How Much Influence Does this Christian Basher Have at the Pentagon?

Remember Michael, aka Mikey, Weinstein?

It’s not a name that falls trippingly off the tongue, but I’m beginning to think it is worth remembering. Michael Weinstein recently penned a diatribe against Christians that hails back to the hate-speeches of every genocidal maniac spawned in the 20th Century.

He is a self-proclaimed “guardian” of Constitutional freedoms in the military. His backers include the usual list of suspects, such as  branches of the ACLU, the former Oklahoma Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and various atheist organizations.

According to “Mikey,” Christians are (and I quote), monsters, bloody monsters, well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters, carpetbaggers, senseless and cowardly, bandits who coagulate their stenchful subtances in organizations such as the Family Research Council … and who disingenuously bellow mournfully like the world class cowards they are, fundamentalist Christian monsters of human degradation, marginalizaton, humiliation and tyranny, who have a putrid theology… of their rapacious reign of theocratic terror. 

I could go on, but I’ll bet you get the point. “Mikey” Weinstein is a world class Christian basher and bigot who foments hatred toward a whole group of people and then blames them for his personal moral and emotional viciousness.

Sound familiar? It you’ve read the history of the dehumanizing language that precedes every mass slaughter of whole groups of people, it should. It’s especially repugnant that Mr Weinstein chose to quote Elie Wiesel at the end of the rant I’m referencing.

After Huffington Post published this hate-article, an internet rumor sprang up that Mr Weinstein held an official position with the Pentagon under the Obama Administration. I found no evidence of this. However, I did find a sort of denial about it from the Pentagon.

I decided to leave the question with that.

The reason I’m taking the subject up today is another Huffington Post article titled The Pentagon Most Certainly is Listening to Mikey Weinstein. A reader sent me a link to this article, and when I read it, I decided that it is something you need to know about.

The author, Chris Rodda, is the Senior Research Director at Mr Weinstein’s organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. She is also the author of Liars for Jesus.

Ms Rodda admires her boss. The article she writes seems to be in a race with itself as to whether it will attack Christians or express over-the-top praise for Mr Weinstein. She makes him sound like the kind of guy who can change the course of mighty rivers with his bare hands and jump the Pentagon in a single leap.

I say this to caution you: This article is almost certainly at least partly hyperbole and self-promotion by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. It claims that an individual representing 22 airmen who, the article also claims, were all Christians of various denominations, contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation because they were offended by a poster or painting (I’m not sure which it was) hanging on the wall of the Air Force base where they work.

I don’t know what part of this to believe. It comes from an organization whose founder and leader has published hate speech labeling Christians, and by derivation me, my family and just about everyone I love, as “rapacious, bloody monsters.” Just call me small-minded, but that tends to color my opinion of the organization’s integrity.

 

The real question here is not whether or not I admire Mr Weinstein’s assessment of my faith (I do not) but how much he influences things at the Pentagon. The part of the article which is pertinent to that question relays how Mr Weinstein reacted to the appalling threat to the Constitution posed by this painting. The pertinent part of it says (emphasis mine):

Mikey immediately called the Pentagon because, you know, he can do that (to the obvious consternation of the folks at breitbart.comcertain members of Congress, and other modern-day Christian crusaders).

Mikey gave the Air Force an hour to take action.

By the time Mikey talked to the Wing Commander at the base a few minutes later, the Wing Commander had already been contacted by the Pentagon.

Fifty-six minutes after his call to the Pentagon, the image of the crusader, with its odious melding of the crusader flag with the American flag, had been removed from the dining hall.

Nobody is sure exactly how long this utterly inappropriate and blatantly unconstitutional image has been hanging in the dining hall, and whoever should be held responsible for deciding to place it there may very well no longer even be at the base. But the current Wing Commander, although not responsible for the hanging of this now removed dining facility artwork, is responsible for everything that happens on his base now, and to his credit has decided to take action beyond just the removal of this single offensive display.

