Friday, October 12, 2012

USCCB Statement on Biden’s HHS Mandate Comments

Last night, during the Vice Presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden made a very interesting comment about the HHS Mandate. The comment he made was patently false. Today the USCCB responded in a very direct manner. The following is their statement:
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement, October 12.
Full text follows:
Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:
With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.” (Joe Biden)
This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.
HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.
USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.
For more details, please see USCCB’s regulatory comments filed on May 15 regarding the proposed “accommodation”:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Obama appeals ruling which protected Catholic family business from HHS mandate

DENVER, September 26, 2012, ( – A judge’s order will not stop the Obama administration from pressing forward in its quest to punish a Catholic family’s business for refusing to comply with the HHS mandate.

Hercules Industries, an HVAC business in Denver, won an injunction against the controversial provision requiring employers to cover contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs in its health care plans on July 27.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department appealed the ruling to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, also based in Denver. 

“On the same day President Obama spoke of religious freedom at United Nations, his Justice Department acted to deny that freedom to small business owners,” said Maureen Ferguson and Ashley McGuire of The Catholic Association in a statement e-mailed to

Eric Holder's Justice Department appealed the religious free
Eric Holder's Justice Department appealed the religious freedom ruling.
The Newland family sued HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying the mandate violated their mutual Catholic faith.

“The cost of religious freedom for this family could be millions of dollars per year in fines that would cripple their business and potentially destroy jobs if the administration ultimately has its way,” said Matt Bowman, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom. “In filing its appeal today, the administration sent a clear message that it wants to force families to abandon their faith in order to earn a living. That’s the opposite of religious freedom.”

The Obama administration has rhetorically shifted from supporting “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship,” a change its detractors believe is designed to suppress religious opposition to growing secular regulation.

“Under the Obama Constitution, family business owners like the Newlands of Hercules Industries may practice their religion on Sundays, within the four walls of their church, but they have no right to practice that faith during the work week,” Ferguson and McGuire said.

The Newland family puts its faith at the heart of its business, which has expanded from a mom-and-pop operation to a bustling business than employs 265 people and was recently honored by the Colorado House of Representatives. 

“ObamaCare puts us in a really bad position,” business founder Paul Newland said. “You can either choose to abandon your faith...or you can pay millions of dollars of fines that would eventually cripple our business and harm the company and all of its employees.”

Senior Judge John L. Kane of the U.S. District of Colorado, a Carter appointee, ruled this summer that the administration’s claims that government has an interest in promoting access to birth control “are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion.” 

Mitt Romney reacted to Kane’s decision by saying, “Freedom of conscience has won an important victory.” 

David French, the founder of Evangelicals for Mitt, told in July, “If Obama is re-elected, the legal battles over the HHS mandate will drag on for year after year, with dozens and perhaps hundreds of challenges filed.”

Monday, September 24, 2012

More than 2,200 hospitals face penalties under ObamaCare rules

A provision of ObamaCare is set to punish roughly two-thirds of U.S. hospitals starting this fall over high readmission rates, according to an analysis by Kaiser Health News.
Starting in October, Medicare will reduce reimbursements to hospitals with high 30-day readmission rates — which refers to patients who return within a month — by as much as 1 percent. The maximum penalty increases to 2 percent the following year and 3 percent in 2014. 
Doctors are concerned the penalty is unfair, since sometimes they have to accept patients more than once in a brief period of time but could be penalized for doing so — even for accepting seniors who are sick. 
“Among patients with heart failure, hospitals that have higher readmission rates actually have lower mortality rates,” said Sunil Kripalani, MD, a professor with Vanderbilt University Medical Center who studies hospital readmissions. “So, which would we rather have — a hospital readmission or a death?”
But according to federal government figures, nearly one in five Medicare patients is readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of release, costing taxpayers an estimated $17.5 billion. 
“Readmissions has been a low-hanging fruit for Medicare,” said Jordan Rau, a staff writer with KHN, an editorially independent program of the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “They’ve been very unhappy that about 2 million Medicare beneficiaries are being readmitted every year between 30 days of discharge.”
Medicare evaluated readmission rates at 3,367 of the nation’s hospitals and will impose penalties on 2,211 starting in October, according to KHN. The analysis shows 278 hospitals will receive this year’s maximum penalty of 1 percent. On the other side of the spectrum, 50 hospitals will receive the minimum penalty of 0.01 percent, KHN reports.
The penalties are intended to create financial incentives for the quality of care hospitals provide, instead of the number of procedures. But physicians debate whether readmission rates are the best measure of outcomes.
Kripalani and some other physicians are concerned that readmissions-based penalties may have a disproportionate effect on research hospitals because they handle large numbers of complex cases.
“Often these kinds of institutions take care of the most sick patients,” Kripalani said. “They’re sent patients by other hospitals because of specific expertise they have. So, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that some of the nation’s best hospitals do have slightly higher readmission rates compared to other hospitals.”
The list of hospitals facing penalties includes nationally known names such as Vanderbilt, University of Chicago Medical Center and Massachusetts General, according to Medicare data compiled by KHN.
Some physicians are also concerned about what impact Medicare penalties will have on “safety-net” hospitals that treat large numbers of poor patients with limited access to primary and followup care. However, researchers who helped Medicare develop its quality assessment guidelines say the measures take into account the relative illness of patients coming into each hospital.
“The readmission measures are risk-adjusted measures,” said Susannah Bernheim, MD, director of quality measurement programs at Yale School of Medicine’s Center for Outcomes Research & Evaluation (CORE). “So, if safety-net hospitals are caring for patients that are generally sicker, that’s going to be accounted for by the measures. What I think is really remarkable is how well many safety-net hospitals in this country do on the readmission measure.”
Bernheim added that the risk-adjustment also applies to research/teaching hospitals serving the sickest patients.
“These measures represent what a patient really experiences,” Bernheim said. “And as long as they’re designed in a scientifically sound way, they’re going to really help move the quality of our health care system forward in meaningful ways.”
Physicians debate how much control hospitals actually have over readmission rates since many patients return after failing to follow recommended outpatient treatment, medication and dietary guidelines.
But faced with penalties, the nation’s medical centers now have a financial incentive to seek improvements to the way they follow up with patients after they’re released.
“There’s a real question and a real heavy debate about whether it’s fair to hold the hospital responsible for that,” Rau of Kaiser Health News said. “Medicare’s answer has been that the problem overall with the health care system is that no one’s ever in charge. And so they’ve decided to tell the hospitals, ‘Like it or not, your fault or not, you’re in charge.’”

