Kathleen Gilbert

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‘Fortnight for Freedom’: U.S. bishops launch all-out prayer effort against HHS mandate

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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WASHINGTON, June 20, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Catholic bishops of the United States are preparing to launch what they have called a “great hymn of prayer for our country” lasting for two weeks in response to encroachments on religious freedom in America.

The “Fortnight for Freedom” will begin with a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore on the vigil of the feast of English martyrs SS. Thomas More and John Fisher, celebrated by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori. It will end on July 4 at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., with D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl presiding and Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput as homilist.

The bishops note that the fortnight is timed to encompass several feast days of “great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power,” including Fisher and More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.

“Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty,” states the Fortnight for Freedom web page.

A “prayer for the protection of religious liberty” on the web page petitions for “strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened” and “a clear and united voice ... in this decisive hour in the history of our nation.”

The bishops said dioceses and parishes around the country have scheduled special events supporting the campaign.

The Fortnight for Freedom comes on the heels of a second wave of nationwide rallies against an upcoming mandate by the federal Health and Human Services Department (HHS) that will require employers, including Christian hospitals, charities, and universities, to provide insured birth control to their employees. The finalized mandate will take effect August 1. The June rallies drew tens of thousands of protesters in 160 cities across the U.S.

Last week, the U.S. bishops reaffirmed their condemnation of the HHS mandate, nothing that the rule effectively punishes Catholic institutions for operating in the public sphere.

“The exemption is not merely a government foray into internal Church governance, where government has no legal competence or authority—disturbing though that may be,” wrote the bishops in March. “This error in theory has grave consequences in principle and practice.

“Those deemed by HHS not to be ‘religious employers’ will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world.”

The Obama administration is currently facing at least seven lawsuits over the HHS mandate from dozens of Catholic and Christian institutions, and an eighth backed by the attorneys general of seven U.S. states (Nebraska, Texas, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina).

Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, whose own organization would be subject to the mandate, said the uprising was not a crusade, but a battle for America’s own integrity.

“I am not calling for any Vatican takeover of America; I’m calling for an American takeover of America!” said Pavone. “It’s fine to say we stand with our religious leaders, but let’s make it clear that they and we are standing with our Constitution and our great nation, rooted in God’s gift of freedom.”

Red alert! Last call.

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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

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Sydney archdiocese sends letters to businesses expressing concern over support of gay ‘marriage’

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

June 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney has sent letters expressing "grave concern" to numerous corporations that had sponsored a full-page newspaper ad published in The Weekend Australian on June 13 promoting same-sex "marriage".

“You are publicly supporting a strategic, political and well-funded campaign designed to pressure the federal government into changing the Marriage Act,” reads the letter from archdiocese business manager Michael Digges to one of the businesses, the law firm of Maurice Blackburn.

“I wonder whether you have questioned whether it is the role of a corporation such as yours to be participating in such an ­important matter that impacts all of Australian society now and into the future," it continued.

"For corporations to speak on such issues on behalf of shareholders, employees, clients/customers, suppliers and other stakeholders is indeed overstepping their purpose and is to be strongly resisted," the letter stated.

Maurice Blackburn, along with more than 150 other businesses including Qantas, Google, MTV, McDonald's, Levi's and the Football Federation of Australia, put their names in the ad calling for the government to amend the Australian Marriage Act of 1961, which recognizes marriage as between one man and one woman, to include homosexual couples.

Maurice Blackburn's Liberty Sanger told the ABC the letter was “uncalled for” and “a very heavy-handed response,” noting that the position of the law firm is to "continue to show our support so that others who have the same view as us have the courage to speak up and encourage parliamentarians to make the right decision in the Parliament."

The letter to corporations asking them to stay out of the culture war surrounding same-sex "marriage" follows the distribution of a pastoral letter titled "Don’t Mess With Marriage" to Sydney parishes, staff and parents of children at Catholic schools.

