Ben Johnson

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Dem. congressman lectures bishop, rabbi, Christian leaders on HHS mandate

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 17, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – As religious leaders – including a bishop, ordained ministers, and a rabbi – testified before a House committee that the HHS birth control mandate violates their religious liberty, Democratic congressman Gerry Connolly burst into a three-minute soliloquy accusing them of being “complicit in the trampling of freedom.”

The House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing on the health care mandate yesterday morning entitled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”

“I have to assume each of you gentlemen came here in good faith, but surely it hasn’t escaped your attention that you’re being used for a political agenda,” Rep. Connolly accused. “Maybe you’re willingly being used, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s in your heart.”

“I think this is a shameful exercise, and I am very sad that you have chosen to participate and be used the way you’re being used,” he told members of the first panel, which included a Catholic bishop, two representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention, the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and a rabbi from Yeshiva University.

“Here you are being asked to testify about your rights being trampled on – an overstatement if there ever was one,” Connolly said. “Your participation on the panel makes you complicit in of course the trampling of freedom, because we were denied, on this side of the aisle, any witness who might have a differing point of view.”

The committee’s Republican majority and Democratic minority clashed bitterly in the days leading up to the hearing over the nature of the hearing and the number of witnesses Democrats should be able to call. Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-CA, said the hearings were devoted exclusively to religious liberty, while minority members wanted to focus the hearings on contraception.

In an impassioned speech, Connolly said to the Christian leaders assembled to testify, “This is a panel designed – with your conscious participation or not – to try one more time to embarrass the president of the United States and his administration by overstating an issue which is sacred to all Americans, religious freedom.” Accusing his colleagues of “political demagoguery in an election year,” Connolly said, “men and women of the cloth it seems to me ought to run, not walk, away from that line.”

He also criticized South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy for asking if the panelists would go to prison before violating their consciences.

When asked,  Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport replied, “We are not going to violate our conscience.” Dr. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missour Synod agreed, “Yes, I would [go to jail], clearly.” Dr. Craig Mitchell of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said, “I’d like to be in his cell.”

Later in the hearing, Dr. Mitchell told the committee, “Tens of thousands of us, maybe hundreds of thousands of us, would be willing to spend a night in jail for the preservation of religious liberty.”

“These guys are either going to have to go to jail because they won’t violate their religious beliefs,” Gowdy said, “or the hospitals and the schools are going to close, which means government is gonna get bigger, because they’re going to have to fill the void when you guys quit doing it – and maybe that’s what they wanted all along.”

That assertion was “beyond the pale,” Connolly said. “As if people are going to jail on this. Shame. Everybody knows that’s not true.” Rep. Lacy Clay, D-MO, agreed the hearings had sunk to a level of “disingenuousness.”

Some members later apologized to the religious leaders for their colleagues’ behavior. Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma joked, “This is not something probably you anticipated a year ago to think, gosh wouldn’t it be great sometime in 2012 if I could go be on a Congressional hearing and just get berated publicly?”

The religious leaders responded graciously under fire – Rep. Connolly asked no questions of them – but continually reasserted the seriousness of eroding the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of religion..

Bp. Lori said the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops has an ad hoc committee on religious liberty “because we have massive concerns about religious liberty at the state and national levels. Massive concerns.”

Dr. Ben Mitchell of Union University warned the Obama administration was “clearly hollowing out the idea of religious liberty.”

Religious institutions that refuse to comply with the mandate to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs as part of their health care coverage face fines that could force them to close their doors. Dr. Harrison said his preliminary research showed his denomination could face “tens of millions of dollars” in fines if it loses its grandfathered status in the health care agreement and is forced to provide abortifacients. At the second panel Dr. William K. Thierfelder, the president of Belmont Abbey College calculated it would cost the college – associated with a monastery – $300,000 a year if it refused to comply. His college is suing the Obama administration for violating the First Amendment.

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University said, although he had no objection to contraception or the health care bill, he worried what future government edicts might affect members of his own religion. “When I see the religious leaders of one pretty large religious community in this country say this government mandate is seeking to force us to violate a tenet of our faith, and see then the admininistration say, well that’s too bad, that makes small denominations or faiths in this country begin to wonder” what may be in store, he said. “Not only is this an outrageous violation of one particular faith’s religious freedom, it’s quite frightening to all of us who care about our religious freedom.”

He said testified only because“the president and the administration just do not seem sensitive to religious concerns.”

Seeking to balance the pitched nature of the hearings. Dr. Harrison said, “I really loathe the partisan nature of this discussion…I personally get on my knees every single morning in my office, and I pray for this president and for my government.”

“This provision is draconian,” he said.


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Émile Bayard's classic illustration of Cosette in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.
Anthony Esolen Anthony Esolen Follow Anthony

Tracts and sermons alone won’t form pro-life children. Here’s what will.

