Liberal groups are working to stop Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation – which could threaten to unravel abortion rightsTwo thousand Planned Parenthood organizers and volunteers, mostly female and young, gathered recently in Detroit to imagine what they see as a kinder, more peaceful America. But eighteen months and counting into the presidency of Donald Trump and with the threat of a conservative supreme court that could unravel abortion rights in the US, their mission was nothing short of political trench warfare. Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/09/pro-choice-groups-fight-against-trump-supreme-court-pick

In Youkhanna v. City of Sterling Heights, (ED MI, Aug. 1, 2018), a Michigan federal district court dismissed a lawsuit challenging a consent decree approved by the Sterling Heights City Council growing out of a dispute over zoning approval for a mosque. (See prior posting.) The consent decree settled two related lawsuits– one by the Islamic Center and one by the Department of Justice– that alleged violations of RLUIPA and of the Islamic Center’s free exercise rights.  An overcrowded and contentious City Council meeting preceded approval of the consent decree.  Rejecting the challenge to approval of the consent decree the court said in part:The crux of Plaintiffs’ Complaint is that the approval of the Consent Judgment should be invalidated because the Council purportedly failed to abide by the City’s Zoning Code by neglecting to consider the discretionary standards set forth in § 25.02. Plaintiffs’ further assert that the Consent Judgment should be invalidated because the City did not comply with the notice requirements under the MZEA [Michigan Zoning Enabling Act]. Both of Plaintiffs’ arguments are without merit.The court also rejected claims that the Michigan Open Meetings Act had been violated and that defendants’ 1st, 4th and 14th Amendment rights had been infringed. The court said in part:Plaintiffs claim their speech was impermissibly chilled when they and other audience members were limited to a two-minute speaking time, prevented from speaking critically of the Islamic faith, and removed from the meeting for being disruptive. However, … [w]hen the government designates a limited public forum for speech, as is the case of a city council meeting, it may apply restrictions to the time, place, and manner of speech so long as those restrictions “are content neutral, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication.”The court had previously denied a preliminary injunction in the challenge.  Detroit News reports that defendants will appeal yesterday’s ruling.Meanwhile, according to AINA, another mosque controversy is on the horizon in Sterling Heights as a group of Pakistanis are moving ahead with plans to convert a former Lutheran church there into a mosque.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/08/challenge-to-settlement-in-mosque.html

As warming temperatures caused by climate change is strengthening hurricanes, leaders in the region plead with Trump to rejoin the Paris climate deal Caribbean states and territories have rounded on the Trump administration for dismantling the US’s response to climate change, warning that greenhouse gas emissions must be sharply cut to avoid hurricanes and sea level rise threatening the future of their island idylls.The onset of this year’s hurricane season has seen leaders in the region tell the Guardian that Donald Trump needs to grasp the existential threat they face. Rising temperatures and increased precipitation caused by climate change is strengthening hurricanes, researchers have found, even as the overall number of storms remains steady. Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/07/trump-climate-change-threat-caribbean-islands-warning

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit this week in a West Virginia federal district court to stop the Parkersburg, West Virginia City Council from regularly opening its meetings with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.  The complaint (full text) in Cobranchi v. The City of Parkersburg, (D WV, filed 7/30/2018), seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, contending that the prayer practice violates plaintiffs’ 1st and 14th Amendment rights. FFRF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/08/suit-challenges-city-council-opening.html

Republican candidates are nicknaming opponents and tweeting insults in hopes of riding the president’s coattails to victoryHe rails against illegal immigration and bad trade deals, dismisses the Russia investigation as “a witch-hunt”, uses Twitter to hurl insults at his opponent and defends white people’s right to fly the Confederate flag.No, not Donald Trump. This is Corey Stewart, Republican candidate for the US Senate in Virginia and among a generation of what might be called “mini-Trumps” – politicians who are embracing not only the president’s populist agenda but his wrecking-ball style in the hope of repeating his success at the ballot box. Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/05/donald-trump-imitators-us-midterm-elections-2018

In In re: Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, (PA Sup. Ct., July 27, 2018), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved the public release (with certain redactions) of a 900-page grand jury report on allegations of child sexual abuse, failure to report abuse, and other acts endangering children by persons associated with 6 Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses.  The Grand Jury report, which lists over 300 clergy as predators, also covers possible obstruction of justice by Church officials, community leaders, and public officials.  However the court ordered that there be temporary redactions in the report as released to safeguard the reputations of individuals who have filed challenges to the report.  The court also called for oral argument on what due process mechanisms should be available to those individuals challenging the report’s conclusions about them. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:The order by the seven-member high court provided a temporary victory for about two dozen current and former clergy members who have waged a furious legal fight to prevent their names from being publicly disclosed. The high court’s decision will allow them to remain unidentified for weeks, if not months, while the justices weigh their arguments.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/07/pennsylvania-supreme-court-orders.html

Nearly 17 years since 9/11, Osama bin Laden’s family remains an influential part of Saudi society – as well as a reminder of the darkest moment in the kingdom’s history. Can they escape his legacy?On the corner couch of a spacious room, a woman wearing a brightly patterned robe sits expectantly. The red hijab that covers her hair is reflected in a glass-fronted cabinet; inside, a framed photograph of her firstborn son takes pride of place between family heirlooms and valuables. A smiling, bearded figure wearing a military jacket, he features in photographs around the room: propped against the wall at her feet, resting on a mantlepiece. A supper of Saudi meze and a lemon cheesecake has been spread out on a large wooden dining table.Alia Ghanem is Osama bin Laden’s mother, and she commands the attention of everyone in the room. On chairs nearby sit two of her surviving sons, Ahmad and Hassan, and her second husband, Mohammed al-Attas, the man who raised all three brothers. Everyone in the family has their own story to tell about the man linked to the rise of global terrorism; but it is Ghanem who holds court today, describing a man who is, to her, still a beloved son who somehow lost his way. “My life was very difficult because he was so far away from me,” she says, speaking confidently. “He was a very good kid and he loved me so much.” Now in her mid-70s and in variable health, Ghanem points at al-Attas – a lean, fit man dressed, like his two sons, in an immaculately pressed white thobe, a gown worn by men across the Arabian peninsula. “He raised Osama from the age of three. He was a good man, and he was good to Osama.” Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/03/osama-bin-laden-mother-speaks-out-family-interview

T.D. 9836, published in the July 30 Federal Register, sets out revised IRS rules for reporting and substantiation of cash and non-cash charitable contributions.  They implement provisions of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 and the Pension Protection Act of 2006. [Thanks to Steven H. Sholk for the lead.]

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/07/new-irs-rules-on-substantiation-of.html

Sex abuse allegations against Theodore McCarrick raise questions about how claims could stay secret for so longThe president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said Wednesday that sex abuse allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick dating back decades raise serious questions about how the claims could stay secret for so long as the retired archbishop from Washington DC rose in prestige and power. Related: Pope accepts McCarrick resignation as cardinal amid sexual abuse allegations Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/02/catholic-church-urged-withhold-donations-grave-moral-failures