Kathleen Gilbert

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Catholic Health Ass’n, Notre Dame pushing dangerous compromise on birth control mandate: watchdog

Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, December 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A proposal made by the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic Health Association (CHA) to dodge the Obama administration’s birth control insurance mandate could undermine the religious liberty of many Catholic colleges and universities, says one watchdog of Catholic higher education.

Under the new law, as announced by the Obama administration this summer, virtually all private employers will be required to cover sterilization and all contraception, including abortifacient drugs. The religious exemption currently applies only to organizations that mainly hire and cater to individuals within their own sects, which would exclude most religious colleges, schools, hospitals, charities and other organizations.

In public letters to the Obama Administration, both the Catholic Health Association (CHA) and Fr. John Jenkins of the University of Notre Dame have pointed to Section 414(e) of the IRS Code, which exempts church-related pension plans from the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  They recommend the language in 414(e) as an improvement over the strict and narrow religious exemption published by HHS.

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But in a letter to federal health officials Dec 20, the Cardinal Newman Society said the proposed revision would still leave many faith-based colleges out in the cold, “just like the flawed religious exemption it is intended to replace.”

Under Section 414(e), notes CNS, exemption from federal law is available only to an organization that is “controlled by or associated with a church or a convention or association of churches,” meaning that the organization must at least share “common religious bonds and convictions with [its] church or convention or association of churches.” 

However, under federal court precedent “common religious bonds” has been interpreted to rely on three factors: that the church play an official role in the governance of the organization, that the organization receive assistance from the church, and whether a denominational requirement exists for any of the organization’s employees or customers.

This litmus test, CNS notes, is not one that most Catholic colleges and universities are likely to meet.  Some of the most orthodox Catholic colleges are entirely controlled by the laity, they point out, and few impose religious tests when hiring employees or accepting students.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops already argued against the 414(e) option in its September 17th comment to federal health officials, calling it “inadequate.”

Other Christian organizations also face problems with the 414(e) language, because it exempts only religious organizations with denominational affiliations. 

“While some of our institutions are affiliated with larger church organizational or denominational structures, many are independent religious organizations,” Dr. Paul Corts, President of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, told CNS. “They are religious not because they are associated with a church or denomination but rather because of their legitimate religious beliefs and practices that are openly held out to the public as such—the critical legal characteristics of a religious entity—and yet, would not be recognized as such under [414(e) language].”

The Society’s concerns were repeated in letters to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop William Lori, chairman of the USCCB committee on religious liberty.

In an op-ed Wednesday in The Washington Times, Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick J. Reilly writes that the practical effect of the Notre Dame and CHA proposal “would be to slam the door on most religious organizations while providing political cover to the Obama Administration.”  But he also recalls that neither the University of Notre Dame nor CHA “is a stranger to controversy when it comes to President Barack Obama and his support for abortion rights.”

Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins honored Obama with an honorary law degree at the school’s commencement ceremony in 2009, drawing condemnations from 80 active U.S. bishops and over 300,000 petitioning U.S. Catholics.

Months later, CHA president Sr. Carol Keehan emerged as a key supporter of Obama’s health care overhaul, earning accolades from the administration for flouting the USCCB’s direct opposition to the abortion-expanding law.


The full Cardinal Newman Society letter to Secretary Sebelius is below.

 


December 20, 2011

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary of Health and Human Services
United States Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW, Room 120F
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

We are writing with concern about the dangerous implications of a proposal that has been presented to you by the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic Health Association, which could violate the religious liberty of the faithful Catholic colleges and universities that The Cardinal Newman Society promotes to Catholic families.

As you know, many religious organizations have sought the repeal of the Interim Final Rule on Preventive Services published in the Federal Register on August 3, 2011 (76 Fed. Reg. 46621), which mandates health insurance coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including some that cause abortions.  At the least, religious organizations and individuals seek conscience protection to be exempted from this mandate.

