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Attacking COVID, not religion: New York City, state have the right approach

The two Brooklyn federal judges who reviewed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new temporary COVID restrictions in stretches of that borough and Queens both rightly decided that the rules do not unfairly intrude on religion. The lawsuits seeking to set aside the 10-person cap on worship services, one brought by Orthodox Jews and the other by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, were properly denied by Judges Kiyo Matsumoto and Eric Komitee.Matsumoto noted, in fact, that Cuomo gave extra latitude to faith, as nonessential gatherings of any size are banned entirely. However, still undefined is what com...

Amy Coney Barrett supported extreme anti-abortion group that believes life begins at fertilization

If President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are successful in ramming Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination through the Senate before Election Day, the U.S. Supreme Court could end up with another far-right social conservative who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Barrett has made no secret of her strident opposition to the ruling, and in the Guardian, journalist Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports that Barrett has supported a group that is "considered to be extreme even within the anti-abortion movement."

That group is St. Joseph County Right to Life, based in South Bend, Indiana. Kirchgaessner notes that the group "has said life begins at fertilization" and that "the discarding of unused or frozen embryos created in the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process ought to be criminalized."

According to Kirchgaessner, "In 2006, while Barrett worked as a law professor at Notre Dame, she was one of hundreds of people who signed a full-page newspaper advertisement sponsored by St Joseph County Right to Life…. The advertisement, which appeared in the South Bend Tribune, stated, 'We, the following citizens of Michiana, oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death. Please continue to pray to end abortion.'"

Jackie Appleman, executive director of St. Joseph County Right to Life, told the Guardian, "We support the criminalization of the doctors who perform abortions. At this point, we are not supportive of criminalizing the women. We would be supportive of criminalizing the discarding of frozen embryos or selective reduction through the IVF process."

Kirchgaessner explains why St. Joseph County Right to Life's views are controversial even within the anti-abortion movement, noting, "For years, mainstream anti-abortion activists have avoided including discarded embryos created in the in vitro fertilization process in their crusade to protect every embryo, in part because seeking to curtail IVF treatment would be very unpopular. In Alabama, which has passed a near-total ban on abortion, embryos created through IVF are excepted from the law. But the issue has gained resonance with some fringe groups who have sought to give fertilized eggs a constitutionally protected 'right to life.'"

When the U.S. Senate confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018, many feminists and pro-choice activists feared that Roe v. Wade (which, 47 years ago, legalized abortion nationwide) was in jeopardy — and if Barrett is confirmed, that 1973 decision is almost certain to be struck down. The end of Roe would not be a nationwide abortion ban, but it would allow individual states to outlaw abortion. A nationwide post-Roe abortion ban would need to be passed by both houses of Congress, which isn't going to happen as long as Democrats have a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Barrett's Senate confirmation hearings are set to begin on Monday, October 12, and Trump is hoping that the Senate will have a full vote on her nomination before Election Day.

Amy Coney Barrett tied to far-right religious cult that believes women must ‘submit’ to their husbands

Now that President Donald Trump has nominated far-right Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the U.S. Supreme Court, her connection to the extremist quasi-Catholic cult People of Praise is once again coming under scrutiny. Trump's supporters are trying to paint criticism of Barrett as anti-Catholic, but in fact, People of Praise is controversial within Catholicism and isn't exclusively Catholic. And the Associated Press is reporting on some of its disturbing practices.

People of Praise does not practice traditional Catholicism, but rather, has been greatly influenced by far-right fundamentalists and Pentecostal evangelicals. While many of members have been Catholics, evangelical Protestants have been participants as well.

Associated Press reporters Michael Biesecker and Michelle R. Smith explain, "People of Praise is a religious community based in charismatic Catholicism, a movement that grew out of the influence of Pentecostalism — which emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus and can include baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. The group organizes and meets outside the purview of a church and includes people from several Christian denominations, but its members are mostly Roman Catholic."

One of the most controversial aspects of People of Praise is the severely patriarchal belief system it promotes. People of Praise used to refer to female members as "handmaids."

Former People of Praise member Coral Anika Theill, who joined the group in 1979 and is now 65, told the Associated Press that when she was a member, women were expected to live in "total submission" to their husbands. Theill told AP, "My husband at the time was very drawn to it because of the structure of the submission of women."

Theill has written about her experiences with People of Praise in her book, "Bonsheá: Making Light of the Dark." Biesecker and Smith note that in her book, Theill "recounts that in People of Praise, every consequential personal decision — whether to take a new job, buy a particular model car or choose where to live — went through the hierarchy of male leadership. Members of the group who worked outside the community had to turn over their paystubs to church leaders to confirm they were tithing correctly."

