupt the family structure in clear opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church."

    "Despite my insistence that the school administration remove these flags because of the confusion and the properly theological scandal that they do and can promote, they refuse to do so," the bishop wrote.    "This leaves me no other option but to take canonical action."
    Still, the school has not taken the flags down, and does not intend to.
    "As a multicultural school, the flags represent the inclusion and respect of all people," Nativity Worcester said.    "These flags simply state that all are welcome at Nativity and this value of inclusion is rooted in Catholic teaching."
    The school also noted that Pope Francis "has praised the outreach and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people" and that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops "supports the spirit and movement" of Black Lives Matter.
    Boston Archbishop Seán Patrick O'Malley also voiced his support for the movement in a June 2020 letter to the people of the Archdiocese of Boston, released after the death of George Floyd.
© Provided by People Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Pope Francis
    "Though any symbol or flag can be co-opted by political groups or organizations, flying our flags is not an endorsement of any organization or ideology, they fly in support of marginalized people," the school said Wednesday.
    Under McManus' decree, Nativity Worcester "is not allowed to undertake any fundraising involving diocesan institutions in the Diocese of Worcester and is not permitted to be listed or advertise in the Diocesan Directory."
    But Nativity Worcester said Wednesday that it does not receive funding from the Diocese of Worcester, and is instead funded through donations "from individuals, foundations, and corporations."    The tuition-free school is operated "fully independent of the Diocese" as well, they said.
    Despite the Diocese's decision, Nativity Worcester now believes it is "stronger than ever" thanks to "the understanding and support" of its community.
    "Please know that any decisions made by the Diocese will not change the mission, operations or impact of Nativity," the school concluded.    "With your ongoing partnership, we will continue to provide a transformational education for many years to come."

6/19/2022 ‘It’s not going to happen’: Ohio Senate president speaks on transgender athlete bill by Mary LeBus – WXiX Cincinnati
    CLEVELAND, Ohio (WXIX) - The provision on “genital inspection” in Ohio H.B. 61 was disputed by Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) during a forum at the City Club of Cleveland on Wednesday.
    During the non-partisan debate, Huffman was mentioned by former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to give his perspective on genital inspections when it came to transgender athletes.
    “I’m not sure why that’s in the bill,” Huffman said in regard to a concerned parent speaker.    “It’s completely unnecessary.”
    Ohio House passes bill banning transgender girls from female school sports | Outrage grows over Ohio transgender athlete bill
    H.B. 61, also known as the “Save Women’s Sports Act” by its supporters, includes a subsection that would require athletes to prove their sex with an inspection conducted by their physician.
    Additionally, the bill included a mandatory analysis of the athlete’s genetic makeup.
© Provided by WXIX Cincinnati Section 3313.5317 of House Bill 61
includes genital inspections conducted by the athlete's physician.
    “All of these tests can be done with a simple DNA swab,” Huffman added.    “It’s not going to happen.”
    The bill was introduced by Representatives Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) and Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Paris).    Before being its own bill, H.B. 61 was once apart of H.B. 151 to “replace Ohio Teacher Residency Program with local mentorship.”
    “The Save Women’s Sports Act is a fairness issue for women,” Powell said in a tweet.    “This bill ensures that every little girl who works hard to make it on a podium is not robbed of her chance by a biological male competing against her in a biological female sport.”
    Currently, the bill is still in the house committee to determine if it will be amended or tabled.
    See a spelling or grammar error in our story?    Please include the title when you click here to report it.
    Copyright 2022 WXIX. All rights reserved.

6/19/2022 Swimming body votes to restrict transgender participation in elite women's competition by Reuters
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Swimming's world governing body FINA on Sunday voted to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women's competitions and create a working group to establish an "open" category for them in some events as part of its new policy.
    Transgender rights has become a major talking point as sports seek to balance inclusivity while ensuring there is no unfair advantage.
    The decision, the strictest by any Olympic sports body, was made during FINA's extraordinary general congress after members heard a report from a transgender task force comprising leading medical, legal and sports figures.
    The new eligibility policy for FINA competitions states that male-to-female transgender athletes are eligible to compete only if "they can establish to FINA’s comfortable satisfaction that they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 (of puberty) or before age 12, whichever is later."
    The policy was passed with a roughly 71% majority after it was put to the members of 152 national federations with voting rights who had gathered for the congress at the Puskas Arena.
    “We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions," said FINA President Husain Al-Musallam.
    “FINA will always welcome every athlete.    The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level.    This has not been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way.    I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.”
    The issue of transgender inclusion in sport is highly divisive, particularly in the United States where it has become a weapon in a so-called "culture war" between conservatives and progressives.
    The new FINA policy also opens up eligibility to those who have "complete androgen insensitivity and therefore could not experience male puberty."
    Swimmers who have had "male puberty suppressed beginning at Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later, and they have since continuously maintained their testosterone levels in serum (or plasma) below 2.5 nmol/L," are also allowed to compete in women's races.
    Female-to-male transgender athletes (transgender men) are fully eligible to compete in men's swimming competitions.
    Advocates for transgender inclusion argue that not enough studies have yet been done on the impact of transition on physical performance, and that elite athletes are often physical outliers in any case.
    The debate intensified after University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history after winning the women's 500-yard freestyle earlier this year.
    That followed New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard becoming the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Writing by Simon Evans; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Hugh Lawson)

6/20/2022 Pope's future sparks debate, resignation seems unlikely by AFP
    Pope Francis has fuelled the rumour mill with a postponed Africa trip and the curious timing of an upcoming meeting of cardinals -- but experts caution against assuming a resignation is nigh.
© Vincenzo PINTOA number of recent decisions have triggered intense speculation about Pope Francis'
plans for the future, including the most radical -- that he might even be planning to step down.
    Hobbled by pain in his knee and forced to use a wheelchair in recent weeks, the 85-year-old pontiff postponed a July trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan last week.
    That move, along with an unusual decision to hold a consistory to name new cardinals during the vacation month of August, triggered intense speculation about his plans for the future, including the most radical -- that he was planning to step down.
    Not so fast, many say.
    "In the pope's entourage, the majority of people don't really believe in the possibility of a resignation," a Vatican source told AFP.
    Rumours within the insular Roman Curia -- the Catholic Church's powerful governing body -- are nothing new, and often fuelled by those with an interest, said Italian Vatican expert Marco Politi.
    "These rumours are encouraged by the pope's opponents who are only eager to see Francis leave," he told AFP.
- Door to retired popes -
    The resignation of a pope was once almost unthinkable. But when Benedict XVI stood down in 2013, citing his declining physical and mental health, he set a precedent.     In 2014, a year after being elected to replace Benedict, Francis himself told reporters that were his health to impede his functions as pope, he would consider stepping down too.     "He (Benedict) opened a door, the door to retired popes," the pontiff said then.
    More recently in May, as reported by various Italian media, Francis joked about his knee during a closed-door meeting with bishops: "Rather than operate, I'll resign."
    However, a trip to Canada at the end of July is still on the pontiff's schedule, and the pope continues to receive injections in his knee and physical therapy, according to the Vatican.
    As a child, Francis had one of his lungs partially removed. Today, besides his knee issue, he suffers recurring sciatic nerve pain.
    Rumours of a resignation also flared last year after Francis underwent colon surgery, prompting him to tell a Spanish radio station that the idea "hadn't even crossed my mind."
    But beyond his health, a series of calendared events in upcoming months have some Vatican watchers questioning whether Francis is laying the groundwork for retirement, while ensuring that his reforms stay intact.
- Convening cardinals -
    First was his decision to call an extraordinary consistory for August 27, a slow summer month at the Vatican, to create 21 new cardinals -- 16 of whom will be under the age of 80, thereby eligible to elect his successor in a future conclave.
    Since becoming pope in 2013, the Argentine pontiff has created 83 cardinals in a move to shape the future of the Catholic Church, in part to counter Europe's historically dominant influence, and to reflect his values.
    On August 28, Francis will pay a visit to L'Aquila and the tomb of Celestine V -- the first pope to have resigned from the papacy, in the 13th century.
    He then joins the world's cardinals -- many of them meeting their peers for the first time -- in two days of discussions over the reform of the Roman Curia, which Francis announced in March with the unveiling of a new constitution.
    Francis' shake-up of the Roman Curia attempts to shift the Church back towards its pastoral roots, allows lay Catholics to head     Vatican departments and creates a dicastery specifically for charity works among other reforms.
    Could the August calendar be taken as a hint, as some in the media have suggested?
    "At this stage, it is a question of being realistic and not alarmist," Politi cautioned.
    He said it was "hard to imagine" Francis would resign while the Synod of Bishops -- an initiative meaningful to Francis that is intended to study how the Church moves forward in a more inclusive way -- is ongoing, due to complete in 2023.
    Alberto Melloni, a professor of Christianity and secretary of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Sciences in Bologna, told AFP "preposterous" conjectures had been made about the pope's health and his intentions.
    "These are things in which there is a desire to understand, to speculate, but there is little to say," he said.

6/20/2022 Protestant bishops address racial divide between 2 denominations by Hannah Wyman / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
© Provided by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    Sitting juxtaposed, two bishops representing racially disparate Protestant denominations sought to find common ground Sunday during a Juneteenth panel discussion at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Hill District.
    Bishop Errenous Earl McCloud Jr., representing the Third Episcopal District of the AME Church, and Bishop Kurt F. Kusserow, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, answered prepared questions from Leon Haley, a professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh, before taking questions from about 30 attendees.
    The three men moved their conversation through three themes, all within a Christian theological framework: ecumenical engagement, reparations and social justice.    The panel discussion for “Juneteenth, Reparations, and People of Faith” was organized by Bethel AME Church, the first AME church west of the Allegheny Mountains.
    Bishop Kusserow spoke on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America being named the whitest Christian denomination in America and the relationship between ELCA and AME.
    He said the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, S.C., where nine African Americans were killed during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church was a catalyst for the ELCA to connect with AME.    He told attendees that the shooting, a racially motivated crime, was committed by a confirmed member of the ELCA.
    “Our response was: ‘We want to get to know you as friends,’” Bishop Kusserow said.    “We want to get to know you as family.    We want to recognize you when we see you so that you’re not those people who are a target to the other, but we are one family and one church.’”
    Bishop McCloud said it wasn’t the connection to ELCA that brought him to the panel but the desire to connect with others within the Christian religion in general.
    “We are better together,” Bishop McCloud said.    “We are all in this and the church has to lead. ... We need each other to make America better together.”
    “,” he said regarding the historic unfair treatment of Black people.
    In regard to reparation, Bishop McCloud said Christians can feel what’s right or wrong, and rather than focus on reparation, he would prefer to direct energy into restoration.    This means building houses around the church and cultivating community so that everyone has common values and reasonable expectations about the future, he said.
    Repairing is “stitching together relationships,” something we need more of right now, he said.
    The panel was part of a series of events for people of faith from across Pittsburgh to gather and recognize Juneteenth.    The day’s event included worship led by Bishop McCloud, boxed lunches sponsored by Giant Eagle, and a litany at the old Bethel Church site by PPG Paints Arena.
    Reparation was a theme not only in the panel discussion but also for the day as Bethel AME Church is actively seeking justice for the demolition of the original church building in Lower Hill.
    The day concluded with the church’s pastor, the Rev. Dale Snyder, delivering a call to action and asking for followers to sit on committees and allot money to the redevelopment of the land they had previously lost.
    Hannah Wyman: and Twitter @Hannah_SWyman.

6/20/2022 Court in Japan rules upholds ban on same-sex marriage by Caitlin O'Kane, CBS News
    A district court in Japan has upheld the country's ban on same-sex marriage.    The ruling is a blow to LGBTQ activists in the country, who reached a small victory when a court in Sapporo last year found the government's failure to recognize same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
© Marc Bruxelle / EyeEm Close-Up Of Rainbow Flag With Crowd In Background During Parade
    Three same-sex couples filed a suit in Osaka, claiming that being unable to marry was unconstitutional, and they asked for 1 million yen (about $7,406) in damages for each couple, according to BBC News.    They argued that under the current law that prevented them from getting married, they suffered "unjust discrimination."
    The Osaka court, however, ruled the ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional, since Japan's constitution defines marriage as one between "both sexes."
    "I actually wonder if the legal system in this country is really working," one of the plaintiffs, Machi Sakata, told Reuters.    Sakata was able to marry her partner, who is a United States citizen, in the U.S.    They are expecting a baby.    "I think there's the possibility this ruling may really corner us," she said.
    While the court did not legalize same-sex marriage, it did acknowledge it could be possible. "From the perspective of individual dignity, it can be said that it is necessary to realize the benefits of same-sex couples being publicly recognized through official recognition," the court said in its ruling, BBC News reports.
    "Public debate on what kind of system is appropriate for this has not been thoroughly carried out," the court said.
    The majority of Japan is for same-sex marriage and some cities, like Tokyo, have begun issuing partnership certificates to same-sex couples.    These can help them rent properties and gain hospital visitation rights, according to BBC News.
    However, since same-sex couples cannot legally marry, they can't inherit each other's assets and they have no parental rights over each other's children, Reuters reports.
    In the 2021 suit in Sapporo, the plaintiffs also asked for $9,100 each for the difficulties they've suffered.    While the court ruled the "legal benefits stemming from marriages should equally benefit both homosexuals and heterosexuals," they did not award the plaintiffs the money.
    Several same-sex couples have filed similar suits, the Japan Times reports.    Many filed their suits on Valentine's Day 2019.
    Marriage equality is legal in 31 countries, according to Human Rights Campaign.    Japan is the only country in the G7, a group of the world's largest developed nations, that doesn't allow same-sex couples to wed.

6/21/2022 NATION & WORLD - Japan court: Same-sex marriage ban upheld by Mari Yamaguchi, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    TOKYO – A Japanese court ruled Monday that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage does not violate the constitution, and rejected demands for compensation by three couples who said their right to free union and equality has been violated.
    The Osaka District Court ruling is the second decision on the issue, and disagrees with a ruling last year by a Sapporo court that found the ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.    The issue remains divisive in Japan, the only member of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations that does not recognize same-sex unions.
    In its ruling, the Osaka court rejected the plaintiffs’ demand for 1 million yen ($7,400) in damages per couple for discrimination they face.
    The plaintiffs – two male couples and one female couple – were among 14 same-sex couples who filed lawsuits against the government in five major cities – Sapporo, Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Osaka – in 2019 claiming their rights to free union and equality were violated.
    They argued that they have been illegally discriminated against by being deprived of the same economic and legal benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy through marriage.
    Support for sexual diversity has grown slowly in Japan, but legal protections are still lacking for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.    LGBTQ people often face discrimination at school, work and home, causing many to hide their sexual identities.

6/21/2022 Pope Francis resigning? Catholics wait on bated breath as rumors swirl by Luke Gentile – Washington Examiner
    The world's attention is descending on Vatican City as rumors swirl Pope Francis is readying to resign.
© Provided by Washington Examiner Pope Francis resigning? Catholics wait on bated breath as rumors swirl
    Resignation rumors are gaining traction in the wake of a series of unusual activities by the 85-year-old leader of the Catholic Church, according to a report.
    Francis, who has been confined to a wheelchair due to crippling knee pain, canceled a scheduled trip to Africa, the report noted.
    He has also supposedly called for a meeting of cardinals, which the Washington Examiner is unable to confirm.
    It is this highly unusual meeting that is fueling the resignation rumors, the report noted.
    "Inside the Vatican, moments ago, we saw a ton of cardinals, which our guide tells us is highly unusual," Megyn Kelly, who is in Vatican City, posted to social media.
    "That's not normal, and, moments earlier, when we were in the Sistine Chapel, a priest or a bishop, we're unclear, came in and gave us a blessing," she said.    "Also highly unusual.    What was he doing there?    Why was he doing that?    What did he know?"
    Ranking members of the clergy are expected to be in Rome this week for the Tenth World Meeting of Families, which is set to begin Wednesday.
    Francis assumed his role in 2013 following the resignation of then-Pope Benedict XVI.
    Resignations are a rarity for the papacy, but when addressing his knee pain in the past, Francis has said, "Rather than operate, I'll resign," according to the report.

