Ben Johnson

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New HHS accommodation only ‘pretends to protect’ a select few, solves nothing: AUL legal assessment

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 1, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) -- The Obama administration's new HHS birth control mandate regulations released today, and spun as a concession to religious freedom, barely change existing policy and may even have made things worse, according to an analysis released by Americans United for Life on Friday. The pro-life legal group notes that, in addition to failing to resolve the conscience concerns of religious employers, under the rules no business or individual opt out exists, although people do not cease to hold deeply compelling religious beliefs once they enter the workforce or marketplace. 

The hefty brief is the latest in a string of commentary rejecting the proposed accommodations which -- like a similar announcement last year -- were announced on a Friday morning and immediately supported by Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

The full AUL legal analysis is below:  

The Obama Administration has not substantively altered its assault on the First Amendment’s Freedom of Conscience.  Today’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) reiterates the Administration’s commitment to what is often referred to as the “HHS mandate”– its coercive policy of forcing coverage for life-ending drugs and devices.

In some significant ways, the Obama Administration’s NRPM is even narrower than the protections it had previously entertained as a possibility in its March 2012 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM).

In the ANPRM, for example, the Obama Administration asked for input on whether for-profit employers with religious objections should be accommodated.  Today, they announced that for-profits with religious or moral objections—such as the Bible publisher Tyndale and family run businesses like Hobby Lobby—will absolutely not be afforded any conscientious protection.

The NRPM acknowledges that under the regulation issued by HHS in February 2012, if a church (that otherwise would have been exempted from the mandate) maintained a soup kitchen, or ran a parochial school, it could have been disqualified from the conscience protection because it served or hired persons regardless of their faith.  The NPRM states that this disqualification “was never [HHS’s] intention.” That, of course, is undermined by the fact that requiring organizations to be insular, and primarily serve and primarily hire persons of their own faith, were explicit requirements chosen by HHS.

While it is small step forward to drop the insularity requirements, the Obama Administration’s exemption still only applies to a very narrow category, and does not extend the guarantees of religious liberty and freedom of conscience to all Americans.

In fact, today’s announcement states that the Obama Administration will not, as it had previously considered, exempt or even “accommodate” an entire single group health plan of a church or religious organization, if each affiliated employer on the single group health plan does not independently meet the narrow requirements of the Obama Administration’s definitions.

The NPRM’s  proposed “accommodation” for only certain religious non-profits is also grossly inadequate.

Besides failing to consider for-profit employers and non-religiously affiliated non-profits whose pro-life consciences are nonetheless violated by the HHS mandate,  the NPRM is clear that “all references to ‘accommodation’ are references to an arrangement in which contraceptive coverage is provided…including objecting religious institutions of higher education.”  Accommodation does not mean an exemption.

The NRPM’s description of the “accommodation” as alleviating the conscience concerns of even the select few it pretends to protect requires a substantial amount of make-believe. Its argument that a “separate” contraceptive plan (that employees/students must be automatically enrolled in—there is no individual opt-out) will somehow not require the payment of either the enrollees or the “accommodated” religious non-profit, rests on the idea that it “is cost neutral because they would be insuring the same set of individuals under both policies...”  Put another way, it is only cost-neutral for the insurance company if both “separate” policies are considered.  In order to make the Obama Administration’s math for “free contraception” work, these insurance plans are not really distinct.

Importantly, the NPRM does nothing to correct the inappropriate inclusion of the abortion-inducing drug Ella in a provision of the Affordable Care Act that was intended to prevent diseases.  Forcing coverage for life-ending drugs and devices under the guise of “preventive care for women” is not achieving the goal of “public health and gender equality” announced in the NPRM.

The Obama Administration may hope that announcing its policies on a Friday afternoon will result in the American public either not noticing, or forgetting over the weekend.  However, 48 hours will not change the fact that the HHS mandate continues to violate protections in state and federal laws and the foundational American principle of Freedom of Conscience.

AUL developed an opt-out bill that has been used by eight of the 18 states that have opted-out of offering insurance plans that cover abortion in the state Exchanges required under Obamacare. AUL has also filed amicus briefs in the following on-going cases, arguing that parts of Obamacare are not Constitutional because of violations of First Amendment Conscience Rights: Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius, Wheaton College v. Sebelius, Nebraska v. Sebelius, and O’Brien v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  In addition, AUL filed a joint brief with other pro-life allies in United States Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida before the United States Supreme Court.

This analysis is reprinted with permission from Americans United for Life.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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