Vatican City, Mar 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pontifical Council for the Laity is organizing an International Youth Forum, which occurs every three years, in the small Italian town Rocca di Papa from March 24-28 of this year.
The theme of the conference, which aims to bring together a diverse group of young people from around the world, is “Learning to Love.”
The nearly 300 participants will reflect on love's role in vocations, marriage, family, consecrated life and the priesthood. Forum attendees will be able to attend lectures, round table discussions, witness and work groups.
The gathering is the tenth is the International Youth Forum series. Participants are delegated by episcopal conferences as well as mainstream international movements and associations.
Delegates to the forum will also have the privilege of participating in the Pope’s meeting with young people from Rome and Lazio, which will take place on Thursday, March 25.
The congress will conclude with Palm Sunday Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict in St. Peter’s Square. The Mass is usually attended by thousands of young people from around the world.
Mosul, Iraq, Mar 23, 2010 (CNA) - Almost all Catholics who fled Mosul in the run-up to the March 7 election have returned home, according to the latest reports. The Archbishop of Kirkuk said he was “very optimistic” that security would improve and minority groups, including Christians, would have a bigger voice because of the election’s outcome.
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need on Monday, Archbishop Louis Sako said the uncertain situation of Iraq’s Christians looked set to improve regardless of the outcome of the elections, whose results are expected by month’s end.
“The elections were carried out very well. During the campaign period, the political parties debated their programs in a very civilized way,” he told ACN from Kirkuk.
“The last election in 2005 was much more sectarian. Now people have chosen more secular parties, not like last time. Whatever happens, it will be a good result. I am very optimistic about that.”
The latest indications suggest a victory for former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. During his time in power from 2004-2005, the archbishop said he was “decisive” during the violence in Fallujah and Najaf.
“He imposed the law and the army was able to help stabilize the security situation,” the prelate explained.
Even if the present Prime Minister Nouri Malaki wins, Archbishop Sako said, “it will be okay and things will change. People are tired of violence and they are determined to see an improvement.”
He emphasized the involvement of candidates from diverse political and religious backgrounds. He was pleased that at least five Christians had been elected to parliament.
According to ACN, the latest reports indicate that Mosul Christians have returned to their city despite the violence that left more than 30 people dead.
Before the election, more than 3,500 Christians, as much as half of the city’s Christian population, fled for safety in nearby villages on the Nineveh plains.
Fr. Bashar Warda told ACN that Nineveh church communities had bid farewell to the last remaining Christians who had sought sanctuary with them.
Archbishop Sako said Christians were determined to return despite continuing tension and violence.
Recently 55-year-old Christian Sayah Yaqoub Adam was killed. He was known to the archbishop from his time as a parish priest in Mosul in the 1990s.
According to ACN, a number of returnees have indicated their desire in the long term to leave Mosul permanently to go to northern Iraq or abroad.
Fr. Warda reported that Archbishop Amil Nona of Mosul is keen to proceed as planned with the upcoming Holy Week and Easter liturgies, despite the closure of a number of churches in the city and continued security concerns.
“Archbishop Amil has made it clear that, working with the priests, he is determined to continue the mission in Mosul,” the priest told ACN.
ACN is providing about $34,000 for food packages for displaced and impoverished Christians in the far north of Iraq. The aid is dispatched by Chaldean Sisters in Zakho, which is close to the border with Syria and Turkey.
Glasgow, United Kingdom, Mar 23, 2010 (CNA) - Speaking in a recent homily, Archbishop of Glasgow Mario Conti discussed the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland and the place of the Church in modern society. He warned against a looming “fundamental rupture” in efforts to eliminate faith from public discourse.
His remarks came in his homily at a Mass marking the anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s election to the papacy.
The Mass was celebrated in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio to Scotland and the Scottish hierarchy at St Mary’s Church, the second oldest archdiocesan chruch, because the Cathedral of St. Andrew is under restoration efforts.
