Alliance Defending Freedom

They Said ‘No!’:  What happened when 12 nurses refused to participate in abortions

Alliance Defending Freedom
By Alliance Defending Freedom
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January 14, 2013 (ADF) - Nurses in a big city hospital never know what a day's shift will bring – straightforward cases or medical miracles, major crises or minor first aid. Whatever her station, whatever the duty of the moment, a nurse tries to ready herself for anything. But some things, you just can't see coming.

It was Beryl Otieno Ngoje's turn to work the desk in the Same Day Surgery Unit at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), in Newark. She was busy with the usual administrative duties – filing charts, handing out forms to the patients, answering visitors' questions – when another nurse hurried up beside her.

"Oh, something just happened, you won't believe it," the woman said, visibly excited. "I have it in my hand." She held up a clenched fist, palm up. "I have it in my hand," she said again.

"What do you have in your hand?" Beryl asked, bemused at the woman's demeanor.

"Do you want to see?"

"Yes," Beryl said – and instantly regretted it.

The other nurse opened her hand to reveal the tiny, tiny form of a baby, just aborted.

"I felt like somebody had just hit me with something in my face," Beryl remembers.

She began to cry, to the consternation of her coworker.

"I'm sorry – I didn't know you were going to react like that," the woman said.

It was a moment that seared Beryl's soul and haunted her memory, and it would come back often, in the days ahead. For the other nurse was not just a co-worker, but her manager... with the power to hold not just an unborn baby, but Beryl's career in the palm of her hand.

The dozen-or-so nurses of the UMDNJ Same Day Surgery Unit – like nurses at any other hospital – are a lively mixture of backgrounds and personalities. Beryl, a native of Kenya, is a quiet ICU specialist who's been with the hospital for over 15 years. Fe Esperanza Racpan Vinoya, a veteran of the ER and ICU, is from the Philippines, and speaks with cheerful delight about her love for music and for her church. Lorna Mendoza has been a nurse for 25 years, at University for more than a dozen, and takes both her work and her Christian faith very seriously.

"We high-five each other," Beryl says, "Most of us are there 12 hours, and that is a good portion of your day. It is important that you get along and feel relaxed and free."

Because: "you get to socialize a lot," Fe says. "You're less busy here than in the ER."

The nurses of Fe's unit are responsible for monitoring, medicating, and placating patients going into and coming out of surgery. That means a lot of bedside comfort, encouragement, and interaction with both patients and their families, so conversations between coworkers tend to be quick exchanges in the hallway or on break. What the nurses share, more than close friendship, is delight in and commitment to a job they love.

"It's a noble job," says Fe. "Very fulfilling... a healing profession. Everything you do for the patient just makes them feel better, and satisfies my entire being, because I've helped someone."

"A lot of people don't realize... we usually see somebody at their worst," Beryl says. "They're not perky, happy – they're ailing and hurting. They just want somebody to be there. I can make a difference. I can help in whatever little way. I find that very gratifying."

All operations on this unit are elective – that is, the patient chooses to have a specific procedure done: a tonsillectomy, a hernia repair, the removal of cataracts. And, sometimes, an abortion.

Not the kind of abortion where the mother's life is in danger, Beryl says. "They just choose to end it. These are people who go to the doctor and say, 'Look, I don't want this pregnancy.' The age range is mostly teenagers – 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds – and a lot of times, they come back."

"To some, it's like contraception," Fe says. "Five or six times, you see them there."

If she ends up talking to those patients, she says, "I always tell them, 'I'll be praying for you, and I hope that this is the last time I'll see you doing this kind of procedure.' I can see in their faces how guilty they feel, the guilt in their hearts." Many say, "Yes, definitely this is my last time."

And yet, so often, they come back.

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Fe knows, all too well, about that guilt in their eyes. Twenty years ago – still new to America, still learning the language and culture, just getting the hang of her first nursing job – she found she was pregnant. But her doctor said the number of rubella antibodies in her blood was too low, and posed far too great a risk for the baby. He urged her to get a therapeutic abortion.

