Kathleen Gilbert

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Evangelical, Jewish leaders unite against Obama birth control mandate

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, December 23, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Over sixty leaders of faith-based organizations or who work with faith-based organizations wrote a public letter the Obama administration protesting the very narrow exemption to the health insurance contraceptives mandate. The letter also asked that the administration not adopt in its place a different definition of “religious employer” for the exemption, suggested by some groups, that would still leave out many faith-based organizations.

Signatories of the letter include Protestant and orthodox Jewish leaders representing several religious colleges and universities, k-12 schools, grassroots faith-based organizations, denominations, law associations, rescue missions, and more. Up until now, U.S. Bishops and other Catholic groups have mounted the most vocal opposition to the upcoming mandate, which would force virtually all employers to offer birth control, including abortifacient drugs, without copay.

Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Tom Minnery, Senior Vice President of Focus on the Family; Stanley Carlson-Thies, President of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance; and Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, were among the signatories.

The letter came soon after Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) President Patrick Reilly raised the alarm over an alternative definition of “religious employer” proposed by the Catholic Health Association and the University of Notre Dame that he said would still leave unprotected many faith-based service organizations.

The religious leaders concurred that the proposed revision would threaten several faith-based groups, and would write into federal law a definition of “religious employer” that wrongly encompasses only churches and church-controlled organizations.

The letter was circulated to and signed only by non-Catholic organizations and leaders.

“We write not in opposition to Catholic leaders and organizations; rather, we write in solidarity, but separately—to stress that religious organizations and leaders of other faiths are also deeply troubled by and opposed to the mandate and the narrow exemption,” it stated.

“If one were to believe what the media reports and what some Democratic legislators say about the HHS mandate, it was only Catholics who had a problem with the contraceptive mandate,” noted CNS on Thursday. “This letter shows that the concern about the religious freedom implications of the health insurance contraceptive mandate is much broader.”

In addition, The Becket Fund announced Wednesday that Colorado Christian University had become the first Evangelical school to fight the abortifacient birth control mandate in court. CCU’s lawsuit joins one filed by Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic institution, last month.

The letter and the list of signatories follows:

Dear Mr. President:

We write to express our deep concern about the contraceptives mandate in the health insurance regulations, and about the “religious employer” exemption that is so narrow that it does not protect most faith-based organizations.

We write to you specifically as organizations and leaders that are not part of the Catholic community. We write not in opposition to Catholic leaders and organizations; rather, we write in solidarity, but separately—to stress that religious organizations and leaders of other faiths are also deeply troubled by and opposed to the mandate and the narrow exemption.

Most press reports on the controversy concerning the contraceptives mandate portray the opposition as coming only from the Catholic Church and Catholic organizations. But this is wrong. It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients. It is not only Catholics who object to the narrow exemption that protects only seminaries and a few churches, but not churches with a social outreach and other faith-based organizations that serve the poor and needy broadly providing help that goes beyond worship and prayer.

The faith-based organizations and religious traditions represented by the undersigned leaders do not all share the same convictions about the moral acceptability of the mandated services. But we are all deeply concerned about the narrow exemption, including proposals made to expand it while still leaving unprotected many faith-based organizations. Many of us previously signed a letter, dated August 26, 2011, to Joshua DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, asking his help in persuading your administration, if it maintains the contraceptives mandate, to replace the current “inaccurately narrow and practically inadequate definition of ‘religious employer’.” An organization does not cease to be a religious organization just because it serves the poor and needy in material ways and does not confine its help to prayer and religious teaching.

We reiterate our opposition to the narrow exemption. We wish to stress that we strongly object to a revised exemption that is only broadened enough to include faith-based organizations that are affiliated with a specific denomination. We understand that such a compromise has been proposed to your administration. The suggested compromise discriminates against the many religions that organize themselves in ways other than by being centered on a denomination.

Some faith-based organizations have an interdenominational or ecumenical affiliation. Yet others are linked with houses of worship that are not denominational at all. And a significant number of faith-based organizations are not affiliated formally with any house of worship or denomination. Rather, they are, and are considered in Federal law to be, religious organizations because of their religious mission, their faith-shaped internal operations, and their presentation of themselves to the community as religious organizations.1
Mr. President, religious organizations beyond the Catholic community have deep moral objections to a requirement that their health insurance plans must cover abortifacients. Religious organizations beyond the Catholic community object to the current narrow exemption which puts them outside the definition of “religious employers.” And religious organizations beyond the Catholic community object to any revision of the exemption that would limit it to churches and denominationally affiliated organizations.