The question: Is this claim of Mr Weinstein’s personal influence with the Pentagon brag, or is it fact?

Since we are dealing with people who specialize in braggadocio and scalding hot rhetoric, it’s difficult to know for sure. I am assuming that the basic facts of the article are true; that there was a painting which hung at an Air Force base, that there was some sort of complaint and that maybe the complainers may have gone to Sunday school or something and are claiming to be Christians, and that Mr Weinstein complained and the painting was taken down.

As I said, I am assuming these things are true. I do not believe that this painting was ever a “threat to the Constitution.” Artistic vision, perhaps. But not the Constitution. I also do not believe that you can trust what these people say.

I believe Mr Weinstein is a Christian-bashing bigot. The language I read in his article is inflammatory, hate-filled and ugly. If he told me it was raining outside, I would get up, go to the window, and look for myself.

This leads back around to the question: Does this Christian-bashing bigot and his inflammatory, hate-filled rhetoric have some sort of gravitas at and with the people who run our military? That is a sobering question.

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It’s Easter … and the Fight for Religious Freedom Continues

I focused on Holy Week issues last week.

I would love to continue doing the same thing this first week of Easter. In fact, it might be nice to never do anything else. But the world and our duty to engage the world for Christ goes on.

Challenges to the HHS Mandate continue to wend their way through the judicial process. 

Hobby Lobby was granted a hearing of its appeal against the HHS Mandate before a full federal panel of nine judges. Most appeals are heard by three judges. The fact that the whole panel will hear this one reflects the seriousness of the issue involved. I can think of few issues more serious than whether or not the First Amendment applies to applies to everyone.

We need to continue to support both EWTN and Hobby Lobby, as well as all others who have stepped up to fight for our freedoms.  I got paid today. I’ll be too busy to do any shopping for a few days, but the first chance I get, I’m heading to Hobby Lobby. I may top it off with lunch at Chick Fil-A. I hope you do the same.

From CNA:

.- Christian-owned craft giant Hobby Lobby will be able to make its appeal against the federal contraception mandate before a full federal panel of nine judges, rather than the usual three.

“Full court review is reserved only for the most serious legal questions,” explained Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in a press release on March 29. The Becket Fund is representing the owners of Hobby Lobby in court.

Duncan said that the decision to grant a full nine-judge hearing speaks to the gravity of the issue.

“This case asks whether the First Amendment protects everyone’s right to religious freedom, or whether it leaves out religious business owners like the Greens,” he explained.

As its religious freedom case comes before a federal court, Hobby Lobby had petitioned for an “en banc” hearing, or an appeals hearing before the full bench of nine judges.

“We are grateful that the court granted Hobby Lobby’s petition,” said Duncan. (Read more here.)

Meanwhile, EWTN’s lawsuit against the HHS Mandate was dismissed by an Alabama court because the court said the case “wasn’t ripe.” I would make a comment about the choice of the word “ripe,” but it’s too easy. EWTN has vowed to fight on.

If you’re getting the idea that going to court is a roll of the dice, you’re right. It all depends on which judge you draw and if their lunch agreed with them.

From CNA:

.- The EWTN Global Catholic Network is “extremely disappointed” by a Monday court ruling that dismissed as “unripe” its lawsuit against a federal mandate that could require the organization to violate Catholic teaching.

“Contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs are not healthcare. EWTN cannot and will not compromise our strongly held beliefs on these moral issues,” EWTN President and CEO Michael P. Warsaw said March 25.

On Monday Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham dismissed the Irondale, Ala.-based organization’s lawsuit until new regulations are “created and finalized.” The March 25 court decision agreed that EWTN has standing to sue, but it sided with Obama administration lawyers who contended that the case is not ripe for review. (Read more here.) 

 

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Militant Secularism, Atheism and Rising Legal Discrimination Against Christians

Militant secularism is on the march throughout the Western world.