6/21/2022 Factbox-U.S. Supreme Court takes broad view of religious rights in key cases by Reuters
    (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday issued another important ruling expanding religious rights, siding with two Christian families who challenged a Maine state tuition assistance program that excluded private schools that promote religion.
© Reuters/JONATHAN ERNSTFILE PHOTO: Demonstrators gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington
    The court, especially its conservative bloc, has taken a broad view of religious liberty in numerous cases in recent years.    Here is a look at some of the cases involving religious rights argued during the current term, which began in> CARSON V. MAKIN
    In the case decided on Tuesday, the justices authorized expanded public funding of religiously based entities.    The decision overturned a lower court ruling that had rejected claims by the two Christian families of religious discrimination in violation of the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion.    Under the state program, Maine has provided public funds to pay for tuition at private high schools of a family's choice in some sparsely populated areas that lack public secondary schools.    These schools under the program must be "nonsectarian" and were excluded if they promoted a particular religion and presented material "through the lens of that faith."
    The court ruled 9-0 on May 2 that Boston violated the free speech rights of a Christian group by refusing to fly a flag bearing the image of a cross at City Hall as part of a program that let private groups use the flagpole while holding events in the plaza below.    The justices decided that the city violated free speech rights protected under the First Amendment of the     Christian group Camp Constitution and its director Harold Shurtleff.    Boston had argued that raising the cross flag as Camp Constitution requested under a flag-raising program aimed at promoting diversity and tolerance in the city could appear to violate another part of the First Amendment that bars governmental endorsement of a particular religion.
    The court ruled 8-1 on March 24 that Texas must grant a convicted murderer on death row his request to have his Christian pastor lay hands on him and audibly pray during his execution, bolstering the religious rights of condemned inmates.    The justices overturned a lower court's decision against John Henry Ramirez, who appealed the state's rejection of his request for pastoral touch and prayer while he dies from lethal injection.    Ramirez was sentenced to death for a fatal 2004 stabbing outside a convenience store.
    The court during April 25 oral arguments appeared receptive to making it easier for public school employees to more freely express their religious views, signaling it would side with a Christian former high school football coach in Washington state who refused to stop leading prayers with players on the field after games.    The conservative justices seemed prepared to allow such expression of religious views despite concerns that in a public school setting this could be seen as coercive to students or a governmental endorsement of a particular religion in violation of the First Amendment.    A ruling is due by the end of June.
(Compiled by Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)

6/22/2022 Is America abandoning religion — or just remixing it? by Grayson Quay – The Week US
© Illustrated | iStock, Wikimedia Commons The Sistine Chapel. Illustrated | iStock, Wikimedia Commons
    Fewer Americans than ever answer 'yes' to the question of if they believe in God,
    A new Gallup poll shows belief in God at an all-time low in America.    Here's everything you need to know:
What does the new poll reveal?
    A record-low 81 percent of Americans answered "yes" to the question "Do you believe in God?" in a new Gallup poll released last Friday, down from 87 percent in 2017.
    Belief in God peaked at 98 percent in surveys conducted in 1954, 1965, and 1967. By 2011, that number was down to 92 percent and dropped to 86 percent in 2014 before bouncing back up to 89 percent two years later.
    Gallup notes that, although this survey forces respondents to choose "yes" or "no," similar surveys conducted in recent years found that "when given the option, 5 percent to 10 percent have said they were 'unsure'" about the existence of God.
    Comparing the average results of the four surveys conducted between 2013 and 2017 with the results of the 2022 survey reveals that belief in God has decreased in every demographic.    For married people and conservatives, it fell by only a single point.    Liberals, Democrats, and Americans aged 18-29 all recorded double-digit drops.
    Women, people of color, older people, non-college graduates, married people, and people with children were more likely to believe in God than their male, white, young, college-educated, unmarried, childless counterparts.    Southerners expressed belief in God at slightly higher rates than Americans from other regions.    The survey revealed no statistically significant gap between city dwellers, suburbanites, and small-town or rural Americans.
    The poll surveyed 1,007 American adults between May 2 and May 22 and has an error margin of 4 percent.
    How does belief in God relate to religious affiliation?
    Ryan Burge, a political science professor and Baptist minister, pointed out that belief in God is "very robust" compared to other metrics, like church attendance.    Americans are abandoning organized religion in droves, but they seem less willing to abandon God.    "[L]ook at folks who say that they never attend church. Twenty-two percent say that they believe in God without a doubt," Burge wrote on Twitter.
    A 2018 Pew religion study found that 72 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans — also known as "nones" — said they believe in God, a higher power, or a spiritual force.    Only 21 percent of Americans who identified as "nothing in particular" listed "I don't believe in God" as a major reason for their lack of religious affiliation.
    For a medieval European Christian, to believe in God was to believe that the Catholic Church held the keys to the kingdom of heaven.    Belief in God was inseparable from listening to the priests, accepting the dogmas, receiving the sacraments, keeping the fasts, and paying your tithes.
    Twenty-first-century individualists feel far more comfortable pursuing their own spiritual journeys.    When Americans disassociate from organized religion, they don't all become militant anti-theists in the mold of Christopher Hitchens.    Many of them continue to believe in a higher power and don't think much more about it.    Others mix and match diverse spiritual practices, from sage smudging and tarot decks to Christmas carols and Buddhist mindfulness practices, curating their religions the same way they curate their Instagram feeds.
    In her 2020 book Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, Tara Isabella Burton calls these people the "religiously remixed."    In 2012's Bad Religion, conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat said they make up a "nation of heretics."
    What are people saying?
    Biologist and atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins saw Gallup's findings as a reminder of just how far we have to go before we arrive at the secular future he envisions.    "Eighty-one percent may be 'a new low,' but it's still disconcertingly high," Dawkins wrote on Twitter.
    Substacker Jamie Paul argues that Dawkins and his fellow New Atheists won their debates in the 2000s and early 2010s and are now enjoying the fruits of what turned out to be a pyrrhic victory.    "[J]ust as New Atheism was fading away, in 2013," Paul writes, "we saw the beginnings of what we now recognize as Social Justice or Wokeness."    Progressive activism, he argues, offers adherents many of the same thing’s religion does: "community, moral certitude, confession, being a part of something larger, ecstatic revivalism, the eternal struggle of good versus evil — and most importantly, meaning and purpose."
    Prominent atheists like John McWhorter — whose latest book is called Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America — and Sam Harris have made similar observations.    So has Eastern Orthodox writer and YouTuber Jonathan Pageau.    "Religion is inevitable, and we're seeing it coming back in very strange ways … you'll have people kneeling to a shrine of a man who was killed by police and putting a halo on his head," Pageau said in one video, referring to the George Floyd protests.
    In an opinion piece for Fox News, David Marcus argues that, despite the decline in belief in God, Christianity could still make a comeback in America's public square.    "Our nation's past is marked with Great Awakenings, or religious revivals, the first in the mid-18th century, the latest lasting roughly from 1960-1980," he wrote.
    As reasons for religious Americans to remain optimistic, Marcus pointed to the country's relatively high rate of belief compared to other countries — "[i]n some European countries" the percentage of believers "is in the low 50s" — as well as the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.    The court is expected to rule in favor of former assistant football coach Joseph Kennedy, who was fired by the district for praying on the field after games.
    Marcus also argues that science and secularism can never hope to fully displace religion.    "[T]here are," he writes, "questions only God can answer — about our souls, about death, about our meaning. Americans are still asking those questions, and I suspect they will be for a long, long time."

6/23/2022 Biden administration moves to expand Title IX protections by COLLIN BINKLEY, AP Education Writer – Associate Press
    The Biden administration proposed a dramatic overhaul of campus sexual assault rules on Thursday, acting to expand protections for LGBTQ students, bolster the rights of victims and widen colleges' responsibilities in addressing sexual misconduct.
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington,
April 27, 2022. The Biden administration proposed a dramatic rewrite of campus sexual assault rules on Thursday,
June 23, moving to expand protections for LGBTQ students, bolster the rights of victims and widen colleges' responsibilities
in addressing sexual misconduct. The proposal was announced on the 50th anniversary of the Title IX women’s rights law.
Cardona said Title IX has been “instrumental” in fighting sexual assault and violence in education. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
    The proposal, announced on the 50th anniversary of the Title IX women's rights law, is intended to replace a set of controversial rules issued during the Trump administration by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
    President Joe Biden's education secretary, Miguel Cardona, said Title IX has been “instrumental” in fighting sexual assault and violence in education.
    “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this landmark law, our proposed changes will allow us to continue that progress and ensure all our nation’s students — no matter where they live, who they are, or whom they love — can learn, grow, and thrive in school," he said.
    The proposal is almost certain to be challenged by conservatives, and it is expected to lead to new legal battles over the rights of transgender students in schools, especially in sports.    It now faces a public feedback period before the Biden administration can finalize any changes, meaning the earliest that the policy is likely to take effect is next year.
© Provided by Associated Press Graphic shows state laws on transgender youth participation in sports; 3c x 3 1/4 inches
    The step meets a demand from victims’ rights advocates who wanted Biden to release new rules no later than the anniversary of Title IX, which outlaws discrimination based on sex in schools and colleges.    Advocates say DeVos' rules have gone too far in protecting students accused of sexual misconduct, at the expense of victims.
    As a presidential candidate, Biden had promised a quick end to DeVos' rules, saying they would “shame and silence survivors.”
    In announcing its proposal, Biden's Education Department said DeVos’ rules “weakened protections for survivors of sexual assault and diminished the promise of an education free from discrimination.”
    For the first time, the rules would formally protect LGBTQ students under Title IX.    Nothing in the 1972 law explicitly addresses the topic, but the new proposal would clarify that the law applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
    It would make clear that “preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX,” according to the department.    More specific rules dealing with the rights of transgender students in school sports will be released later, the department said.
    Biden marked the anniversary of Title IX by acknowledging the impact the law has had in advancing equity but acknowledging there was more to do.
    “As we look to the next 50 years, I am committed to protecting this progress and working to achieve full equality, inclusion, and dignity for women and girls, LGBTQI+ Americans, all students, and all Americans,” he said in a statement.
    Many of the proposed changes would mark a return to Obama-era rules that DeVos’ policy replaced.
    The definition of sexual harassment would be expanded to cover a wider range of misconduct.    Schools would be required to address any misconduct that creates a “hostile environment” for students, even if the misconduct arises off campus.    Most college employees would be required to notify campus officials if they learn of potential sex discrimination.
    In a victory for victims rights advocates, the proposal would eliminate a rule requiring colleges to hold live hearings to judge sexual misconduct cases — one of the most divisive aspects of DeVos’ policy.    Live hearings would be allowed under the new policy, but colleges could to appoint a campus “decision-maker” to evaluate evidence and assess students’ credibility.
    If the proposal is finalized, it would mark the second rewrite of federal Title IX rules in two years.    DeVos’ rules were themselves intended to reverse Obama-era guidance.    The Obama policy was embraced by victims advocates but led to hundreds of lawsuits from accused students who said their colleges failed to give them a fair process to defend themselves.
    The whiplash has left many schools scrambling to adopt ever-changing rules.    Some have pressed for a political middle ground that will protect students without prompting new rules every time the White House changes power.
    “It doesn’t serve anybody’s interest to have this ping-pong effect of changing rules every five years,” said S. Daniel Carter, a campus security consultant and president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses.    “That’s just not a good way to get things done.    It’s very difficult for everyone involved.”
    DeVos’ rules dramatically reshaped the way colleges handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment, with an emphasis on ensuring the constitutional due process rights of the accused.
Under her rules, accused students were given wider rights to review and respond to evidence against them, and students had the right to cross-examine one another through a representative at live hearings.
    The live hearing requirement was applauded as a victory for accused students, but it drew intense backlash from other advocates who said it forced victims to relive their trauma.
    DeVos also reduced colleges’ obligations in responding to complaints.    Her policy narrowed the definition of harassment and scaled back the types of cases colleges are required to address.    As a result, some campuses have seen steep decreases in the number of Title IX complaints coming in from students.
    Under her rules, for example, colleges are not required to investigate most complaints that arise off campus and or take action on any complaint unless the alleged misconduct is “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive.”
    The overhaul was partly meant to lighten the burden on colleges as they mediate complex cases, but some say it ultimately added more work.
    Leaders of some colleges have said the DeVos rules are too prescriptive and force them to turn campus discipline systems into miniature courtrooms.    Many schools have continued to address all sexual misconduct complaints even if they do not meet the narrowed harassment definition, but they have had to set up separate discipline processes to handle those cases.
    Advocates on both sides say that can be confusing for students.
    “It shouldn’t be that way.    It should be, if anything, more uniform — that’s the whole reason the Title IX regulations were put into place,” said Kimberly Lau, a New York lawyer who represents students in Title IX cases.    Biden’s proposal is a major step in keeping his promise to reverse DeVos’ rules.    He started the process last year when he ordered the Education Department to review the rules, but the agency has been bogged down by a slow-moving rule-making process.
    For more on Title IX’s impact, read AP’s full report:
Video timeline:

    The Scarlet Woman in Revelation represents the whore who has corrupted the promise given to God when our forefathers
and this country has been blessed for centuries but in our recent lifetime that promise has been ignored and we our becoming
the drunken whore on the back of the beast that came up out of the sea the restless nations with seven heads (G-7 the 7 richest nations)
and with 10 horns or the World Trade Organization 10 regions who control world trade and monetary with many other organizations.

[Revelation 6:9–10 — The New King James Version (NKJV) 9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.]

6/24/2022 Live updates: Biden to address the nation on Supreme Court abortion decision by Robert Barnes, Ann Marimow, John Wagner, Mariana Alfaro, Eugene Scott, Amy Wang – The Washington Post
    The Supreme Court on Friday overturned the fundamental right to abortion established nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade, a stunning reversal that leaves states free to drastically reduce or even outlaw a procedure that abortion rights groups said is key to women’s equality and independence.
    “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.    Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.    And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote.    “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
    The vote was 6 to 3 to uphold a restrictive Mississippi law.    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., though, criticized his conservative colleagues for taking the additional step of overturn Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which had reaffirmed the right to abortion.
    The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health was the most anticipated of the court’s term, with political tension surrounding the fight over abortion rights erupting in May with the leak of a draft opinion indicating a majority of justices intended to end the long-standing precedent.
    President Biden planned to deliver remarks at 12:30 p.m. Eastern.
    The justices were considering a Mississippi law that would ban almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.    The law had not taken effect because lower courts said it was at odds with the national right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade in 1973 and affirmed by subsequent Supreme Court rulings.
    Here’s what to know

