National Briefs

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Marriage is still the gold standard of family stability

(WNS)–Yet another research study published recently showed marriage was superior to cohabitation for providing family stability across the demographic spectrum. The study, “The Cohabitation-Go-Around: Cohabitation and Family Instability Across the Globe,” published by the Social Trends Institute and the Institute for Family Studies, found marriage provided significantly more stability for children than cohabiting, regardless of education level or geography. Cohabiting parents split up twice as often as married parents, according to the data. And children who experienced their parents’ breakups and then additional family transitions also reported more unhappiness, school disruptions, and teen pregnancies.


Senate confirms Gorsuch to Supreme Court

(WNS)–The Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court Friday 54-45, filling an open spot on the high court left vacant for 14 months. “He’s going to make an incredible addition to the court,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “He’s going to make the American people proud.” Gorsuch will replace Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative stalwart on the court who died abruptly in February 2016. Scalia’s vacancy brought out partisan attacks from both ends of the political spectrum, especially during the presidential election last fall. Republicans in the Senate stonewalled President Barack Obama’s replacement pick, appeals court Judge Merrick Garland, hoping a Republican president would fill the spot after the election. And it paid off. Republicans used a historic procedure change to break through a first-of-its-kind Democratic filibuster, paving Gorsuch’s way to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.


School choice trouble in Texas

(WNS)–Texas is one of 19 states considering legislation to create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) this year. Stephanie Matthews, senior education policy adviser for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, started the current legislative session optimistic over the chances of passing a universal ESA program, one open to all students. Now, though, entrenched political infighting has obliterated much of that hope. On April 6, House lawmakers voted 103-44 to block any effort to use state education funds to pay for private schools. The vote, part of an amendment to the state budget, dealt a severe blow to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has made school choice one of his top priorities. The Senate passed a slimmed down version of a universal ESA bill in late March, but it appears to stand no chance in the House, where public school support remains strong.


Airman faces censure over support for Biblical marriage

(WNS)–A 26-year U.S. Air Force veteran is battling an official admonishment from his commanding officer over allegedly disparaging remarks he made about homosexuality more than four years ago. A letter of admonition detailing the accusation, filed with no warning or opportunity for Col. Michael Madrid to respond, is a stain on the decorated airman’s record and could cost him future promotions, his attorney said. Maj. Gen. John McCoy, then-acting commander of Air Education and Training Command (AETC) at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, filed the 2016 letter of admonishment indicating he had new information in a two-year-old settled and closed investigation of Madrid from another base. Mike Berry, an attorney with First Liberty representing Madrid, said he is at a loss as to why McCoy acted on the closed case or how he even knew about it. Berry said McCoy’s actions violate military and federal law denying Madrid due process. Berry has demanded the admonition letter be rescinded.


Federal court’s redefinition of ‘sex’ could have wide ripple effects 

(WNS)–The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a landmark ruling this week that redefines the term “sex” in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include “sexual orientation.” Gay rights advocates declared the ruling a “game changer” in their press to establish homosexuality as a protected class under federal law. Religious liberty attorneys decried the decision as judicial activism that could put faith-based ministries in the legal crosshairs of disgruntled gay employees for years to come. In the 8-3 decision issued April 4, the appeals court ruled contrary to its own precedent and every U.S. appeals court to date, including the 11th Circuit which just weeks earlier came to the opposite conclusion in a similar case. The lawsuit before the 7th Circuit, Hively v. Ivy Tech, involved a lesbian who sued her employer for sex discrimination claiming she didn’t get a full-time job because of her sexuality. In her complaint, Kimberly Hively cited Title VII as her defense. In doing so she forced the court to decide whether sexual orientation means the same thing as sex.


Trump overturns Obama’s Planned Parenthood funding edict

(WNS)–President Donald Trump signed his first piece of pro-life legislation into law on April 13, overturning an eleventh-hour rule from the Obama administration to protect Planned Parenthood funding. “This is a major pro-life victory,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “Taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortion, plain and simple.” Trump signed the Congressional Review Act, which blocks a last minute order President Barack Obama issued in the waning days of his presidency. The Obama order banned 13 conservative states from redirecting Planned Parenthood’s Title X funding to community health centers that do not offer abortion. This is the first piece of pro-life legislation Trump has signed into law and the first time the U.S. Senate has successfully passed a pro-life bill in more than eight years.


Supreme Court readies for religious liberty showdown

(WNS)–The fate of one Missouri playground is long overdue. In the 15 months since the Supreme Court agreed to hear Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, the United States has put a new president and a new Supreme Court justice in place. With Justice Neil Gorsuch sworn in, the court on April 19 will hear the anticipated religious liberty case that started over playground equipment but could affect faith-based organizations around the country. In 2012, Trinity Lutheran Church applied for a Missouri state program to reimburse nonprofits for rubber playground surfaces made from recycled tire scraps. The program receives funding through a fee attached to new tire sales and helps reduce the number of old tires in landfills while providing a cost-effective way to purchase safe playground surfaces for children. The state awarded grants to 14 applicants, but Trinity Lutheran’s preschool was not one of them.


The sky is this summer’s biggest attraction

(WNS)–Eclipse chasers around the world know where they’ll be on August 21, 2017. On that day, the continental United States will experience a coast-to-coast total solar eclipse, starting in Oregon, through Wyoming, Missouri to South Carolina. The central path runs through a dozen states, though every continental state will see at least a partial eclipse. At the point of greatest duration in rural Illinois, the total eclipse will last 2 minutes and 40 seconds. The last coast-to-coast total solar eclipse occurred in 1918. Court Priday, the proprietor of a Madras, Ore. inn, said it has been booked solid since 2012: “There isn’t a hotel vacancy within a three-hour radius.” Kayce Telles, a hotel representative in St. Joseph, Mo., received the first room request for eclipse weekend in 2013. She has taken calls from as far away as France, Italy, and Japan.


Supreme Court again tackles religious employment issues

(WNS)–A Supreme Court case involving three hospital systems once again brought up the ongoing legal question about just what counts as a church. The court heard arguments in the case at the end of March. The decision could affect millions of workers at religiously affiliated hospitals, schools, and other organizations. Advocate Health Care, Dignity Health, and St. Peter’s Healthcare System want to keep running their employee pension plans as they have for decades, with IRS approval. Federal law gives the religiously affiliated hospitals an exemption from a requirement that they fully fund and insure employee pension plans. But employees say their retirements are at risk and the hospitals shouldn’t be exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

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