Good Morning! 

In his now famous speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September of 1960, then Senator and presidential candidate John F. Kennedy declared: 

“I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end.” 

We begin with a look at a Supreme Court case next week set to address that very issue: 

1.   The Supreme Court Takes Up Religious Liberty—Again 

From the Wall Street Journal: 

The Supreme Court will hear arguments next week over whether state government funding programs can discriminate against religion—the third time the court has taken up the issue in the past five years.  

It has already prohibited excluding religious institutions simply because they are religious institutions, but it equivocated on whether governments can deny funding that would be used for religious purposes. The justices should now make clear that all forms of religious exclusion in government funding are unacceptable. 

In next week’s case, Carson v. Makin, the justices will have to decide whether this theoretical distinction between status and use will become part of the constitutional rule. The case concerns the constitutionality of the tuition assistance program in Maine, where more than half of school districts don’t have public secondary schools.  

In those jurisdictions Augusta pays tuition on the student’s behalf at approved private schools. But otherwise-qualified “sectarian” schools are explicitly excluded. 

Maine previously argued that court precedents required governments to avoid supporting religion, even if that meant they were not acting neutrally. Yet the Supreme Court has steadily moved away from that approach over the past few decades. Maine parents brought this suit, claiming the tuition support program’s rules violate the First Amendment.  

A federal appeals court upheld the “sectarian” exclusion because it withholds money from the schools based not on their status as religious schools but for using the funds to teach religious curricula. 

  1. Sixteen-Year-Old High School Football Star Died Trying to Save Classmates from Shooter

From The Daily Citizen

Last Tuesday a 15-year-old sophomore boy emerged from a school restroom at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan with a handgun and started firing. Five minutes and at least thirty shots later, four students lay dying and seven more suffered gunshot wounds, two of whom are in critical condition fighting for their lives. The shooter surrendered peacefully when police officers stationed at the school arrived at the scene and confronted him. 

The dead have been identified as: 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, 17-year-old Justin Shilling, and 16-year-old Tate Myre. 

Out of this senseless tragedy, however, a story has emerged of the heroism of one of the victims, 16-year-old Myre, who died trying to disarm the shooter. 

According to multiple witnesses, Myre ran toward the gunman when the gunfire started, and was reportedly hit several times. He later died en route to the hospital. His selfless bravery that put him in the line of fire undoubtedly saved more of his classmates from falling victim to the shooter. 

Myre, a six-foot, 195-pound linebacker and co-captain of his school’s football team and a member of the wrestling team, was also a star student, carrying a 3.9 grade point average. He was even being recruited by the University of Toledo and had visited the campus only a few days before his death. 

One person who wasn’t surprised by the young man’s heroism was his father, Buck Myre. Even as he was joining other parents on Tuesday at the staging area for survivors in an unsuccessful effort to locate his son, he turned to a family friend and said, “You know who would go take that guy out, right?” 

  1. Will the Justices Let Go of Abortion?

Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Here it is good to ask: Why has abortion so roiled this country for half a century? In other cases, when courts saw a new constitutional right or liberalized the social order in some way, the public acclimated. Brown v. Board of Education was accepted over the years, gay marriage was followed by public acceptance—the court had spoken. When the court took prayer out of the public schools in 1962 and held that interracial couples had a right to marry in 1967, high public disapproval on those issues immediately began to decline. “But abortion was different. Opposition to Roe became more hostile after its issuance,” writes Joshua Prager in his history of Roe v. Wade, “The Family Roe.” 

There are many reasons, but I think the biggest is that all those other rulings are about how to live. Roe involved death, inescapably and at its heart. We have spent 40 years looking at sonograms and carrying in our wallets or phones the black-and-white copy of the ultrasound that, when you first saw it, you thought: “This is real.” “She’s already got my feet.” It’s hard to ignore the meaning of that: She’s there. 

It speaks well of America that Roe was the struggle that wouldn’t end. 


Refuting the ‘Forced Birth’ Smear   

From National Review

For quite some time, one of the most common defenses of abortion has been that the unborn child — fetus, a clump of cells, whatever euphemism you prefer — resides inside the mother and thus is something akin to her property. The pro-abortion slogan “my body, my choice” and similar women’s autonomy arguments for abortion are based on this premise. 

