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Monday, October 27, 2014

Why health professionals must report human trafficking victims


A Boston Globe article outlining findings of a new study report on human trafficking cites "passive" law enforcement approaches and victims' fears of deportation as reasons why more victims are not reported and rescued.
Healthcare professionals also play a key role in responding to victims. A recent study by experts Dr. Laura Lederer and Christopher Wetzel revealed that nearly nine out of ten human trafficking victims had contact with a health professional while trafficked. Yet these opportunities for rescue went unrealized, since many health professionals remain unaware of the problem and comparatively few have received training on how to recognize and respond to victims.
Federal and state laws and grants that promote awareness, fund research, identify best practices, provide training, increase social services and require reporting of suspected victims (who often will not self-report, out of fear) can help turn this around. More resources will strengthen the social services safety net and the response of law enforcement. Meanwhile, reporting victims to the care of even the existing imperfect system is far better than the alternative of non-reporting that returns victims to their abusers to suffer disease, violence and even death.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Buzzwords do not a marriage make


The Seattle Times opines that the US Supreme Court needs to overturn unilaterally the votes of millions of citizens in states that uphold marriage as between a man and a woman.
Why not let the people of each state decide? The editors offer no legal or logical arguments--only advocacy buzzwords like "marriage equality," "discrimination" and "chosen love over outdated notions of marriage."
Neither love nor law mandates equal access to every government-sanctioned institution.
Is age "inequality" inherent in the Constitutional requirement that only individuals 35 or older may serve as president, or the fact that no state allows children to vote?
Are public school policies "discriminatory" that segregate by gender male and female locker rooms?
Doesn't "choosing love over outdated notions of marriage" require legalizing marriages of five people who love each other, or of a man and his beloved poodle, or of loving cousins or any other imaginable combination based merely on a subjective emotional bond?
Absent an objective, biologically based definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, a union uniquely designed to provide a gender-balanced home for children, marriage soon means nothing at all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Christian doctors publish statement on same-sex marriage

The 15,000-member Christian Medical Association has published a statement on same-sex marriage, including recommendations for public policy. Some excerpts:


  • "Marriage is a consensual, exclusive and lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, expressed in a physical union uniquely designed to produce and nurture children."
  • The "abject subjectivity" of revisionist notions of marriage "offers no rational parameters that would exclude further redefinitions of 'marriage' as between multiple partners or related persons."
  • Government maintains a valid and vital interest in sanctioning conjugal marriage, given demonstrated benefits to children raised by both a mother and a father, economic factors favoring father-mother families and the high cost to government and society when marriage breaks down.
  • CMA supports legislative measures that "Recognize marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman" and also "Maintain equal protection of applicable laws for those who engage in homosexual activity without according special status or privileges based on that activity."
The full statement includes footnoted references and further resources for anyone interested in presenting an apologetic for conjugal marriage.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Euthanasia is to the Netherlands what HIV/AIDS is to the world

Ed Staneke's father told Dutch doctor administering
lethal injection, "I don't want to die!"

Imagine your grandfather in a nursing home where a doctor takes his life by withholding food and water while administering massive doses of morphine.
Imagine your sister and mother encouraging your father to forego life-extending medical treatment and instead opting to die by lethal injection.
These are true stories, detailed in my US Senate testimony, that put human faces on startling reports and statistics coming out of the Netherlands about its state-sanctioned euthanasia program.
The Netherlands now reports that three percent of its citizens die at the hands of doctors, including many not suffering from terminal diseases. Dutch government officials boast of strict controls, imagining that they somehow can manage medical killing like Dutch dikes manage encroaching waters.
But real-life statistics obtained behind the cloak of government propaganda reveal that the program clearly has careened out of control.
In the early 1990's, statistics in the government-sponsored Dutch Remmelink report revealed that normalizing medical killing and putting doctors above the law had translated into doctors killing thousands of patients who never consented to be killed.
Colleague Peter Saunders, CEO of the Christian Medical Fellowship in England, details the just-released 2013 statistics that reveal how medical killing since then has mushroomed to the point where euthanasia now accounts for three percent of all Dutch deaths.
For a comparison of the magnitude of this percentage, consider that the World Health Organization reports that HIV/AIDS accounts for nearly three percent of the world's deaths annually.
Euthanasia is to the Netherlands what HIV/AIDS is to the world.
It's easy to imagine how well-educated and highly respected doctors, daily entrusted with life and death decisions, can come to think that they know better than the unwilling patients they euthanize. But what about the individuals who clearly choose euthanasia?
·         Some choose euthanasia because they are afraid to die, especially if a disease means they will die in a physical condition they consider undignified. While understandable, this view neglects that our character--not the condition of our bodies--determines true dignity. Physical beauty and health do not dignify a person; character, courage and love dignify a person.
·         Others choose euthanasia because they feel a duty to die. They don't want to feel like a burden to family members. Sometimes they simply do not realize that their loved ones would never see them as a burden and would consider it a privilege to minister to their needs. Too often, however, aged patients correctly discern that family members would not want to take the time or bear the inconvenience of caring for them. This perceived pressure to die poses a strong reason not to legalize medical killing--either assisted suicide or euthanasia.
·         Still others choose euthanasia because they fear pain and don't realize how medical advances in pain control could ease their pain. Hospice also provides what many patients and their families have found to be a comforting and satisfying way to cope with end-of-life issues.
As we advocate in the public square for policies that promote true compassion and palliative care rather than medical killing, we do well to also address the deeply personal and spiritual motivations behind the drive for assisted suicide and euthanasia. Reassure your elderly family members often of your love for them and your commitment to their care. Share how God can make life meaningful, even at the end of life. Hold a hand, change a bedpan, read Scripture and pray with those facing the end of their lives on earth.
"Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things…" --I Timothy 6:12-13.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Both liberals and conservatives lobby for laws with moral and religious implications

Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times suggests in a commentary that "conservatives argue consistently that matters of family morality aren’t for the government to intrude on."
On the contrary, conservatives and liberals alike in our democratic republic advance many laws that deal with morality: capital punishment, abortion, gun control and religious freedom, which applies to the case of the castigated government official who simply seeks a government health  insurance option consistent with his conscience.
The bipartisan federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides that the government must not abridge our First Amendment religious freedoms apart from a compelling interest that the government enforces by the least restrictive means. The wise law does not make religious interests automatically trump government interests; it simply protects the delicate church-state balance reflected in the Bill of Rights: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dr. Ben Carson's patients stories reveal how the choices physicians make can mean our life or death

Photo: World Net Daily www.wnd.com
Writing in The Washington Times, Dr. Ben Carson highlights the life-or-death power entrusted to medical professionals and institutions:
Several years ago, I was consulted by a young woman who was 33 weeks pregnant and was on her way to Kansas get an abortion. I informed her of the multiple options available to her outside of abortion and she decided to go through with the pregnancy even though the child had hydrocephalus and required neurosurgical intervention after birth a few weeks later. She kept the baby and loves the beautiful child that has resulted.
A couple of decades ago, I came into the pediatric Intensive Care Unit on morning rounds and was told about a four-year-old girl who had been hit by an ice cream truck, and was comatose and exhibiting little neurological function other than reactive pupils. I tested her pupillary reflexes and both pupils were fixed and dilated. The staff indicated to me that this is something that must have just occurred. I grabbed the bed and with some help, transported her quickly to the operating room for an emergency craniotomy. I was met along the way by a senior neurosurgeon who told me I was wasting my time and that at best, we would end up with someone in a vegetative state.
Nevertheless, we completed the operation and a few days later, her pupils became reactive and she eventually left the hospital. I saw her a few years ago walking through the hospital with her own 4-year-old little girl. She was neurologically fully intact and told me she had become somewhat of a celebrity because of the experience I just related. What do these two stories have in common? Read more...

Sexual risk avoidance programs awarded crumbs from HHS table



It's comparatively crumbs under the table funding compared to less effective programs, but yesterday the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families, released the names of successful grantees for the sexual risk avoidance (SRA) abstinence education program. Entitled the Competitive Abstinence Education Grant Program (CAE), the $5 million dollar program was authorized by Congress as part of the FY 2014 spending bill.
Eleven programs across the United States received two-year grants to provide information and skills that help teens avoid the risks associated with sexual activity.
My colleague Valerie Huber, President/CEO of the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA), noted, 
The Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) abstinence approach is vital to the optimal health of America’s youth. SRA programs empower teens to successfully navigate adolescence by focusing on their goals and dreams, rather than sex.
Currently almost 95% of sex education spending in the federal budget goes to federal initiatives that are not centered on the risk avoidance abstinence message.  We hope that Congress will expand this program so that the focus on abstinence education can achieve parity in both priority and funding with contraceptive-focused programs.
Since almost 75% of the age group often targeted for sex education (15-17 year olds) have never had sex, we are eager for students to receive the reinforcement they need to continue to make healthy sexual decisions. They will singularly receive this important reinforcement in successfully implemented abstinence programs.
For more information from medical experts, download Sexual Risk Avoidance Education.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Liberal ideas like euthanasia get promoted as personal autonomy and liberation but in actual practice translate into more power for the State and death

In "Children Support Parents' Joint Euthanasia," anti-euthanasia colleague Wesley J. Smith highlights the natural result of legalizing medical killing: there are no boundaries.

