Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Rules, No Change


ObamaCare still violates religious conviction despite new regulations . . .



On August 22, the Obama Administration announced new regulations under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) to modify the so-called “religious accommodation” for many faith-based nonprofits.  According to the Administration, these new regulations were issued to protect faith-based employers such as ministries from having to facilitate the provision of contraceptives—including abortion drugs—and violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.

But Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for Liberty Institute, says the opposite is true.  And that the new rules are nothing more than “a mere hand wave to Americans who, inspired by their deep religious commitments, oppose providing drugs that may kill an unborn baby.”

DOES NOT ELIMINATE “MORAL LIABILITY”

Before the White House issued these changes, non-church religious organizations were not exempt from providing the Plan B and Ella abortifacient drugs and sterilization procedures required under Obamacare. 

With the new regulations, little has changed. 

Under the previous “religious accommodation” issued earlier by the administration, religious organizations were required to use a government form to notify their insurance provider that they didn’t want to provide employees the objectionable drugs and procedures.  The insurance company was then, by law, required to offer the employees a separate policy to provide these services.  Religious non-profits objected.  They said this “accommodation” still involved them in facilitating the provision of abortion and other contraception they believed to be sin. 

Under the new rules issued last week, religious non-profits now have the option of notifying the government directly of their objections, rather than the notifying their insurance company.  The government will then work with the non-profit’s insurance company to have the insurer provide the offending contraceptives to the non-profits employees and their dependents.

According to Mateer, it’s a distinction without a difference.  He says, “Eliminating the requirement that the ministry use the government’s form does not eliminate their moral liability for facilitating coverage of these abortifacient drugs.”

MINISTRIES SHOULD NOT VIOLATE THEIR BELIEFS

As you know, the fight for religious liberty didn’t end with the Supreme Court’s positive Hobby Lobby decision to allow for-profit companies with sincerely held religious beliefs to be exempt from the “abortion mandate.”  After Hobby Lobby, many religious non-profits were still left behind with no such exemption.  In other words, corporations with closely held beliefs and churches are exempt—but faith-based non-profits are not.

There are still many religious non-profits and ministries who are forced into violating their convictions, and many more faith-based employers who are unaware of what’s at risk upon accepting the “religious accommodation.”  Because of this, there is much work to be done—both in the courtroom and with public awareness.

In a nutshell, a religious non-profit accepting the so-called “accommodation” is:
  1. Indirectly arranging for abortifacient and abortion counseling coverage because the religious non-profit’s insurer must provide full coverage for abortifacients and abortion counseling at no cost to the non-profit’s employee.
  2. Shifting the cost of the objectionable coverage to individuals who purchase health insurance from the objecting non-profit’s insurance provider.
  3. Accepting that the government may divide different religious organizations into different “tiers” of “how religious” they really are and prescribe different levels of “accommodation” for each.  The “most religious” organizations—churches and denominations—are exempt from the HHS Mandate’s requirements while “less religious” organizations like non-profit religious ministries must still indirectly provide for funding of and counseling in the use of abortifacients.
THE FIGHT ISN’T OVER YET

As long as faith-based non-profits are forced to violate their religious integrity, Liberty Institute will be in court fighting to secure their 1st Amendment rights. Currently, we represent more than 25 non-profits and ministries—each of them depending on us to provide expertise as the foremost leaders on the issue, which we do.  In return, our clients receive a guarantee that we firmly reject the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate and its continued assault on people of faith.

There is reason to believe we will prevail.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found that the “religious accommodation” violated federal law.  Mateer points out, that ruling “was a great decision for religious ministries and bodes well for future challenges to the accommodation.” 

And in spite of the Obama Administration attempting to spin their loss in the Hobby Lobby case as a victory for allowing the government to force religious non-profits to accept Obamacare’s objectionable “religious accommodation,” the U.S. Supreme Court rejected this notion, with Justice Alito writing, “We do not decide [in Hobby Lobby] whether an approach of this type complies with RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] for purposes of all religious claims.”  What this means is that the issue has not yet been settled, leaving the door open to ongoing challenges.

STAND WITH US

The success of enduring religious freedom in America largely depends on your help.  In our continued efforts, we hope that you will join us in praying for the cause of liberty and for the leadership of our country.  In addition to your prayers, you can generously donate today.

Liberty Institute has over a 90 percent win rate, and a strategy for recruiting the best attorneys in America—including those from 24 of the top 50 law firms in the nation—to defend religious freedom pro bono (at no charge) for clients who could not otherwise afford it.  For that reason, every $1 you give translates into approximately $6 of legal impact.  