12:43 PM: Sen. Collins says testimony by Gorsuch, Kavanaugh ‘inconsistent’ with ruling
,b>© Alex Wong/Getty Images Live updates: Biden to address the nation on Supreme Court abortion decision
    Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) called the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade “ill-considered” and said it would lead to “political chaos” at a time when the country needs the opposite.
    “The Supreme Court has abandoned a fifty-year precedent at a time that the country is desperate for stability,” Collins said in a statement.    “This ill-considered action will further divide the country at a moment when, more than ever in modern times, we need the Court to show both consistency and restraint.”
    “Throwing out a precedent overnight that the country has relied upon for half a century is not conservative,” she continued.
    “It is a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos, anger, and a further loss of confidence in our government.”
    Collins’s votes to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court were crucial to tilting the high court 6-to-3 in conservatives’ favor.    At the time, she told reporters that Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh had assured her Roe v. Wade was “settled as precedent.”
    “This decision is inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me, where they both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon,” Collins said Friday.
    The “threshold question” of whether abortion is legal needs to be consistent at a national level, Collins said.    She called on Congress to support legislation she had introduced with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would codify the abortion rights established by Roe.
    “Our goal with this legislation is to do what the Court should have done — provide the consistency in our abortion laws that Americans have relied upon for 50 years,” she said.
By: Amy B Wang
12:30 PM: Democrats seize on Thomas’s comments on past rulings affecting contraception, marriage
    Democrats seized on a concurring opinion released Friday by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested he and his colleagues “should reconsider” its past rulings codifying rights to contraception access and same-sex marriage.
    “This decision also opens a door to overturning established precedent on many other important rights and freedoms enjoyed by Americans, including contraception access and the right of LGBTQ Americans to marry those they love,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D) said in a statement.    “No right is safe from this activist group of Republican-appointed justices who see themselves as legislators.”
    During a news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also referred to Thomas, saying access to contraception and family planning is now at risk.
    While other justices in the majority suggested their opinion would not affect other issues, the three liberal justices raised the prospect in their dissent, writing that “no one should be confident that this majority is done with its work.”
    The constitutional right to abortion “does not stand alone,” wrote Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.    “To the contrary, the Court has linked it for decades to other settled freedoms involving bodily integrity, familial relationships, and procreation.”
By: John Wagner
12:24 PM: Youngkin to seek 15-week abortion law in Virginia after Supreme Court ruling
© Robb Hill for The Washington Post Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin head a round table
meeting with parents and two of these secretaries in Alexandria, VA on February 3, 2022.
    Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) said he will seek to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, moving quickly following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday overturning the constitutional right to an abortion.
    Youngkin has asked four Virginia lawmakers — all antiabortion Republicans — to craft legislation, and he said that setting the cutoff at 20 weeks might be necessary to attract more consensus in a divided Capitol. He said he supports exceptions for rape, incest and cases where the life of the mother is at risk.
    “Virginians do want fewer abortions as opposed to more abortions,” Youngkin said Friday morning during a meeting with reporters, editors and editorial writers at The Washington Post, moments after the court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade was announced.    “I am not someone who is going to jump in and try to push us apart … There is a place we can come together.”
By: Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella
12:16 PM: Roberts wanted a more-incremental approach
© Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP Chief Justice John Roberts sits
during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington on April 23, 2021.
    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. calls the decision to overrule Roe a “serious jolt” to legal system.    At oral arguments in December, Roberts suggested a more incremental approach that would uphold the Mississippi law without overturning Roe, which has prevented states from restricting abortion before viability, the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, usually around 23 weeks.
    His attempt at compromise was unsuccessful, and he voted with the majority in the 6-to-3 decision.    In his concurring opinion, Roberts repeated his call for judicial restraint, which said the court should adhere to past precedent, known as stare decisis, rather than taking such a bold step.
    “The Court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system — regardless of how you view those cases.    A narrower decision rejecting the misguided viability line would be markedly less unsettling, and nothing more is needed to decide this case,” Roberts wrote.
By: Ann E. Marimow
12:07 PM: Attorney General Garland says Dept. of Justice will protect reproductive freedom
© Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images Attorney General Merrick Garland says he “strongly disagrees” with the decision.
    Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that the Justice Department “strongly disagrees” with the Supreme Court decision on abortion, which he said “will have an immediate and irreversible impact on the lives of people across the country,” particularly on people of color and poor people.
    “But today’s decision does not eliminate the ability of states to keep abortion legal within their borders.    And the Constitution continues to restrict states’ authority to ban reproductive services provided outside their borders,” Garland said in a lengthy statement about the ruling.
    The Justice Department, he said, “will work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom,” and supports efforts in Congress to “codify Americans’ reproductive rights.”
    Garland also noted that many opinions will be voiced on the Supreme Court’s reinterpretation of the issue but warned against anyone lashing out in anger.
    “Peacefully expressing a view is protected by the First Amendment. But we must be clear that violence and threats of violence are not.    The Justice Department will not tolerate such acts,” he said.
By: Devlin Barrett
12:06 PM: Liberal prosecutors rebuff court’s abortion decision, vow not to prosecute
    A group of 83 liberal prosecutors from around the country, including the district attorneys in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, issued a statement after the Dobbs decision saying they would not criminally prosecute anyone who seeks, assists or provides an abortion.
    The letter was released by Fair and Just Prosecution, which assists progressive prosecutors around the country, and follows a similar letter written by 60 prosecutors in 2020 during the confirmation process of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
    “As elected prosecutors, ministers of justice, and leaders in our communities, we cannot stand by and allow members of our community to live in fear of the ramifications of this deeply troubling decision,” the prosecutors state.
    “We stand together in our firm belief that prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions.    As such, we decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions and commit to exercise our well-settled discretion and refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions.”
    Signers of the letter include Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, Chicago State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.    The prosecutors represent nearly 87 million people from 28 states and territories and the District of Columbia, including nearly 27 million from 11 states where abortion is now banned or likely to be banned, Fair and Just Prosecution said.
By: Tom Jackman
11:59 AM: Obama said Roe reversal attacks ‘the essential freedoms’ of millions
    Former president Barack Obama called the Dobbs ruling “devastating,” although not surprising since a leaked draft indicated that it was likely.    Obama said the highest court in the land has made the land of the free much less free for many of its residents.
    “Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans,” he tweeted Friday.
    Obama encouraged those concerned about the ruling to get involved and support organizations looking to expand abortion rights — and to vote in this year’s midterms.
    “Join with the activist who been sounding the alarm on abortion access for years — and act,” he wrote.    “Stand with them at a local protest. Volunteer with one of their organizations.    Knock on doors for a candidate you believe in.”
By: Eugene Scott
11:57 AM: Trump says abortion ruling ‘will work out for everybody’
© Patrick Semansky/AP On Jan. 24, 2020, President Donald Trump addresses thousands
of antiabortion activists at the 47th annual March for Life in Washington.
    Former president Donald Trump on Friday in an interview with “Fox News” praised the court’s decision.
    “This is following the Constitution and giving rights back when they should have been given long ago,” Trump told the network.    “I think, in the end, this is something that will work out for everybody.”
    Trump made three appointments to the Supreme Court — Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — that tilted the high court, 6 to 3, in conservatives’ favor.    While in office, Trump billed himself as “the most pro-life president in American history,” and he garnered support from right-wing religious groups and antiabortion activists because of his moves to curb abortion rights.
    Asked Friday on Fox News about his role in the Supreme Court’s decision, Trump said, “God made the decision.”
By: Amy B Wang
11:56 AM: Dozens of Democrats march to the court after abortion decision
© Eric Lee for The Washington Post Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) walks near the Supreme Court after the
Supreme Court announced a decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Washington, D.C. on June 24, 2022.
    Dozens of House Democrats marched across the fortified east front plaza of the Capitol and across First Street NE to just in front of the Supreme Court, which has been mostly vacated due to security threats this spring.
    They held signs and chanted support for abortion rights. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) carried a bullhorn.    They were met and heckled by a few dozen antiabortion activists who hurled vile comments at the lawmakers and equated them with enslavers. Several dozen U.S. Capitol Police in riot gear moved in to ensure their security.
    Antiabortion Republicans have also gone to the court, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who pumped her fists and shouted in joy as she walked across the plaza.
    The ruling landed as the House began its first votes of the day, and a jubilant Greene greeted other antiabortion Republicans with shouts and high-fives.    The Democratic side of the aisle remained subdued.
By: Paul Kane
11:42 AM: How women’s lives were different before Roe v. Wade
© For The Washington Post Illustration of women in 1970 and 2020
    Women have transformed their lives since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade allowed the right to an abortion.    They have seen their roles in the U.S. workforce vastly expand and their economic power grow.
    Many women have far more input at home and in the workforce.    Some see those changes at risk after Friday’s Supreme Court decision.
    Do you know how much women’s lives have changed since the Roe ruling in 1973?
By: Youjin Shin, Rachel Siegel and Ted Mellnik
11:41 AM: How Americans might react to Roe decision
© Eric Lee for The Washington Post A woman reacts to the opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson
Women’s Health Organization near the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on June 24, 2022.
    Americans’ reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision will become clearer in the coming days and weeks, but recent polls suggest it could be strong and largely negative.
    A March KFF poll found nearly half of Americans, 47 percent, said they would feel “angry” if the court overturned Roe and allowed states to ban abortion.    A slightly larger 53 percent said they would feel “sad,” while 34 percent felt “hopeful” about that outcome and 22 percent felt “enthusiastic.”
    After the leaked draft opinion suggesting Roe would be overturned, a Gallup poll found the share of Americans saying abortion should be “illegal in all circumstances” dropping to 13 percent, down six points from 2021 and a record low in polls conducted since 1995.    The poll found 53 percent saying abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances, up from 45 percent last year.
    The court’s image may suffer as well, with Monmouth University polls finding disapproval of the Supreme Court rose from 42 percent in March to 52 percent in May, shortly after the draft opinion overturning Roe was leaked.
By: Scott Clement
11:41 AM: The most common abortion procedures and when they occur
© The Washington Post Live updates: Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ending constitutional protection for abortion
    The Supreme Court decision dramatically reshapes access to a procedure that has been protected in the United States since 1973.
    There are two ways an abortion can be done. Medical abortion ends a pregnancy through the use of medication.    Surgical abortion, sometimes called procedural abortion, ends a pregnancy through a procedure performed by a health-care provider in a clinical setting.
    Surgical and medical abortions can be done in both the first and second trimester.    According to 2019 CDC data, surgical abortions mostly occurred in the first 13 weeks.    The majority of medical abortions were done within the first nine weeks.    In 2019, nearly 80 percent of the procedures reported to the CDC were performed before the 10th week of pregnancy.    Almost 93 percent were performed before the 13th week.
By: Brittany Shammas, Aaron Steckelberg and Daniela Santamarińa
11:37 AM: 13 states will ban abortion within 30 days.    Others will follow.
© Provided by The Washington Post Abortion will soon be banned in 13 states. Here’s which could be next.
    Without Roe v. Wade, the national abortion landscape will change quickly.    First, 13 states with “trigger bans,” designed to take effect as soon as Roe is overturned, will ban abortion within 30 days.    Several other states where recent antiabortion legislation has been blocked by the courts are expected to act next, with lawmakers moving to activate their dormant legislation.    A handful of states also have pre-Roe abortion bans that could be brought back to life.
    Elsewhere in the country, the post-Roe landscape is less certain.    While most state legislatures have adjourned for the year, some governors have expressed an interest in convening a special session to pass additional antiabortion legislation — or remove antiabortion laws already on the books.    Abortion access in other states will depend on the midterm elections.    Many other states have passed laws that explicitly protect the right to abortion, with several adding those protections this year in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision.
By: Caroline Kitchener, Kevin Schaul, N. Kirkpatrick, Daniela Santamarińa and Lauren Tierney
11:34 AM: Video: Abortion rights supporters protest outside Supreme Court
    Abortion rights supporters react to decision overturning Roe
    “I’m just very afraid for the world that we’ve just stepped into,” said Paxton Smith, a student at the University of Texas at Austin after the Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade.
    Smith was among the abortion rights advocates who gathered outside the Supreme Court on Friday morning after the 6-3 ruling was announced.
    “This decision must not stand.    Legal abortion on demand,” one section of the crowd chanted.
    Nadine Seiler said she “knew it was coming.”
    “What we need to do as women: Don’t agonize, organize.    We are the majority.    We just need to come out,” she added.
By: Allie Caren
11:29 AM: Biden to address the nation on court decision at 12:30 p.m. Eastern
    The White House announced that President Biden will address the nation on the court’s decision at 12:30 p.m. Eastern from Cross Hall at the White House.
    Biden was critical of the court after a draft opinion leaked last month signaling that the court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.
    “The idea that we’re going to make a judgment that is going to say that no one can make the judgment to choose to abort a child, based on a decision by the Supreme Court, I think, goes way overboard,” Biden said.
    The views of Biden, a practicing Catholic, have evolved over the years.    He is now a staunch supporter of abortion rights.
By: John Wagner
11:27 AM: Manchin says he’d support legislation to codify Roe into law
    Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), a moderate Democrat, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the Supreme Court’s decision and that he would support legislation to codify Roe v. Wade into law.
    Manchin, in a statement, said he trusted that Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, whom he supported during their confirmation process, “when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans.”
    Manchin said that, as a Catholic, he was “raised pro-life and will always consider myself pro-life.”
    Related video: WATCH | Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; eliminating constitutional right to abortion     “But I have come to accept that my definition of pro-life may not be someone else’s definition of pro-life,” Manchin said.    “I believe that exceptions should be made in instances of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in jeopardy.”
    Manchin said he wanted to be clear about his support for legislation that would codify “the rights Roe v. Wade previously protected.”
    “I am hopeful Democrats and Republicans will come together to put forward a piece of legislation that would do just that,” he said.
By: Mariana Alfaro
11:22 AM: Demonstrator with banner on abortion decision halts traffic on bridge
    Traffic on the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge spanning the Anacostia River was shut down late Friday morning after D.C. police said a demonstrator climbed to the top of an archway.
    Police said the demonstrator displayed a flag or a banner reading: Don’t tread on my uterus.
    Police halted traffic on the 1,445-foot bridge that carries motorists along South Capitol Street in Southwest Washington.    The top of the archways are about 70 feet above the road.
    Authorities said they are trying to find a way to coax the person down.
By: Peter Hermann
11:18 AM: At a Mississippi clinic, reality of decision sets in
© Emily Kask for the Washington Post Pink House defenders Ren Allen and Derenda Hancock upon the announcement of
Roe v. Wade being overturned outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson. Miss, on June 24, 2022.
    JACKSON, Miss. — As they are every day, clinic escorts and antiabortion protesters were at Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Friday morning, before the clinic opened.
    The protesters had a dozen signs, many with graphic images, denouncing abortion and offering Bibles.    The clinic escorts had signs of their own: two pieces of artwork, one that mocked a regular protester and one of a dinosaur.
    At 9:10, when the decision dropped, fellow protester Doug Lane jogged by.    “Roe is overturned,” he said.
    “Thank you, Lord.”
    Clinic escorts, known as the Pink House Defenders, gathered behind a tarp-covered fence, under a tent, looking at their phones.    Then, they grabbed loud speakers of their own, walked around the fence and sat atop a table.    They turned the speaker on.    Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” filled the air.
        Moments earlier, before the decision was released, 24-year-old clinic escort Ren Allen said she got caught up in the “hype” over the decision being released.
    “It’s hard to put a word to the emotion, it’s easier to put a quantity to the emotion, which is just a lot,” she said.    “To say I’m frustrated and angry is obvious, but I think the closer we get to nine unelected officials making a decision about my health care, the closer I get to the realization that we can’t put our hope in anything other than local organizing.”
By: Sarah Fowler
11:17 AM: Va. governor tasks state legislators with crafting new legislation
    Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) released a statement Friday on the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling announcement:
    “The Supreme Court of the United States has rightfully returned power to the people and their elected representatives in the states,” Youngkin said.    “I’m proud to be a pro-life Governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life.    The truth is, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions.    We can build a bipartisan consensus on protecting the life of unborn children, especially when they begin to feel pain in the womb, and importantly supporting mothers and families who choose life.    That’s why I’ve asked Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, Senator Steve Newman, Delegate Kathy Byron and Delegate Margaret Ransone to join us in an effort to bring together legislators and advocates from across the Commonwealth on this issue to find areas where we can agree and chart the most successful path forward.    I’ve asked them to do the important work needed and be prepared to introduce legislation when the General Assembly returns in January.”
By: Mike Semel
11:15 AM: Texas Attorney General Paxton says day of ruling should be an annual holiday
© Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) says the Supreme Court's ruling means abortion is “illegal” in Texas.
    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) celebrated the court’s ruling Friday and praised the justices in a tweet for “ending one of the most morally & legally corrupt eras in US history,” adding that “abortion is now illegal in Texas.”
    Paxton said he was closing his office and marking the day as an “annual holiday — as a memorial to the 70 million lives lost” because of abortion.
    Even before the court announced its decision, abortion access has been severely restricted in Texas since last September.    The justices had refused to stop the state’s ban on abortions after about six weeks into pregnancy. As a result, Texans seeking abortions had been forced to drive hundreds of miles across the border.
By: Ann E. Marimow
11:14 AM: Crowd at Supreme Court explodes with outrage, joy as Roe v. Wade falls
    An emotional crowd gathered outside the Supreme Court on Friday morning to alternately celebrate and revile the historic overturning of Roe v. Wade, with tensions mounting between demonstrators as they absorbed the news that the court had struck down the 50-year-old decision guaranteeing the constitutional right to an abortion.
    About 100 protesters were present when the decision was announced shortly after 10 a.m.    Many said they did not expect the decision until next week and were caught off guard by the ruling announced in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the most anticipated and consequential opinion of the court’s term.    Few police were present as the crowd swelled to a few hundred and began to group itself into dueling factions.
    Supporters of abortion rights voiced despair and outrage — one held a defiant sign: “I will aid and abet abortion” — while antiabortion activists were overwhelmed with emotion at a legal victory that had been decades in the making.,br> By: Ellie Silverman, Rachel Weiner and Peter Jamison
11:13 AM: GOP praises court decision; Democrats warn of dire future for women
    The Supreme Court decision will go down “in history as one of its worst, most unjust decisions,” said the Democratic Women’s Caucus in a joint statement.
    The caucus, led by Reps. Brenda Lawrence (Mich.), Jackie Speier (Calif.) and Lois Frankel (Fla.), was among the first in Congress to react to the news Friday.
    “Women are not chattel, and the government should not have the right to mandate pregnancies,” the lawmakers said.    “The House-passed Women’s Health Protection Act must become the law of the land.”
    In an interview with NBC News, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) was asked what Democrats plan to do in response to the decision.
    “Well, the big thing that’s next is the election.    And women, and the men who support them, are going to be going in droves to the ballot box,” she said.
    Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), joined by other members of House GOP leadership, praised the decision.
    “Every unborn child is precious, extraordinary, and worthy of protection.    We applaud this historic ruling, which will save countless innocent lives,” the group wrote.
    Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) jumped on Twitter to celebrate the decision.
    “I will soon introduce a proposal to support mothers and their babies so that every child has a real opportunity to pursue the promise of America,” Rubio said.
    Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed to this report.
By: Mariana Alfaro
11:12 AM: Planned Parenthood: ‘We’re here with you — and we’ll never stop fighting for you’
© Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock A Planned Parenthood clinic in
Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mandatory Credit: Photo by TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
    Minutes after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade on Friday, Planned Parenthood said it will “never stop fighting” for women’s reproductive rights now that the fundamental right to an abortion has been overturned by the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
    “We know you may be feeling a lot of things right now — hurt, anger, confusion,” the organization tweeted.    “Whatever you feel is OK.    We’re here with you — and we’ll never stop fighting for you.”
    Planned Parenthood stressed that assistance is still available for those wanting an abortion.    “If you need an abortion, help is available to make sure you get the care you need,” the organization wrote.
By: Timothy Bella
11:11 AM: Court decision likely to be unpopular with most Americans
    By roughly 2 to 1, Americans said the court should uphold Roe rather than overturn it in an April Washington Post-ABC News poll, 54 percent to 28 percent.    An additional 18 percent said they had no opinion.
    The poll found that 58 percent of Americans said abortion should be legal in “all” or “most” cases, while 37 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases.    Seven in 10 Americans said that the decision to have an abortion should be left up to a pregnant person and their doctor rather than being regulated by law.
    Yet Americans’ views on abortion are complex.    The Post-ABC poll found that support for legal abortion was highest when the pregnant person’s physical health is endangered (82 percent), if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest (79 percent) or if there is evidence of serious birth defects (67 percent).    Americans were split on whether an abortion should be legal if a woman cannot afford to have a child, with 48 percent in support and 45 percent opposed.
    The poll also found that 57 percent of Americans opposed their state making abortions legal only in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, a central part of the Mississippi law the court upheld.
By: Emily Guskin
11:10 AM: Pelosi asks if conservative justices lied to Senate about abortion
© Jonathan Ernst/Reuters House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), on June 23 at the Capitol.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaking to reporters after the decision was announced, noted that the most recently nominated conservative justices sat before the Senate at their confirmation hearings and said they “respected authority” and the “precedent of the court, that they respected the right of privacy in the Constitution.” “Were they not telling the truth then?” she asked. Pelosi said the court contradicted itself in its rulings over the past two days.     “Yesterday, they said the states cannot make laws governing the constitutional right to bear arms,” Pelosi said, referring to Thursday’s decision striking down New York’s gun-control law.    “And today they’re saying the exact reverse, that the states can overturn a constitutional right for 50 years, a constitutional right for women having the right to choose.”
    “Their hypocrisy,” she added, “is enraging, but the harm is endless.”
    “As a woman, as a mother, as a grandmother, to see young girls now have fewer rights than their moms or even their grandmothers is something very sad for our country,” Pelosi lamented.
    Reproductive freedom, Pelosi added, “is on the ballot in November.”
By: Mariana Alfaro
11:08 AM: Schumer denounces decision: ‘One of the darkest days our country has ever seen’
    Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) denounced the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, calling it “one of the darkest days our country has ever seen” and saying the stakes are even greater for midterm elections in November.
    In a scathing statement, Schumer blamed “five unelected Justices on the extremist MAGA court” for taking rights away from millions of American women. He also blamed Republican senators who voted to confirm those Supreme Court justices, saying they knew Roe’s demise would be the result.
    “These MAGA Republicans are all complicit in today’s decision and all of its consequences for women and families in this country,” Schumer said.    “Today’s decision makes crystal clear the contrast as we approach the November elections: elect more MAGA Republicans if you want nationwide abortion bans, the jailing of women and doctors and no exemptions for rape or incest.    Or, elect more pro-choice Democrats to save Roe and protect a woman’s right to make their own decisions about their body, not politicians.”
By: Mike DeBonis and Amy B Wang
11:07 AM: In many countries, abortion is protected by law, not court decision
A woman holds a banner that reads, in Spanish, “Legal, safe, and free abortion, legalize and decriminalize abortion now, for
the independence and autonomy of our bodies,” in 2020 outside the National Congress in Mexico City. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)
    The Supreme Court’s decision Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade and scrap the constitutional right to an abortion has placed the United States among a select few countries that have severely curtailed access to the procedure in the 21st century.
    In 1973, the landmark ruling found that the constitution protected the decision to terminate a pregnancy as a fundamental matter of privacy.    It set nearly five decades of legal precedent in the United States — but was never codified into federal law.
    Since then, “monumental gains” have been made to secure abortion rights worldwide, with more than 50 countries liberalizing their laws over the past several decades, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global advocacy group opposed to abortion restrictions.
    In some countries, watershed court rulings similar to Roe opened the door to legalization.    But in many places, including much of Europe, lawmakers passed legislation expanding access to the procedure.
    The process through which abortion is legalized affects how it is regulated — and how it can be challenged.        For years, abortion rights advocates in the United States pushed for a separate law to fortify Roe, fearing that, despite the precedent, another court ruling could override the original judgment.
    But even where abortions are protected by law, new political majorities can repeal those measures or dispute them in the courts.    Ultimately, the international record shows that there is no foolproof way to safeguard abortion rights: They are regularly subject to challenge in both the legal and political realms.
    Here are some of the countries where abortion has been legalized since Roe — and how those policies have fared against the challenges that followed.
By: Erin Cunningham
11:00 AM: Thomas suggests court reconsider contraception, same-sex marriage rulings
© Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post John Becker of Silver Spring, Md., waves a rainbow flag outside the Supreme Court on
June 25, 2015. Justice Clarence Thomas expressed his support Friday for revisiting other Supreme Court rulings that he
and other conservatives believe should be left to individual states, such as contraception and same-sex marriage.
    Liberal politicians and activists have argued that other rights would be at risk of being overturned if the court did away with Roe v. Wade — and Justice Clarence Thomas seemed to confirm that Friday.
    In a separate opinion, Thomas expressed his support for revisiting other Supreme Court rulings that he and other conservatives believe should be left to individual states.    For example, he wrote that the court should move forward with revisiting the right to contraception and the right for same-sex couples to marry.
    “After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated,” he wrote.
    Obergefell v. Hodges established the right to same-sex marriage in 2015.    But Thomas — and other conservative justices — argue that the Constitution lacks an explicit reference to the right and therefore voters should decide whether that right should exist in their respective states.
By: Eugene Scott and Ann E. Marimow
10:58 AM: Liberal justices call decision ‘curtailment of women’s rights’
    In their joint dissent, the court’s three liberal justices took note of the states that will move quickly to restrict abortion access and emphasized the sweeping impact of the court’s decision on the rights of women to terminate their pregnancies.
    “Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens,” they wrote in a joint dissent.
    “Yesterday, the Constitution guaranteed that a woman confronted with an unplanned pregnancy could (within reasonable limits) make her own decision about whether to bear a child, with all the life-transforming consequences that act involve,” they wrote.
    “But no longer.    As of today, this Court holds, a State can always force a woman to give birth, prohibiting even the earliest abortions.    A State can thus transform what, when freely undertaken, is a wonder into what, when forced, may be a nightmare.”
By: Ann E. Marimow
10:56 AM:
    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) celebrated the Supreme Court ruling as “courageous and correct.”
This is [a] historic victory for the Constitution and for the most vulnerable in our society,” McConnell said in a statement Friday. “For 50 years, states have been unable to enact even modest protections for unborn children,” he said.    “Now the American people get their voice back.”
    McConnell, who helped shepherd the appointments of President Donald Trump’s three conservative justices to the Supreme Court, said the court “applied the Constitution” and commended it for “its impartiality in the face of attempted intimidation.”
    The minority leader also said the court “corrected a terrible legal and moral error, like when Brown v. Board overruled Plessy v. Ferguson.”
    “Democrats’ disgraceful attacks on the Court have echoed Democrats’ outrage at Brown v. Board in 1954,” McConnell said, accusing Democrats of being “jaw-droppingly extreme on abortion.”
    “Millions of Americans have spent half a century praying, marching, and working toward today’s historic victories for the rule of law and for innocent life,” McConnell concluded.    “I have been proud to stand with them throughout our long journey and I share their joy today.”
By: Mariana Alfaro
10:55 AM: Sen. Durbin announces hearing next month on ‘grim reality’ of post-Roe America
    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) announced almost immediately after the abortion rights ruling Friday that his panel will hold a hearing next month “to explore the grim reality of a post-Roe America.”
    In reality, there is little Democrats can do legislatively in an evenly divided Senate in response to the court’s decision.
    “Today’s decision eliminates a federally protected constitutional right that has been the law for nearly half a century,” Durbin wrote in tweets.    “As a result, millions of Americans are waking up in a country where they have fewer rights than their parents and grandparents."
    “The Court’s decision to erase the right to an abortion will not only lead to the denial of critical health care services, but also criminal consequences for women & health care providers in states eager to embrace draconian restrictions,” Durbin wrote.    “I will keep fighting to enshrine into law a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices.”
By: John Wagner
10:54 AM: Video: The scene outside the Supreme Court as Roe is overturned
    Scene outside the Supreme Court as Roe overturned
    Antiabortion activists were outside the Supreme Court on Friday morning when the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was released.
By: Allie Caren
10:53 AM: Pelosi says GOP lawmakers are plotting ‘nationwide abortion ban’
© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images “While Republicans seek to punish and control women, Democrats will keep
fighting ferociously to enshrine Roe v. Wade into law,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in a statement following the release of the Supreme Court opinion, said her Republican colleagues in Congress are now “plotting a nationwide abortion ban.”
    “With Roe now out of their way, radical Republicans are charging ahead with their crusade to criminalize health freedom,” Pelosi said.    “In the Congress, Republicans are plotting a nationwide abortion ban.    In the states, Republicans want to arrest doctors for offering reproductive care and women for terminating a pregnancy.”
    Pelosi said the Supreme Court, with its decision, has “achieved the GOP’s dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions.”
    Republican “extremists,” she added, are “even threatening to criminalize contraception, as well as in vitro fertilization and post-miscarriage care.”
    “While Republicans seek to punish and control women, Democrats will keep fighting ferociously to enshrine Roe v. Wade into law,” Pelosi said, without outlining any specific plans.
    “This cruel ruling is outrageous and heart-wrenching,” she said.    “But make no mistake: the rights of women and all Americans are on the ballot this November.”
By: Mariana Alfaro
10:49 AM: Read the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade
    Here is the opinion issued by the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade.
By: Washington Post Staff
10:48 AM: Protesters gather outside Supreme Court as abortion decision is announced
© Eric Lee/For The Washington Post A woman reacts to the opinion on
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization near the Supreme Court.
    About a hundred people were protesting outside the Supreme Court when the Dobbs decision came down Friday.    Many said they expected it Monday and were unprepared for the shock, good or bad. A line of police had just left the scene.
    The competing protesters quickly divided into two groups.    Antiabortion activists jumped up and down screaming and cheering, while abortion rights protesters shouted “illegitimate” and booed.
    Lauren Marlowe, 22, shrieked and embraced her friends.    “I can’t believe it’s real,” she said, clutching a plastic doll she said represented a 15-week fetus.    “I just want to hug everyone.”    She added, with tears in her eyes, “We’re in a post-Roe America now.”
    Paige Thomas, 17, and a friend were in Washington for a summer program and were supposed to be touring the Capitol on Friday morning.
    “Then the decision came out, so now we’re protesting,” Thomas said, her voice shaky.
    Like the antiabortion protesters, she and her friend were overwhelmed with emotion — but fear and despair, not joy.
    “I’m thankful to be surrounded by people who are still fighting for women’s rights, but it definitely feels like a step backwards,” Thomas said.
By: Ellie Silverman and Rachel Weiner
10:44 AM: Liberal justices take on Kavanaugh’s argument about ‘neutral’ position
    The liberal justices took aim at the argument from Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh that the majority was taking a “neutral” position by returning abortion policy decisions to the states.    Such a position, they wrote, puts other rights at risk.
    “What, then, of the right to contraception or same-sex marriage?    Would it be ‘scrupulously neutral’ for the Court to eliminate those rights too?    The point of all these examples is that when it comes to rights, the Court does not act ‘neutrally’ when it leaves everything up to the States,” wrote Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan.
    “When the Court decimates a right women have held for 50 years, the Court is not being ‘scrupulously neutral.’    It is instead taking sides: against women who wish to exercise the right,” they wrote.    “Justice Kavanaugh cannot obscure that point by appropriating the rhetoric of even-handedness.”
By: Ann E. Marimow
10:33 AM: Abortion will soon be banned across much of red-state America
    The tremors from Friday’s Supreme Court decision will ripple across the country almost immediately, with roughly half of all states poised to ban or drastically restrict abortion.
    Thirteen states will outlaw abortion within 30 days with “trigger bans,” designed to take effect as soon as Roe was overturned.    These laws make an exception for cases where the mother’s life is in danger, but most do not include exceptions for rape or incest. By: Caroline Kitchener
10:32 AM: Roberts criticizes fellow conservatives for overturning Roe
© Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP Chief Justice John Roberts sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington on April 23, 2021.
    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. criticized his fellow conservatives for overruling Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, saying it was not necessary to overturn that precedent in order to uphold Mississippi’s law forbidding most abortions after 15 weeks.
    “Surely we should adhere closely to principles of judicial restraint here, where the broader path the Court chooses entails repudiating a constitutional right we have not only previously recognized, but also expressly reaffirmed applying the doctrine of stare decisis,” he wrote.    “The Court’s opinion is thoughtful and thorough, but those virtues cannot compensate for the fact that its dramatic and consequential ruling is unnecessary to decide the case before us.”
By: Robert Barnes
10:30 AM: Oklahoma has already banned most abortions
    Nearly all abortions starting at fertilization are banned in Oklahoma, which has the most restrictive law in the country.
    Last month, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed a Republican-sponsored bill that took effect
immediately.    The law makes exceptions in cases where the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape, incest or sexual assault if they have been reported to law enforcement.    Oklahoma had been a refuge for some women from neighboring Texas, where a six-week ban went into effect last year.
    The ban was modeled after the restrictive Texas law, which has evaded court intervention with a novel legal strategy that empowers private citizens to enforce the law. The Supreme Court and other courts have said they cannot block those bans even though they are at odds with Roe.     Under the law, those who could be sued include anyone who “performs or induces” an abortion; anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion,” including paying for one; and anyone who even “intends to engage” in those actions.
    The law states that a lawsuit cannot be brought against a woman who had or seeks to have an abortion.
    The law defines “fertilization” as the moment a sperm meets the egg.    It explicitly allows for the use of the Plan B pill, a widely used form of emergency contraception, but would prohibit medical abortions using pills.
By: Washington Post Staff
10:29 AM: Trump-nominated justices provide decisive votes on abortion case
    What five conservative justices said about overturning abortion rulings
    In October 2016, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told a national debate audience that if he were elected, the landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the right to abortion nationwide would be overturned because of his nominees to the court.     “That will happen, automatically in my opinion,” said Trump, who vowed to appoint antiabortion justices.     On Friday, three Trump-nominated justices — Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — provided the decisive votes as the conservative-majority court overturned the nearly 50-year-old decision in Roe v. Wade.     Trump had entered office with one vacancy to fill after then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for nearly a year.    Obama had tapped Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.
    Kavanaugh replaced Justice Anthony M. Kennedy after a bitter nomination fight over accusations that as a teen Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Blasey Ford; he denied the allegations.    Barrett replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September 2020.    Her dying wish for the next president to appoint her successor was ignored by McConnell and Republicans.
By: Washington Post Staff
10:19 AM: Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ending right to abortion
    The Supreme Court on Friday overturned the fundamental right to abortion established nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade, a stunning reversal that leaves states free to drastically reduce or even outlaw a procedure that abortion rights groups said is key to women’s equality and independence.     “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.    Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.    And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.    “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”     In their dissent, the court’s three liberal justice wrote that, “In overruling Roe and Casey, this Court betrays its guiding principles.    With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent.”
By: Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow
10:18 AM: Supreme Court reaches decision in highly anticipated abortion case
    The Supreme Court has reached a decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that tests how far states may go to restrict women’s access to abortion.     The justices were considering a Mississippi law that would ban almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.    The law had not taken effect because lower courts said it was at odds with the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade in 1973 and affirmed by subsequent Supreme Court rulings.     Those decisions held that states may not impose restrictions on a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy before viability — the point when a fetus could survive outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks.     This post will be updated.
By: Washington Post Staff

