Washington State to appeal against freedom of conscience decision

The State of Washington has announced that it will appeal a decision by a U.S. District Court Judge that held that a state regulation was deliberately intended to deny freedom of conscience to pharmacists, and therefore unconstititional. [Yakima Herald]


Warning against anti-Shari laws

Robert K. Vischer of St. Thomas University in Minneapolis warns against The Dangers of Anti-Sharia Laws in First Things.  Such legislation, he says, “. . . proposes an unconstitutional double standard.”  The attacks on the application of Sharia by American courts, which also apply denominational and private prinicples when adjudicating contract disputes, “fan the flames of religious intolerance while nurturing public acceptance of the notion that the religious commitments of our citizens have no place in our courts.”

Canon law and biblical principles are not dirty words in the American court system,” writes Professor Vischer, “and Sharia should not be either.”


Catholics and Evangelicals issue statement defending religious freedom

Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an ecumenical fellowship established almost twenty years ago, has published “In Defense of Religious Freedom” in the March issue of First Things, a journal of religion and public affairs. [National Catholic Register] The document  responds to growing concerns about the security of freedom of conscience and religion in the United States and elsewhere.  The document was co-written by 11 prominent Evangelical Christians and nine well-known Catholics and is substantially supported by over 45 others from both denominations.


Obama administration requests comments

The Obama administration has filed a document for publication in the Federal Register that requests comments about making rules to accommodate “religious organizations” that have religious objections to providing insurance coverage for surgical sterilization, contraceptives and embryocides.  Among the points of interest:

  • The rules for accommodation may not be finalized until ten months after the November, 2012 presidential election.
  • “Religious employer” continues to be defined to exclude individual religious believers and most of the social, educational and charitable organizations operated by religious believers.
  • Protection against enforcement (“safe harbour”) is offered only to non-profit organizations, not to individual religious believers or businesses run by them.
  • “Accommodation” is said to be the equivalent of exemption, which raises the question of why broader exemption was not offered to begin with.
  • The new term, “religious organization,” is undefined.  The Departments ask which of these undefined entities should be accommodated.
  • In several places later in the document, statements are made that appear to contradict earlier assertions that providing contraceptive coverage is cost-neutral or may save money.
  • Public funding of surgical sterilization, contraceptives and embryocides is proposed as an acceptable alternative.


Withdrawal of nutrition and hydration should be normative

Catherine Constable of the New York University School of Medicine has published a journal article advocating that patients diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) should be killed by starvation and dehydration unless their families insist that they receive assisted nutrition and hydration.

Constable, C. (2012), Withdrawal of Artificial Nutrition and Hydration for Patiens in a Permanent Vegetative State: Changing Tack. Bioethics, 26: 157–163


Increasing medical alteration of disabled children

Surgical and pharmaceutical treatment to limit the growth of disabled children is becoming more frequent.  A British newspaper has identified a dozen families involved in them.  Such procedures first came to public notice about five years ago, when a severely disabled nine year old girl living near Seattle was subjected to a series of medical procedures to prevent her from growing further.  [The Guardian]


California refuses reparation to victims of forced sterilization

The government and state politicians in California admit that the forced sterilization of about 20,000 citizens between 1909 and 1963 should not have happened.  The sterilizations were part of a state eugenics programme designed to prevent those identified as “feeble minded” or “defective” from having children.  However, they are unwilling to authorize compensation or reparation for the victims. [CNN]


US Catholic bishops vow to fight “HHS violations of religious freedom”

The Administrative Committee, the highest authority of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops outside the semi-annual sessions of the full body of bishops, has issued a statement asserting that the Conference will continue to resist efforts by the federal government to require objecting religious believers to provide insurance coverage surgical sterilization, contraceptives and embryocides.  The Conference objects to an unprecedented and unwarranted “government definition of religion,” which “has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom,” the bishops said.


Bishops promise to continue ‘vigorous efforts’ against HHS violations of religious freedom in health care reform mandate

Declare government has no place defining religion, religious ministry

Seek protection for conscience rights of institutions, individuals

Stress action with the public, White House, Congress, courts


US Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops are strongly united in their ongoing and determined  efforts to protect religious freedom, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said in a March 14 statement.

The Administrative Committee, chaired by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the USCCB, is the highest authority of the bishops’ conference outside the semi-annual sessions of the full body of bishops. The Committee’s membership consists of the elected chairmen of all the USCCB permanent committees and an elected bishop representative from each of the geographic regions of the USCCB.

[Full statement]

The Administrative Committee said it was “strongly unified and intensely focused in its opposition to the various threats to religious freedom in our day.” The bishops will continue their vigorous work of education on religious freedom, dialogue with the executive branch, legislative initiatives and efforts in the courts to defend religious freedom. They promised a longer statement on the principles at the heart of religious freedom, which will come later from the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.

The bishops noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that forces all private health plans to provide coverage of sterilization and contraceptives – including abortion-inducing drugs – called for an immediate response. Of particular concern, they said, are a religious exemption from the mandate that the bishops deem “arbitrarily narrow” and an “unspecified and dubious future ‘accommodation’’’ offered to other religious organizations that are denied the exemption.

The bishops thanked supporters from the Catholic community and beyond “who have stood firmly with us in our vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate.”

“It is your enthusiastic unity in defense of religious freedom that has made such a dramatic and positive impact in this historic public debate.”

The bishops said this dispute is not about access to contraceptives but about the government’s forcing the Church to provide them. Their concerns are not just for the Catholic Church but also for “those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block.”

“Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church – consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions – to act against Church teachings,” they said.

The Church has worked for universal healthcare in the United States since 1919, they added, and said the current issue “is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.”

The bishops called the HHS mandate “an unwarranted government definition of religion,” with government deciding who is a religious employer deserving exemption from the law.

“The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom,” the bishops said.

“Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry,” they said.

“If this definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity,” they said.

The bishops said the government’s foray into church governance “where government has no legal competence or authority” is beyond disturbing. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers,” the bishops said, “will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world.”

The bishops also called the HHS mandate “a violation of personal civil rights.”  The new mandate creates a class of people “with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to live in accordance with their faith and values,” the bishops said. “They too face a government mandate to aid in providing ‘services’ contrary to those values – whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees, or as insurers themselves – without even the semblance of exemptions.”

The bishops called for the Catholic faithful, and all people of good will throughout the nation to join them in prayer and penance “for our leaders and for the complete protection of our First Freedom – religious liberty.”

“Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength,” the bishops said, “for without God we can do nothing. But with God all things are possible.”

Contact Sr. Mary Ann Walsh

Sex selective abortions in United Kingdom

An investigation by the Daily Mail has revealed that some physicians in the United Kingdom will arrange for sex-selective abortions.  A physician suspended by the General Medical Council following the disclosure agreed to falsify the reason for the procedure.  Another physician and an obstetrician/gynaecologist also face discipline.  [Daily Mail]