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Missouri Family E-News

August 13, 2014



Public Prayer Banned at Georgia Mall 


A group of Georgia women whose fitness program includes "prayer walks" at a local mall have been told that prayer is not allowed on mall property.

The incident occurred at the Dublin Mall in southeast Georgia.  A group of about ten women who call themselves "Dublin Girls Run" were engaged in their evening power walk.

As they gathered in a circle to pray prior to the start of their walk, they were accosted by a mall security guard who told them:  "You are not allowed to pray at the mall.  That's against the policy."  The guard further stated that religious groups were not allowed to proselytize shoppers.

"We weren't trying to convert anybody, we were just trying to pray," said Tammy Brantley of the group.  "It's not like we were having a Holy Ghost Shoutin' Prayer.  You couldn't hear us unless you were in the circle."

The women then contacted the manager of the mall, who reiterated that prayer was prohibited in the mall because it was private property.

Brantley says the episode was heartbreaking.  "We started this group because we believe in being both physically healthy and spiritually healthy.  We just like to start off our runs with a prayer and end them with a prayer."

The incident prompted a storm of reaction from the community, and the mall's owners, MCK Properties, issued a statement which only made matters worse.

John Engler said it was acceptable for people to pray before they eat in the food court, but that any other prayers should only occur in "appropriate locations" and "appropriate confines." 

"We have a duty to the community to provide a shopping experience which is conducive to all who walk through our doors," Engler added.

Brantley remains dismayed by the attitude of the owners of Dublin Mall.  "I don't want my ladies to feel intimidated.  It's already hard enough to get out and exercise.  There are a lot of other things in the mall's [security] policy to be concerned about than asking people not to pray."   

                                                  
Navy Bans Bibles From Guest Rooms
 

The Department of the Navy has issued a regulation ordering the removal of all Bibles from hotel rooms at U.S. naval facilities.

 

The directive from the Navy Exchange Service Command instructs housekeeping staff to remove all religious materials from Navy lodge and inn guest rooms.  Bibles in the hotel rooms were furnished by the Gideons Organization.

 

Navy officials adopted the new policy shortly after being contacted by the atheist organization the Freedom from Religion Foundation.  FFRF had argued that the presence of the Bibles indicated that Christians were favored over guests with other religious beliefs or those who profess no religion.

 

Two years ago the Air Force attempted to remove Bibles from its lodging facilities, but reversed course after a wave of protests from individuals in and out of the service.  Organizations representing chaplains are hoping the Navy will also rescind its new policy.

 

"This is just one more assault by military leaders against anything Christian," says Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.   

 

"It's getting tiresome to see senior military leaders cave in to those who claim to be offended by Christians, Christian symbols, and now by the Bible itself."

 

Tim Wildmon, President of the American Family Association, says he is fed up with the double standard being employed by military leaders when it comes to religion.

 

He points to recent action by Navy brass ordering female military personnel in Bahrain to wear pants or long skirts and blouses covering their elbows so as not to offend the Muslim community.

 

He also cited a recent directive issued by a Department of Defense medical school not to consume food or drink in front of Muslim service members during Ramadan.

 

A Navy housekeeper says that they have been told that the Bibles impounded from Navy lodging facilities will be taken to a donation center.  Navy officials say that future religious materials found in rooms will be treated as lost-and-found property.    

 

 

  

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Hobby Lobby Decision
A Mixed Verdict for Pro-Life Objectives


The recent Hobby Lobby decision by the U.S. Supreme Court was celebrated by many as a major victory for religious liberty, yet the decision did not sound the death knell for the federal government's contraceptive and abortion drug mandate.  While the High Court held that certain businesses did not have to include coverage of abortifacients in their health plans, the judges did not invalidate the mandate itself.

The contraceptive and abortion drug mandate is a byproduct of the Affordable Care Act, most commonly referred to as Obamacare.  The ACA authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish the terms of a basic benefits package that must be included in all health insurance plans issued in the United States.

Under that authority, former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius established an edict that "preventative care" include coverage of all contraceptive drugs and devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration without co-pays or co-insurance.  The scope of the edict thus included mandated free coverage of abortifacient drugs like Ella and Plan B, and intrauterine devices that have the same effect.  A narrow exemption from the mandate was provided to religious denominations and their integrated auxiliaries.

