Seek and Ye Shall Be Fined
Leave it to the federal government to issue an 80-page document that could have been summed up in two words: nothing's changed. Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had tipped off news outlets that it was set to offer an olive branch to religious groups on its abortion, contraception, and sterilization mandate. The compromise, HHS promised, would alleviate the concerns of organizations like Catholic Charities, hospitals, or colleges who are forced to provide life-destroying drugs against their will--or pay the price. Turns out, the "new" HHS guidelines are virtually identical to the old ones, with a very slight change in how the accounting is done for pills or procedures that faith-based groups object to.
As most of us expected, HHS did not expand the exemptions for the mandate beyond churches, meaning that religious nonprofits like FRC and companies like Hobby Lobby would still have to choose between their principles and their prosperity. Essentially, the Obama administration is suggesting that religious groups still pay for the "health care" they oppose, but they do so through a third-party. But even though the money is passed through an intermediary, religious organizations are still paying insurance companies to turn around and provide their employees' abortion drugs. In other words, owners or employers would still be the paid gatekeepers for pills and services that violate their consciences. The President's idea would just hide the coverage in the plan, an accounting gimmick that doesn't change the bottom line for faith-based groups. Instead, it's a fig leaf of accommodation that does nothing to alter the President's underlying discrimination against religious organizations.
Under this new rule, the Obama administration is still picking and choosing who can exercise their faith. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), one of the many legal groups fighting the mandate in court, insists that it will keep suing until every American can enjoy the freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. "The First Amendment [does not] say 'for religious entities only,'" Alan Sears said. That might explain why the President's mandate continues to lose in court. Of the 14 cases heard so far, 10 of the 14 have been decided in freedom's favor. But until Congress or the courts correct this problem for everyone, institutions will still have to choose between civil disobedience coupled with large fines--or violating their faith.
Baker Celebrates Sweet Victories on Marriage
Wyoming was just voted the second most conservative state in America--and yesterday, their legislature proved why! State leaders fought off not one, but two, liberal bills that would have dramatically redefined marriage in the Equality State. The first, driven by Wyoming's only openly homosexual official, state Rep. Cathy Connolly (D) hoped to sucker conservatives into believing that the bill would "clarify" how the law deals with same-sex couples. Fortunately for us, Wyoming's Republicans aren't nearly as naive as Connelly had hoped.
Leaders like Mark Baker (R) read the strategy perfectly, blasting the Left for trying to misrepresent the bill. Although Connolly's language intentionally tried to distance itself from marriage, it was obviously a backdoor attempt at redefining it. "We know this is about same-sex 'marriage' and civil unions no matter how it's sugarcoated," Baker fired back. The only reason leaders are being pressured, he insisted, is not for the good of the state but "because it's politically correct." "There are disastrous consequences to this bill," he warned.
Enough of them, lawmakers realized, to kill the proposal in committee. It was the first time the Wyoming legislature had formally voted on same-sex "marriage"--and so far, so good! Even Connolly doubts the possibility of bringing it up again after comments like Rep. Lynn Hutchings. An African-American Republican, Hutchings took offense at Connolly's suggestion that gay "marriage" is a civil rights issue. People choose to be homosexual, she argued, they don't choose to be black. Rep. Nathan Winters (R), who also chimed in for the opposition, breathed a sigh of relief at the outcome. "This would have been a down-payment on future lawsuits leading to same-sex 'marriage,'" he told reporters.
As would a domestic partner law, which was also up for debate in Wednesday's busy session. Unlike other bills, this one would have extended special benefits to just about any two people--including platonic relationships--stripping marriage of all meaning or incentive. Once again, Rep. Baker pointed out the ridiculously high costs to taxpayers, especially as it pertains to homosexuals. Though we've not researched his source, Baker insisted that only 1% of homosexuals die of old age, a reference to the expensive health conditions associated with same-sex behavior. He insisted that would only burden the state's budget more. The majority of lawmakers agreed, stopping the bill by a 34-25 vote on the statehouse floor. Both victories were a shot in the arm for the marriage movement, which could use a few more fearless leaders like Wyoming's!
Support Our Troops! Defend the Scouts
The storyline keeps getting worse for the Boy Scout of America's proposed "local option" membership compromise. Yesterday, one of the country's most radical homosexual groups, Human Rights Campaign, joined the chorus of disgruntled liberals who are demanding nothing less than full and complete "inclusion." Much like the New York Times editors, who unleashed their fury on the BSA for suggesting that "bigotry" would be localized, HRC--which had initially cheered the plan to let regional troops decide--now says the policy is "not good enough" and has launched a full-scale attack demanding nationwide acceptance. If the Scouts go through with their wildly unpopular proposal, HRC threatens to blackmail even more corporate sponsors. HRC's response is just more evidence that appeasement does not work. The homosexual activists will not be satisfied until the Scouts celebrate and promote homosexuality throughout the organization.
Meanwhile, major BSA backers, like the Utahstate council, are urging the Board to postpone next week's deadline and think this devastating idea through. "We believe that any decision that strikes at the core of our 103-year history merits full input from all stakeholders in deliberation and discussion," says the Great Salt Lake Council website. The group went on to mention the "emotional distress" the news is creating for troop leaders. As Utah (and more broadly the Church of Latter-Day Saints) charters a large majority of Scouts, their pleas should carry some weight.
Unfortunately, this is just a snapshot of the shock and outrage taking place in councils all across America. In Texas, where the Scouts are headquartered, leaders are planning a "Save Our Scouts" rally that's expected to draw huge crowds next Wednesday, February 6 to protest at the BSA offices (1325 West Walnut Hill Lane, Irving, TX) from 10:00 a.m. to noon. The Texas Pastors Council is asking for church leaders, families, and community leaders to take a stand on behalf of the safety and security of children. If you aren't in Texas, you can still take a stand by calling Boy Scout Board Members, who hold the fate of this policy in their hands. For a list of numbers, please log on to the FRC website and encourage your friends and family to do the same!
** If you didn't catch today's edition of "Washington Watch with Tony Perkins," click over to TonyPerkins.com to hear Sen. Jim Inhofe's take on the Chuck Hagel hearing--including his concern about the Iran's endorsement of his nomination to serve as the Secretary of Defense. Also, FRC's Dr. Chris Gacek stopped by to discuss the blockbuster marriage cases at the Supreme Court--and how FRC's legal briefs may influence them.
*** For more on the disastrous hearing on Chuck Hagel, check out the new Blackwell-Morrison column, "Mr. President: Chuck Hagel!"