California Bans 'Redskins' Name for Public School Teams, Mascots

Image via Brad Mills / USA Today / REUTERS / RNS

California became the first state to ban public schools from using the term “Redskins” as a team name or mascot under a law signed Oct. 11 by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The measure, which goes into effect, Jan. 1, 2017, affects four schools that are still using the term: Gustine High School, Calaveras High School, Chowchilla Union High School, and Tulare High School. The schools will be allowed to phase out materials such as uniforms, because of concerns about costs.

The bill was defeated four times in the state dating back to 2002 before it passed the Assembly and eventually was signed into law Sunday.

California Governor Faces Final Call on Right-to-Die Bill

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California Gov. Jerry Brown has until midnight Oct. 7 to sign or veto a controversial bill that would legalize physician-assisted dying in the nation’s most populous state.

Both supporters of the bill, who say it fosters “death with dignity,” and opponents, who call it legalized suicide, urge calls to the governor’s office and prayers to the Almighty while they wait out the clock.

And both sides expect this decision is a tough call for Brown.

California Assembly Passes Euthanasia Bill

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A bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide passed the California state assembly Sept. 9., according to MSN News.

Senator Bill Monning, one of the bill's backers, described the bill's passage as "a historic step forward."

MSN News reports,

The measure, approved by 43 votes against 34, is expected to be adopted by the state senate this week.

California Right-to-Die Bill Stalls on Religious Opposition, Coercion Fears

Mariano Cuajao / Flickr / RNS

Brittany Maynard, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 29, moved from California to Oregon, where physician assisted suicide is legal, dying there because California forbids the practice. Photo via Mariano Cuajao / Flickr / RNS

The California “End of Life Options Act,” otherwise known as SB 128 or “right to die,” was pulled from an state’s Assembly Committee on Health hearing July 7 after the bill’s lead authors say they need more time to convince colleagues who are struggling with the decision and may hold it until next year.

The bill would provide terminally ill and mentally competent patients who’ve exhausted all medical options to obtain a prescription for lethal medication, provided that two physicians sign off. Patients would need to affirm the request after a 15-day waiting period.

California Governor Signs Vaccine Law Barring Religious Exemptions for Most Kids

Dmitry Naumov / / RNS

A baby being vaccinated. Photo via Dmitry Naumov / / RNS

The governor of California — which was ground zero for the Disneyland measles outbreak that infected 117 people — today signed legislation giving the state one of the toughest school vaccine laws in the country.

California children will no longer be able to skip the shots normally required to attend school because of their parents’ religious or personal objections. Unvaccinated children will still be able to attend school if there is a medical reason why they’re not able to be immunized, such as treatment for cancer.

Preparing for Paris

A drop of water. Image via Chepko Danil Vitalevich/

A drop of water. Image via Chepko Danil Vitalevich/

As the world looks toward the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris in December, it would serve us all to reflect on California.

When I moved to California in August 1991, the state’s five-year drought changed the most mundane aspects of life. Throughout my East Coast childhood, this is how I learned to brush my teeth: Turn the knob on the sink, place the toothbrush under the running water, brush, spit, brush again, spit again, place your Dixie cup under the running water, rinse your teeth, gargle, spit, use the running water to rinse the sink of all your spit, then — and only then — turn the water off.

I performed that basic ritual during my first week in Los Angeles. My roommate scowled. She had moved to LA years before and had lived through the state’s drought. Over the course of those five years, every resident of California had taken ownership of the state’s dire situation by altering the daily routines of their lives.

Common measures included: placing bricks in the backs of toilets to use less flushing water, only flushing once or twice a day, only using the absolute minimum amount of water necessary to brush one’s teeth, cooler time-tight showers, and the list goes on.

History records my first months in Los Angeles as the tail end of the state’s late 1980s drought. People danced in the streets of South Central, East LA, and Santa Monica as El Niño’s waters soaked cracked earth in late 1991. But as citizens of a state in crisis, our shared sense of duty had transformed small changes in daily routines into a collective culture of conservation. In fact, to this day, many Californians still practice those same measures.

But it’s been 24 years since those dire days and California is fighting again, slugging into its fourth year of another drought. But this one is different. This is the worst drought in 1,200 years, according to a study published in the American Geophysical Union journal.

Standing in a brown field that should have been packed with several feet of snow on the first day of Earth Month, California Gov. Jerry Brown said: “It’s a different world. We have to act differently.”