The Cardinal Newman Society, which works to help renew and strengthen the Catholic identity of Catholic colleges and universities, is especially concerned about the impact of this mandate on Catholic higher education.  As we noted in our September 29th comment to your department, joined by 18 Catholic colleges and universities and the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on Catholic education: “No federal rule has defined being “religious” as narrowly and discriminatorily as the Mandate appears to do, and no regulation has ever so directly proposed to violate plain statutory and constitutional religious freedoms.”  Of great concern is the impact on Catholic college health plans for students, which are not currently exempt from the regulation.

The religious exemption in the regulations is inadequate, but so is the replacement proposed by the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic Health Association in their own comments to your department.  They propose language similar to Internal Revenue Service Code Section 414(e), which describes organizations exempt from provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.  Embracing 414(e)-like language would mean leaving many Catholic colleges unprotected, just like the flawed religious exemption it is intended to replace.

A religious exemption similar to 414(e) would only marginally expand the current HHS exemption and would undermine religious liberty.  Under the 414(e) rule, exemption is available only to an organization that is “controlled by or associated with a church or a convention or association of churches,” meaning that the organization must at least share “common religious bonds and convictions with [its] church or convention or association of churches.”  In 2001 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said that three factors bear primary consideration when deciding whether an organization shares “common religious bonds and convictions” with a church:

1) whether the religious institution plays any official role in the governance of the organization; 2) whether the organization receives assistance from the religious institution; and 3) whether a denominational requirement exists for any employee or patient/customer of the organization.

The Fourth Circuit set a precedent that has been followed by other federal courts, and it is not a test that most Catholic colleges and universities are likely to meet.  Many are unaffiliated with a religious order; indeed, some of the most faithfully Catholic colleges are entirely lay-controlled.  Few impose religious tests when hiring employees or accepting students.  It is even an open question as to whether Notre Dame would meet the criteria for a 414(e) exemption, which the university has never sought, according to Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops argued against the 414(e) option in its September 17th comment to your department: “…[S]uch an exemption would be inadequate, because it would fail to protect many stakeholders with a moral or religious objection to contraceptives or sterilization, including individuals, insurers, and even many religiously affiliated organizations.”

While our mission relates to Catholic education, we also support the concerns of religious organizations that are inter-denominational or non-denominational.  As explained by Dr. Paul Corts, President of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, in a note to The Cardinal Newman Society yesterday: “While some of our institutions… are religious not because they are associated with a church or denomination but rather because of their legitimate religious beliefs and practices that are openly held out to the public as such—the critical legal characteristics of a religious entity—and yet, would not be recognized as such under an exemption requiring conformity with the requirements of IRS Code Section 414(e).”

Secretary Sebelius, the fact is that the 414(e) language would fail to protect the religious liberty of too many religious organizations that object to sterilization, contraception or abortion, including many faithful Catholic colleges and universities.  This is unacceptable.

We continue to urge you to repeal the mandate altogether, or at minimum to protect the consciences of all individuals and organizations that oppose sterilization, contraception or abortion because of their religious beliefs.

Sincerely,



Patrick J. Reilly
President

cc: Joshua DuBois, Executive Director, Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Enterprises



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BREAKING: Kim Davis defeats ACLU attempt to force her to violate her conscience

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

ROWAN COUNTY, Kentucky, February 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - A federal judge has turned down the ACLU's attempt to force Kim Davis to violate her conscience while issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Although Governor Matt Bevin granted a religious accommodation for the county clerk to issue altered marriage licenses to homosexuals, the ACLU brought a lawsuit seeking to force Davis to issue the old forms with her full name on them.

"There is absolutely no reason that this case went so far without reasonable people respecting and accommodating Kim Davis' First Amendment rights," said Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, who is defending Davis. "Today's ruling by Judge Bunning rejected the ACLU's request to hold Kim Davis in contempt of court."

Kim Davis is a born again Apostolic Christian who refuses to issue marriage licenses bearing her name to homosexuals, because doing so would imply her consent and participation in something the Bible deems sinful. "It's a Heaven or Hell decision," she said. Davis contacted state legislators and former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, seeking a religious accommodation that would alter the form but allow her office to recognize gay unions, to no avail.

Ultimately, she spent six days in jail last September after Judge Bunning held her in contempt of court for refusing to issue the unamended forms.

"Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office," Senator Ted Cruz said after her arrest.

