Will Obama’s One Man ENDA End Up in Court?

Obama signing

One of my Facebook friends called him “the great divider.” 

Even though I am both aware and horrified by the endless hatred directed at whoever sits behind the desk in the Oval Office, I think that’s a fair thing to say about President Obama. His penchant for one man sledgehammer legislating against the First Amendment is a particular case in point. 

So far as I am concerned, the HHS Mandate is a permanent blot on his presidency.

I’ve spent the morning, sifting through the product of our President’s mighty pen from yesterday. I’ve been sitting in front of my computer with the screens littered with copies of the executive orders he amended, wondering, where, exactly, is this one man show pointing us? 

My best guess, based on what I see, is that it’s pointing us toward court. The reason is the lack of a specific religious exemption in President Obama’s verbiage. 

What he has done with this executive order is to amend two previous executive orders from the 1960s. These 1960s executive orders provided direction to the Department of Labor on the question of discrimination in employment. The orders dealt with employment discrimination because of “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or age.” President Obama’s executive order adds “sexual orientation, gender identity” to that list.

Executive Order 11478 deals with direct federal employment by direct government agencies. I think it will stand and basically have no big problem with the order as I understand it now. I may change my opinion when I see the rules promulgated by the Department of Labor. 

However, Executive Order 11246 deals with federal contractors. This could be construed to include grantees and, if you want to stretch it, any entity that receives federal money for anything. 

President Obama did not address a third executive order by President Bush, Executive Order 13279. President Bush’s order was designed to protect the religious freedom of entities that receive grants, contract with the government or otherwise receive government monies. It contains a laundry list of sorts of the types of services which it covers. It also specifically addresses the entities covered by Executive Order 11246, which applies to federal contractors. Executive Order 11246 is one of the orders President Obama amended yesterday. 

The assumption being made in various press outlets that I have read is that President Bush’s executive order provides the religious exemptions needed to keep President Obama’s ENDA order from turning into another HHS Mandate.

Is that true?

Only somewhat, and, depending on the regs the Department of Labor comes up with, maybe not at all. 

The reason I say that is two-fold. First, and scariest, President Obama’s order calls on the Department of Labor to promulgate rules. This is normal and necessary. What makes it scary is the big time precedent of this administration using rules and regs to attack religious freedom.

The disastrous HHS Mandate is a rule, not a law. Of course, if the president sincerely wants to avoid another HHS Mandate, he can use his powers to encourage sensible regulations that ensure religious liberty. He also has the power to deep-six any reg or rule by not signing it. 

I’m taking a wait and see position on how those rules are going to look and what this president signs. He lied about religious freedom to get the votes to pass the Affordable Health Care Act and he’s consistently lied about the impact of the HHS Mandate. So, I don’t trust him. 

The second reason I think this may end up in court is that court cases and various agency rulings have already attacked Catholic institutions and successfully stripped them of federal grants because of the Church’s adherence to 2,000 year-old consistent teachings. There is also a lawsuit in the courts attacking the Catholic bishops for teaching Catholic teaching concerning abortion in regards to Catholic hospitals. 

Both Robert George, Vice President at United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the Catholic Bishops have issued statements opposing President Obama’s ENDA order precisely because it lacks a religious exemption. I think they are on solid ground. 

Based on that litigious impulse to attack Catholic teaching through the courts, I think the chances of ENDA ending up in court are quite good. What we will probably have at that point is adjudication based on dueling executive orders. President Obama could have stopped this before it got out of the gate by simply adding a religious exemption to his orders yesterday. 

I going to let you read both Robert George’s complete statement and the complete statement from the USCCB without edits. 

From the USCCB:

USCCB Chairmen Respond To ‘Unprecedented And Extreme’ Executive Order

 
July 21, 2014

WASHINGTON–The bishop-Chairmen of two USCCB Committees responded with great concern to President Obama’s July 21 executive order to prohibit federal government contractors from what the Administration deems “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination and to forbid “gender identity” discrimination in the employment of federal employees. The problems the bishops identify in the order relate both to the flaws in its core prohibitions, and to its lack of religious freedom protection.

Two USCCB Chairmen – Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth – together issued the following statement.  

Today’s executive order is unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.  

In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination. With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.  

