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Updated: 43 Catholic organizations, including Notre Dame, sue Obama administration over HHS mandate

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

Updated at 8:24 p.m. to add quotations from Cardinal Dolan and Tony Perkins.

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, May 21, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a coordinated defense of religious liberty, at 11 a.m. 43 Roman Catholic organizations filed a dozen lawsuits nationwide to strike down the HHS mandate.

The plaintiffs include some of the most significant organs of the U.S. church, including the Archdioceses of New York, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis; the Dioceses of Dallas, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ft. Worth, the Michigan Catholic Conference, Pittsburgh, and Rockville Centre; the University of Notre Dame, Catholic University of America, and the Franciscan University of Steubenville; and Our Sunday Visitor.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said the step was necessary “to protect our religious liberties from unwarranted and unprecedented government intrusion.”

The Archdiocese of Washington has created a website dedicated to the new lawsuit. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., called the mandate a “government attempt to force the Church out of the public square.”

“The Catholic rebellion has begun,” said Catholic League President Bill Donohue in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com.

The HHS mandate “amounts to nothing less than a grave threat to our constitutionally protected First Amendment right to freedom of religion,” said Franciscan University President Father Terence Henry, TOR. He added, although they never envisioned taking such a step, the board of trustees unanimously approved the lawsuit.

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Our Sunday Visitor linked its involvement to the legacy of its founder, Fr. John Noll, who fought the political clout of the Ku Klux Klan as that organization attempted to impose anti-Catholic policies at the turn of the 20th century. “Today, Our Sunday Visitor stands proudly with our fellow Catholic apostolates and with our bishops in resisting this challenge,” the publication announced in a press release.

The lawsuit has admirers well outside the Roman Catholic Church. These 43 Catholic institutions “are fighting back to protect the religious liberties of all Americans,” said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins this afternoon. “We stand with these Catholic organizations that have refused to give up their long held constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.”

Perhaps nothing so encapsulated President Obama’s fall from grace with American Catholics than the participation of the University of Notre Dame, where his invitation to deliver the 2009 commencement address stirred controversy. 

“We have filed this lawsuit neither lightly nor gladly, but with sober determination,” wrote Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins in a letter explaining his actions. “Let me say very clearly what this lawsuit is not about: it is not about preventing women from having access to contraception, nor even about preventing the [g]overnment from providing such services…We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the [g]overnment not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings.”

Notre Dame does not qualify for the administration’s religious exemption because, although it is “firmly grounded in the tenets of Catholicism,” it does not primarily employ or serve other Roman Catholics.

“Notre Dame cannot be forced to give up its beliefs on abortifacients, sterilization, or contraception, nor its devotion to serving all mankind, without violating its religious beliefs and compromising its religious purpose,” the university’s legal complaint states.

Fr. Jenkins writes that he had registered his objection to the administration’s overly narrow religious exemption numerous times without satisfaction.

The university’s legal complaint states that after Obama announced an “accommodation” that would require insurance companies to directly provide contraceptives to employees and students for “free,” college officials “informed the White House that such a policy would not help Notre Dame, which is self-insured, and would not protect its religious liberties.”

The lawsuit argues the government has no compelling interest in the mandate, that forcing a religious institution to finance abortifacient drugs is not the least restrictive means of providing them, that the rule burdens the university’s free exercise of religion, and that it favors those religions that either favor abortion or have no interest in serving members of other religions.

The university’s health care plan is not grandfathered, and officials maintain they are not certain if it qualifies for the one-year “safe harbor” that extends the implementation of the HHS mandate past the election, into August 2013. The uncertainty over future regulations makes it impossible for the university to plan for its future.

If religious institutions fail to comply with the regulations promulgated next year, they could face a penalty of $100 per day per individual covered. In an online video, Chancellor Jane Belford of the Archdiocese of Washington said that could cost that diocese $4.2 million a year.

Although Fr. Jenkins does “not question the good intentions and sincerity” of administration officials, he warned if the HHS mandate were accepted, it “will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name.”   

Even some liberal Catholics have greeted today’s lawsuit as a positive step. Michael Sean Winters writes at the dissenting National Catholic Reporter, “The lawsuit, and Jenkins’ commentary, are very good news.”

“First, I doubt there is anyone who could charge Notre Dame with being unreasonably hostile to the Ibama [sic] administration,” he wrote. Yet “the administration has still refused to back off the four-part test” to grant an institution a religious exemption “that was, and is, for many of us, the principal difficulty in finding a solution.”

 

 

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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