Category Archives: Legislation

North Carolina ACLU and Equality NC launch video project against Amendment One

By AMANDA GREENE
Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com

The North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union and Equality NC Foundation launched the KNOW + LOVE Project today (April 18), online video stories about families with lesbian or gay members.

The groups plan to release new videos in the weeks leading up to the May 8 vote on Amendment One, the state’s proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

One of the site’s first videos includes Christian and Jewish faith leaders talking about Amendment One and its impact on gay and lesbians in the state.

“North Carolina is part of what is supposed to be the New South,” said  Ricky Woods, pastor of First Baptist Church- West, Charlotte. “I think it’s important that we continue to hold the line in terms of what we believe is important, and one of the things we think is important is that no segment of our state should be discriminated against.”

Pastors from across the state told stories about gay or lesbian couples in their congregations who were not allowed input on end of life decisions or child care issues because they were not legally married.

Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958 or on Twitter @WilmFAVS

N.C. Catholics make appeal to Raleigh legislators now reviewing state’s immigration laws

Msgr. David D. Brockman, Vicar General of the Diocese of Raleigh, presenting a statement on behalf of North Carolina’s Bishops to the House Select Committee on Immigration. Photo by Frank Morock

Editor’s Note: Writer Frank Morock works for the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh.

By Guest Contributor Frank Morock

The North Carolina House Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy held a meeting at the N.C. Legislative Office Building in Raleigh, Wednesday (March 28), to hear public comment on immigration in the state. The 12-member committee, appointed by House Speaker Thom Tillis, is charged with studying and examining state immigration laws already in effect as well as best practices in other states.

The Rev. Msgr. David D. Brockman, Vicar General of the Diocese of Raleigh, presented a statement to the Committee on behalf of the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, and the Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte. The statement explained Catholic social teaching on formation of a just immigration policy.

“This teaching is twofold,” Brockman explained. “First, we support the role of the federal government to regulate migration and to defend its borders and laws; and secondly, as Catholics, we advocate for the recognition that immigrants, as members of God’s human family, are deserving of and must be granted the appropriate dignity as our brothers and sisters in the Lord.”

The monsignor also noted how the Bible “clearly demonstrates that this God-given dignity is given to refugees, migrants, and to all those who are immigrants. Jesus himself was a refugee as a child and an itinerant during his public ministry. He taught us to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35) and to realize that in welcoming the stranger, we are welcoming Christ himself.”

The testimony presented at the hearing represented both sides of the issue. It clearly demonstrated the urgent need of the federal government to undertake major immigration reform. In his remarks, Brockman said without action by the federal government, states throughout the nation have attempted to address the issue legislatively on a local basis.

Pointing to a 2007 document issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Brockman cited the five principles featured in a document from both bishops that could serve as a guide in creating either a national or state immigration policy.

“Both Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Jugis acknowledge that there are many emotions which are often ignited by the immigration debate,” Brockman said, “ but together, they call on ‘all people of goodwill to continue to debate in the spirit of mutual respect, ever mindful that together we must work for peace and protect the dignity of each and every person.’”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Committee Co-Chair Rep. H. Warren announced that the committee will not delay its report to the House speaker until later in the year. He explained the decision is based upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending review of the Arizona immigration law during its current session and will hand down a decision by June. Rep. Warren said the committee will take the Supreme Court’s decision into consideration in preparing its recommendation.

Obama exempts religious groups from contraception mandate

President Obama will exempt religious organizations from providing free contraception services to employees, but will require that all insurance companies do so. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

By DAVID GIBSON
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) Facing growing furor from religious groups, President Obama on Friday unveiled an “accommodation” in which health insurance companies, rather than religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals and universities, will provide employees with contraception coverage.

Houses of worship remain exempt, and the new approach effectively removes all faith-based organizations from involvement in providing contraceptive coverage or even telling employees how to find such coverage. It also maintains Obama’s pledge to ensure that almost all women with health insurance will not have to pay for it.

