Ben Johnson

,

Dem. congressman lectures bishop, rabbi, Christian leaders on HHS mandate

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
Image

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 17, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – As religious leaders – including a bishop, ordained ministers, and a rabbi – testified before a House committee that the HHS birth control mandate violates their religious liberty, Democratic congressman Gerry Connolly burst into a three-minute soliloquy accusing them of being “complicit in the trampling of freedom.”

The House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing on the health care mandate yesterday morning entitled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”

“I have to assume each of you gentlemen came here in good faith, but surely it hasn’t escaped your attention that you’re being used for a political agenda,” Rep. Connolly accused. “Maybe you’re willingly being used, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s in your heart.”

“I think this is a shameful exercise, and I am very sad that you have chosen to participate and be used the way you’re being used,” he told members of the first panel, which included a Catholic bishop, two representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention, the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and a rabbi from Yeshiva University.

“Here you are being asked to testify about your rights being trampled on – an overstatement if there ever was one,” Connolly said. “Your participation on the panel makes you complicit in of course the trampling of freedom, because we were denied, on this side of the aisle, any witness who might have a differing point of view.”

The committee’s Republican majority and Democratic minority clashed bitterly in the days leading up to the hearing over the nature of the hearing and the number of witnesses Democrats should be able to call. Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-CA, said the hearings were devoted exclusively to religious liberty, while minority members wanted to focus the hearings on contraception.

In an impassioned speech, Connolly said to the Christian leaders assembled to testify, “This is a panel designed – with your conscious participation or not – to try one more time to embarrass the president of the United States and his administration by overstating an issue which is sacred to all Americans, religious freedom.” Accusing his colleagues of “political demagoguery in an election year,” Connolly said, “men and women of the cloth it seems to me ought to run, not walk, away from that line.”

He also criticized South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy for asking if the panelists would go to prison before violating their consciences.

When asked,  Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport replied, “We are not going to violate our conscience.” Dr. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missour Synod agreed, “Yes, I would [go to jail], clearly.” Dr. Craig Mitchell of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said, “I’d like to be in his cell.”

Later in the hearing, Dr. Mitchell told the committee, “Tens of thousands of us, maybe hundreds of thousands of us, would be willing to spend a night in jail for the preservation of religious liberty.”

“These guys are either going to have to go to jail because they won’t violate their religious beliefs,” Gowdy said, “or the hospitals and the schools are going to close, which means government is gonna get bigger, because they’re going to have to fill the void when you guys quit doing it – and maybe that’s what they wanted all along.”

That assertion was “beyond the pale,” Connolly said. “As if people are going to jail on this. Shame. Everybody knows that’s not true.” Rep. Lacy Clay, D-MO, agreed the hearings had sunk to a level of “disingenuousness.”

Some members later apologized to the religious leaders for their colleagues’ behavior. Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma joked, “This is not something probably you anticipated a year ago to think, gosh wouldn’t it be great sometime in 2012 if I could go be on a Congressional hearing and just get berated publicly?”

The religious leaders responded graciously under fire – Rep. Connolly asked no questions of them – but continually reasserted the seriousness of eroding the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of religion..

Bp. Lori said the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops has an ad hoc committee on religious liberty “because we have massive concerns about religious liberty at the state and national levels. Massive concerns.”

Dr. Ben Mitchell of Union University warned the Obama administration was “clearly hollowing out the idea of religious liberty.”

Religious institutions that refuse to comply with the mandate to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs as part of their health care coverage face fines that could force them to close their doors. Dr. Harrison said his preliminary research showed his denomination could face “tens of millions of dollars” in fines if it loses its grandfathered status in the health care agreement and is forced to provide abortifacients. At the second panel Dr. William K. Thierfelder, the president of Belmont Abbey College calculated it would cost the college – associated with a monastery – $300,000 a year if it refused to comply. His college is suing the Obama administration for violating the First Amendment.

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University said, although he had no objection to contraception or the health care bill, he worried what future government edicts might affect members of his own religion. “When I see the religious leaders of one pretty large religious community in this country say this government mandate is seeking to force us to violate a tenet of our faith, and see then the admininistration say, well that’s too bad, that makes small denominations or faiths in this country begin to wonder” what may be in store, he said. “Not only is this an outrageous violation of one particular faith’s religious freedom, it’s quite frightening to all of us who care about our religious freedom.”

He said testified only because“the president and the administration just do not seem sensitive to religious concerns.”

Seeking to balance the pitched nature of the hearings. Dr. Harrison said, “I really loathe the partisan nature of this discussion…I personally get on my knees every single morning in my office, and I pray for this president and for my government.”

“This provision is draconian,” he said.

Only 5 days left!

Support pro-life news. Help us reach our critical spring fundraising goal by April 1!


Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

, ,

Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben
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."

Advertisement
Featured Image
Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
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. 

Follow Jonathon van Maren on Facebook

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.

Follow Jonathon van Maren on Facebook

Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
Shutterstock.com
John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

Red Alert!

John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry
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!

Thank you so much for your support. 

Share this article

Advertisement

Customize your experience.

Login with Facebook