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Supreme Court skeptical of abortion clinic buffer zones
January 16th, 2014
11:29 AM ET

Supreme Court skeptical of abortion clinic buffer zones

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

(CNN) – The Supreme Court waded cautiously back into the larger debate over abortion on Wednesday.

A number of justices raised concerns about a Massachusetts state law preventing activists from crossing a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health clinics.

During an intense hour of oral arguments, Massachusetts officials said the issue was more about public safety and pedestrian access on local sidewalks. Anti-abortion supporters countered their free speech rights were being violated.

What the high court decides in coming months could affect a broader range of free speech arenas - over issues such as war, taxes, corporate bailouts and elections - where the location of the message is often key.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Courts • Culture wars • Ethics • gender issues • Health • Protest • Women's issues

Supreme Court to hear abortion clinic case
The Supreme Court hears a contentious case about abortion clinics on Wednesday.
January 15th, 2014
09:50 AM ET

Supreme Court to hear abortion clinic case

By Bill Mears, CNN

Boston (CNN) - Outside the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Boston on a recent winter day are the regulars - a small, devoted team of anti-abortion activists, handing out fliers and urging patrons to hear their message: "Save that child." "Every life is precious, protect that life within you." "Please change your mind." Several people pray silently nearby.

Clearly marked on the sidewalk, nearly 12 yards from the front doors, is a painted boundary, a line the protesters cannot cross. By state law, their First Amendment rights stop there.

A metaphoric line - testing the competing limits of what has become a constitutional fight between free speech and public safety - will now be surveyed by the nation's highest court.

The justices on Wednesday will step back into the larger national debate on abortion, when it holds oral arguments on a challenge to a Massachusetts law that established tighter buffer zones around facilities that perform the procedure.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Courts • Culture wars • Ethics • Women's issues

Supreme Court delays contraception mandate for two Catholic nonprofits
December 31st, 2013
06:33 PM ET

Supreme Court delays contraception mandate for two Catholic nonprofits

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

Washington (CNN)–
The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily exempted two Catholic Church-affiliated nonprofits from requirements to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees under the Affordable Care Act.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a brief order late Tuesday, hours before the controversial Obama administration mandates were set to go into effect.

The Little Sisters of the Poor – a charity congregation of Roman Catholic women in Denver – and the Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services had filed a lawsuit objecting to the contraception mandate, saying it violated their religious and moral beliefs. Some religious-affiliated groups were required to comply with contraception coverage or face hefty fines.

Sotomayor said the two groups were exempted from the mandates until at least Friday, when the federal government faces a deadline to file a legal response in the case.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity • Courts • Pope Francis

The Obamacare 'scandal' you haven't heard about
Few Bible Belt pastors mention what's in their backyard, millions of poor people trapped in the Obamacare “coverage gap.”
November 8th, 2013
10:01 AM ET

The Obamacare 'scandal' you haven't heard about

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) – The Rev. Timothy McDonald gripped the pulpit with both hands, locked eyes with the shouting worshippers, and decided to speak the unspeakable.

The bespectacled Baptist minister was not confessing to a scandalous love affair or the theft of church funds. He brought up another taboo: the millions of poor Americans who won’t get health insurance beginning in January because their states refused to accept Obamacare.

McDonald cited a New Testament passage in which Jesus gathered the 5,000 and fed them with five loaves and two fishes. Members of his congregation bolted to their feet and yelled, “C’mon preacher” and “Yessir” as his voice rose in righteous anger.

“What I like about our God is that he doesn’t throw people away,” McDonald told First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta during a recent Sunday service. “There will be health care for every American. Don’t you worry when they try to cast you aside.  Just say I’m a leftover for God and leftovers just taste better the next day!”

FULL POST

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Baptist • Barack Obama • Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Church and state • Courts • Culture wars • Ethics • Evangelical • evangelicals • Fundamentalism • Politics • Poverty

Let us pray? Supreme Court divided on God in government
November 6th, 2013
12:18 PM ET

Let us pray? Supreme Court divided on God in government

By Bill Mears and Daniel Burke, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Should prayers to God open government meetings?

