Pope Francis must defend religious liberty in America

New York Post

Armando Valladares

Thirty years ago, I slid a piece of paper across a table at a secret meeting with the fabled French maritime explorer Jacques Cousteau. In it were dozens of names, all political prisoners in Fidel Castro’s gulags where I spent 22 years of my life. Months later, when Cousteau visited Cuba for research and Castro wanted to scuba dive with him, Cousteau leveraged the release of 80 of those prisoners in exchange. Cousteau used the gift of his fame to change the lives of Cubans for generations to come.

When Pope Francis arrives in the United States this month, he will not barter pictures and backslaps for political prisoners. America is still a nation where its citizens can publicly oppose their political leaders without fear of incarceration. At least for now. But in his unprecedented address to a joint session of Congress, he should protest against the ongoing creation of a new class of prisoners in our society: religious conscientious objectors. [Full Text]

American HHS birth control mandate controversy

Little Sisters of the Poor have filed appeal in Denver, Colorado against the HHS Mandate.  Catholic Notre Dame University in Indiana has been denied injunctive relief, apparently because it had already agreed to comply with the mandate.  The Becket Fund reports 95 lawsuits filed against the federal government regulation, with over 300 plaintiffs: 47 by for-profit corporations, 46 by non-profit corporations, and two class action lawsuits.  Of the rulings so far, 33 injunctions have been granted to for-profit corporations (six denied) and 19 have been granted to non-profit corporations (one denied).

Update on American HHS birth control mandate controversy

On 14 December, Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, filed a lawsuit against the HHS regulation [Associated Press].  Five days later, a federal appeals court reinstated lawsuits filed by Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey that had been dismissed by a lower court.  The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals also ordered the Obama administration to report every sixty days on its progress in redrafting the regulation to accommodate employers with religious objections to providing insurance for birth control.[Life News]  News of the Wheaton and Belmont decisions came too late for inclusion in a column in the  New England Journal of Medicine, which outlined the litigation and the issues.The federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that Hobby Lobby must comply with the mandate because it does not impose a “substantial burden” on the exercise of freedom of religion by the company’s owner. [The Hill]  In contrast, O’Brien Industrial Holdings of Missouri was granted an injunction by an appeals court that prohibits the federal government from enforcing the regulation.  The decision overturns a lower court ruling [The Foundry, 3 December].  A similar injunction was granted to the Griesedieck family‘s American Pulverizer Company in Minnesota [National Review] Commenting that there is no “trust us changes are coming” clause in the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge in New York upheld the right of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York to proceed with its lawsuit against the mandate. [Becket Fund, 6 December]    Meanwhile, the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order that provides nursing care to the elderly poor in 30 American cities, is considering the possiblity of leaving the United States if the current regulation stands. [LifeSite News]