• A coercive contraceptive mandate imposes pro-abortion ideology on all with pro-life views.
• The gutting of the only federal conscience regulation in health care opens the door to discrimination.
• The denial of federal funds to a ministry, just for opposing abortions, threatens care for human trafficking victims.
• The administration's court case to restrict faith-based organizations' hiring rights minimizes religious liberty.
• Firings, discrimination and coercion of life-honoring health care professionals imperil health care access.
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Five months ago the Navy called him the "best of the best." But now, Chaplain Wes Modder could be kicked out of the military over issues of intolerance and insensitivity to other cultures. Lt. Cmdr. Modder has been accused of failing to show "tolerance and respect" in private counseling sessions regarding issues pertaining to faith marriage and sexuality - including homosexuality. On March 16 the Navy rejected Modder's claim that he was being singled out because of his Christian faith. LTG (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, who now serves as executive vice president at the Family Research Council, said a chaplain isn’t worth anything if he isn’t allowed to minister and counsel according to his faith. "The Navy has to decide whether it wants a chaplain corps or social workers only.”
A Chicago resident complains in a letter to the editor 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.
"Religious freedom is a bedrock value of our society but, on President Obama's watch, this time-honored principle is under assault," said bill co-sponsor Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. "From Obamacare's coercive HHS mandate to the unlawful, pro-abortion directive by the state boards in California, it is clear that Congress must act where the White House will not and reverse this infringement of our First Amendment rights." Pro-life lawmakers have attempted to pass legislation similar to HR 940 for several years. But this year, Black, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., and Rep. John Fleming, R-La., plan to combine HR 940 with an appropriations bill to increase its chances of passing.
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.
Contact your senators to preserve religious freedom
The two euphemistically titled acts are the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA). These policies will saddle religious organizations and employers with a choice between complying with coercive laws that force them to violate their religious beliefs and organizational missions and staying true to their beliefs in defiance of unjust laws. RHNDA discriminates against pro-lifers and HRAA violates religious liberty. The former could force employers in the nation's capital to cover elective, surgical abortions in their health plans and require pro-life organizations to hire individuals who advocate for abortion. The latter could force Christian schools to violate their beliefs about human sexuality and recognize an LGBT student group or host a "gay pride" day on campus.
Michael Berry, a military veteran and attorney with Liberty Institute a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases is representing Modder. "We are starting to see cases where chaplains have targets on their backs," Berry said. "They have to ask themselves, ‘Do I stay true to my faith or do I keep my job?' They want chaplains to be glorified summer camp counselors and not speak truth and love into people's lives. There are some anti-religious elements in our military. Anytime somebody wants to live their faith out - there are people who say that is offensive."
These two points-that InterVarsity qualified for the ministerial exception and that it could not waive its constitutional rights-were the most significant outcomes of the case, according to David French, senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, the firm that defended InterVarsity. "It matters not whether the plaintiff is claiming a specific violation under Title VII or any other employment discrimination statute," the court wrote. "The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses do not permit federal or state courts to adjudicate such matters when the defendant properly asserts the ministerial exception as an affirmative defense."
American business and civic institutions frequently make choices to remain true to principles even when it is unfashionable or may hurt their bottom line-for example, CVS last year pulled cigarettes from shelves, calling the sale of tobacco "inconsistent with our purpose-helping people on their path to better health." This choice is even more essential for religious schools, which must be able to have teachers who support-or at least don't publicly attack-the school's beliefs. Lawmakers shouldn't be using threats of governmental investigation to control those decisions. Yet similar coercion is taking place throughout the country.
As medical science advances other procedures that are in conflict with Catholic teaching are emerging. One thinks of gender reassignment surgery and, most recently, the creation of "three-parent babies". It would be a tragedy if the gradual creeping exclusion from healthcare of Catholics and others with strong religious and conscientious principles continued. We must act to stop it.
Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Diane Black (R-TN), and John Fleming (R-LA) today announced the reintroduction of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940). This legislation would protect Americans' freedom of conscience by offering full exemption from the Health and Human Services mandate that creates ethical dilemmas for health care providers and small business owners. The bill ensures protections for individuals and health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer patients to abortion providers because of their deeply held beliefs. The legislation would also address the unlawful violation of religious freedom in California, where the state Department of Managed Health Care issued a directive requiring that all insurance plans offered on the state exchange include coverage for abortions, including plans provided by churches, religious entities, and others with conscionable objections to such procedures.