Category archives: Government

An Insufficient Accommodation

by Lindsey Keiser

August 3, 2015

Can an accommodation be accompanied by a requirement that essentially negates the accommodation and still be seen as sufficient?

To answer this question, we can use a simple example, which arises in the context of employment.

When you ask for a day off – and that day off is granted – you do not expect to be required to come in on your day off in order to tell your boss you won’t be there for the day. That would negate the grant of the day off.

The same is true when religious organizations ask for an accommodation from the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act and the government offers an accommodation which does not fully meet the requests of these organizations regarding protection of their religious beliefs. Such an “accommodation” does not eliminate the burden on the religious organizations, yet courts have been approving the government’s “accommodation” as sufficient. Continuing the string of judicial denials of religious organizations’ requests, the Tenth Circuit recently denied an appeal from the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged (Little Sisters) finding that, with the “accommodation” offered by the government, there was no substantial burden on the group’s religious beliefs.

Religious organizations like Little Sisters, Priests for Life, and Notre Dame sincerely believe that life begins at conception so they object to providing abortive contraception as part of their employee health insurance plans. As a result of their sincere belief, these non-profits have asked for an accommodation under the HHS Mandate citing the protections of the First Amendment and the bar on the government substantially burdening the free exercise of religion. The religious non-profits have asked to not be required to participate in any aspect of the provision of abortive contraception.

Requiring these organizations to provide abortive contraception in contravention of their beliefs would be a substantial burden which HHS has recognized and for which HHS has created an accommodation. The current accommodation allows religious non-profits to voice their objection to providing abortive contraception by filling out a form or directly notifying HHS. After HHS receives notice of the objection, the insurance company offers and provides the abortive contraception to the employees.

The question remains, however, whether this “accommodation” is actually sufficient.

Yes, the organizations only have to fill out a form or notify HHS of their religious objection, but the mechanism of notification is not the problem. The problem is that the accommodation doesn’t change the end result. Abortive contraception is still being provided as a result of the fact that the organization provides health care for its employees.

As some dissenting judges in the Priests for Life stated, “Where the government imposes a substantial burden on religious exercise and labels it an accommodation, that burden is surely as distressing to adherents as it would be if imposed without such a designation.”

The answer to whether there is a substantial burden even with the current accommodation is tied to our understanding of an accommodation. When we look at the example in the graphic above, it is fairly clear that the agreement made by the boss does not adequately meet the employee’s request for a day off. Similarly, we should ask whether the current accommodation adequately meets the requests of religious organizations to not have to provide abortive contraception – or, as the Little Sisters have pointed out, to “take actions that directly cause others to provide them, or otherwise appear to participate in the government’s delivery scheme.”

The answer is no, the accommodation does not sufficiently meet the requests of these religious organizations and therefore, places a substantial burden on their religious exercise. The form or notification to HHS is an insufficient accommodation because the opting-out by the religious organizations is the direct cause of the receipt of coverage. The dissenting judges in the Priests for Life pointed out, “the harm plaintiffs complain of … is from their inability to conform their own actions and inactions to their religious beliefs without facing massive penalties from the government” (emphasis added by the dissenting judges). This harm does not disappear because their relationship to the provision of the abortive contraception becomes a little more attenuated.

Just as a day off from work which requires you to come into work is not really a day off, an insufficient accommodation is no accommodation at all.

Valley of the Shadow of Death

by Jamie Dangers

July 17, 2015

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

Recently, I listened, sickened, as Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Senior Director of Medical Services cavalierly discussed their harvesting and selling of babies’ organs. She ate and drank casually while describing which parts of the babies’ bodies would be crushed by the forceps and which would not, depending on which organ(s) needed to be kept intact in order to be sold. In great detail, she spoke of how babies would be manipulated into the breech position with ultrasound guidance in order to allow certain organs to be removed more easily. The method she described is suspiciously similar to partial birth abortion. Without shame, she stated that while there is a partial birth abortion ban, “Laws are up to interpretation. So if I say on day one I do not intend to do this, what ultimately happens doesn’t matter.”