Thousands join grassroots women's movement opposing HHS mandate

Women protest the Obama administration's contraception mandate. Credit: Women Speak for Themselves.
.- Thousands of women across the country are leading grassroots efforts to make their voices heard in opposition to the federal contraception and sterilization mandate.

The Women Speak for Themselves movement is driven by “things that women are deciding to do on their own,” said Meg McDonnell, who has been assisting the group from early in its existence.

McDonnell told CNA on Sept. 20 that the movement has received “hundreds of e-mails” about women’s efforts to defend religious freedom, including prayer campaigns, local rallies, blog posts, discussions with elected representatives, voter registration drives, billboards and letters to the editor.

The movement began in February, when George Mason law professor Helen Alvaré and former Thomas More Law Center counsel Kim Daniels wrote a letter responding to the controversial federal mandate that requires employers to offer free contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs in their health care plans, regardless of their religious and moral objections.

The open letter asked President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Kathleen Sebelius and members of Congress not to claim to speak for all women in promoting the mandate.

It criticized those who try to “shout down anyone who disagrees” with them by invoking “women’s health,” while ignoring the negative physical and social effects of contraception for women.

“No one speaks for all women on these issues,” the letter said. “Those who purport to do so are simply attempting to deflect attention from the serious religious liberty issues currently at stake.”

Within weeks, the letter was signed by thousands of women of various religious and political backgrounds who oppose the mandate. The letter is currently approaching 34,000 signatures.

What started as a simple letter has become a movement, with the women on the list working to “keep it active,” McDonnell explained. “It’s really them that keep it going.”

As more women signed the letter, she said, they consistently wrote to Alvaré about the issues they were facing and the efforts they were leading in their local communities.

Relief at having an opportunity to speak out and the ability to stand up for their beliefs was a “common theme,” she explained. 

McDonnell attributes the growth of the movement over the last seven months largely to the “woman to woman contact” and the “continual discussion” that is being generated, allowing the conversation to reach a wider audience.

Decades after legalized abortion swept through America, she said, “a lot of women have experienced the negative effects” of the sexual revolution. Seeing that these ideas did not lead to happiness, they now want to “set a better path for younger women.”

The women in the movement hold differing views on contraception, she noted.

“But they stand with us on the religious freedom issue,” she said. “And that’s the key point.”

The group’s website,, includes talking points for discussions on the mandate and religious freedom, exploring the “war on women” rhetoric, and whether free contraception is really the best means of promoting women’s equality.

These talking points help to “clarify the dialogue,” McDonnell explained.

Contrary to some reports, she said, opponents of the mandate are “not trying to say that contraception should be outlawed.” Rather, they are advocating a return to policies that allow women to purchase birth control if they choose to do so, while permitting religious groups to follow their moral convictions. 

The movement has also released an online video highlighting the efforts of women to protect religious liberty and promote “a more thoughtful, more complete vision of women’s freedom.”

In addition, a new book called “Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak For Themselves” (Our Sunday Visit, $16.95) has been published. The book, which is edited by Alvaré, features women speaking “in their own voices” about the issues they face in their careers, as moms and in their faith lives. It also features the stories of how they came to embrace Church teaching in their own lives.