According to Archbishop Conti, the year 2010 marks the 450th anniversary of the Reformation Parliament, which in 1560 banned the Mass, prohibited recourse to Rome and published a new profession of faith based on the Protestant reformers.
Any hesitation about marking this anniversary, the archbishop said, is because of a “different” and “irenical” spirit in the ecumenical movement.
He cited Pope Benedict’s comments to the bishops of Scotland in their February meeting, where the Pope spoke of the “tragedy of division.”
“It is sobering to recall the great rupture with Scotland’s Catholic past that occurred four hundred and fifty years ago,” the pontiff continued. “I give thanks to God for the progress that has been made in healing the wounds that were the legacy of that period.”
Archbishop Conti said Christians may look forward to the healing of the Reformation’s “rupture,” but many fear a new rupture more fundamental “even than that of the Reformation.”
“I am referring to attempts to eliminate the voice of faith from public discourse, in other words a rupture between the Church, faith communities and the world of politics and public policy.”
He mentioned issues like breakdown in marriage and family life; increasing abortions; growing rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; drug addiction and alcoholism, especially among the young; a form of “social engineering” which “virtually equates civil partnerships with marriage;” assisted suicide; inhumane treatment of immigrants; and insufficiently restrained bio-technical research.
“All of these issues carry an ethical question,” the archbishop explained.
“We need to praise integrity where we see it, and also acknowledge the courage of politicians who do raise their voices in defense of the Church’s role and who promote publicly, despite secularist criticism, the fundamental place of marriage and the family and the general duty of citizens to care for one another, physically, socially and spiritually.
“The Church is the repository of the most fundamental values of our civilization and deserves recognition as an instrument of societal cohesion. Its voice is not that of a pressure group, one among many, but rather that of a teacher,” he continued.
He said Catholic doctrine should not be perceived as a series of prohibitions and “retrograde” positions, but rather as “creative and life-giving” and directed towards “the fullest possible realization of the great potential for good and happiness that God has implanted within every one of us.”
“It is that potential for good which our political leaders must identify and release,” Archbishop Conti advised.
The prelate cited Ezekiel 37’s story of the prophet Ezekiel and the valley full of bones. He also noted the Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, in which Jesus tells people to unbind the risen Lazarus and “let him go free.”
Concluding his homily, the archbishop asked if these accounts are applicable to a Church “needing to be set free to live fully according to its principles, permitted to inspire the body politic.”
“Or is it the body-politic, bound with ‘bands of stuff’ and ‘a cloth around its face’ constrained by political dogma and unable ‘to see life whole’?
“Perhaps both ... Jesus says: ‘Unbind them. Let them go free!’”
Atlanta, Ga., Mar 23, 2010 (CNA) - A new data analysis by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows HIV/AIDS and syphilis are taking a “heavy toll” among men who engage in homosexual relations. Their risk of HIV and syphilis infection is 40 times greater than that of men who do not practice homosexuality.
The data, presented at the CDC’s National STD Prevention Conference, finds that the rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sexual relations with men (MSM) is more than 44 times that of other men and more than 40 times that of women, a CDC press release reports.
According to the analysis, there are between 522 to 989 cases of new HIV diagnoses per 100,000 MSM, compared to 12 per 100,000 other men and 13 per 100,000 women.
The CDC analysis says that the rate of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM is more than 46 times that of other men and more than 71 times that of women. While two per 100,000 other men and one per 100,000 women are infected by the disease, the rate among men who have homosexual relations is 91 to 173 cases per 100,000.
"While the heavy toll of HIV and syphilis among gay and bisexual men has been long recognized, this analysis shows just how stark the health disparities are between this and other populations," said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
He said the HIV “epidemic” will not be stopped until every community prioritizes the need of homosexual and bisexual men with prevention efforts.
Based on nationally representative surveys, the CDC estimated that MSM comprise about two percent of the overall population over age 13, and four percent of the male population.
