Ben Johnson

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Did Mitt Romney force Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B? Mass. Catholic leader says ‘yes’

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, February 13, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – As politicians in both political parties debate Mitt Romney’s role in implementing a 2005 statute requiring Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts to dispense Plan B - an “emergency contraceptive” that studies and the pill’s manufacturer have suggested can cause early abortions - a leader in the state’s pro-life movement puts the blame squarely on the former governor.

“The injury to the conscience rights of Catholic hospitals was not done so much so much by the church’s ideological enemies on the Left but by the Romney administration,” C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, told LifeSiteNews.com. The real harm, he says, came from Romney’s private counsel’s interpretation of a 1975 law that would have respected their religious views.

“It wasn’t the liberals. It wasn’t some liberal court. It was not liberal legislators that caused this interpretation of law,” Doyle said. “It was the Romney administration” that “injured the conscience rights and religious freedom rights of Catholic hospitals here.”

In 2005, the then-governor ordered Catholic hospitals to offer the “morning-after” pill in the final act of a showdown between church and state that began 30 years earlier.

In 1975, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law exempting private hospitals from providing abortions or “contraceptive devices or information” if those practices run contrary to their “religious or moral principles.”

In 2005, a new state law required all hospitals to provide Plan B to rape victims.

At first Romney, who said throughout the legislative process that he had no opinion on the bill, vetoed it and wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe explaining that he had pledged that he “would not change our abortion laws either to restrict abortion or to facilitate it.”

“I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother,” he wrote. 

The heavily Democratic body voted to override his veto in September 2005.

A new religious exemption, supported by Romney, never passed. However, most Massachusetts politicians agreed with Public Health Commissioner Paul Cote Jr. that the 1975 and 2005 laws “don’t cancel each other out and basically work in harmony with each other,” meaning that the religious exemption still stood intact.

That consensus included the Massachusetts Catholic Conference and, according to family watchdog group MassResistance, and former governor Michael Dukakis.

The notable exception was Romney’s personal legal counsel, Mark D. Nielsen, who felt the new law invalidated its predecessor and provided no protection for Catholics.

“Romney, through his legal counsel, came up with this entirely novel, unprecedented, unheard of interpretation of the 1975 statute to indicate that it didn’t apply,” Doyle told LifeSiteNews. “This surprised, and astonished, and perplexed everyone.”

One week before the law was to take effect, Romney held a press conference saying, “I have instructed the Department of Public Health to follow the conclusion of my own legal counsel,” calling it a “sounder view.” The Boston Herald described Romney’s turnabout as “an Olympic-caliber double flip-flop with a gold medal-performance twist-and-a-half.”

Romney told the Herald the new legal analysis represented his private view on the issue, as well. “My personal view in my heart of hearts is that people who are subject to rape should have the option of having emergency contraceptives or emergency contraceptive information.”

The new position allowed the Romney administration to “have its cake and eat it, too,” Doyle told LifeSiteNews.com. His support for a new religious exemption, which could never pass the Democratic legislature, meant “Governor Romney could then run for president as a friend of religious freedom rights and traditional morality, while his lieutenant governor, to whom he was very close, Lt. Gov. Kerry Murphy Healey, could run for election as governor in 2006 in liberal Massachusetts without any downside from liberals and feminists on the emergency contraception issue.” Healey opposed Romney’s veto and supported the reversal.

The issue, which lay dormant for seven years, has found new life on both sides of the aisle during the contentious 2012 presidential race.

On the eve of sweeping three contests in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, Rick Santorum wrote an op-ed stating President Obama’s HHS mandate was “not the first time that elected officials have trounced on the fundamental right to religious freedom. In December 2005, Governor Mitt Romney required all Massachusetts hospitals, including Catholic ones, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.”

“Now, a few years later and running for president, his heart is strategically aligned with religious voters opposing this federal mandate,” he wrote. “It’s important to me that we don’t just talk a good game, but that we actually live it.”

The same day Newt Gingrich told voters in Cincinnati, “There’s been a lot of talk about the Obama administration’s attack on the Catholic Church. Well, the fact is, Governor Romney insisted that Catholic hospitals give out abortion pills, against their religious beliefs, when he was governor.” 

The Obama administration weighed in last Wednesday, when White House spokesman Jay Carney dubbed Romney “an odd messenger” and branded his criticism “ironic,” because Obama’s policy “is virtually identical to the one that was in place when he was governor of Massachusetts.”

