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

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

 

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

# # # # #

MEDIA CONTACT
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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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Confession, the Courts and Going to Hell

 

If a priest reveals what he’s heard in confession, will he go to hell?

I’ve read that a priest who violates the seal of confession suffers automatic excommunication which only the Holy See can remove. So, I would guess that a priest who reveals what he hears in confession is, at the least, in danger of hell.

That’s a serious question, for the simple reason that, in this anti-Catholic climate, we’re going to see more and more attempts to coerce priests to break the seal of confession. That would be a great triumph for Satan, since it would destroy the confidence of Catholics and break what has always been a powerful bond between them and their Church.

Catholics know that whatever they do, they can be forgiven by God. All Christians know this. But Catholics have the benefit of being able to actually confess their sins out loud and hear the words of absolution, applied directly to them. It does not matter what the sin is, they can do this in the confessional.

They also receive incredibly healing graces in this sacrament.

There is something about the cleansing power of the Sacrament of Confession that can make people who would not otherwise be able to approach communion feel worthy to do so. Confession heals, in and of itself. The sinner does not have to wonder if they’ve had the right attitude or if they’ve really been saved. All they have to do is confess and mean it. They can then draw a line under those bad things and walk out of that confessional, safe and secure in God’s grace.

All this is based on two things: The fact that Christ uses the priest for a conduit of His grace in this sacrament, and the fact that Catholics can trust that whatever they say in that confessional ends there.

I don’t know how priests deal with this burden, but I can say from my years of listening to non-sacramental confessions from thousands of constituents that God probably gives them the grace of forgetfulness. I know that I never remember the things my constituents have told me unless I need to in order to do something for them. I don’t mean I forget, exactly. I just mean that those things are not, ever, in my thoughts.

When I see the person the next time, I don’t think about or even remember what they’ve told me. It doesn’t stay in my thoughts at all. But if I need to remember for a legitimate reason, I do. I believe that is a grace that God bestows on office holders, an anointing, if you will, that allows them to keep the secrets their constituents share with them. From what I’ve seen, elected officials, no matter what rubes they may be in other ways, are very, very good at not talking about their constituents’ private matters.

I am guessing that priests experience something similar. If God gave me this grace, as an elected official, I can’t imagine why He wouldn’t give something like it to His priests who hear confessions.

That’s a good thing, because priests are more and more going to be the objects of assaults of various types in the courts. The underlying reason is that the devil is pretty much running the show in a large segment of Western society, and the devil hates priests.

If Satan can break a priest, if he can use a priest to his ends, the damage he can do to those of us in the pews is enormous. The single best way to wound the Body of Christ is to turn His ministers into weapons against the Church and the people of God.

If Satan can break the seal of the confessional, then he will, in one swoop, destroy the sacrament that bestows God’s cleansing healing on scarred and hurting souls. Of course, he can’t destroy the forgiveness and mercy of Christ. Jesus is perfectly capable of reaching into people directly. I have experienced this myself. But he can destroy the safe, reliable source of healing and forgiveness that is the sacrament of confession.

I think that’s the real reason behind the attacks on the confessional through the courts that crop up from time to time. I would guess that every priest knows that he can be drug through protracted court battles aimed at trying to get him to divulge something someone said to him in confession.

It happened a few years ago in Oregon when a prosecutor secretly taped a jailhouse confession and tried to use it in court. It’s happening in Louisiana right now as part of a civil lawsuit.

Father Jeff Bayhi is stuck between the Louisiana Supreme Court, a girl and her family who are suing for money, and going to hell.

The Supreme Court of Louisiana recently ruled that Father Bayhi must testify in court about the particulars of a confession that he may have heard in 2008. A girl, who was 14 at the time, says she confessed to him that she was being abused by a relative who is now dead. The girl’s parents are now suing Father Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge for failure to report the abuse.

This particular case has all the lightning rods in place: Priest. Sexual abuse of a minor. Failure to report.

The trouble, of course, is that the failure to report — assuming that the allegations that the girl made this confession are true — is that the lightning rods aren’t aligned the way they usually are. This isn’t about a bishop who failed to report an abusing priest. It is about a priest who — I repeat: if the confession took place as the girl claims — did not break the seal of confession.

