Midday Roundup: Back to the bench, despite government shutdown

by Leigh Jones
Posted 10/07/13, 12:45 pm

All rise. The U.S. Supreme Court begins its term today, pledging to work at least through this week amid the government shutdown. News coverage highlights the lack of “precedent-setting” cases slated to come before the court this year, but several already on the docket could be significant. Religious liberty advocates also will be watching closely as the court fills its calendar for the rest of the year. Many court-watchers expect the justices to agree to hear arguments over challenges to Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. Two Supreme Court appeals already are pending, and others are likely to pile up before the court considers whether to accept the cases. Among other cases of interest the justices have already agreed to hear: a public prayer case involving Greece, N.Y., and a Massachusetts case challenging a 35-foot buffer zone to limit protests around abortion centers.

More Boston terror charges. A county prosecutor in Massachusetts has issued a warrant for Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on charges he murdered an MIT police officer in Cambridge. But Tsarnaev already is in federal custody, awaiting trial on terror charges. Middlesex County prosecutors say they aren’t in a rush—they know they can’t get their hands on Tsarnaev until after his federal trial. Issuing the warrant and filing charges just helps ensure he’ll eventually stand trail for the officer’s murder. Officer Sean Collier died on April 18 following a confrontation with Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan, who were just starting their 24-hour attempt to escape from police. Tamerlan died in a subsequent confrontation, and police captured Dzhokhar the next evening. He faces the death penalty for the April 15 bombing that killed three and wounded hundreds more.

Mutual agreement. A theology professor at Azusa Pacific University in California has decided to leave the school, after initially saying her decision to transition from a woman to a man should not affect her teaching duties. Heather Clements taught at the Christian college for 15 years before telling administrators at the beginning of this semester that she wanted to be called H. Adam Ackley and intended to start presenting herself as a man. Clements also is in the process of getting a divorce from her second husband. After meeting with Clements, school officials removed her from her teaching duties. A legal battle seemed imminent after Clements said she knew of nothing in Azusa’s policies that governed transgendered employees. But in a joint statement released Friday, Clements and administrators said they reached a mutual agreement to part ways: “Dr. Ackley and university leadership have engaged in thoughtful conversations regarding Dr. Ackley’s continued employment at APU and recognized that they have different views on the theology of human sexuality. While we appreciate Dr. Ackley’s past service and pray God’s best for the journey ahead, we have reached a mutual agreement that recognizes it would be best for Dr. Ackley to pursue professional endeavors elsewhere.”

Another attack? A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban said today his group planned to launch another attack against Malala Yousafzai, the teen who has become an international sensation for her advocacy for women’s education. Gunman attacked Yousafzai on her way to school in 2012, shooting her in the head. She survived, after receiving treatment in Great Britain, and has gone on to enjoy a global platform for her message. But Yousafzai says she wants to return to Pakistan and dismissed the treats against her.

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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