In Case Anyone is Wondering . . .


Neither Romney nor Obama are in any way defenders of the Church or even the common good.

Romney pretends to care about unborn babies but then immediately turns around and brags about supporting contraception and abortion in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life may be threatened. Because women must have “options” when it comes to whether or not they can kill their unborn children. Romney has also made it very clear that there exists absolutely zero abortion legislation that he would consider making a part of his agenda. Also, during the last presidential debate, instead of calling Obama out on violations to religious liberties Romney instead vouched for employing the exact same kind of class warfare, war against women rhetoric that Obama himself has used in support of infringements against religious liberties, stating: “I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.” Employers shouldn’t force people to buy or not buy contraceptives. But that’s not what the HHS Mandate is about and that is not what was being discussed before Romney threw this red herring out to distract from the real issue of religious liberties and freedom of conscience.

Obama on the other hand, is hell bent on forcing anyone who disagrees with him to do things that they find morally repugnant or pay astronomical, prohibitionary fines if they don’t. Obama has even explicitly stated that the HHS Mandate which provides “free” contraceptives as well as sterilization and abortifacients at the expense of people morally opposed to such practices is “why we passed this law.” The Evangelical family that owns Hobby Lobby is suing over the HHS Mandate and, as a result of their defiance, the Oklahoma outfit faces fines of $1.3 million a day simply because they do not want to pay and provide for a practice that is irreconcilable with their religious beliefs and code of ethics.

At the end of the day, the sad truth is that no matter how much either candidate talks about how they care about children, or women, or the poor their actions instead suggest that all either candidate really cares about is himself and how to expand his own power. Anyone who gets in the way of that can expect to be trampled.

Turns Out Romney Isn’t the Only One Who Lies


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops responds to an “inaccurate statement of fact on HHS Mandate made during Vice Presidential Debate”:

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.”

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.

What do Mosque Burnings have to do with the Religious Freedom of Christians? Everything.


American Catholics are up in arms over the infringement of our religious liberty due to the HHS mandate forcing us to buy services we find morally reprehensible. The Obama administration has offered, not just Catholics, but anyone morally opposed to contraception, abortifacients or sterilization, an ultimatum: abandon your faith or abandon your business. With more than 68.5 million registered members, the Catholic church is the largest single religious denomination in the United States, comprising about 22 percent of the population so how did it come to this? Well, targeting groups based on religious affiliation in the United States did not start with a group as large and ingrained into our society as the Catholic church. Before Catholics our government’s target was, and still is, Muslims. The War on Terror was, and ever will be, a war against Muslims. This isn’t because most terrorists are Muslims (it would probably be better stated that most terrorists are Arabs, and most Muslims are not Arab) but because the War on Terror is really a war of revenge. After 9/11 our country was hurting – and we overreacted. The result was a nearly decade-long war in Iraq, condemned as unjust by the Pope, in which we killed anywhere from 400,000 to 1.2 million civilians in a war of no strategic value. The mantra of the never-ending War on Terror seems to have become “hate thy enemies” as our politicians embrace the use of vindictive and useless means like torture and literally demonizing our enemies by likening the Iraq War to fighting Mordor.

I remember watching a “documentary” called The Third Jihad which warned of Muslims trying to impose Sharia Law on Americans through an apparently evil scheme to “vote for” and “elect” Muslim extremists to places of political power in the United States. This “documentary” implied that it was the patriotic duty of true Americans to block these Muslims from participating in our democratic process, all in the name of “protecting our liberties” from the fascist Muslims.

The Third Jihad expresses fear at the thought of “non-violent”  muslims within the United States who are further labeled “radical” despite admittance to their non-violence. What the movie blatantly ignores is that the United States is a democracy and if muslims want to engage in US politics through non-violent means that is their constitutional right as US citizens. US citizenship is not, and never has been, dependent on a person’s religious status – after all, freedom of religion is one of the central tenets of American democracy.

Furthermore, this movie demonizes muslims for answering to a power higher than government, condemning British muslims for wanting their government to reflect their values – which is absurd. The video cites that 81% of British muslims consider themselves muslims first and British second. I consider myself Catholic first and American second and all Christians should consider their loyalty first to their faith and not their country. Both Catholicism and Islam predate British and American government, and faith in God supersedes loyalty to government. We live in a country in which our constitution recognizes that our rights are granted to us not by the government but by God and thus it is to God to whom our first loyalty should lie. Can we really blame Muslims for doing the same? These are not the radical Islamists that promote terror, these are men and women trying to be faithful to their religion and there is nothing wrong with that. To undermine their faith serves only to push them towards radicalism.