McDonnell believes that women will continue to make use of outlets that allow them to speak their opinion in the public square.

Religious freedom is an important ongoing issue that is “not solely related just to this mandate,” she explained.

“Women are smart,” she said. “They’re moms, they’re wives, they’re working in the professional world. They realize that there are greater things ahead for women.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Column: Christian companies can't bow to sinful mandate

By David Green, CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc
Sept. 12, 2012
USA Today

When my family and I started our company 40 years ago, we were working out of a garage on a $600 bank loan, assembling miniature picture frames. Our first retail store wasn't much bigger than most people's living rooms, but we had faith that we would succeed if we lived and worked according to God's word. From there, Hobby Lobby has become one of the nation's largest arts and crafts retailers, with more than 500 locations in 41 states. Our children grew up into fine business leaders, and today we run Hobby Lobby together, as a family.
  • Protesters against the contraception mandate.
    By Derik Holtmann, AP
    Protesters against the contraception mandate.

By Derik Holtmann, AP
Protesters against the contraception mandate.

We're Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I've always said that the first two goals of our business are 1) to run our business in harmony with God's laws, and 2) to focus on people more than money. And that's what we've tried to do. We close early so our employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed on Sundays, one of the week's biggest shopping days, so that our workers and their families can enjoy a day of rest. We believe that it is by God's grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We've not only added jobs in a weak economy, we've also raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80%above minimum wage.
But now, our government threatens to change all of that. A new government health care mandate says that our family business must provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don't pay for drugs that might cause abortions. Which means that we don't cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one. If we refuse to comply, we could face $1.3 million per day in government fines.
Our government threatens to fine job creators in a bad economy. Our government threatens to fine a company that's raised wages four years running. Our government threatens to fine a family for running its business according to its beliefs. It's not right.
I know people will say we ought to follow the rules, that it's the same for everybody. But that's not true. The government has exempted thousands of companies from this mandate, for reasons of convenience or cost. But it won't exempt them for reasons of religious belief. So, Hobby Lobby — and my family — are forced to make a choice. With great reluctance, we filed a lawsuit today, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asking a federal court to stop this mandate before it hurts our business. We don't like to go running into court, but we no longer have a choice. We believe people are more important than the bottom line and that honoring God is more important than turning a profit.
My family has lived the American dream. We want to continue growing our company and providing great jobs for thousands of employees, but the government is going to make that much more difficult. The government is forcing us to choose between following our faith and following the law. I say that's a choice no American — and no American business — should have to make.
David Green is the CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Inter-Faith Prayer Service September 13th

The next Inter-Faith Prayer Service for Religious Freedom will be September 13th at 7:00pm at Polk Street United Methodist Church, 1401 S Polk Street. This prayer service is hosted by the Downtown Women's Center.

Bishop Patrick Zurek of the Diocese of Amarillo will join other pastors from the city, inluding Dr. Burt Palmer of Polk Street UMC, Pastor Ernest Perez of Open Heaven Ministries, and Pastor Tiller Watson of New Hope Baptist Church, in praying for the preservation of our Religious Liberty. This prayer service is in the fourth in a series of five prayer services leading up to the election. These prayer services began in June at St. Mary's Cathedral and have been a huge success, with each service drawing over 700 people. You can see a video of the last prayer service at the Arena of Life Cowboy Church here.

The last prayer service will be October 18th at 7:00pm at First Baptist Church, 1208 South Tyler.

Please join us if you can.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kelly Shakelford in Amarillo!

Check out this video of Kelly Shakelford at a Religious Freedom Rally in Fort Worth. 

Mr. Shakelford is the President & CEO of Liberty Institute, an influential non-profit law firm, dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America. Mr. Shakelford  will be in Amarillo on Saturday, Sept. 8th. to discuss religious liberty and cases now pending related to defending Christian faiths. 

The program will be held at the Happy State Bank Auditorium from 1:00pm to 2:00pm. Make plans to attend if you can.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Obamacare Mandate: Sterilize 15-Year-Old Girls for Free--Without Parental Consent