Fe and her husband pressed the doctor repeatedly – was this absolutely necessary? He assured them it was, and, out of their depth in a new country, they didn't realize they had any choice. Fe soon found herself in a clinic, surrounded by half-a-hundred teenagers, all waiting their turn to abbreviate the life in their wombs. Fe sat with her husband and sister.

"We were the only ones crying," she says.

Right up until the moment of the procedure itself, Fe was on the phone with her doctors, trying to get their okay not to end her baby's life. But her pediatrician and the specialist were adamant, and she went through with what they told her to do. The decision has troubled her ever since.

"I wasn't able to sleep for a long time," she says. "It took me years to just feel that, okay, it's done. I asked for forgiveness. The Lord knows my heart, that I didn't want to have that happen."

Within a year, Fe was pregnant again. She is now the mother of three... yet her thoughts linger, sometimes, on the one she lost. The experience makes it that much harder, she says, to watch the young teenagers come through to eliminate a child just because it might complicate their lives. She knows how their hearts will be haunted in ways they can't imagine now.

Which is why she was horrified to learn that she was being ordered to help with their abortions.

The change came in September of 2011, with the news that a peer was being promoted. Though employed in the same unit as Fe, Beryl and the rest, this particular nurse had long been assigned to a special team that carried out the abortions without any involvement or assistance from other nurses on the Same Day Surgery floor. The abortion team had always drawn its staff from nurses who had expressed no qualms about helping end a child's life.

Promoted from that team to a supervisory position over all the nurses, the new assistant manager announced that – since she and others had to help with abortions – she saw no reason why every nurse shouldn't help. Hospital officials agreed, and passed a new, mandatory policy to make it so. The assistant manager quickly set up a training program that would give each nurse on the unit hands-on experience in how to assist with and clean up after abortions.

"As long as you work here," she told the 12 nurses who openly protested, "you're going to have to do it. If you don't, you're going to be fired or transferred out."

"We were all shocked," Fe says. "All these years I've been a nurse, I was never told to help kill children."

But the managers remained adamant. Hospital administrators supported them. When the nurses brought up a long-standing, in-writing agreement exempting them from taking part in abortions apart from a medical emergency, officials told them "an emergency" would hereafter be defined as any situation in which the patient was "bleeding." And every birth involves bleeding.

"I knew we were going to lose our jobs," says Lorna, who, at one point, amid the flurry of discussions with the managers, was asked to provide a patient with a bedpan. Retrieving it, she found an aborted baby inside. Horrified and sobbing, she called for help, telling the manager who responded, "I don't know what to do with this. I can't do this." She soon found herself in the office of the vice president of nursing, where she was accused of refusing to help patients and threatened with termination. She wasn't the only one called in.

"Our jobs were hanging by a string," Beryl says. "We were like, 'All right. If they're going to fire all 12 of us, fine. But this is against what we believe God wants us to do.' We didn't come into this profession to do [abortions]. We told them we weren't comfortable with it and didn't feel they should force us. And if that meant our jobs, well... God was going to provide."

When even their own union declined to help them, Fe wrote a letter to hospital officials saying that she and her coworkers would not participate in abortions. She passed it around for the other nurses; 15 signed it. She gave the letter to her manager, who took it to the director of nursing.. Response was swift. A meeting was called for the next day, with each of the signing nurses, the labor board, a union official, the managers, and "an expert on ethics" scheduled to be on hand.

The day of that announcement, Pastor Terry Smith, of Life Christian Church in West Orange, New Jersey, returned from a trip. A staff member told him that one of his parishioners – Fe – had called, shared what was happening at the hospital, and asked for advice. The pastor immediately phoned Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council.

"I'll be all over this," said Deo, who hung up and called Alliance Defending Freedom. Shortly afterward, staff attorney Matt Bowman was on the phone with a local allied attorney, Demetrios Stratis, enlisting him to help defend the nurses. The two immediately called Fe.

