65 Orthodox Church bishops call on Obama to ‘rescind’ the ‘unjust’ contraception mandate
NEW YORK, NY, February 6, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The 65 canonical bishops of the Orthodox Church have asked President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to repeal the mandate that religious institutions provide birth control, sterilization, and Plan B abortion drugs in their health care coverage.
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America – which represents 12 Orthodox jurisdictions and three million Orthodox Christians in the United States – issued a press release last Thursday calling the HHS ruling a violation of religious conscience.
“The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion,” the statement says. “This freedom is transgressed when a religious institution is required to pay for ‘contraceptive services’ including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that directly violate their religious convictions.”
“Providing such services should not be regarded as mandated medical care. We, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, call upon HHS Secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration to rescind this unjust ruling and to respect the religious freedom guaranteed all Americans by the First Amendment.”
The bishops urged the faithful to take action. The statement calls upon “all the Orthodox Christian faithful to contact their elected representatives today to voice their concern in the face of this threat to the sanctity of the Church’s conscience.”
Influential leaders in the Orthodox Church expressed their appreciation that the bishops had spoken out. “The statement issued by the Orthodox bishops reflects a welcome voice in the public square that has too often been silent due to our unhappy divisions as American Orthodox Christians,” said Fr. Chad Hatfield, the president of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York, in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com.
Fr. Peter-Michael Preble, an Orthodox priest and writer in Massachusetts agreed, “I don’t think we should shy about controversial topics.” Fr. Preble wrote an article in The Huffington Post asking the hierarchy of his church to publicly address the subject. “This seemed to be more of a national issue that the bishops as a whole had to say something about, and they weren’t, and I was afraid we were losing ground,” he told LifeSiteNews.com. “The Roman Catholic bishops were carrying the majority water on this issue and taking the brunt of the heat, and I just thought we had to do something.”
After reading the statement, Fr. Preble said, “I’m very pleased with the fact that [the bishops] did speak out, and I hope that this is the start of other statements that they will make about other issues, as well.”
The nation’s Orthodox Christians join a growing number of non-Catholics who had officially opposed the contraception mandate, which religious institutions will be required to observe by next August. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on his daily podcast last Tuesday that any law requiring people of faith to violate their conscience “is not only a Catholic issue…our religious liberty is being similarly subverted and attacked.”
Late last year 60 religious leaders, mostly Protestants as well as two Orthodox Jewish spokesmen, signed a letter to President Obama, stating, “It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients.”
The Orthodox Church is the second largest church in the world. The North American bishops posted their press release last Thursday, the date Orthodox Christians celebrate the presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple.
Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America was traveling and was not immediately available for comment.
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The statement reads in full:
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, which is comprised of the 65 canonical Orthodox bishops in the United States, Canada and Mexico, join their voices with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and all those who adamantly protest the recent decision by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and call upon all the Orthodox Christian faithful to contact their elected representatives today to voice their concern in the face of this threat to the sanctity of the Church’s conscience.
In this ruling by HHS, religious hospitals, educational institutions, and other organizations will be required to pay for the full cost of contraceptives (including some abortion-inducing drugs) and sterilizations for their employees, regardless of the religious convictions of the employers.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. This freedom is transgressed when a religious institution is required to pay for “contraceptive services” including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that directly violate their religious convictions. Providing such services should not be regarded as mandated medical care. We, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, call upon HHS Secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration to rescind this unjust ruling and to respect the religious freedom guaranteed all Americans by the First Amendment.
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America
Pro-life group asks: Pray for abortionists who sell baby body parts
February 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - This Lent, a pro-life group would like you to pray for an abortionist - specifically, an abortionist who facilitates the sale of unborn babies' body parts.
The Pro-Life Action League is asking for people to pray for three people in particular throughout the 40 days of Lent. All three were caught on video by the Center for Medical Progress.
Dr. Deborah Nucatola appeared in the first video released last July, sipping red wine and stabbing her salad as she discussed the dismemberment of aborted children, including where to “crush” their bodies for a "less crunchy" technique.