The priest sex abuse scandal has given these particular lightning rods such drawing power that just putting the words out there in a row elicits all sorts of rage, disgust and dismissal. Priest. Sexual abuse of a minor. Failure to report. That’s a litany (if you will excuse the word) of betrayal that has been seared into the minds of everyone who hears it.

However, the Confessional is inviolate. Father Bayhi can not testify.

I can tell you that every time God has given me a chance to suffer for Him, I didn’t want it. I am not the stuff martyrs are made of. I’ve been kicked around quite a bit for my faith, and I’ve wailed and moaned and been angry about every single bit of it.

So, my heart goes out to Father Bayhi. He’s been given the awful gift of suffering for Christ. I can only imagine how terrifying and miserable all this is for him.

My grandmother used to talk about being “stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.” Father Bayhi is literally stuck between the devil and Jesus. The two things he’s got going for him are that he knows absolutely what he must do, and he’s not alone. Every faithful Catholic, everywhere, will stand behind him.

Will Father Bayhi have to go to jail? I doubt it. At some point, saner courts will probably prevail. But that’s not a sure thing. Not in today’s world.

When the New York Times can keep running ads openly attacking the Church in a manner that I can only describe as religious bigotry, and when large portions of the media are willing to publish vitriolic and categorically bigoted attacks on prominent Catholics for being Catholics, then anything is possible.

Father Bayhi and all our priests need our prayers. We need to stick together and stand up for one another.

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Senate Democrats Move to Overturn Hobby Lobby Decision

 

Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, is leading the charge to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision.

From The Washington Post:

“One thing we’re 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,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on Tuesday. “This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous, and we’re going to do something about it. People are going to have to walk down here and vote, and if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court, I think it’s — they’re going to have — be treated unfavorably come November with the elections.”

Senator Reid can make this audacious claim because Hobby Lobby v Burwell was adjudicated on a statute, The Religious Freedom Act. What Senator Reid, and, according to him the rest of the Senate Democrats, wants to do is basically repeal the Religious Freedom Act. I only have a few points to make at this juncture.

  • As a lifelong Democrat and an 18-year veteran as a Democratic elected official (I’m still in office until November) I am ashamed of my party for doing this.
  • We need to convert the Democratic Party. If we do not, this kind of back and forth will continue until it destroys our Republic. We will never build a culture of life unless we convert this party.
  • I wish those who oppose the HHS Mandate would mount the same kind of of fearless and passionate offense against it. One thing that has been abundantly clear to me for well over 30 years is that pro life politicians do not have the same fearless commitment and willingness to do what’s needed for our cause as the other side’s politicians have for it. Where is the pro life Wendy Davis? Why hasn’t the House taken on the HHS Mandate with the same fervor that we are seeing in this attack against Hobby Lobby v Burwell in the Democratically-held Senate?

We are trapped between our own wishy-washy advocates who make speeches, gather votes based their “stands” and then do nothing, and these passionate, committed opponents who are willing to stake their careers on attacking religious freedom and the sanctity of human life. It is simply not an effective tactic for us to continue demonizing our opposition while we settle for nothing but empty promises and political grandstanding from our supporters.

We are being used.

Meanwhile, the other side of this fight has real political warriors with fire in their bellies who are willing to stake everything on defending their viewpoint

I am going to suggest you do two things today and one thing tomorrow.

For today, write both your United State’s Senators and demand that they fight publicly and behind closed doors to stop this re-write of the The Religious Freedom Act. It does not matter if they are Democrats, Republicans or Independents, they need to hear from you. Second, write your member of Congress and demand that they stop sitting on their hands and take action against the HHS Mandate.

That’s for today.

For tomorrow, check with your state political party about when precinct meetings will be held next spring. Put the date on your calendar and plan to go.

For Republicans, Google “(name of your state) Republican Party” or (name of your state) Republican Committee. For Democrats, Google, “(name of your state) Democratic Party”.  Examples: Oklahoma Republican Party, or, Oklahoma Republican Committee. Oklahoma Democratic Party.

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Meriam Ibrahim: My Baby is Physically Disabled Because I Gave Birth in Chains

 

Maya Ibrahim

Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to death when she was eight months pregnant for refusing to recant her Christian faith.

She is still unable to leave Sudan, due to what I consider to be trumped up charges by local officials.

She gave birth to her baby girl, who she named Maya, while she was in prison. Her captors forced her to give birth in chains.