The story of a healthy couple who found a non-Hippocratic physician in Belgium willing to kill them both at the same time is tragic in and of itself. But it gets worse: their son loves the idea in part because it saves him time and trouble.

In his own words: "If one of them should die, [the other] would remain would be so sad and totally dependent on us. It would be impossible for us...."

I testified some years ago at a US Senate hearing on euthanasia and related several stories from my on-site research in the Netherlands. One involved a sailor whose wife refused to discourage his euthanasia because she thought he'd been unfaithful to her. Another story involved a grandfather who asked for help with a painful leg, and doctors killed him before the family realized what was happening. I uncovered more stories that illustrate how Dutch doctors knock off a thousand patients a year (according to the government-funded Remmelink report) without patients' consent.

Ever notice how often liberal ideas get promoted as personal autonomy and liberation but in actual practice translate into more power for the State and death?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Saving students' lives: What it takes to be a hero


While California teacher unions, fretting over lawsuits, opposed a lifesaving bill to equip schools with EpiPens to save students from deadly anaphylactic shock, courageous and committed physicians like Dr. Kent Brantley risked their lives caring for Ebola patients in Africa whom they hardly knew.
What makes the difference? A worldview that considers the interests of others and not just self. A mantra more like "Do unto others…" than "What's in it for me?" A focus on the long-term, soul-sustaining casting of character rather than the short-term pleasure of cash in the pocket.
These are the everyday choices that determine what kind of people we will be and how others will view us. For all the teachers of character who daily put our children and grandchildren ahead of petty self-interest, thank you for your honorable service. For the heads of the teachers unions, just get out of the way of these heroes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

President Prevaricated: Govt. Agency Reveals that Your Tax Dollars Do Fund Abortion in Obamacare

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has unraveled the deception used to pass and promote Obamacare--by revealing that the new law does, as pro-life advocates have insisted, channel our tax dollars to abortion.
The GAO report gets into the weeds of the accounting schemes that the administration has used to obfuscate this fact, but here are the topline takeaway messages from this revelation:
  1. President Obama misled Congress and the American people. As one of many examples of where President Obama and Democratic leaders promised the American people that ObamaCare would not fund abortions, on September 9, 2009, President Obama told the Joint Session of Congress on Health Care: “And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up -- under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”
  2. An independent government agency finally has proved what pro-life advocates have insisted: that Obamacare is channeling our tax dollars to abortion.
  3. The administration is not even bothering to enforce its own accounting gimmick to cover up taxpayer funding of abortion.

Take Action: Use this easy form to tell your legislators to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.

Colleagues in Congress have provided the information below:
GAO CONFIRMS: ABORTION IN OBAMACARE
GAO Report demonstrates that Obamacare taxpayer subsidies are going to insurance coverage that includes abortion….despite claims to the contrary. 
No matter where you live, your federal taxpayer dollars are subsidizing plans in other states that include abortion.  If the longstanding prohibition on abortion funding, known as the Hyde amendment, had been applied to the ACA, there would be no taxpayer funding for plans that include abortion.
The GAO identified 1036 Plans that cover abortion on demand.
In California, where an estimated 1.25 million people are receiving taxpayer subsidies[i] for Obamacare plans, 86 out of 90 plans include abortion on demand. 
95% to 100% plans in 8 states include abortion on demand. 

·         Every plan in New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island and Hawaii
·         Massachusetts—98% (109 out 111)
·         New  York—95% (405 out of 426)
·         California—96% (86 out of 90)
According to the CBO’s April 2014 estimates, between 2015 and 2024 ACA premium subsidies will cost $855 billion. ($726 billion in direct spending and $129 billion in reductions in revenues.)[ii]
EVEN THE ACCOUNTING GIMMICK IS IGNORED
GAO interviewed 18 insurance issuers.  NONE had collected the abortion surcharge payment separately—even though the author of this arrangement, Senator Ben Nelson said: “…the insurance company must bill you separately, and you must pay separately from your own personal funds–perhaps a credit card transaction, your separate personal check, or automatic withdrawal from your bank account– for that abortion coverage. Now, let me say that again. You have to write two checks: one for the basic policy and one for the additional coverage for abortion....”[iii]
Background: Instead of extending the Hyde amendment, Obamacare constructed an accounting gimmick to get around the Hyde amendment. Proponents of the gimmick claimed that when a consumer selects a plan that covers abortion, the abortions would be paid for using funds collected from the plan purchaser through a separate abortion surcharge. This separate payment approach was contemporaneously acknowledged by NARAL, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights.[iv]
The GAO found that the administration reinterpreted this billing arrangement.  Instead of separate payments, they told issuers they could simply itemize the abortion surcharge on the consumer’s bill. NONE of the 18 issuers interviewed itemized an abortion surcharge.  (One company stated bills indicate there is a $1 fee for “coverage of services for which member subsidies may not be used.” The rest were silent regarding the surcharge.) 