6/24/2022 Justice Thomas hints gay rights and contraception at risk after conservative majority overturns Roe v Wade by Chris Morris - Fortune
    While the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was written by Justice Samuel Alito, a concurring opinion in favor of the conservative majority by Justice Clarence Thomas raises fears that rulings protecting contraception and same-sex marriage could be overruled as well in the near term.
© Getty Images Clarence Thomas
    “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents,” Thomas wrote, pointing to Griswold v. Connecticut (contraception), Lawrence (same-sex marriage), and Obergefell (same-sex marriage).    “Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous,’ we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”
    The dissenting opinion, by liberal Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, warned that more personal liberties could be at risk.
    "No one should be confident that this majority is done with its work," the dissenting opinion reads.    "The right Roe and Casey recognized does not stand alone.    To the contrary, the Court has linked it for decades to other settled freedoms involving bodily integrity, familial relationships, and procreation."
    Alito’s majority opinion takes issue with that particular argument, saying, "Rights regarding contraception and same-sex relationships are inherently different from the right to abortion because the latter (as we have stressed) uniquely involves what Roe and Casey termed ‘potential life’.”
    The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and dissent reveals a schism in the Court that is more prominent than previous rulings.
    Chief Justice John Roberts, who was part of the majority in Dobbs, expressed concerns about the ruling as well, criticizing it for overturning the Roe and Casey cases.
    And in their dissenting opinion, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan pined for past Justices, indirectly comparing them to the people who occupy their seats at the Bench today.
    "O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter—they were judges of wisdom.    They would not have won any contests for the kind of ideological purity some court watchers want Justices to deliver.    But if there were awards for Justices who left this Court better than they found it?    And who for that reason left this country better? And the rule of law stronger?    Sign those Justices up."
    This story was originally featured on

