Sunday, March 30, 2014

Next FOT: An analysis of the Hobby Lobby arguments before the Supreme Court by the chief trial attorney for the Thomas More Law Center

Erin Mersino
This week on Faith on Trial Erin Mersino, senior trial counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, who was in the courtroom when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the HHS Mandate by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, will give us her impression of how the case was argued and what might be the eventual outcome.

Erin has filed 11 federal lawsuits challenging the HHS Mandate and won only the second injunction against its enforcement.  She also had submitted an amicus brief to the court on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.  Erin, who is a frequent guest on our program, recently won the “Defender of the Faith” award by Legatus, the nation’s largest organization of top Catholic business owners. She also represented Fr. Ray Leonard, a contract Navy Chaplain who the government banned from saying Mass during the recent government shut-down and threatened with arrest if he volunteered to celebrate Mass or enter the chapel.
Join Deacon Mike Manno and Gina Noll as they interview Erin about what she saw and heard during the Supreme Court arguments.  Tuesday at 9 & 9 (CDT) on 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on

Friday, March 28, 2014

Catholic colleges join Pacific Lutheran University to challenge NLRB ruling

The Cardinal Newman Society, joined by several faithful Catholic colleges, today made a strong plea to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), urging it to abide by the U.S. Constitution and stop interfering with religious education.

The signers intervened in a possible landmark case involving Pacific Lutheran University, which a regional NLRB director found to be insufficiently religious to be exempt from NLRB oversight of employee relations, despite the University’s clear ties to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and prior federal rulings against NLRB harassment of religious colleges.
Although the case involves a Lutheran university, The Cardinal Newman Society has documented decades of NLRB violations of religious freedoms that affected Catholic colleges and universities.  Four Catholic institutions—Duquesne University, Manhattan College, Saint Xavier University and Seattle University—are currently opposing NLRB jurisdiction over their employee negotiations, and the Pacific Lutheran case could signal whether religious colleges will have to sue the NLRB in federal court to defend their constitutional rights.

The amicus brief was authored by expert attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom: “Religious organizations have the right of autonomy over their internal governance, the right to be treated the same as all other religious groups and denominations by the government, and the right to be free from government meddling and intrusion in their operations and beliefs,” the attorneys write.
But they note that the NLRB regional director asserted jurisdiction over Pacific Lutheran based on an intrusive investigation and a conclusion that the University “was simply not religious enough to qualify” for exemption from oversight.  “This very inquiry violates the First Amendment guarantees of religious autonomy, denominational neutrality and avoidance of excessive entanglement of government with religion,” the Catholic colleges argue.

Since 2011—well before the Obama administration’s HHS mandate fueled national concern for the constitutional rights of religious organizations—The Cardinal Newman Society has vocally opposed the NLRB’s attempts to measure the religious character of religious institutions.
“For two decades, The Cardinal Newman Society has advocated stronger Catholic identity in Catholic schools and colleges, and we agree that many of the historically religious colleges targeted by the NLRB could do much more to provide a faithful education,” said Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society.  “But no federal agency has the constitutional authority to make any judgment about the strength of religious instruction, and then to multiply its violations of the First Amendment by regulating employee policies that necessarily involve religious questions.”

Lawsuit challenges disqualification of signatures seeking referendum on California’s Co-ed Bathroom Bill; one signature is that of attorney supporting the peition

The Pacific Justice Institute, as part of the Privacy for All Students coalition, has filed suit challenging the disqualification of more than 131,000 signatures for the referendum efforts against the Co-ed Bathroom Bill. The suit asserts that thousands of signatures—including that of a PJI attorney and more than enough to place the referendum on the ballot—were unlawfully thrown out by election officials.

Brad Dacus, a frequent Faith on Trial guest and president of PJI, said, "It's unfortunate when the Secretary of State and other election officials in their official capacity treat a referendum effort as a partisan debate. It is not. It's about letting the voice of the people be heard. We want to make sure every signature is counted, and every voice is heard."

The suit seeks to have the Secretary of State Debra Bowen certify the referendum for the November 2014 ballot. It notes that election officials have unlawfully disqualified signatures, causing thousands of voters to be disenfranchised.