“Every woman should be in control of the decisions that affect her own health. Period,” Obama said in a midday appearance at the White House.

“Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here — and that’s the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right.“

At issue was a mandate, part of Obama’s 2009 health-care overhaul, that employers provide free birth-control coverage. The mandate was

Official portrait of United States Health and ...

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Image via Wikipedia

announced Jan. 20 by Health & Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Religious groups, particularly Catholic, fiercely objected, saying the federal government should not force institutions to violate the tenets of their faith. Womens’ advocates argued that employees should have access to birth control regardless of where they work.

Initial indications were that the White House may have found a solution on Friday to an argument that once seemed destined to dog the president throughout an election year. The high-profile fight risked alienating both women and Catholic voters – both key demographics in his bid for reelection.

The Obama administration has rebuffed pressure from religious and nonprofit groups to lift a mandate to provide contraceptives coverage to all employees. RNS photo via istockphoto.com.

Under the new plan, a religiously-affiliated institution would provide health insurance to employees that does not include contraception. The insurance company would then directly contact employees and offer contraception or contraception coverage without cost and without raising the premiums that the religious institution pays.

Sister Carol Keehan, head the Catholic Health Association, an umbrella group for more than 600 Catholic hospitals, said Friday she is “very pleased” with Obama’s compromise, which she said “protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions.”

Keehan was a key supporter of the president’s health care reform law — going against the wishes of the U.S. Catholic bishops — but she had voiced strong criticism of the initial contraception regulations. Keehan was joined by a range of progressive Catholic groups and leaders in praising the new rules. Many of them had been upset with the administration’s initial decision on the mandate.

Friday’s decision was also welcomed by Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood, who had been working hard with Democrats to keep the administration from providing any relief from the mandate to religious institutions.

“We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman’s ability to access these critical birth control benefits,” Richards said.

The furor over the contraception mandate appeared to catch the White House off guard since Sebelius announced the final regulations without broadening the exemption for religious groups, as had been widely expected.

The administration struggled to frame the regulations as a way to ensure that women with health insurance would receive free birth control – a position that is broadly popular among Americans, and especially women.

But religious leaders, chiefly the Catholic bishops and conservative evangelicals, were successful in casting the issue as one of religious freedom, not birth control.

These conservatives were also backed by numerous Catholic liberals and other supporters of the administration who felt that Obama had “thrown them under the bus,” as some put it, by not granting the broader religious exemption. In recent days it became clear that the administration had to do something, and quickly, and the solution announced Friday seemed to win back many of his allies.

“The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance,” said Keehan.

But whether that unity will extend to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was unclear. Obama reportedly telephoned New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, Friday morning to tell him about the new proposal. Dolan was consulting throughout the day with other top bishops to gauge their reaction.

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski told CNN he thought Obama is “just kicking the can down the road.”

“He’s hasn’t really addressed our concerns,” Wenski said. “I think the only thing to do is…to take back the whole thing.” In recent days, as they sensed the political tide turning in their favor, several USCCB officials have indicated they wanted to go for more than just a broader exemption and wanted the entire contraception mandate — covering women wherever they work — reversed.

That tack may have less appeal in light of the White House’s new plan.

But that may not stop Catholic conservatives from keeping up the pressure on Obama.

William Donohue, head the Catholic League, called the new policy a “ploy” and said Catholics “will only be impelled to revolt.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins called the proposal “paperwork gimmicks.”

“This revised HHS mandate does nothing to change the fundamentally anti-religious, anti-conscience and anti-life contraceptive mandate,” he said.

On the other side, some abortion rights supporters were still unhappy.

“This administration has shown that it will not stand with women when it comes to supporting access to, and easing the availability of, reproductive healthcare services,” said Jon O’Brien, head of Catholics for Choice. “One wonders what has been gained by this ‘accommodation.’ It certainly isn’t the support of Catholics.”

Viewpoints: Should the government require employers to provide contraception coverage to their employees?