It began with court cases concerning what were clearly government entities in nature. The first court cases focused on things that were problematic.

It didn’t take long for these court cases to move past the clearly problematic to a frontal assault on any mention of faith in any guise in even the most quasi of public situations anywhere in the country. In a few years, it broadened to include attacks on Christian public officials, which I have experienced myself. Verbal hazing and hectoring became such a commonplace that many public Christians began to self-censor their remarks to avoid it.

The reason for this is that public life is difficult and insecure enough without adding extra problems to it. Public officials and other public figures get worn out from the constant harassment and misery of being attacked 24/7. Also, the use of slander and mockery, can, over time, destroy their reputations and make it impossible for them to do their jobs.

So, they backed down. They self-censored Jesus out of their vocabularies. It was easier to keep quiet about their faith than to take it on the chin, especially since most of the American Christian world was cocooned in a rock-a-bye world of their own and largely indifferent to what was happening.

However, public figures are not the only targets these days. More and more, the courts have become a means of harassment and oppression of Christians who are private citizens simply trying to live their faith in their private world. Thus we have bans on student-initiated prayers in school, censorship of religious viewpoints from valedictory speeches and, lately, the banning of Christian groups from college campuses.

It was and is the Martin Niemoller poem, coming to life again.

I wrote a post yesterday, Atheist Governments: Failed Experiments in Godless Goodness which referred to this situation. This post is an extension of that.

One of the more interesting examples of forced removal of Christian art from public grounds is the Soledad Cross. This cross was designed by architect Donald Campbell and is part of a memorial for war veterans.

Americans were outraged when Al Queda blasted ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan because they offended their religious sensibilities. But they do not see the parallel in the forced removal of religious art from public places in our own country at the behest of a well-organized movement of militant secularists.

You can find a list, of the cases the Freedom From Religion group in Wisconsin is involved in now on their website. I would guess that this list is relatively small compared to the numbers of threatening letters concerning Christian art, speech and actives that it churns out on what appears to be a continuous basis. The Supreme Court has ruled that historic monuments may be preserved, but there are no guidelines as to what constitutes a historic monument.

The deluge of court cases that are brought by a couple of groups and dumped on public entities, coupled with the threat of costly litigation, usually results in people backing down without a fight. This is using the courts as a club to bully and intimidate ordinary citizens into giving up their rights.

The ACLU has joined with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in some of these lawsuits. They have also filed suits of their own. They claim, like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, that they are “defending” the Constitution and the American people from the dangers of statues in parks, plaques, and commentary in graduation speeches.

Both these groups often file lawsuits that are aimed, not so much at government policy, but the individual expressions of faith by government employees. They have worked assiduously to drive religion in general and Christianity in particular from the public square. In case after case they have filed suit against city parks, state governments, and courthouses all over the country. They have forced them to remove statues, and ban celebrations that smacked in any way of a Christian viewpoint.

You would think the mere sight of the Ten Commandments on a plaque was a threat to our liberty equal to say, banning prayer in schools, even when they are student-led, censoring personal religious comments out of student speeches or requiring college faith-based student groups to put atheists in charge.

Of course, that is exactly what has been happening in more and more places around the country. Here a few examples that I found of censoring student speech and attempting to force student religious organizations to admit unbelievers as members and leaders of their groups. I found these with a simple google search that took about 10 seconds.

Censorship of Christian’s Free Speech in Schools Christian’s Valedictorian Speech Censored by Principal District Pulls Plug on Speech  Attorneys Win Settlement in Cases Involving Censorship of Religious References from Valedictory Speeches Student Says Testimony About God Censored From Speech 

There are a number of cases of Christian student groups being kicked off college campuses because they refuse to put non-believers in positions of leadership in their organizations, or because they require that members be people of faith. There are many of these incidents. Some of them involve numerous press releases with denials and counter charges that go back and forth. However, I doubt that there would be any back and forth if the initial discrimnatory actions by the universities in question had not been taken.