This isn't the first time that relief had to be sought in the courts against Bowen. In December, Pacific Justice was part of the legal team that filed suit against Bowen for refusing to count any of the signatures in two counties claiming that they arrived after the deadline. Judge Allen Sumner ordered that the signatures from the two counties be counted.

One of the signatures currently disqualified one is that of PJI Attorney Matthew McReynolds. The reasoning was based on the fact that his signature did not match a prior one on file—something plausible as McReynolds has become blind over the last few years.

AB 1266, the law these referendum efforts seek to overturn, would require all public schools in California to allow self-identified transgender students to choose the bathrooms and locker rooms they want to use, as well as the sports teams they want to join, regardless of their anatomical sex or objections by others.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Push Back – Billboard Asks, “Air Force Cadets, Are You Free to Say So Help Me God?”

In response to recent attacks on the religious freedom of Christian cadets at the Air Force Academy, the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition has posted a billboard near the Academy supporting the religious freedom of Christian cadets.

The billboard asks, Air Force cadets, “Are you free to say so help me God? They did” against a background of the four presidents carved on Mount Rushmore.

The sign’s message relates to the removal of the phrase "so help me God" from the official cadet handbook as well as the recent removal of a Bible verse from a cadet’s personal whiteboard.

Concerning the recent affronts to religious freedom, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council (FRC) and former Faith on Trial guest, stated: "Christian cadets at the Air Force Academy have the constitutional right to express their individual faith. If such faith scares faculty at the Academy, then it is unlikely they will be very effective when confronted by a committed enemy who is willing to die for his or her beliefs.”

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of The Thomas More Law Center added, “We’ve all heard the adage, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes.’  That’s because the history of our nation evidences the fact that in the end victory depends on the spirit of our soldiers, not on the sophistication of our war machines.  As General George S. Patton, one of America’s greatest battlefield generals once declared, ‘Wars might be fought with weapons, but they are won by men.  It is the spirit of the men who leads that gains the victory.’”

Other events at the Air Force Academy have also indicated a hostile attitude toward Christians in the Air Force Academy including preferred treatment of an event sponsored by an Academy Atheists club, which led conservative commentator Todd Starnes to wonder, “if those in charge of the Air Force Academy believe the only good cadets are godless cadets.”

Unfortunately, the anti-Christian hostilities at the Air Force Academy are part of what Rev. Franklin Graham called a move “to completely secularize our military.” The Military Religious Freedom Coalition listed a series of affronts to Christian Religious Freedom in the Military in their report “A Clear and Present Danger.” 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

FOT guest, in courtroom during hearing, hopeful Justice Kennedy will side with Hobby Lobby and Religious Freedom

Thomas More Law Center Senior Trial Counsel, Erin Mersino, a frequent guest on Faith on Trail, was in the U. S. Supreme
Erin Mersino
Court gallery yesterday, as the Court heard the historic oral arguments regarding challenges to the HHS Mandate filed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp.

Mersino observed, “There was a division amongst the Court.  Justice Kagan was clearly advocating to uphold the Mandate, while Justices Scalia, Roberts, and Alito recognized how the Mandate violated the plaintiffs’ freedom of religion.”

Continued Mersino, “But based on comments of the various Justices, and particularly, Justice Kennedy, I am hopeful that religious freedom will prevail with the majority of the Court. The government argued that the Mandate was necessary but never supported why the Mandate was a necessity—this is because it is not.  There are a number of alternatives available to the government which would not involve stripping people of their religious freedom.”

The arguments in these historic cases on religious freedom, lasted for approximately 90 minutes. 

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga were represented by attorney Paul Clement who responded to questions from the Justices ranging from vaccinations and blood transfusions to what other options were available for the employers and employees.  The argument also highlighted that millions of companies were already given exemptions from the Mandate, such as non-profit corporations and other similarly situated for-profit corporations, without hesitation, thus making it more suspect why people such as the plaintiffs could not, also, be granted an exemption.

Arguments for the HHS Mandate were presented by Solicitor General Donald Verilli whose position that the government has a compelling interest in forcing employers to pay for morally objectionable contraceptives was weakened by a discussion of the many exemptions to the HHS Mandate that have been offered. The HHS Mandate requires employers to provide employee health insurance plans which include abortion-causing forms of birth control, despite religious objection, or submit to draconian fines.