Additionally, there has been expansive political pressure opposing the construction of muslim schools and mosques in the United States for fear of the muslim practice to “Aslim” the land, which means to buy up land to make it muslim ground. However, I will never protest muslims buying land in America no matter what their intent. To oppose that would be to oppose their property rights. I may refuse to sell my land to muslims and I will certainly oppose any kind of special treatment from our government to muslims (as I oppose special treatment of any group by the law) but I will recognize and respect them for what they are: human beings and therefore our brothers and sisters in Christ. They have the same exact rights as you and I and when I defend those rights I sure as hell will defend them for everyone, muslims included.  There are muslim fascists, even here in the US, but the threat they pose is small compared to the threat that we pose to ourselves. By rationalizing away the religious liberty of muslims we open up the door for our government to take away everyone’s freedoms. We are already far down that road. We see it today as Catholic “extremists” are forced to pay for other people’s birth control; this is rationalized by labeling us right-wing fascists who hate women just for practicing our freedoms. Ironically it is the same label given to the very muslims that the propaganda machine has declared that we as Christians must oppose with violence and draconian measures. Now we are beginning to feel the sting of those very same abuses.

In response to efforts by Christians to work with muslims instead of against them in order to stop abortion, Big Peace writer Diana West stated the following (Bigpeace.com seems to have removed the original article but a response article on Big Peace can still be found here):

Making “common cause” with muslim states to vote down pro-abortion law at the UN becomes dangerous if and when it means constructing a Trojan Horse by which proponents of sharia make their stealthy advance into regions of respectability in the West that would otherwise be closed to them as sworn enemies of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Apparently, maintaining ethnic purity within the United States is more important than the lives of 52 million children. Its no wonder that in a recent statement Pope Benedict XVI said that America is “increasingly hostile to Christianity.” Opposing muslims and maintaining our “respectability” is more important than re-establishing Christian values in society.

The Islamophobic attitude of the War on Terror has saturated our culture to the point that we’re afraid of what preposterous evil muslims might be up to in the voting booth, or when they buy land. The fruit of the war on terror is that we’re now more terrified than ever – and our terror has bred nothing but hate. But to target them for their faith and to oppose their right to vote or buy land or build a school is to destroy religious liberty, not just their own, but everyone’s. A truly free society can only be free if everyone’s rights are protected. To merely defend some people’s rights some of the time is to tread the road to tyranny.

That’s why, in response to America’s epidemic of mosque burnings we must protest, not in defense of Islam, but in defense of our fellow Americans who happen to be muslim and, also, in defense of ourselves. We cannot deny the religious freedom of others, even through seemingly benign inaction, and still expect our own religious freedom to be protected. Because, as America becomes increasingly hostile towards Christians it becomes ever more plausible that, next time, it won’t be a mosque but a church that gets burned to the ground. We must not accept the unacceptable; we must not let such abnormal acts becomes normalized in our society; and we cannot give credibility to such wicked acts of religious persecution. Instead, we must defend the rights of all human beings and find solidarity with our brothers and sisters of all creeds now before it is too late. This is a fight that do not want to fight alone.

The Cross: Symbol of God’s Love or Oppressive Christian Regime?


The city of Steubenville isn’t very big and not much ever really happens there, but it has its history. Part of that history is Franciscan University of Steubenville. The University is the city’s largest employer and brings thousands of young adults from all over the nation to the city every year – and I was one of those young adults. It is one of Steubenville’s most memorable aspects and no part of the university is more memorable than its iconic chapel, seated at the center of campus. It would only seem natural then, that, in crafting a city logo featuring all of Steubenville’s most celebrated features, Franciscan’s Christ the King Chapel be included.

However, this apparently represented an affront worthy of legal action to a Madison, Wisconsin-based atheist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., which threatened to file a lawsuit against the city of Steubenville unless Franciscan’s chapel was removed from the logo. Faced with an expensive lawsuit, the city initially agreed to remove the chapel. Here’s the logo that brought on such ire:

Clearly, that cross in the corner signifies the impending enslavement of the people to Christianity.

Franciscan University reacted to the city’s decision with the following statement (read the full statement here):

“For more than 65 years, Franciscan University of Steubenville has proudly served as an integral part of this community and we were honored to have our chapel included in the new city of Steubenville logo. The city initially included our chapel because it represents Franciscan University, a world-renowned center of higher learning and one of the largest employers in the region. We find it particularly troubling that an out of town and out of touch group targeted the University for removal from the logo solely because of our religious identity.”

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, however, had already given her ultimatum that, “crosses do not belong on the logos of American cities. We are not a ‘Christian nation’ or a theocracy, but were first among nations to adopt a secular constitution wisely separating religion from government.”

Franciscan’s second most iconic location. Can’t you just feel its presence oppressing you?

However, now James Bordas Jr., an attorney, has offered to represent the city pro-bono in which case Steubenville might fight to keep its logo after all.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is now warning Steubenville to “not be duped” by such offers of charity. Because, clearly, Christians trying to help the city fight a lawsuit is the real threat to the city and taxpayers and not, say, the threat of a lawsuit itself.

Nothing says “you’re being oppressed by religion” more than a symbol stating, “God loves you so much he died for you.”

