The Common Good

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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases, Upholding Legal Right to Marry in 5 States

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear several cases where federal appeals courts upheld the Constitutional rights of same-sex couples to marry, causing a seismic, if quiet, shift in several states' debates over same-sex marriage. The decision to not hear cases leaves intact lower appeals rulings that had overturned same-sex marriage bans. For five states and potentially six more, this guarantees the legal right for same-sex couples to marry.

USA Today reports:

The unexpected decision by the justices, announced without further explanation, immediately affects five states in which federal appeals courts had struck down bans against gay marriage: Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Utah.

It also will bring along six other states located in the judicial circuits overseen by those appellate courts: North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming. Lower court judges in those states must abide by their appeals court rulings.

Read more here.

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California Judge Rules the Death Penalty Unconstitutional

A U.S. District Court judge declared the death penalty "unconstitutionall" in the State of California.

In the ruling that was released today, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney wrote that, an "inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State."

NBC Bay Area first reported the ruling:

In his 29-page ruling on the Jones vs. Chappell case, Carney wrote that when an individual is condemned to death in California, the sentence carries with it the promise that it will actually be carried out.

That promise is made to citizens, jurors, victims and their loved ones and to the hundreds of individuals on death row, he wrote.

However, Carney argues, “for too long now, the promise has been an empty one.”

Read the full story here.

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Detained Journalist, Activist Jose Antonio Vargas Has Been Released

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, detained earlier today by border patrol at McAllen-Miller International Airport in Texas after having visited the border town‘s shelter for unaccompanied Central American refugees, has been released, reports say.

His trip included participating in a vigil to honor the children who have embarked on a dangerous journey to the U.S. to save their lives.

Vargas wanted to shed light on the crisis occurring at the border and highlight the need to address the issue in a humanitarian way.

“I’m the most privileged undocumented immigrant in the country," Vargas said to the Dallas Morning News on Sunday. 

"And with that privilege comes responsibility—the responsibility of tying my specific story to the story of 11 million undocumented people like me and using every skill and resource I have to tell stories and insist that we talk about this issue humanely and fairly.” 

Read the full story here.

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SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Hobby Lobby

Closely held corporations cannot be compelled to pay for contraception coverage, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in its highly anticipated Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case. The "contraceptive mandate" in the federal health care law was challenged under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires that the government show that a law doesn't "substantially burden" religious exercise.

According to SCOTUSBlog, the Court ruled that the government "has failed to show that the mandate is the least restrictive means of advancing its interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to birth control."

But the decision is applicable only to the contraceptive mandate, and does not apply to other health care mandates.

From Washington Post :

The justices’ 5-4 decision Monday is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies’ health insurance plans.

Hobby Lobby is an evangelical family-owned chain, and CEO David Green says that the Affordable Care Act infringed upon the family's religious freedom by compelling them to pay for certain contraceptives the family considers to be abortifacients, such as versions of the morning-after pill and IUDs.

Justices Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Breyer, and Kagan dissented.

Read the decision HERE.

Image: Hobby Lobby in Mansfield, Ohio. by Nicholas Eckhart, Flickr.com

+Leave a Comment | Faith & Politics

University of Dayton, a Catholic University, Moves to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Another Christian school moves to divest – this time, a Catholic university

Just one week after Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary, announced their decision to become the world’s first seminary to divest from fossil fuels, another first announced. The University of Dayton, a Catholic, Marianist university, will divest fossil fuels from its $670 million investment pool. This is the first Catholic university in the world to do so.

Just as divestment makes sense for Union Theological Seminary and its history of engaging social justice, this choice is in line with Catholic social teachings and the Marianist values of leadership and service to humanity. Marianists view Mary, the mother of Jesus, as their model of discipleship, and their mission is to bring Christ into the world and work for the coming of Christ’s kingdom.

Union and the University of Dayton are the newest schools joining the growing list of U.S. colleges and universities divesting from fossil fuels as a way to stop financially supporting the climate pollution and the public health implications of coal, oil, and natural gas as the dominant sources of energy in the country. Their announcements are unique because they speak not only of the moral choice, but of the Christian choice on matters of financial investment.

