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Archive for October 2013

Religious Liberty Being Denied To Our Armed Forces!

Visit Our Website October 29, 2013
Dear Friends,It seems like every week lately there’s a new story in the news about how the United States Armed Forces is showing absolute disrespect for its own service members’ religious liberty.

Take these three recent examples:

•       The U.S. Army recently told soldiers at a pre-deployment training at Fort Hood that they could be court-martialed for giving financial support to evangelical Christian groups – they are extremist groups as far as the Army is apparently concerned.

 

•       The Armed Forces shut down Catholic masses and threatened contract priests with arrest if they volunteered their time to minister to service members during this month’s government shutdown.

 

•       An Air Force spokeswoman made a statement just a few months ago that “Air Force members are free to express their personal religious beliefs as long as it does not make others uncomfortable.”   Violations would result in disciplinary action.

 

And, then, of course, there’s the fact that the White House told Congress that it essentially wouldn’t enforce religious liberty in the Armed Services.

You remember that, don’t you?  Congress passed a provision in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act to protect military chaplains from being forced to “perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to [their] conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs.”

When President Obama signed the Act into law he all but said that his Administration planned to ignore it.  In an official statement, the President called the provision, “unnecessary and ill-advised,” and continued:

“The Secretary of Defense will ensure that the implementing regulations do not permit or condone discriminatory actions.… My Administration remains fully committed to continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members; [this provision] will not alter that.”

Now, for those of us at the Becket Fund, this is like déjà vu all over again.  And, that’s why your continued support is so important.

One of our earliest cases back in the 1990s involved defending Fr. Rigdon, a Catholic chaplain, who along with all other chaplains, faced a gag order because they wanted to preach in support of a partial-birth abortion ban.

I’m happy to say that we won that case!  The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the religious liberty and speech rights of military chaplains.  The court said that it was not for the government to say what’s an important part of a person’s faith and what’s not.  The court upheld the “chaplains’ right to autonomy in determining the religious content of their sermons.”

Over the past year, it’s become apparent that the Obama Administration is prepared to challenge the standard set by that court fifteen years ago.

For instance, last year, when Catholic priests across the country were asked by the Church to read an open letter to their parishioners at mass – a letter that condemned the HHS Mandate, by the way  – Catholic Army chaplains were initially forbidden from doing so.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio eventually negotiated with the Secretary of the Army John McHugh so that military priests could read the letter another week – but only after the Secretary stripped the letter of a line reading, “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.”

Men and women of faith who protect our rights through the armed forces shouldn’t lose their right to religious liberty because they heed the call to serve.  You can bet that we’ll be keeping an eagle eye out for our troops here at the Becket Fund.

Sincerely,

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director

HHS Mandate at the Supreme Court Soon?

Visit Our Website October 11, 2013
Dear Friends,

As I mentioned last week, there is just so much to catch you up on.  The last couple of weeks have been packed with some tremendous news about our challenge to the HHS Mandate.

At the Supreme Court by June 2014?

The first piece of news I have to share is that the government has appealed our victory in the Hobby Lobby case.  The U.S. Department of Justice has asked the Supreme Court to hear the case.  You can read more about that by clicking here.

Now, the Supreme Court turns down a great majority of the cases it is asked to hear each year.  But, this is an unusual situation in which there is a high likelihood the Court will agree to hear the case:

 

  1.  Government requests have a much higher chance of being granted.  In fact, about 7 in 10 petitions by the government for hearing are approved by the Supreme Court.
  2. This is a case of great national significance.  The issues at the heart of the HHS Mandate challenge cut to the core of our Constitutionally-guaranteed liberty.
  3. There is a circuit split; that is, courts across the country have heard similar cases and come to different conclusions.  The full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with us on the Mandate.  But, panels of judges on the 3rd and 6th Circuit Courts of Appeals upheld the Mandate.

 

So, here at the Becket Fund, we are gearing up to make the case before the Justices of the Supreme Court that people don’t lose their right to religious liberty when they earn a living.

We could really use your financial support now, too.  Going to Supreme Court is a huge undertaking.  And, the stakes here are high – we could restore religious liberty for business owners with this case.  We’ve got to be ready to bring our A++ game.

 

Our Non-Profit Cases:

The government did a very good job of dividing the challengers to the HHS Mandate – probably hoping to divide and conquer.

