Report Card: Curveball at Supreme Court, Yoga at Catholic Colleges, Pro-Life Prof Dismissed

Supreme Court gets thrown curveball in religious freedom case

Today the U.S. Supreme Court hears one of the most important church/state cases on its docket this year, but the case just took a major plot twist.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer considers whether religious organizations can be shut out of Missouri state grants precisely because of their religious mission. But the new governor of Missouri just reversed course on the issue and said he will allow religious organizations to apply for state grants. This, of course, is not retroactive, but the Court on Friday asked for both parties to offer their views on the governor’s decision.

The case has been one of the most anticipated this year, and the addition of Neil Gorsuch to the bench is of special interest to many, as the case has obvious implications for many religious organizations including Catholic schools and school choice programs.

Many Catholic colleges embrace yoga despite Hindu spirituality

In a piece criticizing Benedictine College of Kansas for its plans to rename a yoga class and change the content to ensure the class focuses only on physical exercise and not spiritual or cultural elements—a perfectly appropriate action for a faithful Catholic college—The World Hindu News exposes several other Catholic colleges and universities that have yoga classes apparently without due caution.

“Prominent US Roman Catholic universities/colleges—University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, College of the Holy Cross, Boston College, Villanova University, Santa Clara University, Providence College, College of Saint Benedict, Gonzaga University, Loyola Marymount University, Marquette University, University of Dayton, Creighton University, John Carroll University, Loyola University Maryland, Xavier University, Fordham University, etc., offer various classes and programs of yoga regularly,” the piece states. “Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Catholic University of Leuven) in Belgium, one of the oldest and most renowned universities in Europe founded in 1425, offers various yoga classes. It is launching ‘Mindful Yoga’ at University Parish ‘specifically for PhD students and staff.’”

With that lineup of colleges—many of which have severely compromised their Catholic identity—one might almost think that the paper was supporting Benedictine’s argument.

Fr. John Riley, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, said yoga “is a mind and body practice developed under Hinduism, the goal of which is spiritual purification that will lead to a higher level of understanding and eventually union with the divine.”

He continued: “It is for these reasons that Catholics are alerted to the dangers of the practice of yoga and are encouraged to look for other exercise alternatives that do not incorporate a spiritual dimension.”

Catholic University of Louvain dismisses professor for calling abortion ‘murder’

A visiting lecturer at Belgium’s Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) has been dismissed for calling abortion “murder.”

The college initially suspended Stephane Mercier after a feminist group complained about his comments. But later, he received a letter from the university advising him of his outright dismissal. In a statement, UCL said that abortion was legal in Belgium and it respected women’s autonomy to opt for it.

The professor simply told students, “the truth is that abortion is the murder of an innocent person.”

Catholic school says courts have no role in admissions

Courts have no role in admission decisions at faith-based schools, a lawyer for a Catholic school told the Michigan state Supreme Court in a case that could have massive religious liberty ramifications for Catholic schools throughout the nation.

A young woman sued a Catholic school after their daughter was rejected admission. She insisted it was discrimination because of her learning disability but the school said it was simply a matter of low grades. But the real heart of the case, as the school’s attorney pointed out, is whether the courts can decide admissions policies for a Catholic school.

Notre Dame Preparatory School correctly points out that legal precedent at both the federal and state level protects religious schools under the First Amendment. But the plaintiff’s lawyer argues it’s a case of discrimination that doesn’t infringe on the school’s religious liberty.

Attorney James Walsh, who represents the school and the Marist Fathers of Detroit who run the school, said, “The pastor, principal — whoever makes the decision — can say, ‘We will not be able to effectively convey our faith to this student.’ … Any inquiry by a court about why a student is or isn’t accepted in a Catholic school would cause entanglement by a court in religion.”

In 2015, an appeals court decided in favor of Notre Dame Prep.

Catholic high school criticized for pro-life presentation

Government officials in Alberta, Canada, are criticizing a Catholic high school for a pro-life presentation to students that compared abortion to the Holocaust. Despite the speaker’s consistency with Catholic pro-life teaching, Education Minster Dave Eggen is calling the presentation “hateful propaganda.”

Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. to keynote Walsh University commencement ceremony

Walsh University, a faithful college recognized in The Newman Guide, has announced that Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, will be this year’s keynote speaker for the spring commencement ceremony, at which more than 420 graduates will receive degrees. Archbishop Pierre will be awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

Actor Gary Sinise honored by Catholic University of America

Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor Gary Sinise, a Catholic convert, was honored recently with The Catholic University of America’s 2017 James Cardinal Gibbons Medal for his work to support soldiers and veterans.

Sinise, who has starred in movies such as Of Mice and Men, Forrest Gump and Apollo 13, is also the father of a recent Catholic University alumna.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sinise said he was inspired to serve military members and their families. He began performing with his Lt. Dan Band for military members and veterans with his band and in 2008, he created his own foundation, which supports members of the military and armed forces.