When she was released last September 8, presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Cruz showed up to wish her well.

"Lock me up" in Kim Davis' place, Mike Huckabee said. "Let Kim go."

When Davis returned to work last September 14, she allowed other employees to grant new certificates that did not have her name on them.

Deputy Rowan County Clerk Brian Mason said that Davis “confiscated all the original forms, and provided a changed form which deletes all mentions of the County, fills in one of the blanks that would otherwise be the County with the Court’s styling, deletes her name, deletes all of the deputy clerk references, and in place of deputy clerk types in the name of Brian Mason, and has him initial rather than sign.”

Matt Bevin, the Republican who would be elected governor that November, promptly granted Davis an accommodation and signed the first new regulation on abortion in a dozen years shortly after taking office.

But the ACLU sued to force Davis to issue the old certificates, anyway. Judge Bunning wrote that would be unnecessary.

"There is every reason to believe that any altered licenses issued between September 14, 2015, and September 20, 2015, would be recognized as valid under Kentucky law, making re-issuance unnecessary," wrote Judge David Bunning, a Republican whose father Jim Bunning, was a baseball great and former U.S. senator. "Under these circumstances, the court finds that Plaintiffs’ request for relief is now moot."

Since returning to work, Davis has met with Pope Francis and attended President Obama's last State of the Union address.

"From the beginning we have said the ACLU is not interested in marriage licenses. They want Kim Davis' scalp," Staver said. "They want to force her to violate her conscience. I am glad the court rejected this bully tactic."



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Black pastors pray over Hillary Clinton at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.
Fr. Mark Hodges

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Black pastors pray over ‘president-to-be’ Clinton right before she condemns pro-life bill

Fr. Mark Hodges

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – After pastors invoked God's blessing upon her presidential run, Hillary Clinton condemned legislation to protect babies in the womb.

The African-American ministers "laid hands" on Clinton and prayed to "decree and declare the favor of the Lord" upon Clinton, who is in a neck-and-neck race with Bernie Sanders for the Democrat nomination for president.

"President-to-Be Clinton, we decree and declare from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet that the favor of the Lord will surround you like a shield, in Jesus's name," they prayed, at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

The Clinton campaign proceeded to vigorously oppose proposed legislation in Oklahoma designed to save pre-born babies.

Oklahoman Thomas Hunter filed for a petition to change the state constitution so that it prohibits any action "that causes the death of an unborn human being" – whether abortion or post-conception "contraception."

Clinton campaign senior adviser Maya Harris came out vehemently against putting Hunter's petition on the state's ballot, calling it "unconstitutional" and "bad for the health of Oklahoma women."

Speaking on behalf of the Clinton campaign, Harris said, "This initiative petition should be challenged and, if it makes it on the ballot, rejected by Oklahomans."

Reaction to the two contradictory acts – the religious blessing and the condemnation of pro-life legislation – was swift and strong among African-American ministers.

"It is shameful to see clergy abandon the principles of the faith and engage in such heretical political pandering," the Reverend Dr. Clenard H. Childress, Jr. told LifeSiteNews. "These clergy represent the problem the church has in the clarity of its message and the demonstration of its worth."

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"There was a time when the church was very powerful – in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed," Rev. Childress, founder of Black Genocide, told LifeSiteNews. "In those days, the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society."

"So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound," Rev. Childress concluded. "So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo."

"Abortion remains the number-one killer of black Americans, higher than all other causes of death combined," Pastor Arnold M. Culbreath, a founding member of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews. "Therefore, it is absolutely critical that blacks become informed, equipped, and provided with resources to end the abortion-related genocide occurring in our communities every day."

"With Hillary Clinton's extreme and consistent pro-abortion views and actions," Pastor Culbreath asserted, "it is a travesty that pastors would be more focused on laying hands on her, rather than challenging her views with credible research and making her aware of the devastating impact abortion is having on black babies, mothers, and families across America. Black lives depend on it!"

"We have the most anti-life president in office now, because Christians put him there," Pastor Walter and Darleen Moss told LifeSiteNews in a joint statement. "Will Christians continue to ignore what may be the most significant issue of the coming presidency – the issue of life?"

