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Dozens of lawmakers press Trump for religious freedom protection

Catholic News Agency

May 2, 2017

More than 50 members of Congress have written President Donald Trump asking for a broad executive order that protects religious freedom. "Freedom to follow one's conscience, faith and deeply held moral convictions is at the heart of our country's identity," said Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), one of the letter's signatories. Religious freedom advocates have warned that, due to various mandates and rules issued during the Obama administration, religious institutions that uphold traditional marriage or do not cooperate with abortions and contraceptive use could soon face federal action if no executive order is issued to protect them. Currently, the Weldon Amendments bars federal funding of states that force employers to provide abortion coverage for employees. But after California ruled that health care plans - including those of churches and religious organizations - had to include coverage for elective abortions, the head of the Office of Civil Rights at the federal Department of Health and Human Services decided last summer that the state had not violated the Weldon Amendment. An executive order, the Congressmen claim, could fix this violation of the freedoms of churches and religious employers.

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Filed under: Religious freedomCongress

Supreme Court case puts religious liberty on the line

LifeSite News

May 2, 2017

The court heard arguments on April 19 in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley, in which the state of Missouri is fighting to uphold a law allowing it to discriminate against preschool children in church-operated schools. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told LifeSiteNews, "Cases like this are crucial to stopping the slow erosion of our constitutional protections that we see every day in this country. Jonathan Imbody, representing the Christian Medical Association, pointed out, "The government should not set up a religious test for which kids can get protection on the playground." The nine justices will deliver their ruling in June.

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Filed under: CourtsReligious freedomEducation

Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on religious hate crimes

US Dept. of Justice

May 2, 2017

On May 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled "Responses to the Increase in Religious Hate Crimes." Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination Eric Treene testified for the Civil Rights Division, emphasizing that combating religion-based hate crimes are an enforcement priority. The testimony highlighted that hate crimes "are a serious problem that the Attorney General believes must be part of our national effort to reduce violent crime." He noted that the Attorney General Jeff Session's signature Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety has established a Hate Crime Subcommittee to focus on improving the identification, prosecution, and prevention of hate crimes, as well as data collection about hate crimes. The task force will hold a summit on hate crimes on June 29, bringing together state, local, and tribal law enforcement, experts, and community groups to explore how best to understand the problem and develop policies and practices to reduce the incidence of hate crimes in America.

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Filed under: Religious freedomPersecution

House Values Leaders Meet with Secretary Price on Conscience Protections

House Majority Leader

May 1, 2017

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Chairman Diane Black (TN-06), and Representatives Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), Andy Harris (MD-01), Stephen Knight (CA-25), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Peter Roskam (IL-06), and Chris Smith (NJ-04) released the following statement after meeting with Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price on how the California abortion mandate violates the Weldon Amendment and other ways federal conscience protections were undermined by the previous Administration: "The Weldon Amendment protects health care entities-from hospitals to insurance providers-from being discriminated against by the government if they don't provide or cover abortions, especially if doing so violates their consciences. The last Administration ignored this fact and refused to enforce the law, including in California, where health insurance providers are being forced to offer abortion coverage." (posted 4/26/17)

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Filed under: AbortionCongressConscience freedom

At Berkely, the mob wins again

National Review commentary by David French

April 26, 2017

Early this afternoon, Ann Coulter canceled her planned Thursday speech at the University of California, Berkeley. There can now be no doubt: A violent Left-wing mob dictates the rules at one of the nation's (and the world's) most prominent academic institutions. Let's be crystal clear about the government's obligation here: It is to protect liberty. That's why government exists in our constitutional republic, to guarantee the exercise of our unalienable rights, especially when it is threatened. Berkeley instead has chosen to systematically strip those rights from its students and hand ultimate power to the mob, justifying its cowardice through a disingenuous appeal to public safety. The deprivation of individual rights is comprehensive, ominous, and intolerable.

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Filed under: CommentariesFree speechEducation

Trump admin keeps Obama rule requiring Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraception ... for now

LifeSite News story by Claire Chretien

April 25, 2017

The Trump administration's Department of Justice (DOJ) caused surprise today by signaling that it intends to continue the Obama administration's court battle with the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious groups over the HHS contraception mandate, at least for the time being. While Trump had promised on the campaign trail to drop the provision, the DOJ has now asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for 60 more days to negotiate with East Texas Baptist University and other religious institutions to find a solution to their religious liberty concerns. Becket Law's Eric Rassbach says that the time has come for the new administration to put the fight to rest for good. "The government has a chance to do the right thing here. It got it wrong for five years in these cases, almost six years," Rassbach told Catholic News Agency. "And they can do the right thing by dropping their appeals that are in favor of the mandate, and admitting that they were wrong on the issue of the contraceptive mandate, as applied to religious non-profits." Forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to cooperate in the provision of contraception is "a hostility to religious liberty you will never see in a Trump administration," Trump wrote to Catholic leaders during his campaign.

