Mar 31

She has a way.

Using the present tense for the nun who has passed into eternal life seems only fitting. Because she’s present on decades of air waves that continue to broadcast her shows in daily programming on the television and radio network she founded, she’s in booklets she wrote, long scattered across the world and now in the hands of people ‘in the desert, on mountains, in valleys’, as she once described her desire to reach people, ‘ to give courage, hope, strength’. And her voice is always resonating with the simple message at the center of everything she taught and said before rendered silent by debilitating strokes, and afterward in the witness of her constant suffering: ‘Jesus. Loves. You.’

Mother Angelica founded a monastery in the deep South decades ago out of great concern and reparation for the injustices carried out there through slavery, then segregation, discrimination and racial inequality, all of which she followed intently from her home in Ohio. It was the fulfillment of a promise to God for healing of an impairment, and both happened. From its very small and humble beginnings, the place was destined for big things, because the nun who ran it was a force of nature who wouldn’t be stopped from telling people in the world ‘Jesus. Loves. You.’ When network television aired a religiously themed program that corrupted the truth of the gospel, Mother Angelica decided to start her own. Construction workers building a garage for the nuns were tasked with turning it into a makeshift studio, get and set up some cameras and broadcast equipment, and beam a signal to carry the Eternal Word Television Network to whomever it would reach.

It reached me many years later, as I’ve shared here. As a woman broadcaster, I’m thankful to have watched and listened to her for so many years, seeing a woman of faith and conviction go live on the air with the ease of talking with the person in front of her about life and it’s ups and downs, faith fully authentic and alive and shared with what she never thought was courage because it came so naturally and from a deep place in her heart. She was truly Mother.

And she captivated people who knew nothing of the Catholic Church and probably didn’t want to, who happened onto her show by switching channels or tuning the dial, and something caught their attention there. That happened to people who were addicted to alcohol, porn, drugs, destructive behaviors, who stayed with Mother Angelica for the duration, and found healing. People who were lonely and abandoned, suicidal, happened upon her at just the right time to save their lives, and heal their hearts.

She talked about Jesus all the time, but in compelling and endlessly varied ways. The New York Times noted that Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said “she succeeded at a task the nation’s bishops themselves couldn’t achieve.” It cited a Time Magazine profile calling her “arguably the most influential Roman Catholic woman in America.” Fr. Mitch Pacwa, one of the longest running hosts of programming on EWTN and the one who took over Mother’s show when a debilitating stroke finally ended her ability to speak, called her A Strong Woman in Love with Jesus.

The network has long aired the classic Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen series Life is Worth Living, as relevant now as ever. Bishop Robert Barron, whom many consider to be the ‘modern day Fulton Sheen’, founder of Word On Fire ministry and the host of the magnificent Catholicism series, simply and eloquently said this:

Against all odds and expectations, she created an evangelical vehicle without equal in the history of the Catholic Church. Starting from, quite literally, a garage in Alabama, EWTN now reaches 230 million homes in over 140 countries around the world. With the possible exception of John Paul II himself, she was the most watched and most effective Catholic evangelizer of the last fifty years.

But he acknowledged as well her scruffy ways, for which she was well known.

Mother Angelica wasn’t perfect—and she would be the first to admit it. Due to her lack of polish and advanced theological education, she sometimes said things that were insufficiently nuanced and balanced. And her hot temper, which gave fire to her evangelization, also at times led her to indulge in ad hominem attacks and unfair characterizations of her opponents’ positions. But these are quibbles.

Bishop Barron focused on

her instinct for the supernatural dimension of Christianity. Now I realize that such an instinct might seem rather obvious, but in the immediately post-conciliar years there was indeed a tendency to naturalize the supernatural, to reduce Christianity to the works of social justice and the cultivation of psychological well-being. Mother knew that a de-supernaturalized Christianity would in short order lose its soul and, paradoxically, its relevance to the world.

Tributes and memorials will continue to pour in from around the world, as Mother Angelica reached into the living rooms, on the dials and online in homes in the farthest flung places on the global Catholic network in many languages. She is laid to rest at the monastery she founded, this Friday. But she remains, with her way of challenging and encouraging modern culture to recognize the truth of human dignity, and the ever present love of God. Because she found a way to grow the EWTN media empire in the news world and geographical world, her voice will remain as long as signals will be broadcast, to do what Pope Francis so often encourages, to go out to the existential peripheries and create a culture of encounter.

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Mar 29

Justices want more information.

Coming less than one week after hearing the Little Sisters of the Poor case the U.S. Supreme Court took the unusual step

of asking for additional information, telling both sides to discuss alternative ways to avoid forcing religious women to provide services against their faith.
“This is an excellent development. Clearly the Supreme Court understood the Sisters’ concern that the government’s current scheme forces them to violate their religion,” said Mark Rienzi, lead attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “We look forward to offering alternatives that protect the Little Sisters’ religious liberty while allowing the government to meet its stated goals.”

