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Judge rules against EWTN in HHS mandate case

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By Ben Johnson

IRONDALE, AL – A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the network founded by Mother Angelica must comply with the HHS mandate, despite its deep-seated religious objections, because the ObamaCare provision does not violate the First Amendment.

"EWTN doesn't have to comply with the mandate. All it has to do is sign a form certifying its opposition to the use of contraceptives and then deliver that form to its third-party administrator."

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled in Mobile that the Obama administration may compel the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) to comply with a provision furnishing female employees with contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, because the network does not directly supply the services.

“The mandate, as it was enacted, does not violate the Constitution,” she ruled. 

"EWTN doesn't have to comply with the mandate. All it has to do is sign a form certifying its opposition to the use of contraceptives and then deliver that form to its third-party administrator," she continued.

The Obama administration's health care “accommodation” requires employers to certify their religious objections, but their insurance company must then offer female employees birth control pills for “free.” Critics say the move is nothing more than an accounting gimmick, but Judge Granade found the distinction compelling.

"Thanks to the accommodation that allows religious nonprofits to opt out of the mandate, EWTN is free to continue refusing to cover the allegedly abortion-inducing drugs without suffering any discrimination for making that choice,” wrote Judge Granade, who was appointed to the bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush.

According to the network's attorney, Lori Windham of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, “This decision is out of step with the overwhelming majority of decisions in similar cases nationwide.”

More than 300 plaintiffs have filed 100 lawsuits against the controversial HHS mandate. Judges have granted injunctions in 40 of the 46 cases led by non-profits to date, a victory rate of more than 80 percent.

“The fact that the court has dismissed the serious issues of conscience and religious freedom that EWTN has raised is very troubling,” Michael P. Warsaw, CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network, said Wednesday morning.

“As an organization that was founded by Mother Angelica to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, we do not believe that contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and voluntary sterilization should be defined as health care. We simply cannot facilitate these immoral practices,” Warsaw said.

Like the Little Sisters of the Poor, EWTN contends that it would be complicit in evil if it signed a form allowing its insurance provider to offer abortifacient contraceptives to its employees. Any form of artificial contraception clearly violates Catholic teaching, including the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae.

“This unjust action is in direct contravention of the fundamental human right to religious freedom and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution,” Deacon Keith Fournier wrote at Catholic Online today.

EWTN promised to make an immediate appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Its lawyers also asked for an injunction against the decision pending that ruling, saying that the Catholic network would be forced to comply with the mandate in two weeks if it were not granted. Newly confirmed HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has until tomorrow to file an objection.

The Catholic network's legal battle began when EWTN filed suit on February 9, 2012, shortly after the president unveiled his accommodation. “The mission of EWTN is not negotiable,” Warsaw said at the time. “Betraying God’s love for every human person—even ones who are small and vulnerable—just isn’t something we’ll ever be able to adapt to.”

U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn, a Bush Sr. appointee, dismissed the case on March 25, 2013 – ironically, the date of the Feast of the Annunciation, a major Christian holiday celebrating the conception of Jesus Christ.

The network filed this lawsuit last October.

The ruling comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is pondering its verdict on Hobby Lobby's case against the HHS mandate, filed on First Amendment grounds. Justices did not issue a ruling this morning. Analysts say that decision will come on Monday at the earliest. 

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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