By Sabrina Gladstone

Kathleen Sebelius, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, President Barack Obama and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the White House on March 23, 2010, the day Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (White House Photo/Pete Souza)
( - Thanks to an Obamacare regulation that took effect on Aug. 1, health care plans in Oregon will now be required to provide free sterilizations to 15- year-old girls even if the parents of those girls do not consent to the procedure.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finalized the regulation earlier this year.
It says that all health care plans in the United States--except those provided by actual houses of worship organized under the section of the Internal Revenue Code reserved for churches per se--must provide coverage, without cost-sharing, for sterilizations and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives to “all women with reproductive capacity.”
In practical terms, "all women with reproductive capacity" means girls as young as about 12. That, according to the National Institutes of Health, is when girls usually start menstruating.
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--a.k.a. Obamacare--was enacted in March 2010 it included (in Section 2713) a non-specific requirement that health care plans must provide "additional preventive services" to women. These unspecified "additional preventive services," the law said, were to be "provided for in comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration," a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.
In developing the regulation to define these "additional preventive services," HHS commissioned a federally funded committee at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to recommend what they should to be.
In July 2011, this committee issued a report that said: “The committee recommends for consideration as a preventive service for women: the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity.”
Barack Obama
White House staff toast Obama on the Truman Balcony early on March 22, 2010, after PPACA had passed Congress. (White House Photo/Pete Souza)
The committee report said that “with reproductive capacity” meant “from the time of menarche to menopause.” Menarche is the beginning of menstruation--again, on average, about the age of 12 for American women.
On Aug. 1, 2011, HHS announced that it was adopting the IOM committee's recommendation almost verbatim. In fact, it added just one word--placing "all" in front of "women with reproductive capacity."
Thus, the regulation issued by the Health Resources and Services Administration said: "Non-grandfathered plans and issuers are required to provide coverage without cost-sharing consistent with these guidelines in the first plan year (in the individual market, policy year) that begins on or after August 1, 2012. ... All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity."
HHS said nothing about restricting the provision of these free "preventive services" to women who were 18 or older, or 21 or older, or even 15 or older. The regulation simply said "all women with reproductive capacity."
However, states have varying laws on the age of consent. took a look at Oregon and its rule of consent for sterilization--one of the free services required by the Obama administration's regulation.
Barack Obama
President Barack Obama fist pumps with a health-care professional at the White House on March 3, 2010. (White House Photo/Pete Souza)
In Oregon, the age of informed consent is 15, and the law and rules on sterilization are detailed in theOregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 436.205 to 436.335.
Under Oregon law, girls from 15 years of age and up are given complete control over whether to be sterilized or not. The parents or guardians of a minor girl--between 15 and 18--can neither grant nor deny consent for a sterilization.
The Oregon law says: "'Informed consent' means consent given by an individual 15 years of age or older for sterilization that is: (a) Based upon a full understanding of the nature and consequences of sterilization pursuant to information requirements set forth in ORS 436.225(1); (b) Given by an individual competent to make such a decision; and (c) Wholly voluntary and free from coercion, express or implied."
Oregon defines "sterilization" as "any medical procedure, treatment or operation for the purpose of rendering an individual permanently incapable of procreating."
The Oregon Health Authority has created a special consent form called "Ages 15-20 Consent to Sterilization."
"When I first asked for the information, I was told that the decision to be sterilized is completely up to me," says this Oregon form for 15-year-old children. "I was told that I could decide not to be sterilized."
"I understand that the sterilization must be considered permanent and not reversible," says this consent form. "I have decided that I do not want to become pregnant, bear children or father children."
The consent form even includes a section that can be signed by an interpreter, in case a 15-year-old child being sterilized by their own consent in Oregon is incapable of understanding English.
This section says: "If an interpreter is provided to assist the individual to be sterilized: I have translated the information and advice presented orally to the individual to be sterilized by the person obtaining this consent." After specifying what language the interpreter used to explain the sterilization to the child, the form asks the interpreter to stipulate: "To the best of my knowledge and belief he/she understood this explanation."
Additionally, the Oregon government makes the consent form available in Spanish--"15-20 anos Consentimiento para esterilizacion." specifically asked the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) by e-mail, “What is the legal age of consent to sterilization in Oregon?”
The OHA media contact, Christine Stone, replied, “In Oregon, the legal age for consent for sterilization is 15 years.”
Because the provision for coverage of sterilization under Obamacare applies to “all women of reproductive capacity,” which means girls younger than 15, followed up with the OHA, asking, “What is the rule regarding 12-, 13-, and 14-year-old girls who want to be sterilized?”
Stone said she could not provide any information other than what is cited in the Oregon statute.
