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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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One contentious topic missing from the Supreme Court’s docket as the new term opened on Monday was religion. The justices evidently plan to keep it that way, at least for now.
Among the hundreds of appeals the court turned down on Monday, in a list that printed out at 83 pages, were two cases on the relationship between church and state that might have brought even more visibility to the term.
One was a case from New York on whether church-affiliated employers who object to birth control on religious grounds must nonetheless provide contraceptive coverage to their female employees as part of their medical insurance coverage, as required by laws in New York and some two dozen other states.
The other case challenged the refusal of a public library in California to make a community meeting room available for worship services.
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In a highly visible rift in the anti-abortion movement, a coalition of evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic groups is attacking a longtime ally, Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson.
Using rhetoric that they have reserved in the past for abortion clinics, some of the coalition's leaders accuse Dobson and other national antiabortion leaders of building an "industry" around relentless fundraising and misleading information.
At the center of the dispute is the Supreme Court's April 18 decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, a federal law against a procedure in which a doctor partially delivers a late-term fetus before crushing its skull.
Dobson and many other antiabortion leaders hailed the 5 to 4 ruling as a victory; abortion-rights organizations saw it as a defeat. But six weeks later, its consequences have been, in part, the reverse.
"The Supreme Court decision totally galvanized our supporters" by raising the prospect that the court could soon overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 opinion that established a woman's right to choose an abortion, said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Both our direct-mail and online giving got a serious bump," she said.
Among antiabortion activists, meanwhile, the decision in Gonzales v. Carhart has reopened an old split between incrementalists who support piecemeal restrictions and purists who seek a wholesale prohibition on abortions.
In an open letter to Dobson that was published as a full-page ad May 23 in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Focus on the Family's hometown newspaper, and May 30 in the Washington Times, the heads of five small but vocal groups called the Carhart decision "wicked," and accused Dobson of misleading Christians by applauding it.
Carhart is even "more wicked than Roe" because it is "not a ban, but a partial-birth abortion manual" that affirms the legality of late-term abortions "as long as you follow its guidelines," the ads said. "Yet, for many years you have misled the Body of Christ about the ban, and now about the ruling itself."
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