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded, “We expect these attacks from President Obama and his liberal friends. But from Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, it’s a clear indication of desperation from their campaigns.” Romney told reporters in Atlanta Carney “needs to check his history.” He said “that provision was put in Massachusetts before I was governor, and then when I was governor I tried to have it removed in our health care plan.”

David French, who organized “Evangelicals for Mitt” in the last election cycle, wrote in National Review Online that Romney “did all he reasonably could.” The overwhelmingly Democratic legislature overrode his veto. He added, “Massachusetts regulations, the Church Amendment, and Directive 36 combine to create a number of potential loopholes and workarounds.” Had Romney been more confrontational, these may have been stripped away.

Doyle – who served as a Democratic ward secretary and worked with pro-life Democratic state representative Jim Craven – said the idea that “Romney was really trying to help us” by heeding his personal lawyer’s view is “something the evidence doesn’t really point to.”

“I think if there’s a choice between an obscure and arcane explanation and a simple and obvious one, I’m more inclined to take the simple and obvious one,” Doyle told LifeSiteNews.

He noted a similar situation took place when the Massachusetts legislature mandated that Catholic adoption agencies place children with homosexual couples. Romney again asked for a conscience measure, which did not pass. However, he cited a state regulation that compelled Catholic agencies to comply with the law, contrary to their beliefs. At the time, Michael Dukakis – who removed a child from the home of homosexual foster parents as governor – said, “there’s nothing in there to the best of my knowledge that mandates anything” of the sort. He said, “If it’s a regulation, governors can change regulations if they want to. That’s up to him.” Observers said legal action may have ensued if Romney changed the regulation. Enforcing that rule ended 100 years of adoption services by Catholic Charities in Boston. Dukakis observed at the time, “I just don’t know who we’re serving here.”

In his speech at CPAC Friday afternoon, Mitt Romney said, “I defended the Catholic Church’s right to serve their community in ways that were consistent with their conscience through adoption programs that placed children in a home with a mom and a dad.” The previous night he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, ”I fought on every basis I possibly could for life…and religious liberty,” against “exactly the same thing this president is trying to do.”

“People say that Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper,” Doyle said. “ I think that’s very unjust. I think he’s been a very consistent politician. He consistently works both sides of the street on the same issue. He is consistently cynical and expedient and self-serving.”

Doyle said, “While what Obama is doing certainly is an assault on our consciences, I’m not sure Governor Romney is the person to assert that, given his record.”

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Drew Belsky

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2016 candidates react to the Supreme Court’s marriage decision

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Five days after the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision mandating the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, most of the 2016 presidential candidates have made their opinions on the issue known.

While all of the Democrats currently in the race aggressively supported the ruling, the Republicans' reactions to the Supreme Court's marriage ruling have been more varied.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon, criticized the Obergefell decision, calling it "a grave mistake." Walker suggested that "the only alternative" to Friday's decision is "to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage."

Texas senator Ted Cruz has doubled down on Walker's call for a constitutional amendment. Not only is Cruz seeking an amendment to protect states' right to define marriage, but he also hopes to amend the Constitution to demand "periodic judicial retention elections" for Supreme Court justices – namely, Cruz said, for those who "overstep their bounds [and] violate the Constitution."

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush shied away from a constitutional marriage amendment. "Guided by my faith," Bush said in a statement, "I believe in traditional marriage." However, "in a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate."

Florida senator Marco Rubio agreed with Bush, exhorting Republicans to "look ahead" and concentrate on the nomination process for new judges. Likewise with Ohio governor John Kasich, who said on Face the Nation that "it's time to move on" and "take a deep breath."

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina concurred. While "I do not agree that the Court can or should redefine marriage," Fiorina said, "[m]oving forward...all of our effort should be focused on protecting the religious liberties and freedom of conscience."

South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham forthrightly condemned a constitutional marriage amendment as "a divisive effort that would be doomed to fail." Graham told NBC News, "I would not engage in the Constitutional amendment process as a party going into 2016. Accept the Court's ruling. Fight for the religious liberties of every American."

Libertarian-leaning Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wrote in Time Magazine that the federal government should remove itself completely from the marriage issue. "Our founding fathers went to the local courthouse to be married, not Washington, D.C.," Paul wrote.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal "strongly disagree[s]" with the Obergefell ruling, but he admitted on Sunday that his state would ultimately comply with the Supreme Court's decision. "We do not have a choice."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went one step farther. While he "agree[s] with Chief Justice John Roberts" that "this is something that should be decided by the people, and not ... five lawyers," the governor admitted that "those five lawyers get to impose it under our system, and so our job is going to be to support the law of the land[.]"

