Friday, July 29, 2016

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signs SB1564 into law: A blow to conscience rights in Illinois

Friday, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law SB 1564, which will force medical personnel and pro-life pregnancy resource centers to refer their patients for abortion and to discuss the “benefits” of abortion with them, in spite of the fact that for all pro-life pregnancy centers and for many doctors and other medical professionals doing so is in direct conflict with their consciences.

Ann Scheidler, Vice President, Pro-Life Action League, issued the following statement on behalf of the League:

“We have learned that, sadly, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law SB 1564, which will force medical personnel and pro-life pregnancy resource centers to refer their patients for abortion and to discuss the “benefits” of abortion with them, in spite of the fact that for all pro-life pregnancy centers and for many doctors and other medical professionals doing so is in direct conflict with their consciences.

“Gov. Rauner had promised during his campaign for office that he would steer clear of social issues. We knew he was not with us on abortion, but trusted that he would not undermine efforts to protect conscience rights and to enact measures that ensured the safety of women.  Not one Republican voted for this anti-conscience bill. Rauner has chosen to side with the pro-abortion Democrats in Springfield, rather than his own party.

“The pro-life movement in Illinois mounted a massive phone, email and letter writing campaign urging Rauner to veto SB 1564. Planned Parenthood and its pro-abortion cronies in the feminist camp ran their own campaign to get him to sign the bill into law.

“This is sad and tragic news. It will result in lawsuits filed against the State of Illinois, which is in a dismal financial state and can ill afford to take on legal battles that are unnecessary. The medical professionals in the state of Illinois deserve to practice their healing art within the freedom of conscience. The pro-life pregnancy centers should be protected from giving exactly the advice that goes against everything they stand for. They will not do it.”

About the Pro-Life Action League

The Pro-Life Action League was founded by Joe Scheidler in 1980 with the aim of saving babies from abortion through direct action. Not content to await a political or judicial solution to abortion, the League seeks to stop the killing of unborn children right now through all available peaceful means, including public protest, sidewalk counseling, education, youth outreach, and national leadership. Visit to learn more.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Court to decide: Can discriminatory law end education program?

Old anti-Catholic law being used to keep funding from low-income, special needs children

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Nevada activist groups continue their quest to block low-income and special needs children from receiving a quality education by using an anti-Catholic law from the 19th century to shut down a Nevada program. In a brief filed yesterday, Becket urged the Nevada Supreme Court to protect the children and the religious schools they attend from discrimination.
In 2015 the state of Nevada created the Educational Savings Account (ESA) program, which allows parents to use a portion of their public school funds to pay for books, tutoring and tuition, in an effort to improve education for Nevada children -- especially low-income and special-needs children. However, activist groups including the ACLU want to end the program simply because children may come into contact with religion. To do this, the groups are using the state’s Blaine Amendment, a 19th century law rooted in anti-Catholic bigotry. Earlier this year a lower court dismissed the case but the ACLU appealed to the Supreme Court.
“Nevada can do better than relying on outdated, xenophobic laws,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “A law that was created to discriminate against Catholics long ago shouldn’t become an excuse to bar children from the education they need or discriminate against all religious schools today.”
Blaine Amendments were passed during a wave of anti-Catholic bigotry during the 19th century and were designed to keep Catholic organizations—including orphanages, schools and charities—from having access to public funds. Public schools at the time used Protestant prayers, lessons and Bible readings. Today, those laws are being used by the ACLU and other groups against any school that is “too religious.” Because parents might use their ESA funds at religious schools, the groups want the entire program shut down. Both uses of the Blaine Amendment run afoul of the Constitution’s ban of religious discrimination.
"Nevada's program is designed to help children, especially low-income and special-needs children," said Windham. "You shouldn't use a law that once shut down an orphanage program that help children today." 
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Déjà vu all over again!

A couple of weeks ago we brought you the story of how the Iowa Civil Rights Commission was trying to censor the pulpit speech of priests and ministers, and force their churches to conform to the commissions “gender equity” restroom and shower facilities policy; now we have another administrative agency trying to force speech on unwilling physicians.

Steven H. Aden
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed suit in federal court last week against the Vermont Board of Medical Practice and the Office of Professional Regulation on behalf of health care professionals who wish to abide by their oath to “do no harm.” The state agencies are construing Vermont’s assisted suicide law as requiring them, regardless of their conscience or oath, to counsel patients on the option of doctor-prescribed death.
“The government shouldn’t be telling health care professionals that they must violate their medical ethics in order to practice medicine,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden, who will be our guest on FOT this week. “These doctors and other health care workers deeply believe that suffering patients need understanding and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves. The state has no authority to order them to act contrary to that sincere and time-honored conviction.”