Discrimination on College Campuses University of Michigan Kicks Christian Club Off Campus Campus Crackdown: Restricting Religious Freedom  Vanderbilt Christian Groups, Citing Religious Freedom, Follow Catholics Off Campus Rollins College Boots Student Religious Group Off Campus College Forces Christian Group Off Campus  Christian Groups Face Hostility on Campus  Universities Across Nation Kick Christian Groups Off Campus Christian Group Kicked Off Campus at Brown University 

If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. That’s one of the nifty little sayings pro-abortion advocates are fond of tossing around. However, in real life, they are using political clout with the president to create an abortion hegemony in which organizations, including the Church are forced to refer for abortions or be severely penalized.

The same kind of thing is at work with gay marriage. If you don’t believe in gay marriage, don’t get gay married, the slogan goes. But Christian groups on college campuses are being penalized for following their faith concerning what is rapidly becoming a gay hegemony. At the same time, Catholic adoption agencies in many states have been forced to close because they will not place children with anyone except a married man and woman.

This is militant secularism run amuck. It not only violates the religious freedom of American citizens, it deprives orphan children of loving homes and trafficked women of the help they need to get out of that life and move forward. Here are a few examples I found, again, with a quick google search.

Direct Discrimination Against Churches and Church Ministries Illinois Catholic Charities Closes Adoption Over Rule  Same-Sex Law Forces Catholic Charities to Close Adoption Program Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Religious Freedom Discrimination Against Catholic Adoption Services  Oregon Catholic Charities Loses Grant Because It Will Not Refer for Abortion Kentucky Catholic Charities Shutters Aid to Traffickers Over Refusal to Refer for Abortion

I could go on with this, but I think I’ve made my point. The increasing harassment and move toward overt legal discrimination of Christians is so widespread and has been in the news so often that I honestly believe it is public knowledge. Anyone can find all the cites they want about it in a matter of a few seconds. I’m sure that what I’ve given here are not the best examples. I didn’t aim for that. I literally just took the ones at the top of the many pages of hits I got when I googled. They are also not meant to be comprehensive.

They are indicative. They indicate what is happening and why the concerns of Christians about the rise in overt anti-Christian activity on an official as well as a social level is well-founded. They also indicate a growing problem with how ideas like “inclusion,” “tolerance” and “equality” are being  codified and used to create enforcement that produces exclusion, intolerance and inequality for Christians.

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Fourteen Members of Congress Sign Letter Asking that Conscience Rights Be Included in Budget Bill

Fourteen members of Congress sent a letter to the House leadership asking that conscience rights be included in the upcoming budget bill. They mentioned specific violations of the right to conscience, including the HHS Mandate. Thirteen of the 14 signers were women. This puts the lie to the claim that women support attacks on religious freedom and individual freedom of conscience such as the HHS Mandate.

This is an unprecedented move by these House members which could have far-reaching consequences for the future of religious freedom in this country. I don’t know if these Congresspeople wrote this letter in response to the call for Congress to make the HHS Mandate a bargaining chip in the sequester/fiscal cliff/budget negotiations. But I do know that this letter came shortly after grassroots lobbying efforts  for this kind of move began.

Fourteen signers out of 453 voting members of the US House may not sound like much, but I think it’s a great start. By putting their names on this letter, these Congresspeople have stepped out in front of the issue of religious freedom and used their clout as members of the majority party to urge their leadership to do the same.

I am going to contact members of my Congressional delegation and ask them to sign on to this letter, as well. Hopefully, we will get many more Republicans and a few Democrats to sign. I am also going to contact those who signed this letter and thank them.

You can contact your Congressman or woman by going here.

 

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Obama Asks Court to Overturn Defense of Marriage Act


President Obama weighed in with the Supreme Court today.