We believe that the Federal government is obligated by the First Amendment to accommodate the religious convictions of faith-based organizations of all kinds, Catholic and non-Catholic.

We respectfully ask that your administration, should it maintain the current contraceptives mandate, devise an exemption for religious employers that accurately defines such employers and exempts them from being required to offer to their employees (and students, if they are among America’s many religious colleges and universities) health services to which they have
deep religious objections.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals
Wayne L Gordon, President, Christian Community Development Association
John Ashmen, President, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions
Jim Liske, CEO, Prison Fellowship Ministries
Fred L. Potter, Esq., Executive Director and CEO, Christian Legal Society

Colby M. May, Esq., Director & Senior Counsel, Washington Office, American Center for Law
& Justice
Dr. Richard Land, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist
Convention
Tom Minnery, Senior Vice President, Focus on the Family
Stanley Carlson-Thies, President, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance
Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations
of America
Rabbi Abba Cohen, Vice President for Federal Affairs and Washington Director, Agudath Israel
of America
Dr. Gary M. Benedict, President, The Christian and Missionary Alliance
Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent, The General Council of the Assemblies of God
Stephanie Summers, Chief Executive Officer, Center for Public Justice
Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/
Hispanic Evangelical Association
John Holmes, Ed.D., Director of Government Affairs, Association of Christian Schools
International
Dr. Keith Wiebe, President, American Association of Christian Schools
Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Chair, Board of General Superintendents, The Wesleyan Church
Everett Piper, PhD, President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University
Shirley A. Mullen, President, Houghton College
Henry Smith, President, Indiana Wesleyan University
Dr. Todd S. Voss, President, Southern Wesleyan University
Tom Armiger, CEO, World Hope International
Andrew Sears, Executive Director, TechMission

Jay Van Groningen, Executive Director, Communities First Association
Karen Woods, Cornerstone Community Resources
Bruce Miller, CEO, Lawndale Christian Health Center
Rev. Steven E. Boes, President and National Executive Director, Boys Town
Paul R. Corts, President, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Robert C. Andringa, Ph.D., President Emeritus, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Robert H. Spence, President, Evangel University, The National Assemblies of God University of
Arts, Sciences & Professions, Springfield, Missouri
Carl E. Zylstra, President, Dordt College
Gordon L. Anderson, Ph.D., President, North Central University
Dr. Todd J. Williams, President, Philadelphia Biblical University
Charles H. Webb, PhD, President, Spring Arbor University
Dr. Lee G. Royce, President, Mississippi College
Jerry B. Cain, President, Judson University
Rick Mann, PhD, President, Crown College
William L. Armstrong, President, Colorado Christian University
Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, Ph.D., President, East Texas Baptist University
Dr. John C. Bowling, President, Olivet Nazarene University
Joseph Castleberry, Ed.D., President, Northwest University
Dr. Charles W. Pollard, President, John Brown University
Dr. Barbara Bellefeuille, Provost, Toccoa Falls College
Dr. Roger Parrott, President, Belhaven University
Dr John Jackson, President, William Jessup University
Dan Boone, President, Trevecca Nazarene University

Mike E. O’Neal, President, Oklahoma Christian University
Paul J. Maurer, President, Sterling College
James H Barnes III, President, Bethel University
Bob Brower, President, Point Loma Nazarene University
David W. Olive, President, Bluefield College
Jules Glanzer, President, Tabor College
Dr. Loren E. Swartzendruber, President, Eastern Mennonite University
Dr. David C. Alexander, President, Northwest Nazarene University
William M. B. Fleming, Jr., Interim President, Palm Beach Atlantic University
Eric Strattan, lead pastor, Bridge Bible Church, Muskegon, MI
Gail Kraft, Executive Director, Love INC of Muskegon
Case Hoogendoorn, Senior Partner, Hoogendoorn & Talbot LLP, Chicago
Stephen V. Monsma, Senior Research Fellow, The Henry Institute, Calvin College


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Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

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Arguments don’t have genitals

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

“As soon as he grows his own uterus, he can have an opinion.”

That was a comment left on The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada’s Facebook page by a woman who presumably opposes men speaking out against misogyny, domestic abuse, rape culture, and female genital mutilation as well. Apparently, you see, male genitals disqualify people from speaking out on various human rights issues deemed by women who define themselves by their uteruses while protesting angrily against being defined by their uteruses as “women’s issues.”

Which abortion isn’t, by the way. It’s a human rights issue.

To break it down really simply for our confused “feminist” friends: Human beings have human rights. Human rights begin when the human being begins, or we are simply choosing some random and arbitrary point at which human beings get their human rights. If we do not grant human rights to all human beings, inevitably some sub-set of human beings gets denied protection by another group with conflicting interests. In this case, of course, it is the abortion crowd, who want to be able to kill pre-born children in the womb whenever they want, for any reason they want.

