Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Doctors, states challenge new “transgender regulation”

Government orders doctors to perform procedures it admits may harm children 
Washington, D.C. – Doctors, hospitals and five states will file a lawsuit today against a new federal regulation that would force doctors to ignore science and their medical judgment and perform gender transition procedures on children. The government does not even require Medicare and Medicaid to cover these same gender transition procedures because the Health & Human Services’ (HHS) medical experts found the risks were often too high and benefits too unclear. But any doctor citing the same evidence and their judgment in an individual case would be in violation of the new mandate and face potential lawsuits or job loss.
“No doctor should be forced to perform a procedure that he or she believes will harm a child,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Decisions on a child’s medical treatment should be between families and their doctors, not dictated by politicians and government bureaucrats.”
A new website provides leading research on this issue, including guidance the government itself relies on demonstrating that up to 94 percent of children with gender dysphoria (77 to 94 percent in one set of studies and 73 to 88 percent in another) will grow out of their dysphoria naturally and will not need surgery or lifelong hormone regimens. Studies also show that there are numerous negative effects when children undergo hormone regimens, such as increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer.
The government itself does not require coverage of gender transition procedures in Medicare or Medicaid — even in adults — because it has acknowledged that such procedures can be harmful. This rule would be the first time a law forces doctors to break their Hippocratic Oath and is also unique in placing mental health professionals as the final decision-makers on what medical care doctors must provide for their patients.
The new regulation applies to 900,000 doctors — virtually every doctor in the U.S., many of whom have chosen the medical profession because they are inspired by their faith to serve those in need and to heal others. They have taken an oath to put the needs of each patient first and do no harm. But this regulation violates doctors’ ability to exercise both their best medical judgment and their religiously-inspired desire to care for society’s most vulnerable. It will also cost healthcare providers and taxpayers nearly $1 billion.
“This regulation is blatantly hypocritical: The government exempts coverage of gender transition procedures from Medicare or Medicaid because it admits that they may be harmful; but it then tries to force private doctors to perform the same procedures on young children,” said Windham.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty will file a lawsuit today in federal district court in Wichita Falls, Texas, on behalf of Franciscan Alliance, a religious hospital network sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, defending them from the new government regulation. The States of Texas, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wisconsin also joined the Becket Fund’s legal challenge. More information can be found at www.transgendermandate.org. 

Court OK’s state restrictions on counseling, pastors

San Francisco, CA—A federal court of appeals this morning upheld restrictions on what some pastors can say to minors struggling with their sexuality and gender. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco again upheld California’s controversial Senate Bill 1172.  SB 1172 bars licensed counselors from assisting youth who want to change or reduce same-sex attractions.  The law also prohibits counseling that would steer youth away from gender confusion. 

Pacific Justice Institute filed suit against SB 1172 in 2012 and initially won a preliminary injunction based on free speech.  Eventually, the Ninth Circuit created a new approach to free speech that deemed what was said during counseling to be unprotected.    

The case returned to the Ninth Circuit on religious freedom and privacy claims that had not been previously ruled upon by that court.  PJI’s lead plaintiff is both an ordained minister and a licensed marriage and family therapist who oversees a counseling ministry in his church.  PJI pointed out that the law would reach within the four walls of the church to prohibit what could be said during counseling by a pastor who is also an LMFT. 

The Ninth Circuit
today waved off concerns about state interference with religious doctrine, while declining to discuss legal authorities raised by PJI that have previously rejected state interference with church counseling.

PJI had also pointed the court to dozens of passages from the legislative record that directly attacked conservative religious viewpoints.  According to PJI attorney Kevin Snider, who argued the case at the Ninth Circuit, “The court
today simply rewrote legislative history to avoid the uncomfortable reality that the California Legislature unabashedly targeted religious beliefs with this bill.”

