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.

This is a copy of the letter in question:

Letter to boehner religious freedom

Letter to boehner religious freedom page 2

Letter to boehner religious freedom page 3

Signers of this letter are planning a press conference tomorrow. Frank Weathers has the story here.

The Rs and Ds Tie the Republic to a Railroad Track Called Sequester, Then Blame Each Other When the Train Arrives

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I know when I write a post that calls Republicans out on anything, I’m going to hear from many of my Republican pro life friends who are appalled, amazed and angered by what I’ve said.

I know when I write a post that speaks up for human life, freedom of religion or traditional marriage, I’ll get some of the same from the other guys. 

Today is a case in point. 

It turns out that my Republican friends are angry with me because I actually think that their party has something to do with the so-called “sequester” mess that this country is facing. These are the same Republicans who call me a statesman when I go after the President or the Dems for something I don’t like that they do.

Since I have the utmost respect for a couple of the people who are upset with me today, I am going to clarify just a bit.

I think both parties are putting the country at risk to play their little game. I don’t think either party gives a hoot what happens to people like you and me. And I don’t think either party actually believes the stuff they tell us at election time. 

President Obama had a big part in what has happened with the sequester. However, he didn’t make this mess all by his little self. There are some gigantic egos hooked up to little brains on the other side of the fence who have contributed their fair share to this situation.

What they are doing — and they are doing it together — is holding the American people hostage. 

They are also lying to us. That’s why the whole thing is so confusing. It’s impossible for anyone, including, I think, them, to keep track of the lies, sort them out and make sense of the situation. Both sides are lying. Both sides are spinning. Both sides are emailing their stalwarts with their talking points. Both sides. 

Both.

Not one.

Not the other.

Both. Of. Them.

I know it’s only natural for people who’ve staked so much of their trust in the gospel according to their political party to push back when somebody comes along and tells them they’ve been had. But, the truth is, if you’ve believed the propaganda either of our two political parties puts out, you have in fact, been had. 

I write posts like this because I love my country. I believe that we the people have got to stop being such easy marks for political snake oil salesmen who want to use us to obtain power for themselves and do what they please. 

These elected officials work for us. 

Did you know that?

Does anything they do make you feel that they know that?

If the answer is no, then you have already come to a rudimentary understanding of this situation, whether you will admit what you know to yourself or not. It’s not what I’m telling people that upsets them. It’s the fact that they know it’s true and don’t want to face what that truth means. 

What it means, and what they don’t want to face, is that there is no political party on a white horse who is going to save us or our country. This is a Republic, and we the people are going to have to do some of the heavy lifting ourselves. 

You can begin by calling your members of Congress and telling them what you think about the issues that matter to you. I don’t care if you support the sequester or not. I do care that you start thinking for yourselves and acting like free people who have a right to be heard in their own government. 

You can find your Congressperson’s email address and phone number here

The Idiots Did It. We’re Sequestered.

This is the low point in my time in the United States Congress. I can not tell you how ashamed I am.  

Senator Lindsay Graham, talking about the sequester. 

The Republican/Democrat game of chicken went to the next round last night when Congressional stonewalling forced President Obama to make good on his threats and sign the sequester order.

We’re sequestered. The Republican idiots and the Democratic idiots drove us over the cliff. 

What does this mean to you and me? 

I’m going to give you two replies. One will be what I’ve heard is going to happen to Oklahoma (and by derivation, to everyone else.) The second will be a more official summary. 

1. Oklahoma. What I’ve been told is that the sequester will take about .05% out of Oklahoma’s state budget. I’m expressing it in percent because that will make it easier for you to compute the effect on your state. Since so many of these things are based on population, that will be more accurate for you. I’m guessing, but I would imagine that the percentage will be similar in other states, while the numbers will (due to their higher populations) be higher. What that means in Oklahoma is several hundred million dollars which we will have to make up out of our relatively small state budget.

While that may not sound like a lot of money, (by government standards) one of the things that makes it hard to handle is that we are already well into the budget process. Coming as it does as an unplanned-for hit, it will be harder to make it up. Also, a good bit of this will ultimately be off-loaded on parts of the private sector such as the hospitals, who will have to handle the problems it creates in people’s lives out of their budgets. There will also be a hit on the economy, which will result in lower tax revenues, which could result in another round of this further down the line.