Science tells us when human life begins. Pro-abortion dogma is at worst a cynical manoeuvre to sacrifice the lives of pre-born human beings for self-interest, and at best an outdated view that collapsed feebly under the weight of new discoveries in science and embryology. But the abortion cabal wants to preserve their bloody status quo at all costs, and so they make ludicrous claims about needing a uterus to qualify for a discussion on science and human rights.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

In fact, feminists love it when men speak up on abortion, as long as we’re reading from their script, which is why the carnivorous feminists have such a support system among the Deadbeat Dads for Dead Babies set and the No Strings Attached Club.

Male abortion activists have even begun to complain about “forced fatherhood,” a new cultural injustice in which they are expected to bear some responsibility for fathering children with women they didn’t love enough to want to father children with, but did appreciate enough to use for sex. Casual fluid swaps, they whine, should not result in custody hearings.

This is not to mention a genuine social tragedy that has men forcing or pressuring women to have abortions or abandoning them when they discover that the woman is, indeed, pregnant.

Or the fact that abortion has assisted pimps, rapists, and misogynists in continuing the crimes of sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and sex-selection abortion.

And coming against these disgusting trends are thousands of men in the pro-life movement who believe that shared humanity means shared responsibility, and that when the weak and vulnerable are robbed of their rights, we have to stand up and speak out.

We are not at all convinced by the feminist argument that people should think with their reproductive organs or genitals. We think that the number of people currently doing that has perhaps contributed to the problems we face. And we refuse to be told that protecting the human rights of all human beings is “none of our business” and “outside of our interests.”

Arguments don’t have genitals, feminists. It’s a stupid argument trying to protect a bloody ideology.

Reprinted with permission from CCBR.


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Rachel Daly

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Gvmt strikes UK Catholic school admission policy that prefers Mass attendees

Rachel Daly
By Rachel Daly

St. Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Epsom, England, was ordered to change its admissions policy after it was ruled discriminatory by the nation's Office of Schools Adjudicator, according to Your Local Guardian. St. Joseph's reportedly had been granting preferred acceptance to students whose families attended Mass at the affiliated church.

St. Joseph’s School is for students from age 4 to 11 and describes itself as “enjoy[ing] a high level of academic success.” The school furthermore places high priority on its Catholic identity, affirming on its homepage that “We place prayer and worship at the center of everything we do.”

The school states in its current admissions policy that it was "set up primarily to serve the Catholic community in St Joseph’s Parish" and that when the applicant pool exceeds 60 students, its criteria for prioritizing students includes "the strength of evidence of practice of the faith as demonstrated by the level of the family's Mass attendance on Sundays." 

Opponents of this policy reportedly argue that since donations are asked for at Mass, it could allow donation amounts to influence acceptance, and that forcing non-accepted local students to seek education elsewhere imposes a financial burden upon their families. 

Click "like" to support Catholics Restoring the Culture!

As Your Local Guardian reports, the adjudicators dismissed claims that donation amounts were affecting school acceptance, given that it is impossible to track donations. Nonetheless, the adjudicators maintained that "discrimination ... potentially arises from requiring attendance at the church rather than residency in the parish."

The Office of Schools Adjudicators, according to its website, is appointed by the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State of Education, to perform such functions as mediating disputes over school acceptances. The Office's ruling on St. Joseph's will require the school to release a revised admissions policy, which is expected in the next few days.

Reprinted with permission from the Cardinal Newman Society.


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Carolyn Moynihan

African women at risk of HIV, hostages to birth control

Carolyn Moynihan
By Carolyn Moynihan

Which should be the priority for a health organisation: preventing an incurable disease, or preventing a natural function that might have adverse physical consequences?

Preventing the disease, you would think. But the World Health Organisation would rather expose African women to HIV-AIDS than withdraw its support from a suspect method of birth control, arguing that childbirth is also risky in Africa. Riskier, apparently, than the said contraceptive. And at least one of WHO’s major partners agrees.

This is one of the stories you will not have read in coverage of the International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne last week, despite the fact that WHO made an announcement about it during the conference and the findings of a highly relevant study were presented there.

The story is this: there is increasing evidence that the method of contraception preferred by family planning organisations working in Africa (and elsewhere) facilitates the transmission of HIV. The method is the progesterone injection in the form of either DMPA (Depo Provera, the most common) or NET-En (Noristerat).

