Building the Stepford Congress: Chicago Dems and Gun Control

 

Puppet politicians are the order of the day in today’s campaign world.

If an elected official crosses the party line, they may find themselves being attacked by their own party, instead of the other guys.

Just ask former Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Halverson of Chicago. Rep. Halverson is the front runner in a field of 15 (previsously 16) candidates for the Congressional seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Junior.

During her time in office, Rep Halverson racked up a mixed position on gun control. She voted for some gun control measures and against others. She also stated then as she does now that gun control is not the answer to the violent deaths in this country. Her believes that we need to look at the social order itself for our long-term solutions.

This position is clear evidence of independent thinking on Halverson’s part. Sadly, it appears that independent thinking is something that the Democratic Party is will no longer allow it’s elected officials to do.

The response by the national Democratic Party to Rep Halverson’s candidacy has evidently been to load in huge amounts of money against the Congresswoman. The greatest irony is that they appear to be working with the Republican New York mayor and his “super pac” in an effort to defeat Congresswoman Halverson.

I remember years ago when Democrats prided themselves on being the party where people could think for themselves. We had more than a bit of contempt for the threats and bullying we saw the Republicans heap on one another. We didn’t think much of those folks who did what they were told and never had a thought of their own. Sadly, the Democrats have become more and more like the Republicans in this matter until now they are virtually indistinguishable from them.

In both political parties, elected officials either toe the line or pay the price of being attacked by their own party. People they thought were friends become enemies in a single hour. That is politics in today’s America. It’s ugly. It’s cruel. It is totally without personal honor. And it works to silence the voice of the people in elections.

Enter the Stepford Congress and it’s unending failure to act on behalf of the common good. Instead of independent thinking what we have instead are a bunch of legislative “mules” who carry legislation for special interests and do whatever they are told by the left and right wing nuts who control them.

I am not commenting specifically about the gun control issue in this post. I would feel the same if the situation was reversed and the Congresswoman was being attacked by her political party for favoring gun control. The issue at hand is not what an individual political candidate thinks. It is whether or not they are going to be allowed to think for themselves.

I really do not care who the voters in this Congressional district chose to be their voice in Washington. I only hope that whoever they pick he or she is an independent thinker and not someone who will be part of the Stepford Congress.

A Fox News interview with Congresswoman Halverson is below. I’m impressed by how hard she tries to take the high road in all this.

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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.)

A Few Quick Takes on Obama’s State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address tonight.

There were no surprises in the speech. Most of what the President said has been in the news for a long time now. In fact, several of his major proposals, such as gun control, have been the subject of presidential speeches or press conferences in the past few weeks.

I agree with some of his ideas and disagree with others. Quite a bit of the speech was filler of one sort or the other, either introducing people who the president felt would exemplify the need for his proposals, or in just illustrating and explaining what he wanted.

I’ve attempted to boil it down to a few quick takes to make it easier to see where he wants to take the country. We’ve already discussed several of these proposals quite a bit here on Public Catholic. I expect that we will go over some of them in even greater depth in the future.

In the meantime, here are my quick takes on the President’s speech. If you think I left out something important, feel free to bring it up in the comments section.

Jobs, Taxes and Wages

1. … we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful … we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.

2. I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.

3. Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.

4. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

The Deficit, Health Care & Energy

1. Reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.

2. Save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. 

3. My Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water

Climate Change

1. We must do more to combat climate change. 

2. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.

Home Ownership

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Take a vote, and send me that bill.

Education

1. Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. 

2. I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

Immigration

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Cyber Terrorism

1. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

2. Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

3. America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

International Trade Agreements 

1. We intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.

2. We will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.

The Military and Defense Spending

1. We will maintain the best military in the world.

2. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight.

3. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.

Long Voting Lines

When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. 

Gun Control 

1. Background checks

2. New laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.

3. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets.

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 addresses the Democratic National Convention, 2012

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

President Obama Supports Boy Scouts of America Allowing Gay Scout Leaders

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama gave his support to recent moves by the Boys Scouts of America to end its policy of not allowing gay Scout leaders or Scouts in an interview today. He also said that he will not hesitate to send women into combat.

Boy Scouts of America won a United States Supreme Court case (Boy Scouts of America vs Dal) in 2000. The Court held that a Constitutional Right to Freedom of Association allowed exclude a person from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.”

BSA has come under criticism since then for taking the position that Scout leaders and Scouts could not be gay. The current discussion is whether or not the Boy Scouts should change this position to allow local affiliates to decide this matter for themselves.

The Reuters article describing President Obama’s comments on the matter says in part:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Sunday encouraged the Boy Scouts of Americato end its ban on gay members and leaders, days before the group is expected to vote on the controversial and long-standing rule.

In an interview with CBS, anchor Scott Pelley asked the president if he believed scouting should be open to gays.