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY ON ABORTION COVERAGE

THREE TIMES Former Secretary Sebelius was asked about abortion coverage transparency in Congressional hearings, and each time she refused to supply the answer.[v]  It took a GAO investigation to get a straight answer. 
The report confirms that the information about abortion coverage is not uniformly available to consumers.  When consumers are shopping for a plan there is no reliable consistent way to determine whether abortion is covered.  According to the GAO of the 18 issuers interviewed:
·         11 issuers indicated that consumers shopping for plans do not have access to such information, and some of the 11 indicated consumers would need to call their issuer directly to determine whether the plan includes abortion coverage
·         6 issuers indicated they made abortion coverage information available in some fashion prior to enrollment
·         1 issuer did not respond to GAO’s request for information
Consumers should not have to search multiple websites and make time consuming phone calls to get this simple information.
The pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute and the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute agree there is a lack of transparency.[vi]
 

LESSONS FOR 2015

The information in this report only applies to 2014 plans.  It does not answer questions for the consumers that will shop in the 2015 Open Season. 
For 2015, the administration needs to ensure that plans clearly and prominently disclose abortion coverage, and that the abortion surcharge is prominently disclosed whenever the price of a plan is advertised. 
The Senate should pass and the President should sign H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”[vii] (Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ) which would stop taxpayer funding for abortion and plans that include abortion in all federal programs including the Affordable Care Act. The House passed H.R. 7 by a vote of 227-188[viii] on January 28, 2014.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reflections on 9/11, national and personal

The commentary below was published just after 911. I wrote the personal reflection that follows below in 2006 on the five-year anniversary of 911. Thought it might be of interest today as we remember the fallen and the heroes.
---
Remembrances left at Pentagon 2001

An American foundation

Published in the Washington Times, September 13, 2001
by Jonathan Imbody
The atrocities of September 11 left many Americans wondering how terrorists could strike at the heart of our nation's power. In fact, they did not--and never can.
The heart of our nation's power has never been our military and financial might but our commitment to a civilization based upon liberty and love. Reaffirming these highest values--even more so than rebuilding our physical security--now poses the greatest test of our nation's mettle.
As we commence this task, let us take inspiration from the selfless firefighters and paramedics who died trying to save strangers trapped in the World Trade Center. Let us follow the example of servant-leaders like Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who joined the many service men and women at the Pentagon tending to the wounded. Let us imitate the quiet love shown by hundreds of citizens who stood in line to donate blood to aid their suffering neighbors. This is a nation of citizens who respond with love in action to the question, "Who is my neighbor?"
Such acts of selflessness, service and love will carry us through extremely difficult days ahead. And our reaffirmation of these values will strengthen an American foundation that can never be shaken.

---

Personal reflection on 911

At this time five years ago, I was sitting in my home office, as I am now. Our daughter Bethany had called from work with the news about the attacks on the World Trade Center. As I watched that New York scene on TV, I felt and heard a thud. That thud turned out to be a plane crashing into the Pentagon, a few miles from our home.
Bethany had left the Pentagon on her morning commute into Washington an hour and a half before the plane hit. A series of cell phone calls to her followed, as the news unraveled about the terrorist attacks and rumors swirled about bombs exploding and fires in DC. We didn’t know what target would be next, and with Bethany’s office located in the Watergate and directly across from the Saudi embassy, her security was uppermost in our minds. I loaded a bike and a moped into our van and headed toward the city to get her out—a daunting challenge with much of DC evacuating outward. We eventually met up in Vienna, VA and I brought Bethany home safely.
But for thousands of Americans, of course, the news was much worse.
Our region here in DC remained in a state of siege for weeks to come. We fell asleep to the sound of fighter jets and awoke to machine-gun-touting soldiers in areas where we used to walk unconcerned.
Today we mourn the loss from that day of rescue workers, military personnel and innocent citizens. Five years after the attacks, we live in relative peace and apparent security, though our soldiers fight and give their lives on our behalf overseas. The war against terror rages on, even as we go about our daily business.
It occurs to me that our war on terror is a picture of spiritual warfare. A crisis, an attack occurs in our lives, and we earnestly seek God for intervention and protection. As He does so, and as we regain peace and security, it is easy to forget that spiritual warfare still, in fact, rages and roars all around us:
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Obamacare data: Individuals being shoved into government-subsidized insurance or losing insurance altogether

