Ben Johnson

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HHS mandate means ‘ongoing, comprehensive government surveillance’: two new colleges sue

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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ALEXANDRIA, LOUISIANA, February 20, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The impending requirement that religious institutions provide abortifacient drugs not only violates their consciences, but favors some religions over others and would require “ongoing, comprehensive government surveillance” of private institutions’ religious beliefs, a new lawsuit filed against the Obama administration states.

Two more Christian colleges stand poised to introduce litigation against the mandate being implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services as part of the health care reform law.

Louisiana College, which is associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, describes itself as “a private Baptist co-educational college of liberal arts” with a “dedication to academic excellence to the glory of God.” Its doctrinal statement declares everyone associated with the college “should contend for the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.”

“They’re really concerned about the requirement that they would cover drugs that are abortifacients. That violates their sincerely held belief to protect life at all stages, even at the embryonic stage,” Kevin Theriot, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, told LifeSiteNews.com.

(Click “like” if you want to end abortion! )

The college’s legal complaint is a scalding indictment of the requirement that it provide services that deeply offend the its moral and ethical sensibilities.

“The Mandate coerces LC to change or violate its religious beliefs,” it states. The defendants – which include HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and their respective departments – “promulgated both the Mandate and the religious exemption in order to suppress the religious exercise of LC and others,” the suit states.

The college’s lawyers say the college will face substantial financial penalties if it does not provide services its leadership considers sinful, because it does not fit the administration’s narrow definition of a “religious institution.” They insist the president’s “accommodation” offers them no remedy, because it is “entirely fictitious. It does not exist in the rule or guidance President Obama enacted on February 10, and it need never be formally proposed or adopted.”

Instead, they contend the bill requires the government to ”analyze the content of LC’s religious belief requiring ongoing, comprehensive government surveillance that impermissibly entangles Defendants with religion.”

And it “distinguishes among religions and denominations, favoring some over others” – namely favoring those faiths or sects that do not object to abortion.

“The Obama administration has purposely transformed a non-existent problem – access to contraception – into a constitutional crisis,” said Mike Johnson, dean of Louisiana College’s Pressler School of Law, who is acting as co-counsel on this case. “This mandate offers no choice; Americans either comply and abandon their convictions or resist and be punished.”

The lawsuit says the law violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.

“There’s absolutely no reason for them to include these religious organizations in the way that they have,” Theriot told LifeSiteNews.

“Part of the mandate it to include counseling including these abortifacients, and that’s forced speech which violates the school’s free speech rights,” Theriot said.

Compelled speech has been cited in cases that struck down statutes in New York City and Baltimore that sought to compel crisis pregnancy centers to post signs outside their facilities, telling women they do not provide abortions.

Samuel B. Casey of the Law of Life Project explained to LifeSiteNews.com in that context that the First Amendment means the government cannot “make a private citizen speak the government’s message.”

“It doesn’t matter what the message is,” he said. “What matters is that it’s the government’s message.” 

“They have multiple constitutional protections,” Theriot said about his client, “and we’re very confident that the court will recognize that, and will say that the Obama administration’s attempt to trample on religious freedom in this instance is not justified.”

Tomorrow, the Baptist institution will be followed into court by Geneva College, an institution of higher learning in the Reformed tradition, based in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

“At Geneva College, we only have one Lord, and he does not live in Washington, D.C.,” said college president Ken Smith. He called the mandate to purchase abortion-inducing drugs “abhorrent and unacceptable.”

The Alliance Defense Fund is handling both cases.

ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor said, “People of faith shouldn’t be punished by the state for following that faith in making decisions for themselves or their organizations. Every American should know that a government with the power to do this to anyone can do this, and worse, to everyone.”

Louisiana and Geneva join at least two other faith-based universities in challenging the mandate.

Colorado Christian University has filed suit against the mandate, as has Belmont Abbey College, which is affiliated with a Benedictine monastery in North Carolina.

The Obama administration asked a federal court to delay ruling on Belmont’s lawsuit, stating the final rule has not yet been offered and may differ from current proposals.

The attorneys general of 12 states are prepared to file a lawsuit in a matter of weeks against the rule.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has already filed an amicus brief with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing three institutions in the legal battle over the HHS mandate.

Priests for Life, and the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) have also filed suit against the mandate, saying the accommodation is insufficient and remains a burdensome and unnecessary violation of their First Amendment freedom of religion.

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
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."

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

"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

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
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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