More specifically, the Church strongly opposes both unjust discrimination against those who experience a homosexual inclination and sexual conduct outside of marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman. But the executive order, as it regards federal government contractors, ignores the inclination/conduct distinction in the undefined term “sexual orientation.” As a result, even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.

The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees. For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female.  

In an attempt to avoid these needless conflicts, states that have passed “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” prohibitions have overwhelmingly included protections for religious employers. When the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by the President’s own party, passed the similar Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) last year, it included religious liberty protections as well. Indeed, all prior versions of ENDA had at least some religious liberty protections. But the executive order is an anomaly in this regard, containing no religious liberty protections. In this way, the order, which is fundamentally flawed in itself, also needlessly prefers conflict and exclusion over coexistence and cooperation. 

Regarding federal contractors, the Executive Order will take effect after rules to be promulgated by the Department of Labor implementing the Executive Order become final. Regarding federal employment, the Executive Order is effective immediately.

Keywords: Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Archbishop William E. Lori, Bishop Richard Malone, gender identity, sexual identity
# # # # #

MEDIA CONTACT ONLY
Sister Mary Ann Walsh
O: 202-541-321
Email

From Robert George’s Facebook page:

I have, up till now, avoided the “war on this,” “war on that,” rhetoric. But now there is no avoiding it. Today Barack Obama declared war on the Catholic Church and people of other faiths who hold to traditional beliefs about marriage and sexual morality. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explains the situation in a statement responding to the executive order the President issued today. There is no way for religious people to defend themselves against being reduced to the status of second-class citizens except by electing to office, first in 2014 and then in 2016, men and women who will repeal this executive order and other governmental acts that undermine their religious freedom and rights of conscience. But that is only part of the picture. The reason that Catholics and other people of faith seek government contracts is to carry our their mission of serving people in need, orphans, the poor, refugees and the dispossessed, persons suffering from afflictions and addictions. It is the people who are served who are secondary victims of this war on conscience when faith-based providers are forced out—as Catholic Charities was forced out of providing adoption services in Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia. We must defeat the enemies of conscience—at the ballot box—not only to protect our own freedom and that of our fellow citizens, but also to protect the interests of those served so well by faith-based institutions. This is a war we must win for their sake as well as our own. 

http://www.usccb.org/news/2014/14-126.cfm

 

 

President Obama Signs ENDA Executive Order

President Obama issued his much-ballyhooed executive order on employment discrimination concerning sexual orientation (ENDA) today.

I need to think this through before I write about it. In them meantime, here are my first thoughts:

1. The order is a not a statute. That means it is limited in scope to federal situations.

2. It certainly applies to direct, federal employees. It almost certainly also applies to federal contractors. Does it apply as well to federal grantees? I’m guessing yes. Does it apply to anyone who takes federal money for any purpose? That’s the sticking point, and the limits may have to be adjudicated before we know.

3. Does this executive order rescind earlier executive orders by other presidents, that included religious exemptions? That’s a critical question, and one reason why I want time to sort this out.

You can find the exact wording of the order here. It’s mainly references to other orders, so it’s not easy to understand without copies of those other orders in front of you.

Here is President Obama’s complete statement on issuing this order, without edits.

 

Remarks by the President at Signing of Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination

East Room

10:39 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  I know I’m a little late.  But that’s okay because we’ve got some big business to do here.

Many of you have worked for a long time to see this day coming.  You organized, you spoke up, you signed petitions, you sent letters — I know because I got a lot of them.  (Laughter.) And now, thanks to your passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government — government of the people, by the people, and for the people — will become just a little bit fairer.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It doesn’t make much sense, but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are –  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.  And that’s wrong.  We’re here to do what we can to make it right — to bend that arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction.

In a few moments, I will sign an executive order that does two things.  First, the federal government already prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Once I sign this order, the same will be explicitly true for gender identity.  (Applause.)

And second, we’re going to prohibit all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against their LGBT employees.  (Applause.)    America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people.

Now, this executive order is part of a long bipartisan tradition.  President Roosevelt signed an order prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry.  President Eisenhower strengthened it.  President Johnson expanded it.  Today, I’m going to expand it again.

Currently, 18 states have already banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  And over 200 cities and localities have done the same.  Governor Terry McAuliffe is here; his first act as governor was to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  (Applause.)  Where did Terry go?  Right back here.

