Ben Johnson

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1,400 Lutherans tell Catholic bishop: we’re standing with you for religious liberty

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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FORT WAYNE, Indiana, April 19, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a sign of growing solidarity and Christian unity, leaders of the Lutheran Church presented a Roman Catholic bishop with letters from nearly 1,400 Lutherans supporting the Catholic Church’s fight against the HHS mandate.

Leaders of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) presented 112 letters from congregations and church institutions to Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend as part of a “Stand Together for Religious Liberty” event on Tuesday. Some 1,396 Protestants from as far as Iowa signed the letters to the Catholic prelate.

On Tuesday, participants marched the one block from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where a crowd of 250 people gathered shortly after noon Mass.

Rev. Daniel P. May, Indiana LCMS district president, said the Lutherans undertook the gesture to assure religious freedom remained “unobstructed by government intrusion or coercion, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America.”

The Rev. Dr. Charles Gieschen, professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne – of the denomination’s two seminaries – told LifeSiteNews.com he spoke at the event, then took part in delivering “letters of encouragement and support in light of the challenges the compromising of religious freedom has brought the Roman Catholic community.”

“It was organized primarily by a Lutheran layman who just saw this as an opportunity for Lutheran Christians to support other Christians,” Dr. Gieschen said. “In terms of sacred things we gather together with people of our communion, but on things like moral issues, such as the sanctity of human life, we seek to stand together with those who are lending their voices to address these issues in our wider society.” 

Bishop Rhoades “just thought it was a beautiful ecumenical outreach,” Tim Johnson, editor of the local diocesan newspaper, Today’s Catholic News, told LifeSiteNews.com. “I walked back with him to the cathedral, and you could tell he was so pleased at how it came out.”

Rev. Peter Cage, senior pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, told a local television station, “We want to make it clear that this mandate is a concern not only for Catholics. It is an attack on freedom of religion. This controversy is not about contraception, or women’s rights, or anything other than freedom of religion.”

The bishop, who is a consultant to the Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, spoke last, calling the contraceptive and abortifacient mandate “an unprecedented coercive action by the federal government to force religious institutions and individuals to facilitate and to fund products that are contrary to our moral teaching.”

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“Religious liberty is more than freedom of worship,” he said. “It includes the freedom to practice our faith in society without coercion from the government to violate our consciences. We stand together as Lutherans and Catholics today in opposing the attack on our religious liberty by the federal government.”

He told the mixed Protestants and Catholics at the event, “You give me hope that, with the help of God’s grace, we will see a new birth of freedom in our beloved country.”

“My heart is filled with gratitude to you, my brothers and sisters of Lutheran congregations of the Missouri Synod here in Fort Wayne,” the bishop said.

The outpouring of unity was the latest joint action the two historically estranged churches have taken together against the Obama administration’s encroachments on the freedom of religion.

The denomination’s president, Dr. Matthew Harrison, testified alongside a Catholic bishop at an often hostile hearing on religious freedom before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in February. He estimated the mandate could cost his denomination tens of millions in fines if it refuses to comply and expressed his willingness to go to jail over his beliefs.

In February, the Fort Wayne seminary faculty posted a statement on the HHS mandate that said, “While we do not share with the Catholic Church the same teaching on contraceptives, we do honor their right, according to the First Amendment, to practice their beliefs according to their conscience. Furthermore, we do stand with them entirely on the matter of abortifacients, which we hold to be the taking of human life.”

“Furthermore, this mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is by no means an isolated incident,” the statement held, “but is part of a troubling trend in which governmental entities are demanding that religious institutions abandon their own biblical principles or else discontinue their works of charity.”

The Obama administration intervened in Hosanna v. Tabor, a Supreme Court case attempting to eliminate the ministerial exemption. The Christian school being sued is affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Catholic adoption agencies have closed rather than violate their consciences. Chicago’s Francis Cardinal George has warned all Catholic hospitals will close in two years if the HHS mandate is not rescinded.

“Do we want to live in a world where social activities informed by religious conscience are systematically exterminated?” the seminary statement asked. “Do we want to live in a world where the social fabric is torn apart, and an overreaching government harasses the very people who knit together our society through acts of charity and mercy? Do we want the public landscape wiped clean of religious hospitals, schools and charitable organizations?”