The CDC said “a range of complex factors” contribute to the high rates of HIV and syphilis among MSM. Factors include a “high prevalence” of HIV and other STDs among MSM. Other factors are limited access to prevention services; complacency about HIV risk, especially among young MSM; difficulty in consistently maintaining “safe behaviors” in every sexual encounter; and lack of awareness of syphilis symptoms and transmission.
The CDC said “homophobia and stigma” can prevent MSM from seeking prevention, testing and treatment services.
While a reduction in the number of a person’s sexual partners has shown some success in reducing the spread of disease and suffering, the CDC did not mention this or sexual abstinence as possible options.
STD prevention efforts targeting homosexual and bisexual men are part of President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget proposal.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholic teaching against homosexual acts is based on Sacred Scripture, which presents them as “acts of grave depravity.”
While Catholic teaching forbids unjust discrimination, it recognizes homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered" and “contrary to the natural law.”
They “close the sexual act to the gift of life” and can be approved “under no circumstances,” the Catechism states.
Vatican City, Mar 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Vatican Radio has announced the launch of several Twitter channels to share news and multimedia content about the life of the Church on one of the newest popular social networking sites.
Twitter is a microblogging service that allows only 140 characters for each entry, which is known as a “tweet.” Computer users and users of mobile devices follow news sources, public figures, celebrities, businesses and private individuals and organizations through the service.
Users share their thoughts, activities, and website links. They can converse with other users and repeat other people’s tweets, an action known as “retweeting.”
On Saturday Vatican Radio announced its six Twitter channels in English, Spanish, Italian, French, German and Portuguese.
“Through these Twitter channels, Vatican Radio and other Vatican media outlets will inform users about the publication of news and multimedia content of particular relevance to the life of the Church,” Vatican Radio said.
The English-language channel is "news_va_en" at http://www.twitter.com/news_va_en.
The first English-language Tweet from the Vatican announced the publication of the Letter of the Pope to Catholics of Ireland on Sexual Abuse and the availability of multimedia documents related to it.
A new Vatican resource site, www.resources.va, was announced at the same time as the new Twitter channels.
As of Monday evening, the English channel had more than 1,100 subscribers, which the Twitter site calls "followers."
Many Catholics are using Twitter to make friends and contacts, to spread news, and to share their faith.
Catholic News Agency's own Twitter account is "cnaLive," located at http://www.twitter.com/cnaLive.
Lincoln, Neb., Mar 23, 2010 (CNA) - Last week, Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, Father Christopher Kubat, the diocesan director of Catholic Social Services (CSS), Sister Jacqueline Darner, M.S., and others gathered to turn the first shovelfuls of dirt that will make way for the new 24-unit St. Gianna Women’s Homes. The secure apartment building will be comprised of 24 one-, two- and three-bedroom units that will house women and children escaping domestic abuse and the pressure to abort.
It will also include a chapel, daycare center, kitchen, exercise facility, commons area, and a small three-bedroom cloister for the Marian Sisters who will serve as caseworkers for the women living in the facility.
Father Kubat noted that the project was funded through the CSS “Expanding the Works of Mercy Campaign.” That campaign sought to raise $5 million for a number of CSS projects, and recently met that goal.
One purpose of the campaign was to consolidate Lincoln social services in a downtown location, which required purchasing and renovating its current building at 23rd and O streets. Another was to open a permanent gift and thrift store – St. Isidore – in Imperial, which opened March 8.
The campaign also acquired monies to start an endowment so that all CSS programs would have an ongoing supply of funds.
However, it was the St. Gianna Women’s Homes project that inspired the generosity of many throughout the diocese.
“Response to this project was just tremendous across the diocese,” Father Kubat said. “This is the one element that struck the heartstrings of most people.”
All told, it will take $3 million to build the new apartment building, and somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000 to run it each year. For that reason, fundraising efforts for St. Gianna Women’s Homes will be ongoing.