Is this really what we have come to? In America, are we literally walking through the valley of the shadow of death? It certainly feels that way.

I know abortion is not always an easy choice that mothers make. I know sometimes girls and women are there out of desperation. I know sometimes they are pressured into it. I know sometimes they feel like they have no way out. I know sometimes they feel like they have nothing to offer their child in life. And I am so very sorry.

Can we take a step back for a minute? Let’s look at the leaders of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates. How did they become so callous as to condone the ripping apart of babies and the selling of their hearts, lungs, livers, and muscles, behind closed doors, in violation of law, not to mention violation of basic human ethics? Surely this latest news is enough to finally convince us that PPFA leadership is not passionate about the empowerment of all women and safe reproductive health. They don’t care about compassion. Why? Because they are changing abortion procedures, not to help the women, but to most successfully harvest organs. But goodness, they sure are passionate about keeping the door wide open on “choice,” because without it, how would they make money? They will do anything and everything, vile and horrific, for profit.

They have been so thoroughly deceived and their consciences so seared that they are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, digging that valley even deeper, and they don’t even acknowledge it. They try to make it appealing and honorable. They try to dress up the horror with words like “research” and “consent” and “high-quality health care.” But no one can put a pretty bow on the dismembered bodies littering this valley floor and make it all ok somehow.

In what world do we discuss the nuances of exactly how much money was spent on which organ and whether it was a donation or reimbursement or payment, in order to make it seem less awful?

This is a culture of death that we cannot afford to ignore. It is our culture. We are right in the middle of it, paying for it with our tax dollars, willingly or unwillingly.

A culture of death is a completely logical culture for anyone who doesn’t value life. While we should be nauseated by the grotesque practices of abortionists behind closed doors, it occurs to me that I should not have been shocked. To them, babies are devoid of human dignity and value, so why not make a profit off of their organs? It’s all about the bottom line anyway. They call it fetal tissue. The truth is, those parts are real organs from unborn children. Organ donors are commendable, but abortionists who profit from the organs of babies who cannot give their consent are deplorable.

Sometimes I wish I could run out of this valley, or at least close my eyes and hold my nose to pretend this doesn’t exist. But the fact is, this is where we are. It’s time to decide what to do. Ignoring it, downplaying it, sterilizing it will only result in allowing death to spread. We cannot ignore this. We cannot pretend it isn’t that bad, or that it will go away. It is that bad, and it won’t go away unless we do something about it.

We must fight with love and compassion but also with incredible resolve. This is a deep and dark valley, yes, but love, truth, and compassion can transform it.  Death can be overcome with life, darkness with light. We can raise this valley and clear it of shadows, allowing light to once again shine on it and purify this blood-stained ground.

We are still in this valley of the shadow of death. But let’s not be wearied or discouraged into accepting it as it is. Let’s be the generation that transforms it. Let’s build a culture that celebrates life!

Guttmacher’s Proposition: Taxpayer-Funded Condoms and Vasectomies

by Sean Maguire

July 16, 2015

In the latest issue of the Guttmacher Policy Review, the Guttmacher Institute (formerly the research arm of Planned Parenthood), proposes some changes to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) they feel are necessary to accomplish the goals of that law.

             Obamacare contains many provisions we have only found out about since Congress passed it. The most famous (or infamous) of these is the mandate, administered by the federal Health and Human Services (HHS) department, that requires coverage of 18 forms of contraception, including drugs and devices that can kill embryos.  These are to be funded by taxpayer dollars and included in plans provided by businesses and organizations despite any moral objections they might have.

            Guttmacher is not satisfied with this arrangement. No, it’s not upset that the American people are being forced to pay for potentially embryocidal drugs and devices.  Guttmacher is upset because the HHS mandate hasn’t gone far enough. They are pushing for the mandate to include male sterilization and condoms, all funded by taxpayer money.