However, a handbook published by Disabilty Rights Oregon states that the law governing sterilization “prohibits the sterilization of children younger than 15, and mandates that a parent, guardian or conservator may not give consent for sterilization of a minor child or protected person. The law allows a person who is 15 or older to consent to be sterilized. But if a person is not capable of giving ‘informed consent,’ sterilization cannot proceed until age 18, and then only in limited circumstances as determined by court order.”(Handbook: DRO-Sterilization_Handbook(2).pdf)
CNSNew.som also contacted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and asked, “Can you confirm that under this regulation a girl as young as 12 must be offered the opportunity to obtain a sterilization free of charge?”
In addition, asked the HHS, “In Oregon, the age of consent for a sterilization procedure is 15 years or older. Can you confirm that under this regulation, a 15-year-old girl can obtain a sterilization free of charge?”
After following up with multiple phone calls and e-mails, was told by the HHS office of the secretary that there was no one available to answer these questions.
At a pen-and-pad meeting with reporters in late March at the U.S. Capitol, asked House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), “The administration has approved a regulation under Obamacare that says, quote, ‘all women with reproductive capacity,’ end quote, must be offered free sterilization--”
Hoyer then interrupted, saying, “How is that related to a pre-existing condition?” continued, “--hold on--free sterilization in their health care plans. Do you support the mandate for free sterilization for college-age women?”
Hoyer expressed surprise, stating, “Free sterilization? I don’t know anything about free sterilization. I don’t know anything about that. I’m sorry. The answer is, I don’t. But I don’t think anybody is proposing that.”
At a press conference in mid-July, which specifically focused on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), attempted to ask House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) whether she supported the HHS regulation insofar as it extends to teens and college-age women. Pelosi, however, cut the question off before it could be completed. asked Pelosi, “You mentioned the preventive services mandate. One of the services that health care plans have to offer free of charge are sterilizations. And I was wondering do you agree with the federal government mandating—”
Pelosi said: “You know what, I told you before, let’s go to church and talk about our religion—" asked: “No, no, but it’s—"
Pelosi said: “Right here we’re talking about public policy as it affects women and we’re not, you know that this bill is—" asked: “No, it has nothing to do with the religious views but do you—"
Pelosi said: “No, it does.” “--agree that the federal government should be mandating—"
Pelosi: “I believe that the legislation to allow women to determine the size and timing of their families and have access--" “--even for---”
Pelosi: “--to contraception. Next question.”
In another instance on Capitol Hill, asked Pelosi, "Do you support the regulation taking affect August 1 requiring all health plans to cover free sterilizations for teenage girls?"
Pelosi said, "I don't subsribe to your characterization of it," and then moved on to ther questions.
Also, in late July, asked Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), “The HHS preventive services mandate requires all health plans to offer free sterilizations, including to girls in their teens. Do you support the mandate as it applies to teens?”
At that point, Rep. Schakowsky started to walk away without answering but, while walking, she said, “I don’t--I’m unaware that it says that sterilization including teens is in that. I’ll check that out.” then followed up, “It says all women of ‘reproductive capacity,’ and it defines it as from menarche to menopause.”
“I’ll check that out,” she said.
Edwin Black, author of War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, told “I find it abhorrent that a 15-year-old girl who is not old enough to consent to sexual activity, who is not old enough to consent to buying a beer, who is not old enough to drive herself to the hospital could possibly be considered old enough and mature enough to give informed consent for her own sterilization. And the most vulnerable of these girls will be those who are wards of the state who are presented a piece of paper and told ‘sign here,’  as they were in Virginia and California.”
“Right now, when our country is considering compensation, such as in North Carolina for sterilization victims [and] states are hopping on the bandwagon to issue formal apologies … is not the time to reverse years of awareness and dive back into state-sponsored sterilization,” said Black.
“The decades of genocidal sterilization are filled with numerous examples of fake consent forms being executed by young women who were being pressured by the state into sterilization.”
The IOM committee that recommended mandating coverage for free sterilizations to all "women with reproductive capacity" specifically argued that getting rid of cost-sharing requirements would lift a major barrier to what it considered more effective, long-lasting methods of contraception such as sterilization.
“In a study of the cost-effectiveness of specific contraceptive methods, all contraceptive methods were found to be more cost-effective than no method, and the most cost-effective methods were long-acting contraceptives that do not rely on user compliance," said the IOM committee's report.
"The most common contraceptive methods used in the United States are the oral contraceptive pill and female sterilization," said the report. "It is thought that greater use of long-acting, reversible contraceptive methods—including intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants that require less action by the woman and therefore have lower use failure rates—might help further reduce unintended pregnancy rates. Cost barriers to use of the most effective contraceptive methods are important because long-acting, reversible contraceptive methods and sterilization have high up-front costs.”
"The elimination of cost sharing for contraception therefore could greatly increase its use, including use of the more effective and longer-acting methods, especially among poor and low-income women most at risk for unintended pregnancy," said this report recommending free sterilization coverage for all women who could conceive a child.
"A recent study conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that when out-of-pocket costs for contraceptives were eliminated or reduced, women were more likely to rely on more effective long-acting contraceptive methods," said the report.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Inter-Faith Prayer Service - August 23rd