I’ve appointed a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public servants to positions across my administration.  They are ambassadors and federal judges, special assistants, senior advisors from the Pentagon to the Labor Department.  Every day, their talent is put to work on behalf of the American people.

Equality in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, it turns out to be good business.  That’s why a majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies in place.  It is not just about doing the right thing — it’s also about attracting and retaining the best talent.  And there are several business leaders who are here today who will attest to that.

And yet, despite all that, in too many states and in too many workplaces, simply being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can still be a fireable offense.  There are people here today who’ve lost their jobs for that reason.  This is not speculative, this is not a matter of political correctness — people lose their jobs as a consequence of this.  Their livelihoods are threatened, their families are threatened.  In fact, more states now allow same-sex marriage than prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers.  So I firmly believe that it’s time to address this injustice for every American.

Now, Congress has spent 40 years — four decades — considering legislation that would help solve the problem.  That’s a long time.  And yet they still haven’t gotten it done.  Senators Terry [Tammy] Baldwin and Jeff Merkley are here.  They have been champions of this issue for a long, long time.  We are very proud of them.  I know they will not stop fighting until fair treatment for all workers is the federal law of the land.  Everyone thanks them for that.  (Applause.)

But I’m going to do what I can, with the authority I have, to act.  The rest of you, of course, need to keep putting pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation that resolves this problem once and for all.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  Amen.  Amen.  (Applause.)  Got the “amen” corner here.  (Laughter.)  Well — (sings) — (laughter.)  You don’t want to get me preaching, now.  (Laughter.)

For more than two centuries, we have strived, often at great cost, to form “a more perfect union” — to make sure that “we, the people” applies to all the people.  Many of us are only here because others fought to secure rights and opportunities for us. And we’ve got a responsibility to do the same for future generations.  We’ve got an obligation to make sure that the country we love remains a place where no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you come from, or how you started out, or what your last name is, or who you love — no matter what, you can make it in this country.

That’s the story of America.  That’s the story of this movement.  I want to thank all of you for doing your part.  We’ve got a long way to go, but I hope as everybody looks around this room, you are reminded of the extraordinary progress that we have made not just in our lifetimes, but in the last five years.  In the last two years.  (Applause.)  In the last one year.  (Applause.)  We’re on the right side of history.

I’m going to sign this executive order.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

(The executive order is signed.)

END
10:47 A.M. EDT

Get Real Fellas.

Senators Joe Manchin and Bob Casey are generally pro life. 

I accept that.

But when they voted against the Hobby Lobby decision, they dribbled enough sewage on their pro life stands — not to mention the good names of every completely pro life Democrat in this country — to raise a stink that blots that out.  

They voted with their caucus in favor of overturning the Hobby Lobby decision and by doing that voted against religious freedom and in support of President Obama’s on-going war with the Catholic Church. 

Why?

I’m not believing for a minute that they actually buy their own spin. This was a political vote, a go along to get along and have somebody to pal around with at work vote.  

But what political score keeping went into their belief that they could get away with it? Did they believe the things the other Dems told them in caucus? Were they swayed by the advice on how they could “spin” this vote to slide past it? 

All I know is that, as a pro life Democrat, I am almost certainly more unhappy by this party-line vote against religious freedom than any Republican. I feel personally slimed by it.

I am disgusted beyond the meaning of the word disgust with Senator Manchin and Senator Casey and every other “pro life” Democrat who doesn’t “get” that being pro life means you have to cross your party’s bow on these tough votes. 

Get real fellas. 

I’m going to put the statements concerning this vote from both Senator Munchin and Senator Casey below. Taken together, they’re like a compendium of anti-religious freedom Hobby Lobby spin. 

Jm3 portrait

Senator Manchin’s Statement on the Hobby Lobby vote:

“Today, I voted in support of overturning the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that ruled for-profit companies can opt out of providing contraceptives to their employees because of religious beliefs. As Governor and U.S. Senator, I have always fought to protect the sincerely-held religious views of non-profit organizations, like soup kitchens, colleges, hospitals and similar non-profit organizations. However, for-profit corporations do not have the same legal privileges as non-profits, and therefore they should not have the same protections as non-profits recognized by law as being a religious organization. This legislation strikes a balance between allowing non-profit organizations to hold onto their religious views while ensuring that Americans have access to safe, affordable and reliable preventative health benefits.”