Brad Dacus, a frequent guest on FOT and president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, “We are deeply disappointed by
today’s ruling because it represents a giant step backwards for religious freedom.  A government that can tell a pastor what he can and cannot say during counseling is a government that can tell a pastor what parts of the Bible are off-limits.   The court also reminded us today that this law lays the groundwork for further restrictions on parental rights."

PJI will be reviewing all options for appeal with their clients.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Are attorney free speech rights and religious liberty in jeopardy by new ABA rule?

This week on FOT we’re going to take up an issue we’ve mentioned the on the past two programs, the American Bar Association’s (ABA) adoption of Model Rule 8.4, which according to former Attorney General Edwin Meese and First Liberty President Kelly Shackelford, “is a clear and extraordinary threat to free speech and religious liberty.”

Cleve Doty
The rule, according to its critics, would make attorneys subject to disciplinary action, and possible disbarment, for exercising their free speech rights by expressing ideas that run against the prevailing political correctness – even is such speech is made in a private gathering having nothing to do with the attorney’s legal practice.
An earlier story on this can be found here, including a link to the Meese-Shackelford letter to the ABA prior to its vote to adopt the rule.
To discuss this rule First Liberty Attorney Cleve Doty will join Deacon Mike Manno and Gina Noll for a frank discussion of Rule 8.4. Before joining First Liberty, Cleve was with the Texas Solicitor General’s Office where he briefed and argued legal appeals at all levels of state and federal courts, including the U. S. Supreme Court.
In addition our own Stephanie Crowley will give us her review of the re-make of the epic
movie BEN-HUR.

FOT airs every Tuesday at 9 a.m. (Central) on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM; and streams at IowaCatholicRadio.com. The program re-airs at 9 p.m. and podcasts of our earlier programs can be found here.
FOT is on the air courtesy of our loyal sponsors and underwriters including Attorney Rick McConville, Coppola, McConville, Coppola, Carroll, Hockenberg & Scalise PC 2100 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines, 515-453-1055 and ConfluenceBrewing Company – off the Bike Trail just south of Grey’s Lake, 1235 Thomas Beck Road where there is live entertainment in the tap room every Thursday.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Deacon Mike's homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

This is the text of Deacon Mike’s homily Sunday. Unfortunately the sound system at St. Augustin was down and many did not hear, but asked that it be posted. 

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 21, 2016
St. Augustin Catholic Parish, Des Moines, Iowa
Deacon Mike Manno

