Ben Johnson

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

Ben Johnson
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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.

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State Rep who compared Planned Parenthood with ISIS moves to bar dismemberment abortions

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By Ben Johnson
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State Representative Isaac Latterell, R-Sioux Falls

PIERRE, SD, February 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The state representative who said that Planned Parenthood beheads human beings just like ISIS is calling for the state Senate to ban all forms of dismemberment abortion.

“Planned Parenthood is worse than ISIS,” said State Representative Isaac Latterell, R-Sioux Falls said when introducing H.B. 1230, the Preborn Infant Beheading Ban of 2015. The bill would make it a felony for an abortionist to behead an unborn child as part of an abortion procedure within the state limits.

“There are certain revolting methods of execution, such as beheading, that no state would ever permit, even against murderers who use this method on their victims,” Rep. Latterell said.

The House Health and Human Services Committee passed the bill last week by a 11-2 vote.

But not everyone was happy with the bill and the publicity it drew. (The same committee had killed a dismemberment and decapitation abortion ban last year.)

State Rep. Burt Tulson, R-Lake Norden, amended the beheading law to simply read, “The State of South Dakota recognizes the sanctity of human life.”

The full House passed the amended form of his bill by 65-3 on Thursday, February 19.

Rep. Latterell is now asking the state Senate to revise the bill again – to go beyond beheading and bar all forms of dismemberment of the unborn.

“I knew beheading was an abhorrent technique reserved for the likes of ISIS terrorists, but I did not fully appreciate how much pain the fetal dismemberment that takes place during dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions causes the baby,” Latterell told LifeSiteNews. “I am confident when the Senate committee is finished with its hearing, Planned Parenthood's lies will be exposed. I look forward to banning dismemberment abortion once and for all.”

“Dismemberment abortion kills a baby by tearing her apart limb from limb,” said Daniel Woodard, a Columbus School of Law student who testified for the bill.

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Introducing such a bill would put South Dakota in the mainstream of the national pro-life movement. The National Right to Life Committee has made banning dismemberment abortions a national focus. The same day that the South Dakota House passed Latterell's bill, the Kansas state Senate passed the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act.

Other states, including Oklahoma and Missouri, have introduced legislation to end the most common form of second-trimester abortion, as well.

The amended H.B. 1230 had its first reading in the state Senate on Friday.

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Detaching ‘pastoral practice’ from Catholic doctrine is a ‘dangerous schizophrenic pathology’: Vatican cardinal

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By Hilary White

ROME, February 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Another highly placed Vatican Cardinal has corrected the “progressivist” proposal to offer Holy Communion to Catholics who have been divorced and remarried or who are in other “irregular” sexual unions. The highly respected Cardinal Robert Sarah, recently appointed to the office overseeing the Church’s liturgical practices, says that attempting to detach Catholic teaching from “pastoral practice” is a form of “heresy.”

“The idea that would consist in placing the Magisterium in a nice box by detaching it from pastoral practice – which could evolve according to the circumstances, fads, and passions – is a form of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology,” Cardinal Sarah said.

“The African Church will strongly oppose any rebellion against the teaching of Jesus and the Magisterium,” he added.

The Guinean cardinal is the prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments, but until recently was serving as the head of Cor Unum, the office overseeing the Church’s charitable activities. In his former job, given by Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Sarah was spearheading efforts at reforming the umbrella organization, Caritas Internationalis, as it brought its policies into line with Catholic moral teaching, particularly on contraception and abortion.

The cardinal made the remarks in a book of interviews to be published this week by the French language press, Fayard. Titled “Dieu ou rien” (God or Nothing), the book is described as “frank personal thoughts” on the cardinal’s life, including on “the ideological neo-colonialism in Africa exercised by the decadent West.”

On the various crises of the African continent, he said, “I want to strongly condemn a desire to impose false values ​​using political and financial arguments.” 

He said that in some African countries, “ministries dedicated to gender theory” have been created in order to legitimize the ideology. “These policies are all the more hideous inasmuch as the majority of the African population is defenseless, thanks to the fanatical Western ideologues,” Cardinal Sarah said. 

In the book the cardinal also addresses euthanasia, calling it “the most acute marker of a society without God,” and “subhuman.” But he adds that he has seen an “awakening of consciences,” particularly among younger people in North America who want to overcome “the culture of death.” 

“God was not asleep, he is really with those who defend life!”

Since the “suggestion” on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, made at last year’s consistory, and pushed hard at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in October, by the German Walter Cardinal Kasper and his followers, the Catholic Church is increasingly being shown to be deeply divided at the highest levels and on some of the Church’s most fundamental and definitive issues. While it was frequently commented that the African bishops were on the whole strongly opposed to the Kasper Proposal, the West’s view of the “African Church” as a conservative monolith has been refuted. At least one African bishop has indicated that he outright supports Kasper’s proposal, repeating much of the rhetoric of the Kasper supporters in and out of the Vatican.

Gabriel Palmer Buckle, the archbishop of Accra in Ghana, and one of the bishops chosen to attend the next Synod in October, is quoted by long-time American Vaticanist John Allen saying that he is ready “to vote yes” on allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion.

John Allen wrote that the Ghanian archbishop “supports allowing local bishops to make those decisions on a case-by-case basis, and also believes that’s the result Pope Francis wants from the October summit.”