Mersino has filed 11 federal lawsuits challenging the HHS Mandate and also submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court supporting Hobby Lobby and Conestoga’s position that the HHS Mandate represents a violation of religious liberty under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Mersino observed in a brief analysis of the arguments that, “The argument began with Justice Sotomayor cutting off Paul Clement during the introduction of his argument and asking a hypothetical question about a future plaintiff potentially holding a religious objection to providing vaccinations.  This was beyond the facts posed by the case before the court; however later in the argument, Justice Alito stated that there was already federal funding in place for employees who needed the vaccinations of which Justice Sotomayor complained.”

Mersino continued, “The most disturbing comment from the Court came from Justice Kagan.  The Justice advocated the idea that the plaintiffs pay multi-millions in tax penalties by not offering any insurance to their employees because the plaintiffs could save more money by increasing employee wages and paying the millions in tax penalties over the cost of insurance.  The Justice claimed that this could be a financial ‘wash’ for the plaintiffs.  This argument displayed Justice Kagan’s lack of any experience in the business world and a misunderstanding of plaintiffs’ religious beliefs.  The plaintiffs feel obligated to take care of their employees.  Forcing plaintiffs to forego insurance for their employees not only would devastate their business and take away any competitive advantage in maintaining employees who seek health insurance from their employer, it would also force the plaintiffs into the grave moral dilemma of cancelling health care for all of their employees.  Surely, if political differences could be put aside, this would not be the desired outcome of any Supreme Court Justice.”

Many court observers share Mersino’s view that the outcome will hinge on Justice Kennedy. Concerning the possible outcome of the arguments, Mersino is hopeful, saying, “I believe that the ultimate decision will come down to Justice Kennedy.  I am hopeful that he will recognize that the Mandate is the government forcing individuals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs or pay millions of dollars in penalties. The issue really is that simple. Further, the Mandate was not a decision made not by any act of Congress.  The Mandate, instead, is the product of a government appointee from the Obama Administration, which has never been the subject of a legislative vote.  Should a presidential appointee be allowed to dictate what religious values and beliefs Americans can hold and practice?”

The Supreme Court’s ruling is expected in June 2014.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Vatican cardinal on Obama’s attack on religion

Cardinal Raymond Burke
Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and the former Archbishop of St. Louis, on President Obama’s policies against religious freedom:

“It is true that the policies of the president of the United States have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies.
“Now [Obama] wants to restrict the exercise of the freedom of religion to freedom of worship, that is, he holds that one is free to act according to his conscience within the confines of his place of worship but that, once the person leaves the place of worship, the government can constrain him to act against his rightly-formed conscience, even in the most serious of moral questions. Such policies would have been unimaginable in the United States even 40 years ago.

“It is my hope that more and more of my fellow citizens, as they realize what is happening, will insist on electing leaders who respect the truth of the moral law as it is respected in the founding principles of our nation.”

Supreme Court hears landmark Hobby Lobby case; Barbara Green, Hobby Lobby co-founder, issues statement

David & Barbara Green, Hobby Lobby co-founders
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the landmark case Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, determining whether individuals lose their religious freedom when they open a family business. 

At issue is the Health and Human Service (HHS) Mandate which requires David and Barbara Green and their family business Hobby Lobby to provide and facilitate four potential life-terminating drugs and devices in their health insurance plan, against their religious convictions, or pay severe fines to the IRS. 

“Our family started Hobby Lobby built on our faith and together as a family.  We’ve kept that tradition for more than forty years and we want to continue to live out our faith in the way we do business,” said Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby.  “The choice that the government has forced on us is out of step with the history of our great nation founded on religious freedom.  We believe that no American should lose their religious freedom just because they open a family business.  We are thankful that the Supreme Court has heard our case, and we prayerfully await the justices’ decision.”