"I remember... I was driving and speaking to them three-way," says Fe, who had just been convincing herself the nurses' case was hopeless. "I didn't know a thing about conscience law – it was very, very new to me." The two told her she had a legitimate case, and offered to defend her. Best of all, Stratis said he could be on hand for her meeting with the managers the next day.

"Is there a catch?" Fe asked. Visions of sky-high attorneys' fees danced in her head.

"No catch," Stratis said. "We're pro bono lawyers." Fe drove home in a daze.

Next morning, she met Stratis at the hospital entrance. She took him upstairs to the Same Day Surgery Unit and introduced him to the nurses on duty and others waiting for the meeting. Twelve of the 15 immediately agreed to have him and Bowman represent them in the case.

"A godsend," Beryl says. "We had no idea which way to go. It was like something from heaven just dropped in our lap at the right time. It boosted our morale a lot." It did considerably less for the morale of the nurse managers and others gathered for the meeting, who had not reckoned with the nurses hiring outside counsel.

"Who are you?" a manager asked Stratis.

"He's our attorney, and he is going to speak on our behalf," replied Fe. Everyone split into huddles – Stratis and the nurses in one room, administrators in another. After a few minutes, the nurse manager came to cancel the meeting, but not before Stratis made it clear that he would be defending "my clients' legal right not to be forced to participate in terminating a pregnancy."

"It was like we had been talking to a brick wall, and that brick wall just got smashed," Fe says. "We were very happy after that. It gave us a sense of hope."

Stratis and Bowman reminded hospital officials – face to face and in writing – that their new policy transgressed both state and federal laws that make it illegal to compel medical professionals to violate their conscience by forcing them to help with a non-emergency abortion. With their actions, the hospital was not only risking a lawsuit, but more than $60 million in federal funding. Still, administrators stubbornly contended that all abortions in the Same Day Surgery area – each scheduled weeks in advance – were "emergencies."

"These surgeries are, by definition, elective, outpatient procedures," Bowman says. "If they weren't, the ER is just 30 seconds away." Plus, he points out, "these are pre- and post-operative nurses. They're not even supposed to be there for a surgery, whether it's abortion or not."

To get around that, he says, the abortion team "would give a woman a pill that induced labor, give it in the pre-op area, and leave her there. After a couple of hours, she'd start going into labor." And now, she was outside the surgical area – in a section for which the 12 pro-life nurses were responsible.

With the hospital unwilling to budge, Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit on behalf of the 12 nurses to defend their legally protected right of conscience. Their managers, meanwhile, insisted on including the 12 in abortion training, which included interactions with abortion patients and handling dead babies. Three were forced to take part before the nurses enlisted Bowman and Stratis. Once hired, though, the two quickly obtained an injunction that prevented other nurses from having to undergo training the following day.

One of the three forced to train did not quite accomplish, perhaps, what her managers had in mind. During her shift, a patient expressed reluctance to go through with the procedure. The nurse talked with her awhile, then – at her request – quietly brought in the woman's husband. After a bit, the woman dressed and they left... having decided not to have the abortion.

For weeks, the 12 nurses worked in a decidedly tense environment. "It was scary," Beryl says. "We prayed a lot. We came into work and stepped off the elevator and said, 'God just let the day go by well, without incident' – because we had our incidents. It was very, very uncomfortable." The 12 drew strength, she says, from each other, from praying friends, and from their faith that, "Our God is greater than this."

As a court date drew nearer, the hospital came up with another threat: if the 12 would not help with abortions, administrators would hire nurses who were willing to do so. Soon, officials intimated, there might not be work enough for everybody... in which cases those nurses willing to do anything might well enjoy greater job security than those only willing to do most things.

Amid all the tension, threats, and growing media coverage, the judge in the case stunned everyone by suddenly announcing, in a preliminary hearing, that a settlement had been reached.

"We had gotten everything [the 12 nurses] requested," Stratis says. "We'd gotten the hospital to agree not to force them to perform these abortions. There would be no retaliatory measures against them, and they could feel free and sleep at night, knowing that the next day they would not have to be trained on the abortion process or help a woman kill an innocent child."