At the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly this past week, in addition to the denomination’s decision to divest from three companies in relation to conflict in Israel/Palestine, a decision was made to begin the discernment process on fossil fuel divestment. The fossil fuel divestment conversation is happening in many churches and religious institutions across the country, and Union Theological Seminary and the University of Dayton are clear that they see this as an act of Christian witness for protecting God’s creation and people.

Information is from The University of Dayton’s website.

+Leave a Comment | Creation Care

Hispanic Evangelical Churches Stand Ready to Assist Unaccompanied Minors

With the growing crisis of undocumented minors coming to the United States without a parent or guardian, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) urged the government to allow them to provide compassionate care to these at-risk youth.

NaLEC president Rev. Gabriel Salguero is confident that the church will play a crucial role in solving this humanitarian crisis, just like it supports people through so many crises.

“It is incomprehensible to us that faith leaders and relief agencies who are at the forefront of responding to natural disasters, foster-care, and even ministry to detainees across the nation and world, are being kept from doing what we do best, compassionate service. The U.S. should create policies that facilitate this partnership,” Rev. Salguero said in a news release.

The influx of unaccompanied minors into the United States is primarily caused by drug-related violence in Central America, which leaves children looking for a safe haven. Hispanic evangelical churches are already working with partners in Central America to fight against this violence.

“We are working with our faith partners in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to respond to some of the core causes like increased gang-violence and issues of deprivation. Any exclusion of communities who are ready to help is creating an unnecessary obstacle with a great track record of humanitarian responses,” Rev. Salugero added in the release.

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#SurvivorPrivilege

In his opinon column published on June 6, George Will suggests that colleges have "become the victims of progressivism," blaming a proliferation of victims on government overreach. In his first paragraph, Will disregards the validity of sexual assult on campuses, as he says:

[Colleges and universities] are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate. And academia’s progressivism has rendered it intellectually defenseless now that progressivism’s achievement, the regulatory state, has decided it is academia’s turn to be broken to government’s saddle.

In response to his article, survivors have taken to Twiter with #SurvivorPrivilege

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Japanese-American Human Rights Activist Yuri Kochiyama Dies at 93

Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese-American human rights activist, died on Sunday at the age of 93. Kochiyama's family was among those Japanese-Americans interned by the United States during World War II.

NPR reports on her work:

Living in housing projects among black and Puerto Rican neighbors inspired her interest in the civil rights movement. Kochiyama held weekly open houses for activists in the family's apartment, where she taped newspaper clippings to the walls and kept piles of leaflets on the kitchen table. "Our house felt like it was the movement 24/7," said her eldest daughter Audee Kochiyama-Holman.

Kochiyama is also known for rushing towards Malcom X after his assination, where she appeared images of the incident, according to NPR:

Minutes after gunmen fired at Malcolm X in 1965 during his last speech in New York City, she rushed towards him and cradled his head on her lap. A black-and-white photo in Life magazine shows Kochiyama peering worriedly through horn-rimmed glasses at Malcolm X's bullet-riddled body.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

EPA Unveils Clean Power Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just released its new plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants, the first policy of its kind. This plan will cut carbon dioxide pollution from existing fossil fuel power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. EPA could have chosen a better benchmark, since we’re already 13 percent below our 2005 pollution levels because of the recession and natural gas. But this plan still carries many benefits: it allows the states flexibility in meeting the 2030 goal, and the reduction in smog is projected to prevent 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 asthma attacks in children. It also shows the U.S. is finally taking leadership on global warming, which is likely to have an impact on the world stage.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is speaking in a press conference at 10:30 am Eastern Time about details of the new rule; C-SPAN is streaming it live online.

You can find the full rule as well as summaries and analyses here.

To join Sojourners in responding to the rule via public comment, join us HERE.

+Leave a Comment | Creation Care

Author and Poet Maya Angelou Dies at 86

Maya Angelou, a renowned author, poet and civil right activist, has died at 86. Angelou, know for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, also authored six other autobiographies along with numerous collections of poems.

Throughout her career, Angelou she was active in the Civil Rights movement, working with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. She also served a one point as the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group founded following the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dr. King and others.

NBC News reports her numerous achievements: 

Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, under the name Marguerite Annie Johnson. She grew up to become a singer, dancer, actress, writer and Hollywood's first female black director.

Angelou had an impressive list of accolades: She was a three-time Grammy winner and was nominated for a Pulitzer, a Tony, an an Emmy for her role in the groundbreaking television mini-series "Roots."

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence