Ben Johnson

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Obama admin ‘stonewalling’ freedom of information request on Planned Parenthood funding

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE, February 22, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Obama administration is “stonewalling” on a Freedom of Information Act request about why it chose to fund the local affiliate of Planned Parenthood after New Hampshire’s state government cut off state funds, according to a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund.

The New Hampshire Executive Council – a part of the state government’s executive branch – denied Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) a $1.8 million grant last June, while approving family planning contracts with nine institutions that do not provide abortions. Its members suggested the state “should find health centers who would be able to utilize these monies more effectively than Planned Parenthood, which was unwilling to give the Executive Council the proper assurances and documentation of how this money was going to be spent,” ADF-affiliated attorney Michael Tierney told LifeSiteNews.com.

Then, in August, the HHS informed state officials that it would open the Title X grant in 2012 to a competitive bid. However, a local clinic in Manchester says it never received a response about how to apply. Instead, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, announced she had written a letter urging Kathleen Sebelius to make a “direct grant” to Planned Parenthood. (ADF’s legal complaint records that Shaheen received $390,000 in political donations from Planned Parenthood, EMILY’s List, and NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2008.)

(Click “like” if you want to end abortion! )

The Obama administration subsequently made a direct $1 million grant to PPNNE. Councilor David Wheeler said the action smacked of “arrogance,” saying, “Even though the state of New Hampshire turned down Planned Parenthood as a contractor, the Obama administration says you’re going to take it anyway, whether you like it or not.” Three councilors filed a formal complaint.

New Hampshire Right to Life filed an FOIA request to determine if HHS ever actually made the grant competitive, or received assurances PPNNE would not divert tax dollars to promoting abortion. It has yet to receive two-thirds of the documents it has requested.

According to the HHS website, “Under the FOIA program, agencies initially have 20 working days and may take an additional ten (10) working days to respond to the request.” Tierney said the process has taken 130 days, and the government has yet to give a deadline for compliance.

Federal officials repeatedly told the pro-life organization it had to change its wording or petition another agency of government before HHS could provide the documents, as required by law.

“I think it was a run-around,” Tierney told LifeSiteNews, adding that some of their explanations bordered on the “comical.”

New Hampshire RTL has received 465 of 1,225 requested pages – including many duplicates of the same document. “For example, the Susan B. Anthony List issued a press release on these Planned Parenthood grants. I think I’ve received that 30 times already,” Tierney told LifeSiteNews.com. Tierney added HHS officials sent him copies of e-mails he had sent them. “But Planned Parenthood’s grant application? I haven’t received even one copy of that.”

The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted last month to divest Planned Parenthood of state tax funds by a wide margin. That bill is now before the state senate, and Tierney thinks senators deserve information related to the grant process before casting a vote – particularly information relating to the Executive Council’s suspicions that PPNNE would not be able to assure Title X money would not be illegally used for abortion.

Such fears are not without basis. A compilation of state audits and whistleblower lawsuits assembled by the ADF uncovered an alleged $99 million in waste, abuse, and potential fraud by at least 20 percent of all national Planned Parenthood affiliates. 

Slow compliance from Washington is nothing new, Tom Fitton, president of the legal watchdog group Judicial Watch, told LifeSiteNews.com. 

New Hampshire Right to Life’s treatment adds corroboration to claims that the Obama administration has politicized the FOIA process to deny information to its perceived enemies, he said. FOIA requests filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, and National Public Radio were answered in less than the 20 working days – sometimes the same day – while requests filed by conservative institutions such as the Washington Times, Human Events, and the English First Foundation dragged on for months or were never answered. 
 
“You can’t treat people unequally based on where you think they’re coming from in terms of philosophy,” Fitton said. “This is what the administration seems to be doing.”

Fitton said the problem of federal evasion “goes way back” – and things are only getting worse. “Comparing [the Obama administration] to the Bush administration, which was supposedly the pinnacle of secrecy, it’s a lot worse,” Fitton told LifeSiteNews.com. “Administratively, they play more games, and in court they’re as hardcore.”

“You have an administration that is more secretive than the Bush administration,” he said.

Many of Judicial Watch’s investigations have requested documents about RU-486, the Plan Bmorning after pill,” and the Gardasil vaccine.

Fitton said Judicial Watch has sued the government at least 60 times to receive documents it has requested under the FOIA law.

“There’s a real problem with lawlessness in Washington,” Fitton said. “It’s about time we see this administration follow the law.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to 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,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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