"If black lives matter, do black lives matter in the womb?" the Mosses asked. "The greatest curse on this nation results from the shedding of innocent blood from the womb. How can we advance if we keep killing our children?"

Then the Mosses spoke to African-American clergy who toe the Democrat party line. "If these good pastors read their Bibles, they would know that it clearly says, 'Jesus is the LIFE.' Therefore, is not pro-abortion anti-life and anti-Christ? Are we not made in the image of God? Does He not know us in the womb?"

"Pastors may be close to, if not at, apostasy to continue to endorse any candidate who endorses the murder of our children," the Mosses concluded. "That would include Hillary Clinton, a champion for eugenics and Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, the number-one killer of our babies in the USA and around the world through the United Nations."

Rev. Childress quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. against "Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's insidious alliance with Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry": "'Racial discrimination ... relegates persons to the status of things. ... It is a tragic expression of man's spiritual degeneracy and moral bankruptcy.' So it is not surprising to see Hillary Clinton's negative response to recognizing infants as persons and not things."

Hunter's proposed amendment to the Oklahoma constitution would also ban "the deliberate destruction of unborn human beings created in a laboratory."

Hunter, who filed the constitutional petition in Oklahoma, explained to the Tulsa World, "The question is whether or not the Supreme Court ruling that born people have the right to kill unborn people was, in fact, constitutional in the first place."



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Rebecca Kiessling

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Gov. Christie, killing rape-conceived babies (like me!) is NOT self-defense

Rebecca Kiessling

February 9, 2016 (Savethe1) -- Children conceived in rape – like me – took a beating at the GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire Saturday evening.  Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Jeb Bush had some harsh words regarding the treatment of the innocent child conceived in rape, and I think their rhetoric demonstrates that they're not really committed to ending abortion, but merely doing the bare minimum to win votes from those who identify as pro-life.

For starters, Gov. Christie said, “I believe that if a woman has been raped, that is a pregnancy that she should be able to terminate.”  What does he mean by “terminate”?  It may come as a surprise to many of you, but I voluntarily terminated three of my pregnancies.  My daughters are doing quite well now, after having labor induced.  You see, you can terminate a pregnancy and still have a live baby.  Normally delivery of a baby is the termination of a pregnancy.  Inducing labor or performing a C-section is the premature termination of a pregnancy.  But that’s not what Christie is talking about, is it?  He’s talking about the termination where you have a dead baby – because he or she is killed.  So what he’s saying is that my birthmother – a woman who had been raped – should have been able to kill me.  Ouch!  That’s not pro-life.

Then he went on to say, “The fact is that we have always believed, as has Ronald Reagan, that we have self defense for women who have been raped and impregnated because of it or been victims of incest and been impregnated for it.”  Since he used the tactic of invoking President Reagan, let’s take a look at what Reagan actually said:

Let us unite as a nation and protect the unborn with legislation that would stop all Federal funding for abortion and with a human life amendment making, of course, an exception where the unborn child threatens the life of the mother. Our Judeo-Christian tradition recognizes the right of taking a life in self-defense. But with that one exception, let us look to those others in our land who cry out for children to adopt.  I pledge to you tonight I will work to remove barriers to adoption and extend full sharing in family life to millions of Americans so that children who need homes can be welcomed to families who want them and love them.  – Ronald Reagan, State of the Union address, January, 1988

If you’re going to invoke Reagan to bolster your position, you’d better be sure you got that right.  But in case mischaracterizing Reagan’s position wasn’t bad enough, Gov. Christie outdid himself with his next statement:  “I believe that they do not have to deliver that child if they believe that is an act of self defense by terminating that pregnancy.”  “An act of self-defense?!”  This is the kind of rhetoric you hear from abortion rights advocates – suggesting that the innocent preborn child is somehow continuing to rape the woman, and therefore, she needs to kill the baby to stop the rape.  Gov. Christie, since you recognize my right as a woman to engage in an act of self defense, let me clear up your confusion: I was NOT raping my birthmother!  I was not attacking her.  I was innocent.  I’m pleading my innocence!  So here’s my advice to you – punish rapists, not babies.  It’s not a difficult concept.  This is my act of self defense – quit picking on innocent children like me by suggesting our lives weren’t worth living or protecting, because I fight back and I will defend my life!