Father Kubat said that currently, it is “very, very difficult” for CSS to care for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse or the threat of abortion.
“There’s just not enough beds,” he lamented.
At present, the best CSS can do is help a woman find an apartment, furnish it, pay the first month’s rent, fill the cupboards with food and help the woman find a job. Sometimes, CSS resorts to putting someone up in a motel, but that is cost-prohibitive.
Recently, CSS helped a woman from south-central Nebraska who was living with her children in a shed equipped with just a space heater. Another CSS client was living in her car with her children. CSS is in desperate need for more housing to accommodate these women in crisis.
“We do our best, but there just isn’t enough space to house these victims,” said Father Kubat. “It’s an incredible challenge.”
St. Gianna Women’s Homes will enable CSS to provide safe and clean temporary housing for at-risk women from across the diocese. The program will accept women of any age, religion or ethnicity who are being threatened by domestic abuse or who are being pressured into abortion by partners, parents, finances or other factors.
The project is named for St. Gianna Beretta Molla. She was an Italian mother, physician and social worker who faced a uterine tumor while she was pregnant with her fourth child.
Choosing her baby’s life over cancer treatment, St. Gianna gave birth to a healthy daughter and died one week later, on April 28, 1962. Her daughter, also named Gianna, became a physician and has continued her mother’s legacy, though by caring for the aged instead of working as a family doctor. St. Gianna’s family also operates a charitable foundation to help the needy.
Construction of the new apartment building for St. Gianna Women’s Homes will take about 10 months. Meanwhile, fundraising will continue in earnest, with “First Friday Fish Fry” dinners at the main CSS building in Lincoln at 23rd and O (during months outside of Lent only), a new cake walk and cake auction fundraiser called “That Takes the Cake,” and several other creative ideas.
Donations to the project can also be sent to CSS, 2241 O St., Lincoln, NE 68510.
Father Kubat is gratified that so many people in the diocese understand the dire need for St. Gianna Women’s Homes.
“It’s very edifying,” he said. “It’s very exciting that we’re really going to be able to help so many more women and their children.”
Printed with permission from the Southern Nebraska Register, newspaper for the Diocese of Lincoln.
Vatican City, Mar 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict will celebrate a Mass on Monday, March 29, marking the fifth anniversary of the death of Venerable John Paul II. The late Pope's death, at the age of 84, occurred on April 2, 2005 after battling Parkinson's disease.
Just over one month after John Paul II's death, his cause for beatification was formally opened. The near immediate initiation of his cause was made possible by Pope Benedict XVI waiving the five-year waiting period the Church law normally requires before beginning the sainthood process.
In April 2007, the diocesan phase of the cause of beatification was concluded, as all of the testimony on the life of the late Pontiff had been gathered together. Then, last December, Benedict XVI signed a decree recognizing JPII's life of heroic virtue, giving him the title, “Venerable.”
Last month, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was John Paul II’s personal secretary for 40 years, told participants at a Colombian conference that the late-Pope's beatification process “is practically finished.”
“In order for the beatification to take place,” he added, “it is important that the Church recognizes a miracle in which he has interceded. There is a case that is currently being investigated and it is of the miraculous healing of a French nun suffering from Parkinson’s.”
The date of John Paul II's beatification is not yet determined.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 23, 2010 (CNA) - The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, explained that the sexual scandals committed by some clergy members are a call for the entire Church to be more and more holy.
After receiving an honorary doctorate from the Catholic University of Avila, the cardinal offered an analysis “based on faith” of the recent events. The cases of sexual abuse are a call to “all of us to fix our gaze again upon the Lord and be converted. This is the future of humanity, which without God has no future.”
According to the Spanish daily, “La Razon,” Cardinal Canizares also criticized the media for their efforts to silence discussion about God. “The great hope of the love of God is above everything,” he said, “and the Cross of Christ is salvation and victory.”