Founded in an Oklahoma City garage in 1972, the Green family has grown Hobby Lobby from one 300-square-foot retail space into more than 500 stores in over 40 states.  Devout Christians, the Green family believes that “it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured” and seek to run their company “in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”  This includes closing on Sundays and generous treatment of their employees with full-time hourly workers starting at 90 percent above the federal minimum wage. The Greens and their family businesses have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives under the HHS mandate, and will continue to provide a broad range of contraceptives at no additional cost to their employees.

“No one should be forced to give up their constitutionally protected civil rights just to open a family business,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund for ReligiousLiberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby. “This case demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the government’s efforts to strip this family business of its religious rights represent a gross violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.”

In court former United States Solicitor General Paul Clement argued on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, two family businesses whose cases were consolidated before the court. Clement argued that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and that nothing in the law excludes these family businesses and their owners from religious freedom protections.

The Court is expected to rule on the case before the end of its current term in June.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Can the state force the teaching of the state’s version of religion?

Something different on this week’s Faith on Trial: We’re going to be discussing a case 
Brett Harvey
before the Canadian Supreme Court which may have an impact on religious freedom in the United States.

In July 2008, the Quebec government introduced a new program, “Ethics and Religious Culture,” which requires all public and private schools to present all religions, including Wicca and pagan rites, as equally valid.  The program also prohibits teachers from expressing a preference for any particular faith, even at a private religious school.

A Jesuit high school had asked for an exemption from the government which was refused.  The case is now headed to Canada’s top court.

Joining us Tuesday to discuss this case will be Brett Harvey, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom at its headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. Harvey has assisted state and local governments on issues involving public invocations, and he has successfully represented clients defending First Amendment rights, as well as the right to life.

Join Deacon Mike Manno and co-host Gina Noll Tuesday morning live at 9 (CDT) or the re-broadcast at 9 p.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM.  Both programs will stream live on

Iowa Catholic Men's Conference: Faith for the Journey offers more than just talks for men

Is God tugging at your heart, urging you to something better

Last year’s successful Iowa Catholic Men’s Conference, sparked not only the second annual day of inspiration, prayer and fellowship for men, but branches out to couples, parents and teens. The conference planners recognize the need for ‘family catechises’ so they contracted their speakers to talk at separate events and audiences while in the Des Moines area.

“Although focused on men’s spirituality, we are dedicated to faith-fill families. We decided that we could leverage our great speakers by contracting them to speak at other varied faith events in the area. This is a great opportunity for parents and teens to hear from national catholic speakers on topics that affect them.” said Deacon Tom Bradley. “We are not a ‘one trick pony’, we understand that men have spouses and children who form a family of faith. We have coordinated with Diocesan staff to create unique opportunities. We hope you’ll be inspired by their faith journey and take up the invitation to reflect on God’s plan for your family.”

Conference speakers sharing will be at these additional events:

  • Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio, director of The Crossroads Initiative, is speaking to parents/couples on “Keeping Your Kids Catholic”, Friday, March 28th at Sacred Heart in West Des Moines. Program is 7 to 8:30pm. Child care available. Admission is free.
  • Mario St. Francis, in addition to emceeing our conference Spanish language tract, will speak to students at Dowling Catholic High School on the afternoon of Friday, March 28th on his story “A fashion model becomes a model for Christ”.
  • Matt Fradd, an experienced Catholic apologist, will speak to teens, young adults and parents on “Shattering the Five Myths About Pornography”. This free event is 1:00pm Sunday, March 30th in the Dowling Catholic High School cafeteria. Pizza will be served prior, starting at 2:30.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

FOT follow-up: DA presses charges against prof who stole pro-life poster

The Santa Barbara district attorney filed charges of grand theft, battery, and vandalism Friday against Professor Mireille Miller-Young for violence she committed against young pro-life activists who held a peaceful outreach on the UC Santa Barbara campus March 4th.

Tuesday our program guest was Joan Short, one of the pro-life volunteers whose sign was stolen. Joan and others were handing out pro-life literature in what was designated by the university as a free speech zone.

The professor claimed that she set a good example when she attempted to incite students to violence and initiated the theft of the sign.  

The pro-life student group sponsoring the event said it hopes that the University of California at Santa Barbara – where Professor Miller-Young is employed – will remove her from any position of authority. 