The second is Dr. Mary Gatter, who appeared in the second undercover video, haggling over the prices Planned Parenthood expected to receive for the aborted children's organs and tissue. At one point, she joked that she wants the revenue to pay for “a Lamborghini.”
And the third is Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, who was also caught in the first video praising Dr. Nucatola.
Despite the shocking evidence uncovered by CMP, Richards has insisted her organization did not receive any profit for what she dubs its "fetal tissue donation program." She apologized only for Dr. Nucatola's "tone." She has since said that Planned Parenthood will not receive any remuneration for babies' body parts.
"These three architects of Planned Parenthood’s baby parts scheme have devoted their lives to the destruction and exploitation of human life in the name of ‘choice,’" said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League. "If we won’t pray for them, who will?”
He asked Christians to pray for these three abortion industry profiteers - and for Richards, who is a post-abortive woman - in order to fulfill Jesus Christ's commandment in the Bible, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (St. Matthew 5:44).
“In God’s eyes, what abortion has done to these three women may be worse than what they’ve done to unborn children, who now rest in our Lord’s loving arms," Scheidler said.
For most Catholics, Lent began yesterday on Ash Wednesday, and lasts 40 days.
Texas AG faces ethics probe for defending conscience rights of natural marriage supporters
AUSTIN, Texas, February 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The attorney general of the state of Texas is facing an ethics investigation for having affirmed the constitutional religious freedom of state workers to decline to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if it goes against their religious beliefs.
Attorney General Ken Paxton took steps to address the issue of conscience protection in his state before and after last June's Supreme Court's Obergefell decision imposing same-sex "marriage" on all 50 states, first issuing a statement the day prior clarifying that Texas law recognizes the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and recommending that state officials wait for direction from his office should the High Court move to redefine marriage.
Paxton then issued a statement two days after the ruling, his office allowing county clerks and their employees to retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and said as well that justices of the peace and judges would similarly retain religious freedoms.
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A month later, a group of some 200 attorneys filed a complaint asserting that Paxton's position encouraged officials to violate the U.S. Constitution and break their oaths of office, according to ABC News.
The complaint was dismissed at first by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas, but it was reinstated February 2 by a state Supreme Court-appointed appeals board, which contended that the complaint alleges a "possible violation" of professional conduct rules.
The appeals board decision to reinstate the case does not mean Paxton violated professional ethics, according to the ABC report, but does require him to respond to the complaint in conjunction with the investigation.
"The complaint has always lacked merit," said Paxton spokeswoman Cynthia Meyer, "and we are confident the legal process for resolving these complaints will bear that out."
Paxton was among several state officials across the U.S. who moved to ensure conscience protection in the immediate aftermath the Obergefell ruling, at times garnering the ire of homosexual activists.
Last July, South Dakota's attorney general granted permission to county clerks with conscientious objections to opt out of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as long as another clerk in the office would issue the license.
In a highly contentious case, Davis had asked for a religious accommodation allowing her office to issue altered licenses to homosexuals without her name on them, which was eventually granted by Kentucky's Governor Matt Bevin. However, the ACLU sued, seeking to force Davis to issue the old forms with her full name on them. A federal judge rejected the suit earlier this week.
Last year, homosexual activists sent harassing messages, including threats of violence, to Oklahoma State Senator Joseph Silk and his family after the Republican legislator sponsored a bill that would have given the state's business owners the freedom to follow their religious convictions in regard to homosexual "marriage."
Paxton faces penalties varying between a reprimand and disbarment resulting from the ethics complaint. The Texas attorney general is also facing securities fraud charges.
This pro-abortion billionaire may run for president
NEW YORK, February 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - He's an upwardly mobile, socially liberal billionaire whose political affiliation has changed numerous times over the years. He's teased numerous presidential campaigns in the past, but this time he's talking like he's serious. And no, he's not who you think he is.
Michael Bloomberg, who served three terms as mayor of New York City, has confirmed to media sources that he is considering running for president as an independent in 2016.
