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Religious conscience, Catholicism and Kavanaugh

Expect faith to play large role in how he interprets the law

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(Photo courtesy of St. Viviana’s Cathedral)

President Trump’s pick of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court is not surprising. Though he is less extreme than some others on the short list, Kavanaugh appears intent on rolling back abortion rights. We know this from past opinions and law review articles he has written.

But we know less how he might rule in regards to LGBTQ rights or immigration – two issues that will inevitably soon be addressed by the Court. Masterpiece Cakeshop did not clarify the appropriate balance between the free exercise of religion and equal protection. It was written so narrowly to address the specifics of the case that a broader legal principle cannot be found. Likewise, immigration issues are winding their way through the federal court system. On July 9, a Los Angeles Federal Judge, Dolly Gee, issued a strongly worded opinion condemning the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance family separation policy. Two months prior, another Justice for the Northern District of California rebuked the Federal Government’s violation of federalism in its attacks on sanctuary cities. Each of these cases will be seeking certiorari before the Supreme Court in the near future.

And, just as he has done with past abortion cases, we can expect Kavanaugh’s faith to play a large role in how he interprets the law.

During his acceptance speech in the White House, Kavanaugh spoke passionately about his work with Catholic Charities and how his conservative Catholicism has informed his career. It was moving. And Kavanaugh is correct in pointing out the role Catholic Charities has played in nurturing the oppressed throughout American history. But one Catholic charity he might have had in mind is Priests For Life, a group that sued for a contraceptive exemption from the Affordable Care Act. Kavanaugh wrote the appeals court decision in Priests for Life v. Burwell in support of exemptions for nonprofits and businesses based on personal conscience saying:

“When the Government forces someone to take an action contrary to his or her sincere religious belief . . . the Government has substantially burdened the individual’s exercise of religion.”

Though Kavanaugh was speaking specifically about contraception, it is easy to see how similar reasoning could be used in a case involving denial of goods and services based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The framing is key. Here, Kavanaugh provides insight into his thinking by casting the denier of service as a victim of government overreach. Based on his deeply held religious convictions, Kavanaugh views those who want to discriminate more sympathetically than those who are discriminated against.

However, as some older Catholics might remember, John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy supported civil rights for African Americans because of the discrimination they faced as Irish Catholics, especially in the political arena.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, six of the nine justices will be Catholic. But not all Catholics apply their faith in the same way. Any shrewd litigator will need to consider Catholic theology and tradition in pleadings before the Court. When it comes to LGBTQ rights and immigration, applying Catholicism may seem like a cumbersome abstraction, but both liberty of conscience and the care of immigrants have strong roots in Catholicism.

If a Justice Kavanaugh needs a specifically Catholic justification for the protection of sanctuary cities, for instance, he can find it in the history of Los Angeles. During the Reagan Administration, another period of heightened hostility toward Hispanic immigration, a priest named Father Luis Olivares essentially began the modern sanctuary city movement. Building on the Catholic Church’s history of using Cathedrals and parishes as sanctuaries for the oppressed and refugees, the outcast and diseased, Father Olivares envisioned Los Angeles as a city that could shield the vulnerable from a heartless ruling class, much like the role the Church had played throughout medieval Europe. Unbeknownst to many, those being persecuted could run into a Cathedral or parish, shout out the word “asylum,” and the priest or monk would immediately shut the door to protect them.

It was Father Olivares’ faith that inspired his empathy toward those seeking a better life – and there is potential to apply that faith to today’s mothers fleeing violent abuse and drug wars only to have their children forcibly detained.

Similar thinking informs catholic or universal attitudes toward liberty of conscience. Much of the tenets of modern democracy derive from religious struggles in European history. Long before democratic revolutions swept through Europe demanding political equality, the indiscriminate extermination of the Bubonic Plague challenged deeply held cultural assumptions about natural inequality and God-ordained hierarchy. As peasants fled outbreaks of the plague, they, too, sought refuge in the houses of their lords and The Lord only to find the Plague ravaged prince and pauper, priest and prostitute alike. Among the sight and stench of the disease, it became harder to believe the strict class structure of feudalism and birthright of kings was God’s will and the theological underpinnings of an unfair economic system quickly crumbled.