6/24/2022 Wis. Planned Parenthood To Pause Abortions Until Clarification On State Law by OAN NEWSROOM
Abortion rights supporters gather for a “pink out” protest organized by Planned Parenthood in the
rotunda of the state Capitol Wednesday, June 22, 2022, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Harm Venhuizen)
    Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin paused operations until they get clarification on the state’s law.    Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin President Tanya Atkinson announced the decision to halt abortions at their clinics on Friday, following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade.
    “This ruling takes away the freedom to control our bodies and personal health care decisions, giving it to politicians to decide,” Atkinson said in a statement after the decision was announced.
    The ruling devolves power back to the states, which re-establishes criminal penalties for abortion providers in Wisconsin.    In Wisconsin, that means a statute passed in 1849 that created penalties with no exceptions made for cases of rape or incest.
    Last month, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin also said it planned to work with the organization’s Illinois chapter to arrange for abortion services in that state, where it is still legal up to the point of the fetus being considered viable.
    “Although abortion services are not available in Wisconsin for now, Planned Parenthood’s doors across the state are open and we are here to help patients get the care they need,” the PPH President voiced.    “This includes helping patients access safe abortion care where it remains legal, offering travel assistance and providing appropriate follow-up care when they return home.    Your health and the health of the community is our number one.
    The Wisconsin Attorney General has vowed to not enforce penalties for administering abortions and has called on other law enforcement agencies to follow suit.    26 states are expected to restrict abortion access in response to the verdict.

6/26/2022 With Roe dead, some fear rollback of LGBTQ rights - Concurring opinion by Thomas raises concern by John Hanna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
An anti-abortion protester talks to an abortion rights protester Friday outside the Supreme Court in Washington.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing states to ban abortion stirred alarm Friday among
LGBTQ advocates, who feared that the ruling could someday allow a rollback of legal protections
for same-sex relationships, including the right for same-sex couples to marry. Julia Nikhinson/AP
    The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing states to ban abortion stirred alarm Friday among LGBTQ advocates, who feared that the ruling could someday allow a rollback of legal protections for same-sex relationships, including the right for same-sex couples to marry.
    In the court’s majority opinion overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Justice Samuel Alito said the decision applied only to abortion.    But critics of the court’s conservative majority gave the statement no credence.
    'I don’t buy that at all,' said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of medicine at Georgetown University and faculty director of its Institute for National and Global Health Law.    'It really is much more extreme than the justices are making it out to be.
    'It means that you can’t look to the Supreme Court as an impartial arbiter of constitutional rights because they’re acting more as culture warriors.'
    Gostin and others pointed to a separate concurring opinion in which Justice Clarence Thomas said the court should review other precedents, including its 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage, a 2003 decision striking down laws criminalizing gay sex and a 1965 decision declaring that married couples have a right to use contraception.
    'Today is about this horrifying invasion of privacy that this court is now allowing, and when we lose one right that we have relied on and enjoyed, other rights are at risk,' said Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, who is now running as a Democrat for the Ohio House.
    Abortion opponents celebrated the potential for states to ban abortion after nearly 50 years of being prevented from doing so.    Some argued that the case did not have implications beyond that, noting Alito’s words.
    'And to ensure that our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterized, we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right,' Alito wrote.    'Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.'
    Kristen Waggoner, legal director for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which helped defend the Mississippi abortion law at issue in the ruling, said the high court’s decision makes it clear that 'the taking of human life is unlike any other issue.'    She said raising other issues shows the weakness of critics’ arguments about abortion.
    Still, said Paul Dupont, a spokesman for the conservative anti-abortion American Principles Project, conservatives are optimistic about the potential for future victories on cultural issues, though getting more states to ban abortion is 'a huge enough battle.'
    'If there is a thought that this could apply elsewhere, you know, they’re not going to say it here, and we’re just going to have to see,' Dupont said.
    Other factors could protect those rulings on birth control and LGBTQ rights, too.    The Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage was based on equal protection, and hundreds of thousands of couples have relied on it to wed, a precedent that many courts would be loath to disturb.
    Still, a sharp increase in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in the U.S. and opposition to specific kinds of birth control on the right have advocates concerned that those rights are vulnerable.
    Some abortion opponents treat some forms of contraception as forms of abortion, particularly IUDs and emergency birth control such as Plan B, also known as the 'morning after' pill.    Lawmakers in Idaho and Missouri last year discussed banning state funding for emergency contraception, and Idaho prevents public schools or universities from dispersing it.
    'It’s all interconnected, because at its base, birth control and abortion are both types of health care that help people have bodily autonomy,' said Mara Gandal-Powers, director of birth control access for the National Women’s Law Center, which supports abortion rights.    'I’m very concerned about where this is going to go.'
    The Supreme Court’s three most liberal members argued that the majority decision 'breaches a core rule-of-law principle, designed to promote constancy in the law' and 'places in jeopardy' other rights.
    At the White House, President Joe Biden pledged to do everything in his power to defend a woman’s right to have an abortion in states where it will be banned. He warned that the ruling could undermine rights to contraception and same-sex marriage: 'This is an extreme and dangerous path.'
    Then there is Thomas’ concurring opinion, which Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the pro-LGBTQ-rights Human Rights Campaign, called an invitation for 'stirring up fringe organizations, fringe politicians who want to harm the LGBTQ community.'
    'There are clearly members of the court who have an outdated notion of what America looks like today and have a fantasy of returning to their painted idealism of a 1940s, 1950s America, certainly not what it really was in the 1940s and ’50s,' she said.    'And that is terrifying.'
    Jason Pierceson, a University of Illinois political scientist, said he doesn’t see the conservative majority stopping with abortion.
    'They are sending signals to the conservative legal movement, which has a lot of momentum right now because of this victory, to keep going and to keep bringing cases to them over the next several years that will give them opportunities to go further,' Pierceson said.
People attend an abortion rights protest at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said the court should review other precedents. Rick Bowmer/AP

6/26/2022 Abortion-rights supporters rally at US courthouse - Protesters describe emotions of disbelief and fear at court ruling by Krista Johnson, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
An abortion rights supporter at Louisville Metro Hall on May 4. TIMOTHY D. EASLEY/SPECIAL TO COURIER JOURNAL
    Hours after access to abortions in Kentucky ended abruptly, hundreds gathered outside Louisville’s federal courthouse in protest of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade.
    The 1973 landmark ruling established abortion as a constitutional right for all Americans.    But the reversal, after a decision released Friday, effectively outlaws the procedures in Kentucky and more than a dozen other states.
    Gut-wrenching, disbelief and fear were a few words used to describe the emotions of attendees.     The ban is immediate due to a so-called “trigger law” put in place by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2019 that calls for an end to all abortion services should Roe v. Wade be struck down.    The procedures are now allowed only to save the life of a patient or prevent disabling injury.    Downtown Louisville’s EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s only full-time abortion clinic, has ceased offering services “as a precaution,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said in a statement.
    The organization also immediately announced plans to file a lawsuit to “allow all providers to resume providing abortions as soon as possible.”    At the protest, attendee Malea Young said she came out so she wasn’t alone with her emotions.    She saw the leaked opinion in May, she said, but she still wasn’t prepared when Friday’s announcement was released.
    “I was so angry about the ruling that I needed to be in community, with others who feel the same as me,” she said, standing with her young son as temperatures swelled past 90 degrees.    “... I knew it was coming.    I wasn’t surprised it was coming.    I was surprised by how angry I felt that I lost a tangible right in a second.    It was more of a gut punch than anything.”
    Irie Ewers was in the crowd as well, with a sign that said “‘Lives’ only matter until they’re born.”    It was a “statement to the systemic violence that’s always happening,” she said, on “a day of grief.”
    Alex Torres held up the other end of Ewers’ sign.    She had personal reasons for coming out, she said, but as a social worker, she held a grim view of what happens next if abortion access is cut off.
    “I understand how our systems work and the reality is they are not working,” Torres said.    “I’m very concerned with the wellbeing of people if this stands.”
    The impact on children who are in “constant crisis,” she said, is especially concerning, including those in the foster care system.
    It’s personal for attendee Catherine Rhodes, too, who called the ruling “an attack on humans, on every single human being.”    Rhodes has lupus and had to get an abortion when she was younger due to the medical risk, she said, and Friday’s ruling made her think of others who may be in a similar position.
    “It terrified me, and the emotional impact it had on me still impacts me today — and that was 15 years ago,” Rhodes said.    “I think of all the little girls and what they could be facing.”    The group marched along Broadway from the courthouse to Metro Hall in downtown Louisville, where they at one point blocked a portion of Jefferson Street.    For many in the crowd, this was their second time in about two months time rallying outside Metro Hall in support of a woman’s right to an abortion – many had gathered after a draft Supreme Court opinion leaked in early May.    Despite that foreshadowing, many spoke of grief for their lost right to a safe abortion.    When Rhodes heard the news today, she said she felt “Uncontrollable emotions that I couldn’t sort out and still can’t.”
    “This is a literal war on generations to come and we are stepping on the backs of everyone before us who made this happen in 1973,” she said.    Kentucky patients seeking abortions won’t be able to find one in most nearby states, either.
    Of Kentucky’s seven surrounding states, only Illinois and Virginia will continue to allow largely unrestricted abortion services moving forward, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health policy group.
    Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri already have restrictions or are likely to soon eliminate abortion access, according to the institute.    Indiana, the nearest state to Louisville, did not have a trigger law on the books, but Gov. Eric Holcomb has said he plans to call the General Assembly to meet next month in an effort to ban abortions.
    Contact reporter Krista Johnson at kjohnson3@

6/26/2022 2 killed during Norway Pride festival by Maria Sanminiatelli and Karl Ritter, ASSOCIATED PRESS
People lay flowers at the scene of the early morning shooting in downtown Oslo, Norway, on Saturday. SERGEI GRITS/AP
    OSLO, Norway – A gunman opened fire in Oslo, Norway’s nightlife district early Saturday, killing two people and leaving more than 20 wounded in what the Norwegian security service called an “Islamist terror act” during the capital’s annual LGBTQ Pride festival.
    Investigators said the suspect, identified as a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, was arrested after opening fire at three locations in downtown Oslo.
    Police said two men, one in his 50s and the other his 60s, died in the shootings.    Ten people were treated for serious injuries, but none was believed to be in life-threatening condition.    Eleven others had minor injuries.
    The Norwegian Police Security Service raised its terror alert level from “moderate” to “extraordinary” – the highest level – after the attack, which sent panicked revelers fleeing into the streets or trying to hide from the gunman.
    The service’s acting chief, Roger Berg, called the attack an “extreme Islamist terror act” and said the suspect had a “long history of violence and threats,” as well as mental health issues.
    He said the agency, known by its Norwegian acronym PST, first became aware of the suspect in 2015 and later grew concerned he had become radicalized and was part of an unspecified Islamist network.
    Norwegian media named the suspect as an Oslo resident who arrived in Norway with his family from a Kurdish part of Iran in the 1990s.
    His defense attorney, John Christian Elden, said his client “hasn’t denied” carrying out the attack, but he cautioned against speculation on the motive.    “He has not given any reason.    It is too early to conclude whether this is hate crime or terrorism,” Elden said in an email to The Associated Press.
    Upon the advice of police, organizers canceled a Pride parade that was set for Saturday as the highlight of a weeklong festival.    Scores of people marched through the capital anyway, waving rainbow flags.
    Police attorney Christian Hatlo said it was too early to say whether the gunman specifically targeted members of the LGBTQ community.
    Police said civilians assisted them in detaining the man in custody, who was being held on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and terrorism, based on the number of people targeted at multiple locations.
    Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere called the shooting a “i>cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.”
    He said that while the motive was unclear, the shooting had caused fear and grief in the LGBTQ community.
    “We all stand by you,” Gahr Stoere wrote.
    Police said the suspect had a criminal record that included a narcotics offense and a weapons offense for carrying a knife.
    World leaders condemned the attack on their way to a Group of Seven summit in Germany.    The summit’s host, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, tweeted, “The Norwegian people can be sure of our sympathy.    The fight against terror unites us.”    French President Emmanuel Macron offered his condolences in a tweet in Norwegian.