“Don't Mess with Marriage “explains the Church's formal teachings on the Sacrament of Marriage, and it reaffirms and supports the definitions contained within the Marriage Act 1961 and the Marriage Act Amendment of 2004, which defines marriage as "a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others."

It also details the implications of changing this law to permit same-sex couples to marry.

"The Church's contribution to informing the public debate is crucial," said Anthony Cleary, Director of Religious Education and Evangelization in a statement, "because at the moment this side of the argument is not being adequately covered either by social or the mainstream media."

Cleary pointed out that for people of faith, marriage is not simply a label that can be attached and transferred to different types of relationships as the fashion of the day dictates.

He explained that marriage for Catholics is not only an emotional union, but a total commitment of body and spirit, and that the Church teaches that God is the author of marriage and that the matrimonial covenant between baptized persons is holy and has the status of a sacrament.

Earlier in June a statement from the Sydney Archdiocese said that thirty-eight Australian religious leaders representing the major religious traditions and a broad diversity of faiths and cultures, have written a public letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, urging him to resist attempts in Federal Parliament to redefine the meaning of marriage.

"As leaders of Australia's major religions we write to express the grave concerns that we, and those who share our various faiths, share regarding Bills that have or will be introduced into the Federal Parliament to change the definition of marriage in Australian law," the letter said.

The 38 signatories include the Catholic and Anglican Archbishops of Sydney, a bishop of the Lutheran Church, bishops from various Eastern and Orthodox Churches, Christian pastors representing major Protestant denominations, senior rabbis from the Jewish community and leaders from both the Sunni and Shia Islamic communities.

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The religious leaders pointed out that Australia's definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman is shared by the vast majority of nations and cultures, who represent over 91 percent of the global population.

Moreover, they emphasized the need to uphold traditional marriage for the good of children, stating that, "as a couple, two persons of the same sex are not able to provide a child with the experience of both mothering and fathering. Only the institution of marriage between a man and a woman has this inherent capacity to provide children with both of these relationships that are so foundational to our human identity and development."

The Abbott federal government had gone into the last election with the policy of supporting traditional marriage, meaning that the government MPs would be bound to vote against same-sex “marriage” on a party basis if a bill is put forward.

Australian law permits homosexual civil unions, but not marriage, a law which Abbott has defended.

Following May's referendum in Ireland legalizing same-sex "marriage", Abbott reiterated that Australia will not hold such a referendum, despite pressure from activists.

"Referendums are held in this country when there is a proposal to change our constitution and I don't think anyone is suggesting the constitution needs to be changed in this respect," Abbott said. "It's up to members of parliament who are eager for change to decide whether they want to bring it forward."

The letter from the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney to the law firm of Maurice Blackburn is available in two parts here and here.

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Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

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Supreme Court suspends Texas law that would have closed half of its abortion facilities

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben
By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – About half of the abortion facilities in Texas got a reprieve from the Supreme Court on its last day in session.

Justices ruled 5-4 that, right now, the state of Texas may not enforce health protection laws that would have put all but nine of the state's abortion offices out of business. The court's conservative bloc – Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito – objected, but Anthony Kennedy cast the decisive vote with the court's liberals.

At issue is whether the state may require abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and require abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety codes as other ambulatory surgical centers.

The temporary stay of Senate Bill 5 lasts until the justices decide whether they will hear an appeal from the abortion industry, which argues the law's provisions would unduly restrict a woman's access to abortion-on-demand.

“The U.S. Supreme Court was swayed, not for the first time in a week, by illogical arguments,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “By actively lobbying against common sense regulations that would make sure women have access to ‘safe, legal and rare’ abortions, Planned Parenthood and their allies are making a mockery of women’s health care.”

“The abortion industry cares only for their bottom line, and women and their prenatal children are merely dollar signs in their business cycle,” Hawkins said.

"Women and babies are being denied protections with the Supreme Court blocking pro-life legislation,” said Lila Rose of Live Action. “Contrary to what big abortion organizations would have us believe, the possible closure of abortion facilities is due to the refusal of these corporations to adhere to sensible and ordinary medical precautions. We look forward to the day that both the legislature and the Courts use their power to protect the most vulnerable among us."