"I was crying – really crying," says Lorna, who heard the news from one of the other nurses. "And very thankful. The next day, I went to work, and all of us were hugging and very happy."

"Before, I used to think that some prayers won't be answered," Fe says. "Sometimes, I'd feel very hopeless. But with this case, I saw how the Lord moves... providing the resources, the people who would help us out. It just strengthened my faith. I really thank God for Alliance Defending Freedom."

"I'm not sure I know where we'd be today if it wasn't for them, really," Beryl says. "We were up against some really big guns, and Alliance Defending Freedom was determined to support us."

"This case took an emotional toll on all of these nurses," Stratis says. "To stand up, to be part of a lawsuit against their employer, is very, very hard to do. There was a lot at stake. Some were the sole breadwinners for their family. Being faced with termination of their job or standing up for their faith... that is a very, very difficult decision, especially in these economic times."

But "I couldn't do what they were asking me to do," Beryl says. "I could not. You go against what you believe, what are you? What's left? Just a shell of what you are."

Spoken like a woman whose conscience is in good hands.

Reprinted with permission from Alliance Defending Freedom.http://www.alliancedefendingfreedom.com

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Drew Belsky

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ACLU sues Kentucky clerk for refusing marriage licenses to all couples

Drew Belsky
By Drew Belsky

July 6, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Four Kentucky couples are suing a clerk of the court in their county for refusing to grant them marriage licenses.

The clerk, Kim Davis of Rowan (pronounced "rah-win") County, declared that her faith prevents her from complying with the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision, issued in late June, which legally redefined marriage to include same-sex couples.  She is withholding licenses not only to same-sex couples, but to everyone – in fact, two of the couples suing Davis, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), are sexually complementary.

"It is my deep conviction and belief that God ordained marriage between a man and a woman," Davis told Kentucky station WYKT.  "I can't be a part of this."

"My Kentucky Constitution that I took the oath to uphold in January stated that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that is the constitution that I have vowed to uphold."

Laura Landenwich, an attorney with the ACLU, said that "Ms. Davis has the absolute right to believe whatever she wants about God, faith, and religion.  But as a government official who swore an oath to uphold the law, she cannot pick and choose who[m] she is going to serve, or which duties her office will perform based on her religious beliefs."

The ACLU's complaint avers that "Plaintiff and Plaintiff Class have suffered and continue to suffer irreparable harms, including harms to their dignity and autonomy, family security, and access to the full spectrum of benefits conferred by the state upon others."

Davis, a Democrat, is appealing to Kentucky's Bill of Rights, which states that "no human authority shall, in any case whatsoever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience."  Moreover, she told WSAZ reporter Kaitlynn LeBeau, "My Kentucky Constitution that I took the oath to uphold in January stated that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that is the constitution that I have vowed to uphold."

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, has ordered all clerks in the Bluegrass State to comply with the Supreme Court's decision.

"Each clerk vowed to uphold the law regardless of his or her personal beliefs," Beshear said in a statement.  "I appreciate the clerks who are fulfilling their duties, issuing licenses to all couples, and I would expect others to execute the duties of their offices as prescribed by law and to issue marriage licenses to all Kentuckians."

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Davis' decision brought protesters to her office in Morehead last Tuesday.  The crowd comprised both opposition and supporters, bearing signs with messages including "Morehead = Equality," "Leave Religion out of your GOVERNMENT job!," and "We stand with you Kim."

Davis refuses to speak on camera because of an intensifying tide of threatening hate mail.  One man told her by email that she needed to be killed.  She has received gratitude and support as well, including from states outside Kentucky.

"This is a battle," Davis told one reporter by phone, "nationwide, that I think is vital to every person who holds near and dear to their heart the word of God."

Resistance to Obergefell is not limited to one Kentucky county.  All three staffers at the county clerk's office in Decatur County, Tennessee resigned following the decision.  Decatur County commissioner David Boroughs told a local paper that he is "proud of them that their faith is so strong and well-rounded that they feel they can do that."