            Instead of recognizing the failure of Obamacare to accomplish real healthcare access for the American people, Guttmacher is calling for an expansion of coverage morally unacceptable to tens of millions of taxpayers. They are calling for the implementation of regulations which will mandate insurance coverage of condoms and vasectomies for everyone.

            Guttmacher wants tax dollars to be spent on condoms and vasectomies so that sexual license will not be impeded by a lack of funding or fear of the logical outcome of sexual intimacy: babies. While Guttmacher says it wants the federal government to stay out of the bedroom, they simultaneously demand federal funding of the activities therein.

            It is not the job of the American taxpayer to fund others’ sexual practices, and they should not be forced to do so.

Support for Israel is Declining in Democrat Party

by Chris Gacek

July 7, 2015

Support for Israel is waning in the Democrat Party.  The Times of Israel’s editor, David Horovitz, posted an important yesteday article showing that Israel is rapidly losing support among Democrats in the United States.  Support for Israel among Republicans appears to be holding steady though. The polling was done by U.S. pollster, Frank Luntz. 

According to Horovitz:

Three quarters of highly educated, high income, publicly active US Democrats — the so-called “opinion elites” — believe Israel has too much influence on US foreign policy, almost half of them consider Israel to be a racist country, and fewer than half of them believe that Israel wants peace with its neighbors.

47% of Democrats agreed with the characterization that Israel is a “racist” country, while only 13% of Republicans agreed.  Luntz noted that Israel will soon no longer have bi-partisan support in the U.S. Furthermore, many Democrats are becoming ideologically aligned with the Palestinians.

Luntz believed that the findings are disastrous for the Jewish homeland:

He said he “knew there was a shift” in attitudes to Israel among US Democrats “and I have been seeing it get worse” in his ongoing polls. But the new findings surprised and shocked him, nonetheless. “I didn’t expect it to become this blatant and this deep.”

He is traveling to Israel this week to discuss the findings with government officials. 

Another dimension of the problem for Israel is that American Jews are reflexive supporters of the Democrat Party.  This means that American support for Israel in the Republican Party rests largely with evangelical Christians.  Prominent GOP establishment figures, like James Baker III (form Sec. of State, and Sec. of the Treasury), are known to have no love for Israel.

Federal Judge and the ACLU Agree that RFRA Protects Religious Exercise in the Military

by Travis Weber

July 1, 2015

In another affirmation that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protects the constitutional right of free exercise for military service members, a federal judge recently ruled that the statute protected the rights of a Sikh to receive a grooming accommodation while enrolled as an Army ROTC cadet at Hofstra University.

After the Army denied the student’s accommodation request which was made when he sought to enter ROTC, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of the student, alleging that the denial violated RFRA (and citing the standard under the recent DOD Instruction 1300.17). In its complaint, the ACLU asserted the Army policy “substantially burdens his religious exercise because it mandates conduct that is prohibited by his religious beliefs and substantially pressures him to modify his behavior in violation of his faith.”

In ruling on these claims, the federal court in the District of Columbia noted that while there is judicial deference to military decision making, RFRA also clearly applies to the military; indeed, “[t]he Department of Defense expressly incorporated RFRA into its own regulations effective January 22, 2010.”

Under RFRA, if an individual can show that government action has substantially burdened their religious exercise, then the government has to show it has a compelling reason for burdening the belief, and has done so in the least restrictive way possible.

In this case, there was no dispute that the plaintiff’s religious beliefs were sincere, and the court found that they were substantially burdened:

Therefore, there is no dispute that the Army’s refusal to grant plaintiff the accommodation that would enable him to enroll in ROTC while maintaining his religious practice was a government action that required plaintiff ‘to choose between following the tenets of [his] religion and receiving a governmental benefit.’” Such a denial “constitutes a ‘substantial burden’ under RFRA.”

The court acknowledged that the military is a distinct area of society with very unique concerns regarding order and discipline. However, Congress clearly meant RFRA to apply to the military and the statute clearly applies to situations like this.