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum foresees a widespread silencing of those who dissent from the Supreme Court's interpretation of marriage. "There's no slippery slope here," Santorum told the Family Research Council Friday; "religious liberty is under assault today – not going to be, it is – and it's going to be even more so ... with this decision."

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee expressed similar sentiments, excoriating the Supreme Court for flouting millions of Americans who voted to affirm "the laws of nature." Huckabee said on Friday, "I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat."

On the other end of the spectrum, former Democratic Maryland governor and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley contended that it is homosexuals, not religious objectors to the Obergefell decision, who need more protections from the state.

Calling the ruling a "major step forward," O'Malley proceeded to demand passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that criminalizes "discrimination" based on an "individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity." Opponents worry it would force religious employers to hire homosexuals and transgender people.

Passing ENDA, O'Malley said, would help "more fully realize the vision of an open, respectful, and inclusive nation that Friday's decision aspires us [sic] to be."

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Drew Belsky

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Obama Department of Justice to Virginia school: Let girl use boys’ bathrooms

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - The Obama administration's Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a "statement of interest" Monday in support of a Virginia high school sophomore who is seeking to use bathrooms designated for members of the opposite sex.

In June 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the Gloucester County School Board on behalf of 15-year-old Gavin Grimm, who is biologically female but wants to use male bathrooms and locker rooms.

Grimm claimed that she had used such facilities without incident for seven weeks until December 2014, when the school board enacted a policy requiring "transgender" students to use private restrooms.

Grimm testified in early 2015 that "[n]ow that the board has passed this policy, school no longer feels as safe and welcoming as it did before[.] ... Being singled out is a glaring reminder of my differences and causes me significant discomfort every time I have to use the restroom."

The Obama administration declared in May 2014 that sex discrimination under Title IX applies to those who identify as "transgender."  The Department of Education followed up last December by ordering federally funded schools to classify students based on "gender identity" rather than biological sex.

Regardless, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco told LifeSiteNews in June of this year that Grimm's and the ACLU's discrimination claims would not hold water.  Citing a district court case in Pennsylvania, Tedesco noted (emphasis in original) that "[t]he Court ... highlighted that Title IX's implementing regulations state that schools do not violate Title IX when they 'provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex.'"

Title IX, part of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, is a statute that "prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity."

"Every court to consider this issue has held that single-sex restrooms and locker room facilities are permitted under Title IX," Tedesco concluded.

Now, according to the DoJ's "statement of interest" in support of Grimm, filed this week, "[t]he United States has a significant interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination and that the proper legal standards are applied to claims under Title IX" (p. 2, all citations omitted).  Per the DoJ, Grimm "is likely to succeed on the merits" of her Title IX claim, and "it is in the public interest to allow [Grimm] ... to use the male restrooms at Gloucester High School."

Regarding the Pennsylvania case mentioned by Tedesco, the DoJ claims that "[t]he district court's reasoning in that case was faulty and should not be followed."

One Gloucester County School Board member who voted against the December bathroom policy fretted that "federal dollars are at stake." Her concern was well-founded: five months later, the Obama administration threatened to deny Virginia's Fairfax County School Board $42 million in federal funding if the board refused to change its own bathroom protocols.  The Fairfax board ruled in May – over the strenuous objections of parents in attendance – that "transgender" students could use facilities in accordance with their "gender identity."

"Although certain parents and community members may object to students sharing a common use restroom with transgender students," the DoJ declared in its brief for Grimm, "any recognition of this discomfort as a basis for discriminating would undermine the public interest."

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Lisa Bourne

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Girl Scouts returns $100,000 donation over transgender stipulation

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - An unusual request from a major donor to a regional branch of the U.S. Girl Scouts has drawn attention to the organization’s ongoing support for gender ideology and transgender issues. 

Girl Scouts of Western Washington CEO Megan Ferland revealed last week that the council had recently received a donation for $100,000. However, after the Girl Scouts’ practice of allowing boys who identify as girls to join the Scouts hit the news during the media’s coverage of the Bruce Jenner case, Ferland says she received a note from the donor putting a condition on the donation.

“Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls,” the donor reportedly asked. “If you can’t, please return the money.”

In the end, Ferland said she chose to give the $100,000 - what could have comprised nearly a fourth of the council’s annual fundraising goal - back to the donor.

“Girl Scouts is for every girl,” Ferland stated in a report from SeattleMet.com. “And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.”

In the meantime, the council used the publicity over the refused donation to launch a social fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo, a social fundraising site. The #ForEVERYGirl has far exceeded its goal, raising over $300,000 for the group in just three days.

