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Archive for January 2014

Little Sisters of the Poor Beat the Big, Bad Government!

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             A Message from the Executive Director
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Dear Friends,

As you may know, last Friday at 4pm, the Supreme Court ruled that our client, the Little Sisters of the Poor, would be protected from crushing IRS fines while we continue to fight for them in the Tenth Circuit. Not one member of the Court dissented from the order.

At once, we felt relieved for the Sisters. No fines. For now. We were also overjoyed that the order also specified that the Sisters would not have to sign a government “permission slip” that is in direct violation of the Sister’s religious beliefs.

But, there are a lot of hurdles ahead. And, for the sake of the Sisters’ work and every American’s religious freedom, we need to overcome them.

The “permission slip,” or certification, is something worth considering for a moment since you will hear a lot about it in the months to come. In broad strokes, the certification specifies that the Sisters oppose contraceptives and potentially life terminating drugs. This part is true. However—and this is the big however–it also authorizes, directs, and legally binds others to provide these drugs.

The government says the Little Sisters should sign and distribute the authorization form because “at this time” the government has not yet figured out how to force Christian Brothers to distribute the drugs.  But the government also emphasizes that it is still considering ways to force Christian Brothers and other third parties to act on the Sisters’ forms. And the Little Sisters simply can’t authorize, direct, and bind people to provide contraceptives–they can’t help with the government’s contraceptive delivery scheme at all–even if the government says the system doesn’t work just yet.

Instead of protecting the Little Sisters’ religious liberty, the government has mocked their stance by characterizing their courage, in court, as a fight against “invisible dragons.” Here’s a link to the court transcript, but you do not need to read the entire document. The “dragon” reference appears on the end of page 93.

Just yesterday, Bill Mumma and I went to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor in their home in Baltimore. It was the most special day I have experienced in my almost 16 years at Becket. The Little Sisters aren’t kidding when they say they go begging in order to provide for their residents. They truly devote all of their skills and talents to find every unique and possible way to make their residents feel loved and at home. They showed us how to be joyful and grateful despite having limited resources. Their overwhelming gratitude towards us was humbling and a great reminder of why we do what we do.

And with this reminder, we will continue to fight for the Sisters in the Court of Law and in the court of public opinion. If the government is willing to do this to the Little Sisters, what will they do to the rest of the faithful?

As soon as the Supreme Court released its order, Daniel Blomberg went on Greta Van Susteren’s show and I appeared on Megyn Kelly’s program. It is important for the American people to know what is happening to the Sisters and to religious liberty in this country.

If you have 3 minutes, please watch:

Also, today over 50 friends of the court (amici) briefs will be filed in support on the rights of Hobby Lobby’s Green Family. Bi-partisan legislators, religious leaders, legal scholars and 20 individual states are coming together to support their legal challenge to the HHS Mandate. The briefs are due at midnight, but as of 11AM this morning, we have:

  • Three Congressional briefs will be filed by members of Congress from both parties, for a total of 107 bipartisan members of the House and Senate representing 34 states.
  • Law professors who filed a brief explaining that religious accommodations like the one that protects the Greens are constitutional.  Including: Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School, Robert George of Princeton, Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School, Rick Garnett of Notre Dame Law School, Steven Smith of the University of San Diego Law School, Nathan Chapman of University of Georgia Law School, Michael Moreland of Villanova Law School.
  • Women’s groups, Doctors and medical scholars, and religious groups that included the USCCB, the Orthodox Union, a leading Orthodox Jewish association, Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, a Santeria church that won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory under the Free Exercise Clause, Hindus, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Prison Fellowship Ministry , Anglican Church in North America, Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities, and Democrats for Life are also filing.

The oral argument takes place on March 25. We are working around the clock to prepare for this moment, which will determine to what extent we can exercise our religious freedom.

Speak Out To Protect Human Life!

Dear Brother Knights,

During this week of the 41st anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade decision, we are reminded of our duty as faithful citizens to stand in defense of life whenever the opportunity arises.  We have one such opportunity as Congress considers the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, H.R. 7.  This important legislation would permanently ban federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.

For more than 30 years, Congress has worked to ensure that taxpayer-funded government health care assistance, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, do not provide funding for abortion.  This work, taking the form of bill amendments, has been very successful.  The Hyde Amendment, for example, has helped prevent the government from funding 675,000 abortions each year.  However, these amendments are not permanent law.  Passage of these amendments requires several annual actions by Congress, and, while these actions have occurred historically, it is not certain that this pattern will continue.

H.R. 7 will create in federal law a permanent and government-wide ban on funding for abortion that will not need to be renewed each year. This is a critical step in protecting the conscience rights of citizens who believe abortion to be morally wrong.

At the 131st Supreme Convention in San Antonio, we resolved to “speak out to our elected representatives about the need to enact legislation … to protect human life.” We have the opportunity to send a clear message to Congress. Click here to contact your elected representative.

As always, let us ask Our Lady’s intercession for our prayer that the Holy Spirit enlighten our elected officials to adopt laws that affirm the dignity of the human person from conception until natural death.

Sincerely,

Knights of Columbus

“No Speech” Zones?

             A Message from the Executive Director
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
 

Dear Friends,

 

Can you believe that in Massachusetts you have “no-speech” zones?