Its analysis continued: “This case appears to be the first to squarely present the question of how a court is supposed to incorporate traditional deference to the military into the RFRA strict scrutiny analysis.” Therefore, the court looked to an area to which Congress also clearly meant RFRA to apply—prisons. In that context, the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in Holt v. Hobbs that a sister statute with the same standard—the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act—required the strict scrutiny standard to be applied to each situation in a “‘more focused’ inquiry” assessing whether the religious exemption can be granted.

The court dismissed the Army’s arguments that earlier cases—including Goldman v. Weinberger—require deference here, noting that “those cases predate RFRA.” Instead, the court chose to look to the framework laid out in Holt.

The Army also tried to argue for deference on the theory that it was better equipped to deal with social changes on its own (such as the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), but the court rejected that argument, noting that “even if it involves an important matter of public policy and evolving social norms, Congress has already placed a thumb on the scale in favor of protecting religious exercise, and it has assigned the Court a significant role to play.”

The court continued by ruling that the Army has not shown that denying the accommodation here (while granting numerous such accommodations in other cases) advances any compelling interest of the military. Notably, “[t]he Army conducted an internal examination of the effect of [another Sikh’s] religious accommodation on his service, and the study concluded that “the Soldier’s religious accommodations did not have a significant impact on unit morale, cohesion, good order, and discipline,” and that it “had no significant impact on his own, or any other Soldier’s, health and safety.”

The Army’s heavy reliance on uniformity in denying this accommodation and assertion that “compliance with Army grooming standards facilitates ‘the ability to assess a Soldier’s competency and attention to detail’” is irrelevant to the religious basis of the requested accommodation here and fails to satisfy “the individual assessment that is fundamental under RFRA.”

For “the accommodation this plaintiff seeks does not stem from any lack of self-control, dedication, or attention to detail. To the contrary: plaintiff seeks an accommodation because he faithfully adheres to the strict dictates of his religion. So even if, in some cases, a soldier’s failure to follow the Army’s standards might signal a rebellious streak or reflect a lack of impulse control or discipline, LTG McConville’s decision fails to grapple with the fact that any deviation from the rules on plaintiff’s part flows from a very different source. And therefore, the decision lacks the individual assessment that is fundamental under RFRA.”

In concluding, the court affirmed that it would not give blind deference to the claims of even very senior military decision makers as sufficient to trump religious exercise rights:

Notwithstanding [LT General McConville’s] thirty-four years of experience in the Army … and his superior judgment about military matters, adopting his conclusion [that the accommodation should be denied] without more would entail abdicating the role that RFRA requires the Court to play.

Finally, the court noted that even if there was a compelling interest here, the Army had not accomplished it by the least restrictive means—it had rejected the plaintiff outright, instead of at least permitting him to initially enroll in the ROTC program (during which time he is not yet commissioned).

The ACLU did well in laying out robust religious freedom arguments so far in this case. It merely remains for the organization (and others like it) to do so in other contexts. These advocates must see that after (rightly) supporting the Sikh’s religious exercise in this case, such support must flow to all religious exercise in order to consistently support religious freedom and the First Amendment. Anything short of that is picking and choosing the contexts in which the advocate wants the First Amendment to apply—and that is certainly not supportive of constitutional rights for all.

This case is certainly a win for the free exercise of religion in the military. It is also a case likely to produce odd bedfellows; the ACLU is supporting robust free exercise in a case involving a Sikh, but conservative Christians, Muslims and others concerned about religious freedom in the military will see it as helpful to their own causes. And rightly so. Congress passed a statute restoring strong free exercise protections. It did so with strong bi-partisan support, and made clear the law applies to the military. At least for now, a court has affirmed that the statutory law on religious freedom in the military supports a strong and robust free exercise of religion.