Dr. Gieschen told LifeSiteNews, as theologically distinct as Lutherans and Catholics remain, they will always fight shoulder-to-shoulder to maintain religious liberty and to preserve the sanctity of human life.

 

 

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For Hillary Clinton, abortion access trumps religious liberty

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By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- For Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, apparently abortion trumps religious liberty.

It may have gotten bipartisan support in the House of Representatives last night, but a spokesperson for the Democratic Party's leading presidential candidate says a resolution protecting religious liberty in the District of Columbia "overrule[s] the democratic process" and hurts women.

The vote, which saw three Democrats join the GOP majority and 13 Republicans stand with Democrats, was meant to protect pro-life and religious organizations in the District from the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA).

RHNDA was signed by the mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser, in January, and makes it illegal for any employer, including religious and pro-life organizations, to use a person's belief or actions about abortion in employment considerations. It also requires employers to provide abortion coverage.

The resolution now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to fail due to the Senate being on recess. Under existing federal law, the measure has 30 legislative days to be disapproved by Congress and President Obama. If this does not happen, it becomes law.

The 30-day window ends on Saturday. President Obama promised a veto of the resolution on Thursday, even though RHNDA was opposed by former District mayor Vincent Gray. According to Gray, while he "applaud[s] the goals of this legislation," the former mayor believes RHNDA could violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal treatment under the law.

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The statement by the Clinton campaign left no doubt that she stood with Obama and a majority of Democratic legislators. Spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri told CNN, "Hillary Clinton has fought for women and families and their right to access the full range of reproductive health care without interference from politicians or employers."

"Hillary will fight to make it easier, not more difficult, for women and families to get ahead and ensure that women are not discriminated against for personal medical decisions."

The remarks come a week after Clinton took criticism for saying that "religious beliefs" critical of "reproductive rights" must "be changed."

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” she told the Women in the World Summit on April 23.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper," said Clinton in her speech. "Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will."

“Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed,” said the candidate.

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Social conservatives may be funding the destruction of marriage: corporate watchdog

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By Dustin Siggins

May 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- With over $55 million in annual revenue, the Human Rights Campaign may be America's most powerful LGBT activist group. And according to a conservative corporate watchdog, that's in part because social conservatives are funding it.

"Conservatives would be surprised to know that many of the dollars they spend every day are helping fund an agenda that seeks to destroy traditional marriage and undermine religious freedoms," said 2nd Vote National Outreach Director Robert Kuykendall. "Even when they purchase a beverage from a company like Coca-cola or Starbucks, their dollar is going to support HRC's liberal agenda to redefine marriage."

Less than 18 months old, 2nd Vote has graded hundreds of corporations on six issues -- corporate welfare, the environment, education, support for the Second Amendment, abortion, and as of two weeks ago, same-sex "marriage." Using their "scoring" system, 2nd Vote ranks corporations on their direct or indirect involvement with these hot-button public policy and cultural issues.

And according to them, some of America's favorite corporations are making the radical HRC agenda possible.

"HRC is the largest LGBT lobbying organization in the United States with reported revenues of over $55 million," Kuykendall told LifeSiteNews. "The redefinition of marriage and the undermining of religious freedom are major components of HRC’s policy agenda. To fund their policy goals, HRC has enlisted the help of many major corporations that we do business with every day to help fund. Over a third of the contributions received by HRC are listed as 'Corporate/Foundation Grants.'" 

Why should conservatives care about corporate donors to HRC? Kuykendall says the organization is both politically influential and publicly deceptive. "Last election cycle, HRC spent around a million dollars on electioneering activities and in support of liberal candidates willing to push their legislative agenda. HRC is responsible for spreading much of the misinformation regarding [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] laws and has also mischaracterized the protections provided by these laws."

"HRC organized a massive grassroots campaign in support of the legal battle to overturn state laws protecting marriage and influence the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges," said Kuykendall.