Anthony Esolen Anthony Esolen Follow Anthony
By Anthony Esolen

What is remarkable in our age is not that half of our citizens believe it is wrong to kill the child in the womb, the child whose existence, except in the rare case of rape, is owing to our own voluntary actions.  That would be like congratulating ourselves for believing that it's wrong to steal someone's car, to lie under oath to hurt an enemy, to throw our aged parents into the street, or to desecrate churches.  Where is the great moral insight?  What's remarkable instead is that half of us believe it is all right to snuff out the life of that child – because nothing must be allowed to interfere with our “right” to pursue pleasure, as we use the child-making thing as a sweating-off spa on our way to money, prestige, a five-bathroom mansion for two, a tenured chair in Women's Studies, the mayoralty of Camden, another year of nights out on the town, whatever.

How have we come to this pass?  Our imaginations are stunted or diseased, that's how.
 Let churchgoers beware.  You cannot spread pro-life icing on a cake made of flour and rat poison.  Our children meet with rat poison everywhere.  Do they watch Friends on television, that un-funny amoral “comedy” about nihilist young urbanites trading depressions in the mattress with one another?  Rat poison.  Do they watch movies like – well, the moronic Titanic, wherein a shrewish girl and a pouty boy fornicate before they are swallowed by the deep blue sea?  Rat poison.  Do their school teachers feed them such exalted lyric poetry as that of Sylvia Plath, imagining what it would be like to smash her sleeping husband's head like a rotten pumpkin?  Or the bogus Laramie Project, making a hero out of a deeply disturbed young man, killed in a meth deal?  Or Toni Morrison's maudlin obsessions with race and adultery?  Is it an endless cafeteria of ghouls, vampires, girl-murderers – Lord of the Flies, without the severe moral imagination and the talent of William Golding?  Lord of the Flies, Lady of the Flies, Cheerleaders of the Flies, Lifeguard of the Flies, Mr. Goodbar of the Flies, Fight Club of the Flies, Hunger of the Flies?  Rat poison, with that peculiar character of rat poison, that the more the critter consumes, the thirstier it grows.  Vice is the addiction that mimics the habit of virtue.  One hour a week on Sunday does not flush out the strychnine.  Theology lessons are band-aids when your arteries are porous inside.  The forming of a moral imagination is not something additional in the education of a child.  It is the education of a child. 

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Your child sees a commercial for Planned Predators.  The commercial baldly states that it doesn't matter who your “partners” are, how many you have, or what you do – because you are the only one who has any say in the matter, and nobody has the right to judge you.  This is not the morality of a cad or a tramp.  Cads and tramps have attacks of conscience.  It is the bland oh-so-self-assured anti-morality of a demon.  It is one hundred proof grain stupidity.  It is distilled evil.  Now, we want to raise children who will do more than say, “I don't agree with that.”  Wonderful enlightenment!  We want to raise children who would look upon anyone who uttered such a thing as they would look upon someone who would fish his food out of a septic tank: incomprehensible, base, inhuman, insane.  That's the negative.  Let me give the positive.  We want to raise children who will understand and cherish the virtues of love and purity.  Those virtues must not remain mere terms or notions.  We must clothe them with flesh and blood.  Consider the following scene from Victor Hugo's masterpiece, Les Miserables.  Two pure young people, Marius and Cosette, have long beheld one another from a distance.  They have fallen in love, and finally, after many months and much seeking, the youth and the maiden meet and speak.  Here is how Hugo describes what they do every evening:

Throughout the month of May . . . in that poor, wild garden, under that shrubbery each day more perfumed and dense, two human beings composed of every chastity and every innocence, overflowing with all the felicities of Heaven, closer to archangels than men, pure, honest, intoxicated, radiant, glowed for each other in the darkness.  It seemed to Cosette that Marius had a crown, and to Marius that Cosette had a halo.  They touched, they gazed at each other, they clasped hands, they pressed close together; but there was a distance they did not pass.  Not that they respected it; they were ignorant of it.  Marius felt a barrier, Cosette's purity, and Cosette had a support, Marius' loyalty.  The first kiss was also the last.  Since then, Marius had not gone beyond touching Cosette's hand, or her scarf, or her curls, with his lips.  Cosette was to him a perfume, and not a woman.  He breathed her.  She refused nothing and he asked nothing.  Cosette was happy, and Marius was satisfied.  They were living in that ravishing condition that might be called the dazzling of one soul by another.  It was that ineffable first embrace of two virginities within the ideal.

Victor Hugo was a man well acquainted with the squalor of the streets, and the wicked things that people do to themselves and one another.  His blood ran hot, not cold – hot with indignation against the wickedness, and hot with greathearted love for what is noblest in man; with what he would call the work of God in man.  Our purveyors of rat poison have not witnessed one hundredth of the miseries and the sins that he witnessed!  But they turn our children's vision to what is dark and dead, and he raises our eyes to the everlasting hills, whence cometh our help.
 We want to raise boys like Marius and girls like Cosette.  We cannot do it with tracts in church teaching and a sermon on Sunday, as needful as those things are.  They may give us the moral, but they do not nourish the imagination.  Without story, without flesh and blood, they flare in the ear but do not ring in the conscience.  Hence the need for art and song, for stories and poetry.  Jesus taught in parables.  These are not just instruments.  They are of the essence.


