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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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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