Thank you for standing with us, our clients, and the religious liberty that is essential to America. 


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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Religion Only for the Ignorant? "Not So" Says New University Study


Research finds religious Americans among the best educated . . .



The work of Liberty Institute is crucial because religious liberty is under fire.  And religious liberty is under fire largely because powerful forces believe much of traditional religion is actually bad for America.

But now a new university study presents powerful evidence contradicting the anti-faith, anti-liberty narrative.  Research by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln shows that people with higher education are more likely to be religious—not less. 

This affirmation of the positive intellectual value of religion is contrary to the picture painted by many key opponents of religious liberty whom Liberty Institute has faced in court.

PAINTING THE FICTIONAL BELIEVER

Who are these forces of anti-faith intolerance?  One is the increasingly active Freedom From Religion Foundation, a legal organization whose name speaks for itself.  They send thousands of letters each year trying to intimidate cities, schools, and other organizations to remove legally-protected religious expression from public view. 

Others include Chai Feldblum, a powerful Obama administration official (she sits on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and renowned law professor who says that when “sexual liberty” and religious liberty conflict, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” 

In other words, ‘Christians, you lose.’

And of course,  a 2008 candidate for President famously caricatured conservative people of faith by saying that in hard times, “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them . . . as a way to explain their frustrations.”  Liberty Institute is currently in multiple lawsuits with the administration led by the man who uttered those words.

A DANGEROUS PICTURE

The stereotype pushed by many of our opponents is simple and dangerous:
  1. Religious people are ignorant and under-educated.
  2. Therefore, they believe in things that aren’t real (or aren’t relevant to the “real world”), such as God, angels, miracles, and revealed knowledge in Scripture.
  3. Religious peoples’ ideas may be quaint, but you can’t allow such uneducated religious masses to have too much influence in an enlightened society.  So . . . limit their legal freedoms!
Liberty Institute knows this caricature is entrenched among our opponents.  They often use it as a weapon to belittle and therefore frighten people of faith into remaining silent and not standing for their rights.  We counter this strategy with the facts.

Along with reminding Americans of their legal religious rights, we make sure that supporters, clients, prospective clients, and grassroots Americans know that some of our clients have been extremely well educated—even brilliant. 

Liberty Institute has represented university professors, college students, entire institutions of higher learning, a leading health care professional, and more.  Some of our staff and volunteers attorneys have multiple degrees from major universities.  One volunteer attorney—a former U.S. Supreme Court clerk and White House legal advisor—earned a Ph.D in English as well as a law degree.  Another volunteer attorney is actually the president at a major university!  And we know countless people of faith who exemplify sophisticated intellectual prowess.

NEW STUDY: PEOPLE OF FAITH ARE WELL-EDUCATED

And now there is more evidence—this time from academia itself—to explode the myth that people of faith are uneducated and therefore should not have influence or even liberty.

According to the university study by Philip Schwadel, an associate professor and researcher from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, higher education is not propelling its students away from religious affiliation. 

Dr. Schwadel aimed to determine the long-term effects of higher education on religious affiliation. He looked at a number of birth cohorts from throughout the twentieth century, but his most significant findings were realized in his analysis of the religious habits of “Generation X” (also known as “Gen Ex”) or those born from 1965-1979.

Using data from the General Social Survey, the study analyzed 38,251 respondents. Schwadel found that in the first half of the twentieth century, religious affiliation declined in people who had a university education. That began to change in the 1960s.  Then, higher education had almost no impact on the religious affiliation of survey participants. And Gen X showed a correlation between religious belief and education!

Gen X members experienced an increase of religious affiliation as the amount of people attending college grew.

EDUCATION HELPS RELIGION

The study goes on to state, “If anything, the growth of the [non-religious] over the last couple of decades is disproportionally among the less educated.” In other words, now people who are less educated are more likely to have no religious affiliation. 

Religion and good education are a good match!  So much for the cartoonish image of those who “get bitter” and “cling to their guns or religion.”

Dr. Schwadel’s study is one of the most recent investigations that have found similar positive correlations between a university education and religion. However, this study is different because it focuses on long-term benefits of higher education on religious affiliation.

In the words of Dr. Schwadel, “college education is no longer a faith-killer.” Dr. Schwadel’s research shows that education does not discourage religious affiliation in the long run, and in fact makes probability of long-term religious affiliation higher.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

The most important response to the slander against people of faith is to ensure that the lies fail in their goal of silencing our faith.