6/26/2022 ABORTION RIGHTS IN THE US - LIFE AFTER ROE - Abortion opponents, supporters map next moves after reversal by Leah Willingham and Scott Bauer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
TOP: Abortion rights activists rally Saturday at the Indiana Statehouse
in Indianapolis following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. AJ MAST/AP
    CHARLESTON, W. Va. – A Texas group that helps women pay for abortions halted its efforts Saturday while evaluating its legal risk under a strict state ban.    Mississippi’s only abortion clinic continued to see patients while awaiting a 10-day notice that will trigger a ban.    Elected officials across the country vowed to take action to protect women’s access to reproductive health care, and abortion foes promised to take the fight to new arenas.
    A day after the Supreme Court’s bombshell ruling overturning Roe v. Wade ended the constitutional right to abortion, emotional protests and prayer vigils turned to resolve as several states enacted bans and both supporters and opponents of abortion rights mapped out their next moves.
    In Texas, Cathy Torres, organizing manager for Frontera Fund, a group that helps pay for abortions, said there is a lot of fear and confusion in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexico border, where many people are in the country without legal permission.
    That includes how the state’s abortion law, which bans the procedure from conception, will be enforced.    Under the law, people who help patients get abortions can be fined and doctors who perform them could face life in prison.
    “We are a fund led by people of color, who will be criminalized first,” Torres said, adding that abortion funds like hers that have paused operations hope to find a way to safely restart.    “We just really need to keep that in mind and understand the risk.”    Tyler Harden, Mississippi director for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said she spent Friday and Saturday making sure people with impending appointments at the state’s only abortion clinic – which featured in the Supreme Court case but is not affiliated with Planned Parenthood – know they don’t have to cancel them right away.    Abortions can still take place until 10 days after the state attorney general publishes a required administrative notice.
    Mississippi will ban the procedure except for pregnancies that endanger the woman’s life or those caused by rape reported to law enforcement.    The Republican speaker of the Mississippi House, Philip Gunn, said during a news conference Friday that he would oppose adding an exception for incest.    “I believe that life begins at conception,” Gunn said.
    Harden said she has been providing information about funds that help people travel out of state to have abortions.    Many in Mississippi already were doing so even before the ruling, but that will become more difficult now that abortions have ended in neighboring states like Alabama.    Right now, Florida is the nearest “safe haven” state, but Harden said, “we know that that may not be the case for too much longer.”
    At the National Right to Life convention in Atlanta, a leader within the antiabortion group warned attendees Saturday that the Supreme Court’s decision ushers in “a time of great possibility and a time of great danger.”
    Randall O’Bannon, the organization’s director of education and research, encouraged activists celebrate their victories but stay focused and continue working on the issue.    Specifically, he called out medication taken to induce abortion.
    “With Roe headed for the dustbin of history, and states gaining the power to limit abortions, this is where the battle is going to be played out over the next several years,” O’Bannon said.    “The new modern menace is a chemical or medical abortion with pills ordered online and mailed directly to a woman’s home.”
    Protests broke out for a second day in cities across the country, from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City to Jackson, Mississippi.
    In the LA demonstration, one of several in California, hundreds of people marched through downtown carrying signs with slogans like “my body, my choice” and “abort the court.”
    Turnout was smaller in Oklahoma City, where about 15 protesters rallied outside the Capitol.    Oklahoma is one of 11 states where there are no providers offering abortions, and it passed the nation’s strictest abortion law in May.
    “I have gone through a wave of emotions in the last 24 hours. … It’s upsetting, it’s angry, it’s hard to put together everything I’m feeling right now,” said Marie Adams, 45, who has had two abortions for ectopic pregnancies, where a fertilized egg can’t survive.
    “Half the population of the United States just lost a fundamental right,” Adams said.    “We need to speak up and speak loud.”
    Callie Pruett, who volunteered to escort patients into West Virginia’s only abortion clinic before it stopped offering the procedure after Friday’s ruling, said she plans to work in voter registration in the hope of electing officials who support abortion rights.    The executive director of Appalachians for Appalachia added that her organization also will apply for grants to help patients get access to abortion care, including out of state.
    “We have to create networks of people who are willing to drive people to Maryland or to D.C.,” Pruett said.    “That kind of local action requires organization at a level that we have not seen in nearly 50 years.”
    Fellow West Virginian Sarah Mac- Kenzie, 25, said she’s motivated to fight for abortion access by the memory of her mother, Denise Clegg, a passionate reproductive health advocate who worked for years at the state’s clinic as a nurse practitioner and died unexpectedly in May.    MacKenzie plans to attend protests in the capital, Charleston, and donate to a local abortion fund.
    “She would be absolutely devastated. She was so afraid of this happening – she wanted to stop it,” Mackenzie said, adding, “I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that this gets reversed.”
    The Supreme Court’s ruling is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
    Since the decision, clinics have stopped performing abortions in Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.    Women considering abortions already dealt with the near-complete ban in Oklahoma and a prohibition after roughly six weeks in Texas.
    In Ohio, a ban on most abortions from the first detectable fetal heartbeat became law when a federal judge dissolved an injunction that had kept the measure on hold for nearly three years.
    Another law with narrow exceptions was triggered in Utah by Friday’s ruling.    Planned Parenthood Association of Utah filed a lawsuit against it in state court and said it would request a temporary restraining order, arguing it violates the state constitution.
    Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, where abortion remains legal, signed an executive order shielding people seeking or providing abortions in his state from facing legal consequences in other states.    Walz also has vowed to reject requests to extradite anyone accused of committing acts related to reproductive health care that are not criminal offenses in Minnesota.
    “My office has been and will continue to be a firewall against legislation that would reverse reproductive freedom,” he said.
    In Fargo, North Dakota, the state’s sole abortion provider faces a 30-day window before it would have to shut down and plans to move across the river to Minnesota.    Red River Women’s Clinic owner Tammi Kromenaker said Saturday that she has secured a location in Moorhead and an online fundraiser to support the move has brought in more than half a million dollars in less than three days.
    Republicans sought to downplay their excitement about winning their decades-long fight to overturn Roe, aware that the ruling could energize the Democratic base, particularly suburban women.    Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said she expects abortion opponents to turn out in huge numbers this fall.
    But Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, said Saturday he believes the issue will energize independents and he hopes to translate anger over Roe’s demise into votes.
    “Any time you take half the people in Wisconsin and make them secondclass citizens,” Evers said, “I have to believe there’s going to be a reaction to that.”
    “My office has been and will continue to be a firewall against legislation that would reverse reproductive freedom.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz
ABOVE: A family of abortion opponents stand outside the Jackson Women’s
Health Organization clinic in Mississippi on Saturday. ROGELIO V. SOLIS/AP

Members of Pro-Life WacoPro gather outside the Planned Parenthood Clinic on Friday in Waco, Texas, for a rally
after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. ROD AYDELOTTE/WACO TRIBUNE-HERALD VIA AP

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, hopes to translate anger over the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of
Roe v. Wade into votes this fall as he vows to fight a 173-year-old state abortion ban in any way he can. SCOTT BAUER/AP FILE

6/26/2022 French lawmakers want abortion rights in constitution by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    PARIS – A group of lawmakers belonging to French President Emmanuel Macron’s party will propose a bill to inscribe abortion rights into the country’s constitution, according to the statement by two members of parliament on Saturday.
    The move comes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 50-year-old ruling and stripped women’s constitutional protections for abortion.
    The right to abortion in France is already inscribed in a 1975 law relating to the voluntary termination of pregnancy within the legal framework that decriminalized abortion.
    A constitutional law will cement abortion rights for future generations, said Marie-Pierre Rixain, a member of parliament and of Macron’s The Republic on the Move party.
    “What happened elsewhere must not happen in France,” Rixain said.
    The bill will include a provision that would make it “impossible to deprive a person of the right to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy,” according to the statement, released by two members of the National Assembly, France’s most powerful house of parliament.
    Aurore Berge, the leader of Macron’s party group in the parliament, said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to revoke abortion rights is “catastrophic for women around the world.”
    “We must take steps in France today so we do not have any reversal of existing laws tomorrow,” Berge said in an interview with the public radio station France Inter on Saturday.
    Macron’s party and his centrist alliance have the most seats in the National Assembly, although it lost its majority in Sunday’s legislative election as voters opted for parties on the far right and the far left.    Lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum are expected to challenge Macron’s domestic agenda, such as his controversial pension reform.
    In a polarized political climate, Berge said French lawmakers should not take chances on fundamental rights even if they already are inscribed in law.
    “Women’s rights are still rights that are fragile and are regularly called into question,” Berge said.    She added: “We don’t change the constitution like we change the law.”
    Macron expressed solidarity with women in the United States following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a nearly half a century old landmark ruling that will likely lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
    Macron said women’s liberties are being undermined by the decision.    “Abortion is a fundamental right for all women.    It must be protected,” the French president wrote in a Twitter post late Friday.

6/26/2022 ABORTION RULING - Pope hails families, blasts ‘culture of waste’ after Roe - Vatican welcomes US ruling overturning constitutional protections by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Top: A backlight’s overview of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican as Pope Francis
presides over a Mass celebrated by U.S. Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell on Saturday.
    ROME – Pope Francis celebrated families Saturday and urged them to shun “selfish” decisions that are indifferent to life as he closed out a big Vatican rally a day after the U.S. Supreme Court ended constitutional protections for abortion.
    Francis didn’t refer to the ruling or explicitly mention abortion in his homily.    But he used the buzzwords he has throughout his papacy about the need to defend families and to condemn a “culture of waste” that he believes is behind the societal acceptance of abortion.
    “Let us not allow the family to be poisoned by the toxins of selfishness, individualism, today’s culture of indifference and waste, and as a result lose its very DNA, which is the spirit of welcoming and service,” he said.
    The pope, noting that some couples allow their fears and anxieties to “thwart the desire to bring new lives in the world,” called for them not to cling to selfish desires.
    “You have been asked to not have other priorities, not to ‘look back’ to miss your former life, your former freedom, with its deceptive illusions,” he said.
    Francis has strongly upheld church teaching opposing abortion, equating it to “hiring a hitman to solve a problem.”    At the same time, he has expressed sympathy for women who had abortions and made it easier for them to be absolved of the sin of undergoing the procedure.
    The Catholic Church holds that life begins at conception and must be protected and defended until natural death.
    Francis delivered his homily in a packed St. Peter’s Square at the end of the World Meeting of Families, a four-day conference held every few years aimed at helping church workers provide better pastoral care for families, especially those in difficulty.
    The head of the Vatican’s laity office, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, celebrated the closing Mass before tens of thousands given Francis has a bad knee that makes it difficult for him to stand for long periods of time.    The pope instead sat to the side of the altar and delivered the homily seated.
    The Vatican welcomed Friday’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that provided constitutional protections for abortion in the U.S.    The move opens the doors for individual states to ban or restrict abortion access, with bans now expected in about half the U.S. states.
    The Holy See’s main bioethics body, the Pontifical Academy for Life, said it “challenges the whole world” to reopen debate about the need to protect life.    Abortion is legal in Italy and most of Europe.
    In an editorial Saturday entitled “For Life, Always,” the Vatican’s editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, called for that debate to move away from polarized ideology to a dialogue that takes into account concerns about maternal mortality rates and helping women, especially poor ones, with paid parental leave and other assistance when they bring children into the world.
    “Being for life, always, also means defending it against the threat of firearms, which unfortunately have become a leading cause of death of children and adolescents in the U.S.,” Tornielli wrote.
Pope Francis arrives to address the participants at the World Meeting of Families in Rome on Saturday. The World Meeting
of Families was created by Pope John Paul II in 1994 and celebrated every three years since then in different cities.

6/26/2022 Same-sex Mexican wedding confronts discrimination - 5 states in country still don’t allow LGBT unions by Fabiola Sánchez, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Couples of the same sex attend a mass wedding ceremony organized by city authorities
as part of LGBT pride month celebrations in Mexico City on Friday. FERNANDO LLANO/AP
    MEXICO CITY – Even after five years of living together in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, something as simple as holding hands or sharing a kiss in public is unthinkable for Dayanny Marcelo and Mayela Villalobos.
    There is an ever-present fear of being rejected or attacked in Guerrero, a state where same-sex relationships are not widely accepted and one of five in Mexico where same-sex marriage is still not allowed.
    But this week they traveled the 235 miles to Mexico’s capital, where the city government hosted a mass wedding for same-sex couples as part of celebrations of LGBT Pride Month.
    Under a tent set up in the plaza of the capital’s civil registry, along with about 100 other same-sex couples, Villalobos and Marcelo sealed their union Friday with a kiss while the wedding march played in the background.
    Their ability to wed is considered one of the LGBT community’s greatest recent achievements in Mexico.    It is now possible in 27 of Mexico’s 32 states and has been twice upheld by the Supreme Court.
    Mexico, Brazil and Argentina top Latin America in the number of same-sex marriages.
    Mariaurora Mota, a leader of the Mexican LGBTTTI+ Coalition, said the movement still is working to guarantee in all of Mexico the right to change one’s identity, have access to health care and social security and to let transsexual minors change their gender on their birth certificates.
    Walking around Mexico City a day before their wedding, Marcelo and Villalobos confessed to feeling strange holding hands in the city streets. Displays of affection between same-sex couples in the capital are commonplace, but it was difficult to shed their inhibititions.
    “I feel nervous,” said Villalobos, a 30-year-old computer science major, as Marcelo held her hand. Villalobos grew up in the northern state of Coahuila in a conservative Christian community.    She always felt an “internal struggle,” because she knew she had a different sexual orientation, but feared her family would reject her.    “I always cried because I wanted to be normal,” she said.
    She came out to her mother when she was 23. She thought that moving to Acapulco in 2017 with a young niece would give her more freedom.
    Villalobos met Marcelo, a native of the beach town, there.    Marcelo, a 29-year-old shop employee, said her acceptance of her sexual orientation was not as traumatic as Villalobos’, but she still did not come out as pansexual until she was 24.    She said she had been aided by the Mexico City organization Cuenta Conmigo, – Count on Me – which provides educational and psychological support.
    Walking around the capital this week with massive rainbow flags hanging from public buildings and smaller ones flapping in front of many businesses, Villalobos could not help but compare it to her native state and her present home in Guerrero.
    “In the same country the people are very open and in another (place) … the people are close-minded, with messages of hate toward the community,” she said.
    Elihú Rendón, a 28-year-old administrative employee for a ride-sharing application, and Javier Vega Candia, a 26-year-old theater teacher, grew up in Mexico City and coming out for them was not so complicated.
    “We’re in a city where they’re opening all of the rights and possibilities to us, including doing this communal LGBT wedding,” said Vega Candia as he held out Rendon’s hand to show off a ring he had given him shortly before they moved in together.
    When they walk through the city’s streets they don’t hesitate to express affection, sometimes hugging and dancing in a crosswalk while traffic was stopped.
    “I’m happy to have been born in this city thinking that we have these rights and not in another country where we could be killed,” Vega Candia said.
    Villalobos and Marcelo do not expect much in their daily lives to change when they return to Acapulco as a married couple.    But Marcelo said that with the marriage certificate, she will try to get Villalobos included on the health insurance she receives through her employer.
    “With a marriage certificate it is easier,” Marcelo said.    “If something happens to me or something happens to her, we’ll have proof that we’re together.”

6/27/2022 JCPS employee arrested on sex abuse charges by Caleb Stultz, Louisville Courier Journal, USA TODAY NETWORK
    A Jefferson County Public Schools employee has been arrested and charged in sexual abuse involving a teen, according to Louisville Metro Police.
    Christopher Morris, 50, was taken into custody at about 5 p.m. Thursday, according to court documents obtained by The Courier Journal.    He’s been charged with five counts of first-degree sexual abuse and four counts of third-degree sodomy, according to his arrest citation.     Morris is employed by JCPS at Conway Middle School and was a coach for a traveling Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team, according to the arrest report, which said he was in a position of authority over the victim while in this capacity.
    The alleged victim, under the age of 18, said he was sexually abused and sodomized on multiple occasions between the ages of 14 and 16.
    Morris’ official job title at Conway Middle School, according to JCPS spokeswoman Carolyn Callahan, is Instructor I, a role that works in classrooms with teachers to provide assistance with students. He was a basketball and volleyball coach at the school and has been employed by JCPS since 2005.
    As with all staff in the JCPS system, Callahan said, Morris is afforded due process and is still currently employed by the school system.
    'We will follow every step we take with any employee charged with a felony involving a minor,' Callahan said.
    Morris was in custody at Louisville Metro Corrections and was set to be arraigned Friday morning, according to court records.
Contact Caleb Stultz at cstultz@ Follow him on Twitter at @Caleb-Stultz.