Since joining ADF in 2008, Mr. Aden has focused his litigation efforts on the sanctity of human life, free speech on public university campuses, and the constitutionality of faith-based initiatives. He earned his J.D. in 1989 from Georgetown University Law Center, graduating cum laude. He is admitted to the bars of the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Hawaii (inactive). He is a member of the bars of the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous federal circuit and district courts. Aden has also authored numerous law review articles on constitutional law and civil rights, and is a frequent media commentator.
So Tuesday, join Deacon Mike Manno and Gina Noll as they discuss this issue with Mr. Aden, as well as a review of other topics of interest to people of faith. FOT airs on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM at 9 a.m. (Central) and re-broadcasts at 9 p.m. The program also streams on where podcasts of earlier shows can be found.
FOT is on the air courtesy of our loyal sponsors: Attorney Rick McConville, Coppola, McConville, Coppola, Carroll, Hockenberg & Scalise PC 2100 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines, 515-453-1055; 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, and Rob denHartog, Wealth Management Advisor at Northwestern Mutual Life, NW corner of 128th Street and Hickman Rd, 515-210-4472.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Victory for Religious Liberty in Missouri against Obamacare’s “Abortion Pill Mandate”

Thursday, a federal district judge in the Eastern District of Missouri granted a summary
Sen. Paul Wieland
judgment in favor of Missouri State Senator Paul Wieland and his wife Theresa against the Obamacare abortifacient/contraceptive mandate, ruling that the federal government could not constitutionally compel them to pay for group health insurance for their family, including young daughters, that includes required coverage for medical services that they deem religiously objectionable. Thomas More Society, which underwrote the lawsuit from its inception, joined its special counsel, Timothy and Matthew Belz of the St. Louis law firm, Otten, Leggat & Belz, LC, in calling this ruling “a significant victory for religious freedom” with significant national implications. 

Judge Jean C. Hamilton granted Paul Wieland and his family permanent protection from Obamacare's mandate that individuals, as well as businesses and other non-church entities, must purchase health insurance for contraception, including pharmaceutical “abortion pills” and sterilization.  The court upheld the family’s right to assert religious objections as a basis for exemption from the mandate as it imposes a substantial burden on the Weilands’ exercise of their religious faith, contrary to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) – the same federal statute successfully invoked by the for-profit corporation, Hobby Lobby, and later invoked with partial success (so far) by non-profit religious groups such as the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The court rejected the U.S. Justice Department’s arguments that the Wielands suffered no substantial adverse burden from having to comply with the mandate, noting that such compliance would not only entail their coerced purchase of coverage they consider morally objectionable, but that it also would subject them to substantial monetary fines if they chose not to comply. In her 13 ½ page opinion, Judge Hamilton wrote:

“The ultimate impact is that Plaintiffs must either maintain a health insurance plan that includes contraceptive coverage, in violation of their sincerely-held religious beliefs, or they can forgo healthcare altogether, which will result in the imposition of significant penalties (not to mention the potentially crippling costs of uninsured health care).”

Also rejecting the Obama Administration’s insistence that the nation’s insurance markets wouldn’t be able to function if insurers had to tailor each health plan to individual needs and preferences, Judge Hamilton said that the government does not provide the insurance and that it was for private insurers to decide whether or not to offer contraceptive-free plans. 

St. Louis attorney Tim Belz, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, said, “The sad irony here is that this family had to take the Obama administration to court to preserve their constitutionally guaranteed right to religious freedom when, as Judge Hamilton agreed, all the government needs to do is allow people to check a box to opt out of contraceptive coverage.

Tom Brejcha, the Society’s President and Chief Counsel, explained the potentially sweeping impact of this decision.  “In 2014’s Hobby Lobby decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that privately owned businesses whose owners assert conscientious objections based on sincerely held religious beliefs may not be coerced to comply with the Obamacare Mandate.  For the first time that we’re aware of, this decision now vests that same right of religious liberty in individuals and families across America.”  The Justice Department lost a prior appeal in this same case, and whether it will appeal this final ruling for the Wieland family is unknown.

Read the July 21, 2016, United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri – Eastern Division Memorandum and Order in Paul Wieland and Teresa Wieland vs. United States Department of Health and Human Services here.
Find background on the case here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Planned Parenthood loses motion to dismiss claims of libel related to assertions of violence

(July 22, 2016 – Geneva, IL) Today, an order was entered in Kane County Circuit Court, Geneva, Illinois, denying a motion to dismiss by Planned Parenthood of Illinois and its former head, Steve Trombley, in a defamation lawsuit brought by the Thomas More Society, alleging that Planned Parenthood lied when it tried to tie the Pro-Life Action League to violence in four separate public communications. These included full-page ads in area newspapers, Daily Herald and Aurora Beacon News, a letter to City of Aurora aldermen and a related press release. The libel case was filed in 2007, in the wake of controversy over the Planned Parenthood location in Aurora, Illinois, and in response to accusations made in the publications by Planned Parenthood and Trombley that the Pro-Life Action League had a “well documented history of advocating violence.”

One of the full-page advertisements included a photo of a bombed-out abortion clinic in Michigan. 