During his remarks, the cardinal also praised the “important work carried about by the Catholic University” in promoting a new humanism.
He then denounced the “destructive and insidious relativism” present in Western society, noting that the essential focus of the University is “the issue of truth, something which is fundamental for man.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 23, 2010 (CNA) - The bishops of Antequera-Oaxaca in Mexico reminded political parties and candidates last week to improve upon the level of politics in the country because the Mexican people want representatives who are attentive to their needs.
“Citizens want parties and candidates who listen, who dialogue in the truth,” and “are always seeking the common good.” They added that it is necessary for political leaders to “propose real and feasible solutions to the challenges and fundamental necessities of our society, and to make commitments to fulfill their promises,” said the statement signed by Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez Botello of Antequera-Oaxaca and Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Campos.
They added that continuous broken promises have led many Mexicans to become disillusioned, which has only caused greater deterioration of the social fabric.
The bishops encouraged voters to become organized and make their voices heard, as otherwise “our leaders and political parties will never straighten up, and improve the level of politics.” If citizens do not grow in social participation and responsibility, they added, “the achievements and advances will be superficial and fleeting.”
The bishops asked those in Oaxaca to reflect on the needs of their region. “What does Oaxaca need most for peaceful coexistence, for its cultural, economic, political and social development?” What are the candidates and different sectors of society proposing? How can we put together the proposed solutions to the huge challenges and needs with the various proposals and keep society informed? How can we promote greater unity in society?” the bishops asked.
San José, Costa Rica, Mar 23, 2010 (CNA) - Regional superintendents of Religious Education in Costa Rica are denouncing suggestions to remove Catholic education courses from public schools following a ruling by Costa Rica’s Constitutional court. The recent decision stripped the Church's right to choose which religion teachers are hired in Costa Rican schools.
Last month, Costa Rica's Constitutional Court reversed a 1972 law stating that all religious teachers must be approved by the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica.
“We sense an ideological interest to eliminate the subject of Religious Education” on the part of some feminist, secular and pseudo-Christian groups who see the Catholic Church as an entity opposed to their agenda, the consultants said in a statement.
They called on educational officials to respect the legal norms allowing the Department of Religious Education to continue selecting religion teachers for the interim, because “having an academic title is not enough for teaching this material. One needs “ecclesial recognition of a charism,” they noted.
The regional superintendents urged the bishops to consider every legal means at their disposal to ensure that the Catholic faith will still be taught in public schools, and called on priests and those in lay ministry to do the same.
They then defended the rights of Costa Rican parents – the majority of whom are Catholic – and asked them to demand that their children “receive religious formation in public schools, taught by Catholic teachers, in accordance with article 75 of our Constitution.”
Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In compliance with the U.S. Bishops “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” the bishops' conference has just released its 2009 annual report. The results show a series of positive trends, including the fewest number of sex abuse investigations, offenders, and victims since 2004, as well as increased participation in Safe Environment training.
Data for the 2009 report was collected by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), an organization which has been gathering information on the sexual abuse of minors for the bishops’ conference since 2004.
That data showed that there were 398 allegations and 286 offenders reported to dioceses across the country during 2009. Most of the reports of sexual abuse involved offenses that occurred in previous decades. Only six allegations in 2009 pertained to children under the age of 18, and an eighth of all allegations during the year were determined to be false accusations or unsubstantiated.
CARA reported that “for the majority of new allegations (71 percent) brought to dioceses, the abuse began between 1960 and 1984” and that “the most common time period for allegations reported in 2009 was 1975-1979.”
Nationwide, the total cost paid by dioceses for settlements, therapy for victims, support of offenders, attorney fees and other costs amounted to $104,439,629 in 2009. Of this total, 53 percent was for settlements with victims and another six percent went toward therapy for victims if it was not already included in settlements. CARA also reported that “compared to 2008, amounts paid for settlements in 2009 decreased by 83 percent and the amount paid in attorneys’ fees declined by three percent.”