As one journalist who has covered this story since the government issued the HHS mandate in January 2012, and the lawsuits against it that started coming within days or weeks, this threw me (and surprised a lot of court watchers and litigants involved in these cases). Because we’ve had over four years of dozens upon dozens of lawsuits in different courts at different levels making the case and elaborating the details abundantly clearly, that there are alternatives already in place and working to carry out the government birth control delivery scheme (such as government run programs themselves) while exempting major corporations and essentially one-third of Americans from this mandate already (info central has it all here).

But okay, this is good news, reflecting that justices aren’t buying the government’s claim that it already made an “accommodation” for the Little Sisters by having them sign a paper saying they object, but then explicitly granting a third party to provide the drugs and services to which they object in the first place.

Justices deliberating over this case must have finally seen through that smoke screen, because this request for new alternatives suggests a rejection of what the government claimed was an alternative, a false accommodation that wasn’t.

It’s a positive development, claims NRO.

Specifically, the Court wants to know if there are alternative means of providing contraceptives to employees without requiring the Little Sisters to participate in the process:

(snip from the court order):

“For example, the parties should consider a situation in which petitioners would contract to provide health insurance for their employees, and in the course of obtaining such insurance, inform their insurance company that they do not want their health plan to include contraceptive coverage of the type to which they object on religious grounds. Petitioners would have no legal obligation to provide such contraceptive coverage, would not pay for such coverage, and would not be required to submit any separate notice to their insurer, to the Federal Government, or to their employees. At the same time, petitioners’ insurance company—aware that petitioners are not providing certain contraceptive coverage on religious grounds—would separately notify petitioners’ employees that the insurance company will provide cost-free contraceptive coverage, and that such coverage is not paid for by petitioners and is not provided through petitioners’ health plan.” (emphasis added)

Before this order came out Tuesday, the court was already pretty much split 4-4 over the religious liberty test involved in the HHS mandate, and especially how it upheld (or didn’t) the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Justice Scalia’s untimely death impacts this decision most notably. But Justice Breyer struck some in the courtroom as unconvinced by the government’s arguments last week. If just one justice joins the four expected to uphold religious freedom rights violated by the HHS mandate, it could finally end this unbelievable saga of government infringement on one of the most basic, fundamental and cherished freedoms we have.

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Mar 17

Finally. This is a big deal.

After long, concerted efforts by individuals in Congress, human rights experts, humanitarian relief organizations, patriarchs and prelates, clergy and coalitions of citizens united with them, the U.S. made major advances this week toward stopping the atrocities ISIS has been committing against Christians and other religious minorities and getting aid and relief to those victims. The trigger to ratchet up new and urgent actions was twofold: passage of the Genocide Resolution in Congress, and acknowledgement by the State Department that what has been called persecution of Christians and other religious minorities actually constituted genocide.

Monday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Genocide Resolution, 393-0.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) today made the following statement after the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed his genocide resolution with a vote of 393-0. In a sign of overwhelming bipartisan unity, the resolution, H. Con. Res. 75, names and decries the ISIS violence against Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities as “genocide.” By law, the State Department must make a genocide determination by March 17.

“It is my sincere hope that this trans-partisan resolution will further compel the State Department to join the building international consensus in calling the horrific ISIS violence against Christians, Yezidis, and others by its proper name: ‘genocide,’” Fortenberry said.

A rapidly expanding international coalition has recognized that ISIS is committing genocide. The European Parliament, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Pope Francis, and presidential candidates in both parties, among many others, are standing in solidarity to name and decry this genocide.

“At a time of deep political division in our nation,” Fortenberry continued, “the House has spoken with one voice to properly recognize and condemn this genocide—a threat to civilization itself. The genocide resolution elevates international consciousness and confronts the scandal of silence and indifference about ISIS’ targeted and systematic destruction of these endangered communities. A bipartisan and ecumenical alliance has formed to confront ISIS’ barbaric onslaught.”

Wednesday the 16th, Cong. Fortenberry spoke with me on radio about this vote, and the news he had just received that Secretary of State John Kerry would need more time to investigate the evidence, mystifying to those of us who knew that a joint effort by In Defense of Christians and the Knights of Columbus produced a nearly 300 page report specifically for Sec. Kerry and the State Dept. detailing that evidence. Outcries followed.

Hudson Institute’s renowned religious freedom activist Nina Shea published more questions about why it was taking State so long to deliberate something so obvious to all.

So did social commentator and author Kirsten Powers, in this USA Today piece.

ABC News reported that the House “overwhelmingly approved” the genocide resolution with “heavy bipartisan support”, but also that “the Obama administration officials have cautioned that a legal review is still under way and said it is likely Kerry will not meet Thursday’s deadline.”