Oklahoma has fared relatively well in the recent economic downturn because we are an oil producing state and oil prices have been high. However, our tax revenues will fall if people buy less because of this sequester. 

Our military bases, such as Tinker Air Force Base, are predicting that they will have to furlough people in order to make up their part of the shortfall that they expect from the sequester. I believe other government agencies will be similarly impacted. This, of course, will also affect tax revenues and the overall economy.

I think we will see similar things all across the country, which is why I’m am detailing this here.

2. What the sequester does. 

President Obama was forced to sign the sequestration order as a result of Congress’ failure to act. This means that unless the members of Congress come back from their long weekend off with a new attitude, the sequester will take affect.

The sequester totals around $85 billion which will come out of the budget over the next 10 months. Non defense programs will be cut by 10% and defense programs will be cut by 13%.

Most government programs will be cut. Social security, Children’s health insurance, food stamps and Medicaid will not be cut. Medicare won’t be cut, but payments to providers will shrink by 2%. 

Most other government programs will feel the cut, with furloughs predicted for agencies ranging from the FAA to the Bureau of Prisons. 

It’s a little difficult to predict exactly what will happen since the President and the Republican leadership differ in what they are telling us and I think both of them are spinning things to bolster their case. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn says that agencies have plenty of space in their budgets to handle the cuts. From what I know of government agencies, I think he’s probably right. However, from what I know of government agencies, I doubt that they will do this. 

I expect more gamesmanship, which I expect means that agencies will not “handle” the cuts at all, and you and I will end up paying for all this. 

The worst of the sequester will not hit until April, since, by law, the government furloughs can’t start until employees have been given 30 days’ notice. If this goes on long enough for that to happen, we’ll start feeling it in all sorts of ways, including a sudden, powerful drag on the economy. For more information, go here and here.

In the meantime, as I said earlier, the president was forced to sign the sequester orders and Congress has gone off on a long weekend after a hard week of doing nothing good for the country. I’ve been through legislative fights, and I would guess they need a cooling-off period. The best thing they can do for all of us is go soak their swollen heads.

As for you and me, we have to decide for ourselves if this is how we want our government to work. We keep getting choices between bad and worse at election time. As a consequence, we’ve elected a whole Congress of party hacks who do not care enough about this country to do the nation’s business. 

I have never and I will never tell anyone to change their party. I have always, and I will always tell you that you need to demand that whichever party you are in clean up its act and stop giving us puppet people for elected officials. 

If you want to chat with your Congressional delegation about this, you can find their phone numbers and email addresses here

We elected these people. We can un-elect them. 

Up to Our Earlobes in Alligators: Marriage, Religious Freedom and Fiscal Cliffs, Oh My!

Alligators

We are up to our ears in alligators folks

Trying to respond to all the challenges to faith, sanity and the future of Western Civilization these days is like playing a game of whackamole on speed. 

But there are things you can do. Pick one and do it. Then tomorrow, pick another and do that. 

Here are a few ideas. If you have others, please add them in the comments section.

 

 

Marriage

Now that the president has come out swinging for gay marriage, and Britain and France have heads of state who are doing the same, we appear to be in a losing battle on this one. States are passing gay marriage referendums, poll numbers keep piling up in favor of redefining marriage essentially out of existence, and in Britain and other places where they are further along with this than the USA, the refuse from this change is already piling up.

Christians are losing their jobs, being sued and excluded from public life in those countries because they will not compromise on the Gospels. I’ve been told that Britain is talking about doing away with the legal notion that marriage has anything to do with sexual fidelity, since, (I guess) they think that somehow tracks with gay marriage.

So, what are we to do?

First of all, we are to stay the course. We are to stand our ground. Do not quit on the Gospels of Christ because polls tell you that other people are doing that. Do not ever make following Jesus a matter of what is popular or trendy. 

Second, we need to take good care of our own marriages. Love your spouse. Raise your children. Be there, at home with your family as a true husband or wife; father or mother.