6/27/2022 Pope hails families, blasts 'culture of waste' after Roe decision by NICOLE WINFIELD / Associated Press – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    ROME — Pope Francis celebrated families Saturday and urged them to shun “selfish” decisions that are indifferent to life as he closed out a big Vatican rally a day after the U.S. Supreme Court ended constitutional protections for abortion.
© Provided by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Pope hails families, blasts 'culture of waste' after Roe decision
    Pope Francis didn’t refer to the ruling or explicitly mention abortion in his homily.    But he used the buzzwords he has throughout his papacy about the need to defend families and to condemn a “culture of waste” that he believes is behind the societal acceptance of abortion.
    “Let us not allow the family to be poisoned by the toxins of selfishness, individualism, today’s culture of indifference and waste, and as a result lose its very DNA, which is the spirit of welcoming and service,” he said.
    The pope, noting that some couples allow their fears and anxieties to “thwart the desire to bring new lives in the world,” called for them not to cling to selfish desires.
    “You have been asked to not have other priorities, not to ‘look back’ to miss your former life, your former freedom, with its deceptive illusions,” he said.
    Pope Francis has strongly upheld church teaching opposing abortion, equating it to “hiring a hitman to solve a problem.”    At the same time, he has expressed sympathy for women who had abortions and made it easier for them to be absolved of the sin of undergoing the procedure.
    The Catholic Church holds that life begins at conception and must be protected and defended until natural death.
    Pope Francis delivered his homily in a packed St. Peter’s Square at the end of the World Meeting of Families, a four-day conference held every few years aimed at helping church workers provide better pastoral care for families, especially those in difficulty.
    The head of the Vatican’s laity office, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, celebrated the closing Mass before tens of thousands of people given Pope Francis has a bad knee that makes it difficult for him to stand for long periods of time.
    The pope instead sat to the side of the altar and delivered the homily seated, though he was able to stand up easily for the reading of the Gospel and other moments with the help of a cane.
    The Vatican welcomed Friday’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that provided constitutional protections for abortion in the U.S.    The move opens the doors for individual states to ban or restrict abortion access, with bans now expected in about half the U.S. states.
    The Holy See’s main bioethics body, the Pontifical Academy for Life, said it “challenges the whole world” to reopen debate about the need to protect life.    Abortion is legal in Italy and most of Europe.
    In an editorial Saturday entitled “For Life, Always,” the Vatican’s editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, called for that debate to move away from polarized ideology to a dialogue that takes into account concerns about maternal mortality rates and helping women, especially poor ones, with paid parental leave and other assistance when they bring children into the world.
    “Being for life, always, also means defending it against the threat of firearms, which unfortunately have become a leading cause of death of children and adolescents in the U.S.,” Ms. Tornielli wrote.
    Cardinal Farrell, in his closing remarks at the end of the Mass, thanked Pope Francis for his many initiatives in favor of families, citing in particular his teaching on the value of grandparents and his “many pronouncements in defense of life.”

6/27/2022 Supreme Court sides with coach in public school prayer case by ABC News
    The Supreme Court on Monday said separation of church and state does not prohibit public school employees from praying aloud on the job near students.
Public school coach asks Supreme Court to okay post-game prayers
    The case involved a high school football coach praying post-game at the 50-yard line, joined by his players.
© ABC News A coach's post-game prayers at the 50 yard-line on Bremerton
High School's football field divided the small community outside of Seattle.
    The court held that the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal; the Constitution neither mandates nor permits the government to suppress such religious expression.
    Justice Neil Gorsuch authored the opinion.    The vote was 6-3.
    "Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy's," Gorsuch wrote.    "Nor does a proper understanding of the Amendment's Establishment Clause require the government to single out private religious speech for special disfavor.    The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike."
    Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
    In her dissent, Sotomayor introduced the case as being "about whether a public school must permit a school official to kneel, bow his head, and say a prayer at the center of a school event," and wrote, "The Constitution does not authorize, let alone require, public schools to embrace this conduct."
© Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images People pray outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.,
on June 27, 2022 following the decision for former coach in public school prayer case.
    She said the free exercise clause serves as "a promise from our government" while the establishment clause serves as a "backstop that disables our government from breaking it" and "start[ing] us down the path to the past, when [the right to free exercise] was routinely abridged."
    "It elevates one individual’s interest in personal religious exercise, in the exact time and place of that individual’s choosing, over society’s interest in protecting the separation between church and state, eroding the protections for religious liberty for all," she wrote.
    Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the majority opinion in its entirety.
    The ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District is a win for former high school football coach Joe Kennedy, who was suspended from his job in 2015 over post-game prayers on the 50-yard line that sometimes involved his players.
    Kennedy insisted the midfield prayers were brief, private individual acts of faith.    The school district argued that student participation breached constitutional prohibitions against the promotion of religion by government officials.
    "It was my covenant between me and God that after every game, win or lose, I'm going to do it right there on the field of battle," Kennedy told ABC News of his ritual, which he said typically lasted less than a minute.
© ABC News Joe Kennedy, a Marine Corps veteran from Bremerton, Washington, coached high school football for
eight years until he was suspended by school district officials in 2015 over post-game prayers on the field.
    "This is a right for everybody.    It doesn't matter if you're this religion or that religion or have no faith whatsoever," he said.    "Everybody has the same rights in America."
    Lower courts had sided with the school district.    A Supreme Court reversal in favor of Kennedy could soon expand the ability of government employees nationwide to practice their faiths more openly while on the job, legal experts say.
    The First Amendment protects free speech and free exercise of religion, but it also prohibits the establishment of religion by the government.
    The Supreme Court has long said that public school-sponsored prayer violates the Establishment Clause, even if the prayer is voluntary.
    At the same time, the court has ruled that free speech rights don't end at the schoolhouse gate and that religion need not be entirely expunged from public schools.
© ABC News Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy says his post-game prayers on the field were
private acts of faith, but the school district says they became public spectacles that violated the First Amendment.
    While Kennedy routinely prayed on the field after games for more than seven years, attracting varying levels of participation from students, it wasn't until 2015 that the school district informed the coach of constitutional concerns.
    "They just said if anybody could see you anywhere here, it was over," Kennedy said.
    The school district explained at the time in a statement that the prayers violated "constitutionally-required directives that he refrain from engaging in overt, public religious displays on the football field while on duty."
    Some parents complained that the prayer sessions were applying inappropriate pressure on students to participate, even if unintended.
    "The coach is a leader.    The coach is a mentor. If he goes to the 50-yard line, he has a message he wants to deliver, and so the players would follow," said Bremerton parent Paul Peterson, whose son Aaron played for coach Kennedy in 2010.
© ABC News School officials at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washington, suspended assistant
football coach Joe Kennedy in 2015 after he continued to pray publicly with students on the field after games.
    "The harm is to those who are the minority students, the minority faiths, the students who have no faith," he said.    "They are being pressured into doing something that they don't fundamentally agree with.    That's what the First Amendment protects us from."
    A federal appeals court called Kennedy's characterization of his prayers as brief, quiet and solitary as a "deceitful narrative," noting that they were clearly audible prayers surrounded by groups of students, amounting to unlawful religious speech as "a school official."
    Kennedy's case has been cheered on by top Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, dozens of state and federal lawmakers, and star NFL quarterbacks, like Kirk Cousins and Nick Foles, who told the justices in a friend-of-the-court filing that the power of prayer promotes good sportsmanship.
    The school district has had broad backing in court filings from other professional athletes, members of Congress, civil rights groups, teachers' unions, and local government groups, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
    Kennedy currently lives in Florida but told the court that he would move back to Bremerton to return to coaching, if the justices ruled in his favor.

6/28/2022 Germany: Record numbers leaving churches by Deutsche Welle
    Hundreds of thousands of people have resigned their memberships in Germany's Protestant and Catholic churches.    Fifteen years ago, 61% of Germans belonged to churches, a number that has now dropped below 50%.    Last year was a record year for Germany in that, for the first time, less than half of the country belonged to a church.
© Markus Lange/robertharding/picture alliance Thousands have left the church even in deeply Catholic Bavaria
    The Catholic Church saw hundreds of thousands of members officially resign their membership as large numbers of former Protestants followed suit.
    According to newly published documents from the German Bishops' Conference (DBK), at least 359,000 Catholics left the church in 2021, a huge leap from the 221,390 who left in 2020.
    Even in deeply Catholic Bavaria, 14,035 people left the church from January to June of this year in Munich alone, almost double the number for the same time period in 2019.
    Also in 2021, some 228,000 Protestants left the 20 different denominations registered in Germany.    In 2020, that number was 60,000.
Most Catholics do not attend mass
Queer Catholics in Germany struggle with the church
    DBK chairman Georg Bätzing said he was "deeply shocked by the extremely high number of people leaving the church."    It is testimony to a "profound crisis in which we find ourselves as the Catholic Church in Germany," he added.
    Even amongst those who still belonged to the church, extremely few regularly attend mass, according to the DBK.    Only 4.3% of Catholics said they go to church most Sundays.
    "To these numbers we must add the realization that... not only are the people leaving [are] who have had little or even no contact with their parish for a long period of time, but there is increasing feedback that people are taking this step who were previously very committed to their churches," Bätzing said.
    "There is no longer anything we can take for granted as the Catholic Church.    We have to explain ourselves anew, explain what we do and why we do it."
    It remains to be seen to what extent shifting cultural norms, child abuse, and the COVID-19 pandemic have to do with declining church membership and attendance.    There is also the matter of church taxes, which some have written on social media is too great an expense in a time of soaring inflation and an uncertain economic future.
    Church tax is a common practice in several European countries, whereby members of religious communities pay a tax (an 8 or 9% additional levy in Germany, depending on the state) in order to finance its operations.    Although it is called the church tax, it does not apply only to Christian communities in Germany.
    Whatever the cause, the change in German society is clear.    Fifteen years ago, 61% of Germans belonged to either a Catholic or Protestant church.    Today, about 26% of Germans are officially registered as Catholics and 23.7% as Protestants.
es/ (dpa, KNA, EPD)
Copyright 2022 DW.COM, Deutsche Welle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

6/28/2022 U.S. Supreme Court takes aim at separation of church and state by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung - Reuters
© Reuters/JIM BOURGFILE PHOTO: Anti-abortion activists attend the annual "March for Life", in Washington
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court has chipped away at the wall separating church and state in a series of new rulings, eroding American legal traditions intended to prevent government officials from promoting any particular faith.
    In three decisions in the past eight weeks, the court has ruled against government officials whose policies and actions were taken to avoid violating the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment prohibition on governmental endorsement of religion - known as the "establishment clause."
    The court on Monday backed a Washington state public high school football coach who was suspended by a local school district for refusing to stop leading Christian prayers with players on the field after games.
    On June 21, it endorsed taxpayer money paying for students to attend religious schools under a Maine tuition assistance program in rural areas lacking nearby public high schools.
    On May 2, it ruled in favor of a Christian group that sought to fly a flag emblazoned with a cross at Boston city hall under a program aimed at promoting diversity and tolerance among the city's different communities.
    The court's conservative justices, who hold a 6-3 majority, in particular have taken a broad view of religious rights.    They also delivered a decision on Friday that was hailed by religious conservatives - overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide - though that case did not involve the establishment clause.
    Cornell Law School professor Michael Dorf said the court's majority appears skeptical of government decision-making premised on secularism.
    "They regard secularism, which for centuries has been the liberal world's understanding of what it means to be neutral, as itself a form of discrimination against religion," Dorf said of the conservative justices.
    In Monday's ruling, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that the court's aim was to prevent public officials from being hostile to religion as they navigate the establishment clause.    Gorsuch said that "in no world may a government entity's concerns about phantom violations justify actual violations of an individuals First Amendment rights."
    It was President Thomas Jefferson who famously said in an 1802 letter that the establishment clause should represent a "wall of separation" between church and state.    The provision prevents the government from establishing a state religion and prohibits it from favoring one faith over another.
© Reuters/JIM BOURGFILE PHOTO: Anti-abortion activists attend the annual "March for Life," in Washington
    In the three recent rulings, the court decided that government actions intended to maintain a separation of church and state had instead infringed separate rights to free speech or the free exercise of religion also protected by the First Amendment.
    But, as liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the Maine case, such an approach "leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation."
    Opinions vary over to how much flexibility government officials have in allowing religious expression, whether by public employees, on public land or by people during an official proceeding.    Those who favor a strict separation of church and state are concerned that landmark Supreme Court precedents, including a 1962 ruling that prohibited prayer in public schools, could be imperiled.
© Reuters/JIM YOUNGFILE PHOTO: Actors dressed up as Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus to replicate
the nativity scene in front of the Supreme Court during a event organized by the religious
group "Faith and Liberty" to exercise First Amendment Rights and support of religious
    "It's a whole new door that (the court) has opened to what teachers, coaches and government employees can do when it comes to proselytizing to children," said Nick Little, legal director for the Center for Inquiry, a group promoting secularism and science.
    Lori Windham, a lawyer with the religious liberty legal group Becket, said the court's decisions will allow for greater religious expression by individuals without undermining the establishment clause.
    "Separation of church and state continues in a way that protects church and state.    It stops the government from interfering with churches but it also protects diverse religious expression," Windham added.
    Most of the religious-rights rulings in recent years involved Christian plaintiffs.    But the court also has backed followers of other religions including a Muslim woman in 2015 who was denied a retail sales job because she wore a head scarf for religious reasons and a Buddhist death row inmate in 2019 who wanted a spiritual adviser present at his execution in Texas.
    The court also sided with both Christian and Jewish congregations in challenges based on religious rights to governmental restrictions such as limits on public gatherings imposed as public safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Nicole Stelle Garnett, a Notre Dame Law School professor who joined a brief filed with the justices backing the football coach, said the court was merely making clear that governments must treat religious people the same as everyone else.
    Following Monday's ruling, many issues relating to religious conduct in schools may be litigated anew under the court's rationale that the conduct must be "coercive" in order to raise establishment clause concerns.
    "Every classroom," Garnett said, "is a courtroom."
(For a related graphic, click
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone)

6/28/2022 Supreme Court Just Issued ANOTHER Ruling Further Decimating Separation of Church & State by Vivian Kane
    It’s only been a few days since the U.S. Supreme Court stripped millions of people of their right to access safe and legal abortion care, and yet, here they are again, refusing to let us have even a moment’s rest before issuing another round of horrible decisions.
© Provided by The Mary Sue Protesters sit outside the Supreme Court at night during a candlelight vigil
    Today, the court ruled in favor of a former public high school football coach, in the state of Washington, who insisted on leading on-field prayers with his players immediately following their games.
    “After learning of this practice, the school district asked him to stop, offering various accommodations that would have allowed him to pray without religiously coercing students, endangering safety, or risking a perception that his religious message bore the school’s imprimatur,” writes the ACLU.    “Instead, the coach continued to lead his student-athletes in on-field public prayers after games, and then sued the school district, claiming a First Amendment right to do so.”
    Because the current Supreme Court is stacked with Christian zealots, they ruled in favor of the coach, Joseph Kennedy.    They decided that these on-field prayers were fine because when he led them, he “was not engaged in speech ‘ordinarily within the scope’ of his duties as a coach.”    Meaning because he wasn’t actively talking about game strategy or something directly related to football, and because the game was technically over—even though he admits he was still on the job at the time! — it’s fine for an authority figure at a public school to pressure teenagers into public prayer.
    This follows last week’s decision allowing (or arguably mandating) that taxpayer funds be used for religious education.    Both decisions take a sledgehammer to the separation of church and state and both are very clearly not about the First Amendment or religious freedom in general, but specifically about evangelical Christian propagation.
Supreme Court rules in favor of high school football coach who prayed on field after games
    The one that's getting the most attention.
    As if the decision itself weren’t bad enough (it is!), the opinion written by Neil Gorsuch is filled with massive lies, including framing the issue at hand as one regarding “private prayer,” which it objectively is not—because the only way these ultra-conservative justices can justify their decisions is via lies and omissions.
    In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “Today’s decision is particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this Court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection.”
    “In doing so,” she continued, “the Court sets us further down a perilous path in forcing States to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance.”
(Featured image: Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

6/29/2022 EEOC: 2 fired for not joining company Christian prayer by Tom Foreman Jr., ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Two employees with a North Carolina company say they were fired after refusing to participate in the firm’s daily Christian prayer meetings, which they said went against their respective religious beliefs, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
    The lawsuit, which seeks a jury trial, was filed in U.S. District Court in Greensboro on Monday on behalf of John McGaha, a construction manager at Aurora Pro Services, and Mackenzie Saunders, a customer service representative at the Greensboro residential services company.    The EEOC announced the lawsuit Tuesday in a news release.
    It comes on the heels of a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which said a high school football coach in Washington state who knelt and prayed on the field after games was protected by the Constitution.
    Mary Kate Littlejohn, a Greenville, South Carolina, attorney representing McGaha and Saunders, declined comment Tuesday.    No one from Aurora Pro Services was immediately available for comment Tuesday and questions on the lawsuit were referred to an email address from which there was no immediate answer.
    In the complaint, the EEOC says daily prayer meetings are part of Aurora’s business model, though there is no reference to it on its web page.    Attendance at the prayer meetings was mandatory for employees and was a condition of employment regardless of a worker’s religious beliefs or affiliation, the complaint said.
    On occasion, prayers were requested and offered “for poor performing employees who were identified by name,” according to the complaint.    Also, the complaint noted, the company owner took attendance and would reprimand employees who did not attend.
    McGaha, who identifies himself as an atheist, was hired by the company on June 8, 2020.    He said the prayer meetings, which initially lasted around 15 minutes, stretched in length to around 45 minutes and even longer.    Saunders, who worked at Aurora from November 2020 until Jan. 21, 2021, describes herself as an agnostic.    She also acknowledged that the prayer meetings became longer over time.
    According to the complaint, McGaha said the longer the prayer meetings went, the less tolerable they became.    He said he was asked on one occasion to lead the Christian prayer, which he refused.    In late August 2020, he asked the owner of the company to be excused from those parts of the meeting that pertained to religion because of his conflict with it, but the owner refused and told him “it would be in his best interest to do so.”
    McGaha asked again in September to be excused.    The complaint said the owner told him that he did not have to believe in God nor did he have to like the meetings but he had to participate.    McGaha refused and he was fired, the complaint said.    Before he was fired, the owner reduced his base pay from $800 to $400 and his commissions were withheld after his dismissal, the EEOC said.
    In January 2021, Saunders stopped going to the prayer meetings because they conflicted with her religion.    She was fired, the complaint said, adding that the owner told her she “was not a good fit” for the company.