###

Bob Casey official Senate photo portrait c2008

Senator Bob Casey’s statement on the Hobby Lobby vote:

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the following statement on his co-sponsorship of the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, aka the Not My Boss’ Business Act:

“As a cosponsor of S. 2578, the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, I was disappointed that the Senate voted against the measure.  The bill is a common-sense step to ensure that for-profit CEOs cannot interfere in their employees’ decisions about contraception and other health services.

It is an important protection that will help ensure that women working for for-profit corporations can make health care decisions based on their own consciences and religious beliefs, not those of their CEOs.

This is consistent with my long-standing strong support for greater access to contraceptives.

The bill affects for-profit employers but maintains the pre-Hobby Lobby accommodation for religiously-affiliated, non-profit organizations – an accommodation that I aggressively pushed the Administration to include – by specifically stating that the regulation continues to be in effect for plans affected by the bill.

As Justice Ginsburg stated in her dissent: ‘The First Amendment’s free exercise protections, the Court has indeed recognized, shelter churches and other nonprofit religion-based organizations. The Court’s “special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations”…however, is just that.’

The assertion by five of the justices on the Court that a for-profit corporation is a ‘person’ for the purposes of religious objection is simply a bridge too far.  

The ruling essentially empowers CEOs of for-profit corporations to deny vital health benefits to women based on their own religious beliefs. As Justice Ginsburg stated ‘until today, religious exemptions had never been extended to any entity operating in the commercial, profit-making world.’ For-profit companies receive significant benefits that come with incorporation, including certain tax advantages and limited liability for owners. In turn, they are subject to a number of federal regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, and the Fair Labor Standards Act, which are enacted to preserve the health, safety and welfare of employees.   

Thirty million women have gained access to contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  This is an important health service and has critical implications for economic security.  The data shows us that access to contraceptives reduces the number of abortions. A recent study demonstrated that providing no-cost contraception can decrease abortion rates by up to 78 percent. I will continue to work to protect religious liberty for the American people while fighting to ensure that more women have access to affordable contraceptives.” 

Senator Casey’s record on family planning can be found here: link.

Washington Post: Reid, Pelosi Hobby Lobby Commentary is Not Factual

The Washington Post took Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to task for the bizarre verbal temper tantrums they’ve been throwing over the Hobby Lobby decision.

The article pointed out that many of the claims both of these very powerful national leaders have been making about the decision are factually inaccurate. Even though the article focuses on politicians who act on the national stage, they could also include a number of their colleagues in the media in this same accusation. The truth has been largely left out of the media discussion of the Hobby Lobby decision.

It’s a great article, and I hope you follow the link and read it in its entirety.

Meanwhile, here are a few excerpts from The Washington Post:

Nothing in the ruling allows a company to stop a woman from getting or filling a prescription for contraceptives, but that salient fact is often lost.

…“Really, we should be afraid of this court.  The five guys who start determining what contraceptions are legal. Let’s not even go there.” — Pelosi This is a very odd statement from the House Democratic leader, given that the majority opinion flatly states that “under our cases, women (and men) have a constitutional right to obtain contraceptives,” citing the 1965 ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut, which under the right to privacy nullified a law prohibiting the use of contraceptives.

… Later, in the same news conference, Pelosi decried that “five men could get down to specifics of whether a woman should use a diaphragm and she should pay for it herself or her boss.” Hobby Lobby involved the owners’ objection to four types of birth control but not diaphragms.

… “The one thing we are going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determined by virtue of five white men. This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous, and we are going to do something about it.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), remarks to reporters, on July 8   The Hobby Lobby decision was written by Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. That’s certainly five men, but Thomas is African American.

This is deeply troubling because you have organized religions that oppose health care, period. So if you have an employer who is a member of an organized religion and they decide, you know, I wouldn’t provide health care to my own family because I object religiously, I’m not going to allow any kind of health-care treatment.” — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Democratic National Committee chair, appearing on MSNBC, June 30  While there are some religions that object to certain medical procedures, Wasserman Schultz goes to quite an extreme to suggest that employers could block an employee from seeking any kind of health-care treatment. (Again, the issue was who would pay for contraceptives, not whether someone was barred from getting contraceptives.) …

… — Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), interview on MSNBC, June 30  Is Slaughter really saying that the court has taken away an employee’s religious freedom because some contraceptives may not be covered by insurance?