He filed an amicus brief asking the court to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996 denies federal recognition of gay marriages and gives each state the right to refuse recognition of same-sex marriage licenses issued by other states. The act does not prohibit states from allowing gay marriages, neither does it obligate states to recognize the gay marriages from other states.

If the court overturns this act, it would make a muddle of marriage laws within and among the states.

Let me try to explain:

Right now, Oklahoma does not have a law allowing same-sex marriage. In fact, Oklahoma has an amendment to the state constitution which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

If our neighboring state of Texas passes a law redefining marriage as between someone other than a man and a woman, the Federal Defense of Marriage Act would protect Oklahoma’s current law. Oklahoma would not be obliged to honor Texas’ law.

If this act is overturned by the Supreme Court, the question of what Oklahoma must do in this situation would be up in the air. Unless, of course, the Court follows writes its own statutes (calling them Constitutional interpretations) to enforce its own decision. This is what the Court did with Roe v Wade and subsequent rulings on abortion.

The other effect of overturning DOMA would be that it would allow the federal government to put itself in the marriage regulation business. From what I have seen of this president, you’d better get hold of yourself if this happens, because it’s going to be sweeping, heavy-handed and against the religious freedom of practicing Christians and Christian churches.

A FoxNews article discussing Obama’s brief to the Supreme Court on Doma says in part:

The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to strike down the federal law defining marriage as a union between only a man and a woman.
The request regarding the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was made Friday in a brief by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli that argues the law is unconstitutional because it violates “the fundamental guarantee of equal protection.”
The high court is set to hear two cases next month on the issue: the constitutional challenge on Proposition 8, the 2008 California that allowed same-sex marriages in the state that two years later was overturned, and United States v. Windsor, which challenges DOMA.
Edith Windsor, a California resident, was married to her female partner in Canada in 2007 but was required to pay roughly $360,000 in federal estate taxes because the marriage is not recognized under DOMA.
The law “denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples,” Verrilli’s brief in part states.
House Republicans also purportedly filed a brief Friday, arguing for the right to defend DOMA.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/23/obama-considers-weighing-in-on-gay-marriage-case/#ixzz2Lk7tlaUf

 

If you wish to read the President’s brief to the Supreme Court against DOMA, go here.

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Bishops: Make HHS Mandate a Bargaining Point in Fiscal Cliff Debates

The suggestion is late to the party, but it is about time it finally came.

The Roman Catholic Bishops here in America have finally asked Congressional supporters of religious freedom to do what they should have done in the first place: Make the HHS Mandate a bargaining chip in political “cliff” negotiations.

I’ve maintained all along that if the House Republicans had made the HHS Mandate the bargaining chip in the 2012 cliff fight over extending the debt limit, the HHS Mandate would never have gone into effect. It was one of those rare opportunities when political brinksmanship might have been about something besides the egos of the players and the wishes of the moneyed interests who control them.

What they did instead was engage in their usual fight to get more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

The bishops have finally decided to call for such action directly. They sent a letter to members of Congress, asking them to make the HHS Mandate a bargaining point in the next found of fiscal cliff stand-offs.

All I can say is, it’s about time.

In fact, it’s past time.

It’s not easy for political outsiders to see through the smoke and mirrors of political maneuvering. But it appears that the bishops are beginning to figure it out.

As usual, I support the bishops in this 100%.

A Reuters article describing the bishops’ letter says in part:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Roman Catholic bishops stepped up their battle against President Obama’s contraceptives policy on Friday by urging Congress to use its fiscal debate to free religious employers from a mandate requiring insurance coverage for birth control.

In a letter to all 535 members of Congress, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore suggested two provisions to extend existing federal conscience protections to the contraceptives mandate and strengthen the ability of opponents to seek vindication in federal court.

“The federal government’s respect for believers and people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives,” wrote Lori, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I urge you in the strongest terms possible to incorporate the provisions … in the upcoming legislative proposals to fund the federal government,” Lori added.