The invention of the printed press enabled the ideas of the Reformation of the Church and words of the Bible to spread throughout Europe. Before these new interpretations of holy scripture, the Catholic Church held a cultural and political monopoly.

Protestantism’s challenge to Catholic political hegemony produced centuries of bloody civil wars across Europe. The most violent – the Thirty Years War among Lutherans, Protestants, and Catholics – produced the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. This treaty was monumental in the creation of the modern nation-state because it was the first governing document to recognize some form of religious freedom. Each denomination had fought for the political dominance of their version of Christianity — but accomplished only mass casualties.

In the end, nobody won. But the Catholic Church lost its political exclusivity, forcing it to reconsider its use of government to force compliance with its theology. The Treaty of Westphalia marked a nascent version of our cherished freedom of religion. This first codification of state neutrality toward a preferred faith ultimately became the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.

The first ten words of the Bill of Rights is called the Establishment Clause. It reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an established religion.

An established religion is the official religion of a country. The official religion of the UK is the Anglican Church. The official religion of Italy is Catholicism and of Denmark is Lutheran Protestantism. The official religion of the United States is nothing because our founders were trying to do something different and reflect the lessons of history.

But the framers of the Constitution did not merely say America would lack an established religion. Rather, they

prohibited government from respecting an establishment of religion. This means we cannot have an official faith or even pretend that we do. The removal of nativity scenes and monuments of the Ten Commandments in public spaces is not some contemporary suppression of religious expression. Our founders recognized that a democracy cannot function if one demographic is awarded privileged status so institutions of the state must remain nonsectarian.

The Establishment Clause is immediately followed by the Free Exercise Clause. It reads:

Or prohibit the free exercise thereof.

Herein lies the balance. The government may neither respect an official religion nor prohibit anyone from practicing religion in any way. The first is a limit on state action, the second is an expression of maximum

individual freedom. That individual liberty is not limited to formal religion. It includes a liberty of conscience for each citizen to develop their own understanding of transcendent truth and follow the right path for them even if faith is not part of the picture.

The free exercise of one’s conscience, guaranteed by the First Amendment, enshrines the negative right to reject the religious dictates of one’s community. This means conservative Christians can govern their lives and believe sincerely that homosexuality is an egregious sin — but other citizens are not coerced into obeying the proscriptions of others’ faiths.

These core tenets of democracy have been reiterated throughout American history, so much so that we have taken for granted that justices on the Supreme Court will continue

to apply them to new conflicts. But we also know, some legal thinkers like the Federalist Society apply these historical principles differently. Once Kavanaugh becomes the sixth Catholic on the Court – and it is likely he will be – advocates of benevolence toward immigrants and fairness toward sexual minorities will benefit from grounding their arguments in catholic tradition rather than opposition to Catholicism.

With all three branches of the Federal Government firmly in the hands of a party devoid of empathy toward the downtrodden, a little Catholic charity may be our saving grace.

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Los Angeles County

Heat Advisory issued as temps expected to be in triple digits

LA County will see hot & breezy conditions Monday. High temperatures will reach 90 degrees. Temperatures at night will fall to 64 degrees

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory warning for most of Southern California on Monday. Temperatures while remaining lower in the 80s and 70s in the coastal areas are expected to exceed triple-digits for most of the inland areas in the region.

Los Angeles and Orange counties will see hot and breezy conditions Monday. High temperatures will reach 90 degrees. Temperatures at night will fall to 64 degrees.

The valleys and Inland Empire will be very hot and windy Monday as temperatures soar to 105 degrees. Evening temperatures will drop to 72 degrees.

Beaches will see temperatures rising to 78 degrees amid breezy conditions on Monday. Overnight lows will dip to 64 degrees.