According to Theill, her husband accompanied her to gynecological appointments to make sure she was not obtaining birth control.

Adrian Reimers, another ex-member of People of Praise, wrote about the group in his 1997 book "Not Reliable Guides." According to Reimers — who now teaches at Notre Dame University — People of Praise believe that wives must "submit in all things" to their husbands.

Reimers wrote, "A married woman is expected always to reflect the fact that she is under her husband's authority. This goes beyond an acknowledgment that the husband is 'head of the home' or head of the family; he is, in fact, her personal pastoral head. Whatever she does requires at least his tacit approval. He is responsible for her formation and growth in the Christian life."

Biesecker and Smith report that another ex-member of People of Praise, 56-year-old Lisa Williams, has described her experiences with the group in a blog called Exorcism and Pound Cake. According to Williams, "I remember my mother saying a wife could never deny sex to her husband, because it was his right and her duty. Sex is not for pleasure. It's for as many babies as God chooses to give you.... Women had to be obedient. They had to be subservient."

Trump considered nominating Barrett, a federal appellate judge, for the U.S. Supreme Court after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his resignation in 2018. The president ended up nominating Brett Kavanaugh instead, and he was confirmed to the High Court after a series of turbulent hearings in the Senate. But Trump's allies said he would keep Barrett in mind if any more seats on the Supreme Court became vacant while he was president. And a seat became available when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of cancer on Friday, September 18.

Senate confirmation hearings for Barrett are set to begin on October 12.

Barr to be honored for ‘Christlike behavior’ with award from right wing Catholic group with strong ties to Trump

Attorney General Bill Barr will be honored for his “Christlike behavior” at Wednesday’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, according to Roman Catholic Sister, author, and anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean.

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Meet Bishop John Stowe, the Kentucky Catholic and blistering Trump critic who called the president 'anti-life'

If President Donald Trump succeeds in ramming a far-right U.S. Supreme Court nominee through the U.S. Senate before Election Day — and it appears that he has enough Republican votes in the Senate to do exactly that — he will be offering a giant dose of red meat to his white evangelical anti-abortion Christian right base. But it’s important to remember that Trump is by no means universally loved among Christians, and in Kentucky — where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is seeking reelection — one of Trump’s vocal critics has been Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington.

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Wife told 911: Drunk and disgraced Jerry Falwell Jr. 'lost a lot of blood' after fall

Jerry Falwell, Jr. fell down, cut himself, and lost "a lot of blood," his wife Becki Falwell told the 911 operator the night the disgraced and now-former Liberty University chancellor and president officially resigned.

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Conservative pastor in a lot of hot holy water after sending gross email to journalist

A Michigan pastor has been hearing a whole lot from the public recently after sending an email to journalist Sarah Jeong—which was then posted by Jeong on her Twitter account. In the email, the christian (with a little “c”) David Muns threatens Jeong with genital mutilation, calling her a “bitter Asian woman.” The entirety of his statement will be discussed below, and includes graphic language, but those are the broad strokes.

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The threat of right-wing theocracy has raised its ugly head once again

With both parties' conventions behind us as we head into a quasi-apocalyptic election, there's more need than ever for a sense of balance. Not the kind of false balance that equates truth with lies, or soothing psychological balance that lulls us with a false sense of security, but rather a balanced sense of history and political possibility that helps us understand where we're going, and why. Understanding America's real history is particularly important, as shown in Nathan Kalmoe's new book, "With Ballots and Bullets: Partisanship and Violence in the American Civil War," as discussed in our recent interview.

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Trump placing re-election hopes on religious group that rejected him in 2016: report

According to a report in Politico, Donald Trump's re-election campaign is attempting to woo members of the Church of Latter-day Saints this campaign cycle after they roundly rejected him in 2016.

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Right-wing Christians are training thousands of volunteers to help interfere in the election

Religious right activists are inserting themselves into the election process by gearing up to challenge votes cast by mail and watch for suspected fraud at polling stations.

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Historian explains the huge mistake 'increasingly desperate' evangelicals make in backing Trump

The latest Pew Research poll shows that 72% of white evangelical Protestants approved of Donald Trump’s work as president in June, and 59% strongly approved. That number was slightly lower than his approval earlier in the year. But about 82% of white evangelicals said they would vote for Trump, even higher than the proportion who voted for him in 2016. 35% say that Trump has been a “great President” and 34% say he has been “good”. No other religious subgrouprates Trump positively.

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