And then, he did. Something happened to inspire or compel Secretary Kerry to make a surprise public announcement, Thursday morning.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that ISIS has been committing genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East — just the second time the executive branch has used the term in relation to an ongoing conflict.

The formal designation comes days after the House passed a nonbinding resolution by a 393-0 vote condemning ISIS atrocities as genocide.

“Daesh is genocidal by self proclamation, by ideology and by actions,” Kerry said in a televised address, using another name for the Sunni militant group [ISIS]. “We must recognize what Daesh is doing to its victims.”

“Naming these crimes is important but what is essential is to stop them,” he added.

Nina Shea discussed Kerry’s surprise announcement with me on radio Thursday, and the great need for this designation because of the scope of the atrocities. About an hour later, she posted this article giving credit and gratitude where it’s due.

History was made today. Secretary of State John Kerry officially recognized that ISIS is waging genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and Shiites in the areas under its control. This is only the second time the U.S. government has condemned an ongoing genocide: In 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell designated what was going in Darfur as genocide. And today’s declaration, as I wrote yesterday, almost didn’t happen — owing to resistance from some quarters.

Kerry’s announcement was a surprise, one that defied deliberately lowered expectations. There was a State Department notice just yesterday that any such designation required longer deliberation and wouldn’t be made in time to meet the March 17 congressionally mandated deadline. But at 9 a.m. Eastern, Secretary of State Kerry took to the podium and asserted: “In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions — in what it says, what it believes, and what it does.”

This official American genocide designation is a critically important step. Genocide is internationally recognized as the most heinous human-rights offense. Legally, it is known as the “crime of crimes.” And while the Genocide Convention does not prescribe specific action to “prevent and protect” against genocide, the conscience does.

This designation will not only lift the morale of these shattered religious groups, it also has the potential of serving justice through the prosecution of those who aid and abet ISIS as fighters, cyber recruiters, financiers, arms suppliers, and artifact smugglers.

Military action is also important. Kerry discussed military measures that would help these victims of ISIS: “We are preparing for future efforts to liberate occupied territory — with an eye to the protection of minority communities. In particular, the liberation of Mosul, of Nineveh province in Iraq, and parts of Syria that are currently occupied by Daesh, and that will decide whether there is still a future for minority communities in this part of the Middle East. For those communities, the stakes in this campaign are utterly existential.”

Congressman Fortenberry told me what he’s been saying to everyone listening lately, that this is a threat to civilization itself. As of today, the U.S. has risen to join a growing international coalition of voices and forces that can, finally, do something to stop the spread of that threat, reverse it, and protect innocent people and the existence of whole populations. What can be done is newly on the table. What will be done comes next.

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Mar 14

If it is, he goes out with noble dignity.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is young and could have a great future ahead of him in leadership, whether at the state or federal level. His candidacy for president took a precipitous turn recently and never recovered from the slide. He came out acknowledging his mistakes in judgment, a rare act of humility for a public servant and a candidate for the presidency, singular among a field who mostly don’t see themselves at all as a public servant, and some of whom seem to betray a sense of entitlement and aspiration to a high and mighty position of power.

When he was on the slide in recent weeks and even the past several days, pundits and analysts said he should get out of the race to save face from losing his home state of Florida, which would set back or negate his chances to run for governor of that state in the future, with a wide open road to future runs for higher office. Even his supporters started expressing that wish, so he wouldn’t stand to lose his own state. But Rubio  learned from listening to others than to his own heart and conscience.

With a couple of poor debate performances causing his slide in the polls, he took the bad advice to counter the verbal assault with low blows and to ‘punch back’, which he almost immediately regretted. As low as it got in an exchange with Donald Trump (a regular and a veteran in the arena of disgraceful assaults), Rubio knew he should never have gone there, and he publicly apologized. He exposed his regret at having humiliated himself, his family, his supporters, American voters and everyone involved in the process. It has been a rare public accounting for one’s errors of personal judgment, an examination of conscience that allowed him to express remorse and the will to serve as a public witness to higher goals.

It’s rare in a public official, a leader, especially one who seeks to be the top leader in the land. And before he exists the race, if he does after Tuesday’s elections, he deserves recognition and appreciation for this honesty and noble dignity.

On the eve of the Florida primary, a reflective Marco Rubio looked out at a roaring crowd of diverse supporters and, once again, expressed regret.

“The fact that I’m here now in front of those cameras comes with responsibility, and I’ll confess, I’ve learned that myself,” the Florida senator said…

He ran through the list of people he embarrassed with his bawdy rumble with Donald Trump — his children, his wife, his young supporters.

“I felt terrible about it,” Rubio said. “I realized that win or lose, there are people out there that see what I’m doing and follow it as a role model.”