See our earlier stories below: Sunday March 16 & Tuesday March 18.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wow! This nun rocks!

Remember the nuns we had in grammar school? I’m sure for most of us they were not like this one.  She is Sister Cristina Scuccia, 25, and a member of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family in Italy. Here she is appearing on “The voice of Italy” the Italian version of “American Idol.”  You don’t have to understand Italian to know what is going on.

During the program the judges have their backs turned to the performer then turn around when they like what they hear. You can see the visible astonishment on their faces as they saw that the performer was a young nun. The way the program runs, after the judges approve the performer, the performer then chooses one of the judges’ teams to be on for the rest of the contest.  Sr. Cristina chose J-Ax’s team because he was the first judge to turn around.
The largest ovation from the audience came when one of the judges, singer Raffaella Carra, asked Sr. Cristina if she was a real nun and why she was doing this.

 “Yes, I am truly, truly a sister,” she replied. “I came here because I have a gift and I want to share that gift. I am here to evangelize.”
Momma mia, indeed!

Federal jury says college retaliated against professor over religious beliefs

A federal jury in Greenville, N.C. found Thursday that the University of North Carolina
Professor Adams
–Wilmington retaliated against one of its professors for his religious views.

We covered this story on Tuesday’s edition of Faith on Trial.
The professor, Dr. Mike Adams, a former atheist, had frequently received accolades from his colleagues after the university hired him as an assistant professor in 1993 and promoted him to associate professor in 1998. His conversion to Christianity in 2000 impacted his views on political and social issues. Subsequently, the university subjected Adams to a campaign of academic persecution that culminated in his denial of promotion to full professor, despite an award-winning record of teaching, research, and service.

“We are grateful that the jury today reaffirmed the fundamental principle that universities are a marketplace of ideas, not a place where professors face retaliation for having a different view than university officials,” said Alliance Defending Freedom litigation staff counsel Travis Barham. “As the jury decided, disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s religious and political views is no grounds for denying him a promotion.”

“The jury saw what we have long known to be true about the wrong done to Dr. Adams,” said senior legal counsel David Hacker. “The verdict is a powerful message for academic freedom and free speech at America’s public universities.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Can Canada force Catholic schools to teach contrary to its beliefs? Can this happen in the United States? Or is it already?

OTTAWA, Ontario — An Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney filed a brief last week with the Supreme Court of Canada in defense of a private Catholic high school being forced to teach a government-mandated ethics and religion course that includes teaching contrary to Catholic belief.

In July 2008, the Quebec government introduced a new program, “Ethics and Religious Culture,” which it requires to be taught in all public and private schools. The program presents all religions, including Wicca and pagan rites, as equally valid. The government is also prohibiting teachers from expressing a preference for any particular faith, even at private, religious schools.

“This school does not object to educating students about the diversity of faiths and what makes each faith distinctive, but the government should not require a Catholic school to tell its students that the Catholic faith is no more valid than a myriad of conflicting faith traditions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Brett Harvey, next week’s guest on Faith on Trial. “All faith-based institutions must be free to speak and act consistently with their faith,” he said.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

This morning on Faith on Trial; to be rebroadcast tonight

Rachel Pierick
Elizabeth learning the board
We had another interesting program this morning discussing student involvement in campus pro-life activities.  Our telephone guest was Joan Short, a junior at Thomas Aquinas College, who recently made national news when a college professor stole her pro-life sign and assaulted her sister in the “free speech zone” at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where the two were part of a pro-life event (our earlier post contains a video of the episode).  Our in-studio guest was Dowling Catholic sophomore Rachel Pierick who attended the annual March for Life in Washington, DC  last January and is a committed pro-life volunteer.  Additionally, we had a special guest in the studio, Elizabeth Noll, a third-grader at St. Augustin School and daughter of FOT co-host Gina Noll.  Today’s program will be re-broadcast tonight at 9 (CST) on 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on

Don't be conned!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Take a stand for freedom & morality on this St. Patrick’s Day!