It’s a fairly easy argument to refute. The unborn child’s existence inside his mother doesn’t make him part of the mother in any significant way. Morally speaking, his body does not belong to her in a way that gives her license to end his life. He is an entirely unique, distinct organism with his own functions. And his reliance on his mother while still in the womb isn’t all that different from his dependence on her after birth. A neglected infant will soon die, just as an unborn child will die if separated from his mother. 

The unborn child’s location, then, is not a good enough reason to kill him. But as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, considering Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortion, supporters of abortion rights turned to another defense: the “forced birth” smear. 

Julie Rikelman, the attorney for Jackson Women’s Health, alluded to it in her opening statement: “For a state to take control of a woman’s body and demand that she go through pregnancy and childbirth, with all the physical risks and life-altering consequences that brings, is a fundamental deprivation of her liberty.” 

Lamentations of “forced birth” and “forced pregnancy” cropped up in much of the commentary from the Left after the arguments, including from Democratic politicians, pro-abortion feminists, media outlets, and other commentators. 

There are several obvious problems with this phrase. For one thing, it ignores the natural connection between sex and reproduction. Human beings have known for all of history that this natural connection exists, and the advent of contraception does not negate it. Contrary to the “forced birth” argument, the overwhelming majority of pregnancies are the result of consensual sex, one natural result of which is pregnancy. 

  1. Instagram CEO to testify before Congress next week on alleged harms to kids

From The Washington Times

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri will testify before a Senate subcommittee next week about his company’s impact on children, two senators announced Thursday, as lawmakers probe the platform’s alleged dangers for kids. 

Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, and Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, announced Mr. Mosseri’s first appearance before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s subcommittee on consumer protection, product safety, and data security. Ms. Blackburn has cited young girls’ risk of suicide and problems exacerbating human trafficking as issues she is scrutinizing at Facebook. 

  1. Study Finds Single Americans Want to Get Married But Don’t Like Their Prospects 

Focus on the Family’s Tim Goeglein writes in The Federalist: 

Countless young single Americans may, on the surface enjoy the perceived freedom that comes without a commitment to one person. If they have an active social life, they often say they enjoy having numerous relationships with varied individuals. 

But deep down, when you ask questions that go beyond the superficial, they express their ache for that special relationship with a person they can commit to and connect with for life. As Dan Edmunds writes, “Though we may put many around us, we are alone.” 

Many of these singles yearn to be married, but the institutions that provided the opportunity to meet a lifetime spouse have weakened, such as families, churches, and community organizations. For many, this breakdown of community has led to what Edmunds describes as the “breakdown of persons.” 

So, why are singles are choosing not to get married and becoming more isolated? A recent study by the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institute provides some interesting reasons. 

While many assume that lack of money or having a stable job in today’s economic uncertainty would be the main reasons people are choosing not to get married, they would be erroneous in doing so. Instead, the number one reason cited by singles for not getting married was what they perceived to be the difficulty in finding the right person to marry. 

Regardless of income, a vast majority of singles who desire marriage want their future spouse to be “responsible,” “emotionally stable,” and share the same values about having and raising children. 

  1. Raising Highly Capable Kids Program Provides Hope and Training for Parents 

From the Dyersville Commercial: 

Kris Nauman, executive director of Clarity Clinic, said a major focus of the educational center is to equip parents with the tools to raise their children properly and give them a good life. 

“So many people say, ‘All you are interested in is saving the baby, but what happens after the mom has the baby? What happens to that family then? What happens to the single mom who has two or three children already?’,” said Nauman. “The programs we provide in the Tree of Life Education Center offer an earn while you learn program for in the womb to age four, and after that, we have a program called Raising Highly Capable Kids. We were chosen by Focus on the Family to be the very first recipient in the state of Iowa to receive an educational grant called Resilient Kids. The curriculum is evidence-based to raise grade point averages and prevent risky behavior. It’s had four decades of research in five million youth.” 

  1. 2021 saw the most police officers shot and killed in US history, according to Fraternal Order of Police

From The Blaze

The National Fraternal Order of Police – the oldest and largest police union in the United States – said that 2021 is already the bloodiest year in history for American law enforcement officers.

As of Tuesday, the National Fraternal Order of Police reported that 314 police officers were shot in the line of duty — 58 of whom were killed. There were 42 cops shot in Texas, 25 in Illinois, 21 in California, and 17 officers shot in both Florida and Georgia. 