After days of unflinching optimism on the campaign trail, the gravity of Tuesday’s Florida primary appeared to bear down at one of Rubio’s last stops of the day. And potentially, one of the last stops of his presidential campaign…

“Leadership is not about going to angry and frustrated people and saying, ‘You should be even angrier and more frustrated, and you should be angry and frustrated at each other,’” Rubio said. “That is not leadership. You know what that is? That’s called demagoguery, and it is dangerous.”

He lamented Trump’s over-the-top style, from his use of profanity — “we have never had a presidential candidate that has to be bleeped out” — to his apparent willingness to pay the legal fees for a supporter who sucker punched a protester.

“I know there are people that like this stuff because he says what they want to be able to say,” Rubio said. “Presidents can’t say whatever they want to say. You have to be honest, you have to be correct and you have to be truthful. But you can’t say whatever you want to say.”

There’s a significant lesson in that. A great sign of maturity as a citizen, and a candidate for high office.

Later Monday, Rubio’s bus pulled up to a crowd of hundreds gathered on a brightly lit, outdoor basketball court in West Miami, where Rubio would hold his potentially last rally as a presidential candidate. He hopped up on the bed of a pick-up truck and used a bullhorn to address the enthusiastic crowd, as a giant American flag hung on a building behind him.

It was a homecoming of sorts, given that Rubio said he used to play basketball in this park and it’s an area where he campaigned to run for city commissioner two decades ago.

“And this is the park I wanted to be in tonight, on the eve of the most important election in a generation, in the state that always makes the difference…

Speaking more in Spanish than in English, Rubio thanked the community for their support over the years. He had fun joking around with the crowd — especially in Spanish — and appeared more relaxed and at ease than he has in days.

“No matter where I’ll go or where I’ll be, I will always be a son of this community,” he told them. “I will always carry with me the hopes and dreams of generations who made possible the hopes of mine.”

A while back, in the thick of the debate season and beginning of the caucuses and earliest primaries, someone asked him what his reaction would be to losing. Without a pause, he instinctively responded that God’s will would be done, and that’s all that mattered. On this eve of what may be the ultimate Super Tuesday of this election year, Rubio seemed more at peace than he has in many months.

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Mar 08

Not Donald Trump.

There are too many initiatives, publications and organized efforts around those three words to get into here. But it’s growing, this counter-appeal to voters to direct their energies around a tried and true reform candidate that appeal to their passions more than their anger.

This one by two top Catholic scholars, signed onto by nearly three dozen other top names in academia and scholarship and leadership, is short, succinct and sobering. I saw it within minutes after it posted, know both writers as well as many of the signatories to the appeal, and realized what a new moment it represented.

Though National Review Online devoted a whole symposium and special edition ‘Against Trump‘, with top commentators and writers contributing provocative essays on the theme, and CatholicVote.org broke from tradition and went so far as to issue the public statement ‘Not. Trump.‘, and individual writers of exceptional depth and experience have issued their own strong statements, this was something different. It is extraordinary.

Here’s the essence:

In recent decades, the Republican party has been a vehicle — imperfect, like all human institutions, but serviceable — for promoting causes at the center of Catholic social concern in the United States: (1) providing legal protection for unborn children, the physically disabled and cognitively handicapped, the frail elderly, and other victims of what Saint John Paul II branded “the culture of death”; (2) defending religious freedom in the face of unprecedented assaults by officials at every level of government who have made themselves the enemies of conscience; (3) rebuilding our marriage culture, based on a sound understanding of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife; and (4) re-establishing constitutional and limited government, according to the core Catholic social-ethical principle of subsidiarity. There have been frustrations along the way, to be sure; no political party perfectly embodies Catholic social doctrine. But there have also been successes, and at the beginning of the current presidential electoral cycle, it seemed possible that further progress in defending and advancing these noble causes was possible through the instrument of the Republican party. That possibility is now in grave danger. And so are those causes.

Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States. His campaign has already driven our politics down to new levels of vulgarity. His appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice are offensive to any genuinely Catholic sensibility. He promised to order U.S. military personnel to torture terrorist suspects and to kill terrorists’ families — actions condemned by the Church and policies that would bring shame upon our country. And there is nothing in his campaign or his previous record that gives us grounds for confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments…

The two highly esteemed writers acknowledge Trump supporters’ concerns, with due respect.

We understand that many good people, including Catholics, have been attracted to the Trump campaign because the candidate speaks to issues of legitimate and genuine concern: wage stagnation, grossly incompetent governance, profligate governmental spending, the breakdown of immigration law, inept foreign policy, stifling “political correctness” — for starters. There are indeed many reasons to be concerned about the future of our country, and to be angry at political leaders and other elites.

However, they contend, there are other candidates more worthy of support who address these concerns without the ‘vulgarity’ and ‘demagoguery’.

And they conclude with this appeal:

Mr. Trump’s record and his campaign show us no promise of greatness; they promise only the further degradation of our politics and our culture. We urge our fellow Catholics and all our fellow citizens to reject his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination by supporting a genuinely reformist candidate.

