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Monday, March 23, 2015

Memo to DC Council: Intolerance does not advance tolerance



A provocatively entitled Washington Post news article ("Sen. Ted Cruz seeks to upend D.C. laws on contraception coverage, gay rights") suggests that recently enacted DC "laws would restrict the ability of private groups to discriminate based on religious beliefs. In fact, the laws target and discriminate against religious groups by dictating that they must hire individuals who directly contradict the groups' tenets, standards and mission.
That's a flagrant violation of First Amendment freedoms, as upheld by a unanimous Supreme Court in the Hosanna Tabor case and by Congress in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
What the ironically entitled Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014 actually does is repeal a measure that for decades had advanced tolerance by ensuring that the DC Human Rights Act could not be used to coerce religiously affiliated schools into violating convictions of conscience.
The DC Council apparently has decided, however, that there is not enough room in the District for religious dissenters who question the Council's edicts on sexual morality. Their discriminatory laws inject unconstitutional governmental coercion that subverts the democratic process of free speech and debate that historically has shaped American public opinion and values.
Intolerance does not advance tolerance.

Friday, March 20, 2015

My commentary on human trafficking bill and abortion, published in the Washington Post


Human trafficking victim
In annual appropriations bills since 1976, Democrats routinely have united with Republicans in passing the Hyde Amendment, which simply prevents taxpayer monies from funding abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Americans overwhelmingly oppose opening public coffers to the abortion industry.
Nevertheless, Democrats increasingly have been injecting abortion partisanship into human trafficking programs. Congressional hearings revealed how Obama administration officials denied a grant to a faith-based organization over abortion and other morally objectionable issues.
Many would note that abortion would only add to the trauma that human trafficking victims have already experienced. Yet even the Hyde Amendment does not disallow government-funded abortions in cases of rape, nor does it prevent abortions paid for with nongovernment funds. So protests over the Hyde Amendment in this trafficking-victims program are little more than partisan politics designed to enforce a radical abortion ideology.
Jonathan Imbody, Ashburn
The writer is vice president for government relations for the Christian Medical Association.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Faith groups call for Senate passage of religious freedom measures on marriage, adoption

The following letter expresses the concerns of many in the faith-based community regarding First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech:

March 17, 2015
Sen. Mike Enzi
Senator Mike Enzi
Senator Mike Lee

Dear Senators Enzi and Lee:

Sen. Mike Lee
We, the undersigned, representing hundreds of thousands of Americans, want to thank you for your leadership in reintroducing two key pieces of legislation designed to ensure that charities, non-profits, and small business owners with religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage are not penalized by the government for their beliefs.
The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act would prevent the federal government from discriminating in programs, grants, contracts, and tax treatment against individuals who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Such protections are urgently needed in light of new federal agency conditions requiring endorsement of same-sex relationships in order to compete for certain federal grants. In addition, the President’s problematic July 2014 Executive Order jeopardizing the ability of businesses and faith-based organizations that contract with the federal government to hire and administer programs according to their religious beliefs is deeply troubling. The government should not deem longstanding providers of important public services ineligible to compete for federal funding simply because of their beliefs about marriage. This bill would stop these harmful and arbitrary government penalties.
Similarly, S. 667, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, would ensure that faith-based adoption and foster care providers working with birth moms, parents, and community stakeholders to serve needy children can continue to provide services in their respective locales. S.667 would address discriminatory actions like those taken by Illinois, Massachusetts, D.C. and San Francisco to force faith-based providers to halt services simply because of their belief that kids do best with a mom and a dad. Indeed, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act reflects its name—it ensures the inclusion of all providers and particularly those faith-based entities who have offered the bulk of orphan care since our nation’s founding. States that choose to discriminate against faith-based organizations despite this bill’s prohibition would face a reduction in federal funding under this bill, an important deterrent to future targeting.
We as individuals and organizations wish to remain active participants in and contributors to our communities. These bills ensure that we can continue to do so while also living in accordance with our beliefs about marriage and the family. Significantly, an overwhelming majority of Americans agree that we should have this freedom. Just last month, new polling from WPA Opinion Research and Family Research Council showed that 81% of Americans believe that individuals like us should be able to live and work in accordance with our belief in marriage as between a man and a woman.
While Americans in general continue to debate the meaning of marriage in the lead up to Supreme Court review of state marriage laws this spring, one thing is clear: millions of Americans who continue to affirm the historic understanding of marriage should remain free from government discrimination.
Again, we thank you for your leadership in introducing and advocating for this important legislation.
Sincerely,
  • Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
  • Gary L. Bauer, President, American Values
  • David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics), CEO, Christian Medical Association
  • Tom Minnery, President and CEO, CitizenLink
  • Richard A. Viguerie, Chairman, ConservativeHQ.com
  • Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman, Liberty Counsel
  • Brian S. Brown, President, National Organization for Marriage
  • Michael A. Needham, CEO, Heritage Action
  • Dr. Ron Crews CH (COL) USAR Retired, Executive Director, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty
  • Most Reverend Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
  • Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, Chairman, USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty
  • Most Reverend Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, Chairman, USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage
  • Russell D. Moore, President, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
  • Penny Nance, President and CEO, Concerned Women for America
  • Legislative Action Committee, Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., Chairman
  • High Impact Leadership Coalition, Star Parker, President, Center for Urban Renewal and Education
  • Carrie Gordon Earll, Vice President, Government and Public Policy, Focus on the Family
  • Rick Scarborough, President, Vision America Action
  • Keith Wiebe, President, American Association of Christian Schools
  • Thomas J. Cathey, EdD, Director for Legal Legislative Issues, Association of Christian Schools International
  • Dan Weber, CEO, Association of Mature American Citizens
  • Joel Grewe, Director, Generation Joshua
  • Susan A. Carleson, Chairman/CEO, American Civil Rights Union
  • Andrea Lafferty, President, Traditional Values Coalition
  • William J. Murray, Chairman, Religious Freedom Coalition
  • Austin Ruse, President, C-FAM
  • Elaine Donnelly, President, Center for Military Readiness
  • C. Preston Noell III, President, Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.
  • Robert Knight, Senior Fellow, American Civil Rights Union
  • Colin A. Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring, Co-Chair, The Weyrich Lunch
  • Curt Levey, President, The Committee for Justice
  • Nicole Theis, President, Delaware Family Policy Council
  • David Fowler, President, Family Action of Tennessee, Inc.
  • Dale Bartscher, Executive Director, Family Heritage Alliance Action (SD)
  • Julie Lynde, Executive Director, Cornerstone Family Council, Idaho
  • Phil Burress, President, Citizens for Community Values Action
  • Allen Whitt, President, Family Policy Council of West Virginia
  • Jim Minnery, President, Alaska Family Action
  • John Helmberger, CEO, Minnesota Family Council
  • Kent Ostrander, Executive Director, The Family Foundation (KY)
  • Michael Geer, President, Pennsylvania Family Institute
  • Peter Wolfgang, President, Family Institute of Connecticut Action
  • Rev. Jason J. McGuire, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms
  • Joe Ortwerth, Executive Director, Missouri Family Policy Council
  • Gene Mills, President, Louisiana Family Forum
  • Andrew Beckwith, President, Massachusetts Family Institute
  • Jonathan Saenz, President, Texas Values
  • Len Deo, Founder & President, New Jersey Family Policy Council
  • Jonathan Gardner, Executive Director, New Mexico Center for Family Policy

Monday, March 16, 2015

Faith-based organizations oppose Leahy gender ideology legislative language

Following is an excerpt from a letter sent by faith-based organizations to US senators recently. The letter urges rejection of gender ideology legislative language in a bill for social services to runaway youth. Sen. Pat Leahy's language would essentially disqualify faith-based organizations from providing social services with funding from the US Dept. of Health and Human Services' Administration for Families and Children.
The letter notes,
"As leaders of faith-based organizations, religious-freedom advocates, and lawyers who work with faith-based organizations, we ask you to reject the misconceived nondiscrimination clause that S. 262, the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (Sen. Leahy) would attach to every grant administered by the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services. The clause will undermine the rights of faith-based social-service providers or even cause many of them to be excluded from these grants. And yet
faith-based organizations are pioneers of services for runaway, homeless, and trafficked youth, provide a wide range of services also for other vulnerable people and communities, and are respected partners of government in a very large number of programs....  Read the full letter
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Contact your senators to preserve religious freedom