Mr President: When Did the Democratic Party Declare War on the Catholic Church?

Ted Cruz official portrait 113th Congress

“Mr President, when did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church?”

I want to thank Senator Ted Cruz of Texas for asking that question. As a Democratic elected official, and a life-long Democrat, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The Senator also said, “If you’re litigating with nuns, you have probably done something wrong.”

Amen, brother Ted.

I’m going to put an article about this speech below. But I want to clarify something first.

The article says the S 2578 “failed” yesterday.

Wrong.

It did not “fail.” The vote was on cloture, not the bill. A vote on cloture is a vote on whether or not to stop a filibuster, or, as in this case, to allow debate on a bill. In pragmatic terms, the failure of this vote allows opponents of the legislation to mount a filibuster if they so choose (everyone assumes they will so choose) which could and probably would keep the bill from coming to a vote. It closes down debate, which stops the bill. It does not kill it.

Cloture requires 60 votes. Even though supporters of the bill fell short by 4 votes, they got a clear majority of the Senate to vote for cloture, which was, in essence a vote for the bill. Also, Majority Leader Reid set it up so that he could call another vote on cloture later.

The story is all over the internet that the bill “failed.” Not true.

From CNSnews.com:

(CNSNews.com) – Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) criticized Senate Democrats and their legislation to circumvent the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision by explaining that their bill would impose “faith fines” on groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who refuse to subsidize abortion-inducing drugs, and asked, “Mr. President, when did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church?”

“The bill that is being voted on this floor, if it were adopted, would fine the Little Sisters of the Poor millions of dollars unless these Catholic nuns are willing to pay for abortion-producing drugs for others,” said Sen. Cruz in remarks on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

“Mr. President, when did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church?” said Cruz.

“Let me make a basic suggestion,” he continued.  “If you’re litigating against nuns, you have probably done something wrong, and the Obama Administration is doing so right now. Mr. President, drop your faith fines. Mr. Majority leader, drop your faith fines. To all of my Democratic colleagues, drop your faith fines. Get back to the shared values that stitch all of us together as Americans.”

First Vote on S 2578 is In. They Didn’t Stop a Filibuster.

Stand

The first vote on S 2578, the bill to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision by repealing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is in.

It was a vote on cloture. Cloture is a vote to stop a filibuster on a measure, or, as in this case, whether or not to debate a bill. It came within 4 votes of passing, which would have meant that the bill would almost certainly have passed the Senate. As it is, a filibuster can tie it up and keep it from going to the House, and no debate keeps it from coming to a vote at all.

The final vote was 56-43.

I’m going to put the vote below. It is a bit confusing, since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted “no” on the vote to stop a filibuster. That was one of those pesky procedural votes. A procedural vote means that he voted the way he did to achieve a goal within the Senate procedures, in this case to position himself to call the vote on cloture up again.

What that means is that there may be another vote on cloture.

With the exception of Senator Reid, a “no” vote below means that the Senator voted against S 2578. A “yes” vote means they voted for it.

Unless I am mistaken, it was basically a party-line vote, with Independent Senators Sanders of Vermont and King of Maine and Republicans Murkowski of Alaska, Kirk of Illinois and Collins of Maine voting with the Democrats. The opinion voiced by Senate Republicans is that the Senate Democrats see this move as a vote getter for the party in November.

I have no doubt that is the big reason why you see all the Ds lining up on this. I could probably tell you the exact things which were said behind closed doors about this particular vote. I’ll bet I could recite it almost word for word.

A number of senators who voted for this attack on religious freedom come from conservative states where traditional Christians comprise a sizable voting block. They are evidently counting on party financing and the media machine to lie for them so that the public will be so mis-informed about the Hobby Lobby decision that they can ride this vote to victory rather than the ignominious defeat it should garner for them.

Other senators, such as Senator Mary Landrieu, who comes from Louisiana, is up for re-election, and was elected on a pro-life plank, may face some choppy water because of this vote. I would guess that she can get away with it if she can convince the voters that it was a vote about birth control and not religious liberty.

The other factor — and it is enormous — is how the voters of Louisiana feel about her personally. If they like her and trust her, individual votes she cast won’t matter.