Hopefully, Mrs Ibrahim and her family will be allowed to come to the United States soon and we can provide Maya — and Mrs Ibrahim as well — with the medical care needed to repair the injuries that were inflicted on them by this barbaric government.

From The Telegraph:

“I gave birth chained,” she said, in her first description of the May 27 birth.

“Not cuffs – but chains on my legs. I couldn’t open my legs so the women had to lift me off the table. I wasn’t lying on the table.”

When asked whether she was frightened that giving birth in such conditions could harm her baby, she said: “Something has happened to the baby.”

She explained that her daughter had been left physically disabled – but the extent of the disability would not be clear until she was older.

“I don’t know in the future whether she’ll need support to walk or not,” she said.

 

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The Greens of Hobby Lobby: One Family with Courage is a Majority

 

There is no getting around the fact that Jesus offends some people. Nevertheless, He is too important in my life for me to cower in fear of mentioning His name. David Green, owner, founder Hobby Lobby

The Green Family (who are Okies, by the way) risked everything they had worked for all their lives.

They put everything but their lives on the line by refusing to accede to the HHS Mandate’s requirement that they pay for insurance coverage for abortifacient drugs. The Greens, who are Southern Baptists, already provided insurance coverage for contraceptives for their employees.

But they would not be participants in the evil of abortion. It conflicted with their faith in Jesus Christ.

So, they took a stand that was, in terms of business, totally stupid. They refused to abide by the HHS Mandate. What’s more, they put the name of their company, which they had built themselves from a $600 dollar investment, on a lawsuit.

This wasn’t a roll of the dice. It was an act of faith. The lawsuit was turned back, then resurrected in other rulings. When it was first turned down, the Greens said they would not abide by the Mandate, even if it meant paying millions of dollars a day in fines to the government.

This was not grandstanding. It was a reality of their lives at that time. They were facing ruinous fines for following Christ. It would most likely have put them out of business.

Another court overturned the earlier ruling and they were granted a stay.

Their lawsuit made it’s way to the Supreme Court, and today, the Court ruled that the Green family, as well as other owners of privately-held corporations, are exempt from the contraceptive portion of the HHS Mandate.

I’ve been watching and reading a bit of the reaction to the news. It’s totally predictable claptrap about how this ruling allows corporations not to follow “the law” and how it “endangers women’s health.”

My reaction to this is give me a break. First, the Supreme Court’s ruling is the law, which is something the HHS Mandate has never been.

The HHS Mandate is an agency rule which has the force of law. It was never passed by elected officials. It was created by an appointed committee. To call this thing a law violates the underlying principles of government by representation on which this nation was founded.

Second, women’s health is not endangered by not being able to get insurance coverage for abortifacients. What endangers women’s health is allowing things like the morning after pill to be put on counters where everyone can buy and use them as many times a month as they want. The health consequences of using the morning after pill for birth control could be terrible for women’s health.

Also, as I just said, the stuff is available over the counter. If a woman uses it the way it’s intended, it would be a once in a lifetime deal. If they are using it repeatedly, they are endangering their health. Period.

I’ve read all sorts of comments attacking this ruling, but I think the ruling is wonderful.

It puts a couple of teeth back into what has rapidly been becoming a toothless concept of religious liberty in this country. The government — the government — does not have any business requiring people to violate their faith under threat of government penalties. The government also does not have any business passing draconian agency regulations that infringe on American liberties by the fiat of a hand-selected back-room committee and calling it “law.”

The Green family saved our First Amendment freedoms today.

They did it as an act of faith in which they put their entire life’s work on the line based entirely on their faith in Jesus Christ.

May their tribe increase.

Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision. Today the nation’s highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles. The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey. Barbara Green, co-founder/owner of Hobby Lobby

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Meriam Ibrahim has Been Charged with a New Crime. Faces 7-Year Sentence.

 

Meriam Ibrahim has not been freed. The story I posted earlier was incorrect.

She was arrested once again while she and her family were at the airport, awaiting a flight to leave the country.

According to The Independent, the new charge is that she was using a passport obtained from South Sudan. Sudan does not recognize her as a South Sudanese citizen because it does not recognize her marriage to her Christian husband. Her husband has South-Sudan/American citizenship.