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Matthew J. Franck

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Obergefell is so awful that it makes Dred Scott look like a piece of lawyerly precision

Matthew J. Franck
By Matthew Franck

July 6, 2015 (ThePublicDiscourse) -- When the blow finally fell, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges—holding 5-4 that every state in the Union must license same-sex marriages—seemed somehow less crushing in its impact, less hurtful and wounding, than one might have expected from a decision that is so thoroughly a defeat for the truth about marriage and the truth about the Constitution.

Make no mistake, the harms from the Court’s appallingly illegitimate decision are many, and gravely serious. But the good news for a cockeyed optimist like me is that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion is so incompetent, so gossamer-thin as an exercise in legal or constitutional reasoning, so unpersuasive even in political terms, that it renews my zest for carrying on the battle of persuading my fellow citizens and turning the country around on this issue.

I should have known he would do this for us, as well as to us. For Kennedy began to travel this road nearly twenty years ago in Romer v. Evans (1996), in which a 6-3 Court denied to the people of Colorado the authority to amend their state constitution to prevent their elected state and local legislators from adding “sexual orientation” to the list of “identities” on the grounds of which discrimination by public and private actors alike is forbidden.

Is Anyone "Demeaning" Others' "Dignity"?

Yet at least in Romer, the word “dignity” had not yet appeared in Kennedy’s reasoning. In Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which overturned state laws that criminalized homosexual sodomy, Kennedy turned away from the equal protection clause and to the textually and historically ungrounded jurisprudence of “substantive due process.” This meant, in Kennedy’s hands, the judicial protection of a free-ranging, judicially defined notion of “liberty” invoked to overturn any conduct-regulating statute that trenched on the “dignity” of persons whose wishes and desires tugged at the judges’ heartstrings.

In Romer, at least, Justice Kennedy had labored to produce something that resembled a competent account of the equal protection clause—though his attempt failed. But Lawrence was something else. Lawrence was a moment of real self-liberation for Kennedy. That can be seen in his quotation of what were probably his own words from the joint opinion he co-authored with Justices O’Connor and Souter in Planned Parenthood v. Casey: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” This “mystery passage” was already in 2003, and remains, the most widely lampooned bit of pseudo-reasoning of the last half century, but Kennedy sensed the cultural and political power that it represented, and in Lawrence he set it on course to colonize our constitutional law entirely. His opinion was also liberally salted with references to “dignity” (three times, including another line quoted from Casey), and to the idea that laws resting on negative judgments of homosexual conduct “demean” those who engage in it (four times).

United States v. Windsor, the Defense of Marriage Act case from two years ago, gave us more of Kennedy’s free-floating jurisprudence of “dignity” (ten mentions including “indignity”), condemning laws that “demean” (three mentions).  Obergefell rests explicitly on this fragile, groundless rationale, with Kennedy mentioning the connection of marriage to “dignity” nine times, while three times saying that it “demeans” same-sex couples when a state limits marriage to one man and one woman, and twice invoking the matter of “identity.”

But there is something else quite new in Obergefell. Kennedy, somewhat defensively, mentions twice that defenders of conjugal marriage might believe redefining the institution to include same-sex couples “demeans” marriage itself. Since no one opposed to same-sex marriage actually speaks this way, this is a curious characterization, but perhaps an important one. In Kennedy’s mind, the Constitution has been converted into a great Dignity Document. The role of the Supreme Court is to adjudicate whose version of Dignity it embodies, which can be decided by pondering who is made to feel worse by having his strongest convictions “demeaned.” Victory will go to the one who can appeal successfully to strong feelings about his “identity.” As Chief Justice Roberts said in dissent, “The majority’s driving themes are that marriage is desirable and petitioners desire it.”

A Constitutional Crisis

Confronted by such a string of sentiments masquerading as constitutional principles, why then should I feel heartened by the new phase of the struggle into which the Obergefell ruling has just pitched us? The reason is that Kennedy is so terribly bad at his chosen profession of judge that he has now unmasked himself, and his four silent colleagues who joined his opinion for the Court, as imperial rulers with no regard for the Constitution, for the forms of reasoning that give the law its real vitality, or for the rightful authority of the people to govern themselves within the bounds of a Constitution they understand and respect.