Below is a letter from Arena of Life Pastor John Shattuck inviting everyone to the next Inter-Faith Prayer Service for Religious Freedom. Please plan to attend if you are able. God is doing wonderful things in our country and our city. 

August 13, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

          We are pleased to be able to host the third in a series of city wide prayer services aimed primarily to unite in prayer for our common concerns. We want to extend an invitation for you and your church members to attend.
          The first two were extremely successful as we gathered at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral and again at Trinity Fellowship. Hundreds of people from many different churches came together and called upon the Lord in Unity. Many left there with a feeling of renewed hope for our city and our country.
          These are troubled times we are living in and God is calling His people to prayer. He said in 2 Chron. 7:14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” As we come together in unity to pray for our city and nation, we believe we will experience God‘s blessings and see answers to those prayers.
          Please join us at Arena of Life Church, Loop 335 and South Washington, at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday August 23rd.  Lets join forces, unite in prayer, and see God’s hand at work.

John Shattuck
Executive Pastor
Arena of Life Church      

Friday, August 3, 2012

Building a Culture of Religious Freedom

A friend of mine, a political scientist, recently posed two very good questions. They go right to the heart of our discussion today. He wondered, first, if the religious freedom debate had “crossed a Rubicon” in our country’s political life. And second, he asked if Catholic bishops now found themselves opposed–in a new and fundamental way–to the spirit of American society.

We should begin by recalling that even at the height of anti-Catholic bigotry, Catholics have always served our country with distinction. More than eighty Catholic chaplains died in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. All four chaplains who won the Medal of Honor in those wars were Catholic priests.

Time and again, Catholics have proven their love of our nation with their talent, hard work, and blood. So if the bishops of the United States ever find themselves opposed, in a fundamental way, to the spirit of our country, the fault won’t lie with our bishops. It will lie with political and cultural leaders who turned our country into something it was never meant to be.

That said, let’s turn to my friend’s first question. The Rubicon is a river in northern Italy. It’s small and forgettable, except for one thing. During the Roman Republic, it marked a border. To the south lay Italy, ruled directly by the Roman Senate. To the north lay Gaul, ruled by a governor. Under Roman law, no general could enter Italy with an army. Doing so carried the death penalty. In 49 BC, when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his Thirteenth Legion and marched on Rome, he triggered a civil war and changed the course of history. Ever since then, “crossing the Rubicon” has meant passing a point of no return.

Caesar’s march on Rome is a very long way from our nation’s current disputes over religious liberty. But “crossing the Rubicon” is still a useful image. My friend’s point is this: Have we, in fact, crossed a border in our country’s history–the line between a religion-friendly past, and an emerging America much less welcoming to Christian faith and witness?

Let me describe the nation we were, and the nation we’re becoming. Then you can judge for yourselves.

People often argue about whether America’s Founders were mainly Christian, mainly Deist, or both of the above. It’s a reasonable debate. It won’t end any time soon. But no one can reasonably dispute that the Founders’ moral framework was overwhelmingly shaped by Christian faith. And that makes sense because America was largely built by Christians. The world of the American Founders was heavily Christian, and they saw the value of publicly engaged religious faith because they experienced its influence themselves. They created a nation designed in advance to depend on the moral convictions of religious believers, and to welcome their active role in public life.

The Founders also knew that religion is not just a matter of private conviction. It can’t be reduced to personal prayer or Sunday worship. It has social implications. The Founders welcomed those implications. Christian faith demands preaching, teaching, public witness, and service to others–by each of us alone, and by acting in cooperation with fellow believers. As a result, religious freedom is never just freedom from repression but also–and more importantly–freedom for active discipleship. It includes the right of religious believers, leaders, and communities to engage society and to work actively in the public square. For the first 160 years of the republic, cooperation between government and religious entities was the norm in addressing America’s social problems. And that brings us to our country’s current situation.

Americans have always been a religious people. They still are. Roughly 80 percent of Americans call themselves Christians. Millions of Americans take their faith seriously. Millions act on it accordingly. Religious practice remains high. That’s the good news. But there’s also bad news. In our courts, in our lawmaking, in our popular entertainment, and even in the way many of us live our daily lives, America is steadily growing more secular. Mainline churches are losing ground. Many of our young people spurn Christianity. Many of our young adults lack any coherent moral formation. Even many Christians who do practice their religion follow a kind of easy, self-designed gospel that led author Ross Douthat to call us a “nation of heretics.”1 Taken together, these facts suggest an American future very different from anything in our nation’s past.

There’s more. Contempt for religious faith has been growing in America’s leadership classes for many decades, as scholars such as Christian Smith and Christopher Lasch have shown.2 But in recent years, government pressure on religious entities has become a pattern, and it goes well beyond the current administration’s Health and Human Services mandate. It involves interfering with the conscience rights of medical providers, private employers, and individual citizens. And it includes attacks on the policies, hiring practices, and tax statuses of religious charities, hospitals, and other ministries. These attacks are real. They’re happening now. And they’ll get worse as America’s religious character weakens.

This trend is more than sad. It’s dangerous. Our political system presumes a civil society that pre-exists and stands outside the full control of the state. In the American model, the state is meant to be modest in scope and constrained by checks and balances. Mediating institutions such as the family, churches, and fraternal organizations feed the life of the civic community. They stand between the individual and the state. And when they decline, the state fills the vacuum they leave. Protecting these mediating institutions is therefore vital to our political freedom. The state rarely fears individuals, because alone, individuals have little power. They can be isolated or ignored. But organized communities are a different matter. They can resist. And they can’t be ignored.