In a 5-4 decision known as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby,
et al*,
  the Supreme Court ruled that the owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and the Pennsylvania cabinet maker Conestoga Woods did not have to comply with the mandate.  As expected, the court majority concluded that closely held corporations could claim exemption from the mandate if it violated the religious convictions of a business owned and controlled by a single family.  In the opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the court ruled that the mandate was a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in such circumstances.

In a groundbreaking decision, the Supreme Court stated that certain corporations are "persons" entitled to the free exercise of religion, and that "protecting the free exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies."

Justice Alito wrote that "the 'exercise of religion' involves not only belief and profession but the performance (or abstention from) physical acts that are engaged in for religious reasons.  Business practices that are compelled or limited by the tenets of a religious doctrine fall comfortably within that definition."

Alito further stated that "a law that operates so as to make the practice of religious beliefs more expensive in the context of business activities imposes a burden on the free exercise of religion."   Businesses that failed to comply with the contraceptive mandate faced fines of $100 per day per employee.  This would have cost the Greens, the owners of Hobby Lobby $1.3 million per day or $475 million a year.  Had the Greens decided to abandon health insurance coverage altogether to avoid the religious conflict, they would have been fined $2000 per year per employee.

Under previous religious free exercise precedents, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that government cannot impose a "substantial burden" on the exercise of religion unless it furthers a "compelling government interest" and is the "least restrictive means" of doing so.  The court majority concluded that the contraceptive mandate did amount to a "substantial burden" on family businesses with religious convictions about the sanctity of human life.

The High Court accepted the federal government's assertion that providing "cost-free access" to contraception is a "compelling government interest."  However, it ruled that the contraceptive and abortion drug mandate was not "the least restrictive means" of doing so.  Here is where the High Court's decision proves to be of disappointment to the pro-life community.

The court majority suggested that the contraceptive and abortion drug mandate could be implemented in a constitutional fashion by having the government assume the cost of providing abortifacient drugs and devices to all American women, and that religious objectors would have no basis to challenge such an expenditure of government funds.  As an alternative, the court suggested it would be constitutional for the government to offer objecting private businesses the same "accommodation" it has offered to non-profit organizations with religious objections to the mandate.

Under this phony scheme concocted by HHS, insurance companies or third-party administrators are required to provide "free" contraceptives and abortifacients to employees of such organizations under a separate arrangement.  The result is that drugs and devices that destroy human embryos are still supplied to employees as a result of the employer's group health plan.  The notion that insurers are not going to pass these costs on to the employer is pure folly.  The Obama Administration has already signaled that it will now implement this scheme for businesses like Hobby Lobby.

The Supreme Court added further confusion to the applicability of the mandate to religious non-profit organizations a few days later when it ruled that Wheaton College did not have to cooperate in the third-party "accommodation" scheme by filling out a form expressing its religious objections to the mandate.  Officials at Wheaton contended that doing so would trigger the provision of life-destroying drugs to their employees in violation of their religious doctrines.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unsuccessfully attempted to pass legislation to "overturn" the Hobby Lobby decision.  Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill voted to force the contraceptive mandate upon religious employers, while Senator Roy Blunt voted to retain religious freedom protections.

Blunt, a strong opponent of the mandate, cheered the High Court decision.  "People of faith shouldn't have to give up their business to keep their faith.  You have every right to seek the kind of health care you want, but you don't have the right to make your employer pay for it if your employer has religious objections to it."

Left unspoken in the public furor over the Hobby Lobby decision is the most objectionable portion of the Affordable Care Act.  For the first time in history American taxpayers are required to pay for the cost of abortions for individuals who qualify for government subsidies for the cost of health insurance.  The only feasible way to end this abomination is through the complete repeal of Obamacare, which neither political party seems willing to embrace.

We applaud the Green family and the Hahn family, the owners of Conestoga Woods, for taking a courageous stand on behalf of human life and religious liberty.  As David Green said following the Supreme Court decision:  "This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only:  the right of our family businesses 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."

*Sylvia Burwell replaced Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services upon Sebelius' retirement.

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