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Supreme Court Strikes Down Montana Ban on public aid to religious schools

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it easier for religious schools to obtain public funds, upholding a Montana scholarship program that allows state tax credits for private schooling.

The court”s 5-4 ruling, with conservatives in the majority, came in a dispute over a Montana scholarship program for private K-12 education that also makes donors eligible for up to $150 in state tax credits.

The Legislature created the tax credit in 2015 for contributions made to certain scholarship programs for private education.

The state”s highest court had struck down the tax credit as a violation of the Montana constitution”s ban on state aid to religious schools. The scholarships can be used at both secular and religious schools, but almost all the recipients attend religious schools.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion that said the state ruling violates the religious freedom of parents who want the scholarships to help pay for their children”s private education.

“A state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,” Roberts wrote.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent that the high-court ruling “is perverse. Without any need or power to do so, the Court appears to require a State to reinstate a tax-credit program that the Constitution did not demand in the first place.” Parents whose children attend religious schools sued to preserve the program.

Roughly three-dozen states have similar no-aid provisions in their constitutions. Courts in some states have relied on those provisions to strike down religious-school funding.

Justice Samuel Alito pointed, in a separate opinion, to evidence of anti-Catholic bigotry that he said motivated the original adoption of the Montana provision and others like it in the 1800s, although Montana”s constitution was redone in 1972 with the provision intact.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose two daughters attend Catholic schools, made a similar point during arguments in January when he talked about the “grotesque religious bigotry” against Catholics that underlay the amendment.

The decision was the latest in a line of decisions from the Supreme Court, which now includes Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, that have favored religion-based discrimination claims.

In 2014, the justices allowed family-held, for-profit businesses with religious objections to get out from under a requirement to pay for contraceptives for women covered under their health insurance plans.

In 2017, the court ruled for a Missouri church that had been excluded from state grants to put softer surfaces in playgrounds.

The high court also is weighing a Trump administration policy that would make it easier for employers to claim a religious or moral exemption and avoid paying for contraceptives for women covered by their health plans.

Still another case would shield religious institutions from more employment discrimination claims.

The Supreme Court also has upheld some school voucher programs and state courts have ratified others.

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Pope Francis endorses same-sex civil unions for the first time as pontiff

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Pope Francis became the first pontiff to endorse same-sex civil unions on Wednesday, sparking cheers from gay Catholics and demands for clarification from conservatives given the Vatican’s official teaching on the issue.

The papal thumbs-up to same-sex civil unions came midway through the feature-length documentary ‘Francesco’ that had its debut screening at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.

The film, which includes fresh interviews with the pontiff, looks into the issues that mean the most to Pope Francis, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film. “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

ILGA Europe, an association that promotes the interests of LGBTI people, gave the pontiff’s words a cautious welcome.

“In the context where there is so much polarisation and scapegoating of LGBTI people, often endorsed and stoked by religious leaders, Pope Francis’ statement on same-sex unions is to be welcomed and should be carefully listened to,” the organisation said on Twitter. “We will monitor closely to see in how far the statement will be picked up by the churches and will lead to real change for LGBTI people and their families.”

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit who has sought to build bridges with gays in the church, praised the comments as “a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people.”

“The pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws,” Martin said in a statement.

However, US conservative Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, called for clarification. “The pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the church about same-sex unions,” he said in a statement. “The church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.”

Catholic teaching holds that gays must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” A 2003 document from the Vatican’s doctrine office stated the church’s respect for gays “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

Doing so, the Vatican reasoned, would not only condone “deviant behavior,” but create an equivalence to marriage, which the church holds is an indissoluble union between man and woman.

That document was signed by the then-prefect of the office, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI and Francis’ predecessor.

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favour of civil unions as pope.

Director Evgeny Afineevsky had remarkable access to cardinals, the Vatican television archives and the pope himself. He said he negotiated his way in through persistence, and deliveries of Argentine mate tea and Alfajores cookies that he got to the pope via some well-connected Argentines in Rome.

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The liberation of America is only in the hands of Jesus; Franklin Graham announced the fasting prayer on October 25th

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Evangelist Franklin Graham is calling on Christians to participate in a day of fasting and prayer for our nation on Sunday, Oct. 25.

Graham, the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization, believes the church needs to call upon the name of God and ask for Him to move in this country. He stressed that our nation is facing multiple crises – from a pandemic to a turbulent presidential election, and widespread racial unrest.

“I am urging followers of Jesus Christ to fast and to pray for our nation next SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25. Mark it on your calendars and prepare now. I hope individuals, families, and churches will join me in asking for the Lord’s help and for His will to be done in this critical election. Will you?” Graham wrote on Facebook.

“We need to call out to God for His help, His intervention, and His mercy. It is only by His hand that America will survive and be able to thrive again. We have an election coming up with so much at stake – two vastly different directions for the future of this country. This not only affects us but our children and our grandchildren,” he added.

Graham led a Prayer March last month in Washington, D.C. where thousands of prayer warriors showed up to bless our nation.

“Prayer is our most important weapon. It allows us to go directly to the King of Kings, directly to stand before the throne of grace and make our petitions known directly to God,” Graham said.

Several worship events have taken place across the country at various venues this year, all for the same purpose: to bring America back to its first love and repent before a holy God.

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