Conservative skeptics eschew the theoretical idealism of liberalism for a simple reason: it doesn't work in real life.
Such is certainly the case with Obamacare. The data reveals that in many cases it actually leads employers to drop healthcare coverage for employees, or to reduce employees' hours to avoid the healthcare insurance mandate. An analysis of Obamacare enrollment data by Heritage experts  and  reveals that the failure to take into account basic market forces doomed Obamacare from the beginning:
"[A]lmost all the gains in individual coverage through the Obamacare exchanges were offset by reduced enrollment in employer-sponsored group coverage."
"[T]he biggest change in the private market during the six-month period was not the expansion in individual-market coverage, but the decline in fully insured employer group coverage. While enrollment in fully insured employer group coverage modestly increased—by just over 175,000 individuals—in Q4 2013, it dropped by nearly 4.2 million individuals in Q1 2014. The result was a net enrollment decrease of 4 million individuals for the combined six-month period.
In other words, Obamacare is sucking millions of employees out of their employer-provided healthcare plans. What happens then? Authors Haislmaier and Gonshorowski explain:
"The remaining 43 percent of the reduction can only be explained by employers’ discontinuing coverage for some or all of their workers or, in some cases, individuals losing access to such coverage due to employment changes. While it is not possible to determine the subsequent coverage status of individuals who lost group coverage, there are four possibilities: (1) some obtained replacement individual-market coverage (either on or off the exchanges); (2) some enrolled in Medicaid; (3) some enrolled in other coverage for which they are eligible (such as a plan offered by their new employer, a spouse’s plan, a parent’s policy, or Medicare); or (4) some became uninsured."
Bottom line result: Vast numbers of individuals either being shoved into government-subsidized insurance or losing insurance altogether. More power to the State, higher taxes to pay to prop up the State, less efficiency and less individual freedom. That formula may fit liberal theory, but as history has shown (Rome, communism, modern Europe), it is unsustainable in the long term.

Monday, July 28, 2014

White House contraceptives "accommodation" is a vaporous sleight of hand


A Washington Times news article, "White House: More changes to contraception mandate coming" quotes a White House official spinning the administration's latest feigned "accommodation" of the Obamacare contraceptives and sterilization mandate:
"In light of the Supreme Court order regarding Wheaton College, the departments intend to augment their regulations to provide an alternative way for objecting nonprofit religious organizations to provide notification, while ensuring that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage of contraceptive services without cost sharing."
Translation: "It's politically embarrassing for the Obama administration to promote 'diversity' and 'tolerance' and then lose religious freedom lawsuits because we don't tolerate views that diverge from our abortion ideology. So we will wave our magic Bureaucratic Wand and change the paperwork that conscientious objectors must use to cooperate with the contraceptives coercion plan they find morally abhorrent. This vaporous sleight of hand will create the illusion that we care about religious freedom, when in fact we fully plan to keep forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor--and anyone else who clings to their religion--to submit to our scheme to give our political base all the abortion-related stuff they want for free."

Here's a solution that doesn't require either coercion or legerdemain: Rather than diverting health resources to end pregnancies and punish people of faith, why not focus instead on preventing and treating actual diseases, providing needy patients with hard-to-get but desperately needed lifesaving drugs and treatments?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Policy Potpourri Report

After the Supreme Court victory in the Hobby Lobby religious freedom case provided a brief and welcome respite from playing defense with this administration and its abortion-advocating allies in the Senate, we're back to opposing bad stuff. Here's a sampling of the political mischief going on in the nation's capital:
  • The Blumenthal "abortion omnibus bill," S. 1696: The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill. For more, see colleague Chuck Donovan's Charlotte Lozier Institute  paper on the bill here and Americans United for Life's resource here.
  • The Murray-Udall Anti-Religious Liberty Bill: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops oppose the Murray-Udall bill responding to the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.  Read about their concerns here. Senator Orrin Hatch’s comments against the bill are here, and Senator Roy Blunt’s comments are here.
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a mark-up Tuesday, July 22 on the measure, which is opposed many pro-family, prolife groups.
On a somewhat more positive note, although viewed against the backdrop of tragic abortions, comes news of research progress regarding Down Syndrome. Tragically, developing babies with Down Syndrome seldom see the light of day in the USA. Mark Bradford of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation has authored a Charlotte Lozier Institute paper on research regarding Down Syndrome, abortion rates and encouraging research; read it here


