Voters in four states will decide same-sex marriage ballot questions on Nov. 6. As many readers know, I’ve been writing actively on the Maryland question, and those interested in catching up on that can follow the links here to find, among other things, my recent interview on the subject with the Arab news service Al-Jazeera, my thoughts on Judge Dennis Jacobs’s decision striking down Section 3 of DOMA (the federal Defense of Marriage Act), and my reaction to the other side’s “bad for children” contentions.
The Cato Institute has been doing cutting-edge work on the topic for years from a libertarian perspective; some highlights here.
Yet more: Hans Bader on religious liberty and anti-discrimination law [Examiner, CEI] And my letter to the editor in the suburban Maryland Gazette: “Civil society long ago decoupled marriage law from church doctrines.”
It has been asserted in various outlets that many states already mandate contraceptive coverage, that the Catholic church has been content to live with those mandates, and so that the current firestorm over the ObamaCare provision must just be something cooked up by Republican consultants. Here is a response from the National Council of Catholic Bishops via NR’s Kathryn Lopez:
6. The federal mandate is much stricter than existing state mandates. HHS chose the narrowest state-level religious exemption as the model for its own. That exemption was drafted by the ACLU and exists in only 3 states (New York, California, Oregon). Even without a religious exemption, religious employers can already avoid the contraceptive mandates in 28 states by self-insuring their prescription drug coverage, dropping that coverage altogether, or opting for regulation under a federal law (ERISA) that pre-empts state law. The HHS mandate closes off all these avenues of relief.
More on the controversy from my Cato colleague Roger Pilon and from Jonathan Rauch. And: John Cochrane on the wider folly of letting the feds mandate contraceptive coverage in the first place: “Sure, churches should be exempt. We should all be exempt.”
Ross Douthat on how the ObamaCare Pill edict points up some “trade-offs… which liberal communitarians don’t always like to acknowledge. When government expands, it’s often at the expense of alternative expressions of community, alternative groups that seek to serve the common good.” More: Steve Chapman.
HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius said giving church-related sponsors of health plans an additional year to comply with the contraceptive mandate “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.” Really? If religious freedom is in fact at stake, what kind of “balance” is attained if it gets a one-year reprieve but then expires? A balance between current freedom of institutional conscience and future lack of same? [AP] On the Obama administration’s remarkably unfriendly stance toward self-governance by church institutions, see my coverage of this term’s Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court case. More: Michael Greve has a must-read analysis predicting the directive’s downfall in court, and pointing out the procedural dodginess of this and much other regulation implementing the ACA. And Thom Lambert asks: “What if the Government Ordered the Human Rights Campaign to Cover Conversion Therapy for Gays?”
Things you’re missing if you’re not keeping up with my other site:
I’ve got a few thoughts at Point of Law on the continuing uproar over prosecutions of international human rights violations against the will of the home countries of the alleged perpetrators.
Charlotte Allen of the Manhattan Institute on the EEOC’s crackdown on a traditionalist Catholic college for not including contraceptives in its health plan. [Weekly Standard]
Greenwich, Ct. lawyer/businessman Tom Gallagher, the main force pushing for the bad bill in the Connecticut legislature that would compel the Roman Catholic Church to submit its parishes to the control of layperson boards, also figured in these columns (though not by name) last year in the locally famous “wiffle ball field” controversy; he was the homeowner complaining about the property used by local kids to play wiffle ball. (Stamford Advocate via Fountain).
I posted yesterday over at Secular Right about the origins of that strange, deplorable proposal in the Connecticut legislature to prescribe control of the Roman Catholic Church by boards of laypeople. The proposal is just as bad and unconstitutional as it has been rumored to be, but its origins are rather different than you might think from reading some conservative publications.
Just posted at Musings from a Catholic Bookstore:
We currently have received certification from one vendor (about 10 products) which means that we have been forced to discontinue 1ooo products that we currently don’t have in stock to avoid breaking the law after February 10th. We currently have about 600 different kid’s items in stock that are discounted and won’t be available after February 10th unless we get more certificates from vendors.
The upshot of this? The First Communion season (February – May) is usually the second busiest season of the year for Catholic retailers. This year, unless our vendors get their acts together, it will be the worst season ever because there won’t be any First Communion dresses, kid’s missals, kid’s rosaries, etc. available for purchase.
I wonder how many Catholic retailers that are currently on the edge this will put over into failure? Knowing our industry it is quite likely that many, in spite of our contacting them, will continue operating as if the law doesn’t exist. At least until they get fined out of existence.
Anyway, stock up on First Communion and other kid’s items now because they may not be available next month.
A jury in Vermont has awarded a former altar boy $192,500 in compensatory damages, and $3.4 million in punitive damages, for suffering alleged molestation at the hands of a priest in 1977. According to the Times Argus of Vermont, this is the third trial this year involving the same priest, who, amazingly, still retains his collar though he’s retired from active service. As a result, the diocese of Vermont appears to be teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The diocese has announced it will appeal the verdict.
The ratio of punitive to compensatory damages appears to violate the Supreme Court’s suggestion in Exxon Shipping v. Baker (an admiralty case decided on statutory grounds) that a punitive ratio in excess of single digits, or even 1:1, is unconstitutional. But as Cal Punitives points out, is this the case with which to put that suggestion to the test?
A group claiming to be descended from the Knights Templar, which was suppressed in the year 1307 under orders from Pope Clement V, has “filed a lawsuit against Benedict XVI calling for him to recognise the seizure of assets worth 100 billion euros (£79 billion).” (Fiona Govan, “Knights Templar heirs in legal battle with the Pope”, Telegraph, Aug. 4; NewsHoggers, Aug. 4 (noting unlikelihood that claim of descent can be adequately demonstrated)).