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Federal Election Commission Chairman Trey Trainor on Wednesday blasted Catholic bishops for not making political endorsements in the 2020 election.

"The bishops are using their nonprofit status as a shield from having to make a decision about who to support," Trainor said, adding that church leaders "hide" from making overt political statements.

Trainor, a Catholic Trump appointee, described the arrangement as "almost a pay off" from the federal government to the Catholic Church during an interview with right-wing media personality Michael Voris. Trainor said that Catholic churches receive massive subsidies from federal entities, effectively silencing them on making political statements.

Trainor noted that while the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops frequently makes general statements on its positions about topics such as abortion and gay marriage, the body does not "take that next step" to endorse candidates whose policies align with church teachings. Trainor all but said that they should endorse Trump, saying that the 2020 election is a spiritual war between good and evil.

Amid questions from Voris, Trainor said that churches "absolutely" can make political endorsements without fear of losing their nonprofit status. He added later in the interview that priests have a "higher duty to our Lord" to make political statements in election years, even if their bishops forbid them from doing so.

The issue of priests endorsing political candidates became controversial for Catholics last week. James Altman, a Wisconsin priest, made a viral video in which he asserted that "you can not be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period." Altman's bishop, William Callahan, publicly corrected him, saying that Altman comes off as "angry and judgmental" in the video.

"His generalization and condemnation of entire groups of people is completely inappropriate and not in keeping with our values or the life of virtue," Callahan said.

Altman in his video highlighted Democratic support for abortion as one of the main reasons why Catholics cannot vote for Democrats. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is Catholic and supports abortion rights, has become the target of many similar criticisms of Catholic public figures.

One of Biden's top critics on the abortion issue, Rev. Frank Pavone, served on President Trump's campaign as an ambassador to both Catholics and anti-abortion voters, until bishops in July told him to cease. In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Pavone said that he stepped down from the campaign because his bishop felt that it was not appropriate for him, as a priest, to participate.

"By request of church authority, I'm no longer on those boards," he said, adding that he will continue to work in anti-abortion advocacy throughout the rest of the election season.

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Brace for a bitter debate on Americas religious freedom in Senate: Goodwin

If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed for the Supreme Court, the credit will go to President Trump for nominating her and the GOP Senate for producing the votes. But Barrett will also owe a big thank you to Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

It was Feinstein, a California Democrat, who inadvertently made the Roman Catholic mother of seven a conservative star two years ago. At Barrett’s confirmation hearing for a federal Court of Appeals seat, Feinstein complained that Barrett’s faith was apparent in her writings and said she was concerned because “the dogma lives loudly within you.”

The overt expression of anti-Catholic bigotry made Barrett an instant hero among religious conservatives and it’s no leap to conclude Trump’s embrace of Barrett has something to do with Feinstein’s attack. After all, the disrupter in chief has a special fondness for those who drive Dems crazy.

Introducing Barrett in the Rose Garden Saturday, the president didn’t directly mention the incident. But no doubt alluding to it and the fraudulent personal attacks on his last nominee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump did call on “the other side” to conduct “respectful and dignified” hearings. He also urged the media and others to “refrain from personal or partisan attacks.”

Fat chance. This is war and if truth is the first casualty, the innocent are close behind.

In her remarks, Barrett was poised and gracious, paying homage both to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom she would replace, and her mentor, Antonin Scalia. She cited their famous friendship, despite their deep differences, as a model for her own life, while also allowing that she does not assume “the road ahead will be easy.”

Given the issues already rocking the presidential campaign, it’s possible the selection of Barrett won’t make much of a difference — unless Dems go overboard in their personal attacks. Even now, the gutter is already crowded.

Some on the left are taking to social media to denounce — yes, denounce — Barrett and her husband for adopting two Haitian children.

Others, supposedly feminists, wonder how Barrett will have time for her children as a means of objecting to her confirmation. Imagine the media storm if a conservative dared say that about a progressive nominee.

Meanwhile, what is certain is that confirmation of the 48-year-old Barrett would seal the remaking of federal courts under Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In one term, Trump nominated and the Senate confirmed more than 200 federal judges, or more than 25 percent of the total positions. Barrett would be the third on the Supreme Court.

Most important, by replacing Ginsburg, she would be flipping a liberal seat to the constitutional conservative side. That would tilt the court 6-3, and dilute the power of Chief Justice John Roberts, who made himself the swing vote in some key cases by joining with the four liberals.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett KavanaughAFP/Getty Images

Those enormous stakes mean Barrett will face mountains of mud concocted by Dems and their media handmaidens. They aim to trip her up and run out the clock on Trump’s term, but if that fails, at least make their voters angrier and more determined to defeat the president and capture the Senate in November.

The spectacle promises to be nauseating — but also informative. Because the attacks will continue Feinstein’s smear that Barrett will let her religion rather than the Constitution guide her rulings, Americans will get to witness the contempt many Dems have for people of faith.

The constitutional argument for their prejudice, such as it is, hangs on a wildly expanded view of the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which sensibly forbids the government from establishing a national religion and favoring one religion over another.

The clause is commonly seen as requiring a separation of church and state. But many on the secular left go way beyond that and demand that religion play no role at all in the public sphere.

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The annual battle over Christmas decorations on public land is one result. The perpetual war against school prayer is another.

Of course, when it comes to Barrett, the primary clash will be over abortion, which is forbidden by the Church. Many Catholic Dems, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, finesse the issue by insisting that while they personally oppose abortion, they won’t “impose” their religious beliefs on others, so they support abortion services and increasingly endorse the use of taxpayer dollars.

Senate Dems will demand a similar restraint from Barrett, and she likely will give them something, but far less than they want. She has said that although she opposes abortion, it is unlikely the basic thrust of Roe v. Wade would be overturned without actually saying the entire case is settled law. She also wrote that a judge who opposes the death penalty for reasons of faith should probably recuse herself from making final decisions in capital cases.

That script would get her confirmed mostly along party lines, but my hope is that the hearings will also offer ringing defenses of both religious liberty and the role of faith in public life. For example, the vast educational, social, health and charitable works of religious institutions have always been and remain a large part of what makes our country exceptional.

More fundamentally, faith in God motivates millions of individuals to pursue virtuous privates lives. And faith has called generations of worshippers to serve their neighbors and nation in every conceivable field, from the military and law enforcement to child and elder care.

In that light, perhaps a GOP senator could ask why Barrett’s tormentors feel free to impose their secular political views on others, whether it’s unlimited abortion rights, radical climate ideology, open borders or racial preferences.

And why, this senator might ask, are the views of religious believers given less weight in public debate than the views of those who worship at the altar of socialism?

The defense of religion in American life is essential now as the two parties drift further apart. Dems and most of the media are becoming more secular while the GOP is becoming more religious.

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One result is that most claims invoking the establishment clause are inherently partisan and illustrate how the left is more determined than ever to silence people of faith in the public arena.

The more they can demonize and diminish religion, the more power they have over people. Consider the way some Dem governors and mayors are keeping churches, synagogues and mosques closed because of the coronavirus while letting schools, businesses and even athletic events open.

As many believers note, during times as unsettling as these, America needs more religion, not less.

More than just abortion, the right of the faithful to participate fully in public life is on trial in the Barrett confirmation.

While religious dogma should not rule on the Supreme Court or elsewhere, neither should it cower in silence anywhere.

Filed under abortion ,  Amy Coney Barrett ,  catholic church ,  church ,  dianne feinstein ,  religion ,  Roe v. Wade ,  senate ,  supreme court ,  9/26/20

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