“When a person comes to me, I think I should be able to sit with him or her, or with the family, to find out what the situation is and to give solutions to individual cases without making a sweeping statement,” Palmer-Buckle said.

“It’s not a matter of issuing a new law,” he said. “As for the doctrine [on marriage], I don’t think the Church will change. It’s a question of how we help individuals.”

He added also that the “case-by-case” approach is favored by Pope Francis. “The truth of the matter is that the Holy Father is pushing towards that, when he talks about collegiality,” he said.

The archbishop echoed the phrases and jargon – such as the invocation of “gradualism” and “accompaniment” – used by both the Vatican and Kasper’s supporters during and immediately following the 2014 Synod.

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“The Holy Father has made it clear that the Church’s doctrine [that marriage is always indissoluble] remains the perfection point, the point of arrival, but we are all wounded,” Palmer-Buckle said. “That’s why Christ came, for the sick, the wounded, the needy.”

“If we look at our own pastoral challenges, there must be room to listen and to see how we can pastorally accompany whoever wants to belong more and more to Christ.”

He also reiterated Kasper’s own statement that the proposal is not intended to change Church teaching: “It’s not a matter of issuing a new law…As for the doctrine [on marriage], I don’t think the Church will change. It’s a question of how we help individuals.”

Others have strongly refuted this thesis, including high-level cardinals, who have said that a change in the practice would simply make the doctrine irrelevant to most Catholics.

With the next session of the Synod still eight months in the future, the sides in the argument are rapidly forming. A few days ago, US Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, joined the growing chorus of opposition, saying, “Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral and we cannot carry out something else and call it pastoral, if it doesn’t embody the truth.”

“Certain doctrines are embodied in certain practices and even if you don’t change the doctrine in writing, in a written document, if you change the practice you have changed what the previous practice embodied.”

In January, another Vatican curial official, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, gave a lecture in Germany strongly refuting the underlying theory of the Kasper Proposal. With Cardinal Sarah, Piacenza explained that it is incoherent to suggest that the Church’s “pastoral practice” could possibly be placed in opposition to her doctrine.

Speaking to a group of priests and seminarians, Cardinal Piacenza said, “When in Christianity mercy and truth are presented as antagonistic, or at least as contradictory, it is always the result of a partial perception.”

“It is hardly conceivable that there could be such a strong emphasis on mercy to the detriment of truth. Or, its opposite, a strong emphasis on truth to the detriment of mercy.”

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Eric Metaxas

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What Uncle Sam giveth, he can taketh away: Our rights are from God, not government

Eric Metaxas
By Eric Metaxas

February 23, 2015 (BreakPoint.org) -- During a recent appearance on CNN, Roy Moore, the chief judge of Alabama’s Supreme Court, debated the issue of same-sex marriage with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, the son of the late New York governor Mario Cuomo and the brother of New York’s current governor, Andrew Cuomo.

During the discussion, Moore said that “Our rights, contained in the Bill of Rights, do not come from the Constitution. They come from God. That’s clearly stated in the Declaration of Independence.” Cuomo then responded “Our rights do not come from God, your honor, and you know that. They come from man.”

Cuomo added that the idea of God-given rights is “your faith [and] my faith, but that’s not our country. Our laws come from collective agreement and compromise.”

I can’t help but wonder which country Cuomo is referring to. After all, the Declaration of Independence, by way of justifying the enormous steps the Founding Fathers were about to take, states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men . . .”

These words, which previous generations of American school children were made to memorize, set forth an order that is 180 degrees from that suggested by Cuomo: first comes the Creator, who then endows his creatures with “certain unalienable rights,” and then the creatures form governments to “secure those rights.”

In essence, Cuomo is resorting to a kind of legal positivism, that is, the idea that “law is a matter of what has been posited,” something “ordered, decided, practiced, [or] tolerated,” and is not based on any deeper truth.

But that approach has serious flaws—as our own history bears out. In the run-up to the Civil War, for example, defenders of slavery appealed to the text of the Constitution, which permitted slavery without mentioning it by name. Opponents of slavery, or at least those against its spread into the territories, such as Lincoln, appealed to the Declaration of Independence and its ideas about God-given rights.

Sticking to man-given rights and appealing to “collective agreement and compromise” as Cuomo insists upon doing, would not have ended slavery.

However, if our nation’s leaders agree with Cuomo that the rights we possess are those the government has deined to give us, that would go a long way to explaining the erosion of religious liberty we are witnessing in the U. S. After all, the same government that can create a right to abortion and same-sex marriage can also take away the rights of freedom of religion and freedom of association. This may yield the results folks like Cuomo want, but it undermines the very foundation of human rights that we all claim to hold dear.

And that is really what’s at stake. Years ago on this program, Chuck Colson said that human rights are “based on our most fundamental beliefs about humans being created in the image of God.” Our “rights are not conferred by government, and so they cannot be denied by government.” It was this belief that led Chuck to draft the Manhattan Declaration in defense of human life, marriage, and religious freedom.

More than half a million Americans have signed the Manhattan Declaration. So if you have not, or if you haven’t even read this vitally important defense of our rights and freedom, please come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and I’ll link you to it.

Chris Cuomo was right about one thing: God-given rights are what our faith teaches. If that’s no longer true about “our country,” Heaven help us all.

Reprinted with permission from Break Point. 

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