Signed, Princeton Professor Robert P. George, and Ethics and Public Policy Center Distinguished Senior Fellow George Weigel. And nearly three dozen signers after them.

That is a snapshot that at least offers clues to where we are in American politics in this most unusual, defiant season. This appeal to voters is at least one piece of a puzzle as yet so incomplete, it remains incoherent. And with a hold that remains, so far, only tenuous.

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Feb 18

And one fewer Justice on the high court.

On Thursday of last week, Women Speak for Themselves (WSFT) launched a campaign, loosely aligned with Valentine’s Day weekend and beyond, to ‘show a little love to the Little Sisters‘. It coincided with a new website for WSFT, loaded with resources and links to amicus briefs its founder filed at the Supreme Court, including this latest one on behalf of the Little Sisters in their struggle to uphold their religious freedom rights. Two days later, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, great religious freedom defender, suddenly and unexpectedly died.

Why are the Little Sisters of the Poor even in court in the first place? Especially the court system at different levels, reaching all the way to the Supreme Court, doing whatever they can to save their nearly two centuries long ministry to the poor from the threat of government overreach that threatens their services and institutions? Why would the government even do that?

Let’s review. (It’s stunning that we’re still in this situation more than four years after the federal fiat known as the HHS Mandate was issued by the administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, as a contraception delivery scheme slipped into the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.)

For clarity and accessibility, this HHS Info Central has it all: graphics, charts, court challenges, case names and dates and outcomes or facts about pending hearings. It’s a ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ snapshot of the HHS Mandate in Obamacare.

The Little Sisters of the Poor represent the most emblematic case. By far.

In November 2015…

the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns facing tens of millions of dollars in IRS fines because they cannot, according to their faith, include contraceptives in their employee health plan. This is the second time the Sisters have been forced to ask the Supreme Court for protection against the government’s HHS Mandate. The Court’s decision will finally resolve the crucial question of whether governmental agencies can, wholly without legislative oversight, needlessly force religious ministries to violate their faith.

Yes, that’s explicitly the situation.

The Little Sisters, who care for more than 13,000 of the elderly poor around the world, had no choice but to appeal to the Supreme Court due to the government’s refusal to exempt them from the HHS mandate, which is currently in its 9th unacceptable iteration. The mandate forces the Little Sisters to authorize the government to use the Sister’s employee healthcare plan to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs – a violation of their faith – or pay massive fines, which would threaten their religious mission. The Supreme Court entered a temporary order protecting the nuns in January, 2014, but the government has continued litigating, asking lower courts to remove that protection. (emphasis added)

“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they are welcomed as Christ. We perform this loving ministry because of our faith and cannot possibly choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith, and we shouldn’t have to,” said Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “All we ask is that our rights not be taken away. The government exempts large corporations, small businesses, and other religious ministries from what they are imposing on us – we just want to keep serving the elderly poor as we have always done for 175 years. We look forward to the Supreme Court hearing our case, and pray for God’s protection of our ministry.”

They don’t want to be in court. They didn’t pick this fight. They’re about the last people in public service the government should be forcing to deliver contraception and morning after pills in their healthcare plans. And yet, here we are.

So with the Supreme Court taking on the case again, legal scholar Helen Alvare saw the opportunity to present a real challenge to the government’s claim or defense that it has a “compelling interest” in a mandate that burdens religious freedom, one of a two-prong test the Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires for government to enforce anything that violates so fundamental a protected liberty.

First, fleshing out the contents of the “compelling state interest” requirement will provide much-needed guidance in future religious freedom cases. Lawyers are accustomed to encountering compelling state interest analyses in due process and equal protection cases involving fundamental constitutional rights and suspect classifications. There are a significant number of cases interpreting the meaning of a “compelling state interest” in the areas of speech or racial discrimination. But there are fewer in the area of religious freedom…

Second, a “compelling state interest” analysis in the context of a mandate case would shed light on the government’s tendency – especially when contraception programs are concerned – to make extravagant claims without empirical foundation, while threatening the religious freedom of institutions providing unparalleled amounts of service to women. Governments at both the federal and state level have fallen into the habit of using contraception to “signal” their commitment to women’s rights. The facts on the ground, however, are much more complex.

Enter Women Speak for Themselves, which started as an open letter in response to high level women in government purporting to represent women’s rights and claims on services that really didn’t represent vast numbers of American women outside the Washington beltway and across the country. Helen Alvare was co-author of that letter with another lawyer, Kim Daniels. The open letter turned into a grassroots movement that has spread across the country, across demographics and age groups and backgrounds of women engaging these issues at their most local levels and on the national level, through media and initiatives that allow them to contribute to and change the conversation by sharing their lived experiences. It’s a remarkable range of stories from women speaking for women and their families and health and rights.