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Filed under: CourtsContraceptionBecket Law

Republicans in Congress push for religious liberty executive order

USA Today

April 25, 2017

Beyond the workforce protections, the widely circulated draft order would have eliminated the contraceptive mandate that requires religious institutions to provide health insurance for birth control. Republicans lawmakers are also pushing for the order to allow for doctors to refuse to perform abortions based on religion. They also want to see protections for religious non-profits to be able to express political opinions without losing their tax-exempt status. The letters signatories, all men except for Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, include some of the Republican caucus’ most conservative members. A similar letter was sent by Senate Republicans earlier this month. “An executive order requiring federal government agencies to protect the right to religious freedom is necessary, and directing agencies to adhere to existing federal laws protecting religious freedom is sound policy,” the letter reads.

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Filed under: Religious freedomHomosexualityGender

Woman Who Identifies as Man Sues Catholic Hospital for Disallowing Uterus Removal at Facility

Christian News Network

April 24, 2017

A California woman who identifies as a man has filed a lawsuit against a Catholic hospital and its parent company for prohibiting her surgeon from performing a sex change-related hysterectomy at the facility because of the organization's religious convictions. Mercy San Juan President Brian Ivie informed Minton's surgeon, Lindsey Dawson-who regularly performs hysterectomies at the facility-that perhaps she could instead obtain admitting privileges at nearby Methodist Hospital, which is still a part of the network, but non-Catholic. "I don't blame the staff," said Dawson. "I don't blame the administrators. I blame the [Roman Catholic] doctrines." As previously reported, last summer, the Obama administration released guidelines prohibiting sex discrimination in federally-funded hospitals under the threat of losing funding. Five states, as well as the Christian Medical Association and the Roman Catholic Franciscan Alliance, quickly filed suit out of their belief that the government was wrongly forcing them to perform sex change-related procedures violative of the tenets of their faith. Judge Reed O'Connor sided with the plaintiffs in the case, citing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and concluding that "[p]laintiffs will be forced to either violate their religious beliefs or maintain their current policies which seem to be in direct conflict with the rule and risk the severe consequences of enforcement."

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Filed under: Christian Medical AssociationGenderHealthcare

Entertaining Moments During Oral Arguments Over Banning Churches From Public Funds

The Federalist commentary by Travis Weber

April 24, 2017

Last week's oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer will decide whether a state can exclude a religious entity from a public grant program just because the entity is religious. These four entertaining moments from those arguments indicate the court will likely rule for the church in this case. When Missouri's counsel tried to argue that giving the churches public money entangled the government with religion because the grant conditions incentivized the recipients to publicly proclaim that the government helped them out, Justice Anthony Kennedy responded: "I mean, you could say the same thing . . . that the church is delighted that it has fire protection." Growing increasingly frustrated with the state's argument at one point, Justice Breyer animatedly asked: "[H]ow does it permit Missouri to deny money to [a church] for helping children not fall in the playground, cut their knees, get tetanus, break a leg, etcetera?" Justice Alito also asked whether it would be permissible to allow public money to be used for "security enhancements at schools where there's fear of shooting or other school violence," as a New York City program allows. The states' attorney again said it would not. 

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Filed under: CourtsFamily Research CouncilEducation

Trump, global religious freedom needs US ambassador to lead

The Hill commentary by Andrea Picciotti-Bayer

April 23, 2017

The Pew Research Center found in 2016 that 74 percent of the world's population lives in countries with high or very high restriction or outright hostility to religion. The Knights of Columbus in a 300-page report documented genocide against Christians in the Middle East - mass murders and deportations, torture, kidnapping for ransom, sexual enslavement and rape of girls and women, forcible conversions to Islam and the destruction of Christian churches, monasteries, cemeteries and artifacts by the Islamic State - and former Secretary of State Kerry designated last year the violence by ISIS against Yezidis, Christians, Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria as "ongoing genocide." The recent slaughter of Coptic Christians in Egypt during Sunday worship services is another tragic reminder that we must continue to speak up. International religious freedom is not a "Republican" or "Democrat" issue.

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Filed under: CommentariesReligious freedomPersecution

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