Moreover, while noting all the manifold ways in which the marriage debate has been played out over the last two decades—just as he was attempting to shut that debate down—Kennedy evinced no understanding of what the arguments about marriage really are, not even grasping the arguments on the side he favored. In so doing, he showed himself to be, if not one of the least intellectually honest persons ever to come to that debate, then one of the least well-informed. His opinion is an act of the most breathtaking argumentative carelessness in the history of the Supreme Court. Roe v. WadeLochner v. New York, and Dred Scott v. Sandford—all rightly invoked by the dissenters in Obergefell as the true models for Kennedy’s reasoning—are closely reasoned works of lawyerly precision by comparison.

As a legal opinion, Obergefell is an utter failure. What the late John Hart Ely, who was politically in favor of abortion, said of Roe v. Wade, we can say of Obergefell: “It is bad because it is bad constitutional law, or rather because it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.” But Obergefell is also embarrassingly bad as a contribution to the political and social debate on marriage. From this I take heart that the battle can be rejoined, with the making of better arguments—each side offering its best against the other’s best—in a struggle that will continue for years to come.

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But wait. Isn’t the debate over? Isn’t that what a Supreme Court decision on the Constitution means? Well, frankly, no. The movement for rescuing and restoring marriage in our country will not be made to vanish by so transparently political a holding of five justices of the Supreme Court. The movement for defending the sanctity of life in our law, forty-two years after Roe v. Wade, waxes rather than wanes in strength. As the pro-life movement was joined, so the marriage movement will be joined, by defenders of the authentic Constitution so blithely traduced by the Court’s majority. The Roe decision has often made pro-life converts out of people who actually read it—I know, because I was one of them—and the Obergefell ruling, in time, will do similar work in adding strength to the ranks of marriage’s defenders.

A constitutional ruling so shoddily reasoned, so completely and, one may say, easily dismantled by the four justices who dissent from it, must paper over a cause that cannot ultimately win in an open democratic debate, and that therefore seeks the shelter of powerful friends in the judiciary. This is just what many young people will come to see for themselves simply by reading the decision, just as many have done by reading Roe. The twin discoveries, that a great constitutional wrong has been committed to give cover to a great moral wrong, will come together.

We may take heart, then, from Justice Alito’s observation that “even enthusiastic supporters of same-sex marriage should worry about the scope of the power that today’s majority claims.” Indeed they should, for the debate is not over; it has only entered a new phase. That phase will necessarily include some sober deliberations regarding what can be done about a Supreme Court with (at least) five members who believe that they can rewrite the Constitution at will in order to transform fundamental institutions of our society. For Alito’s very next sentence is, “Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain this Court’s abuse of authority have failed.” Indeed, they have, and so it is back to the drawing board. When even the chief justice complains of “the majority’s extravagant conception of judicial supremacy,” it is time to do some hard thinking about meaningful institutional reform of the federal judiciary.

In the Meantime

While we prepare for hard work on many fronts in the battles for marriage and for the Constitution, we should recognize and immediately try to mitigate the great harm the Court has done. Despite Kennedy’s pat denials, marriage has been grievously wounded as an institution, and we must do what we can to bind up its wounds, in our own families, communities, and churches. After all, every future generation is at stake. We must never tire of saying: every child deserves a mother and a father—preferably his or her own biological parents. That, as the dissenting justices recognized, is what marriage has always been about, in every age and culture, and it is why marriage has always been understood as the union of a man and a woman.

And we must do all that we can to institute safeguards for religious freedom in our country, which will now come under attack as never before. It was strangely gratifying to see Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas, in their dissents, give this matter their lengthy and considered attention. Thomas foresees “potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty” in this invention of a new “right” of same-sex marriage, and Roberts noted how telling was the way in which Kennedy shrugged off such potentials:

The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. . . . The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.