“Yes,” Obama said simply.

… The BSA national executive board is expected to vote Wednesday, the last day of a three-day meeting, on whether to lift the ban it had reaffirmed just last year.

The organization said last month it was considering ending its national ban on gay youth and adult members and leaving policies on sexual orientation to its local organizations.

Since coming into office, Obama has presided over several moves to reduce discrimination against gays, including ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevented gay men and women from serving openly in the military.

He also stopped his administration from defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbade gay married couples from obtaining the same benefits that heterosexual couples receive.

Obama also voiced his support for gay rights during his high profile second Inaugural address last month.

Separately on Sunday, Obama said he would have no hesitation sending women into combat after the Pentagon lifted its long-time ban last month. (Read more here.)

Obama Didn’t Blink. We Can’t Either.

I’ve found that evil usually triumphs…unless good is very, very careful.

–DR. MCCOY, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Omega Glory”

I’m going to take my time commenting about President Obama’s recent “compromises” on the HHS Mandate. I want to let the fur fly for a while.

In the meantime, here are a few facts and a couple of opinions that I want you to think about as we winnow through the political/media chaff.

1. President Obama did not offer this “compromise” because he was being a statesman. He was responding to the fact that his administration was under a court order to live up to its promises concerning the mandate. I wrote about this when it happened. You can find that post here.

A Hobby Lobby store. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund.

2. Hobby Lobby’s attorney made a statement to ProLife News affirming what many people had already surmised: The President’s “compromise” will not help companies like Hobby Lobby. I will put an excerpt of this statement and another link to it below.

Cardinal Dolan addresses the Democratic National Convention, 2012

3. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is taking much the same approach to this “compromise” that I am. They want to read through it and think. Their statement says:

In response to today’s release of revised regulations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, provided the following statement on behalf of the USCCB.

“Today, the Administration issued proposed regulations regarding the HHS mandate. We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.”

4. I gave my initial reaction to the “compromise” yesterday when I wrote HHS Mandate: Did Obama Blink? My feeling then as now is that no, he did not blink. And we shouldn’t, either.

5. My opinion is that President Obama did the least he could do and still give an appearance of cooperating with the federal court order that his administration was under. I also think that his slave dogs in the media will tout this as the “great compromise” that it is not and that members of the public who either (a) worship President Obama, or, (b) hate Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular will follow right along with this obvious lie.

The article published by ProLifeNews about the statement from Hobby Lobby’s attorney says in part:

“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans. The rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby are still being violated,” Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty, said.

He said, “The Becket Fund continues to study what effect, if any, the Administration’s proposed rule has on the many lawsuits on behalf of non-profit religious organizations like Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, EWTN, Houston Baptist University, and Wheaton College.” (Read more here.)

HHS Mandate: Did Obama Blink?

I’ve found that evil usually triumphs…unless good is very, very careful.

–DR. MCCOY, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Omega Glory”

Franks Weathers, who blogs at Why I am Catholic, posted some interesting news this morning.

There are signs that the Obama Administration is reading the court-ruling tea leaves and has decided to maybe, perhaps, accede on the HHS Mandate — at least to the point of living up to a few of the promises it made in the past.

After misrepresenting the HHS Mandate all the way through the 2012 campaign (“It protects ‘women’s health.’”) and steadfastly ignoring the promises that it made concerning the Mandate, the administration may be backing down just a bit.

As Frank Weathers notes, the probable reason for this move is that the administration has been losing in courts around the land precisely because of these very public promises it made and then failed to keep.

I’m a little chary of this. I expect that the White House will pump out a few “compromises” that are designed to offer as little relief as possible. Then, it will trumpet this action as having satisfied every problem with the HHS Mandate. I then expect the press and the Pavlovian Church haters to follow through by casting these minuscule changes as acts of great statesmanship and a total resolution of the problem.

The trouble I foresee is that the so-called compromises won’t resolve the problems with the HHS Mandate. They will not end the attack it represents to religious freedom. What these grand compromises will effect is to weaken the case of those who oppose the mandate without actually granting them relief.

Of course, I could be wrong. President Obama may actually back down. He might even  decide that attacking the First Amendment clause about the government not interferring with the free exercise of religion is a bridge too far, a legacy he doesn’t want.

The reason I’m cautious in my expectations is that I keep remembering that this president lied to Congressman Bart Stupak and other pro life Democratic Congressmen when he told them that the Affordable Health Care Act would not interfere with freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Our president is a good gamesman. He plays the public and the press like a harmonica. But he also has a track record on this very issue of promising much and then delivering the opposite of what he promised.

I’m waiting to see what he says he’s going to do. Then, I’ll wait again and see what he actually does.

