High Court Hears Abortion Next Term
THE WASHINGTON POST, July 8 — Having just wrapped up a Supreme Court spring session that addressed a number of tough issues such as school choice and the death penalty, the justices now have three months off. According to The Washington Post, they're going to need the rest, since the fall term is likely to be a rough ride.
Among the cases the justices will face is one concerning pro-life activists and their freedom of expression. In a consolidation of two landmark — some say infamous — cases, Scheidler v. NOW and Operation Rescue v. NOW, the justices will consider whether lower courts overstepped the plain intent of the law when they applied the anti-racketeering “RICO” act to pro-life demonstrators.
In both cases, the pro-abortion group National Organization for Women successfully argued that the national Operation Rescue movement fit the law's description of a criminal conspiracy and won massive, crippling damages against its organizers, including well-known Catholic activist Joseph Scheidler.
The outcome of these cases could determine whether the nonviolent, civil disobedience these pro-life groups used is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
States Revoke Clergy Exemptions for Reporting Abuse
USA TODAY, July 5 — For many years, clergymen of every denomination enjoyed broad exemption from reporting allegations of sexual abuse against minors in some 21 states, according to USA Today. However, that practice is changing in the wake of recent scandals.
Since January, four state legislatures — those of Massachusetts, Illinois, Missouri and Colorado — have made it a crime to fail to report such accusations of abuse to the police, and more states are expected to act soon.
A sponsor of the Illinois bill, state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, said, “The scandal is so far-reaching it was important to make a stand. We have to put in safeguards for the welfare of children.”
Most denominations' leaders have accepted the change in the laws in the wake of revelations about abuse that went unpunished in Massachusetts and other states.
Boston Cardinal Bernard Law backed the change in his state's law, and the U.S. Catholic Conference in Dallas took a similar stand.
Marriage Amendment Again Up for Consideration
THE BOSTON PILOT, June 28 — According to the Archdiocese of Boston's newspaper, The Pilot, legislation defining marriage as a heterosexual, non-polygamous union still languishes in the Massachusetts legislature.
When that state's Assembly opened in June, it took “only three minutes” for state Senate President Tom Birmingham, D-Chelsea, “to recess the session without debate or a vote on the proposed Protection of Marriage Amendment,” the paper complained.
The bill would place the amendment on the ballot for approval by voters. In states where such referenda have made it to the ballot – even in liberal states — they have usually prevailed.
To reach the ballot, the amendment must be approved twice by the legislature within two years. However, “if the first vote is not taken before this session ends July 31, the measure will die,” The Pilot warned.
Maria Parker, associate director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, called traditional marriage a fundamental building block of a stable society and asked the legislature to reconsider the amendment.
“Marriage is central to our system of beliefs and basic to family, procreation of children and love between a husband and wife,” she said. “The legislature needs to know that people are angry and that they are willing to thwart democracy in this society.”