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SCOTUS to Hear Case Asking Whether a Catholic Agency Can Deny Foster Children to Same-Sex Couples on Religious Grounds

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  • The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that will decide whether a taxpayer-funded Catholic adoption agency can refuse to match foster children with same-sex couples.
  • While a ruling isn’t expected to be made until June, a decision in favor of the adoption agency could result in broader ramifications that allow organizations to deny service to LGBTQ+ on religious grounds.
  • This will be the first major argument heard by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a strong proponent of religious rights; however, the case in question will ask her whether she is in favor of overturning a 1990 precedent written by her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. 

Philadelphia and Catholic Church Spar Over LGBTQ/Religious Rights

Justice Amy Coney Barrett will begin hearing arguments Wednesday on her first major case as part of the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s a case that is set to decide the intersection of LGBTQ+ and religious rights.

The case is known as Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, and it concerns a taxpayer-funded Catholic adoption agency in Philadelphia that is refusing to match foster children with same-sex couples. That agency, Catholic Social Services (CSS), claims that allowing such a practice would violate its religious beliefs. 

In 2018, the city of Philadelphia caught wind of CSS denying same-sex couples the ability to foster children. As a result, the city then began refusing to refer new groups of foster children to the agency, doing so by citing a city law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 

The following year, Philadelphia updated language in its government contracts to specifically prohibit adoption agencies from denying potential foster parents that are part of a same-sex couple. 

With that, CSS sued the city in an attempt to uphold its practice of denying adoption to same-sex couples. In its lawsuit, it argued that the city unlawfully targeted its religious rights protected under the First Amendment. 

Meanwhile, Philadelphia defended itself by arguing that it is simply enforcing an anti-discrimination policy that protects LGBTQ residents. As the city noted, it applies this policy evenly across all religious and even secular government contractors. 

Cynthia Figueroa, Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for children and families, added that CSS is now attempting to rewrite a contract it had already voluntarily signed.

In 2019, a federal appeals court unanimously sided with Philadelphia, ruling that CSS failed to show that the city’s decision was made for any other reason than “sincere opposition to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

In its decision, that court heavily cited a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling authored by former Justice Antonin Scalia: Employment Division v. Smith. That ruling stated that laws burdening religious exercise are permissible if they don’t specifically target the idea of religion or any one religion. 

“Preventing discrimination in the provision of public services is undeniably a legitimate interest,” District Court Judge Petrese Tucker also said in 2018, while siding with Philadelphia.  

Since both decisions, CSS has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to overturn Smith and saying that the agency “stands to be excluded from foster care, not because it broke any law, but because Philadelphia disagrees with its religious practices regarding marriage.”

“Just as no LGBT couples are prevented from marrying because a particular church does not perform same-sex weddings, no LGBT couples are prevented from fostering because a particular church cannot provide an endorsement,” CSS lawyers stated in their appeal to SCOTUS. “Yet many churches will be prevented from exercising religion by caring for at-risk children, all due to a disagreement with the government about marriage.” 

Broader Effects of a Decision in Favor of CSS

As lawyers for the city of Philadelphia have noted, if the Supreme Court were to side with CSS, such a decision could have broad ramifications on LGBTQ+ individuals nationwide. 

“[It] would essentially give anyone who objects to LGBT people and cites a religious basis for that the right to opt out of all those protections that achieved equal treatment for the LGBT community,” Leslie Cooper, a American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, said. 

For its part, CSS has refuted that claim, with one of its lawyers, Lori Windham, calling Cooper’s statement “overblown.”

“Catholic Social Services has been partnering with women of color for decades to service a diverse population,” Windham said. “They are asking to continue to do that.”

Critics, however, have noted that even if CSS serves a diverse community, such a statement falls flat if it also specifically excludes others from that diverse community.

If SCOTUS were to side with CSS, as far as whether or not that would overturn Smith’s precedent… Well, the answer’s unclear. Any decision could lead to a number of outcomes.

For example, in 2018, SCOTUS heard a case involving a Christian baker who had refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. There, the Court sided with the baker; however, it did on narrow grounds and the ruling largely didn’t apply to similar cases. 

Still, some legal experts do believe that a decision in favor of CSS would likely make it easier for religious organizations to mount defenses against accusations of violating anti-discrimination laws. 

“The real world consequences of this could be really, really, really important to people,” David Flugman, a partner at the law firm Selendy & Gay, said according to CNBC. “From denial of health care, to exclusion from schools, or refusing to serve people in restaurants or not accommodating them in bed and breakfasts.”

Is CSS Favored to Win with SCOTUS?

There are very real reasons to suspect that SCOTUS could side with CSS. 

In June, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh all dissented to a ruling that upheld federal anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ employees. While Justice Neil Gorsuch broke from the court’s conservative bloc for that decision, he — along with Alito, Thomas, and Kavanaugh — has hinted that he may be open to overturning Smith.

Notably, there is also the new addition of Barrett, a devout Catholic and a strong proponent of religious rights, to the bench. In fact, questions around Barrett’s faith and how she intends to couple it with her seat on the bench were a major aspect of her Senate confirmation hearing. 

Still, there is also eason to suggest that she could possibly rule in favor of Philadelphia. As Flugman noted, “She clerked for Justice Scalia. Will she, in the first week or so of her time on the court, be running toward overturning a three-decade-old precedent written by her old boss?” 

Many have also pointed to moments during her nomination process, where she said she would be guided by the law as written, not by her personal beliefs.

While SCOTUS will begin hearing arguments on this case Wednesday, it is not expected to make a decision until June. Currently, 11 states still allow private agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (The Wall Street Journal) (The Hill)

Politics

Trump Mocks Florida Gov. “Ron DeSanctimonious” Ahead of Possible 2024 Bid

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The former president may announce a bid to take back the White House on Nov. 14, according to his inner circle.


Trump Concocts His Latest Nickname

From “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” to “Sleepy Joe” and “Crazy Bernie,” former president Donald Trump’s nicknames for his political opponents have been known for their punchy style, but Republicans found it hard to swallow his latest mouthful for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“We’re winning big, big, big in the Republican Party for the nomination like nobody’s ever seen before,” he said Saturday at a rally in Pennsylvania. “Trump at 71, Ron DeSanctimonious at 10%.”

The former president drew rebuke from some allies and conservative commentators for driving a wedge through the GOP three days before the midterm elections.

“DeSantis is an extremely effective conservative governor who has had real policy wins and real cultural wins,” tweeted The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh. “Trump isn’t going to be able to take this one down with a dumb nickname. He better have more than that up his sleeve.”

“What an idiot,” wrote Rod Dreher, a senior editor at The American Conservative. “DeSantis is a far more effective leader of the Right than Trump was, if, that is, you expect a leader to get a lot done, rather than just talking about it and owning the libs.”

In April 2021, Trump said he would “certainly” consider making DeSantis his running mate for a potential 2024 presidential bid. But as DeSantis established himself as a credible rival to Trump, their relationship grew colder.

Last September, sources told The Washington Post that Trump had called DeSantis “ungrateful” in conversations with advisors. The former president reportedly had not spoken with the governor in months.

The Party of Trump or DeSantis?

One day after his “DeSanctimonious” jab, Trump took to the stage in Florida to support Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R) reelection campaign but grabbed more attention when he seemed to endorse DeSantis for governor.

“The people of Florida are going to reelect the wonderful, the great friend of mine, Marco Rubio to the United States Senate, and you’re going to reelect Ron DeSantis as your governor of your state,” he said to the cheering crowd.

The brief moment of support was overshadowed, however, by the conspicuous absence of DeSantis himself.

Both men held competing, contemporaneous rallies in the same state hundreds of miles apart, and multiple sources told Politico that DeSantis was not invited to Trump’s event, nor did he ask to attend.

The governor has repeatedly refused to say whether he will make a run for the presidency in 2024, but national polling consistently puts Trump ahead of him among Republicans by a wide margin.

Some recent polls, however, have shown DeSantis to lead the former president in specific states like Florida and New Hampshire.

A survey last month found that 72% of GOP voters believe DeSantis should have a great or good deal of influence in the future direction of the party, while just 64% said the same about Trump.

Sources told Axios that Trump’s inner circle is discussing a Nov. 14 announcement for his presidential campaign, timing it to capitalize on the expected post-midterm euphoria as vote counts roll in.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (Politico)

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The Midterms Are Tomorrow, But We May Not Have Results for a While. Here’s What You Need to Know

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The counting of mail-in ballots and possible legal challenges will almost certainly slow the final results.


Election Delays Expected

As Americans gear up for Election Day on Nov. 8, experts are warning that many races, including some of the most highly anticipated ones, may not have the final results in for days or even weeks.

These delays are completely normal and do not indicate that election fraud or issues with vote counting took place. However, like in 2020, former President Donald Trump and other election-denying Republicans could seize on the slow-coming returns to promote false claims to that effect.

There are a number of very legitimate reasons why it could take some time before the final results are solidified.  Each state has different rules for carrying out the election process, like when polls close and when ballots can start being counted.

There are also varying rules for when mail-in ballots can be received and counted that can extend when those votes will be tallied. That lag could seriously skew early results in many places because there has been a major rise in the number of people voting by mail.

Red Mirage, Blue Mirage

One very important thing to note is that the early returns seen on election night may not be representative of the final outcomes. 

In 2020, there was a lot of talk about a “red mirage,” which is when ballots cast on election day and favoring Republicans are reported first while mail-in ballots used more by Democrats are counted later, creating the appearance that Republicans have a much wider lead.

That phenomenon may very well take place in several key battlegrounds that not only could decide the House and the Senate but also have incredibly consequential state-wide elections of their own.

For example, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, election officials cannot start counting mail-in and absentee ballots until Election Day. 

Some experts have also speculated that a similar occurrence could occur in Georiga because the suburbs — which have shifted blue in recent years — report their results later than rural counties.

At the same time, there are also some states where the opposite might happen: a blue mirage that makes it seem like Democrats are doing better than they actually are.

Such a scenario is possible in Arizona, where election officials can process mail-in ballots as soon as they receive them, and where a similar trend played out in 2020.

Other Possible Slow-Downs

Beyond all that, there are a number of other factors that could delay when results are finalized.

For example, in Georgia, candidates need to get at least 50% of the vote to win, and if none do, then the top two are sent to a run-off election on Dec. 6. That is a very real possibility for the state’s closely-watched Senate race because there is a libertarian on the ballot who could siphon enough votes from Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock to keep them both below the 50% threshold. 

In other words: if control of the Senate comes down to Georgia again — as it did in 2020 and which is a very real possibility — voters may not know the outcome until a month after the election.

Meanwhile, experts also say that legal battles over mail-in ballots could further delay results, or even go to the Supreme Court. According to The New York Times, before Election Day, over 100 lawsuits had already been filed.

In Pennsylvania, for example, the State Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of a lawsuit from Republican groups requesting that mail-in ballots that did not have dates on outer envelopes be invalidated, causing thousands of ballots to be set aside. Multiple rights groups are now suing to get that decision reversed. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (ABC News) (Reuters)

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DHS Confirms Paul Pelosi Attacker is a Canadian National in the U.S. Illegally

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The suspect espoused many political conspiracy theories promoted by the American far-right and told investigators he wished to harm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to send a message to other U.S. politicians.


Pelosi Attacker’s Immigration Issues

The man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi and trying to kidnap House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) is a Canadian national currently residing in the United States illegally, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) late Wednesday.

Law enforcement officials say the suspect embraced far-right conspiracies about U.S. politicians and told investigators he wanted to break the House Speaker’s kneecaps as a lesson to other members of Congress. 

Despite his lack of citizenship, the man also allegedly told police he was on a “suicide mission” and had a list of state and federal lawmakers he wanted to target.

In its statement to the media, DHS said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had lodged a “detainer” on the suspect, which is a notice the agency intends to take custody of an individual who could be deported and requests it be notified before that person is released. The detainer, however, likely will not impact the case against him, because deportations are civil proceedings that happen after criminal cases are resolved.

According to several reports, federal records indicate the suspect came to the U.S. legally via Mexico in March 2008. Canadians who travel to America for business or pleasure are usually able to stay in the country for six months without a visa. DHS told The Washington Post the Canadian citizen was admitted as a “temporary visitor” traveling for pleasure.

Before the confirmation from DHS, there was some mixed reporting on how long the suspected attacker has been in America. On Monday, an anonymous U.S. official told the Associated Press the man had legally entered in 2000 but stayed way after his visa expired.

One day later, The New York Times reported he was registered to vote in San Francisco County from 2002 to 2009, and even voted once in 2002. 

Heightened Security Concerns

The new revelation comes as lawmakers are facing increased threats, prompting conversations about safety and security with a specific focus on the role of the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP).

On Tuesday, multiple outlets reported that USCP security cameras trained on the Pelosi’s house actually captured the attack, but no one was watching. In a statement Wednesday, the agency said its command center has access to around 1,800 cameras and not all are watched constantly.

The Capitol Police also said that the Pelosi’s home is “actively” monitored “around the clock” when the Speaker is there, but not when she is in Washington.

As a result, many argued that there should be more security and surveillance for the second person in line for the presidency — especially given the threat of violence after the Jan. 6 insurrection and warnings from law enforcement ahead of the midterms.

That was echoed in a scathing letter yesterday sent to Capitol Police by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca.), who is one of the most senior Democrats in Congress and heads the Administration Committee.

In her letter, Lofgren noted that the agency “has previously reported to the committee that the speaker receives the most threats of any member of Congress,” and asked why that protection was not extended “to the spouses and/or other family members of the congressional leaders in the presidential line of succession.”

She questioned why the USCP had turned down an offer from the FBI for some of its officers to be part of terrorism task forces investigating threats against Congressmembers and why it had not made a formal agreement with San Francisco police for a car to be posted at the Pelosi’s home 24-hours a day as had been done in the months after Jan. 6.

Lofgren also inquired why the Capitol Police did not direct more threats against lawmakers for prosecution. She noted that members of Congress received at least 9,625 threats in 2021, but just 217 were referred.

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders, suspected mass murderers, or those accused of committing violent crimes who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.

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