Here is the vote.

Grouped by Home State

Alabama:Sessions (R-AL), NayShelby (R-AL), Nay
Alaska:Begich (D-AK), YeaMurkowski (R-AK), Yea
Arizona:Flake (R-AZ), NayMcCain (R-AZ), Nay
Arkansas:Boozman (R-AR), NayPryor (D-AR), Yea
California:Boxer (D-CA), YeaFeinstein (D-CA), Yea
Colorado:Bennet (D-CO), YeaUdall (D-CO), Yea
Connecticut:Blumenthal (D-CT), YeaMurphy (D-CT), Yea
Delaware:Carper (D-DE), YeaCoons (D-DE), Yea
Florida:Nelson (D-FL), YeaRubio (R-FL), Nay
Georgia:Chambliss (R-GA), NayIsakson (R-GA), Nay
Hawaii:Hirono (D-HI), YeaSchatz (D-HI), Not Voting
Idaho:Crapo (R-ID), NayRisch (R-ID), Nay
Illinois:Durbin (D-IL), YeaKirk (R-IL), Yea
Indiana:Coats (R-IN), NayDonnelly (D-IN), Yea
Iowa:Grassley (R-IA), NayHarkin (D-IA), Yea
Kansas:Moran (R-KS), NayRoberts (R-KS), Nay
Kentucky:McConnell (R-KY), NayPaul (R-KY), Nay
Louisiana:Landrieu (D-LA), YeaVitter (R-LA), Nay
Maine:Collins (R-ME), YeaKing (I-ME), Yea
Maryland:Cardin (D-MD), YeaMikulski (D-MD), Yea
Massachusetts:Markey (D-MA), YeaWarren (D-MA), Yea
Michigan:Levin (D-MI), YeaStabenow (D-MI), Yea
Minnesota:Franken (D-MN), YeaKlobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Mississippi:Cochran (R-MS), NayWicker (R-MS), Nay
Missouri:Blunt (R-MO), NayMcCaskill (D-MO), Yea
Montana:Tester (D-MT), YeaWalsh (D-MT), Yea
Nebraska:Fischer (R-NE), NayJohanns (R-NE), Nay
Nevada:Heller (R-NV), NayReid (D-NV), Nay
New Hampshire:Ayotte (R-NH), NayShaheen (D-NH), Yea
New Jersey:Booker (D-NJ), YeaMenendez (D-NJ), Yea
New Mexico:Heinrich (D-NM), YeaUdall (D-NM), Yea
New York:Gillibrand (D-NY), YeaSchumer (D-NY), Yea
North Carolina:Burr (R-NC), NayHagan (D-NC), Yea
North Dakota:Heitkamp (D-ND), YeaHoeven (R-ND), Nay
Ohio:Brown (D-OH), YeaPortman (R-OH), Nay
Oklahoma:Coburn (R-OK), NayInhofe (R-OK), Nay
Oregon:Merkley (D-OR), YeaWyden (D-OR), Yea
Pennsylvania:Casey (D-PA), YeaToomey (R-PA), Nay
Rhode Island:Reed (D-RI), YeaWhitehouse (D-RI), Yea
South Carolina:Graham (R-SC), NayScott (R-SC), Nay
South Dakota:Johnson (D-SD), YeaThune (R-SD), Nay
Tennessee:Alexander (R-TN), NayCorker (R-TN), Nay
Texas:Cornyn (R-TX), NayCruz (R-TX), Nay
Utah:Hatch (R-UT), NayLee (R-UT), Nay
Vermont:Leahy (D-VT), YeaSanders (I-VT), Yea
Virginia:Kaine (D-VA), YeaWarner (D-VA), Yea
Washington:Cantwell (D-WA), YeaMurray (D-WA), Yea
West Virginia:Manchin (D-WV), YeaRockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Wisconsin:Baldwin (D-WI), YeaJohnson (R-WI), Nay
Wyoming:Barrasso (R-WY), NayEnzi (R-WY), Nay

As S 2578 Goes to a Vote, Here’s Who We Should Watch

Senate Democrats are going to do their best to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision this afternoon. They will vote on S 2578, which basically repeals the Freedom of Religious Restoration Act.

This is a vote on our religious freedom. We need to know what our senators do.

There’s still time to put a bit of pressure on senators who are on the fence.