Statue of Controversial Missionary Junipero Serra Could Get Booted from U.S. Capitol

Photo courtesy of Architect of the Capitol / RNS

The statue of Father Junipero Serra. Photo courtesy of Architect of the Capitol / RNS

Junipero Serra, the 18th-century Franciscan missionary who’s set to be declared a saint later this year despite protests from Native American groups, could lose his place of honor in the U.S. Capitol if a California lawmaker has his way.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, an openly gay Los Angeles Democrat, wants to replace a bronze statue of Serra with a monument honoring the late Sally Ride, the nation’s first female astronaut. Lara said Ride would become “the first member of the LGBT community” to be honored in Statuary Hall.

Each state is allowed two statues to represent local heroes; California’s other statue is of former President Ronald Reagan, who joined the collection in 2009, replacing a monument to itinerant preacher Thomas Starr King. The King and Serra statues were added in 1931.

“Dr. Sally Ride is a California native, American hero and stratospheric trailblazer who devoted her life to pushing the limits of space and inspiring young girls to succeed in math and science careers,” Lara said in a statement

“She is the embodiment of the American dream.”

You Can Really Call This Wine ‘Vintage Francis’

Photo via Kimberly Winston / RNS

“Our Lady of the Grapes” overlooks the Trinitas Cellars vineyard in Napa Valley. Photo via Kimberly Winston / RNS

It was a good thing for Trinitas Cellars that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio took the name Pope Francis, and not, say Pope Malbecius.

When the Argentine cardinal became pope in 2013, Trinitas didn’t have any malbec — the famous Argentine grape — in its cellars. But it happened to have a few barrels of cabernet franc.

Behold! Thus was born “Cabernet FRANCis,” a 2012 red wine from Trinitas, a Catholic-owned winery nestled behind the iconic grape crusher statue at the southern foot of the Napa Valley.

“People kept asking me, ‘Why didn’t you make the pope a malbec?’” said Garrett Busch, the 28-year-old CEO of Trinitas, as he spoke in the winery’s book-lined library tasting room, a bottle of the wine before him. “And I’m like, ‘Come on guys, he made it easy on us.’”

Actually, the story is a bit more complicated. Trinitas, which is owned by Garrett’s parents, Tim and Steph Busch, made the family’s Catholic faith a part of business since its founding in 2002. Meetings and special events begin with prayer, winery dinners start with grace, and the winery’s website announces the family’s intention to “serve God in all they do.”

Even its name is Latin for the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Is California Forcing Churches to Pay for Abortions?

Loyola Marymount University’s Sunken Garden and Sacred Heart Chapel. Photo via Mishigaki via Wikimedia Commons/RNS.

Religious groups are battling the state of California over whether employee health insurance plans require them to pay for abortions and some forms of contraception that some find immoral.

So is the state forcing churches to pay for abortions? It depends on who you ask.

The issue gained traction after Michelle Rouillard, director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, sent a letter to Anthem Blue Cross and several other insurance firms in August warning providers that state law requires insurers to not deny woman abortions. “Thus, all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally,” she wrote.

Rouillard wrote that state law provides an exemption for religious institutions.

“Although health plans are required to cover legal abortions, no individual health care provider, religiously sponsored health carrier, or health care facility may be required by law or contract in any circumstance to participate in the provision of or payment for a specific service if they object to doing so for reason of conscience or religion,” she wrote.

“No person may be discriminated against in employment or professional privileges because of such objection.”

However, two legal groups have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, alleging the California rule puts faith-based organizations in a position to violate their conscience.

Southern Baptist Leaders Cut Ties with California LGBT-Affirming Church

Executive Committee chairman Mike Routt presides over the Sept. 23 plenary session. Photo via Bob Allen, ABPnews/Herald/RNS.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee voted unanimously Sept. 23 to break ties with New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., after determining it was condoning “homosexual behavior.”

“We believe that, following the lead of Pastor Danny Cortez, New Heart Community Church has walked away from the Southern Baptist Convention’s core biblical values,” said Roger Oldham, a spokesman for the committee.

Oldham said Cortez attended the meeting and indicated that he had officiated at a same-sex wedding.

The denomination has cut ties to churches that endorsed homosexuality before, but this may be the first time that its Executive Committee has withdrawn fellowship from a church on behalf of the denomination. The move came less than two weeks after the California Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Board voted unanimously to withdraw fellowship from the congregation because of Cortez’s announcement that he affirmed gays — including his teenage son — and his church had taken a “third way” on homosexuality.