The conference also plans to send out an action alert via email and text message calling on supporters across the country to visit local congressional offices next week when lawmakers are home on break.

Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health insurance coverage through group coverage plans for all contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including the so-called “morning after” pill.

The archbishop’s letter underscored a growing sense of urgency among church leaders over the birth control coverage rules that are due to take effect on August 1 for religiously affiliated employers including universities, hospitals and charities.

The bishops have tried several times to get Congress to act over the past year, amid numerous protests and more than 40 lawsuits by religious groups and employers. But Lori’s letter marks their first attempt to use the debates over deficit reduction, the debt limit and government funding.

“To many people, this looks like the main must-pass vehicle going through Congress this year,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the conference’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. (Read more here.)

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HHS Mandate: Bishops Say Obama’s Proposed Compromise “Falls Short.”

I held back on extensive comments on President Obama’s recent “compromise” to the HHS Mandate.

My personal feeling when it was announced was that the compromise would, in the words of today’s announcement from Cardinal Dolan, “fall short.”

My reasons were political, based primarily on my understanding of how politicians behave when they are forced to give the appearance of doing something that they really don’t want to do. I expected smoke and mirrors, and in at least one very serious way, that is exactly what the President gave us.

He left private employers out of his “compromise,” and by doing so essentially stopped the First Amendment at the church door. There is, if you’ve been thinking about the militant secularism in our world, nothing new in this position.

Evangelical atheists and militant secularists (who often but not always overlap) have said repeatedly that their goal is for Christians in particular and religious people in general to “keep their faith at home.” They allow (for now) that we can worship inside the confines of our churches without government interference, and that we can believe within the privacy of our homes (again, for now) as we choose.

But they declaim loudly and vociferously that we should not, must not, may not carry our faith further than that. They do not want us to pray in public, speak about faith in debate or follow our faith when we go to work or interact with other people. They carry this so far in other countries that they have attempted to cost people their employment for wearing a cross around their neck. This happened in Britain and was recently overturned by a court order.

It is entirely consistent for President Obama to attempt to divide Christians and other religious objectors to his HHS Mandate by “giving in” to allow Church related institutions out of the trap, but to turn around and leave private enterprises such as Hobby Lobby in a position of either compromising on core beliefs or facing massive government penalties.

The question then is, does the First Amendment stop at the church door, or does it apply to all Americans as we go about our daily lives, including those of us who do not wear clerical collars?

This is a massively important debate, striking to the heart of what it means to be a free people. Does the Bill of Rights apply to people, or is it only for institutions?

I don’t know of course, but I believe that President Obama expected the Catholic Church to accept his compromise and abandon the Hobby Lobbies out there. I am happy to report that, if that’s what he expected, he was wrong.

Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops came down on the side of individual liberty and freedom of conscience. They reiterated their opposition to the HHS Mandate and proclaimed their support for all people of faith in their right to practice their faith without government bullying.

I am, once again, proud of the bishops. I am determined to stand with them and with my brothers and sisters in Christ of every denomination in this fight.

Cardinal Dolan’s entire statement is below. You can find more information at the USCCB website.

Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan Responding to Feb. 1 Proposal from HHS

For almost a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have worked hard to support the right of every person to affordable, accessible, comprehensive, life-affirming healthcare.As we continue to do so, our changeless values remain the same.We promote the protection of the dignity of all human life and the innate rights that flow from it, including the right to life from conception to natural death; care for the poorest among us and the undocumented; the right of the Church to define itself, its ministries, and its ministers; and freedom of conscience.

Last Friday, the Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the HHS mandate that requires coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions.The Administration indicates that it has heard some previously expressed concerns and that it is open to dialogue.With release of the NPRM, the Administration seeks to offer a response to serious matters which have been raised throughout the past year.We look forward to engaging with the Administration, and all branches and levels of government, to continue to address serious issues that remain. Our efforts will require additional, careful study.Only in this way can we best assure that healthcare for every woman, man and child is achieved without harm to our first, most cherished freedom.