6/29/2022 ROE V. WADE OVERTURNED - Birth control sales surge - Contraceptive providers say, ‘Patients are fearful’ by Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY
    The day after the Supreme Court draft opinion on Roe v. Wade was leaked in early May, Sahar Saba went online and ordered two boxes of emergency contraceptives.
    The 37-year-old Minnesotan said she was “furious” over the opinion, which revealed that the Supreme Court was poised to overturn the ruling that established abortion access as a constitutional right.
    She said her concern was that lawmakers would come for birth control or emergency contraceptives such as Plan B next.
    “I have no interest whatsoever in having children.    So, this is something very important to me,” said Sahar Saba of Eden Prairie, Minn.
[The cost of birth control and condoms is probably cheaper in the long run compared of all the abortions costs besides killing babies life and souls, so do not be a part of the profiteers baby killing machine.].

6/29/2022 WHO chief: U.S. abortion ruling 'a setback,' will cost lives by Associated Press
    GENEVA (AP) — The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday criticized the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, saying the decision to no longer recognize a constitutional right to abortion was “a setback” that would ultimately cost lives.
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during
a media conference at an EU Africa summit in Brussels on Feb. 18, 2022. The head of the World Health Organization criticized
the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling that guaranteed women a constitutional right to
abortion, calling it “a setback” that would ultimately cost women's lives. (Johanna Geron/Pool Photo via AP, File)
    WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing that decades of scientific data prove that access to safe and legal abortion saves lives.
    “The evidence is irrefutable,” Tedros said.    “Restricting (abortion) drives women and girls toward unsafe abortions resulting in complications, even death.”    He said safe abortion should be understood as health care and warned that limiting its access would disproportionately hit women from the poorest and most marginalized communities.
    “We hadn't really expected this from the U.S.,” Tedros said, adding that he was concerned the Supreme Court's decision was a move “backwards."    In recent years, the U.S. has supported numerous maternal health care programs in developing countries, including access to reproductive health care.
    “We had really hoped the U.S. would lead on this issue,” Tedros said.
    The WHO's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, said the U.N. health agency's position on abortion was based on decades of data from numerous countries.
    “I know from own experience, working in India, that having access to safe abortion is a life-saving measure,” Swaminathan said.    She said denying a woman access to abortion was “like denying someone a life-saving drug."
    She said bans on abortion would do little to reduce the number of procedures while people who undergo unsafe abortions are at risk of developing fatal blood infections.
    “What these bans do ... is it drives women into the hands of people who are there to exploit the situation, performing unsafe abortion and very often resulting in a huge amount of damage to their health and sometimes death," Swaminathan said.
    In recent years, the trend among countries has been to increase access to abortion, including regions where there was staunch opposition, like Latin America, she said.
    “It’s unfortunate to see some countries going backward,” Swaminathan said, citing the U.S. decision.
    WHO chief Tedros said he feared many other countries might not understand the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and could take similar measures to restrict abortions.
    “The global impact is also a concern,” he said.    “This is about the life of mother,” he said.    “If safe abortion is illegal, then women will definitely resort to unsafe ways of doing it.    And that means it could cost them their lives.”

6/29/2022 Pope urges end to ideological polemics over old Latin Mass by NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press
    ROME (AP) — Pope Francis urged the Catholic faithful Wednesday to stop exploiting the old Latin Mass for ideological reasons and to start discovering the beauty of the new liturgy that grew from the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis holds the crucifix as he celebrates a Mass on the Solemnity of
Saints Peter and Paul, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
    Francis penned a letter to rank-and-file Catholics as part of his long-term effort to crack down on the spread of the traditional rite and its supporters.    He called on the faithful to “abandon our polemics” over the liturgy, which he said risked the very communion and unity of the Catholic Church.
© Provided by Associated Press A priest walks in St. Peter's Basilica as Pope Francis celebrates Mass during
the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
    “I don’t see how it is possible to say that one recognizes the validity of the council – though it amazes me that a Catholic might presume not to do so – and at the same time not accept the liturgical reform,” Francis wrote.
    The timing of the document's release seemed intentional: It was issued on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, an important feast day for the Catholic Church in which the unity of the church, and the communion between its archbishops and the pope, are emphasized.
    Francis began his crackdown on the pre-Vatican II Mass in 2021, when he re-imposed restrictions on celebrating the rite that had been loosened by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.    Francis said then that he had to take action because Benedict’s reform had become a source of division in the church and been exploited by Catholics opposed to Vatican II.
© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis leaves after a Mass on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul,
in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
    Indeed, Catholic traditionalists attached to the old rite, also known as the Tridentine Rite, have become some of the biggest opponents to Francis and his belief that the church should be a “field hospital” that welcomes everyone and where the Eucharist is not a “prize for the perfect” but rather medicine for the weak.
© Provided by Associated Press Job of Telmessos, Ihor Wladimir Getcha, the Eastern Orthodox Archbishop of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate, left, hugs Pope Francis at the end of a Mass during the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul,
in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
    Francis further clamped down on the Latin Mass later in 2021 by forbidding the celebration of some sacraments according to the ancient rite.
    In both instances, his directives were aimed at bishops and religious superiors.    His letter Wednesday was aimed instead at rank-and-file Catholics and included a call for seminarians and their teachers to embrace the Vatican II reforms and learn the way to celebrate the liturgy according to them.
    “We cannot go back to the ritual form which the council fathers ... felt the need to reform,” Francis wrote.
    Francis has repeatedly spoken out against traditionalists, decrying their “rigidity” and inward focus, lamenting that their nostalgia for the past was “gagging” the acceptance of Vatican II.    Those 1960s meetings modernized the church and led to the Mass being celebrated in the vernacular rather than Latin.
    Writing Wednesday, Francis said he imposed the 2021 crackdown “so that the church may lift up, in a variety of so many languages, the one and the same prayer capable of expressing her unity.”    He added that “I intend that this unity be reestablished in the whole church of the Roman rite.”
    To combat what he has called a tendency toward “restorationism,” Francis has called for the faithful to spend the next two years preparing for the Church’s 2025 Jubilee year by rereading the Vatican II texts and learning more about what led to the reforms in the first place.
© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis holds the crucifix as he celebrates a Mass on the Solemnity of Saints
Peter and Paul, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
    At an event Tuesday launching the Jubilee preparations, the Vatican organizer, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, said the aim was to “arouse curiosity in those who have no memory of the event and to help them enter into the essence of the council in order to discover the innovative longing that enabled the church to consciously enter the third millennium of its history.”
© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis celebrates a Mass during the Solemnity of Saints Peter and
Paul, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a Mass during the Solemnity of Saints Peter
and Paul, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a Mass during the Solemnity of Saints Peter
and Paul, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis delivers his speech during a Mass on the Solemnity of Saints Peter
and Paul, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis prays as he celebrates a Mass on the Solemnity of Saints Peter
and Paul, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

© Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis holds the crucifix as he celebrates a Mass on the Solemnity of
Saints Peter and Paul, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

6/29/2022 Bill Making Calif. Transgender Sanctuary State Advances by OAN NEWSROOM
FILE – State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, discusses his proposed measure to provide legal refuge
to displaced transgender youth and their families during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif.,
March 17, 2022. Democratic lawmakers in more than a dozen states are following California’s lead in seeking
to offer legal refuge to displaced transgender youth and their families. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
    A California State Assembly committee passed a Senate bill that would make the state a transgender sanctuary state.    The legislation passed Monday along party lines.    It would provide refuge for trans youth and their parents, along with physicians who believe in so-called gender-affirming health care.
    Two people gave testimonies in opposition of the bill.    One included a 17-year-old girl who shared how much she regretted removing both of her breasts when she decided to medically transition at 13.
    Another testimony was from a lawyer and mother, Erin Friday, who said the bill is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.    She also laid out what the bill actually is.
    The bill had its second reading and will be referred to the Appropriations Committee. If it passes out of both the Senate and Assembly, the next step would be for Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom to sign it into law.

6/30/2022 Pope Francis pushes to purge liturgy of ideology in new document by Religion News Service – Religion News Service
    VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis issued a new document on Wednesday (June 29) aimed at promoting the “rediscovery” of the Catholic Church’s Eucharistic liturgy celebrated at Mass to protect it from ideological influences.
    “With this letter I simply want to invite the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration,” Francis wrote, without it being “spoiled by a superficial and foreshortened understanding of its value or, worse yet,” he added, “exploited in service of some ideological vision, no matter what the hue.”
    The document, titled “Desiderio Desideravi,” a Latin phrase meaning “Ardently Desire,” also pushes back against proponents of the Old Latin Mass, or Tridentine Rite, which was swapped in favor of the vernacular Mass instituted by the 1963-65 Second Vatican Council.
    A year ago, Francis reintroduced the restrictions on celebrating the Old Latin Mass, which had been allowed by his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.    Unlike that document, which was aimed at bishops and priests, “Desiderio Desideravi” is addressed to all the Catholic faithful.
    The beauty of the liturgy, Francis wrote, is not about “the search for a ritual aesthetic” that focuses on “a careful exterior observance of a rite” or “a scrupulous observance of the rubrics.” Nor does the pontiff wish for the Catholic Mass to be reduced to “a careless banality” or “ignorant superficiality.”
    Akin to an artistic performance, the liturgy must be rehearsed and carefully prepared, the pope wrote, so that faithful may participate in wonder at the sacrament in which, Catholics believe, the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.
    “But even if the quality and the proper action of the celebration were guaranteed, that would not be enough to make our participation full,” the document states.
    Some conservative prelates and lay people have championed the pre-Vatican II Latin rite to express dissent against Francis, who they believe is furthering secularization in the church.    Proponents of the old rite claim that the incense-filled and shimmering-gold celebrations function as a pull toward the divine, dismissing today’s liturgy as too austere.
    “If the reform has eliminated that vague ‘sense of mystery,’ then more than a cause for accusations, it is to its credit,” Francis wrote.    “Beauty, just like truth, always engenders wonder, and when these are referred to the mystery of God, they lead to adoration.”
© Provided by Religion News Service In this Sunday, April 12, 2020, file photo, San Francisco Archbishop
Salvatore Cordileone celebrates Easter Mass, which was livestreamed, at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
    God allows it, according to reports.    Pope Francis has said that.
    The new document appeared just as several prominent conservative cardinals and bishops attended a conference on Catholic liturgy at St. Patrick’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, whose leader, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, has been at odds with Francis’ policy of giving Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.
    Participants at the June 28-July 1 meeting, titled “Sacred Liturgy,” include Cardinal Robert Sarah, a retired West African prelate who until last year headed the Vatican’s liturgy department, and Cardinal George Pell, an Australian who stepped down as the Vatican’s financial reform czar in 2020 to successfully defend himself against sexual abuse charges.    Both have been critics of Francis.
    The document released Wednesday directly addresses the factionalism over the Latin Mass.    “Behind the battles concerning rite, in the end, are hidden differing views of the church,” wrote Andrea Tornielli, the head of the Vatican communications department, in an article accompanying the document.
    Francis himself voices dismay in “Desiderio Desideravi” at the pushback that Vatican II still meets today.    As pope he has cautiously but determinedly opened the church and the Eucharist to divorced and remarried couples, people who have had abortions and, most recently, politicians who support abortion rights.
    “The world still does not know it, but everyone is invited to the supper of the wedding of the Lamb,” the pope said in the document, alluding to a passage in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation.    “To be admitted to the feast all that is required is the wedding garment of faith which comes from the hearing of his Word.”
© Provided by Religion News Service Pope Francis holds up the host as he celebrates Mass in San Gelasio
parish church in the Ponte Mammolo neighborhood of Rome on Feb. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
    Francis underlined that the liturgy “has nothing to do with an ascetical moralism.”    The phrase “ardently desire” is itself a quote from the Gospel of Luke describing Jesus’ wish to share Passover, one of the bases for the Mass, with his apostles.
    The pope also offered some cautionary words for priests who put themselves at the center of the liturgy, cautioning them against “a heightened personalism of the celebrating style which at times expresses a poorly concealed mania to be the center of attention.”
    This is especially the case when Masses are celebrated online, the pope wrote, a phenomenon that has grown in popularity since the onset of the pandemic.
    The liturgy is about placing “the other” first, the pope wrote, and while it has been studied by scholars, Francis wrote, it should be offered “in an accessible way, so that each one of the faithful might grow in a "knowledge of the theological sense of the Liturgy.”
    The pope also reminded his readers that the Second Vatican Council moved with the full authority of the church.    “We cannot go back to that ritual form which the Council fathers (…) felt the need to reform, approving, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and following their conscience as pastors, the principles from which was born the reform,” Pope Francis concluded.
    “Let us abandon our polemics to listen together to what the Spirit is saying to the Church.    Let us safeguard our communion.    Let us continue to be astonished at the beauty of the Liturgy,” he added.

6/30/202 Asst. HHS Secy. Levine: Only ‘Bigots’ Oppose Transgender Kids by OAN NEWSROOM
Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health, Adm. Rachel Levine, left,
speaks after having attended a roundtable on gender-affirming care and transgender health, along with
Arianna Inurritegui-Lint, right, CEO and founder of Arianna’s Center, Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    Assistant Secretary of Health, Admiral Rachel Levine received backlash after accusing opponents of gender reassignment treatment for children of transphobia.    The Florida Department of Health is doubling down on its opposition to gender reassignment treatment for underage patients amid a spat with Levine.
    In a statement Tuesday, Florida officials reiterated experimental and irreversible medical treatments must not be provided to children and teenagers-who suffer from gender dysphoria.    This comes after last week’s testimony by Levine, the first transgender cabinet official in history, who painted the Florida Health Department out to be an opponent of LGBTQ equality.
    The event, called the Pride Month Town Hall, was recently live-streamed by the DNC.    During that discussion, Levine promoted gender-transitioning for minors and referred to transgender treatments as an “age appropriate” and a “critical tool.”    It was during that event when the admiral suggested that the Florida Health Department was against the LGBTQ community and claimed opponents of gender-transitions for minors are “targeting trans youth to score political points.”
    The department fired back at Levine while taking issue with her claims that this makes anyone at the department an “opponent of LGBTQ equality,” also adding that her comments are “nothing more than a poorly attempted character assassination.”    Levine has yet to respond to the rebuttal by Florida officials.    Meanwhile, Florida’s surgeon general is recommending other states to prohibit children’s access to “disfiguring” gender surgery.

    This page created on 4/1/2022, and updated each month by 4/30/2022, 5/31/2022, 6/30/2022.

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