Readings: Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30 

Good Morning – 

            The readings this morning – “enter through the narrow gate,” “depart from me you evildoers,” and “waling and grinding of teeth” certainly sets a homilist up for a good “hellfire and brimstone” message; and I was very tempted to go with that. You know there is something about a little “hellfire and brimstone” that would just make my day, but, I’m going to demur – at least for the moment.
            Instead, something caught my eye in the National Catholic Register the other week that piqued my interest. It was a story about the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Like his counterpart on the Democratic ticket, and the incumbent vice president, Gov. Pence was born and raised a Catholic. Unlike the other two, who have – shall we say – reinterpreted some Catholic moral teaching – Gov. Pence hasn’t. But also unlike the other two, he has left the Church.
            He was raised in a strong Irish-Catholic family, was an altar boy and even considered becoming a priest. But when he got to college -- he says in an interview, he turned his life over to Christ and sought a more personal relationship with him. Thus he was led to an Evangelical Protestant church.
            Now that, in and of itself, is just a mildly interesting story about a current political figure. At least until you consider some of the statistics that pertain to this story.
            A recent Pew Research survey found that 13% of adults raised Catholic now consider themselves evangelicals. In fact, Pew has found that among those leaving the Church, most have affiliated with another church and predominant among them are evangelical churches. The reason most given is that they are seeking a “more personal” relationship with God. Seventy-one percent of them said their spiritual needs were not being met in the Catholic Church.
            Now these are findings that just boggle the mind, especially considering that, like Gov. Pence, these are sincere people that have a strong faith and value system.
            So the question I ask is “why?” What has happened?” After all, this is the Church founded on the Apostle Peter – we’ve been in the business of bringing people to God for 2,000 years – evangelical churches are relatively new upstarts, what do they know that we might have misplaced or forgotten?
            Sherry Weddell, is the director of the Catherine of Siena Institute, which is dedicated to equipping parishes for the evangelization and formation of lay Catholics. She is also the author of the book “Forming Intentional Disciples.” She relates a story of a Catholic man who was in full-time ministry forming clergy who told her that until he read her book he didn’t realize it was possible to have a personal relationship with God.
            You know, since the time of Vatican II the Church has tried to become less clerical and more lay-involved. While we’re not a do-it-yourself church, the idea is that the laity will find for themselves ways utilizing the framework of the Church, its teachings, dogmas, sacraments, and the like to make a personal journey of faith and therefore to draw closer to God. While some do that very well, many others feel comfortable with just the basics – not willing to stray too far from Sunday Mass attendance and the reception of the Eucharist. Still others, like Gov. Pence, may feel frustrated, wanting more on their faith journey.
            So how do we translate all this? How do we – and I hate to phrase it this way – become more evangelical? In fact, that’s not a bad way to phrase it: How do we become Catholic evangelicals?
            Well, I know a lot of evangelicals, especially in my work with drug and alcohol dependents and prisoners, and now with Catholic media. I also know a number of evangelical ministers. So let me give you three things that I see them do that I think some of us miss in the hustle of our busy lives, especially those who would like to have a closer relationship with God and a more satisfying spiritual life.
            The first is that they read scripture on a regular basis. I know many Catholics who only read and hear scripture from the Sunday readings. Folks, that’s not enough. Evangelical friends of mine tell me that they won’t start their day without reading from the bible for at least 15 minutes. Many will read it again at night or on their lunch breaks, and some do it as part of a family gathering.
            Now I understand that we Catholics have developed a reputation of non-bible readers. A lot of that comes from our history: there were no printing presses for the first 1,500 years of our existence; and, until recently the literacy rates were such that most people couldn’t read a bible even if they could get one.
            That is not true today. There are many inexpensive editions of the bible that you can easily obtain – some are paperback versions that you can highlight and write in without ruining that big old family bible that you keep for show but is too awkward to read. Anytime I’ve been with an evangelical I’ve always noticed how worn their bible is and how much highlighting and hand written notes were in it.
            So number one, if you are seeking more spiritual growth or a closer relationship with God, get yourself a bible and read it! You will be surprised how much more sense everything here will make when you read what God has said to us through his inspired authors.
            Second is a good prayer life. We’re taking a survey on prayer this week – so please make sure you take part. People that I know who have a deep relationship with God are people who have a well developed prayer life. They are in almost constant prayer – and it’s not just prayer when they need something; it is grateful prayer for what they do have even if by our standards it may be very little. They know where their bounty comes from, are generally satisfied, and grateful.
            Now we have a chapel – open 24 hours – where you can come face-to-face with Jesus and open yourself to him. It’s a wonderful place to come and read scripture. But whether you do it here or in the privacy of your own room, it is something that we all need to do. And there are all sorts of things this parish does to help you, including our upcoming Christ Renews His Parish weekend retreats that are guaranteed to deepen your faith; and if you come, we’ll even give you a new bible.
            The third thing I see is that evangelicals are not afraid to evangelize. They are not shy about talking about their faith. Now I know some can be a bit obnoxious about it, and I’m certainly not suggesting that you start going door-to-door asking neighbors if they really know Christ. But when the subject comes up in conversation – and in today’s culture it surely will – don’t shy away: stick up for our beliefs, kindly and in a pastoral way, but firmly.
            People should know you are a Christian and why. There is nothing to be ashamed of or fearful about. Be faithful in you conversations, after all, you might open someone else’s eyes, mind, and heart to who this Jesus really is.
            And when we do these things we’ll understand better the message we get from scripture. We’ll understand the message from our second reading today about accepting God’s discipline – that it’s not to punish but to train in virtue – and we’ll better understand God’s concept of entering through the narrow gate and how to more easily spot the “false teachers” Jesus warns us of over and over – especially in today’s culture where it is assumed that the easy path – not the narrow gate – is the way to happiness – and that very real people, like those Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel, do go to Hell.
            So I think we can learn something from our evangelical friends that will help us on our journey: Know and read the bible; develop a deep and spiritual prayer life; and don’t deny your faith by your silence.
            Unfortunately today’s society does not put much stock in Jesus and his message – you only need to read a daily newspaper or watch the evening news. Personal gratification – not unity with Christ – is being preached by the high priests of secularism. God is being separated from his people and put into a box that we dare not open.
            The Gospel message is being parsed and we are taught to accept those things that lead to the wide, not the narrow, gate. And in doing so we are being asked to become our own savior, replacing the man who hung on a cross for three hours for us.
            But that won’t work for those filled with the evangelical spirit. They understand through their deep relationship and knowledge of God what the truth really is.
            Those who follow society through the wide gate will hear the words of today’s Gospel, “I do not know you … depart from me … there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
            But those filled with the Spirit of God, those who truly seek to know him better and follow his truth, and whose faith is strong enough to resist societal pressures, will hear different words: “Well done, my good and faithful friend.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Raleigh’s City Counsel aborts pregnancy center plans