State pro-life leaders regret the loopholes that they say put women's health at risk.

“Unfortunately, women who do not have abortions at any of the nine operating ambulatory surgical centers that perform abortions will continue to be subjected to substandard medical care,” said Joe Pojman, Ph.D., executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.

The ruling does not permanently enjoin the state. It does not even guarantee justices will hear the case.

Should they decline, the law will go into effect in its entirety.

Last October, the Supreme Court allowed Texas to implement these measures while the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals considered its decision in a 6-3 verdict. However, it added that the state must allow abortion facilities in El Paso and McAllen to operate subpar operations, defying greater protections for women, because closing those facilities would require women to drive a great distance to the next nearest abortion facility.

Earlier this month, a three-panel judge of the appeals court, based in New Orleans, upheld the health regulations. All three judges had been appointed by President George W. Bush.

Had the full requirements gone into effect, half of all the remaining abortion facilities in Texas would have closed.

The left-wing website ThinkProgress worried, if the High Court upheld the decision, it would mean that “Roe v. Wade is almost entirely dead.”

Today, representatives of the abortion lobby felt relief. "Our Constitution rightly protects women from laws that would create barriers to safe and legal abortion care, but Texas politicians have tried to sneak around the Constitution with sham regulations designed to close clinics’ doors," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a pro-life Republican, vowed to “continue to fight for higher-quality health care standards for women while protecting our most vulnerable – the unborn.”

“I’m confident the Supreme Court will ultimately uphold this law,” he added.

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Drew Belsky

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Post-Obergefell, states withdraw marriage licenses, ensure conscience protection

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

June 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Friday's Supreme Court ruling redefining marriage in the United States has caused a tumult in county clerks' offices.  While some states have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples throughout, others have counties still waiting for directives from their respective attorneys general regarding how to proceed.

Louisiana governor and 2016 presidential candidate Bobby Jindal (R) announced that clerks in the Pelican State must wait 25 days before issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  This is the period of time the state has to ask the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its own ruling on the matter.  However, Jindal admitted on Meet the Press that Louisiana will likely have to comply with the Supreme Court's Obergefell ruling before long, and the governor's directive is binding only in New Orleans, which falls under his personal jurisdiction.

Urge Congress to pass a marriage protection amendment now. Sign the petition!

In a statement, Jindal said, “Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that.”

“This decision will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty,” he said.

Two Alabama counties have stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether.  The probate judges in Pike and Geneva Counties cited Alabama law, which states that "[m]arriage licenses may [as opposed to shall] be issued by the judges of probate of the several counties."  Judges in other Alabama counties may do likewise.

Mississippi may follow suit as well, with Gov. Phil Bryant (R) having declared his intention "to do all that he can to protect and defend the religious freedoms of Mississippi."

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) echoed Bryant, calling the Supreme Court ruling an "overreach of the federal government," whose "powers should no longer be limited to those enumerated in our Constitution."

In Texas, prior to the Obergefell ruling, state attorney general Ken Paxton (R) had requested that county clerks hold off on granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples pending state approval.  However, several clerks post-Obergefell began processing licenses immediately, especially in large urban counties.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) condemned the Obergefell decision, blasting the Supreme Court for "abandon[ing] its role as an impartial judicial arbiter" and "becom[ing] a nine-member legislature."  Abbott promised to protect the religious liberty of Texas residents: "No Texan is required by the Supreme Court's decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage."

The Texas Senate's GOP caucus, calling Obergefell "an affront to the Texas Constitution," pledged to support Abbott and his attorney general "in any legal action [they] may take to defend the religious liberty of Texans in the wake of this troubling decision."

Harris County in Texas originally balked at issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples specifically because the forms read "man" and "woman," but the county's attorney's office directed clerks to issue the forms anyway, saying they could be corrected later.  Eventually, revised forms reading "applicant 1" and "applicant 2" were provided.

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