This is why, for example, if you want to rewrite the American story into a different kind of social experiment, the Catholic Church is such an annoying problem. She’s a very big community. She has strong beliefs. And she has an authority structure that’s very hard to break–the kind that seems to survive every prejudice and persecution, and even the worst sins of her own leaders. Critics of the Church have attacked America’s bishops so bitterly, for so long, over so many different issues–including the abuse scandal, but by no means limited to it–for very practical reasons. If a wedge can be driven between the pastors of the Church and her people, then a strong Catholic witness on controversial issues breaks down into much weaker groups of discordant voices.

Having said all this, the title of my comments is “building a culture of religious freedom.” So how do we do that?

We can start by changing the way we habitually think. Democracy is not an end in itself. Majority opinion does not determine what is good and true. Like every other form of social organization and power, democracy can become a form of repression and idolatry. The problems we now face in our country didn’t happen overnight. They’ve been growing for decades, and they have moral roots. America’s bishops named the exile of God from public consciousness as “the root of the world’s travail today” nearly sixty-five years ago. And they accurately predicted the effects of a life without God on the individual, the family, education, economic activity, and the international community.3Obviously, too few people listened.

We also need to change the way we act. We need to understand that we can’t quick-fix our way out of problems we behaved ourselves into. Catholics have done very well in the United States. As I said earlier, most of us have a deep love for our country, its freedoms, and its best ideals. But this is not our final home. There is no automatic harmony between Christian faith and American democracy. The eagerness of Catholics to push their way into our country’s mainstream over the past half century, to climb the ladder of social and economic success, has done very little to Christianize American culture. But it’s done a great deal to weaken the power of our Catholic witness.

In the words of scholar Robert Kraynak, democracy–for all of its strengths–also “has within it the potential for its own kind of ‘social tyranny.’” The reason is simple. Democracy advances “the forces of mass culture which lower the tone of society . . . by lowering the aims of life from classical beauty, heroic virtues and otherworldly transcendence to the pursuits of work, material consumption and entertainment.” This inevitably tends to “[reduce] human life to a one-dimensional materialism and [an] animal existence that undermines human dignity and eventually leads to the ‘abolition of man.’”4

To put it another way: The right to pursue happiness does not include a right to excuse or ignore evil in ourselves or anyone else. When we divorce our politics from a grounding in virtue and truth, we transform our country from a living moral organism into a kind of golem of legal machinery without a soul.

Credit: Dominic Benintende/Wyoming Tribune Eagle
This is why working for good laws is so important. This is why getting involved politically is so urgent. This is why every one of our votes matters. We need to elect the best public leaders, who then create the best policies and appoint the best judges. This has a huge impact on the kind of nation we become.

Democracies depend for their survival on people of conviction fighting for what they believe in the public square–legally and peacefully, but zealously and without apologies. That includes you and me.
Critics often accuse faithful Christians of pursuing a “culture war” on issues such as abortion, sexuality, marriage and the family, and religious liberty. And in a sense, they’re right. We are fighting for what we believe. But of course, so are advocates on the other side of all these issues–and neither they nor we should feel uneasy about it. Democracy thrives on the struggle of competing ideas. We steal from ourselves and from everyone else if we try to avoid that struggle. In fact, two of the worst qualities in any human being are cowardice and acedia–and by acedia I mean the kind of moral sloth that masquerades as “tolerance” and leaves a human soul so empty of courage and character that even the devil Screwtape would spit it out.5

In real life, democracy is built on two practical pillars: cooperation and conflict. It requires both. Cooperation, because people have a natural hunger for solidarity that makes all community possible. And conflict, because people have competing visions of what is right and true. The more deeply they hold their convictions, the more naturally people seek to have those convictions shape society.

What that means for Catholics is this: We have a duty to treat all persons with charity and justice. We have a duty to seek common ground where possible. But that’s never an excuse for compromising with grave evil. It’s never an excuse for being naive. And it’s never an excuse for standing idly by while our liberty to preach and serve God in the public square is whittled away. We need to work vigorously in law and politics to form our culture in a Christian understanding of human dignity and the purpose of human freedom. Otherwise, we should stop trying to fool ourselves that we really believe what we claim to believe.

There’s more. To work as it was intended, America needs a special kind of citizenry; a mature, well-informed electorate of persons able to reason clearly and rule themselves prudently. If that’s true–and it is–then the greatest danger to American liberty in our day is not religious extremism. It’s something very different. It’s a culture of narcissism that cocoons us in dumbed-down, bigoted news, vulgarity, distraction, and noise, while methodically excluding God from the human imagination. Kierkegaard once wrote that “the introspection of silence is the condition of all educated intercourse,” and that “talkativeness is afraid of the silence which reveals its emptiness.”6 Silence feeds the soul. Silence invites God to speak. And silence is exactly what American culture no longer allows. Securing the place of religious freedom in our society is therefore not just a matter of law and politics, but of prayer, interior renewal–and also education.