Frank Weathers has written a great analysis of the current moves by the White House which says in part:

Back in December, I shared thoughts that perhaps the Administration will scuttle this ridiculous rule out of embarrassment alone. I mean, the phony war on women trope worked well enough to secure reelection, but in reality, it isn’t holding up in the courts.

Most likely they won’t scuttle it, but heavily modify it instead. The courts clamping down on the Administration to produce their promised changes certainly puts the HHS under pressure to get this done. CNN has sources who say the modification is forthcoming.

To read more, go to The Administration Rolling Back the HHS Mandate? CNN Thinks Yes.

Also, Elizabeth Scalia has an excellent analysis of the President’s “compromise” here and Frank Weathers posted an update here.  It’s pretty much what I predicted, including the orchestrated hosannas from the press.

Will Legalizing Gay Marriage in Britain Result in Coercive Attacks on Freedom of Conscience?


Great Britain’s government will vote soon on gay marriage. Christians have expressed concern that such a change in the law might result in attacks on freedom of conscience.

Supporters of the measure have rushed to assure the public that such fears are groundless.

Now, where have we heard things like this before?

Oh yes. It was President Obama, promising that Obamacare would not infringe on religious freedom and individual rights of conscience.

That was only a few months before a hand-picked committee of the Health and Human Services Department “passed” the HHS Mandate, which the same president who had made these promises signed and then misrepresented to the American people as being about “women’s health care.”

Good luck, British Christians. Judging by what has happened elsewhere, you’re going to need it.

A Christian Post article concerning the upcoming vote on same-sex marriage and freedom of conscience in Great Britain says in part:

UK Government Source: Teachers May Face Firing for Refusing to Teach Gay Marriage
Katherine Weber (“The Christian Post,” January 25, 2013)

As Great Britain’s government prepares to vote on a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, an official from the Secretary of State for Education’s office reportedly has expressed trepidation toward the bill, arguing that primary school teachers in the country could possibly lose their jobs if they do not teach about gay marriage in the classroom.

One unnamed senior source from the office of Michael Gove, who serves as the country’s current Secretary of State for Education, has recently said that ultimately the U.K. government is not in control, should a teacher lose their job for refusing to teach same-sex marriage, and the case would ultimately go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, where the European Parliament is located.

“We have had legal advice, the problem is that there is this inherent uncertainty about such matters,” the source told The Telegraph in a Jan. 25 report.

“These are all under the control of nine guys in Strasbourg, it is just fundamentally uncertain because Britain isn’t in control of this,” the source added.

Additionally, those critical of the upcoming same-sex marriage bill argue that hospital chaplains and other people in authority may be faced with difficult decisions when their conscience conflicts with their work protocol.

These statements come after human rights specialist Aidan O’Neill of the Queen’s Counsel argued on behalf of the Coalition For Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage legalization, that he believes teachers, hospital or prison chaplains would be negatively affected by the legalization of the bill.

However, in response to these worries, Maria Miller, Secretary of Culture and Great Britain’s equalities minister, recently stated that teachers and the Church of England will not be put in a compromising position due to the same-sex marriage bill.(Read more here.)

Don’t Take Government Money. Don’t Kiss Caesar’s Ring

“Do not take government money.” 

I have said this to every religious ministry who has given me a venue to speak ever since I came back to public office in 2002.

The only people who give you free money are people who love you, like your parents. The government does not love anybody.

Government money hooks you into government policies, including those that are anathema to you. Religious groups that take government money — and it does not matter which party is in power — will eventually face the requirement that they bend their knee to Caesar and kiss his ring.

I’ve seen leaders of whole Protestant denominations abandon things they have fought for like pro life in response to political pressure.

I remember a few years back reading that national Catholic Charities had received a huge grant from the federal Health and Human Services Department.

I was appalled.

I knew that this money would lead to demands that the Church compromise its teachings. Based on what I’d seen Protestant groups do, I assumed that the Catholic Church would accede to these demands. I thought the money would buy the Church’s moral and prophetic voice, the way I’d seen it buy other religious voices.

I knew that you can not be true to Christ and take government money. You. Can. Not. Do. It.

You can not be an authentic Christian leader and toady to secular power. You. Can. Not. Do. It.

I wrote a post Saturday in which I talked about our personal allegiances; our friendships. I said that sooner or later, you have to chose. You cannot maintain deep intimate friendships with anti-God people and follow Jesus. You have to chose.

This is a parallel post addressed to religious leaders. My point is the same. You cannot base your efforts to bring the Kingdom of God on politics and supporting politicians and political parties. You cannot follow a political party and follow Christ.

You have to chose, and I don’t mean sooner or later when the politically powerful rub your nose in the fact that you “belong” to them and demand that you abandon your beliefs for them. I mean from day one. You cannot bend the Gospels to fit the platforms and the behaviors of either political party and preach Christ.

You will either preach politics.

Or you will preach Christ.