From our friends at the American Freedom Law Center:

As you are probably aware, there is an ongoing controversy between homosexual activists and the private sponsors of the St. Patrick’s Day parades in Boston and New York.  The controversy began as far back as 1992 when the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, a private association of individuals elected from various veterans groups which had a permit from the City of Boston to organize and conduct the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, refused a place in the 1993 event to a homosexual activist group—the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB)—which was formed for the purpose of marching in the parade in order to express its members’ pro-homosexual message—a message that the private sponsors of the parade did not want conveyed during this family event.  (N.B. The private sponsors did not allow any political messages during the parades).

Refusing to take “no” for an answer, GLIB did what every other pro-homosexual group does when it doesn’t get its way.  It filed a lawsuit in state court, alleging that the denial of its application to march violated, inter alia, a state law prohibiting discrimination on account of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation.  Bear in mind, GLIB wasn’t asserting a constitutional right of any sort as against the government.  GLIB wanted to force a private organization (the Council) to accept its message and, consequently, the immoral lifestyle of its members.  Sound familiar?  Not surprising, the Massachusetts state trial court found such a violation and ordered the Council to include GLIB in the parade.  And the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (Massachusetts’ version of a state supreme court, which, by the way, was the first to rule that same-sex “marriage” was a right as a matter of state constitutional law) affirmed.  Again, no real surprise there.

The case, however, made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  And in a unanimous 1995 decision delivered by liberal Justice David Souter (Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston) the high court held that the state courts’ application of the Massachusetts public accommodations law to require private citizens who organize a parade to include among the marchers a group imparting a message that the organizers do not wish to convey violates the First Amendment.

So it is that when the Mayors of Boston and New York refuse to march in a parade because the private parade organizers are exercising their fundamental right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, these politicians are taking a stand against freedom (and against morality).  And the same is true for the beer companies (Guinness, Sam Adams, and Heineken) that have boycotted these events.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Professor attacks pro-life students on campus: Next Faith On Trial

On March 4, Joan Short, a student a Thomas Aquinas College and a member of a pro-life student group, along with her younger sister, Thrin, were handing out pro-life literature in a “free speech zone” on the campus of the University of California Santa Barbara when a professor of feminist studies approached and took their sign which showed images of aborted babies.  The professor also assaulted the younger sister as she tried to reclaim the poster. The professor took the poster to her office where she destroyed it; she now faces prosecution for theft and assault.

On Tuesday we will have Joan Short as our guest to tell the story and to urge young people to become involved in the pro-life movement.  In addition, in-studio we will have Dowling Catholic students Abby Dowd and Rachel Pierick, both involved in the pro-life movement who took part in January’s March for Life in Washington.
Join Deacon Mike Manno and co-host Gina Noll Tuesday morning at 9 (CDT) or our rebroadcast at 9 p.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on

A previous interview with the Short sisters is here for your viewing.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Thomas More Law Center steps-up attack on city ordinance protecting Planned Parenthood abortion facility

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, stepped-up its legal attack on a Portland, Maine city ordinance, designed to restrict pro-life speech, by adding an additional plaintiff and filing a motion yesterday for a preliminary injunction to immediately stop the enforcement of the City’s ordinance.

At issue is Portland’s Ordinance 17-108 which establishes a 39-foot “buffer zone” around the City’s only abortion facility.   Pro-life counselors are subject to a $100 fine if they enter the 39-foot radius around the facility’s entrances, including the public sidewalk. Consequently, the ordinance creates a free speech dead zone which effectively prevents pro-life counselors from compassionately reaching out to women who are contemplating an abortion or who have already had one.
The Thomas More Law Center filed the original federal lawsuit on February 12, 2014, on behalf of Marguerite and Daniel Fitzgerald, as well as two of their teenaged children. The Fitzgerald family are Evangelical Christians who have been participating in pro-life activities outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic for over a year. The buffer zone prevents them from engaging in pro-life activities motivated by their religious belief that abortion is the deliberate destruction of innocent human life.