That's the controversial question a divided Supreme Court debated on Wednesday.

At oral arguments about whether public prayers at a New York town's board meetings are permissible, the high court took a broad look at the country's church-state history and even the Supreme Court's own traditions.

Two local women sued officials in Greece, New York, objecting that monthly Town Board public sessions have opened with invocations they say have been overwhelmingly Christian.

But the case's implications extend far beyond upstate New York and could have widespread consequences, according to constitutional scholars.

"This is going to affect communities across the country," said Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center.

The frequent court battles over public prayers, Ten Commandment memorials and holiday displays might strike some Americans as silly, but they touch on deep questions about national identity to reach back to the Founding Fathers, Haynes said.

"It's a long struggle in our country about self-definition and what our country was founded to be. That's why we keep circling back to these emotional and highly divisive questions."

At Wednesday's oral arguments, the court's conservative majority appeared to have the votes to allow the public prayers to continue in some form, but both sides expressed concerns about the level of judicial and government oversight over prayers presented by members of a particular faith.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Church and state • Courts • Culture wars • Discrimination • Interfaith issues • Prayer • Religious liberty • Traditions

Atheist gets her day at the Supreme Court
November 1st, 2013
04:39 PM ET

Atheist gets her day at the Supreme Court

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

(CNN)– Linda Stephens has lived in her upstate New York community for more than three decades and has long been active in civic affairs.

But as an atheist, those views have put her at the center of a personal, political, and legal fight that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue is public prayer at her local town board meetings, another contentious case over the intersection of faith and the civic arena.

The justices on Wednesday will hear arguments over whether Greece, New York, may continue sponsoring what it calls "inclusive" prayers at its open sessions, on government property.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Courts

October 10th, 2013
09:17 PM ET

FBI: Rabbis plotted to kidnap husbands, force divorces

By Allie Malloy and Jessica Ravitz, CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) –Two rabbis face kidnapping charges after allegedly arranging assaults of Orthodox Jewish husbands to persuade them to grant divorces to their wives, authorities said Thursday.

FBI raids on Wednesday night led to the arrest of the men, who were arraigned in federal court in New Jersey on Thursday, according to court documents.

A criminal complaint alleges that the rabbis charged Jewish wives tens of thousands of dollars to orchestrate kidnappings and accepted $20,000 for such an operation from undercover FBI agents.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Courts • Judaism

Today's Supreme Court
October 7th, 2013
12:31 PM ET

Scalia says atheism 'favors the devil's desires'

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Catholic Church • Courts • Culture wars • Devil • Faith Now • Pope Francis

September 9th, 2013
03:29 PM ET

Fox News host: Atheists 'don't have to live here'

By Daniel BurkeCNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) – Fox News pundit Dana Perino said she's "tired" of atheists attempting to remove the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, adding, "if these people really don't like it, they don't have to live here."

The co-host of Fox's "The Five" was referring to a suit brought by the American Humanist Association in Massachusetts, where the state's Supreme Judicial Court heard a challenge to the pledge on Wednesday.

The group's executive director, Roy Speckhardt, called the suit "the first challenge of its kind," but Perino begged to differ.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Church and state • Courts • Culture wars • News media • Schools • TV

August 14th, 2013
08:25 AM ET

Granderson: A boy named 'Messiah'?

Opinion by LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - I once met a mother who named her newborn daughter Kia Sophia.

Yes, like the car.

Apparently she had one and liked it so much that she wanted to be reminded of it each time she said her baby's name.

As we stood there, I could tell this was something she was very proud of, and so I tried my best not to look embarrassed for her.

Besides, who was I to judge? I'm named after a useless, deadbeat father. At least the car had resale value.

Read LZ Granderson's full commentary here

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Church and state • Courts • Opinion

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.

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