It has set non-profit entities, like religious schools and nursing homes, on a separate track from for-profit businesses owned and run by religious business owners.  And, it did this by setting up that so-called “accommodation” for religious non-profits.

Let’s not forget what the Chicago Tribune called that so-called “accommodation” in their editorial entitled “Religious freedom and contraception:  The Obama administration offers a ‘compromise’ that would compromise the First Amendment.”  They called it “a convenient fiction.”

For a while, the non-profit cases were being dismissed by the courts because the government kept promising to revise the rule and “accommodate” their religious liberty.  Well, that rule is final now and it still doesn’t protect religious liberty, so we’ve been busy re-filing our cases.  In fact, Colorado Christian University was the first to re-file its challenge back in August.  Since then, Ave Maria University has also re-filed and we’ll be re-filing for other clients in the days and weeks ahead.

 

First Class Action Suit:

So, the Becket Fund was the first to file any challenge against the HHS Mandate.

We were the first to re-file on behalf of the affected non-profits after the government’s so-called “accommodation” was finalized.

We were the first to win at an appellate court on the merits – and that was not only before the entire court, not just a panel of judges; but also on behalf of the largest for-profit challenger, Hobby Lobby.

And, as I mentioned last week, the Becket Fund just filed the first class action challenge to the HHS Mandate on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

That is also the first case filed on behalf of a benefits provider, by the way.

The Becket Fund is leading the way for religious liberty in the face of the greatest threat we’ve encountered.  Your generous support helps us not only stay at the forefront of this fight, but stay ahead of the curve.  We’re ready to act because we’ve anticipated the other side’s next move.

We’re making progress in the fight against the HHS Mandate, but there’s still a lot of work to do.  Please let me know that we can still count you in as part of the team.

Sincerely,

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director

 

P.S.  Don’t forget you can always keep up to date with all the news on the HHS Mandate at our HHS Mandate Information Central.  Our Information Central has been cited by reporters, legislators, and even judges in court opinions.  It’s the best one-stop for everything you need to know about the HHS Mandate – and not just our cases, but all 73 cases!  Your support makes it possible for us to influence the debate on religious liberty with quality resources like that.

First Class Action Suit Challenges HHS Mandate!

Visit Our Website October 4, 2013
Dear Friends,

The Becket Fund has a new client, Little Sisters of the Poor, and on their behalf we have just filed the very first class action challenge to the HHS Mandate.

Now, before I go on about this case, you just have to watch this video and see who the government thinks is not religious enough to qualify for their very narrow exemption to the HHS Mandate.  Grab some Kleenex – I promise you’ll be moved by the ministry these Sisters provide – and click here to watch.

Yes, that’s right, apparently these Sisters, who devote their lives to serving the elderly poor, who provide indigent seniors loving shelter and care because they see in each of them the face of Jesus Christ; apparently, they are not religious enough for the government to treat their homes as “religious employers.”

The IRS is prepared to fine these Sisters millions of dollars if they refuse to break their vows and provide free access to abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to their employees.  The Little Sisters of the Poor have to collect money in order to provide care for the elderly poor.  If the government has its way, that money will go to pay the IRS instead.

Now, when I say it’s the first class action suit filed against the HHS Mandate what I mean is that it also represents hundreds of Catholic non-profit ministries with similar beliefs.  This suit, which was also brought on behalf of the Little Sisters’ religious health benefits providers, Christian Brothers Services, is also the first on behalf of benefits providers with religious objections to the Mandate.

Becket Fund Senior Counsel Mark Rienzi appeared a few days ago on Fox News Channel to talk with Neil Cavuto about this case.

The reality doesn’t quite fit the spin does it?  Over the past two years, the government has said that it is providing a religious liberty exemption to the HHS Mandate.  It has said that it’s accommodating religious liberty.  But, that just doesn’t square with what’s going on in real life.

Perhaps they don’t quite understand what religious liberty means.

We’re happy to explain it to them.  And, each time we file a brief or appear in court or engage with the media, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is explaining just how the HHS Mandate diminishes religious liberty to the point of extinction.

 

Sincerely,

 

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director

P.S.  When Senior Counsel Mark Rienzi told the Sisters I was going to send you this email, they replied that they would “promise to pray for [you] for helping to support this cause.”  Their words!  Not mine!  If you’d like to learn more about the mission and activities of the Little Sisters of the Poor, click here. They are a remarkable order of women.

 

Next week, I have more HHS Mandate news for you, so stay tuned!