 The newly added plaintiff, Leslie Sneddon, has engaged in sidewalk counseling at the abortion facility for over a year.  The compelling and compassionate reasons for her actions as a sidewalk counselor are revealed to the court in an affidavit:  She had four abortions and now feels compelled to peacefully counsel other women against making the same life-altering, life-ending decisions she made. She understands what they are feeling and why they are contemplating abortion.  She attempts to counsel them so they may choose life for their baby. However, with the 39-foot buffer zone she can no longer have an intimate, more private conversation.
TMLC Senior Trial Attorney Erin Mersino, a frequent guest on FOT, one of the attorneys handling the case, commented: “One of the saddest parts of this case is that Leslie who has had four abortions herself and wishes to help other post-abortive women through gentle conversation and discussion of counseling options can no longer do so.  The so-called ‘buffer zone’ makes this impossible as our client is forced to stand across a busy city street, and yell to have her message heard.  In her case, the ‘buffer zone’ has made her efforts to help women, for whom she shares a great deal of empathy, unlawful.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

Federal court strikes down law forcing pro-life counselors to advise against using their services

A federal court Friday struck down the entirety of a Maryland county’s law that forced pro-life pregnancy counselors to advise women against using their services. The court’s order prohibits the Montgomery County law from being enforced.

The ruling is another positive sign in the nationwide battle against such ordinances. Other lawsuits are currently taking place in Baltimore, New York City, San Francisco, and Austin, Texas.

“Pregnancy centers, which offer real help and hope to women, shouldn’t be punished by political allies of abortion sellers,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman, co-counsel in the case. “The court rightly found no justification whatsoever for the government to force pro-life centers to speak a message designed to drive women away. The government cannot resort to coercing or shutting down someone else’s speech in violation of the First Amendment in order to achieve its political goals.”

The Montgomery County law forced “limited-service pregnancy centers” and individuals who have a “primary purpose” of offering information about pregnancy to post signage noting that a medical professional is not on staff and that the county health department advises them to speak with a licensed medical professional. The county intentionally crafted the law so that it doesn’t apply to pro-abortion centers, such as Planned Parenthood, even if counseling is offered there by non-medical persons.

The opinion of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued in Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County explained that “the critical flaw for the County is the lack of any evidence that the practices of [the pregnancy care centers] are causing pregnant women to be misinformed which is negatively affecting their health,” adding that “when core First Amendment interests are implicated, mere intuition [of a problem] is not sufficient. Yet that is all the County has brought forth: intuition and suppositions.”

The opinion further explained that the only people who alleged a “misinformation problem” on the part of pregnancy care centers “were universally volunteers from a pro-choice organization sent to investigate [their] practices.” Despite those allegations, “there is no evidence that those women failed to get the medical services and counseling they desired or that the time spent at the [centers] was to the detriment of their health,” the court concluded.

Next FOT: Arizona’s veto of SB 1062; gay-bashing or Christian-bashing?

Tuesday morning we will take up the issues surrounding Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of SB 1062, the bill that reportedly would have either allowed citizens to legally discriminate against certain groups or would have protected the conscience of businessmen.  Joining us for that discussion is an independent writer and journalist Dexter Duggan who has followed Arizona politics for many years and is a frequent contributor to numerous publications including the national Catholic weekly, The Wanderer 

Join us Tuesday at 9 a.m. (CDT) – rebroadcast at 9 p.m. – on Iowa Catholic Radio for a discussion of these and other issues of interest to people of faith.  Faith on Trial is heard on 1150 AM, 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streams live on every Tuesday at 9 & 9.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

University settles with pro-life student group; will allow pro-life display, rescind disciplinary actions, change policies and pay students’ legal fees

In July 2012, members of Cowboys for Life at Oklahoma State University sought to reserve space for pro-life displays near the Student Union, a highly traveled area of campus that student groups regularly use for such events. OSU officials denied the club’s request because, the officials claimed, the displays might offend some people. Instead, the university relegated the displays to a less-traveled area of campus and then required Cowboys for Life to place “warning” signs around the displays.

When members of the group tried to distribute literature near the Student Union, OSU officials ordered the students to leave the area or post additional “warning” signs. After the event, officials coordinated and launched an investigation that claimed the students had violated the Student Code of Conduct.
Last year, on behalf of the students involved, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit against the university after officials there took numerous actions to impede and disrupt the group’s pro-life displays on campus.