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Court counters conscience assaults while administration trains its guns on nuns



A Supreme Court ruling provides a harbor of protection that will help the faith community weather the remaining years of an administration apparently bent on waging an aggressive campaign against religious freedom.
The Court's ruling in a consolidated pair of religious freedom cases involving family-owned businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, upheld the rights of conscientious objectors to opt out of a federal mandate that employers must provide insurance coverage of virtually all contraceptives and sterilization surgeries.
Under the sweeping authority accorded the bureaucracy by Obamacare, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has rigidly imposed the mandate on religious objectors. The Obama administration, though meek and muddled when faced with foreign tyrants and terrorists, has trained its guns aggressively on domestic conscientious objectors to abortion, especially targeting religious conservatives who often oppose administration policies.
The administration pointedly refused to provide exceptions for most religious objectors who conscientiously oppose pills that can end the life of a human embryo, choosing instead to highlight the clash of values as a wedge issue to rally its abortion-supporting political base in the 2012 election.
The HHS Obamacare mandate threatens to punish with draconian penalties (in one case, $179 million per year) anyone who dares oppose the administration's ideology. An astounding 300 plaintiffs, including elderly Catholic nuns, faith-based charities, family business owners, Mennonite woodworkers, evangelical nonprofits, Bible publishers, hospice nurses and other unlikely enemies of the state, have fled to the courts like refugees to escape the administration's jackbooted intolerance of their convictions.
The Court ruling last week focused on the HHS Obamacare mandate's violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a two-decade old, bipartisan law that prohibits unwarranted and heavy-handed government interference with religion. Yet the cases also serve to highlight more broadly how Obama's intolerant and divisive domestic policy threatens the fundamental purpose, values and assumptions of the US Constitution. Consider the preamble to the Constitution and how its goals and principles relate to the HHS Obamacare mandate:
"Form a more perfect union"  - The Constitution's framers knew from firsthand experience that maintaining a union requires accommodating a diversity of opinions and conscience convictions. Mandating submission to the state's contraception and abortion ideology could not more clearly contradict the requirements for unity.
"Establish justice" - Establishing justice means to many increasing healthcare access for all citizens, especially for the poor. Ironically, the conscience-trampling HHS Obamacare mandate penalizes and threatens access to healthcare, by barring employers from providing healthcare coverage consistent with life-honoring standards.
"Insure domestic tranquility" - Peace can prevail even amid diverse and conflicting values, by avoiding conflagration through compromise. The administration's inflexible, intolerant HHS mandate that unduly penalizes the faith community--to the point of requiring even elderly nuns to participate in contraception--needlessly and recklessly undermines domestic tranquility.
"Provide for the common defense" - The purpose of the preventive services provision of Obamacare (under which the HHS mandate falls) is to provide a defense against disease--not against pregnancy. President Obama has asserted that 99 percent of women already use contraceptives, so why not focus instead on increasing patients' access to hard-to-get, lifesaving medicines? It's like taking aim at the Boy Scouts while jihadists assault Iraq.
"Promote the general welfare" - Given the unquestioned ubiquity and relative affordability of contraceptives, it's implausible for the administration to argue that the welfare of every woman from the Hamptons to Beverly Hills hinges on government-mandated free handouts. Nor, as the dangerously dwindling populations of Europe and Russia and the forecasts for Social Security attest, does it serve the general welfare for the government to focus its policies on preventing the births of its future citizens.
"Secure the blessings of liberty" - By penalizing conscientious objectors with draconian, multi-million-dollar fines, the HHS Obamacare mandate denies the blessings of liberty to all who disagree with the administration's ideology.
While in this ruling, freedom triumphed over tyranny, many battles for constitutional principles remain. Next up: a lawsuit involving the HHS Obamacare mandate imposed on the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of elderly nuns providing hospice care.
The Supreme Court's rulings on these cases, by framing the boundaries of government power and plumbing the depth of our liberties, will ripple out toward every aspect of the Constitution and impact how we as a diverse society value conscience and tolerate dissent.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Highlights from US Supreme Court opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding religious liberty, holding that the Obama administration's coercive contraceptives mandate violated the free exercise of religion. A few highlights follow; key excerpted quotations from the Court's opinion can be found here.