“My faith continued to grow and I felt called by God to ‘show up,’” Sinise said. “Service to others is a great healer, and I was compelled to use all the tools and notoriety that I had been blessed with, and all the work I had done with the military over the years, to serve in a more substantial way.”

Duquesne students protest Chick-Fil-A over marriage stance

A number of students are petitioning Duquesne University to reconsider allowing a Chick-Fil-A on campus, not because they don’t like chicken, but because the president of the company has spoken out in favor of traditional marriage.

They know they’re at a Catholic college, right?

Notre Dame students search for #safespace from Pence invitation

Some students at the University of Notre Dame are in search of a #safespace, in light of Vice President Mike Pence’s scheduled commencement address.

The Daily Caller reports that some students are protesting the invitation and urging the administration to cancel it altogether. They’re using the hashtag #NotMyCommencementSpeaker. The students are asking others to photograph themselves holding boards which say “why you feel unsafe with the presence of Mike Pence on our campus.”

National Catholic Education Association considers what makes Catholic education distinctive

The National Catholic Educational Association Convention and Expo is taking place in St. Louis this week.

Topics to be discussed include school choice, national Catholic education statistics from the NCEA’s annual report, new approaches in special education and school governance, issues stemming from the majority of educators changing from religious to laypeople, and the regionalization of parish schools.

Sarah Jenkins, a senior at Duchesne High School in St. Charles, Missouri, will be one of about 8,000 attendees along with top Catholic education officials, including NCEA president and CEO Tom Burnford, and NCEA board chair Bishop George Murry. Jenkins will discuss why a Catholic education is important to her.

“We begin every morning with prayer. We have Masses at school. High school is four years where you grow leaps and bounds as a person,” she said. “Had I not chosen Catholic school, I don’t think I would have grown in my faith as much as I have. I feel so much more grounded in my faith because I have gone to Duchesne.”

Band director at ‘progressive’ Sacred Heart University makes issue of sexuality

In the online magazine OutSports, an openly homosexual band director at Sacred Heart University writes about his experience at a Catholic college, extolling the college for being “more progressive than many would suspect.” His description certainly is not what one should expect of a Catholic college.

“While the administration that hired me was aware I was gay, I’m not Catholic, and I wasn’t experienced enough at that time to know how – or even if – I should integrate the personal side of who I am as a person into my teaching,” the band leader wrote.

“At the start of each year at band camp, I tell my students that if you’re gay, straight, bi, transgender, or you don’t know what you are, you’re welcome in the band. If, like me, you’ve heard the voices screaming inside of your head saying ‘you’re gay’, and you don’t know how to make the noise stop…come and talk with me,” he said. “The simple, yet enormous act, of saying out loud to someone ‘I’m gay/bi/trans/confused’ is the first step to taking control of your life, and not letting others intimidate, or try to force you into being someone you’re not.”

University of Mary ranked #1 for grads seeking jobs

The University of Mary, recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity, has been ranked No. 1 in North Dakota and one of America’s best schools for its graduates finding jobs, according to Zippia, an online organization that helps recent graduates find the best jobs for their skills.

“The University of Mary is very honored and humbled by this prestigious ranking,” stated Michael McMahon, vice president for Enrollment Services at the University of Mary. “Our students succeed in their careers, and this ranking demonstrates that in a powerful way. We take great pride at Mary in fostering great skills through academic rigor and developing students’ moral character, as they become virtuous leaders in their career and community as graduates. So, this is more than just a number or ranking as it speaks to the heart of what we do best. We care deeply about our students when they are on campus and after they graduate into their career field—that’s what this ranking means at a state and national level.”

Professor asks: Where are Latinos in Catholic schools?

In an address to teachers and administrators at the annual Catholic Educators Faith Conference, Dr. Hosffman Ospino of Boston College asked the 300 Catholic educators in attendance why aren’t Latinos and Hispanics attending Catholic schools?

“What happened to the million?,” he asked, referring to a challenge by Notre Dame University in 2007 to increase the Catholic school enrollment of Hispanic and Latino children from 290,000 to 1 million within 10 years. Dr. Ospino noted that currently only 317,000 attend Catholic schools and Spanish-speaking Catholic children are vastly underrepresented in Catholic schools.

More than half – about 8 million – of all school-age Catholic children in the United States are Hispanic, he said, yet the 317,000 who are in Catholic schools represent less than 4 percent of that number.

In his talk, Dr. Ospino said Catholic school administrators have told him they visit parishes to recruit students, but many do not recruit at Hispanic ministries. “Why? Because [they] take it for granted that Hispanics are either not interested or [unable] to afford a Catholic education. And that is not true,” he said.

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