The other night I was watching TVO’s The Agenda and an erudite, award-winning author was talking about two taboos: politics and religion. It was fascinating television on several levels as she linked the two in Trump’s America.

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WASHINGTON – The Obama administration's May 13 directive on transgender access to bathrooms "that treats 'a student's gender identity as the student's sex' is deeply disturbing," said the chairmen of two U.S. Catholic bishops' committees.

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WASHINGTON - A U.S. federal judge Aug. 21 gave the Obama administration 60 days — until Oct. 23 — to release the hundreds of immigrant mothers and children being held in locked detention centres.

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NAIROBI, Kenya - Anti-gay activists, including conservative clerics, traditional elders and politicians, are threatening to resist any push by U.S. President Barack Obama for gay rights during his Kenya visit this week, with tactics that range from throwing rotten eggs to marching naked and boycotting his speeches.

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The U.S. Catholic bishops have welcomed the Obama administration’s tentative agreement aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and their top spokesman on international affairs bluntly warned Congress against doing anything to undermine it.

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WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will welcome Pope Francis to the White House Sept. 23.

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ROME - The move to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States has inaugurated "a new time ... for encounter and dialogue" between the two countries and is cause for great hope, said the cardinal of Havana.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. - A U.S. federal district court judge in Ann Arbor granted a Michigan business, Weingartz Supply Co., a temporary injunction from the Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate.

The judge also dismissed a lawsuit filed by a non-profit Catholic group, Legatus, because he said the religious organization qualified for the Obama administration's temporary "safe harbour" from having to comply with the mandate.

But he also stipulated the federal government must provide monthly updates on the status of the process for amending final regulations covered by the safe harbour period.

Erin Mersino, lead counsel for Thomas More Law Centre, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, which represented the plaintiffs, told Catholic News Service Nov. 2 that she was "happy with the court decision" and described both decisions as "a straight win for us."

Daniel Weingartz, president of the supply company, which sells outdoor power equipment and employs approximately 170 people, is a Catholic who says the mandate conflicted with his faith.

In the ruling, Judge Robert Cleland of the Eastern District of Michigan, said the "loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury." He did not rule on the mandate's constitutionality, but his decision keeps the company from having to comply with the mandate until the constitutional claims are resolved.

"The harm in delaying the implementation of a statute that may later be deemed constitutional must yield to the risk presented here of substantially infringing the sincere exercise of religious beliefs," he said in his 29-page opinion.
Mersino called the ruling "not only a victory for our clients, but for religious freedom."

The HHS mandate requires all employers, including most religious employers, to cover the costs of contraceptives, including some that can cause abortions, and sterilizations in employee health plans. It does not include a conscience clause for employers who object to such coverage on moral grounds. A narrow exemption applies only to those religious institutions that seek to inculcate their religious values and primarily employ and serve people of their own faith.

In July, a Colorado judge similarly granted a temporary injunction from the HHS contraceptive mandate to Hercules Industries, a Catholic-owned company that provides heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment.

The Michigan judge denied without prejudice the motion for preliminary injunction on behalf of Legatus, an organization for Catholic business leaders. Cleland said Legatus fell under the "safe harbour" provision and as such does not have a claim the mandate violates the organization's rights.

In August, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a "temporary enforcement safe harbour," a year-long period that protects employers from immediate government action against them if they fail to comply with the mandate. The final rule on the mandate takes effect in August 2013.

In a similar court case, a federal judge in Oklahoma City began hearing arguments Nov. 1 for a lawsuit filed by the Christian business Hobby Lobby against the federal government's HHS mandate. Hobby Lobby, based in Oklahoma City, has more than 500 retail stores in 41 states. Its practices include remaining closed on Sundays and hiring company chaplains to minister to employees.

"We have always operated our company in a manner consistent with biblical principles, including integrity and service to others," said David Green, an evangelical Christian who is founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby. "We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate."

Hobby Lobby is the largest company to file suit against the HHS mandate and the only one not owned by a Catholic.

About 50 Catholic dioceses, universities and entities throughout the United States have filed lawsuits against the mandate.

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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court's June 28 decision upholding the health reform law makes it even more urgent for Congress to act to fix the law's "fundamental flaws" on abortion funding, conscience protection and immigrants' access to health care, the U.S. bishops said.

The court found that although the individual mandate in the 2010 health reform law does not pass constitutional muster under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, it can be upheld as an acceptable exercise of Congress' taxing powers.

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WASHINGTON - Going into the third week since President Barack Obama said he has come to support same-sex marriage as a matter of civil rights, polls show the revelation has had little effect on people's voting plans.

When weighed against concerns such as the economy, very few voters are likely to make their choice for president on the basis of the candidates' positions on same-sex marriage.

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WASHINGTON - Forty-three Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals, social service agencies and other institutions filed suit in federal court May 21 to stop three government agencies from implementing a mandate that would require them to cover contraceptives and sterilization in their health plans.

“Through this lawsuit, plaintiffs do not seek to impose their religious beliefs on others,” said one of the suits, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana by the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, diocesan Catholic Charities, St. Anne Home and Retirement Community, Franciscan Alliance, University of St. Francis and Our Sunday Visitor.

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WASHINGTON - Catholic leaders rejected U.S. President Barack Obama's May 9 declaration in a television interview that "personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

"President Obama's words today are not surprising since they follow upon various actions already taken by his administration that erode or ignore the unique meaning of marriage," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, in a May 9 statement.

"We cannot be silent in the face of words or actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society. The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better."

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OTTAWA - A fiery debate over contraception and religious freedom has pitted the Catholic bishops in the United States against President Barack Obama’s health care policy, but a Canadian Catholic health expert said such a debate is unlikely in Canada.

Obama’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate would force all Catholic institutions, including universities, hospitals and charities, to offer insurance to employees that offers contraception, which is against Church teaching.

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WASHINGTON - In an move that appears unlikely to end the controversy over a federal mandate that all health insurance plans include contraception and sterilization free of charge, President Barack Obama outlined a plan that would allow religious employers not to offer such services to their employees but would compel insurance companies to do so.

The president announced the policy in a brief statement Feb. 10 but took no questions.

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WASHINGTON - Although Catholic leaders vowed to fight on, the Obama administration has turned down repeated requests from Catholic bishops, hospitals, schools and charitable organizations to revise its religious exemption to the requirement that all health plans cover contraceptives and sterilization free of charge.

Instead, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced Jan. 20 that nonprofit groups that do not provide contraceptive coverage because of their religious beliefs will get an additional year "to adapt to this new rule."

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