Marriage isn't the only issue on which conservatives may be at odds with HRC's corporate backers. "2nd Vote’s research into other issues such as life, the environment, and the 2nd Amendment shows that many of the companies supporting HRC have taken liberal stands on other issues as well,” he said. “For example, Apple, Citigroup, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola are Platinum Partners, the highest level of HRC’s National Corporate Partners, that have also funded the liberal Center for American Progress [CAP]."

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"Bank of America, Google, Goldman Sachs, Starbucks, PepsiCo, and Morgan Stanley are also HRC Corporate Partners that have funded CAP. Furthermore, all of these companies signed the amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn state marriage laws."

In Indiana, the state's religious liberty law was modified because of corporate pressure led by Tim Cook, Apple's gay CEO. Kuykendall says conservatives should not give up, though he acknowledges that "for too long, conservatives have let liberals and groups like HRC bully companies into not just going along with their agenda, but actively funding and promoting it."

"However, conservatives have also proven their ability to mobilize and use their dollars in support of traditional values as we’ve seen through the fundraising campaigns for the pizza parlor and wedding cake makers who have been attacked by liberals for their beliefs. Conservatives need to turn the tables on the left, and groups like HRC, and motivate companies to stop funding the liberal agenda through the power of their shopping habits."

Only nine companies have ranks of "five" or "four" on 2nd Vote's ranking system, indicating a pro-marriage perspective. They are outnumbered more than 10 to 1 by organizations that support redefining marriage.

Concerned citizens can download the app on 2nd Vote's website. The full list of corporation scores can be found here.

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Fr. Mark Hodges

First graders exposed to book about transgender boy—without parental notification

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

KITTERY POINT, ME, May 1, 2015, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Parents at one Maine school are upset that children as young as six were exposed to a book promoting transgender issues, in the name of "acceptance."

Parents were not only not consulted, they were never even notified of their children's exposure to transgenderism.

Horace Mitchell Primary School read the book I Am Jazz to first-grade students. The book is about a boy who identifies as a girl from the age of two, "with a boy's body and a girl's brain." He eventually finds a doctor who tells his parents, "Jazz is transgender."

Parents began to inquire about what was being taught at Horace Mitchell Primary after children came home with questions about their own sex and wondering if they, too, might be transgender.

One mother, upset that teachers would broach the subject of transgenderism with her little boy, said the primary school ignored her complaint. "I feel like my thoughts, feelings and beliefs were completely ignored...My right as a parent to allow or not allow this discussion with my child was taken from me," she told Hannity.com.

"When I spoke with the principal he was very cold about it," the mother continued. "It's amazing how thoughtless the school has been with this whole thing."

Only after Sean Hannity made national inquiries did Horace Mitchell Primary School suggest that teachers should have told parents ahead of time.

Allyn Hutton, the superintendent of the local district, said she supported reading the book but admitted that parents should have been given advance warning about the subject matter. "We have a practice of – if a topic is considered sensitive – parents should be informed. In this situation, that didn't happen," she said. "We understand that toleration is tolerating people of all opinions."

Horace Mitchell Primary School sent an e-mail, after the fact, to concerned parents, including a link to a blog post of the school's guidance counselor, explaining their motivation was "cultivating respect."

"Some may think primary school students are too young to worry about addressing issues surrounding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students. Not so, experts say,” the school's guidance counselor wrote. “It’s never too early to begin teaching children about respecting differences."

Homosexual activists say they support the teaching of transgenderism to first-graders, with or without parental notification. "The staff of Mitchell School is...shedding a light on [LGBTQ] issues,” said a column in Gay Star News.

The LGBT puublication goes even further, advocating homosexual propaganda be commonplace in elementary schools across the country. "LGBTQ issues should never be classified as a 'sensitive subject,' [because] there is nothing sensitive about the way we are born. Blonde hair, brown hair, gay, straight or somewhere in-between."

Brian Camenker of MassResistance commented on the infiltration of homosexual propaganda in children's schools. "We deal with parents and teachers a lot, and the idea that teachers would do this is unconscionable. It's like the people that promote this stuff are evil. It's demonic. You can't imagine adults that would do this to other people's children, and do it with such anger, and such vitrol.”

Camenker emphasized that this is “not an isolated incident with just one, rogue teacher. This happens because the whole administrative hierarchy buys into it.”

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“The new generation of educators is very, very frightening,” he said.

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