Third, we can pray/fast and offer our concerns about the future of marriage up to the Lord, uniting them with His sufferings. Kathy Schiffer, who blogs at Seasons of Grace, published a post about a suggestion from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here is what part of what she said:

The U.S. Bishops have an idea:  With the Supreme Court about to hear an important case on the rights of homosexuals to marry, the bishops invite you to fast today.  Dedicate your penance, they urge, for the intention of marriage:

For the justices of the Supreme Court, that when they consider two marriage-related cases later this month, they would uphold the authentic meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, a good in itself and for all of society.

This is a good idea.  Just publishing their flyer today, on the day of fast, is NOT such a good idea—I’d have told you (and told myself!) yesterday, had I seen anything in the news about it.  (Of course, it may have been pushed aside due to the dramatic news yesterday, namely, the resignation of our Holy Father.) 

Nonetheless, late is better than not at all; so if you’ve already had breakfast and lunch and some snacks (as I have), consider sacrificing in whatever way you can today:  have dinner an hour late; skip the dessert; don’t eat between meals.  Let us join together to offer our minor mortifications in defense of the sacred institution of marriage.

As Kathy notes, it’s too late to skip eating between meals today. But it’s not too late to engage in another simple type of penance. I am going to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and offer that up. I’m sure you can think of something that will work for you. 

Fourth: We can go to Washington to participate in the March for Marriage on March 26, 2013. We are having our annual Oklahoma March for Life on the 25th, so I don’t know if I can manage to go, but I am looking into it. A reader asked me a couple of weeks ago if I knew how we could manage to communicate with the Supreme Court. I didn’t answer her, because I wasn’t sure what to say. Now I know of one way, and this march is it. 

You can find details at the March for Marriage website here. The March for Marriage Facebook page is here

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I am Catholic, has also written about this march. You can check it out here. I got this great logo from Frank’s blog:

Marriage March



Religious Freedom

I already gave you a “to do” for this one. You need to call or email your United States Senator or Congressperson and ask them to make the repeal of the HHS Mandate their bargaining point in the Fiscal Cliff/Sequester fight. You can find who they are and how to contact them here

You might also drop a note to the National Democratic and Republican Parties, letting them know that you oppose the HHS Mandate and support religious freedom. 

You can email the Republican National Committee here.

You can email the Democratic National Committee here.

Do not underestimate the power of these national parties where issues like this are concerned. In a Congress of Puppet People, they are often the ones who ultimately pull the strings. 

Cross flag

Freedom of Religion Legislative Action Alert

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I received the following legislative action alert concerning the HHS Mandate in an email this morning. 

The alert asks people to contact their Congresspeople urging them to make the repealing the HHS Mandate a sticking point in the Fiscal Cliff/Sequester fight currently going on in Congress right now.

In my opinion, our supporters in Congress should have done this a year ago, before the Mandate took effect. But, later is much better than never. 

You can contact your Senators and Representatives by calling their local offices or you can do it by email. To learn who your elected officials in Washington are, and get their phone numbers and email addresses, go here

This is the full text of the alert, which comes from the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment:

In 2012, the Obama Administration’s contraceptive and sterilization mandate went into effect for most employers. Congress is preparing to consider “must-pass” appropriations legislation. Needed conscience protection provisions should be made a part of this legislation. Today please urge your Representative and two Senators to take action to protect conscience rights and religious liberty!

Recommended Actions:

  • Send an e-mail through NCHLA’s Grassroots Action Center: Click Here
  • Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices. Additional contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at: www.senate.gov andwww.house.gov

Suggested Message: “Please support legislation to protect the rights of conscience in health care when you take up ‘must-pass’ bills such as a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government. Government must not force Americans to violate their religious and moral beliefs on respect for life when they provide health care or sponsor or purchase health coverage. The Administration’s contraceptive mandate forces health coverage to include sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that can cause an abortion, even when employers and employees have moral or religious objections.”

When: Congress may consider “must-pass” appropriations legislation such as a Continuing Resolution as early as the week of March 4. Please contact your Representative and two Senators today! 

Background

In a February 15 letter to Congress, Archbishop William Lori, Chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, described specific conscience protection provisions and why they are needed, concluding: “I urge you in the strongest terms possible to incorporate the provisions described above in the upcoming legislative proposals to fund the federal government.” See:nchla.org/datasource/idocuments/LoriLttr021513.pdf.