The Little Sisters are among those for whom they speak. These nuns don’t seek nor want the spotlight, but Pope Francis paid them a surprise visit last September while in DC during his US apostolic journey, and House Speaker Paul Ryan featured them as his guests among invited attendees – in a moment of irony – to President Obama’s final State of the Union Address in January.

Interestingly, the American Spectator noticed, and pointed out that Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the one who granted them a temporary injunction against punitive fines for not following the mandate, as they pursued permanent relief. Her vote will be needed again when the case is argued before the Supreme Court during Holy Week, in March 2016. Because if she comes down on the liberal side of reading religious freedom as applied to this case, and the court votes 4-4 in the absence of Justice Scalia, religious liberty will face a ‘calamity‘.

The Little Sisters would be forced to violate their faith by subsidizing the distribution of abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptives to their employees or face ruinous IRS fines. The government exempts a wide variety of religious ministries from the contraception mandate. But the Obama administration insisted that this organization run by Catholic nuns, which has been providing free health care to elderly patients of every race and religion since 1839, is somehow not eligible for the usual exemption. Incredibly, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the government.

…Before Justice Scalia’s tragic death, there was a reasonable chance that the Little Sisters and six other organizations with which the Court consolidated their case might prevail.

Now, unless one of the four liberal justices — Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor — casts an uncharacteristically nonpartisan vote, a 4-4 vote is all but inevitable.

For once, instead of Justice Anthony Kennedy holding the pivotal swing vote, it may rest with Sotomayor. Or Chief Justice John Roberts, who can work to sway the court in a couple of directions to avoid a calamity.

In the immediate aftermath of Justice Scalia’s untimely death, the Little Sisters of the Poor (with the help of technically proficient friends) released this new website making this whole story much pithier and easier to grasp than ever. Have a look, it’s all there.

Who they are:

The Little Sisters of the Poor have dedicated their lives to living with and caring for the elderly poor. They have been focused on service, not advocacy or policy, and, in this case, they’ve exhausted every option possible before going to court.

What this case is about:

After promising that the Little Sisters’ religious beliefs would be protected, the government created a new regulation requiring the Little Sisters to change their healthcare plan to offer services that violate Catholic teaching. But 1 in 3 Americans do not have a plan that is subject to the mandate HHS is fighting so hard to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to follow. Exxon, Chevron, and Pepsi — as well as other large corporations — are exempt from the mandate, because they never changed their plans and are grandfathered. And the government is not even requiring our own US military to provide these services through their family insurance.

The government is arguing that since it has offered to reimburse the costs of the services it wants the Little Sisters to provide, they should have no moral objection to offering them. The Little Sisters are saying this is not about money, but conscience, and whether they should be forced to change their healthcare plan to offer services they have a moral objection to when those services could be provided more effectively through the government’s healthcare exchange.

And what the solution may, or can, be.

There is an easy solution that protects the Little Sisters’ religious freedom and the right of the government to offer these services to women who want them. Rather than trying to force religious plans to offer these services, the better solution is for the government to provide these services through the ACA healthcare exchange to any employees who want them but can’t get them through employer plans.

The Little Sisters are not trying to prevent the government from providing these services, but object to the government’s insisting the Little Sisters provide them (especially since the government has already refused to ensure that those free services are provided to one in three Americans). Giving all women access to contraception through the healthcare exchange is a simpler and fairer way for the government to provide these services to more women while protecting the religious freedom of the Little Sisters, who never wanted this fight and just want to get back to caring for the elderly in need.

They can use all the help and advocacy they can get. Women Speak for Themselves is providing the vehicle, and the avenue. It’s up to people to drive it home.

 

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Feb 15

He will be remembered for a robust array of  aspects of his legacy.

“But his abiding contribution was in trying to stem the tide of government by judiciary.” That succinct summary by National Review editors captures the essence of Scalia’s place, time, and body of work, on the Supreme Court.

Judicial imperialism is a cancer in the body politic…

It has been for a very long time. Justice Scalia wasn’t gone from this life 24 hours before operatives in media and politics were spinning his vacancy on the court as a pivotal motivating factor that would, depending on the commentator, help the Democrats or Republicans depending on who the president nominates to succeed him and what the Senate does about the confirmation process when that nominee is named.

This election season, the Republican candidates for president — especially the eventual nominee — must place the politics of the judiciary squarely before the people, showing them that the only way toward a less political Supreme Court is through a more openly political debate about its future. If this happens, Antonin Scalia will have done, in death, one last great service for his country, rescuing American voters from a binge of silliness and sobering them up about their great responsibility as a self-governing people in a constitutional republic.

Moving “toward a less political Supreme Court…through a more openly political debate about its future” is exactly what this nation needs, along with a serious, sober, reasoned political debate instead of the ideologically divisive one that drives everything else.

One can hope.

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Feb 09

High profile surrogates sound desperate, reach a new low.