Your donation to Liberty Institute helps our expert attorneys continue to win for our clients at well over a 90% victory rate.  Each victory emboldens more people to become clients . . . more top attorneys to work with us to defend these clients . . . which results in yet more victories and more religious freedom.

Please give now to the Liberty Institute as we defend and restore religious liberty in America.


About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

We Deliver Demand to High School Who Kicked Student Out of Class for Saying "Bless You"


Liberty Institute demands apology, continues defense of religious liberty rights in our nation’s schools . . .



Teachers once wrote words on the classroom’s whiteboard that students were encouraged to learn and repeat.  But in the recent case of Liberty Institute client, Kendra Turner—a student at Dyer County High School in Dyersburg, Tennessee—we now know that times have changed.  Kendra was kicked out of class last week for saying “bless you,” a banned phrase written by the teacher on the classroom white board.

Earlier this week, Liberty Institute sent a demand letter, on behalf of Shannon Tankersley—the mother of Kendra Turner—to the Dyer County School District.  The letter seeks an apology within seven business days from Dyer County High School for unlawfully disciplining Ms. Turner for expressing her protected religious speech, and for the removal of any prohibitions against protected speech.

“It is unlawful for a school official to kick a student out of class for quietly blessing another student after she sneezes,” said Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremiah Dys.  “Ms. Turner’s simple utterance is an expression of what she has been taught by her faith.  The Constitution affirms her non-disruptive freedom of such simple an expression of her faith.”

“it’s my freedom of religion and freedom of speech” 

Turner respectfully said, “Bless you,” after a fellow student sneezed in her computer class on August 18.  “I just simply said, ‘bless you,’” the high school senior shared in a Fox & Friends interview last week, along with Dys. 

“Bless you” is one of the words Turner’s teacher had written out on the classroom’s white board and banned the students from saying, as part of the class rule.  Turner’s fellow students took a picture of the other phrases which include:  stupid, dumb, boring, stuff, I don’t know, other peer expressions, hang out, my bad.

After Turner said “bless you,” she said the teacher stood up in her classroom and asked who had spoken.  “I said that I did,” Turner explained.  When the teacher confronted her by asking why she had said it, the student said that her parents, as well as her pastor, had taught her to say it.  For many, as with Kendra, saying “bless you” is a way of showing the type of hospitality of which Christianity teaches.

“After that,” Turner continued, “one of the classmates asked [the teacher] what she had against the words, ‘bless you.’  And [the teacher] said that there will be no ‘godly speaking’ in the class.  That’s when I said my pastor told me that I have a constitutional right, and it’s my freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”  Then, Turner said, she was kicked out of her class and sent to the office of the vice-principal, who affirmed the teacher’s hostile action, stating no religious language is permitted in the classroom.  Turner was sentenced to in-school suspension (ISS) for the remainder of the block period.

“If you review cases like these that Liberty Institute has defended over the years,” added Dys, “you’ll see how often this is a constant refrain that students can’t have any kind of religious speech at school whatsoever . . . but while our students are expected to obey the rules of the classroom, we expect our teachers and school officials to obey the rules of this country and the Constitution.”

SHOW SUPPORT . . . TAKE THE “BLESS YOU” CHALLENGE

Liberty Institute is defending Turner in what is an outrageous, unlawful violation of this brave young woman’s rights.  Even her fellow classmates have recognized the blatant attempt to violate Turner’s right and have hand made “Bless You” T-shirts in her support.

We’re also asking friends and supporters of Liberty Institute to take this farther—in the support of freedom.  Through Liberty Institute’s “Bless You” Challenge, we’re asking Americans who believe in freedom of religion and freedom of speech to add their names to our petition and to show support for this student and for religious liberty as school begins.  The “Bless You” Challenge reads:

“YES!  I am outraged that a school would harshly punish a polite and courageous young woman for saying “bless you” to a fellow student who sneezed.  I stand with Kendra Turner.  I call upon Dyer County High School to apologize, and for educators across America to allow our children their lawful freedom of speech and religion.”


STAND WITH US AND EMPOWER STUDENTS

Liberty Institute is committed to educating students about their First Amendment rights in the classroom—because the America being formed today in the public school system is a nation of eroding moral values, social breakdown, and weakened faith. 

But we can’t do this alone.  And through your ongoing prayer and financial support—which helps to make possible our FREE, easy-to-understand religious rights resources for students and teachers—you can help rapidly reverse what secularism has down in our schools, to our children, and to our country!


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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.