"Our vision at Girl Scouts of Western Washington is that EVERY girl in our region—regardless of her race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or geographic location—is empowered to unleash her potential, build her future and transform her world," states the campaign.

This is not the first time that Ferland has been involved in a controversy over the Scouts’ support for transgenderism.

When a boy self-identifying as a girl attempted to join a Colorado Girl Scout troop in 2011 and was initially refused by the leader because of his male gender, Ferland, then head of the Colorado council, issued a statement welcoming boys identifying as girls, and saying efforts were in progress to find the boy a troop. The council also renounced the troop leader’s actions in refusing the boy access.

“Every girl that is a Girl Scout is a Girl Scout because her parent or guardian brings her to us and says, ‘I want my child to participate,’” Ferland stated at the time. “And I don’t question whether or not they’re a girl.” 

Western Washington Girl Scouts current program brochures show that gender ideology is woven right into the council’s programming for girls, with promotion found right in the council’s workshops:

SafeZone for Girl Scouts Sat, May 23, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tacoma Learn how you can become an ally and advocate for your Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) peers. Includes activities and discussion around: inclusive language, the process of coming out, the power of the straight ally, how to respond to homophobic/trans-phobic incidents, where to go for help and much more. Bring lunch.

Girl Scouts and radical feminism

For years, pro-family leaders have raised alarms about partnerships and programs that indicate that the Girl Scouts have moved toward embracing a radical feminist identity.

As far back as 2004 a U.S Catholic Bishop intervened when a Girl Scout-Planned Parenthood partnership threatened young girls. 

Then-Austin Bishop Gregory Aymond warned local Catholics not to sign their children up for Planned Parenthood’s “Nobody’s Fool,” a sex-ed campaign designed for pre-pubescent children which had been integrated into the local Girl Scouts.

A survey, also from 2004, found that many Girl Scouts councils were partnering with Planned Parenthoood in some fashion. 

In 2010 the Girl Scouts were found to be pushing a radical agenda on its young members with Planned Parenthood given access to distribute an explicit ‘sex guide’ at a closed-door, no-adults-welcome meeting at the UN sponsored by the Girl Scouts.

Lincoln, Nebraska Bishop James Conley warned in 2011 as auxiliary bishop of Denver that involvement in the Girl Scouts could serve to make girls more open to the pro-abortion agenda.

Roughly 90 Girl Scouts of Northern California members and their families marched in San Francisco’s 2013 Gay Pride Parade. 

"The San Francisco Girl Scouts participate in many parades that celebrate the diversity of San Francisco," Girl Scouts of Northern California Communications Manager Dana Allen told LifeSiteNews at the time. "Girl Scouts is inclusive and reflects the communities we serve."

A sexuality-based Girl Scout troop was started earlier this year in Utah aimed at gay and lesbian families and boys who consider themselves “transgender.” It meets at the Utah Pride Center.

"As long as a youth identifies as a girl or with girls, even if they are genderfluid on the day that they registered, then they can become a Girl Scout," Shari Solomon-Klebba, the Utah Girl Scout outreach coordinator, and an open lesbian who started the troop, told a local news station at the time.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged caution last year in engaging with the Girl Scouts after conducting a two-year examination of the scouts. That study identified concerns about several Girl Scouts USA policies, affiliations and structural weaknesses.

Girl Scout alternatives

The representatives of two organizations for girls frequently considered a Christ-centered alternative to the Girls Scouts told LifeSiteNews this latest incident with the Western Washington Scouts underscores the need for other options for families and their children.

“There has been a huge cultural shift in redefining life-long truths that have many families carefully considering their youth program options. American Heritage Girls has often been regarded as a Christian-based alternative to the Girl Scouts,” American Heritage Girls National Communications Specialist Jennifer Troutman said.

American Heritage Girls marked its 20th anniversary this past week. There are more than 40,000 members within the organization.

“Now more than ever American Heritage Girls recognizes the importance of bringing Christ-centered, character development programming to girls across the nation.”  

The head of Little Flowers Girls’ Club concurred.

“I feel very blessed that we can offer an authentically Catholic alternative to Girl Scouts,” Joan Stromberg told LifeSiteNews.

Little Flowers started over 20 years ago, not as a reaction against what Girl Scouts were doing, or where they are now, Stromberg said, but as a way to help moms and girls bond together to learn about the world through a Catholic lens.

“It is sad that Girl Scouts policies and positions have put them in direct conflict with Church teachings,” Stromberg continued. “I am just pleased that girls and moms have alternative places like Little Flowers where they can go.”

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