Kirsten Andersen

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Obama Administration appeals Hobby Lobby/HHS mandate case to the Supreme Court

Kirsten Andersen
Kirsten Andersen

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Obama Administration isn’t giving up the fight to force the Christian-owned Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores to abide by the controversial HHS contraception mandate.

On Wednesday the administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling granting Hobby Lobby an exemption from the mandate, which requires employers to provide co-pay-free coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs for all females of childbearing age enrolled in their company’s health plan. 

More than 60 company owners have sued the Obama Administration over the directive, arguing that forcing them to pay for procedures and drugs their faiths hold to be immoral violates their constitutionally-protected religious freedom.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the company’s owners sought an exemption from the mandate because it requires coverage for so-called ‘emergency contraception,’ which works at least some of the time by making the uterus inhospitable to an already-fertilized embryo, inducing early abortion – something that goes against the owners’ Christian faith.  Initially, a lower court rejected their case, but in July, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their decision and Hobby Lobby was granted an injunction.

In its decision, the Tenth Circuit asserted that Hobby Lobby had “established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm.”

But on Wednesday, just five days before the court-ordered deadline, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Tenth Circuit’s ruling, and accused Hobby Lobby’s owners of trying to use their religious freedom as a “sword” to cut their employees off from the “benefits and protections” offered by the contraceptive mandate. 

The government’s attorneys argued that because Hobby Lobby is a for-profit corporation, it is not entitled to the same religious rights as an individual or a church.  It’s an argument that has met with success in two other similar cases this year in both the Third and Sixth Circuit Courts, decisions which the government cited heavily in its petition.

“The United States government is taking the remarkable position that private individuals lose their religious freedom when they make a living,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby.   Added Duncan, “We’re confident that the Supreme Court will reject the government’s extreme position and hold that religious liberty is for everyone—including people who run a business.”

But the Obama Administration’s lawyers argued in their court filing that even if religious liberty was found to apply to for-profit corporations, in the case of the HHS mandate, the government’s “compelling interest” in making contraceptives freely available to every woman supersedes the company’s right not to pay for them.

“[The Religious Freedom Restoration Act] provides that the federal government ‘shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion’ unless application of that burden is ‘the least restrictive means of furthering [a] compelling governmental interest,” wrote the government lawyers. 

“[T]he contraceptive-coverage requirement,” they asserted, “is the least restrictive means of advancing compelling governmental interests.”

According to the government’s attorneys, the HHS mandate serves a compelling governmental interest because when it comes to the government’s plan to improve Americans’ health, “increased access to FDA-approved contraceptive services in particular is a key component,” and when women have to pay out-of-pocket for contraceptives, it makes them less likely to use them. 

Although the World Health Organization lists hormonal contraception as a Class 1 cancer-causing agent, the U.S. government asserts that contraceptives “improve health by decreas[ing] the likelihood or delay[ing] the onset of a targeted disease or condition,” in this case, pregnancy.  Wrote the government’s lawyers, “a lack of contraceptive use has proven in many cases to have negative health consequences for both women and children.”

The government appeared to issue a veiled threat to both the Court and future religious objectors should the decision not go its way, telling the Court that “It would be perverse to hold that providing a targeted religious exemption [such as the one currently offered to some churches and religious charities] eliminates the government’s compelling interest in the underlying regulation, thus effectively extending the same exemption … to anyone else who wants it.”

“Such a reading of [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act],” the government’s lawyers warned, “would discourage the government from accommodating religion, the exact opposite of what Congress intended in enacting RFRA.” (Emphasis theirs.)

The high court has six weeks to consider the government’s petition. If the justices agree to hear the Hobby Lobby case, it will be argued and decided before the end of the Court’s term in June 2014.

The Hobby Lobby case is one of two cases dealing with the HHS mandate that were submitted to the Court Wednesday.  The other is Conestoga vs. Sebelius, one of the two cases cited by the government in its filing in which the Third Circuit ruled against the Christian owners of a custom cabinet manufacturing company, forcing them to comply with the contraceptive mandate.  The company owners have requested that in light of the circuit courts’ differing opinions, the Supreme Court review their case, as well. 

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