Commentary on marriage distinguishes between discrimination and discernment

Tennessee affirms opposite-sex marriage, not bigotry
Re: "Discriminated after crossing state lines," March 6.
Published in The Tennessean, March 13, 2015
In aletter to the editor, a Chicago resident complains that Tennessee does not recognize in law the fact that Illinois considers him married to another man; he labels Tennessee's legal definition of marriage a matter of discrimination and inequality.
The state of Tennessee retains a constitutional right, highlighted in the Supreme Court's recent Windsor decision, which deemed a federal definition of marriage as usurping states' rights, to determine by objective qualifications and definitions who qualifies for a marriage license.
Tennessee also uses objective qualifications to determine which of its citizens can vote, practice medicine, own a gun or teach in public schools.
These qualifications only constitute "discrimination" in the sense of discerning the relevant factors that merit granting legal status and privileges.
Why would Tennesseans legally define marriage as between a man and a woman?
Social science research clearly demonstrates that marriage between a man and a woman in a lifelong, exclusive commitment offers society, and children in particular, unique benefits — economical, educational, psychological — that no other relationship offers as well.
These benefits have led governments for millennia to recognize and endorse in law the marriage of a man and a woman.
A state's recognition of the unique benefits of man-woman marriage does not preclude love, respect, dignity or the extension of a host of government benefits and privileges to non-married citizens.
It's simply an objective affirmation of what marriage is and an endorsement of the unique benefits it provides to society and children.
Jonathan Imbody
VP Government Affairs, Christian Medical Association

Dems' abortion ideology holds up anti-trafficking in persons bill



The Washington Examiner reports that Senate Democrats are suddenly opposing a heretofore bipartisan bill to fight human trafficking, after unanimously passing it out of committee, because it contains a modest anti-abortion measure routinely approved by both parties in legislation every year for nearly four decades. 
The longstanding Hyde Amendment simply keeps our tax dollars out of the abortion industry--a concept supported by two-thirds of Americans, according to recent polling. The Hyde Amendment even includes exceptions for saving the life of the mother and, despite some pro-life objections, also for rape and incest.
Which leaves Senate Democrats with the lamest of talking points, such as not realizing that the Hyde Amendment was referenced in the short, 62-page bill. Did the Senate Democrats not bother to read the legislation from laziness, did they not understand it out of ignorance or do they think that Americans suddenly want their tax dollars to pay Planned Parenthood to end the lives of developing babies?

Monday, February 23, 2015

My commentary in Baltimore Sun: Assisted suicide is not "death with dignity"


Published in the Baltimore Sun, Feb. 21, 2015
An advocate for a Maryland "death with dignity" bill complains, "Why is it that I can put my dying pet to sleep to end its suffering, then have to sit with my dying spouse at a hospice?" ("Md. needs a death with dignity law," Feb. 18).
The comments suggest exactly why assisted suicide is far from "death with dignity."
Unlike animal pets, human beings possess the ability to transcend their physical bodies to achieve dignity and purpose.
The fact that a caretaker expresses regret at "having to sit with my dying spouse at hospice" unwittingly illustrates the pressures that can be brought to bear on the vulnerable, the disabled and the dying to end their lives prematurely.
The unpleasant truth is that when sick, elderly or disabled individuals are experiencing challenges that render them weak, depressed and extremely vulnerable, their caretakers will all too often prefer emotional relief to persevering in care-giving; insurers and governments will save money with a quicker end to life; overeager heirs may want to cut care short to preserve their inheritance; and coldly pragmatic health workers may want to clear the bed that patients nearing the end of life "uselessly" occupy.
As former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop observed, the "right to die" becomes the duty to die. We should instead focus on palliative care, assisting families with vulnerable patients and upholding the true human dignity that transcends our frail bodies.