That’s saying something for a woman candidate for president who earned and embraced the enthusiastic endorsement of the largest abortion provider in the world. But since that endorsement last month, Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers have continued to drop.

So over the weekend before Tuesday’s first election of the long primary season, two very high profile women of Hillary’s generation came out to stump for her, one on the campaign trail and the other on a popular liberal television show, and both in tandem delivered a memorable message that was shocking, revealing, and ultimately counter-productive. They were both condemnations of young women who don’t support Hillary Clinton. And did more than opposition candidates to damage her and the cause of women’s best interests.

The New York Times calls it a “rebuke” in the headline over the story of a generational clash, in which two “feminist icons”, Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinam “called on young women who supported (Democratic Socialist candidate Bernie Sanders) to essentially grow up and get with the program.” As the caption on the photo tells it:

Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, told young women it was their duty to support Hillary Clinton in her presidential run at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday.

That alone is, these days, unwise and unhelpful enough. But then she said this:

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done,” Ms. Albright said of the broader fight for women’s equality. It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

That was a stunner. Over the years, I’ve occasionally noted or lamented the final public end of a notable and esteemed public figure in broadcasting, other media, sports, politics or elsewhere where that person had made a name, record and reputation for a long time, only to go out sadly repudiated and disgraced by a random remark that was politically incorrect. Though I didn’t always agree with or appreciate Madeleine Albright’s statements or actions on a given policy, she served nobly and honorably at times for ‘the least of these’, as in her tenure as Ambassador to the United Nations under the Clinton Administration, when she issued a stinging rebuke to the UN Secretary General and the U.S. for their neglect to engage over war crimes in the genocide in Rwanda. She said then:

My deepest regret from my years in public service is the failure of the United States and the international community to act sooner to halt these crimes.

Which reflected deeply held principles about human life and the protection of vulnerable, innocent people.

That’s a far cry from what she said over the weekend to scold young women who don’t back Clinton’s candidacy, and warn them of the consequences.

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

How threatening, extreme and desperate that sounds. And how revealing of the whole false feminist, “pro-choice” agenda of Planned Parenthood and establishment abortion activists who actually only contend that there’s one choice, and it’s theirs. If your choice is pro-life, another candidate who didn’t get the endorsement of Planned Parenthood, you’re not only wrong and need to be rebuked, you’re going to hell.

Women are smarter than that, they know that they really do have choices and will make them according to what they determine is best for themselves, their health, their future and family, and without the dictates of angry, authoritarian women who tell them that women still need to follow ‘groupthink’ to be empowered. That just doesn’t work anymore. Years ago, former NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan watched the March for Life on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, saw the tens of thousands of enthusiastic participants and said “There are so many of them and they are so young.”

They are not about to buy into threats of damnation for not backing the abortion movement’s godmother, Hillary Clinton, to be president of the United States.

And especially not responsive to ridicule by feminist movement founder Gloria Steinam, who appeared on the Bill Maher show and said that women become more active in politics as they get older, and that young women were supporting Sen. Sanders because the young guys were.

“When you’re young, you’re thinking ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’”…

To which Maher instantly replied that if he’d said that, he’s be smacked for such an offensive remark.

This is not helping women and women know it. They’ve either been through the feminist movement and had abortions and suffered the damage of that, or they’ve learned from those who have. They know they have choices and the best place to find options and alternatives for their health is with the true women’s movement of these times, in pregnancy health centers, and women’s health clinics, and organizations like Women Speak for Themselves.

One Democratic network news contributor said the barrier to the White House had been broken by Barack Obama. Then she shrugged off the Hillary Clinton candidacy saying it wasn’t necessary to vote for her just to prove a point that’s been made.

To insinuate, or worse, to state it as blatantly as Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinam did so unwisely, that it’s now the necessary duty of women of all ages to vote for Mrs. Clinton to get the first woman president, betrays the agenda and ideology of the false women’s movement that promotes the idea of true freedom of choice, without backing it, no matter what women choose for themselves.

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Feb 08

“It’s hard to overstate how extreme Mrs. Clinton’s new position is.”

But Bill McGurn does a good job conveying the idea.

Today Mrs. Clinton’s formula is safe, legal, unlimited—and federally subsidized. We saw this new Hillary Clinton at a Planned Parenthood rally in New Hampshire this month, where she said she favored “safe and legal abortion” and denounced the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion.

“I will always defend Planned Parenthood and I will say consistently and proudly, Planned Parenthood should be funded, supported and protected, not undermined, misrepresented and demonized,” Mrs. Clinton said. In return, Planned Parenthood rewarded her with the first presidential primary endorsement in its 100-year history.

This is not where American women, in the majority of the general population, want to go.

