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This blog is an opportunity for us to start discussions that we may not have time for at our lunch meetings.
All members are welcome to post links and commentary on current events of interest to Catholic legal professionals.  Login to website to post or comment.
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  • 22 Oct 2016 9:56 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)

    The Thomas More Law Center reports on Dick Thompson's receipt of the St. Thomas More Society of Dallas's Lifetime Achievement Award.  Click here.

  • 24 Apr 2016 9:31 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)

    The pornography expo Exxxotica sued the City of Dallas for denying its request to use the Convention Center.  STMS member Tom Brandt represented the City against the First Amendment challenge.  On April 21, U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Fitzwater denied Exxxotica’s motion for preliminary injunction.  Here is a description of the opinion and link to it at the end.

  • 12 Aug 2014 11:05 AM | Christopher Hamm

    Good morning fellow group members,

    I am participating in the 2014 Hike for Life - McKinney. If you are not familiar with the event, please let me know. It is a tremendous event which raises money to help end abortion. If this is something you are interested in learning more about or if you feel moved to support me, please click on the link below. Thank you and God bless.


    https://secure.ministrysync.com/ministrysync/event/website/?m=1932131


    Christopher P. Hamm, Esq.

  • 30 Jun 2014 11:23 AM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)

    In a great win for religious liberty, the Court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the honest religious convictions of for-profit companies.  In its RFRA analysis, the Court assumed for the sake of argument that the government had a compelling interest in providing contraception, and held that the government violated RFRA because there were less restrictive ways of achieving its interest in providing contraception.  Find the opinion here.

     

    The decision does not portend much helpful news about the Catholic non-profit organizations' suits against the contraception mandate, because the Court was not presented with whether HHS's accommodation to non-profit organizations satisfies RFRA.  Hobby Lobby, as a for-profit company, did not receive the accommodation, and thus the Court only ruled that RFRA prohibited the bare mandate.  The Court actually used the accommodation as an example of how the government could have been more sensitive to religious liberty, in support of its point that the government had less restrictive means to achieve its interests.  The Court, however, carefully stated that it was not deciding whether the accommodation satisfied RFRA in the face of other religious claims.  But, Justice Kennedy's separate concurrence seems to reveal his opinion that the accommodation cures the mandate's violation of religious beliefs (which is exactly what HHS wants the Court to think).  Kennedy opined, "Th[e] accommodation equally furthers the Government’s interest but does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs."

     

    Let's pray that this opinion prompts Pres. Obama to drop the mandate on religious objectors, instead of sticking to his accommodation.  Because even with this great victory for religious liberty, the result of the accommodation cases still looks unsure.

  • 31 Mar 2014 10:53 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    Judges Jones, Elrod, and Haynes upheld Texas' restriction on medication abortions to 49 days as opposed to 63, and its requirement that abortionists have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.  One particularly interesting point is that the 49-day restriction on medication abortions does not have a health of the mother exception.  This common exception, which really swallows any limit on abortions by covering subjective assertions of psychological health, may be losing its staying power.  In Gonzales v. Carhart the Supreme Court upheld the partial-birth abortion ban despite no health exception, and the 5th Cir. has helped cement that holding by citing Gonzales in upholding Texas' abortion limitation despite its having no health exception.
    Read the full opinion here.
  • 30 Mar 2014 10:58 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    Excerpt from More's Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation:

    For God is, and must be, your comfort.... And he is a sure comforter, that (as he said unto his disciples) never leaveth his servants in case of comfortless orphans, not even when he departeth from his disciples by death; but both, as he promised, sent them a comforter, the Holy Spirit of his Father and himself, and them also made sure, that to the world's end, he would ever dwell with them himself. And, therefore, if you be part of his flock, and believe his promise, how can you be comfortless in any tribulation, when Christ and his Holy Spirit, and with them their inseparable Father (if you put full trust and confidence in them) be never neither one finger breadth of space, nor one minute of time from you?
  • 28 Mar 2014 11:06 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    As a new program, we are summarizing our lunch events for members who could not make it, and so we can keep the conversation going through comments to this post. 