It seems to me, instead, that any organization going by the name, “freedom from religion” should actually be in favor of Steubenville’s logo. Franciscan University did not coerce the city to put a cross in their logo and it in no way is meant to “force religion” on people. Instead, the cross and its chapel represent a key facet in the city’s identity. That should be celebrated because it shows that religious and government bodies can co-exist in peace, not as isolated polar bodies but as brothers co-exist. It shows that we are no Soviet Union or Communist China, that we do not kill or operate forced-labor camps to oppress those of differing views. Instead, it shows that we are free.

So, should Madison, Wisconsin really decide how Steubenville, Ohio presents itself? This isn’t about oppressing non-Christians. This is about heritage, specifically: Steubenville’s heritage – and that’s something over which a group hundreds of miles away in Wisconsin should have no say.

URGENT: Support Respect for Rights of Conscience Act TODAY


ATTENTION:

THIS THURSDAY, March 1st, the Senate is expected to Vote on the Respect For Rights of Conscience Act which, in response to the recent HHS Contraception Mandate, seeks to protect the consciences of those morally opposed to paying contraception. Please urge your senators to pass this amendment! The link below provides a message which is ALREADY WRITTEN FOR YOU to email to your senators. All you need to do is fill out some information and it will automatically send it to your senators! It takes less than 30 seconds to stand up for your religious freedom! So do it!

E-mail your legislators now.

Religious Freedom: No Mere Accommodation


Columnist Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner stated the following in an article defending the HHS mandate: “The basic principle of American life is that we try to respect religious beliefs, and accommodate them where we can.”

Thanks for your input, Kristof, but the First Amendment is no mere accommodation, or “convenient arrangement” as the term is defined in the New Oxford American Dictionary. While your turn of phrase is advantageous to your ideology concerning the HHS mandate and religion in general, there is an elementary problem with your portrayal of governing authority over the governed. If freedom of religion is merely an arrangement made in convenience then, as soon as that so-called right becomes inconvenient (as our constitutional rights are so wont to do), then it no longer falls under the definition of accommodation and instead becomes a burden to the state. At which point the state will then shed its burden and, along with it, undermine the rights of the American people – just as we have witnessed with the HHS mandate. Our rights, however, are always a burden to the state – and rightly so – for they limit governing powers and that is why we have a constitution in defense of our liberties. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right endowed to us by our creator and our government does not “accommodate” it for us, like some service rendered. In fact, it is quite the opposite: we accommodate the government for the benefit of the common good and in protection of our God-given rights.

Linkstorm: The Totalitarian Edition


The Curt Jester points out a blatant flaw in the HHS’ decision making process

Everything you need to know about the Obama Administration’s decision making process on the HHS mandate:

1. U.S. Bishops consulted – No
2. Insurance companies consulted – No
3. Constitution consulted – No
4. Planned Parenthood consulted – YES

Mike Flynn makes the obvious yet ingenious observation concerning the erroneous statistic reiterated by the Obama administration as “fact”:

If it is true that 98% use contraceptives — and it isn’t, really — then they cannot really be hard to acquire.  One wonders how women got them for all these years since Griswold.

If 98% really do use contraception then there is obviously no issue of ease of access – and certainly not on a national scale – the HHS mandate suddenly looks so frivolously silly in addition to being tyrannical.

Ironic Catholic presents a satirical piece entitled NPR marks ‘Kick a Catholic Week’ with new t-shirt pledge drive gift which had me in stitches. Here’s an excerpt:

“We’re always looking for new incentives for our pledge drives,” said NPR promotions director Frank Byast. “People like things that are a fun twist on the news, so we think the ‘Kick a Catholic!’ thank you gifts will be a big hit. No pun intended.”

The shirt was inspired by NPR’s “Kick a Catholic Week,” the brainchild of NPR reporters forced to cover the controversy generated by the Obama administration’s mandate that Catholic institutions pay for contraceptives and abortifacients.

“We thought, ‘Okay, we can’t ignore this anymore, so how can we have fun with it?’” said Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep. “That’s the nice thing about a story like this. When one side is so clearly wrong, you’re a little less concerned about being fair and balanced. It’s like covering the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. You’re not going to ‘balance out’ your coverage by interviewing Nicolae Ceaușescu, right? It’s the same with the Catholic bishops.”

Byast says that the organization doesn’t mean the promotional items to be taken literally. “We don’t want public radio members walking into a Catholic Mass and kicking people in the shins during communion,” he laughs. “It’s meant more figuratively.”

Staff in the NPR newsroom have posted a list of ways to celebrate “Kick a Catholic Week.” First on the list? “Read Catholic teaching documents on human sexuality.”

“Yeah, that one’s pretty tongue-in-cheek,” laughs religion reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty. “Who has time for that kind of deep background research? I mean, I printed a few documents, but after a couple hundred pages, the printer ran out of paper. And it’s all in Latin! So we recycled it in the NPR bathrooms. Which, come to think of it, would be a great membership premium—Catholic-themed TP.”

One of the most popular suggestions from the list has been #18: “Misrepresent embarrassing survey results. Repeatedly.”