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Missouri Family E-News

January 24, 2012

High Court Upholds Church Autonomy in Employment Decisions 



The United States Supreme Court has issued a monumental decision protecting the independence of American churches in church governance matters.


The High Court ruled that churches have the constitutionally guaranteed freedom to make their own employment decisions free from government interference.   


The case involved an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a teacher against the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran School in Redford, Michigan.  She had been commissioned as a "minister of religion" within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. 


The Supreme Court upheld what has become known as the "ministerial exception."  That theory of constitutional law, previously enunciated by appellate courts, stated that churches hold the constitutional prerogative to determine the qualifications and credentials of their own ministers.


"The Free Exercise Clause protects a religious group's right to shape its own faith and mission through its appointments," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.  "According the state the power to determine which individuals will minister to the faithful violates the Establishment Clause, which prohibits government involvement in such ecclessiastical decisions."


"The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important," Roberts continued.  "But so too is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission."


The decision was most striking in its unanimity, with all nine justices endorsing absolute unfettered religious freedom for churches, including new appointees Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotamayor, and longtime ultraliberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


The Obama Administration had filed a brief in the case supporting the right of the government to enforce employment discrimination law against churches.   Justice Department attorneys had argued that the government has the right to intrude in the internal affairs of churches just as they do with labor unions, social clubs and other groups of free association. 


Lillback Joins Speakers at Educational Conference 



Noted author and historian Dr. Peter Lillback will be among the guest speakers at this year's annual Educational Policy Conference in St. Louis.


Dr. Lillback, the author of the national best-seller George Washington's Sacred Fire, will make a presentation entitled "The Biblical Mind."  Lillback, the President of Westminster Theological Seminary, has done extensive research on the Biblical convictions of our Founding Fathers.   


Dr. Lillback has also written on the legal and historical myth of the separation of church and state, as documented in his book Wall of Misconception--Does the Separation of Church and State Mean the Separation of God and Government?


Other speakers at the conference include pro-family leader Phyllis Schlafly and Professor William Wagner, who will speak on the UN Treaty on the Convention of the Child.


The Educational Policy Conference, sponsored by the Constitutional Coalition, will be held January 26-28 at the St. Louis Frontenac Hilton hotel.  You can obtain more information by calling (636) 386-1789.                


Obama Administration Adopts Abortion Drug Health Care Mandate

The Obama Administration has announced that it is implementing a mandate that all health insurance plans must include coverage for abortion-inducing drugs.  The mandate requires that all health insurance plans must provide coverage for any and all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which includes abortifacient drugs such as Ella and Plan B.

The health insurance edict, announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, will take effect on August 1st.  Sebelius was given authority to issue the mandate under the terms of President Obama's health care legislation, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  That bill empowered Sebelius to determine what "preventative health care services" must be incorporated in all health insurance plans sold and offered in the United States.

The only exceptions to the mandate will be churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship.  Religiously-based hospitals, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations will be required to comply with the law effective August 1, 2013. 

This means that Christian organizations who offer health insurance benefits for their employees will be compelled to violate their religious convictions by covering the costs of abortion-inducing drugs.  This also means that Catholic hospitals and other Catholic agencies will be required to underwrite contraceptive coverage and the costs of sterilizations that violate their religious beliefs. 

The expectation is that many Christian employers will cease providing health insurance to their employees rather than pay for drugs that violate their religious conscience.

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has sharply denounced the new mandate.  "To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their health care is literally unconscionable.  The Obama Administration has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand.  This is a challenge and compromise of our religious liberty."

Archbishop Dolan also derided the one-year grace period given to religious entities to comply with the law.  Sebelius said the one-year delay was offered to accomodate religious liberty concerns.  Dolan strongly disagrees.  "In effect, the President is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences."

Anna Franzonello, staff attorney for Americans United for Life, echoes the Archbishop's perspective.  "The Obama Administration has added insult to injury by providing religious non-profits a year to 'adapt' to this coercive mandate.  There should be no expiration date for individual freedom of conscience."

"Essentially, Secretary Sebelius is giving Christian employers a year to get their priorities straight and align their consciences with the anti-life agenda of the Obama Administration," Franzonello adds.

Under the new health care edict, all health insurance plans issued must provide coverage for FDA-approved contraceptives without co-pay or deductible charges.  Drugs like Ella and Plan B, marketed as so-called "emergency contraceptives," have been endorsed by the FDA.

While these drugs function as contraceptives, they also operate as abortifacients.  They are designed to break down the lining of the uterus so that the uterine wall cannot support the implantation, nidation, and continuing growth of a developing embryo.  In the eyes of Christians who subscribe to the religious belief and biological fact that human life begins at conception, these drugs can cause a chemical abortion.

The Cardinal Newman Society, a group that advocates for Catholic principles in Catholic universities, blasted the new contraceptive mandate.  "It is the greatest irony, that by worshiping the cult of 'choice,' the Obama Administration has determined that religious organizations lack the freedom to act in fidelity to their beliefs.  The White House has sold the First Amendment for a few pennies of political support from the abortion lobby."

Two universities have already filed suit in federal court arguing that the abortion drug mandate violates federal conscience law protections.  The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing Colorado Christian University and Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina in those lawsuits.

The Obama Administration edict will nullify provisions in Missouri law that protect the conscience rights of the purchasers of health care coverage in our state.  Under that law, adopted in 2001, any individual enrolled in a group health insurance plan can request exclusion of contraceptive coverage if the use of contraceptives is "contrary to his or her moral, ethical, or religious beliefs."

Health insurance companies in Missouri currently may offer individual health insurance plans to persons which exclude contraceptive coverage if they have moral objections to such drugs and devices.  Missouri law also exempts from contraceptive coverage any health carrier owned or operated by any entity whose religious tenets object to the use of contraceptives.  The new federal mandate will invalidate all these sections of Missouri law.

We strongly urge you to contact your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Congressmen to express your opposition to this unconscionable abortion drug mandate.  Please pray for them that they will have the moral courage to take action to overturn this cruel attack on religious freedom.

You can contact Senator Claire McCaskill by using this link:
Senator McCaskill

You can contact Senator Roy Blunt by clicking this link:
Senator Blunt

You can contact your Congressman by following this link:
Your Congressman


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