Supreme Court Provides Relief to Several Pennsylvania Charities from Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate

by Chris Gacek

July 1, 2015

Well, there has been a little bit of good news today in an Obamacare contraceptive case involving non-profits.  According the Becket Fund’s webpage, the Supreme Court “granted relief in Zubik v. Burwell to a group of Pennsylvania-based religious organizations, including Catholic Charities and other social service organizations.”  “The Court stated that the federal government is “enjoined from enforcing against the applicants the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of their petition for certiorari.”

This is not a final win on the merits of the case, but it is a very positive signal.

Increasing the Child Tax Credit: Good for Families, Good for the Economy

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 30, 2015

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have introduced a pro-growth economic plan that includes an increase in the child care tax credit, and the Wall Street Journal isn’t happy about it. In fact, the normally prudent Journal even goes so far as to assert that the child tax credit “does nothing for economic growth.”

Oh, c’mon: Let’s assume that the money retained by families through an expanded credit, per Rubio-Lee, in fact does not foster immediate growth. This is a dubious argument. Personal income tax cuts spur growth just as do corporate income tax cuts.

However, let us agree, for the sake of argument, that the child tax credit is deficient in animating the kind of sustained growth serious people want for the economy. It has another, more profound benefit that the Journal ignores completely: It strengthens families. And strong families mean a stronger economy.

Productivity increases when an adequate number of people are employed using their skills, capacities, and know-how to provide quality and affordable goods and services. Development of these capacities comes heavily from personal formation within the family. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker argued, healthy, educated, and emotionally stable children are essential to economic growth.

So, in targeting family formation through enabling mothers and fathers to better provide for their children and also to bear and raise more children, something demonstrably needed for the economy of the United States given our looming demographic deficit, the Rubio-Lee proposal would substantially abet growth in coming decades. Its facilitation of growth over time is an investment that will bear fruit in a steadily more robust economy.

The immediate costs of child-rearing are such that extra money to help families pay for the enhancement of their most fundamental “investments” – their boys and girls – is laudable.

Regrettably, the Journal has shown a considerable lack of economic common sense in attacking a proposal that would bolster our human capital capacity. FRC applauds Sens. Rubio and Lee for their foresight and justified consideration of family well-being.

Earlier in his career, Schwarzwalder was Director of Corporate Communications at the National Association of Manufacturers.

GOP Reiterates Support for Marriage, Post-SCOTUS

by Suzanne Bowdey

June 30, 2015

House Leadership

Speaker Boehner

Whip Scalise 

 

VAT House Leadership

Chairman Joe Pitts

Chairman John Fleming

Chairwoman Vicky Hartzler

 

VAT Senate Leadership

Sen. Blunt—“I’m disappointed in this decision.  My view is that family issues in Missouri like marriage, divorce, and adoption should be decided by the people of Missouri.” 

Sen. Ernst—”I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision and its failure to recognize the freedom of our states to make their own decisions about their respective marriage laws.  While it is my personal belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, I maintain that this is an issue best handled at the state level.”

Sen. Scott—“I continue to believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. The Supreme Court’s overreach into decisions that should be made by states and the people living and voting in them is disappointing. Moving forward, we must ensure families and religious institutions across America are not punished for exercising their right to their own personal beliefs regarding the traditional definition of marriage.” 

 

House Members

Rep. Aderholt

Rep. Babin

Rep. Barr

Rep. Black

Rep. Blackburn

Rep. Bost

Rep. Boustany

Rep. Brady (TX-08)

Rep. Byrne

Rep. Carter

Rep. Coffman

Rep. Culberson

Rep. Flores 

Rep. Forbes

Rep. Fortenberry

Rep. Foxx

Rep. Gohmert

Rep. Goodlatte

Rep. Griffith

Rep. Grothman

Rep. Hensarling

Rep. Huelskamp

Rep. Johnson (OH-6)

Rep. Jordan

Rep. Kelly

Rep. King (IA-04)

Rep. Labrador

Rep. Lamborn

Rep. Long

Rep. Marchant

Rep. Mullin

Rep. Olsen

Rep. Palazzo

Rep. Palmer 

Rep. Price

Rep. Ratcliffe

Rep. Smith (TX-21)