    Dr. J. Matthew Wilson spoke about President Obama’s relationship with the Catholic Church, from the cautious optimism of the USCCB in 2008 to the open contentiousness now.
    Dr. Wilson described the USCCB’s outlook on an Obama presidency as cautiously optimistic because Obama had said that pro-choice and pro-life people should have a respectful dialogue instead of caricaturing each other’s positions. Obama even took down harsh rhetoric from his website. The USCCB of course knew that substantively Obama was not pro-life at all, but they felt hopeful about his overtures to civility. On other issues the USCCB largely agreed with Obama: immigration, health reform, and torture. And at that time Obama professed the true meaning of marriage.
    Things unraveled quickly in the health reform battle. First, the USCCB asked for, but did not receive, an ironclad guarantee that there would be no funding of abortion. The USCCB wanted something stronger than existing law, and the pro-choice Democrats would not oblige. Because of this, the USCCB opposed the Affordable Care Act.
    Then Obama “evolved” on the same-sex marriage issue, and has now become a standard bearer for changing the definition of marriage.
    Add to this the battles with Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services. HHS denied renewal of funding for Catholic Charities programs assisting the victims of sex trafficking, because those programs refused to refer women for abortion. Then HHS defined the ACA’s required “preventative measures” to include contraception and abortifacients. Even liberal Catholics who had thus far defended Obama felt betrayed by the HHS’s clumsy handling of this situation. The HHS mandate caused a mass of litigation heading for the Supreme Court, and if the decision is unfavorable, the USCCB has pledged not to comply. The USCCB gave an uncharacteristically blunt statement that Catholics must have the courage not to obey the HHS mandate. Such an act of widespread, institutionally-sanctioned civil disobedience would be unprecedented for the Church in America. By the 2012 election even Obama’s overtures towards conciliatory rhetoric were gone. Obama’s campaign labeled Catholic positions on abortion, contraception, and religious liberty tantamount to a “War on Women.”
    Dr. Wilson gave his prediction on what would happen if the Supreme Court upholds the HHS mandate. He thinks different dioceses may shut down their hospitals, which would be a major threat to which the Obama administration would need to respond. Dr. Wilson opined that liberals will launch a PR battle portraying the USCCB’s position as out of touch with the Catholic population, who overwhelmingly think contraception is ok. But there are weaknesses in this argument that Dr. Wilson astutely noticed. Many Catholics oppose the HHS mandate, because even if they think contraception is ok, they know the Church’s position and do not support the government forcibly requiring the Church to violate its conscience.
    Dr. Wilson also related interesting facts about Catholic voting patterns. In 2004, for the first time ever, a Democratic presidential nominee did not win the Catholic vote, and John Kerry was a Catholic! In 2004 the Democrats were seen as hostile to religion. Democratic candidatesundefinedincluding Obamaundefinedtried to change that perception by speaking about their faith.
    Dr. Wilson then delved into the details of Catholic voting patterns. The main determinant is religious observanceundefinedwhether the Catholic goes to Mass regularly or rarely. The observant Catholics were 25% less likely to vote for Obama. Among younger Catholics the gap was even larger: only 26% of young, observant Catholics voted for Obama. On the contrary, 43% of observant Catholics older than 60 still voted for Obama. Dr. Wilson explained that these older Catholics may feel strong cultural ties to voting Democrat.
    For Latino Catholics, regular mass attendance is not a big determinant of voting. Latino Catholics seem to vote more based on economic and immigration issues than moral issues. Interestingly, Latino Protestants who regularly attend service vote Republican more.
  • 22 Mar 2014 8:42 PM | Gregory Lensing (Administrator)
    Here's a casenote about the Elane Photography case, involving a professional photographer in New Mexico who was penalized for declining to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.



    And here's an interesting article about the propriety of religious exemptions from generally applicable laws by Mark L. Pienzi, who is an attorney for Hobby Lobby in the contraception-mandate case Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius.

    http://www.harvardlawreview.org/media/pdf/vol127_rienzi.pdf
  • 03 Mar 2014 11:48 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    No court yet has accepted any of the bases argued as justification for limiting "marriage" to its meaning of one man and one woman.  What ideas do you have for legitimate, rational bases that could uphold TX's ban on same sex marriage?

    Last week's court order striking down TX's same-sex marriage ban turned on whether TX had proffered a legitimate, rational basis.  The court rejected the two asserted justifications for limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples (1) it benefits children; and (2) it encourages stable environments for procreation.  The court reasoned that same-sex couples can be just as good parents, and that recognizing same-sex marriage would have no effect on heterosexual couples and their choices to marry or have children.  Read the court's opinion here.

    My idea of a rational basis:  Recognizing same-sex marriage as part of the definition of marriage will result in less children being born in the future, and the State has a legitimate interest in promoting more births.  
    This is how there will be less children born if same-sex marriage is considered marriage:  The traditional definition of marriage has two aspects that have been part of society's common understanding: (1) marriage is a perpetual bond between two people who love each other; and (2) marriage is a step taken by people who agree to or plan to have kids.  It's a common question to ask a married couple, "When will you have kids?" because that is (or at least was) society's understanding of marriage.  With same-sex couples, who cannot naturally have children, people will not assume that their marriage means they plan to eventually have children.  Accordingly, society's conception of marriage will eventually change (soon or in later generations) to considering marriage as just a bond between two people that love each other.  Expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples will actually narrow the common understanding of marriage by deleting the kids aspect.  This will lead society even further down the road of marriages with fewer children.  
    The same-sex marriage cases give governments the chance to take a public stance for the true definition of marriage in a way that does not demean people with homosexual orientation, but instead focuses on the legitimate reasons marriage has always been defined as one man and one woman.  Promoting childbirth is one of those legitimate reasons.

  • 28 Feb 2014 12:06 PM | Bennett Rawicki (Administrator)
    O my sweet savior Christ, who in your undeserved love towards mankind so kindly would suffer the painful death of the cross, suffer me not to be cold or lukewarm in love again towards you.
    -St. Thomas More, "For Fervent Love of Christ"
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The St. Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Dallas is open to Catholic attorneys and others interested in the intersection of faith and law.  Its purpose is to encourage Catholic lawyers within the diocese of Dallas to live a Christian vocation by sanctifying their daily work.

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