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This Week in God, 3.12.16

In 2009, President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame sparked a controversy among his conservative Catholic critics. It's apparently Vice President Biden's turn.
Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaks on stage during the 2015 Concordia Summit at Grand Hyatt New York on Oct. 1, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Concordia Summit/Getty)
Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaks on stage during the 2015 Concordia Summit at Grand Hyatt New York on Oct. 1, 2015 in New York City. 
First up from the God Machine this week is a new controversy at the University of Notre Dame over its willingness to honor a leading Democratic public official.
About seven years ago at this time, Notre Dame extended an invitation to President Obama to speak at the university's commencement ceremony. The president accepted, sparking a rather fierce outcry from Obama's conservative Catholic critics -- including 83 U.S. Catholic bishops who publicly denounced the president's appearance, largely because of his support for reproductive rights.
Obama hadn't intended to discuss abortion right during his address, but in light of the uproar, he decided to "devote most of his address to bridging the chasm over abortion and other moral issues." By some accounts, the president was "energized by the controversy" and addressed the debate over abortion "with relish."
Seven years later, Vice President Biden may have a related opportunity. The Dallas Morning News reported this week that Vice President Biden will receive the 2016 Laetare Medal, described by Notre Dame as "the oldest and most prestigious honor accorded to American Catholics."

Many conservative Catholics are up in arms because the University of Notre Dame is presenting its highest award to Vice President Joe Biden, a supporter of abortion rights. [...] "Notre Dame has once again chosen to betray the church and its Catholic mission," seethed an online commentary from the Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative Catholic group. By honoring Biden, "a Catholic who unrepentantly and publicly opposes Catholic moral teaching." Notre Dame is creating "a toxic religious environment on ... campus and in the broader public," the society said.

Apparently, it's not just reproductive rights -- the complaint also mentioned Biden's support for marriage equality and other "intrinsic evils."
For what it's worth, Biden will receive the honor at the same time as former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), whose occasional disagreements with his church appear to be the basis for no controversy whatsoever.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* The New York Times reported this week on some Americans joining health care sharing ministries, which require members "to help cover one another's major medical costs as they come up." The article explained, "While such nonprofit ministries have been around for decades, interest in them has grown since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, largely because the law exempts members from the requirement to have health insurance or pay a yearly fine."
* A controversy worth watching: "The mayor of Virginia's capital city stands accused of diverting city resources toward the church he heads, and he seems to think he can violate the First Amendment while simultaneously claiming that the Constitution shields him from punishment."
* It seems like a question in need of an answer: "Turbans and airports: why can't they get along? Last month, two high profile Sikh men were detained at airports and told to remove their turbans for "security" inspections: actor, model, and designer Waris Ahluwalia in Mexico City, and Canadian comedian Jasmeet Singh, known as JusReign, in San Francisco. The incidents returned the issue of Sikh discrimination at airports to the spotlight."