Key points and principles held by the Court:

1.      The Obama administration violated federal law--the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)--by substantially burdening the free exercise of religion without taking the least restrictive means of accomplishing its purpose of distributing free contraceptives. The Government easily could have assumed the cost of contraceptives to employees of objecting employers.
2.      The substantial burden on faith-based family businesses included heavy fines (over half a billion dollars imposed on three companies alone) and forcing a choice between conscience or dropping healthcare for employees.
3.      The decision is narrow, applying to the contraceptive mandate and to closely held companies (not to publicly traded corporations), and should not be seen as a license for discrimination.
4.      The job of the court is not to assess the reasonableness of a religious objection, but simply to determine whether or not it is sincere.
5.      The administration's position reveals that it views religious freedom as less important than Congress considers it.
6.      The Obama administration's position would allow forcing religious objectors to participate in any medical procedure allowed by law—including third-trimester abortions or assisted suicide.
7.      The job of the Court is not to assess the wisdom of Congress but to enforce the law (RFRA) as written.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Capitol Hill responds to Supreme Court religious freedom ruling

This morning the Supreme Court announced its ruling in a landmark case involving religious freedom. While I am presently immersed in reading the decision, I wanted to relay to you the word from Capitol Hill, where pro-life legislators are reacting enthusiastically to the decision, which comports with a two-decades-old Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed on a bipartisan basis by Congress.
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Specialties Wood Corp. v. Burwell.  In a 5-4 decision the Court ruled that the HHS preventive services mandate imposed an undue burden on the religious freedom of the Green and Hahn family businesses under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The ruling applies specifically to closely-held corporations and the contraceptive mandate.
Today’s decision is not the end of litigation on the HHS preventive services mandate. 51 non-profit cases, including the case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, are still under consideration.  These plaintiffs are specifically contesting an application of the HHS mandate that only applies to objecting nonprofit religious organizations and requires them to sign a document saying they object to all or some of the mandated services, but triggers their insurance company to provide the coverage to their employees anyway.
Highlights from the decision:
 “We doubt that the Congress that enacted RFRA—or, for that matter, ACA—would have believed it a tolerable result to put family-run businesses to the choice of violating their sincerely held religious beliefs or making all of their employees lose their existing healthcare plans.” (p.35, Opinion of the Court)
 “Because the contraceptive mandate forces them to pay an enormous sum of money – as much as $475 million per year in the case of Hobby Lobby – if they insist on providing insurance coverage in accordance with their religious beliefs, the mandate clearly imposes a substantial burden on those beliefs.” (P.38, Opinion of the Court)
Press releases from Members of Congress and law firms involved in the cases:

Friday, June 6, 2014

We all need to learn to love and listen to those who differ with us

As a USA Today article, "Victories propel gay-marriage movement" indicates, some recent court rulings have disallowed the rational basis for keeping marriage between a man and a woman.[i] By advancing the narrative pushed by some same-sex marriage advocates that everyone opposing their agenda are biased bigots, such rulings will fuel the firings, censure, lawsuits, denial of government funds,[ii] loss of student organization privileges, removal of professional license and privileges and other retaliations and discrimination against those who speak in favor of marriage as between a man and a woman.[iii]
It is no victory for tolerance and diversity to simply shift intolerance and discrimination from one group to another.
For millennia, societies and governments have rationally recognized the singular benefits derived from marriage that is a comprehensive union of will and body, a permanent and exclusive commitment and uniquely designed for procreation and the benefits of family life. Research evidences the benefits to children raised by both a mother and a father,[iv] economic factors favoring traditional families[v] and the high cost to government and society when marriage breaks down.[vi]
The issue of marriage, far from decided, provides Americans with an opportunity to shun incivility and intolerance and instead embrace a rational and respectful debate. We all need to learn to love and listen to those who differ with us.


References
[i] For example, in declaring unconstitutional a federal law upholding "traditional moral teaching" regarding marriage, the United States Supreme Court maintained that protecting conjugal marriage only "seeks to injure" non-heterosexual couples, to "impose a disadvantage, a separate status and so a stigma," to "impose inequality," "to degrade or demean" and "to disparage and to injure." United States, petitioner v. Edith Schlain Windsor, in her capacity as executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, et al., Justice Kennedy's delivery of the majority opinion of the Court, June 26, 2013.
[ii] The Obama administration recently issued a new "Federal Recognition of Same-sex Spouses/Marriages" grant policy requiring that "all grant recipients will be subject to a term and condition that instructs grantees to recognize any same-sex marriage legally entered into in a U.S. jurisdiction that recognizes their marriage." See, for example, this link to a HRSA grant.
[iii] Thomas M. Messner, "Religious Freedom and Marriage in Federal Law," Heritage Backgrounder #2865, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/01/religious-freedom-and-marriage-in-federal-law.
[iv] See, for example, Mark Regnerus, “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” Social Science Research, Vol. 41, No. 4 (July 2012), and Loren Marks, “Same-Sex Parenting and Children’s Outcomes: A Closer Examination of the American Psychological Association’s Brief on Lesbian and Gay Parenting,” Ibid.
[v] See, for example, Patrick Fagan, “The Wealth of Nations Depends on the Health of Families,” Public Discourse, February 6, 2013.
[vi] A study by the Brookings Institution, for example, revealed that between 1970 and 1996, $229 billion in welfare expenditures could be attributed to social problems related to the breakdown of marriage.