RALEIGH, NC – Attorneys representing Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center filed a federal lawsuit this week challenging the Raleigh City Council’s decision prohibiting the pregnancy help center from providing women free pregnancy education and support. The Hand of Hope location is next to an abortion clinic, Preferred Women’s Health on Jones Franklin Road. Hand of Hope is a not-for-profit, pro-life ministry which shares God’s love and free resources with women facing the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy.   

“Pregnant women in Raleigh should be allowed to choose Hand of Hopes’ free help and support and should not be limited to an abortion clinic. Those who go to Preferred Women’s Health will not be fully informed about their choices.” said Hand of Hope’s Executive Director Tonya Baker Nelson.

Earlier this year, Hand of Hope went through the zoning process and obtained favorable votes from the Citizen Advisory Council and Planning Commission. From a land use perspective, the Planning Commission and City Zoning Staff unanimously found that Hand of Hope’s use was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and compatible with the surrounding area. In fact, Hand of Hope was pleased that the City’s official plan adopted in 2013 was to rezone the property that would have allowed for the ministry’s needs. Nevertheless, the City Council ignored its own staff, the Planning Commission and Citizen Advisory Council and voted to deny Hand of Hope’s zoning request on July 5, 2016. Though the City’s plan is to eventually rezone the property, the City Council indicated that it would be “premature” to rezone it now.    

The City Council and City Attorney further defended the decision by citing their power and “wide discretion” to decide what is the best use for Hand of Hope’s property. The lawsuit however claims that the City’s power and discretion is limited by the United States Constitution and the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act. This federal law was passed in 2000 after Congress uncovered widespread discrimination against religious organizations in land use regulations across the country. 

“The City Council is not above the law and tried to hide their political power play. Thankfully, the federal law was put in place to prevent politicians from masking their political preferences behind broad discretionary regulations,” said attorney Noel Sterett of Mauck & Baker in Chicago, representing Hand of Hope. “I hope we can all agree that our freedoms, property rights, and a woman’s right to be fully informed should not be subject to the political whims and discretion of a few city council members,” added Sterett. 

Read the lawsuit filed by Mauck & Baker in Federal Court here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Journalists seek to lift injunction on release of University of Washington fetal tissue research records

Thomas More Society filings say federal court has
no jurisdiction to halt public records release

This week, Thomas More Society attorneys filed papers in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington seeking to lift a temporary injunction against release of public records related to the University of Washington’s Birth Defects Research Laboratory and its use of aborted fetal body parts. The university and lab were the recipients of an open records request as part of an investigation into their acquisition of fetal tissue
and organs. A group of abortion clinic personnel and public employees, supported by the University of Washington itself, responded by seeking restraining orders and court injunctions to stop the release of public records. The initial request for records was made by undercover journalist and head of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden, who over the past year has exposed Planned Parenthood’s role in the trafficking of baby body parts. 