Despite a month left to go in the year, 2021 is already the deadliest year on record for police officers, according to the FOP. There were 312 police officers shot and 47 killed in 2020. There were 293 cops shot and 50 killed in 2019. 

  1. Federal judge blocks Texas law that would have opened doors for lawsuits against social media

From USA Today

A federal judge on Wednesday night blocked a Texas law that would allow any state resident banned from a social media platform for their political views to sue the companies.

The preliminary injunction came one day before the law was scheduled to take effect. 

The decision is a blow to Texas lawmakers who alleged Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube censor right-wing conservative views. The state law was motivated in part by the social media suspensions of former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

  1. Germany Announces National Lockdown for the Unvaccinated

From The Epoch Times:

Germany’s leadership on Thursday announced it will lock down unvaccinated people as top officials also signaled they would back plans for mandatory vaccinations in the coming months.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that individuals who aren’t vaccinated for COVID-19 will be excluded from nonessential stores, cultural, and recreational venues. The Bundestag, Germany’s Parliament, will also consider a general vaccination mandate, she added. 


Three Teenagers Who Tested Negative For COVID Arrested In Australia For Leaving Quarantine 

From The Daily Wire

Three teenagers were arrested in Australia after climbing a fence to escape a COVID-19 quarantine compound in the middle of the night. 

The teens – aged 15, 16, and 17 – had all tested negative for COVID-19 but were being quarantined because they were close contacts of people who had tested positive. They were being held in a COVID-19 quarantine facility in Howard Springs, just outside Northern Territory capital city Darwin, Australia news outlet ABC reported. 

10. Horse Troughs, Hot Tubs and Hashtags: Baptism Is Getting Wild 

From The New York Times: 

Performing the age-old Christian ritual in a more informal style “conveys this isn’t your grandmother’s church,” said Drake Osborn, pastor of teaching and liturgy at Grace Church in Waco, Texas. His congregation moved into a former bowling alley in 2016 but never considered installing a built-in baptistery. Instead, Grace Church uses a foam model bought online for about $2,500. 

The shift has taken place as many pre-21st-century symbols of church life have fallen out of fashion in evangelical culture, especially among churches that are expanding or building new facilities. Sanctuaries are now “worship centers,” and steeples and stained glass are out. Natural light is often eschewed in favor of a black-box theater aesthetic optimized for flashy audiovisual experiences and online streaming. 

It is not just the architecture that is changing. Contemporary evangelical baptisms are often raucous affairs. Instead of subdued hymns and murmurs, think roaring modern worship music, fist pumps, tears and boisterous cheering. There are photographers, selfie stations and hashtags for social media. One church in Texas calls its regular mass baptism event a “plunge party.” 

Scarce, too, are the traditional white robes. Instead, many churches hand out custom T-shirts for the occasion, with slogans like “#washed,” “Best day ever,” “No turning back” and “Meet the new me.”  

In the United States, indoor baptisteries — along with steeples and ornate architecture — were initially a mark of class. Baptisms in lakes and rivers were commonplace when those were the only practical options. But they were also messy, rustic and subject to the whims of weather. In the 19th century, some urban churches without running water painstakingly carried water into the church to set themselves apart from rural churches. The indoor facilities became prevalent in the early 20th century, when technology and the growing respectability of adult baptism made it feasible for more churches to install them. 

But it does not take a hip setting to make baptism a boisterous occasion. On a recent Tuesday night at First Denton, a large Baptist church north of Dallas, more than 200 college students and a few family members gathered for a Baptism Night held by the church’s college group, Overflow. Last fall, the event was postponed because of a leak in the baptistery — discovered when water began dripping down the walls in the hallway below — but on this night it was in shipshape condition.

“We see baptism as a celebration,” Jared Gregory, the college pastor, told the congregation. “Things are going to get a little rowdy.” 

About a dozen students had signed up in advance for the ritual, and others felt moved to volunteer on the spot. The men changed clothes in a dressing room on one side of the baptistery; women on the other. One by one, they stepped down into the warm water, where Mr. Gregory was waiting for them. He plunged them backward, declaring them raised by Christ. One by one, they burst out beaming, sometimes with tears streaming down their faces. And each time, the crowd went wild.