Here is a list of Senators we need to contact. It comes from people who’ve been working on the ground in Congress to kill this bill. You can email or call their offices using the information provided below.

Donnelly, Joe – (D – IN) donnelly.senate.gov  Phone: (202) 224-4814

Landrieu, Mary – (D – LA) landrieu.senate.gov (202) 224-5824

Manchin III, Joe – (D – WV) manchin.senate.gov (202) 224-3954

Pryor, Mark – (D – AR) pryor.senate.gov (202) 224-2353

Murkowski, Lisa – (R-AK) (202) 224-6665 www.murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Contact

Collins, Susan M. - (R-ME) www.collins.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email ( 202) 224-2523

Kirk, Mark  - (R – IL) www.kirk.senate.gov/?p=contact (202) 224-2854

Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop Lori to Senate: Oppose Bill that Attacks Religious Freedom

USCCB

I received a blanket email from the USCCB last night, asking me to contact my United States Senator in opposition to S 2578.

S 2578 is the little ditty that Majority Leader Reid and his cohorts have dreamed up to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision.

The USCCB also has a notice on their web site that provides background and a clear-cut statement of reasons behind this opposition. As a member of the Democratic Party, I wish to apologize for this attack on religious liberty by some of my party’s leaders. I also ask all Catholics who read this to consider taking action at the grassroots level to begin to process of converting this party back to what it should be, which is the party of working people.

I’ll talk more about what Republicans need to change in their party in other posts.

Nobody gets off the hook here. We’re Americans. Government of, by and for the people, means that we are at least partly responsible for this mess, if for no other reason than that we haven’t used the power we have to set things straight.

I’m going to do my best to track votes on S 2578 for you. It’s a litmus test on religious freedom. If your senator votes for this thing, there are no ameliorating circumstances. R or D, it makes no difference. They have attacked our First Freedom.

In the meantime, here is the USCCB article, in full.

Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop Lori To Senate: Oppose Bill That Attacks Religious Freedom

July 14, 2014

WASHINGTON—In a letter sent July 14 to all U.S. Senators, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore stated their “strong opposition to the misnamed ‘Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014’ (S. 2578).” Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori chair the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, respectively.

“Though cast as a response to the Supreme Court’s narrow decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the bill ranges far beyond that decision, potentially attacking all existing federal protections of conscience and religious freedom regarding health coverage mandates,” they wrote.

The two bishops identified several areas of concern with the bill, including its unprecedented curtailment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993; its potential for overriding other federal conscience protections, including the Hyde-Weldon amendment on abortion; its application to coverage mandates beyond the HHS contraceptive mandate; its application to employers beyond for-profit businesses; and its denial of religious freedom for employees and their minor dependents, not just employers.

“In short, the bill does not befit a nation committed to religious liberty. Indeed, if it were to pass, it would call that commitment into question. Nor does it show a genuine commitment to expanded health coverage, as it would pressure many Americans of faith to stop providing or purchasing health coverage altogether. We oppose the bill and urge you to reject it,” they wrote.

Full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/07-14-14-S-2578-Cardinal-O-Malley-Archbishop-Lori-to-Senate.pdf


Keywords: USCCB, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S. bishops, Pro-Life Activities, Religious Liberty, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archbishop William E. Lori, U.S. Senate, HHS mandate, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA, religious liberty, religious freedom, S. 2578, #HandsOffRFRA

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British Film Institute: Government and Art becomes Government Art becomes Propaganda.

Propaganda for sheeple

The Golden Rule without Christ: He who has the gold, rules. 

It appears our British cousins do not subscribe to the artistic freedom idea, at least not when it pertains to political-correctness. Exercising the Golden Rule without Christ, they will require film-makers who want to receive funding from the British Film Institute to “ensure diversity in films” by “ticking” at least two of three criteria. The filmmaker must provide on-screen diversity, off-screen diversity and “creating opportunities for social mobility.”

Here is how the “tick” system will work:

… at least one lead character must be “positively reflecting diversity,” with the project more likely to receive funding if it “explicitly and predominantly explores issues of identity relating to ethnicity or national origins, a specific focus on women, people with disabilities, sexual identity, age and people from a socially disadvantaged background.”

Off-screen, at least two heads of department must be from diverse backgrounds.

