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Archive for December 2016

Much is Changing in Washington: This is the Time to Double Down!

TheBecketFund for religious liberty

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
December 29, 2016
Dear Friends,

A lot of changes are taking place in D.C. In the midst of these changes, it would be easy for our leaders to forget the rules and regulations that are affecting our personal freedom to live according to our deeply held convictions. They are embedded in the enormous machinery of government — but at Becket, we uncover and fight them.

As I write this, our lawyers are not at home with their families. No, instead they are still working to fight one of these regulations — the transgender mandate, which requires doctors to perform procedures on children that even the government acknowledges are harmful.

The government does not even require its own insurance programs Medicare and Medicaid to cover the procedures mandated by this regulation. But they would force private doctors to perform them. Outrageous.

So I have no doubt that, whatever the changes in D.C. bring, it is imperative that we double down our work protecting religious freedom.

As I accept this season’s invitation to contemplation, I will be reflecting on how to renew and refocus my work.

Feeling the Chaos of the Season? Yep, I Feel You!

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dear Friends,

Every year, around this time, I make — and break — a secret vow to remain calm and appreciate the season … even the chaos.

In years past, I have been the author of many a Christmas “disaster” that made me lose sight of the real purpose of Christmas. Years ago, I dressed up my then toddlers in adorable, matching Christmas outfits and sat them on the tree skirt under a brightly lit and decorated tree. As I raised my camera to take the perfect Christmas photo, the tree fell — on my kids. I had failed to secure the tree to the wall. They cried. I cried. Needless to say, there was no photo that year.

Twice, I have ordered Christmas cards and not managed to send them — not even in February or March. And I have burned one part of Christmas Eve dinner at least three times. (Somehow, I always end up burning something different. How is that possible?)

What I tend to realize far too late is that, of course, none of this really matters. Eventually, I give up and surrender to the fact that Christmas is not meant to be a season of magazine-worthy photo ops. On the contrary, it’s a season to open our hearts and welcome family, friends, and even strangers into the miraculous truth of Christmas. It’s a season to stretch our generosity to give more of ourselves and our resources to the causes that need us. Luckily, I am surrounded by people who live this every day and remind me to do so when I need it the most.

Last week, I was invited to Salt Lake City for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert. I sat there next to dear friends and 21,000 other concertgoers. If you have never been, wow. It is well worth it.

Before the concert, my husband and I were invited to a dinner where a good friend read these words:

“This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love, and then speak it again.”― Howard W. Hunter

I will aspire to do some of these things though — gulp — it’s a tall order. (I don’t even know if I will do the 5-minute meditation in the app I downloaded last week.)

But I will still try, and this is why: I know that I can give the most and the best of myself if I am centered on what truly matters. The reason we can aspire to improve ourselves, the reason that I can attend that concert, the reason that millions of Americans can give of themselves to others by volunteering in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and homes for the elderly is that we live in the freest country in the world. But that freedom is not guaranteed, and it requires individuals to work tirelessly to protect it.

A lot of changes are taking place in D.C. In the midst of these changes, it would be easy for our leaders to forget the rules and regulations that are affecting our personal freedom to live according to our deeply held convictions. They are embedded in the enormous machinery of government — but at Becket, we uncover and fight them.

As I write this, our lawyers are not at home with their families. No, instead they are in court in Texas fighting the transgender mandate, which requires doctors to perform procedures on children that even the government acknowledges are harmful. The government does not even require its own insurance programs — Medicare and Medicaid — to cover the procedures mandated by this regulation. But they would force private doctors to perform them. Outrageous.

So I have no doubt that, whatever the changes in D.C. bring, it is imperative that we double down our work protecting religious freedom. As I accept this season’s invitation to contemplation, I will be reflecting on how to renew and refocus my work.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, But Politicians Did Not Get the Memo!

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
A Message from the Executive Director

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dear Friends,

We are not in Kansas anymore. Americans voted for a big change. No more business-as-usual.

This is the time for us at Becket to double down on our efforts to undo a bunch of bad laws and regulations (like the HHS and transgender mandates) and push for more laws that protect freedom.

It seems, however, that inside-the-beltway politicians did not get the memo. And this week they threw religious liberty under the bus. The fight for religious liberty is more relevant than ever.

Let me give you the background:

Our government has grown to be huge. In fact, many people don’t realize you can’t really be in business in America without at least one dollar of your revenue tied up in a government contract that is somehow issued or regulated by the Department of Defense, the mothership of all federal government contracting.

You run a private university and one of your professors gets a government science research grant to study rocks? Congrats. You are now a government contractor and many government rules may apply to your entire university. You run a summer camp that leases national park land? You are a physician that sees patients on the exchanges or Medicare?

You get the point. But wait, there is more.

Even though the government is humongous, it can’t do everything. So, for instance, when military families are stationed abroad, the government contracts out all sorts of support services like childcare assistance, funeral ceremonies, grief counseling, and recovery programs. Most of these are contracted out to religious charities because they are often the best at providing these services and sometimes the only ones willing to do so.

The Obama Administration used the enormous contracting-mothership system to introduce a virus to slowly kill religious liberty. They did it in the form of protections against discrimination that omit the traditional protections for religious liberty that were previously always included in our nation’s nondiscrimination laws. The result is that any religious charity that does business with the government is left exposed to the threat of lawsuits or to being barred from providing critical services to vulnerable populations.

There was an easy, noncontroversial fix to stop this government overreach. It was a simple amendment to this year’s annual bill to fund our Department of Defense—the National Defense Authorization Act—that confirmed conscience rights for religious contractors, without attacking President Obama’s protections for gays and lesbians.

However, under pressure from gay rights groups hurling false accusations of “bigotry,” big corporations, and Democrat activists, plus the threat of a Presidential veto, Senate Republican leadership dropped this simple provision at the last minute.

It was shocking for activist groups to jeopardize services to vulnerable communities, malign people doing charitable work, and willfully mischaracterize the truth to promote their desired political narrative. But it was also shameful for Republicans to cave.

Let that sink in. Republicans were just handed complete control of government. The top priority for one of their largest voting blocs was religious freedom. Yet less than one month after the election, one of the first things some Republican leaders did was cut a deal to sell out religious freedom to ensure smooth passage of a big defense spending bill. And let me be clear, there were many courageous Republicans who stood up for religious liberty, but not all.

Congress clearly did not get the message. The people don’t believe that nondiscrimination laws should, or need to, come at the expense of religious freedom. And the people are tired of politicians who yield to false and exaggerated threats from activist groups.

Well, that is the bad news. But this is not time to be depressed or give up. On the contrary, it is time to optimistically keep fighting.

This is the good news: We at Becket will continue to fight for religious freedom wherever it is threatened. And we will win because we don’t rely on politicians. We at Becket rely on the American people and on the law. That is solid footing.

Thanks for your continued support.

Regards,

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director