I began this post a while ago, had no time to finish it, and now the New Hampshire primary is here. Mrs. Clinton will by all accounts lose it to Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, no pro-life advocate himself. Because of her falling poll numbers across the board of pollsters and demographics of those polled, she’s taking a page from Barack Obama’s playbook, and instead of moderating closer toward the ideological center, she’s tacking left. He had nothing to lose when he did it, and he’s enjoying the last months in the office of the presidency. She has everything to lose, namely that office which she seeks wholeheartedly.

This is how to lose it, or at least…it doesn’t help.

Amy Chozick of the New York Times recently described the relationship this way: “the Clinton campaign has functioned almost as a marketing arm for Planned Parenthood.” Remember, this is an organization that reports performing 323,999 abortions and taking in $553.7 million in subsidies from Uncle Sam in fiscal year 2014-15. Though these tax dollars are not earmarked for abortion, money is fungible.

It’s a curious reversal. For one thing, Mrs. Clinton’s shift comes at a moment when even some pro-choice advocates admit to queasiness over Planned Parenthood after undercover videos were released last year showing its officials sipping wine as they chat about prices for, say, an intact fetal heart. The pro-choice community also includes those who support abortion rights but do not believe either Planned Parenthood or abortion should be subsidized with tax dollars.

It’s also a big shift from last July, when Mrs. Clinton repeated her safe, legal and rare formula to the New Hampshire Union Leader and said she found the Planned Parenthood videos “disturbing.” But plainly not so disturbing that she would let it get in the way of the $20 million Planned Parenthood will spend this election cycle.

It calls to mind the old saying ‘Dance with the one who brought you.’ Even if steps get entangled, and you both fall.

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Feb 02

“Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders locked in dead heat in Iowa.”

That headline very late on the night of the Iowa Caucuses, before a few final counts came in, declared a big and early setback for Hillary’s aspirations for the presidency yet again. In 2008, she and her campaign were shocked by a third place finish in that first of many primaries.

“I think Hillary Clinton is going to eke this out in the end,” said a longtime Democratic campaign manager, strategist and news commentator.

‘A 74 year old Socialist candidate is giving Hillary Clinton the run of her life’ said the correspondent assigned to the Sanders campaign.

So, once again, this won’t be a ‘waltz to coronation’ in the Democratic Party for Mrs. Clinton, as many political writers have dubbed it for so long now. No, it’s starting off on a bumpy road, that’s headed next to Sanders’ territory in New England.

It’s been evident for some time that Clinton supporters have been having a hard time supporting her, especially as more revelations have emerged. The congressional hearings on what really happened in Benghazi further damaged her credibility as a member of government.

By the evening hours of September 11, 2012, the Obama administration knew that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was a planned terrorist attack, yet for several days afterward top administration officials attributed the attack to a spontaneous protest of an anti-Muslim video. Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, participated in that cover-up.

Getting away with having a private email server, while serving as Secretary of State, has finally run out of facilitators, and she’s not getting away with what investigators have been able to recover from that server, even after her attempts to destroy evidence.

A new report that Hillary Clinton’s personal server contained information about “special access programs” makes her handling of sensitive material “worse than what Snowden did,” Charles Krauthammer said tonight.  “What people have to understand is that there is nothing higher, more secret than an SAP,” Krauthammer said on Tuesday’s Special Report. “From some people I have talked to, this is worse than what Snowden did because he didn’t have access to SAP.” “The reason it’s [so sensitive] is if it’s compromised, people die,” he said. “It also means that operations that have been embedded for years and years get destroyed and cannot be reconstituted. This is very serious.”

The New York Times reported it with the gravity it deserves.

That the Times turned around and endorsed Clinton for president was not surprising, but not that convincing.

The Clinton campaign’s relationship with the Times has been troubled at times over the past year following the revelations that she maintained a private email server while leading the State Department.

Which, the Times noted most recently, had emails not only heavily redacted before they were turned over to federal authorities for investigation, but 22 of them “withheld entirely” because they contained top secret information.

Hillary Clinton has been losing support from her own base for a long while, and these problems only exacerbated that core weakness of her candidacy as the Democratic Party nominee for the presidency in 2016. The first cracks in that foundation came in 2008. The New York Times explains best, in this revealing piece, out just ahead of the Iowa Caucuses, about the women who should be Clinton’s most staunchly ardent supporters.

Some snips:

“Polls don’t quantify doubts, but anecdotally, enthusiasm for her is anemic. Ambivalence is seeping in about her authenticity and the power of her symbolism as a woman. Once again, she has been caught coasting on inevitability by a grass-roots idealist with a universal health care plan. And there’s a sense that those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, from 2008, were historic enough.”…

“I’m feeling Clinton fatigue. Even exhaustion.”…

“A lot of women vote from a compassionate, nurturing place, and those are not qualities you feel from her.”

On her authenticity and her symbolic power as a woman, there is much to say. Especially as it relates to “women who vote from a compassionate, nurturing place”. More on that next time.

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