Under the new health care law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires most health plans to cover “preventive services for women,” including services that many citizens find objectionable for moral and religious reasons. These objectionable services include sterilization, FDA-approved birth control (such as the IUD, Depo-Provera, ‘morning-after’ pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella), and “education and counseling” to promote these to all “women of reproductive capacity,” including minor girls. The HHS mandate allows only a very narrow exemption for a “religious employer.”

On February 1, HHS released a new “proposed rule” that goes into greater detail on the “accommodation” but continues to allow only a very narrow exemption, chiefly aimed at what it calls “houses of worship.” Other religious organizations offering education, health care and charitable services to all in need do not qualify for the exemption. There is no exemption or delay for individuals, or for businesses owned and operated by individuals with moral or religious objections.

And in Other News … While the Pope was Resigning, the Washington Squirrels were Chattering

I abandoned my fellow politicians for a few days and focused my heart and mind on the historic departure of Pope Benedict XVI. 

I didn’t have time to watch the events unfold on tv, but I did manage to catch a few news clips on the internet. When I saw the Holy Father, hobbling to the helicopter as he left the Vatican, and then hobbling away from it at Castle Gandolfo, it touched my soul. 

Returning from that to the news out of Washington where the dissolution of our government spins along

on lies, egos and a jaw-dropping lack of concern for the welfare of this country and its people was a little like stepping out of a warm bed straight into a blizzard. What a painful return to the garbage the people we’ve entrusted with our government are spitting out. 

So much madness has happened and is happening while I was pope watching that I’m going to summarize the most ugly stories to bring us up to speed. Here, for your consternation is what is going on in our nation’s capitol.

1. Sequester. They’re now calling the old “Fiscal Cliff” the “Sequester.”

Fancy name change, same old … I’m grasping for a word to describe it that isn’t vulgar or profane … same old irresponsibility. From the comments people usually make on this blog, I expect everyone to line up behind their team and blame the other guy. Not me. My days of pavlovian partisanship are long past. I’m for the USA, and I’m pretty well convinced that the R and the D are only for the R and the D. 

Today, or tonight rather, we are set to go over another fiscal cliff by means of what they are now calling a sequester. What that refers to without the gloss of obscure verbiage is that a round of budget cuts will go into effect in a mindless and punishing fashion which will hurt you and me and our country. This will happen because the overgrown children in Washington care more about pushing one another around than doing the jobs we elected them to do. 

I am well aware that commenters on this blog will say “What could my guys do but throw pies in the face of the other guys?” Just remember folks, those pies they are throwing are your jobs, your house payment, your future. We need to reduce the deficit, sure, but not by just taking a pair of scissors to the things that matter the most in an attempt to scare the other side into bending our way. That’s not deficit reduction, that’s playing chicken with our futures to prove who’s the manliest man in Washington DC. 

2. Bob Woodward, President Obama and the utterly biased, nutso Obama press.

Bob Woodward called President Obama out for what was an obvious … searching again for a word that is not vulgar or profane … piece of political gamesmanship at the expense of the nation. 

It seems President Obama went over the top in his attempts to rally the American people behind his team in the on-going Fiscal Cliff … er … Sequester games by announcing that the aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman couldn’t leave for the Persian Gulf as scheduled because, well, because the “Sequester” meant we didn’t have the money to send them. 

Bob Woodward, who is not exactly a right wing stalwart, violated the Obama press rules by actually disagreeing with the President, calling his actions “a kind of madness.” In a country where the press lines up behind “their” team in these partisan battles with the same pavlovian mindlessness that our elected officials do, Bob Woodward’s comments were nothing short of lemming treason. Puppet politicians pay a price when they cut their strings, as do members of the puppet press. 

I’ll bet Bob Woodward is eating lunch all by himself these days. 

There you have it. The DC boys are still behaving like boys playing soldier behind their cardboard box forts in mama’s living room. The trouble for us is that it’s not mama’s living room; it’s our nation’s capitol, and those aren’t cardboard boxes; they’re the future of our country. 

How sad for all of us. 


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