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Missouri Family E-News

December 3, 2013

                           
High Court Eyes Asylum Case for Homeschool
Family 

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the U.S. Justice Department to provide an official response to a petition filed on behalf of a homeschooling family seeking political asylum in the United States.

 

The High Court has instructed Attorney General Eric Holder to explain why the Obama Administration opposes "full and permanent legal status" for the Romeike family from Germany.   Uwe and Hannelore Romeike reside in rural Tennessee with their six children.

 

The Romeike family fled Germany in 2008 due to persecution from German officials over their decision to home educate their children.  The family was fined a total of $9000 for failing to enroll their children in the government schools, and were threatened with loss of custody.

 

A U.S. immigration judge initially granted the family's petition for political asylum, but that ruling was overturned by a federal immigration board in Washington.

 

The Romeikes ultimately appealed that decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the family's circumstances did not meet the requirements for political asylum.

 

Obama Administration attorneys argued in court that laws that ban home education do not violate any fundamental human rights, and help to create an "open, pluralistic society." 

 

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) filed a petition with the Supreme Court last month asking the justices to intervene to prevent deportation of the Romeike family.

 

"We hope that the Supreme Court will hear our appeal and that we may be able to stay here," says Uwe Romeike.  "America is a land of freedom and we cannot go back to Germany where our children will be taken from us just because we homeschool."

 

German law establishes a virtual ban on home education "to counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies."

 

"The United States should be a place of asylum for those who are persecuted because of their decision to follow their core religious beliefs," says Michael Farris, chairman of HSLDA. "Parents, not the government, decide first how their children should be educated."

 

You can watch a video detailing the plight of the Romeike family at this link:

Romeike Family 

   

 
Judge Nixes Minister Housing Allowance

A Wisconsin federal judge
has ruled that the housing allowance provided to ministers under the federal tax code is unconstitutional.  The suit was brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. 

Congress created the "parsonage allowance" in the IRS tax code in 1954.  It stipulates that an allowance paid to a "minister of the gospel" for rental or mortgage payments on a home is excluded from gross income for tax purposes.

Judge Crabb ruled that the exemption violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because it "provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else."

Barbara Crabb has a previous history of demonstrating hostility toward religion from the bench.  In 2010, she issued a remarkable decision that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned her ruling.

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, says that Judge Crabb's latest dictate reveals "a new level of supreme arrogance."

"Society has long provided this tax housing allowance to clergy because of the tremendous benefit that churches in turn give to society," Perkins says. 

"Clergy help carry the burden of many social ills that would otherwise become the burden of taxpayers and the federal government."

Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, says that the loss of the housing allowance would cause hardship to many ministers and congregations.

"For the most part, pastors across the country are compensated modestly for doing very demanding work.  So many members of the clergy have relied on this exclusion for decades.  It would be especially hurtful to retired clergy."

In a move that indicates Judge Crabb realizes her latest decision may also be reversed, she has stayed enforcement of her ruling until an appeals court hears the case.

 
  

Listen to the Broadcast Version of the Jeff City Update online at 
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SCOTUS to Hear
Key Cases on
Abortion Mandate
 


In a preliminary victory for religious liberty, the U.S. Supreme Court has
agreed to hear two challenges to the constitutionality of the Obama Administration's contraceptive and abortion drug mandate.

The High Court has accepted appeals of lower court decisions involving Hobby Lobby, the retail craft store chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a custom cabinetmaker located in Pennsylvania.

The mere decision by the Supreme Court to hear these cases is of great consequence.  It signifies that a majority of the justices believe that the contraceptive and abortion drug mandate may be an unconstitutional imposition on the religious free exercise rights of business owners and religious institutions.

A major provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare or ACA) requires that every health insurance policy issued in the country must include a package of "essential benefits."  The law delegated unilateral authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to determine what services must be considered "essential benefits."

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (a long-time avid abortion advocate) subsequently issued a mandate that "essential benefits" would include full coverage (with no co-pays or deductibles) of any "contraceptive" drug or device approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  This includes the abortifacient drugs Ella and Plan B, which are oftentimes referred to as "morning-after pills" or so-called "emergency contraception."

The HHS mandate includes a religious exemption that was narrowly drawn, and only applies to churches and their "integrated auxiliaries."  It does not extend to non-profit Christian ministries and parachurch organizations, or to private business enterprises with a Christian mission statement, such as Hobby Lobby or Conestoga Woods.

"My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear our case," says David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby.  "This legal challenge has always been about one thing and one thing only:  the right of our family business to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution.  Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law."

A U.S. District Court had ruled against Hobby Lobby's challenge to the mandate, but the 10th  Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision.  The 10th Circuit concluded that Hobby Lobby had a "reasonable likelihood of success" in demonstrating that the HHS mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.  The Hobby Lobby corporation could have faced fines of approximately $1.3 million per day for failing to comply with the Sebelius edict.

In the Conestoga Woods case, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the company's religious liberty challenge to the law, saying that "for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise."  This position is contrary to that held by the Tenth Circuit and other courts who have considered lawsuits against the mandate.   Those courts have decided that corporations can be considered "persons" under the law when constitutional freedoms are at stake.

Conestoga Woods, which operates outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is owned by the Hahn family, who are members of the Mennonite faith.  In their filings, the Hahn family stated that they "object as a matter of conscience to facilitating contraception that may prevent the implantation of a human embryo in the womb."

"The Administration has no business forcing citizens to choose between making and living and living free," says David Cortman, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Conestoga Woods in the case.  "A government that forces any citizen to participate in immoral acts--like the use of abortion drugs--under threat of crippling fines is a government everyone should fear."

Missouri U.S. Senator Roy Blunt cheered the new of the Supreme Court's decision to hear the cases, which should occur in the spring, followed by a ruling in early summer. 

"The HHS mandate is an enormous government overreach which violates Americans' constitutional rights.  Employers should not be forced to choose between giving up their business for their faith or giving up their faith for their business."

Senator Blunt had previously introduced legislation designed to defuse the controversy, but it was never taken up in the U.S. Senate.  Known as the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, it would have exempted employers from providing health insurance coverage for services contrary to their "religious beliefs or moral convictions."

In related action, Missouri State Representative Paul Wieland is appealing an adverse decision from a federal district judge in his challenge to the contraceptive and abortion drug mandate.  U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton ruled that Wieland and his wife, Theresa, did not have legal standing to challenge the regulation.  The Wielands are now appealing that judgement to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  
 

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