I did not either. But, I have the photos to prove it. See below.

In fact, our own Mark Rienzi will be arguing about these zones– before the Supreme Court—tomorrow Wednesday, January 15.   His case, McCullen v. Coakley, focuses on our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. (FYI: This is not a Becket Fund case—this is Mark’s case which he took on before joining us.)

Back to the speech zone: Massachusetts state law recently instituted a policy that creates large no-speech zones on public sidewalks outside abortion clinics.  The law threatens pro-life speakers with prison for offering alternative help on public sidewalks near abortion clinics–even when incoming women eagerly accept their help. Worse, it has an exception letting Planned Parenthood speak on the public sidewalks, but not the pro-lifers.

He told me that the clinics delineate the “no speech” zone with spray paint. When he said “spray paint” I thought he was using a metaphor. But, no, take a look at this picture:

Unebelievable. Isn’t it?

I wanted to tell you about this case but I also see this as a great chance to tell you more about Mark. After all, the Becket Fund has a remarkable group of people working tirelessly for the religious liberty rights of all Americans—and I want you to get to know them!

Mark is a Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund.  He comes to us after graduating from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, clerking at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and working at a white shoe law firm.

But Mark felt called to do more.  So, he traded in his future at the law firm for a rewarding life teaching and defending religious liberty.  He says he has never looked back.  And his charisma shows.  Mark is a professor of constitutional law and religious liberty at the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University, where he was voted Teacher of the Year by students in 2011.  And 2012.  And 2013.

Right now, Mark is also serving as lead counsel in our case representing the Little Sisters of the Poor in the fight to challenge Health and Human Services on the contraception mandate.  He also represents many of our other clients like Wheaton College, Hobby Lobby and Reaching Souls International.

He also represented two pharmacists in Illinois for nearly seven years in their (victorious) fight against a state policy created by former Governor Rod Blagojevich that demanded they sell emergency contraception and abortifacients, against their religious views.

Mark is super energetic.  He survives on Coca Cola.

As you can see, Mark is a big part of why the Becket Fund can do what it does. All of our lawyers and staff are excellent, and I’m excited to share more about them with you over the coming months.

Meanwhile, please pray for Mark as he argues before the Supreme Court tomorrow

Stand Up for Religious Liberty!

Stand Up for Religious Liberty
   The HHS mandate in the federal Affordable Care Act went into effect on January 1, requiring employers who offer health insurance to provide coverage of sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception. Religious non-profit and private employers are therefore faced with the terrible dilemma of whether to violate their religious beliefs or be ruined with crippling government penalties.

Legal challenges to this mandate are ongoing in courts all across the country, and they are bearing fruit! But it will take some time for these cases to move through the system, and the issue will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, we need to let our elected representatives in Washington know that their constituents consider this mandate a grave violation of religious liberty. Please contact your Congressional representatives and urge them to support religious freedom and co-sponsor the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1204/HR. 940). An easy way for you to do that is to go to this link and send messages electronically to Congress.

Thank you for standing up for the fundamental and Constitutionally granted right of religious freedom.

Government Bullies Little Sisters of the Poor!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Dear Friends,On New Year’s Eve, our lawyers rushed to file an emergency petition before Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor in order to protect our client, the Little Sisters of the Poor, from being punished by the government with crushing fines.

As Justice Sotomayor was on her way to drop the ball in Times Square, she granted the last-minute reprieve for the Sisters and ordered the government to reply by Friday

Let me explain why we had to petition the Supreme Court on New Year’s Eve: As you know, the beginning of 2014 ushers in the dreaded fines forced by the government on many employers that refuse to comply with the HHS contraception mandate. Courts all over the country had already granted relief to other groups. However, the Little Sisters, who live to serve God by caring for the elderly had been singled out and denied this temporary relief only three days before the fines would kick in. So, we had to go all the way to the Justice in charge of the Circuit that denied the Sisters the protection they deserved.

The Little Sisters and the Becket Fund breathed a sigh of relief, and while the bells tolled for 2014, we issued this press release.

Then, we pulled an all-nighter giving interviews. At 1:00 am we were talking to several reporters, including those at the New York Times, and later that same day—and in the days that followed– our two lead lawyers on this case granted several interviews.

Unbelievably, last Friday, when the government responded to Justice Sotomayor’s stay, the Administration still held on to their bullying stance, insisting that the Sisters be forced into compliance by signing a “permission slip” that the government argues is a fitting accommodation. This is absurd.

As our own Mark Rienzi explains:

The government now asks the Supreme Court to believe that the very thing it is forcing the nuns to do—signing the permission slip—is a meaningless act.  But why on earth would the government be fighting the Little Sisters all the way to the Supreme Court if it did not think its own form had any effect? 

All of this is sad and unnecessary.  Our federal government is massive and powerful.  It can obviously find ways to distribute contraceptives and abortion pills without forcing nuns to be involved.

 If the government is doing this to the Little Sisters, who is next? Whose religious liberty is at risk?  I can tell you: It is yours and mine and our own children’s. We cannot give in. Do not stand on the sidelines. Join me! It is people like you that make this fight possible!

 

Sincerely,
Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director
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PS. Thanks for helping us help the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Little Sisters have told me that they are praying for us and they are praying for all who support us. Please pray for them as well.