By AMANDA GREENE
Wilmington Faith and Values

Each day this week has been marked by some new angle about a mandate in the national healthcare law that would require all employers to provide health insurance that would cover contraception. That would include religious groups who oppose contraception.

Raleigh Catholic diocese Bishop Michael Burbidge issued a statement about the requirement recently, calling it “a violation of rights.”

In Politico, on Religion News Service and in every major newspaper, political groups, Catholic groups and many others are hotly debating this law.

Here’s our take on why.

“This threat by the Catholic Church is a bluff.”

Victoria Rouch

Victoria Rouch: “I normally don’t listen to right wing talk radio, but sometimes I do when there’s some big controversy roiling. Yesterday, I took a deep breath and tuned it to Sean Hannity, whose every other comment included the phrase “war on religion.” Apparently, he thinks the Obama administration‘s refusal to exempt church-run schools, universities and hospitals from a mandate requiring them to offer birth control coverage in employee health plans is another volley in this “war.”

That is a curiously paranoid take on all of this. And a curiously ironic one, given that 58 percent of Catholics believe employee health plans should provide birth control. And a whopping 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women admit to using birth control, according to a 2011 Guttmacher Institute study cited by White House officials.

The church not only seems out of step with modern medical advances, which allow families to plan and prepare for children. But it also seems out of touch with its own members who overwhelmingly disobey church teachings forbidding use of such measures. It seems ridiculous to refuse to provide a health care option that has been used not only by a majority of practicing Catholics but also by employees who do not share their faith.

War on religion? It seems to me that religion has declared a war on everyone else, especially when an institution like the Catholic Church threatens to stop providing health insurance should the administration not capitulate to their demands.

I personally think this threat by the Catholic Church is a bluff. If the church is going to drop healthcare coverage for thousands of workers in this economy, the backlash is going to be enormous. They may argue that they are doing this on moral grounds because the church doesn’t want to pay for something it morally opposes.

As long as Catholic leaders are going to rely on a labor market comprised of those who do not share their views – or their faith – they have no right to push their religious beliefs on their employees. They should offer the option and count themselves fortunate to remain tax-exempt so long as they continue to send surrogates out to engage in partisan politics as they are clearly doing on this issue.”

“More disclosure was needed before bill was passed.”

Clay Ritter

Clay Ritter: “To me there are two ethical problems here, and the current problem is a result of the first problem. Issue number one is that the American people were kept in the dark that this was part of the ObamaCare bill.

To quote one representative, “We have to pass it to see what’s in it.” I would assert that it was unethical for legislation to be passed without the proper discussion, debate and disclosure to the American people. The groups this mandate affects would have opposed the legislation or, at least, requested changes to it. (I would call this an unintended consequence, but I believe that the mandate was very intentional.)

One result of the first ethical violation is where certain organizations that are morally and spiritually opposed to birth control now find themselves mandated to pay for it, whether its employees want it or not.

We live in a supposed free society, where private organizations should be free to operate according to their charter and according to their own set of moral principles. As long as they do not violate the law or infringe on the constitutional rights of others, they should be free to offer, or not offer, whatever benefits they choose to their employees.

If the employees are not happy with those benefits, they can choose to seek employment elsewhere.”

What do you think?

Belief Bytes: Wednesday’s Religion News Roundup

Courtesy of Religion News Service

Charles Darwin’s birthday, more political conscience wrangling and Christian conservatives angry about the Obama administration’s requirement of employers to provide free birth control – all in Wednesday’s Religion News Service Religion Roundup.

Here’s an excerpt:

“As you’ve probably heard by now, Mitt Romney trounced Newt Gingrich and the rest of the GOP field in Florida.

Romney even edged Gingrich in the “evangelical/born again Christian” vote, 38 percent to 37.

I would have liked to see a breakdown of the Jewish vote after those Kosher robocalls.

Gingrich is still hoping for a Super Tuesday miracle, but as Romney pivots toward the general election, some politicos say his Mormon church’s racial history could pose a problem.

In other news, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia died, just a day after a judged had ruled him competent to testify in a landmark sexual abuse trial.