Since his remarks Saturday evening, I’ve been inundated with suggestions from people that I need to talk to him and to share my story with him – just like with Gov. Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich four years ago when I changed their hearts during their presidential campaigns.  Well, I DID share my story with Chris Christie, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida in August, 2012.  But he’s a different character and hard-hearted.  Like in the Parable of the Sower, in Matthew Chapter 13, the seeds did not fall on fertile soil.  But then Jesus explained:

This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”

 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.”

As if the shots from Chris Christie weren’t enough to dehumanize and demoralize my people group, Gov. Jeb Bush had insults of his own:  “I am pro-life but I believe there should be exceptions — rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger.”  Any time a politician starts off with “I am pro-life but,” you know he’s not committed to ending abortion.  He may do the bare minimum to get pro-life voters to think he’s pro-life, but he’s not someone who is reliable to end legalized abortion, he’s not dependable to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v Wade, and he’s clearly willing to discriminate and to leave the door open for all abortions through gaping loopholes.

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Then Gov. Bush issued the most telling remark – “That belief and my consistency on this makes me, I think, poised to be in the right place — the sweet spot — for Republican nominee.”  OUCH!!!  Okay, please keep in mind that I’m biting my tongue as I respond to his “sweet spot” remarks.  I looked up the definition of “sweet spot,” just so everyone understands how callous his words were, and the first definition to come up is sexual in nature -- “a spot on the body that responds pleasurably to a caress or touch,” and then there’s the sports reference – “the area from which the cleanest shots are made.”  Whether Jeb Bush is climaxing at the thought of denying a child conceived in rape her right to life in order to gain him victory as the GOP nominee, or if it’s that he finds the rape victim’s child to be the perfect whipping boy for taking shots at, his remarks are offensive, dehumanizing and demoralizing.

Lastly, Bush said, “Others may have a different view and I respect it.”  This isn’t about respecting mere political views -- this is about respecting not just my “view,” but my life!  I deserve to be alive, I was worthy of the protection I received pre-Roe v Wade, and others just like me deserve the same opportunity to be born.

If you call yourself pro-life, if you say you believe that the pre-born are persons and therefore, have a right to life under the 14th Amendment due process clause, then you cannot be willing to violate the second part of the 14th Amendment – the equal protection clause, which says that “No state shall deny a person equal protection of the laws.”  To do so is not only hypocritical, it’s unconstitutional.  And that’s precisely what Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are proposing – to deny persons equal protection under the law.

Recently, Sen. Lindsey Graham has made hurtful remarks calling children like me “the child of the rapist.”  I am sure he has no idea how offensive that is to the majority of rape survivors who not only choose life, but choose to raise their children.  After everything she’s been through and had to overcome, he has the audacity to suggest that her child is the rapist’s child.  We don’t call President Obama “the polygamist’s child,” so stop trying to demonize us in such a manner.  Give us our dignity and call us who we are – a rape victim’s child, a child of God, a person with a right to life.

Right now, the only two GOP presidential candidates who support overturning Roe v Wade and who refuse to discriminate against the child conceived in rape are Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio.  I’ve met Sen. Rubio in person, and would love to meet Sen. Cruz some day.  But I’m also willing to meet with any other candidates, and I do hope that by putting a face, a voice, and a real-life story to the issue, their hearts and minds would be changed so that they’d no longer support the killing of innocent children.   There are over 300 hundred of us through Save The 1 who were conceived in rape, mothers from rape, birthmothers from rape and post-abortive after rape.  We are thankful for the gift of life, we deserve our dignity, and we want our voices to be heard.

Rebecca Kiessling is a wife, mother of 5, attorney and international pro-life speaker and blogger.  She shares her story of having been conceived in rape and nearly aborted at two back alley abortions, but legally protected.  She’s the founder and President of Save The 1, co-founder of Hope After Rape Conception, and co-founder of Embryo DefenseReprinted with permission from Save The 1.



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