And the third category requires companies to offer paid internships and jobs to “new entrants from diverse backgrounds” and to help them progress, The Telegraph reported

According to their website, the British Film Institute is supported by the British Lottery. According to the British Lottery’s web site, they are a UK government institution.  I don’t know very much about British law. For instance, they say they are created by a “Royal Charter.” I have no idea what a Royal Charter might be.

But, this sounds like government censorship to me. In fact, it sounds as if the government is telling script-writers and film-makers what kind of characters they should have in their films. Unless I’m mistaken, they are telling writers that their scripts must include a specific type of character in a main role and that this character must be written about in a favorable light. They are then telling filmmakers that they must follow through by making their film with this kind of character, who is seen in this favorable light.

The government intrusion into artistic expression in this is obvious. I don’t see how anyone can dispute it. It is direct, government control of artistic expression for the express purpose of controlling the attitudes and beliefs of the populace.

In addition to that horror, it is also vague and arbitrary enough to drive any abuse you want right straight through it. How, for instance, will a filmmaker who so desperately wants the money that they are willing to sacrifice their artistic freedom to get it, going to know when they are in compliance? When will they know that a character is favorable enough? Would a gay character who is a murderer or a bank robber be verboten because villains are unfavorable? Must this check-off-to-be-in-compliance character always be the hero of the piece?

How does anyone create art in a situation this fraught and formulaic?

It’s a messy business, dictating artistic expression. It inevitably leads to the death of art and the reign of tedious and boring propaganda.

What has happened to the UK? What, indeed, is happening to Western civilization?

From The Washington Times:

British filmmakers must now meet new targets for ethnic minority, gay and female characters on- and off-screen if they wish to continue receiving funding from Britain’s largest public film.

The British Film Institute has revealed its “Three Ticks” scheme, which will be implemented in September to ensure diversity in films and behind the scenes, The Telegraph reported. Films must “tick” at least two of three criteria: on-screen diversity; off-screen diversity and “creating opportunities and social mobilitythe paper reported.

Book Review: Face to Face with Jesus

BC FacetoFacewithJesus 1

To join the discussion about Face to Face with Jesus, A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love, or to buy a copy, go here

Face to Face with Jesus is a book for our time. Not because it deals with a Muslim girl’s conversion to Christ, but because it teaches every Christian about our own call to faithfulness.

Samaa Habib met Jesus in a powerful conversion experience. I know from my own conversion experience that, once you meet the living Christ in this way, you will never be the same again.

Every convert who has walked a path outside Christ will be forced to choose Jesus again and again as the tentacles that link them to their other life are amputated one by one. My advice to all Christians is to read this book and do it like Samaa did it. Don’t do it in the step-by-step, trying-to-cling-to-the-people-of-your-other-life way that I did it.

Samaa never stopped loving her Muslim family, even when they beat her for her faith in Christ and tried to force her to renounce Him. Instead, she prayed and fasted for them. It took much tragedy and suffering, but in the end, her entire family came to know Jesus.

Instead of hiding her light under a bushel as most of us do, she spoke of her faith to everyone she met. This resulted in threats to her life, shunning and persecution. But she never stopped speaking of Jesus.

As I said, this is a book for our time. We are under attack here in America. This attack is relentless and it is gathering steam. Samaa’s witness is for us, as well as all the rest of the world.

I don’t have the native courage that Samaa has. From what I’ve seen, most other American Christians do not have it, either. But in Christ, we can do all things.

The keys to Samaa’s walk with faith are worship, prayer, study and fasting. She went to worship services, even when it meant risking her life. She prayed deeply and often. She studied Scripture. And she employed fasting as a means of intercession for the conversion of others.

Her route to God was through a charismatic congregation. She was introduced to Jesus by charismatic missionaries who had left the safety and comfort of America to go to her country and evangelize for Him.

Even when jihadists bombed their church and many people were wounded and killed, they did not stop. Samaa was terribly injured in this bomb attack. She experienced a near-death experience in which she made a choice to give up her martyr’s crown and come back to bring more people, her family in particular, to Christ.

Reading this book inspired me to pray more. The ever-growing evil in our society saddens me deeply. I need to talk about this sadness with Jesus.

I recommend Face to Face to Jesus to all Christians. It is an inspirational story that teaches courage in Christ for our times.


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