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December 2014

Archive for December 2014

Got A Happy Ending? Sioux Falls Does!

A Message from the Executive Director

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Dear Friends,

I believe that the American heart beats to genuine freedom.

And I believe that when there is freedom, and people come to their senses, there is always the hope of a happy ending.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota just experienced such an ending. Theirs is a story that does not start well. City officials threatened censorship of school children’s innocent artwork because one man claimed it offended him.

How could such a story end happily? It comes down to one wise man and a nation built on freedom.

But I get ahead of myself. Here’s how the story unfolds:

Sioux Falls is a city that gets a lot of snow. It also has a cute tradition to go with that snow. Every school gets to decorate a snowplow. Kids spend weeks planning and painting these snowplows, which are then attached to city trucks that plow snow.

That means that Sioux Falls children get to eagerly watch for their own snowplow among the ones roaming the city, snowplow drivers get honks of appreciation from parents who recognize a snowplow, and everyone gets to enjoy the cheery side of snow-covered South Dakota.

But this year, someone on the board of the atheist group Siouxland Freethinkers complained. He noticed a couple of snowplows that had messages about Christianity—and that, he said, was unacceptable.

He demanded that those snowplows be removed.

These snowplows were painted by kids at two Lutheran schools. In the past, Christian schools had submitted snowplow art that mentioned Jesus, and no one had complained.

But this year, the Siouxland Freethinkers did.

As a result, some city officials told the Christian schools that the kids needed to repaint the snowplows, or else the city would send bureaucrats to do it for them.

I know. It seems almost too Scrooge-y to be true.

There is nothing wrong with kids from a Christian school choosing to display Christian themes on Christmas artwork, even when that artwork will find its way to the public square. Our nation is built on the fundamental principle of freedom of expression, especially religious expression. These displays are 100% Constitutional.

Plus, isn’t it just downright nasty to go after school kids?

We should encourage kids to express their beliefs, not censor them.

But just when hope for the offending snowplows seemed lost, one wise man, Mayor Mike Huether, stepped in to save them.

As the Argus Leader reported, this sensible government official stated: “We are not going to be painting over those plows; those plow blades […]Unless, I guess, I get some Supreme Court case (that) says that I have to.”

Religious expression welcomed in the public square: this is the true meaning of religious freedom. This is a happy ending.

Which brings me to an announcement…

For the last 15 years, we at the Becket Fund have been presenting our “Ebenezer Award,” named after the infamous anti-Christmas Charles Dickens character Ebenezer Scrooge. We have given this award to the worst offender of Christmas or Hanukkah celebrations. Past recipients are listed here.

But this year, we are doing something a little different. We are focusing on the happy ending of A Christmas Carol: Ebenezer’s change of heart.

What happened in Sioux Falls, just like in the Dickens’ classic, is a great reminder that it is never too late to switch to a better course; that it is never too late to remind ourselves and each other that we are born with our eyes on the far horizon; that to express our sincerely held convictions in music, art and—yes!—even snowplow blades, is not only Constitutional but part of what makes this country great.

Sometimes, people lose their way. Sometimes, they forget or get confused. But, like in all good stories, truth and freedom have a powerful presence. Sometimes, all it takes is one wise man to mend his ways and inspire all of us to do the same.

An eggnog toast, to Sioux Falls and reformed Ebenezer Scrooges everywhere!

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director

Government Hauls Little Sisters of the Poor Back into Court!

A Message from the Executive Director
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Dear Friend,

It is especially during this season that being elderly, abandoned, and poor becomes even more poignant.

And it is during this time that we are called by our religious leaders, and even by our government, to think of others.

The Little Sisters of the Poor hear and act on this calling every day of the year. They provide homes and care to elderly poor who would otherwise live their last days on earth alone.

So it makes me wonder: why is the government continuing to pour resources and lawyers into dragging the Little Sisters back into Court?

It does not make any sense. Some lawsuits should just be unnecessary.

And yet, here we are again.

In fact, just yesterday our own Mark Rienzi and Daniel Blomberg were in court with the Little Sisters.

The government, which issued a “new” accommodation, is now claiming that this version of the accommodation allows the Little Sisters to be “removed enough” from paying for or providing drugs they find morally objectionable. They claim this despite the fact that the Little Sisters have demonstrated repeatedly that it does no such thing.

This “accommodation” does not allow the Little Sisters to simply “raise their hand” to opt out. Instead, it forces the Little Sisters to allow the government to commandeer their health plan. Access to these drugs—which violate the Little Sisters’ most deeply held beliefs—is wholly dependent on action by the Little Sisters.

The federal government spends $300 million a year to provide contraceptives to millions of people through Title X programs, and it lets others buy this coverage on the government’s own health insurance exchanges. Moreover, the government has already allowed 96% of American businesses to avoid the employer mandate—and thus the contraceptive mandate—without penalty. And millions of Americans are still on “grandfathered” plans, which don’t have to provide any of the required women’s preventive care at all.

And yet, the government wants to drag the Little Sisters back into court, threatening them with millions in IRS penalties.

This is completely absurd.

There is absolutely no reason why the biggest government in the world must use nuns to provide people with contraceptives. There is no good reason for a government that is supposed to protect its people’s religious freedom to demand that the Little Sisters violate their fundamental beliefs.