The first ad, which ran in the Beacon on September 6, 2007, was followed by a “cease and desist” letter from the Thomas More Society on behalf their clients.  This letter demanded a “prompt and public retraction of false, libelous, and malicious statements.”  Planned Parenthood responded with an ad that was more inflammatory and accusatory than the original.

“No one should have to suffer the kind of vicious and false accusations of violence that the Pro-Life Action League has suffered,” said Thomas More Society Special Counsel Peter Breen. “This ruling means that the Pro-Life Action League will finally have the opportunity to clear its name in court against Planned Parenthood’s lies. The League twice beat Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry before the U.S. Supreme Court in a related case, and we look forward to mounting a vigorous prosecution of these defamation claims.” 

The abortion provider’s defense cited a jury verdict in the trial court in NOW v. Scheidler [], a verdict reversed and vacated in two decisions by the United States Supreme Court.  That long running case, brought by abortion clinics and the National Organization for Women against the Pro-Life Action League and its founder Joseph Scheidler, father of current League executive director Eric Scheidler.  That suit sought to apply federal racketeering laws, intended to stop organized crime, to the League’s peaceful pro-life advocacy. 

This case had been delayed for years, due to appeals on issues unrelated to the merits of the defamation claims brought by the Pro-Life Action League. 

Read the order entered in Kane County Circuit Court, Geneva, Illinois, today denying a motion to dismiss by Planned Parenthood here 

Read the Thomas More Society’s current Complaint in the Circuit Court for the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit – Kane County, Illinois here 

A copy of the original Beacon News ad is available here. 

Find background on the Thomas More Society’s involvement in Scheidler v. Trombley here.

About the Thomas More Society

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. Visit

Monday, July 18, 2016

This week: Understanding the First Amendment Defense Act

The First Amendment Defense Act, now pending in Congress, provides that “the federal government "shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage."

Roger Severino
While its provisions protect the rights of Christians and people of faith not to participate in same-sex weddings, it has engendered a lot of debate and opposition.
Tuesday, Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, will be our guest to discuss the provisions of the act and the hurdles it may face in getting passed and signed into law. Roger has recently penned an article for the Daily Signal defending the act which you can find here.
Before joining Heritage in 2015, Roger was a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. He worked in the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section on dozens of district and appellate court matters, including issues involving the Fair Housing Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. He previously was chief operations officer and legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, where he argued for the rights of religious believers and houses of worship to be free from discrimination and unjustified government burdens. 
He has also contributed commentary on church and state issues to The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, and New Republic Online, and has been interviewed on news topics by CNN, PBS, and C-SPAN, among others.
In addition to Roger, we’ll have our usual news reports and movie review, so join Deacon Mike Manno and Gina Noll at 9 a.m. Tuesday (Central time) on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming on The program will be re-broadcast at 9 p.m. Pod casts of past programs may be found on the Faith On Trial page of
Faith On Trial is sponsored by our underwriters Attorney Rick McConville, Coppola, McConville, Coppola, Carroll, Hockenberg & Scalise PC 2100 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines, 515-453-1055; 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, and Rob denHartog, Wealth Management Advisor at Northwestern Mutual Life, NW corner of 128th Street and Hickman Rd, 515-210-4472.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Can the Iowa Civil Rights Commission do that to a church?

Christiana Holcomb
This week on FOT is the case of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission that has interpreted a state law to ban churches from expressing their views on human sexuality if they would “directly or indirectly” make “persons of any particular…gender identity” feel “unwelcome” in conjunction with church services, events, and other religious activities. The speech ban, of course, could be used to gag churches from making any public comments—including from the pulpit—that could be viewed as unwelcome to persons who do not identify with their biological sex. The commission says the law applies to churches during any activity that the commission deems to not have a “bona fide religious purpose.”

Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the  Alliance Defending Freedom, has filed a Federal lawsuit seeking to prohibit the commission from enforcing its rule on behalf of the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ. Christiana will be our guest Tuesday. In that suit she argues that all events held at a church on its property have a bona fide religious purpose, and that the commission has no authority to violate the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of religion and speech.
Pastor Cary Gordon
In Sioux City another church, Cornerstone World Outreach, send a demand letter to the Civil Rights Commission objecting to its interpretation of the law and received a reply that in some respects “walks back” the commission’s claim. We will also have an interview with Cornerstone’s senior pastor and old friend of the program, Rev. Cary Gordon, who taped an interview with us for broadcast on the program.
So join Deacon Mike Manno and Gina Noll for an interesting discussion of the legal and moral issues involved in the commission’s rules and in the Federal case filed in Des Moines.
Faith on trial is supported by our underwriters: Attorney Rick McConville, Coppola, McConville, Coppola, Carroll, Hockenberg & Scalise PC 2100 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines, 515-453-1055; 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, and Rob denHartog, Wealth Management Advisor at Northwestern Mutual Life, NW corner of 128th Street and Hickman Rd, 515-210-4472. 
Faith On Trial is broadcast every Tuesday at 9 a.m. and rebroadcast at 9 p.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming on where you can find podcasts of older programs.