Ben Johnson

Democrats repeatedly invoke Sr. Keehan endorsement during hearings on HHS mandate

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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 17, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Seeking to prove that President Obama’s accommodation on the HHS mandate does not infringe on Christian institutions’ freedom of religion, Democratic congressmen on Thursday repeatedly cited the controversial endorsement of the mandate Sister Carol Keehan made on behalf of the Catholic Health Association (CHA). 

Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport testified before Congress Thursday that the new version of the policy - which shifts the distribution of contraception and abortion-inducing drugs from religious employers to their health insurance companies, but does not allow anyone to opt out of coverage - would force the nation’s largest denomination to fund and provide products it simultaneously denounces. 

The House Oversight Committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, asked Bishop Lori about “all the other Catholic entities that praised the Obama administration last week for allowing” them to follow the dictates of “their faith and the law.”

“Unlike you, they believe these remaining issues can be worked out,” Cummings said.

He then quoted a series of endorsements by private Catholic organizations, beginning with Sr. Keehan’s statement that the CHA was “very pleased” with the adjustment, as well as an initial reaction from Catholic Charities that it “welcomes” the president’s efforts. Catholics United similarly “called the White House’s plan ‘a win-win,’” that showed Obama was “willing to rise above” partisan politics, Cummings said.

Bishop Lori responded, “Catholic Health Association does not speak for the church as a whole. Catholic bishops speak for the Church as a whole.”

CHA, the bishop said, “is a lobbying group. It is a trade association. It is not the Church, as such…Catholic Charities is in the same position.” 

“I don’t know much about Catholic United except it doesn’t have any particular standing in the Church,” he said.

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The nun’s actions played a part in the most dramatic moments of the hearings. As Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly accused the testifying clergy of “trampling” on freedom, he said, “The Catholic hospitals supported the compromise. They’re not afraid of closing down hospitals in America.”

Almost immediately following the president’s nationally televised speech announcing the “adjustment” to the mandate last Friday, Sr. Keehan sent out a press release that CHA was “pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished.” Planned Parenthood issued a statement at the same time, praising the president for not folding on the matter of mandatory contraception coverage. Meanwhile the bishops, who had not been privy to inside discussions on the revised mandate, were scrambling to make sense of the “accommodation,” and only issued a statement denouncing it later that evening.

In the meantime the media juxtaposed the CHA’s and Planned Parenthood’s reactions as though the accommodation had answered all parties’ objections. John Brehany, executive director of the Catholic Medical Association, told LifeSiteNews.com CHA’s actions amounted to “a scandal.”

Sr. Keehan sent her statement to the White House even before Obama’s speech had been made. Darron Paul Monteiro, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE), had e-mailed a copy of her statement to “friends” last Friday morning, writing, “I wanted to be sure you saw Sister Carol Keehan’s statement on the new regulation being proposed and finalized later this morning.”

Keehnan’s apparent advance knowledge of the policy contrasts with the administration’s treatment of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The president’s accommodation policy “came upon the bishops’ conference of a sudden,” Bishop Lori testified on Thursday. He said, while Obama called him before last Friday’s speech, the president had not conferred with the bishops nor gotten their input.

“There was no consultation. It was not given to us in writing, and it was told to us not long before it was announced,” Bp. Lori said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic, confirmed “I did not speak with the Catholic bishops” during Senate testimony on Wednesday. She added that she had not asked the Justice Department for its opinion about whether the accommodation was constitutional.

“When we first heard it ourselves, we wondered if there might not also be a glimmer of hope,” the bishop said yesterday, “but upon further analysis within that same day we immediately began to see problems…There are serious problems at the level of principle and the level of practicality.”

The bishop and Congressman Cummings clashed again later in the hearing over objections the Obama administration’s denial of grants to a Catholic service that refuses to refer sex trafficking victims for abortions, which was the subject of a two-hour hearing before the Oversight Committee last year. The congressman said Roman Catholic institutions still receive “millions and millions of dollars in all kinds of contracts.”

“We don’t get a handout,” Bishop Lori replied. “We contract for services, and we deliver, and we bring to those services some moral convictions. And we shouldn’t be at a disadvantage because we bring some moral convictions to the table.”

“We also bring the generosity of the Catholic people, and we bring volunteers,” he added. “When you contract with the Church, you get a bang for your buck.”

Bishop Lori was one of ten people to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday during a hearing entitled, entitled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

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By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

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Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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