Look for a 20% chance of thunderstorms in the mountain communities on Monday, with temperatures reaching a high of 89 degrees. Temperatures will fall to 55 degrees at night.

Desert conditions will be sunny and windy on Monday, with temperatures expected to rise to 104 degrees. Nighttime temperatures will drop to 69 degrees.

Detailed Forecast

Today

Sunny and hot, with a high near 106. East northeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming north northwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph.

Tonight

Clear, with a low around 69. Northwest wind 5 to 15 mph becoming east northeast after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph.

Tuesday

Sunny and hot, with a high near 104. Southeast wind around 10 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 15 mph.

Tuesday Night

Clear, with a low around 68. West northwest wind 5 to 15 mph becoming east southeast after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph.

Wednesday

Sunny and hot, with a high near 98. East southeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph.

Wednesday Night

Clear, with a low around 62. Breezy.

Thursday

Sunny, with a high near 94.

Thursday Night

Clear, with a low around 58.

Friday

Sunny, with a high near 92.

Friday Night

Clear, with a low around 57.

Saturday

Sunny, with a high near 90.

Saturday Night

Clear, with a low around 56.

Sunday

Sunny, with a high near 89.

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Orange County

Right-wing news anchor delivers obscenity-laden homophobic rant

“Guess what I came home to be greeted with? This fucking bullshit. [points to Rainbow Pride flag] What the hell is that?”

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Alison Steinberg (Screenshot/Twitter-Ron Filipkowski)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Ca. – Alison Steinberg, an anchor and contributor for right-wing extremist media outlet One America News, launched into an obscenity-laden rant captured in a now viral video over an LGBTQ+ Pride flag flying in the beachfront business district of Huntington Beach commemorating Pride Month.

Steinberg had originally posted her video to her Instagram account but it was later removed.

In the rant Steinberg is heard saying: “And guess what I came home to be greeted with? This fucking bullshit. [points to Rainbow Pride flag] What the hell is that? Huntington Beach is the town of good old-fashioned hard-working American people, much less human. People who worked all through the COVID lockdown. Yes, that’s right. Huntington Beach never shut down through any of the COVID nonsense fuckery. And now we’re peddling this garbage?”

“What the hell is this? The only flag that should be up there is that American flag. This is a disgrace to our city and it should be taken down immediately. Whoever the hell is running this town needs to be fired. Make America great again. Make Huntington Beach great.”

Ron Filipkowski, a defense lawyer and former Assistant United States Attorney had captured the video and uploaded it to his Twitter account where many of his 402.9K followers retweeted it:

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Southern California

Triple A: Gas Prices Drop on Increased Production, Economic Worries

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $6.38, which is six cents lower than last week

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Screenshot/YouTube

LOS ANGELES – Gas prices dropped as local refineries reported their second-highest California-blend gasoline production levels of 2022 and economic concerns pushed down oil prices, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $6.38, which is six cents lower than last week.

The average national price is $4.94, which is seven cents lower than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $6.40 per gallon, which is six cents lower than last week, 30 cents higher than last month, and $2.14 higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $6.32, which is five cents lower than last week, 30 cents higher than last month, and $2.09 higher than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $6.32, which is three cents lower than last week, 29 cents higher than last month and is $2.10 higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $6.29, which is four cents lower than last week, 30 cents higher than last month and $2.11 higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $6.36 average price is the same as last Thursday, 36 cents higher than last month and $2.22 higher than a year ago today.

“The state’s refineries produced more California-blend gasoline last week than in any other week since January of this year, according to the California Energy Commission,” said Auto Club spokesman Doug Shupe. “At the same time, Oil Price Information Service says concerns about the U.S. economy are pushing down oil and wholesale gasoline prices.”

The Auto Club reminds drivers they can save money on gasoline by shopping around virtually using a tool like the AAA Mobile app, which shows users the cheapest gas prices near them. AAA members can also take advantage of discounted gas prices at participating Shell gas stations by joining the Shell Fuel Rewards® program.

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on June 23, averages are:

June 23
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