In evaluating Friday’s action regarding the HHS mandate, our reference remains the statement of our Administrative Committee made last March, United for Religious Freedom, and affirmed by the entire body of bishops in June 2012.

In that statement, we first expressed concern over the mandate’s “exceedingly narrow” four-part definition of “religious employer,” one that exempted our houses of worship, but left “our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need” subject to the mandate.This created “a ‘second class’ of citizenship within our religious community,” “weakening [federal law's] healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity.”And the exemption effectuated this distinction by requiring “among other things, [that employers] must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith.”

On Friday, the Administration proposed to drop the first three parts of the four-part test.This might address the last of the concerns above, but it seems not to address the rest.The Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries. It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an “accommodation,” rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches. And finally, it seems to take away something that we had previously—the ability of an exempt employer (such as a diocese) to extend its coverage to the employees of a ministry outside the exemption.

Second, United for Religious Freedom explained that the religious ministries not deemed “religious employers” would suffer the severe consequence of “be[ing] forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.”After Friday, it appears that the government would require all employees in our “accommodated” ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy.In part because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies.Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities. Here, too, we will continue to analyze the proposal and to advocate for changes to the final rule that reflect these concerns.

Third, the bishops explained that the “HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all:individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values.”This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it.Friday’s action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this “third class.”In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath.We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.

Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few.Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage.We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks.Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all.At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York
February 7, 2013

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The I Woulda Killed Him Deader Than You Did Debate

What’s a Christian to do when the political debate in the campaign for President of the United States descends to a question of who would have killed Osama bin Laden first and deadest?

Is this all these two candidates have to offer us? Is it what we can expect through the summer and fall as they slash and burn, trying to get themselves elected?

On the one hand, we have the president, who has attacked the Catholic Church and religious freedom. On the other hand, we have a man who appears to change his beliefs when it suits his ambitions, who, when he was governor of Massachusetts, signed into law a health care plan that actually used tax payer money to pay for abortions.

For the past few weeks, they’ve been tossing verbal grenades back and forth over the death of Osama bin Laden. President Obama was elected under something of a cloud four years ago. A lot of people thought he was a secret Muslim, that he would sell us out to Al Qaeda. Now, he points to the corpse of bin Laden and says, “See?”

Romney, not to be outdone, comes back with stout claims that he would have done the same thing if he’d had the chance, in fact, he would have done it sooner and meaner and, and, well, he would have killed bin Laden deader than dead, he would have killed him deadest.

Meanwhile, here I am, out on the Oklahoma prairie, trying to follow Jesus, trying to stand up for the First Amendment, trying, in the face of this barrage of unseemly non-squiturs and spin, to figure out what’s best for my country.

I love Jesus. I love my Church. I love America. I love my children and my family who will live out their lives in this country.

How do I be faithful to those four great loves and vote for either one of these guys?

Am I the only person in this country who’d like a better choice?

I know there are party loyalists, the yella dog Democrats and the die-hard Republicans, who would vote for anyone anytime who had a “D” or an “R” after their name on the ballot. I know also that some people hate the Catholic Church and its moral voice so much that they will throw the First Amendment under the bus if that’s what it takes to harm the Church. I know there are people who don’t care one way or the other about abortion.

But, I’m not one of them.

I’d like a president who had a center, beliefs and ideals, to see him through the challenges of the job. I’d like a president who honestly valued the lives of every person throughout their span of years, from conception to natural death. I’d like a president who respected the Constitution and religious freedom. I’d like a president who was grounded in a strong Christian faith.

These men are asking us to trust them with our country, with America. They’re asking us to put our lives, our futures and our children’s futures in their hands. It would be nice, in the course of this campaign, if they could elevate their discussion at least somewhat above the I woulda killed him deader than you did debate.

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