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

Medical staff arrested in India after accidentally aborting baby at 8 months

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

A doctor and a nurse at a prominent private hospital in India have been arrested after they allegedly administered abortion drugs to a eight-months pregnant woman accidentally, resulting in the death of her unborn child.

"We have immediately registered a case and arrested the doctor, whose negligent act has caused this," said South Jammu Superintendent of Police Rahul Malik, according to the Hindustan Times.

The woman's husband, Rakesh Sharma, told the paper that the doctor mistook Shruti Sharma for another patient who was scheduled for an abortion at the JK Medicity Hospital in Jammu on Friday afternoon.

Shruti had gone to the hospital after her gynecologist advised a routine medical examination to safeguard her and her baby's health.

Rakesh alleged that the doctor gave his wife the abortion pills without consulting her medical records. “Doctors and paramedical staff instead of administering glucose, gave her abortion medicine, which was actually meant for another patient,” he said.

"It is the worst case of negligence. I feel strongly that such hospitals should be closed. If this has happened to me today, tomorrow it can happen to any body else," Rakesh said.

While the JK Medicity's administration said it has launched an inquiry into the incident, a report from the Jagran Post stated that the district government has revoked the hospital's license.

"Jammu and Kashmir Government has ordered sealing of the private clinic after suspension of its license to operate in the wake of the incident," said Minister for Health and Medical Education Taj Mohiuddin according to the report.

National media have reported that the incident has brought illegal abortion practices in India to the attention of both the public and government officials.

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According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, abortion is legal in India up to 20 weeks. However, the opinion of a second doctor is required if the pregnancy is past its 12th week, and abortion-inducing drugs such as mifepristone and misoprostol are allowed only by prescription up until the seventh week of pregnancy.

Moreover, abortions can be performed only in government licensed medical institutions by registered abortionists.

Indian Express reported that the accused in the incident, Dr. Amarjeet Singh, practices ayurvedic medicine (traditional Hindu medicine) and is "unsuitable for carrying out abortions."

A video posted by IndiaTV shows the parents surrounded by family members and relatives at a protest outside the JK Medicity hospital where the group is demanding punishment for those involved in the death of the child.


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Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

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News editor fired for criticizing ‘gay Bible’, files complaint

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten
By Kirsten Anderson

The former editor-in-chief of Iowa’s Newton Daily News has filed a religious discrimination complaint after he was fired over a post on his private blog criticizing the pro-gay Queen James Bible.

The Bible revision was produced by homosexual activists who claim to have edited the eight most commonly cited verses against homosexual behavior “in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible.”

On his private blog, which has since been deactivated, Bob Eschliman wrote in April that “the LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo” are trying to reword the Bible “to make their sinful nature ‘right with God.’”

After public outcry from homosexual activists, Shaw Media, which owns the paper, fired him on May 6.

In a statement the day of his firing, Shaw Media President John Rung said Eschliman’s “airing of [his opinion] compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it.”

“There will be some who will criticize our action, and mistakenly cite Mr. Eschliman’s First Amendment rights as a reason he should continue on as editor of the Newton Daily News,” Rung said.  “As previously stated, he has a right to voice his opinion. And we have a right to select an editor who we believe best represents our company and best serves the interests of our readers.”

Rung said the company has a duty “to advocate for the communities we serve” and that “to be effective advocates, we must be able to represent the entire community fairly.”

Eschliman, who has been writing professionally since 1998 and became editor-in-chief of the Newton Daily News in 2012, says that the company was aware of his personal blog when he was hired and never indicated it would be a problem for him to continue sharing his personal political and religious views.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

In his religious discrimination complaint against the company, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), he says that he believes he was singled out for termination because of his Christian views concerning homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.”

“As a lifelong writer, I have maintained a personal blog on the Internet with some personal thoughts and writings,” Eschliman wrote. “Newton Daily News, my employer, never had a policy prohibiting personal blogging, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media. In fact, my employer encouraged us to engage in social media on a personal level and I am aware of several employees of Newton Daily News who continue to blog and are still employed with Shaw Media.”

“There is no question that I was fired for holding and talking about my sincerely held religious beliefs on my personal blog during my off-duty time from the comfort of my own home,” Eschliman wrote. “Shaw Media directly discriminated against me because of my religious beliefs and my identity as an evangelical Christian who believes in Holy Scripture and the Biblical view of marriage.

“Moreover, Shaw Media announced that not only were they firing me based upon my religious beliefs, but that they would not hire or allow anyone to work at Shaw Media who holds religious beliefs similar to mine, which would include an automatic denial of any accommodation of those who share my sincerely held religious beliefs,” he added.

Neither Shaw Media nor the Newton Daily News have been willing to provide further comment to the press on the matter, citing pending litigation.

Matthew Whitaker, an attorney with Liberty Institute who is assisting Eschliman with his complaint, said the law is on his client’s side.

“No one should be fired for simply expressing his religious beliefs,” Whitaker said in a statement. “In America, it is against the law to fire an employee for expressing a religious belief in public.  This kind of religious intolerance by an employer has no place in today’s welcoming workforce.”

According to Whitaker, if the EEOC rules in Eschliman’s favor, Shaw Media could be forced to give him back pay, front pay, and a monetary settlement.


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