Jackbooted "Tolerance"

The Obama administration appears prepared to enforce its ideology regarding same-sex marriage with trademark inflexibility and atypical efficiency. Administration officials have begun inserting into federal grants notices and other official policies sweeping new requirements and definitions of marriage. 
While the new policies cite as their rationale a need to implement the Supreme Court's recent Windsor decision on same-sex marriage, the way agencies are applying that viewpoint to grants appears aimed at eliminating from the public square any groups that disagree with the administration's ideology. 
Exactly what this flood of apparently inflexible new policies means to groups with values that differ from the Obama administration will play out in the upcoming months and meanwhile requires legal analysis. The broad, sweeping language of the new policies make it difficult to determine precisely how and in what specific areas the Obama same-sex doctrine will be applied. 
Meanwhile, the outlook appears ominous, for example, for:
  • Faith-based organizations that maintain fidelity to Judeo-Christian sexual norms in their policies and personnel practices.
  • Sexual education programs that emphasize the benefits of saving sex for (traditional) marriage.
  • Adoption agencies that recognize in their policies the benefit to children of having a father and mother.
  • Health organizations that emphasize the health benefits of male-female monogamy.
Policies enforcing the administration's marriage ideology (conveniently couched in the context of Windsor) are cropping up across federal agencies:

 Federal Recognition of Same-sex Spouses/Marriages
The following policy applies to:
• all grants except block grants governed by 45 CFR part 96, part 98, and grant awards made under titles IV -A, XIX and XXI of the Social Security Act.
• programs which base eligibility or otherwise make distinctions in program participation or content on such terms as "marriage," "spouse," "family," "household member," or similar references to familial relationship.
A standard term and condition of award will be included in the final Notice of Award (NOA); all grant recipients will be subject to a term and condition that instructs grantees to recognize any same-sex marriage legally entered into in a U.S. jurisdiction that recognizes their marriage, including one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or a U.S. territory, or in a foreign country so long as that marriage would also be recognized by a U.S. jurisdiction, when applying the terms of the Federal statute(s) governing their awards. This applies regardless of whether or not the couple resides in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage. 
Accordingly, recipients must review and revise, as needed, any policies and procedures which interpret or apply Federal statutory or regulatory references to such terms as "marriage," "spouse," "family," "household member," or similar references to familial relationship to reflect inclusion of same-sex spouses and marriages. Any similar familial terminology references in HHS statutes, regulations, or policy transmittals will be interpreted to include same-sex spouses and marriages legally entered into as described herein.

This guidance is intended to implement a post-Windsor policy of treating same-sex marriages on the same terms as opposite-sex marriages to the greatest extent reasonably possible. Family support and parent engagement activities should be inclusive and supportive of single, coupled, and married LGBT parents.

For Federal tax purposes, the terms “spouse,” “husband and wife,” “husband,” and “wife” include an individual married to a person of the same sex if the individuals are lawfully married under state law, and the term “marriage” includes such a marriage between individuals of the same sex.

In keeping with the Supreme Court’s analysis and reasoning in United States v. Windsor, this guidance implements a policy of treating same-sex marriages on the same terms as opposite-sex marriages to the greatest extent reasonably possible. The AFI program now recognizes as family members and spouses any individuals in same-sex marriages as long as they have been lawfully married under the law of a state, territory, or foreign jurisdiction, as long as it would be recognized in at least one state. In other words, same-sex spouses are recognized so long as they have entered into a valid marriage in the jurisdiction in which they were married, regardless of whether they currently reside in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages.
Within days, the Supreme Court will announce its decisions in cases involving the Obama administration's trampling of religious freedom in its drive to enforce its ideology regarding contraception and abortion. The administration's new policies enforcing its ideology regarding same-sex marriage will make good summer reading for the justices, since they can expect a raft of related cases next term.