We need to re-examine the spirit that has ruled the Catholic approach to American life for the past sixty years. In forming our priests, deacons, teachers, and catechists–and especially the young people in our schools and religious education programs–we need to be much more penetrating and critical in our attitudes toward the culture around us. We need to recover our distinctive Catholic identity and history. Then we need to act on them. America is becoming a very different country, and as Ross Douthat argues so well in his excellent book Bad Religion, a renewed American Christianity needs to be ecumenical, but also confessional. Why?Because “in an age of institutional weakness and doctrinal drift, American Christianity has much more to gain from a robust Catholicism and a robust Calvinism, than it does from even the most fruitful Catholic-Calvinist theological dialogue.”7

America is now mission territory. Our own failures helped to make it that way. We need to admit that. Then we need to re-engage the work of discipleship to change it.
I want to close by returning to the second of my friend’s two questions. He asked if our nation’s Catholic bishops now find themselves opposed–in a new and fundamental way–to the spirit of American society. I can speak only for myself. But I suspect that for many of my brother American bishops, the answer to that question is a mix of both no and yes.

The answer is “no” in the sense that the Catholic Church has always thrived in the United States, even in the face of violent bigotry. Catholics love and thank God for this country. They revere the American legacy of democracy, law, and ordered liberty. As the bishops wrote in 1940 on the eve of World War II, “[we] renew [our] most sacred and sincere loyalty to our government and to the basic ideals of the American Republic . . . [and we] are again resolved to give [ourselves] unstintingly to its defense and its lasting endurance and welfare.”8 Hundreds of thousands of American Catholics did exactly that on the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific.

But the answer is “yes” in the sense that the America of Catholic memory is not the America of the present moment or the emerging future. Sooner or later, a nation based on a degraded notion of liberty, on license rather than real freedom–in other words, a nation of abortion, disordered sexuality, consumer greed, and indifference to immigrants and the poor–will not be worthy of its founding ideals. And on that day, it will have no claim on virtuous hearts.

In many ways I believe my own generation, the boomer generation, has been one of the most problematic in our nation’s history because of our spirit of entitlement and moral superiority; our appetite for material comfort unmoored from humility; our refusal to acknowledge personal sin and accept our obligations to the past.

But we can change that. Nothing about life is predetermined except the victory of Jesus Christ. We create the future. We do it not just by our actions, but by what we really believebecause what we believe shapes the kind of people we are. In a way, “growing a culture of religious freedom” is the better title for these comments. A culture is more than what we make or do or build. A culture grows organically out of the spirit of a people–how we live, what we cherish, what we’re willing to die for.

If we want a culture of religious freedom, we need to begin it here, today, now. We live it by giving ourselves wholeheartedly to God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ–by loving God with passion and joy, confidence and courage; and by holding nothing back. God will take care of the rest. Scripture says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Ps 127:1). In the end, God is the builder. We’re the living stones. The firmer our faith, the deeper our love, the purer our zeal for God’s will–then the stronger the house of freedom will be that rises in our own lives, and in the life of our nation.

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, is the author of  Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life. This essay is adapted from a lecture Archbishop Chaput delivered July 26 at the Napa Institute’s 2012 annual conference.

[1] For patterns of religious belief in various age groups, see Barna Group and Pew Research Center data. For the state of moral formation among young adults, see Christian Smith, editor, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, Oxford University Press, New York, 2011. For an overview of American religious trends and their meaning, see Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Free Press, New York, 2012

[2] See Christopher Lasch, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, W.W. Norton, New York, 1995; and Christian Smith, editor, The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life, University of California Press, Los Angeles, 2003

[3] “Secularism,” a pastoral statement by the Administrative Board of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, on behalf of the bishops of the United States, November 14, 1947; as collected in Pastoral Letters of the American Hierarchy, 1792-1970, Hugh J. Nolan, editor, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 1971

[4] Robert Kraynak, “Citizenship in Two Worlds: On the Tensions between Christian Faith and American Democracy,” Josephinum Journal of Theology, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2009; see also a more extensive discussion of this theme in his book, Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN, 2001

[5] C.S. Lewis, see his “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” in The Screwtape Letters, HarperCollins, New York, 2001

[6] Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age: On the Death of Rebellion, HarperPerennial, New York, 2010, p. 44-45

[7] Douthat, Bad Religion, p. 286-287

[8] “The American Republic,” a statement by the bishops of the United States, November 13, 1940; as collected in Pastoral Letters of the American Hierarchy, 1792-1970