Category: Freedom of Conscience

contraceptive-mandateAs 2013 was coming to a close, federal courts issued rulings on three injunctions sought by religious non-profits challenging the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate rules:

• Preliminary injunctions had been awarded in 18 of the 20 similar cases, but the 10th Circuit denied relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns from Colorado. However, late in the evening on December 31, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction blocking enforcement, and ordered a response by the federal government by 10:00 am on Friday. Justice Sotomayor’s order applies to the nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and other Catholic nonprofit groups that use the same health plan, known as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust.

• Earlier in December an Indiana federal district court rejected Notre Dame’s claim in University of Notre Dame v. Sebelius that its rights under Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the 1st Amendment are infringed by applying the accommodation in the final rules to its self-insured employee plan and its health insurance policies offered to students. On December 31, the 7th Circuit denied Notre Dame’s emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal, but ordered expedited briefing and oral argument.

• In Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services, the D.C. federal district ruled on December 19th that no substantial burden was placed on a pro-life group’s free exercise by requiring it to complete the self-certification form to opt into the accommodation for religious non-profits. But on December 31 the D.C. Circuit granted emergency motions for injunctions pending appeal filed by Priests for Life and by the various plaintiffs in the Catholic Archbishop of Washington case. The court also ordered the two cases consolidated for appeal.

1984-Big-BrotherYesterday, there was a panel discussion on religious liberty sponsored by the Center for American Progress in Washington. Joel Gehrke has an excellent summation of the event in the Washington Examiner that highlighted some remarks by C. Welton Gaddy.

Later in the talk, Gaddy agreed with an interlocutor who asked if liberals “need to start educating, and calling out, Christians for trying to exercise ‘Christian privilege.'”

“As a Christian” — a big part of Gaddy’s rhetorical power seemed to derive from the fact that, as a Christian and a former Southern Baptist, he could ratify all of the CAP audience’s views of the people with whom they disagreed — “I think Christians ought to start calling each other out, because I think you’re exactly right,” he said.

This kind of nonsensical language echoes a kind of NewSpeak highlighted by George Orwell in his novel 1984. It is a controlled language created by the state and their apparatchiks as a tool to silence freedom of thought and conscience. We’ve seen it too by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others in the Obama administration, who have subtly shifted away from the term religious freedom, preferring to call it “freedom of worship” instead. The shift highlights the goal by many of the secular left to confine or ghettoize religious freedom to the four walls of churches. You can believe what you want and practice whatever you want as long as it is contained to the four walls of the church.
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TCC Banner

Dan Clements, an American student studying at the University of Leuven, and I help greet conference attendees

Last week, an exciting new organization called the Transatlantic Christian Council (TCC) hosted its inaugural conference. The theme of the conference was “Sustaining Freedom”, which aligns well with the Council’s mission “to develop a transatlantic public policy network of European and North American Christians and conservatives in order to promote the civic good, as understood within the Judeo-Christian tradition on which our societies are largely based.”

What I find most exciting about this Council, for which I commend Todd Huizinga and Henk Jan van Schothorst on their vision and initiative in founding, is this: like the Acton Institute, the TCC is not exclusively devoted to just one aspect of life, but rather aims to provide a forum for conversation on a broad range of life’s many important and fundamental human questions.

The starting point for these conversations is with a basic concept of human dignity. This concept is rooted in an openness to the idea of man as an image of God — endowed with the capacities for willfulness and reason, a creature and a sub-creator. And it is this understanding of the human person that serves as a point of departure for working through all sorts of interesting questions of politics, economics, liberty, government, religion, and family.

When I mentioned to a friend that I would be travelling to Belgium for this conference, he said to me: “Be sure they don’t euthanize you and harvest your organs!”

“Well,” I thought to myself, “that’s certainly a novel way to wish someone a good trip.”
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Mary Ann Glendon makes an excellent point about the outcry for more corporate responsibility while government is simultaneously stripping away the rights of religious conscience of businesses. In The Boston Globe, Glendon notes,

The simple truth is that if we want businesses, incorporated or not, to be responsible for their actions, they must be treated as having some moral agency. And with moral agency and accountability must go the freedom to act in accordance with conscience.

The push to ghettoize freedom of religion solely into the houses of worship is of course a disturbing trend. When the religious rights of civil society are pushed aside and made subservient to the state, we get not the church serving as conscience, but the state ruling tyrannically over man. “Once religion is reduced to nothing more than privatized conscience, the public square has only two actors in it—the state and the individual,” says Richard John Neuhaus.

Read the entire article.