Millions of women in sub-Saharan Africa receive the injection every three months. The method overcomes problems of access. It can be given by nurses or health workers. A wife need not bother her husband for any special consideration; the teenage girl need not remember to take a pill.

But for 30 years evidence has been accumulating that, for all its “effectiveness” in controlling the number of births, the jab may also be very effective in increasing the number of people with HIV.

Three years ago at another AIDS conference in Rome, researchers who had analysed data from a number of previous studies delivered the disturbing news that injectables at least doubled the risk of infection with HIV for women and their male partners.

That study had its weaknesses but one of the experts present in Rome, Charles Morrison of FHI 360 (formerly Family Health International, a family planning organisation that also works in AIDS prevention), considered it a “good study” and subsequently led another meta-analysis that addressed some of the issues with previous research.

Last week at the Melbourne conference he presented the results. His team had re-analysed raw data on the contraceptive use of more than 37,000 women in 18 prospective observational studies. Of these women, 28 percent reported using DMPA, 8 percent NET-En, 19 percent a combined oral contraceptive pill, and 43 percent no form of hormonal contraception. A total of 1830 women had acquired HIV while in a study.

The analysis showed that both injectables raised the risk of infection by 50 percent:

Compared to non-users [of any hormonal contraceptive], women using DMPA had an elevated risk of infection (hazard ratio 1.56, 95% CI 1.31-1.86), as did women using NET-En (1.51, 95% CI 1.21-1.90). There was no increased risk for women using oral contraceptives.

Similarly, comparing women using injections with those using oral contraceptives, there was an elevated risk associated with DMPA (1.43, 95% CI 1.23-1.67) and NET-En (1.30, 95% CI 0.99-1.71).

Morrison also noted:

The results were consistent in several subgroup and sensitivity analyses. However, when only studies which were judged to be methodologically more reliable were included, the increased risk appeared smaller.

Morrison acknowledged that observational studies such as the FHI analysis depended on have their limitations. He is looking for funding to conduct a randomised controlled study – something that, after 30 years of suspicions and evidence, still has not been done.

So what is his advice to the birth control industry? Stop using this stuff in regions with a high prevalence of HIV until we are sure that we are not feeding an epidemic?

No.

One reason is that FHI is at least as interested in contraception as it is in HIV prevention. Though its website reflects a broad range of development activities, its core business is integrating birth control programmes with HIV prevention. The WHO – one of its partners -- describes the US based, 83 percent US government funded non-profit as “a global health and development organization working on family planning, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.”

Another reason is that FHI 360 has a vital stake in precisely the kind of contraceptives that are under suspicion. Its annual report refers to:

Our trailblazing work in contraceptive research and development continues, as we develop and introduce high-quality and affordable long-acting contraceptives for women in low-income countries. Research is under way to develop a new biodegradable contraceptive implant that would eliminate the need for removal services. We are also working with partners to develop an injectable contraceptive that would last for up to six months. Currently available injectables require reinjections monthly or quarterly, which can be challenging where health services are limited.

That project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID.

So Morrison did not argue in Melbourne for restrictions on the use of injectables, and neither did the WHO, whose representative at the conference outlined the UN body’s new guidelines on contraception and HIV. Mary Lyn Gaffield said a review of studies up to – but not including Morrison’s – did not warrant a change to WHO’s policy that DMPA and NET-En should be available, without restriction, in areas of high HIV prevalence.

The most WHO will advise is that women should be informed of the risk:

“Women at high risk of HIV infection should be informed that progestogen-only injectables may or may not increase their risk of HIV acquisition. Women and couples at high risk of HIV acquisition considering progestogen-only injectables should also be informed about and have access to HIV preventive measures, including male and female condoms.”

Condoms? How do they defend such cynicism? By equating the risk of HIV with the risks of motherhood – complications of pregnancy or childbirth, maternal death and the effect on infants... And yet motherhood remains risky precisely because 90 percent of the world’s effort is going into contraception!

Seven years ago a meeting of technical experts convened by WHO to study the injectables-HIV link showed the reproductive health establishment worried about that issue, to be sure, but also concerned that funding was flowing disproportionately to HIV-AIDS programmes, setting back the cause of birth control. The integration of family planning and HIV prevention spearheaded by FHI 360 looks like they have found an answer to that problem.

Whether African women are any better off is very doubtful. They remain pawns in a game that is, above all, about controlling their fertility. They and their partners are encouraged to take risks with their health, if not their lives, while researchers scout for funds to do the definitive study.

FHI had an income of $674 million last year, most of it from the US government. Couldn’t it give Charles Morrison the money to do his research today?

Reprinted with permission from Mercatornet.com.


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