The protection of religious freedom may rapidly become our most urgent legislative business, both in Congress and in state legislatures. But win or lose in legislative assemblies, the faithful and their pastoral leaders in the many religious communities devoted to the truth about marriage must prayerfully muster the courage to act, and to live as their faith informs their consciences, as well as to “advocate” and “teach.” As Alito notes, “those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent” on the marriage question will be ready to exploit the Court’s decision. Look at your social media feeds: That is already happening.

In our response to our counterparts in this great constitutional, political, and moral debate that now begins anew, we can start by preaching and practicing a truer, fuller understanding of dignity, in our families and churches, than the one about which Kennedy so vainly prattles. And we can fix our eyes on the prize of restoring, through real democratic debate and persuasion, the great goods of constitutional self-government and justice to individuals and families.

Thank you, Justice Kennedy, for giving us this opportunity. I know you didn’t mean it, but thank you nonetheless.

Reprinted with permission from The Witherspoon Institute

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Lisa Bourne

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US Episcopal Church faces backlash after approving gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

July 6, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- The bishops of the U.S. Episcopal Church gave the green light last week for clergy to perform same-sex “weddings,” in a heavily-debated fundamental change set to come in the door incrementally.  

As of November 1 of this year homosexual couples will have the right to be “married” in the church, the result of new liturgies for same-sex couples approved Wednesday at the denomination’s General Convention in Salt Lake City.

The bishops also accepted changing the church’s canons (rules) governing marriage, to make them gender neutral, thus replacing the terms “man and woman” with “couple.”

Episcopal clergy however, will be allowed to refuse to perform a homosexual “marriage” with the promise they would not be penalized, and individual bishops were also given the right to refuse to allow same-sex ceremonies to take place in their diocese.

The compromise is angering Episcopalians on both sides of the issue, with liberal factions potentially trying to block the plan and insist on the immediate introduction of same-sex “marriage” with no way for dioceses to opt out, and conservatives likely to reach out to overseas leaders in the wider Anglican Communion for help in getting the church to stop.

The leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church, released a statement expressing his “deep concern” over the U.S. Episcopal Church’s resolution to change the definition of marriage.

“Its decision will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said, “as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.”

Blessings for homosexual unions were first approved at the denomination’s 2012 convention, along with acceptance of transgender clergy. The Episcopal Church still maintained at the time that marriage was an exclusive life-long covenant of one man and one woman, as held in the church’s Book of Common Prayer.

While several Episcopal bishops defended the Biblical definition of marriage at this year’s convention, the majority of bishops argued that the provisional and trial rites would expand the traditional teaching about marriage, without changing the church’s underlying text or doctrine of marriage.

Retired Episcopal Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, was among those at the convention who said homosexual sexual intimacy was morally acceptable and should be blessed in faithful covenanted relationships, stating, “I think it is time for us to do this.”

Robinson, whose 2003 elevation to bishop was a key factor in the denomination’s later split, said, “Gays and lesbians are living out their lives in holy ways,” and changing the church’s rules on marriage “allows us to recognize this,” to “declare how far we have come.”

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In response to an inquiry for comment on the Episcopal bishops’ resolution accepting homosexual “marriage,” the Anglican Church in North America directed LifeSiteNews to the church’s recent response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing homosexual “marriage,” which said in part, “The Anglican Church in North America only authorizes and only performs marriages between one man and one woman.” 

Leaders of the Anglican Global South, a grouping of 24 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion, issued a statement criticizing the U.S. Episcopal Church’s resolution as another unilateral decision taken without consideration for the Anglican Communion, ecumenical and interfaith relations and the mission of the church worldwide.

“This Resolution clearly contradicts the Holy Scriptures and God’s plan for creation as He created humankind as man and woman to complement each other physically and emotionally,” the Global South statement said.

“The church is intended by its Lord to be the holy leaven to shape society by its spiritual and moral values in line with God’s design,” it continued. “But sadly, by this action of (The Episcopal Church), the church gives way to the society to alter and shape its values. In other words the church is losing its distinctiveness as salt and light in this world.”

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