But you cannot do both.

Many Catholic priests are just as guilty as their Protestant brethren of bending the Gospels to suit their politics. You find both Republican and Democrat apologists in their ranks.

They will spout Canon Law and attack good people who oppose the death penalty because, somehow, that isn’t being “pro life” enough about abortion. Not, mind you, that the people they attack support abortion, but that they aren’t focused on it to the exclusion of every other possible sin. Others will try to make us believe that ignoring abortion is the necessary price for concern for the poor.

This is bending the Gospels so they don’t discomfit the politics of one political party or the other. It is not preaching Christ. Both types of priest lead people astray from following Christ and teach them to follow politicians, instead.

The Church itself, however, has been amazingly faithful.

It didn’t take long for what went around to come back around concerning those federal grants. Before you could say three Hail Marys, the Church was embroiled in lawsuits and broadsides, demanding that it refer the women it was helping for abortions or lose the money.

“While the Catholic bishops were entitled to their beliefs, freedom of religion does not mean imposing religious doctrines on others with the use of taxpayer dollars,” said Sarah Wunsch, an ACLU staff attorney.

She was referring to a lawsuit to end a federal grant to Catholic Charities for work aiding victims of human trafficking. A few months after this lawsuit, the federal Department of Health and Human Services revised its guidelines for human trafficking grants to require all recipients to refer for abortion.

The Church could have done as so many others have and simply “wink-winked” its way through this. All it would take was a 3×5 card listing “abortion providers” tucked, ever so casually, into a pile of intake forms. Just touch your lips to the ring. It will be over quickly, and it won’t hurt for long.

Besides, “it was the law.”

That’s what the Church could have done. It’s what everyone else has done. It was the wide and easy way.

I’m sure the government coffers would have opened and rained down gold on the Bishop’s heads if they had just done this. It would have been money, money, money for whatever they wanted.

But they said no. They took the narrow road, the hard way.

The price is that the federal government is now attacking the Church with broadsides like the HHS Mandate.

There is nothing in the Gospels that says you must first acquire a government grant to help the least of these. Following Christ’s teachings means, among other things, that the Church must reach out to people like victims of human trafficking, regardless of what the government wants or does.

The Church has responded to this situation with a new ministry called Amistad.

“We lost a contract, but we’ve not gone away,” said Nathalie Lummert, special-programs director at the USCCB’s Office of Migrant and Refugee Services (MRS). “We’re taking a decade of experience and now are rolling out a new program that brings communities directly into the fight against human trafficking.”

I am so proud of my church for standing for the Gospels in the face of the federal government. I am just as proud of them for their concern for trafficked women and children.

The fact that the Catholic Church refuses to kiss Caesar’s ring on the one hand, or abandon the least of these on the other is, in my opinion, the single best hope we have.

A National Catholic Register Article concerning Amistad says in part:

WASHINGTON — A new innovative weapon in the fight against human trafficking and sex slavery is coming this year from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, more than a year after abortion politics led the Obama administration to kill federal funding for the Church’s top-rated outreach effort.

“We lost a contract, but we’ve not gone away,” said Nathalie Lummert, special-programs director at the USCCB’s Office of Migrant and Refugee Services (MRS). “We’re taking a decade of experience and now are rolling out a new program that brings communities directly into the fight against human trafficking.”

The new initiative of the U.S. bishops’ Anti-Trafficking Program is “The Amistad Movement,” an MRS program that puts the USCCB back in the fight against human trafficking in a major way.

Until 2011, the USCCB had directed a highly regarded, $15-million anti-trafficking program that networked victims with services offered by local interfaith groups, including the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Services, as well as secular nonprofits.

The USCCB program came to a sudden halt, however, when the Department of Health and Human Services announced that “strong preference” would be given to groups that would refer all victims to family-planning services, including “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.” A Washington Post investigation revealed senior HHS political appointees threw out the strong recommendations of an independent review board to renew the USCCB’s contract and disqualified the USCCB over its refusal to reimburse groups that referred victims for abortion and birth-control services.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/u.s.-bishops-bring-new-weapon-to-human-trafficking-fight?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-01-28%2007:05:01#ixzz2JIFe2mvP

Obama’s Inaugural Address: What Did You Think?

President Barack Obama, official portrait

What did you think of President Obama’s Inaugural Address? 

How did it compare with the address he gave four years ago?

Did any part of it resonate with you?

Did it leave you mad, sad, glad or just plain indifferent?

One paragraph in particular got my attention:

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

I doubt that I responded to that paragraph in the way he intended, since, to me at least, defending “our most ancient values and enduring ideals” means, among other things, standing with my Church against the HHS Mandate.

I think it’s critical for you to read these important speeches yourselves and then make up your own minds. What is your opinion of the speech President Obama gave today?

You can find a copy of the speech here.


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