Rep. Smith (MO-08)

Rep. Stewart

Rep. Tiberi

Rep. Walberg

Rep. Walker

Rep. Weber

Rep. Westmoreland

Rep. Williams

Rep. Womack

Rep. Woodall

Rep. Yoho

 

Senate

Sen. Alexander

Sen. Ayotte

Sen. Capito

Sen. Coats

Sen. Daines

Sen. Grassley

Sen. Fischer

Sen. Hatch

Sen. Heller

Sen. Inhofe

Sen. Lankford

Sen. Lee

Sen. McCain

Sen. Rubio

Sen. Sasse

Sen. Sessions

Sen. Wicker

 

Presidential Candidates

Bush

Carson

Christie

Cruz

Fiorina

Graham

Huckabee

Jindal

Paul

Perry

Santorum

Walker

Supreme Chaos

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 30, 2015

Last week, the Supreme Court overturned the votes of more than 50 million people in 31 states concerning same-sex marriage, finding, instead, a constitutional “right” for same-gendered persons to marry. They blithely dismissed the will of the voters in order to find this “right,” rejecting the Tenth Amendment’s affirmation that those things not specifically articulated in the Constitution as within the province of the federal government belong to the states and the people.

In a ruling on the shaping of congressional districts, issued today, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – a leading advocate of a constitutional “right” for same-sex partners to marry – wrote the following: “The animating principle of our Constitution [is] that the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government.”

Affirming federalism is not a matter of whim; it is foundational to our system of government, even our existence as a nation. Yet, troublingly, this subjective application of the Founder’s political philosophy seems to be the pattern of our current Supreme Court.

Internal Chinese Populations

by Chris Gacek

June 29, 2015

China is now a world power, and we at the Family Research Council have commented on the brutality and inhumanity of its “one child” policy for years.  An excellent, recent article made clear that China’s severe population control policies exist on many levels – not just abortion.  Their harshness, however, puts the forced abortion diktat in a broader context of disregard for human beings.

The important Weekend Financial Times article (4/30/2015) by Jamil Anderline entitled, “China’s Great Migration.”  The focus of the story is a woman named Xiang Ju and the trek she makes from [x] to her rural homeland in China to celebrate the Chinese lunar New Year.  Along the way, Anderline fills in some basic facts about Chinese life – that are unknown to almost all Americans (I believe):

Not that Xiang Ju cares. She is about to join an annual ritual that is not only the biggest human migration but probably the biggest mammalian migration on earth each year. In 2015, an estimated 170 million people caught trains or flights out of China’s biggest cities heading home for the lunar New Year. The government counted about 3 billion “passenger trips” nationwide during the 40-day travel rush, including cars and buses.

Like Xiang Ju, most of these people were born and raised as peasant farmers in the countryside and later moved to China’s megacities to work in low-paid manufacturing, construction and service jobs. In 1978, on the eve of economic reforms that first unleashed this flood of humanity, less than 20 per cent of China’s population lived in a city. Today, 55 per cent of people in the world’s most populous country live in urban areas.

But about 275 million, or more than a third of China’s entire labour force, are migrant workers from the countryside, without the right to settle permanently or access the education, pensions or healthcare provided to those with hereditary “urban” status.

That last paragraph is stunning.  A population approaching 300 million constitute internal Chinese migrants who, merely because the moved out of the countryside, have limited access to numerous social services in some sort of irrational federalism.  Furthermore, they are not entitled to live in their new home cities.

And, at the other end of the spectrum, there is the phenomena of “hot money” by Chinese super-elites buying overseas real estate, including the U.S., as fear of the Xi government’s crackdown grows.  Go to the podcast page, and start listening at 19:00 (Jamil Anderlini / FT.com interview by John Batchelor and Gordon Chang).  Apparently, having more children than is allowed by the government is a status symbol among the Chinese elites who maintain overseas residences.

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