Mrs Ibrahim is being charged with forging her passport, a crime that is punishable by up to seven years in prison. She is being held in a Khartoum police station. Her family has refused to leave without her.

From The Independent:

 

The US and South Sudanese ambassadors have been summoned to Khartoum by Sudan over the rearrest of a Christian convert accused of apostasy trying to flee the country after being released from death row.
Mariam Yahya Ibrahim was freed on Monday after an appeals court cancelled the death sentence imposed for having converted from Islam to marry her Christian husband, after the government came under what it called unprecedented international pressure.
But she was detained again on Tuesday for trying to use documents issued by the embassy of South Sudan to fly out of Khartoum with her American-South Sudanese husband and their two children – deepening the diplomatic wrangle over her case.Sudan does not recognise her as a South Sudanese citizen because, despite lifting her sentence, it does not recognise her marriage to a Christian, something not allowed under the Islamic laws applied in Sudan, where most people are Sunni Muslims.South Sudan, with a majority Christian population, became independent from Sudan after a public vote in 2011 that ended years of civil war between the two states.
“The airport passport police arrested Abrar after she presented emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese embassy and carrying an American visa,” Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services’ media department said on Facebook, referring to Ibrahim by her Muslim name.

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Fortnight for Freedom: Standing for Religious Liberty on Thursday, June 26, 2014

 

The most important thing we can do to stand for religious liberty today is to take action in support of Meriam Ibrahim, who has been detained — again — and charged — again — with a crime related to her conversion to Christianity.

Mrs Ibrahim is being held at a Khartoum police station. This time, she’s charged with using a “forged” passport. According to reports in The Independent, the government of Sudan is refusing to recognize her passport because it was issued by the government of South Sudan. Sudan does not recognize Mrs Ibrahim’s right to a passport from South Sudan because they do not recognize her marriage to her Christian husband, who is a citizen of South Sudan.

Mrs Ibrahim’s husband is also an American citizen.

The crime they have charged her with is punishable by a 7-year prison sentence.

Please email, call or write the Sudanese Embassy and tell them that you support Mrs Ibrahim and request that the Sudanese government release her immediately.

You can contact the Sudanese Embassy by email here.

You can contact the Sudanese Embassy by phone or letter here:

Embassy Of The Republic Of Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Ave
Washington DC,20008,
Ph: 202.338.8565
Fax: 202.667.2406

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Fortnight for Freedom: Defending Religious Liberty on Wednesday, June 25, 2014

 

The jury’s out on our religious freedoms.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

We’re all waiting to see what the Supreme Court does to us or for us in their decision on Sebelius v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. 

The Supremes are going to hand down a decision on this case soon, and the stakes are enormous.

What will the First Amendment mean next month, after they’ve spoken? How much freedom will we have to practice our faith? Will we be forced to make choices between shucking our faith when we step out the door of our churches? Is the Supreme Court going to take a giant step toward pushing faith out of the public square? Or will it uphold the First Amendment rights of Americans to practice their faith in public?

At issue is the question of whether or not the infamous HHS Mandate will be allowed to force Christian employers to provide funds, either directly or indirectly, for abortifacients and abortion. In other words, can the government force people to participate in murder?

On this day, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, I am going to suggest that you participate in the Fortnight for Freedom by following the links here to read about the case and then say a prayer.

From the Christian Post:

healthcare contraceptive mandate birth control obamacare(PHOTO: REUTERS/LARRY DOWNING)

Protesters pray at the steps of the Supreme Court as arguments begin today to challenge the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide coverage for contraception as part of an employee’s health care, in Washington March 25, 2014. The U.S. Supreme Court convened on Tuesday to consider whether business owners can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law requiring employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control.

An attorney involved in a Supreme Court case that will determine to what extent privately owned businesses can opt-out of providing certain types of birth control for religious reasons believes there are “‘high stakes” involved in the outcome.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, has served as an attorney for Conestoga Woods Specialties, who alongside Hobby Lobby, have sued the federal government to be exempt from the Health and Human Services’ “preventive services mandate” that requires businesses to cover birth control that can lead to the early termination of a pregnancy.

“The stakes are very high in the Conestoga and Hobby Lobby case,” explained Bowman regarding the First Amendment implications in the lawsuit. “It involves fundamental issues of whether or not religious freedom belongs to every American, and whether the government can redefine freedom to force citizens to buy abortion pills for other people.”

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