Travis Barham 
The university has now agreed to a settlement which means pro-life student groups will no longer face disruption of their pro-life events and displays at Oklahoma State University.
“Universities should promote the free exchange of ideas, not exile views they don’t like to isolated places on campus,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham. “This settlement ensures that Oklahoma State officials will not have free reign to censor students.”

As part of the settlement, OSU agreed to update its policies and practices to respect students’ constitutionally protected freedom of expression and will treat Cowboys for Life the same as all other recognized student organizations. OSU also officially rescinded any verbal warnings against the group, made clear that the group no longer faces any investigations for supposedly violating the Student Code of Conduct, and paid for the group’s attorneys’ fees.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

DHS Tells German Homeschooling Family “You Can Stay”

The Department of Homeland Security verbally informed Home School Legal Defense
The Romeike Family
that the Romeike family is being granted indefinite deferred action status.

The Department told HSLDA that this meant the order of removal would not be acted on and that the Romeikes could stay. Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a denial of the Romeike family’s petition for certiorari to overturn a lower court’s decision to deny the family asylum in the U. S. sparking an immediate and unprecedented reaction.
HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris was thrilled.

“This is an incredible victory that I can only credit to Almighty God. I also want to thank those who spoke up on this issue—including that long ago White House petition. We believe that the public outcry made a huge impact. What an amazing turnaround—in just 24 hours,” he said.
Uwe Romeike said he is extremely grateful for the support and welcome he has received from America.  “Our entire family is deeply grateful for all the support of our friends and fellow homeschoolers and especially HSLDA. I thank God for his hand of blessing and protection over our family. We thank the American government for allowing us to stay here and to peacefully homeschool our children—it’s all we ever wanted.”

HSLDA Director of International Affairs Mike Donnelly pointed out that the only reason the Romeikes had to come to America was because of Germany’s repressive policy towards homeschoolers.
“Germany’s persecution of homeschooling parents continues and is one reason, I suspect, that DHS was willing to grant the family indefinite status,” Donnelly said. “How could our country send this loving peaceful family back to be crushed by outrageous fines, criminal prosecution, and the loss of their children? Today Germany is holding another family prisoner only because they wanted to leave to go to France to homeschool their children. How could we send the Romeikes back to be treated like that?”

Donnelly continued, “HSLDA is determined to continue working in support of beleaguered homeschooling families in Germany and other countries. The right of parents to decide how their children should be educated is a fundamental human right. The United States got it right in this case, and we call on Germany to change its policy so that parents in Germany can homeschool their children in peace.”

Our pro-life unplanned pregnancy & STD clinic

On the program today we discussed how this particular pro-life pregnancy clinics work and I promised to post the contact information for our local center – I serve on the board of directors and this clinic is both pro-life and pro-woman. There is also a link to the clinic’s web page:

InnerVisions HealthCare, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization :: 1355 50th St, Suite 400 :: West Des Moines, IA 50266 :: Phone (515) 440-CARE (2273) ::

This is the reception area -- the clinic is very comfortable and welcoming

Monday, March 3, 2014

Supreme Court refuses to hear German homeschooling case; Justice department will deport family unless last minute appeal to congress is successful

Last October we brought you the story of a German family that had sought asylum in the United States so that they could home school their children, something that is unlawful in Germany.  Despite an initial ruling that granted the family asylum, the Obama Administration fought the ruling and last year the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the asylum request.

Today the Supreme Court refused to hear the family’s appeal. Barring action by Congress, the family will be returned to Germany.

Michael P. Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, released the following statement”

“Today, the United States Supreme Court declined to review Uwe and Hannelore Romeike’s asylum case. We knew it was an uphill battle since the Court only accepts 80–100 out of nearly 10,000 requests each year. While we are disappointed, the court’s decision in no way changes our commitment to fight for the Romeikes and homeschooling freedom. The court’s decision is not a decision on the merits of the case—however, it was the last judicial hope for the family.

“But we will not give up and see this family returned to Germany where they will face certain persecution. Even now, we have been working with supportive members of Congress to introduce legislation that could help the Romeikes and others who flee persecution. We will keep you informed as the legislation progresses. We will undoubtedly need your help at the right time. Although our judicial efforts on behalf of this courageous family are over for now, we are resolved to fight on for them and homeschooling freedom.”