Blog author: ehilton
Monday, November 25, 2013
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respect freedomThe Catholic Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie, along with several nonprofit groups, have won a preliminary injunction against implementing the HHS mandate. U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab granted an injunction in favor of these organizations.

The injunction allows them to continue to offer insurance that doesn’t include contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs while litigation continues. Without the injunction, the insurance administrators for the organizations — though not the dioceses themselves — would have had to start providing the coverage Jan. 1.

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logoThe Michigan Catholic Conference, which serves as the public policy voice for the Catholic Church in Michigan, has filed a new lawsuit against the federal government regarding the HHS mandate. A press statement released today says:

Michigan Catholic Conference today filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan a new legal complaint against the federal government regarding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) objectionable services mandate. The complaint challenges the HHS mandate on the grounds that it violates longstanding religious liberty protections by forcing religious employers to facilitate coverage of morally objectionable services, such as abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization in their employee health benefit plans. (more…)

RTRFNXLThe HHS contraceptive-abortifacient mandate lost another round last week.

“This is a significant victory for protecting the religious beliefs of individuals and corporations,” said Edward White, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ who is representing a family-run business in Illinois. In a 2-1 decision issued Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the court reversed the federal district court’s denial of a motion for a preliminary injunction and remanded the case for the district court to enter the preliminary injunction.

What is most encouraging about the decision is the reasoning expressed in the majority opinion. The judges think the HHS mandate is ultimately going to be trumped by the right of religious freedom:

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HEADQUARTERS OF U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICESCornerstone University, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Christian university, has joined the myriad of lawsuits against the HHS mandate requiring abortion-inducing drugs as part of employee insurance coverage.

This filing is first and foremost an effort to preserve and protect our religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Cornerstone President Joseph Stowell wrote in an email Wednesday to donors and alumni. “Given our conviction that life begins at conception and our commitment to the sanctity of life, we find the mandate to provide our faculty, staff, and students with insurance that provides access to abortion-inducing pills unacceptable. The government should not be able to force us to buy or provide insurance that gives access to morally objectionable drugs, devices, and services that violate our biblical convictions.”

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Autocam, a West Michigan business owned by John Kennedy and his family, filed suit against the federal government in October, 2012. The suit is one of over 200 plaintiffs battling the HHS mandate requiring employers to cover costs for abortions and abortifacients in employee health insurance. Now, the Thomas More Society is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Autocam’s case after the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed the case brought by the Kennedy family and Autocam Corporation. A press release from the Thomas More Society stated:

We mean to take this case directly up to the U.S. Supreme Court, as the U.S. Courts of Appeal are now sharply divided on these critical issues,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, the national public interest law firm representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit along with CatholicVote Legal Defense Fund. “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enacted in order to protect people of faith against government mandates that impose a substantial burden on believers’ efforts to freely exercise their religious convictions, unless the government has really compelling reasons for doing so, and even then only if the means used are the least restrictive and burdensome among possible alternatives. We hope the Supreme Court will agree to hear this case so that the Kennedys and other business owners who practice as well as profess their religious faith can keep on doing so without having to ‘bet the company’ and thereby risk their employees’ jobs as well as their own livelihood.”

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Boy-Scouts-of-AmericaCalifornia lawmakers are moving close to a final vote on a bill that could threaten the tax-exempt status of a variety of groups — ranging from the Boy Scouts to Little League — if their membership policies are found to differentiate on “gender identity,” “sexual orientation,” and other bases. As Alliance Defending Freedom explains, the proposed legislation also threatens religious liberties:

SB 323, which bans discrimination based on “religion” and “religious affiliation,” and which contains no exemption from these bans for religious organizations, would strip religious youth organizations of d1cir tax-exempt status if they continued to select leaders and other persons responsible for carrying out their missions based on a shared set of religious beliefs.

Like SB 323’s ban on religious discrimination, its ban on sexual orientation discrimination, which is designed to punish BSA over its membership and leadership policy, will also severely and negatively impact religious organizations. Most religious organizations, undoubtedly including many covered by SB 323, require their leaders and members to express and conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with their religious beliefs regarding sexual conduct. Under these types of policies, individuals who approve of or engage in conduct that contradicts a group’s religious teaching regarding sexual morality may be denied membership or leadership positions. Such policies likely conflict with SB 323. Thus, if passed, the bill will require religious organizations to choose between complying with the law and abandoning their religious convictions, or defying the law and losing their tax exemptions.

Religious organizations that select members and leaders who share their religious convictions to maintain a coherent religious identity and message are not engaging in invidious discrimination. Rather, they arc engaging in d1e most basic and fundamental exercise of religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Read more . . .

(Via: The Foundry)