Bloomberg told told the Financial Times this week that he finds American political "discourse and discussion distressingly banal and an outrage and an insult to the voters," and that he's “looking at all the options."
The 73-year-old tycoon was a registered Democrat before switching parties to run in the less contested Republican primary in 2001. He became a registered independent in 2007.
As mayor, Bloomberg governed as a social liberal who strongly supported abortion and the LGBT political agenda.
In 2011, Bloomberg signed a controversial gag order directed at crisis pregnancy centers. A year later, he endorsed Barack Obama's re-election, saying that abortion-on-demand is part of "the world I want to leave my two daughters, and the values that are required to guide us there."
That's the same year Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $50 million undertaking to expand "reproductive health," including a major partnership with Planned Parenthood-Global to overturn pro-life laws in four nations: Nicaragua, Sengal, Uganda, and Burkina Faso.
Mayor Bloomberg played a pivotal role redefining marriage in New York state, giving the four Republican state senators who voted for New York’s same-sex “marriage” bill the maximum campaign contribution allowed by law. One retired and a second lost his primary fight.
His strong emphasis on health regulations, such as attempting to ban soft drinks larger than 16 ounces, did little to enhance his popularity and were deftly parodied by Sarah Palin. (A state court struck down the proposed regulation.)
The financial heft he could bring into the race, as well as his quirky politics, has tempted Bloomberg to enter presidential politics in the past. He considered a presidential run in 2008 and thought more strongly about a third party bid in 2012, after hosting the inaugural convention of the “No Labels” movement in New York City in 2010, but he backed off each time after not seeing a viable path to victory.
With an estimated fortune of $39 billion, he has said he would be willing to spend more than $1 billion on his campaign in 2016 - but he would only enter the race if the Republican Party nominates Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, and the Democratic Party nominates Bernie Sanders.
He called Jeb and Hillary Clinton "two quality” candidates and "the only two who know how to make the trains run." Jeb reciprocated last month, telling CNN that Bloomberg is "a good person, and he’s a patriot and wants the best for the country.”
At least one of his competitors is eager to see Mike run. "I hope he gets into the race," Donald Trump told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Wednesday night. "I'd love to compete against him...I would love to see Michael in the race."
That is likely because polling shows Bloomberg would draw most of his support from the Democratic candidate. "Although he is characterized as the New York counterpunch to Trump, Mayor Mike Bloomberg is more the nemesis of Bernie than he is of Donald," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Bernie Sanders would defeat both Trump and Cruz in a head-to-head match, according to Quinnipiac. But if Bloomberg entered the race, he would win 15 percent of the vote largely from Sanders, giving Trump a one-point victory in the popular vote (and narrowing Cruz's loss to one point).
However, he could throw a major wrench in the Democrats' electoral college total, according to columnist Pat Buchanan.
"Not only would Bloomberg lose the Big Apple, his statewide vote would come mostly from the Democratic nominee, giving Republicans the best opportunity to carry the Empire State since Ronald Reagan coasted to re-election in 1984," wrote Buchanan, who served as White House communications director during Reagan's second term.
“It’s not beyond imagining that he could get in and have an effect on the race,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, told The Hill.
Perhaps sensing this, numerous Democrats - including Senators Claire McCaskill and Jeanne Shaheen - have thrown cold water on a Bloomberg presidential run.
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, said this week that an independent Bloomberg candidacy "won't be necessary" - because the Democrats already represent social liberals.
"I really think when he takes a good hard look, he will conclude that the issues that are important to him...[have] a natural home among our Democratic candidates," she said. "And so, I think Michael Bloomberg's agenda is well cared-for and advanced among our Democratic candidates, and his candidacy, I think he will find, won't be necessary.""
His entrance into the race would be a true injection of "New York values" - making him the third or fourth New Yorker in the race - alongside fellow billionaire Trump from Queens, the Brooklyn-born Sanders, and onetime New York Senator Hillary Clinton.
Annie Linskey, a reporter for the Boston Globe who once worked for Bloomberg, told Fox News on Monday that there is "about a four" percent chance that Bloomberg will run.