“The people have a right to know how their government is run,” explained Peter Breen, Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “The plaintiffs here work at a taxpayer-funded state university, and their work is subject to the same sunshine and open records laws as any other government employee. We have filed papers with the court demanding the lifting of the temporary injunction against release of the public’s records and dismissal of this frivolous lawsuit.” 

The attorneys for Daleiden noted the following points in documents submitted to the court: 

  • Public employees and those doing business with the government have no federal or state constitutional right to privacy in connection with their work for a state agency which is subject to broad open records law.
  • The State of Washington’s commitment to openness in government does not allow redaction of names of public employees and those doing business with the government.
  • The plaintiffs’ claims related to the public records act must be heard by the Washington state courts and not federal courts.
Daleiden and his lawyers filed two responses to the plaintiffs’ motions for temporary injunctions, a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and a declaration by Daleiden detailing the involvement of the University of Washington in aborted fetal parts research. The Thomas More Society filings assert that Washington’s Public Records Act does not allow for the restraining orders and injunctive relief requested by plaintiffs, along with detailing the lawsuit’s lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted.  

“The abortion clinic and fetal tissue personnel who brought this lawsuit should not be allowed to prevent the people of the State of Washington from monitoring their government’s involvement in the national controversy over aborted fetal body parts,” added Breen. “These plaintiffs seek to stop release of records owned by the public, but the Washington Public Records Act requires transparency and openness, not obfuscation and delay. We are confident that the public’s right to know will be vindicated in court.” 

Read last night’s filings:


About the Thomas More Society

The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit www.thomasmoresociety.org.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The plight of Christians in the Mid-East -- Next on FOT

This week we are turning our attention to the plight of Christians in Nigeria, Africa, and other points in the Mid-East with Ann Buwalda, executive director of Jubilee Campaign USA, a non-profit organization which promotes the human rights and religious liberty of ethnic and religious minorities such as those in Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Nigeria, China, North Korea and others.

Ann is an experienced immigration attorney with U.S. business visas, religious worker visas, family-based petitions, and asylum and refugee cases.  She has served as adjunct professor teaching Immigration Law at Regent University in 1996 and teaching International Religious Freedom Law in 2011.  From 2002-2009 she annually taught Refugee and Human Rights Law as an adjunct professor at Handong International Law School in Korea. She has also given numerous immigration law presentations for professional associations, and her immigration law related published articles include: Immigration Law and the Church: How to Welcome the Stranger, Legally, Church Law & Tax Report, Nov/Dec 2010, (feature article published by Christianity Today International) and "Strangers Among Us: How Immigration Law Affects the Church," Enlightenment, Spring 2010 (published in "Church & Law: Navigating the Legal Maze" special issue).
Jubilee Campaign works to promote and protect vulnerable women and children from bodily harm and sexual exploitation, paying particular attention to the scourge of human trafficking or modern slavery. Jubilee Campaign holds consultative status at the United Nations from the Economic and Social Council.
Join Deacon Mike Manno and Gina as they discuss these religious freedom issues with Ann on Faith On Trial Tuesday at 9 a.m. (Central) on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming on IowaCatholicRadio.com, where podcasts of earlier programs can be found. The program will be rebroadcast at 9 p.m.
FOTis brought to you by our loyal sponsors: Attorney Rick McConville, Coppola, McConville, Coppola, Carroll, Hockenberg & Scalise PC 2100 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines, 515-453-1055; and Confluence Brewing Company – off the Bike Trail just south of Grey’s Lake, 1235 Thomas Beck Road where there is live entertainment in the tap room every Thursday.