Sen. Marco Rubio brought a bill to the floor that would repeal health care mandates that he says violate religious freedom or conscience rights.”

Read the rest of the post here.

Capturing March for Life 2012 in My Own Words/Photos/Videos

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By Contributor Tracy Bua Smith

Last year, my family and I attended our first March for Life, and I blogged about this incredible experience HERE.

On Monday, Jan. 23, my daughter, friends and I joined a parish in Rocky Mount, N.C., and traveled to Washington, D.C. to our second march on three large buses with about 150 people.

Our first stop when we arrived was the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Each year there is a Holy Mass for Life for all the N.C. pro-lifers present at the march. It is just so beautiful to see the many priests and seminarians and our two bishops from the Raleigh and Charlotte dioceses celebrate Mass inside the packed church.

Tracy Smith and her daughter posing with Father Tim Meares, priest of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rocky Mount. Photo by Tracy Smith.

Although I missed celebrating this march with my husband and other three children, it was very special to have my daughter with me to share such a powerful event. It’s never too early to teach our children that life, no matter how small, is precious and sacred.

The sky was gray and gloomy, but the group’s spirits were high, which made the day much brighter, for sure.

After our group gathered at the Navy Memorial, we marched with an estimated 300,000-500,000 pro-lifers. There were men, women and children from all ages, races, religions and walks of life joining together to stand for life, one step and prayer at a time.

It was breathtaking, exhilarating and powerful to walk among the masses. It was a sea of love, as one friend put it. There was no anger, fear or hate in the crowds. Rather, there was a feeling of security, hope, peace, joy and love, and all the young people present gave me hope for our future.

Here is a video clip I took while walking in the march. The young people are shouting, “We love babies, yes we do, we love babies, how ’bout you!”

Like last year, I love the signs that float through the massive crowds. (See slideshow.)

After we left the Senate building, we headed toward the Supreme Court where we listened to women tell their stories about how they had an abortion and how much they have suffered physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually from their decision. It was heartbreaking to hear their stories, but they share their stories to help others through a project called Silent No More Awareness Campaign.

Photo by Tracy Smith

A few feet from where the women were speaking, there were different signs being held up.

Seeing these signs made me sad because the stories these women were telling were filled with pain, grief, sadness, confusion and even hope, but only a few feet away, pro-abortion signs were being held up proudly. I snapped a picture of signs that read “Keep Abortion Legal” and the pro-life signs saying: “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “Face It….Abortion Kills a Person.”

My 11-year-old daughter didn’t understand why anyone would want to keep abortion legalized. She kept asking me “why?”

I told her I don’t understand it myself, but we need to keep standing up for life and praying for conversions so that all people will see that each human person is made in the image and likeness of God. Each life, no matter how small, no matter the circumstance, is sacred and valuable.

What to expect in 2012 from Religion News Wilmington

Dear readers,

Thank you for reading Religion News Wilmington in 2011!

In 2011 we gave you:

  • Non-sectarian news of faith issues through the winter holiday seasons
  • 15 community contributors on many areas of faith including Catholicism, Judaism, evangelical Christianity, Humanism, world faiths and more

But hold on to your seats, folks, because 2012 is going to bring amazing things to this venture.

In 2012, get ready for:

  • A spiffy new magazine-slick site launching in the spring (our national template from Religion News LLC) with daily quotes, featured stories and bloggers, a community religion calendar, community church/faith organization listings, opportunities to advertise, fund-raising events and so much more!
  • At least 30 community contributors writing about the faith issues and intersections of public life and religion today
  • More media partnerships in radio, online and more
  • More local faith news (I hope to get to write much more frequently as the new site launches.)
  • A community speakers bureau. Need an interesting speaker about the faith news of today for your next community organization meeting? Call on Religion News Wilmington.
  • More multimedia slideshows and locally-produced videos of faith events and views in the Wilmington area

So please keep reading and *Like* us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @iwritereligion.

Thanks!

Amanda Greene, Editor