Additionally, dioceses nationwide invested more than $21 million in child protection efforts such as training programs and background checks. In all, almost six million children in Catholic schools and religious education programs went through Safe Environment training. Background evaluations were also performed on over two million priests, deacons, seminarians, educators, employees and volunteers.
“The number of children now equipped with the skills to protect themselves more effectively continues to grow,” said Cardinal Francis George, president of the USCCB, in a memo to all bishops and eparchs. “The Charter is causing a cultural change in the U.S. Catholic Church, one I hope will permeate all areas of society.”
However, Cardinal George highlighted the need for vigilance on the part of the bishops and for a continued outreach to victims. “Of course, as bishops, we take the responsibility to reach out to victims/survivors and create safe environments seriously. The life and dignity of the victims/survivors and of little ones lie at the core of our responsibilities as shepherds,” he said.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Mar 23, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, lamented a report from the U.N. accusing his country of “racism and poor treatment of the Haitian population” following Haiti's devastating earthquake on January 12.
According to Fides news agency, on March 17, the U.N. published a report stating the Dominican Republic should "adopt comprehensive strategies to combat racism, including specific measures on the conditions and protection of persons of Haitian origin.”
“Instead of criticizing the Dominican Republic,” the cardinal told the U.N., “the solidarity and speed with which the Dominican government moved to help the people of Haiti when it experienced the earthquake should be underscored.”
The former secretary of the Dominican Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Benito Angeles added, “Everyone knows that the Dominican authorities immediately came to the aid of Haitians and that the hospitals on the border, as well as those in the capital, were full of Haitians receiving first aid.”
Immediately following the earthquake, he said, people from the Dominican Republic began sending money, food and water to their Haitian neighbors. He added that a telethon held in the country raised an additional $1.3 million.
Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Moments after President Obama signed the Senate version of the health care reform legislation into law this afternoon, Cardinal Francis George spoke on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as he expressed their continued concern over the lack of conscience protections in the law and the limited ability of the president’s executive order to prevent federal funding of abortion.
The statement was approved by the 32-member Administrative Committee of the USCCB, which was holding its March meeting.
The USCCB statement began by applauding the health care legislation for helping to “fulfill the duty that we have to each other for the common good” by addressing the shortcomings of the current health care system which left many of the poor and marginalized without basic and necessary care.
Nevertheless, the U.S. Catholic bishops, who emphasized that they “speak in the name of the Church and for the Catholic faith itself,” said that the law is “profoundly flawed.”
The bishops noted that “there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion.”
Additionally, they said, “The statute is also profoundly flawed because it has failed to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protections (both within and beyond the abortion context). As well, many immigrant workers and their families could be left worse off since they will not be allowed to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges to be created, even if they use their own money.”
The bishops also mentioned the disagreement over abortion funding that occurred within the political sphere as well as the public dissent of the Catholic Health Association and others.
“Many in Congress and the Administration, as well as individuals and groups in the Catholic community, have repeatedly insisted that there is no federal funding for abortion in this statute and that strong conscience protection has been assured. Analyses that are being published separately show this not to be the case, which is why we oppose it in its current form,” they said.
In response to these findings, the bishops stated that “We and many others will follow the government’s implementation of health care reform and will work to ensure that Congress and the Administration live up to the claims that have contributed to its passage. We believe, finally, that new legislation to address its deficiencies will almost certainly be required.”
While the Executive Order is laudable in its statement of the necessity to “establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services,” the bishops pointed out that “the fact that an Executive Order is necessary to clarify the legislation points to deficiencies in the statute itself.”
“We do not understand how an Executive Order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions,” the statement said.
The American bishops also recognized and affirmed the pro-life members of Congress from both political parties “who have worked courageously to create legislation that respects the principles outlined above.” These men and women have “often been vilified and have worked against great odds,” they said.
The bishops closed their statement by saying, “The Catholic faith is not a partisan agenda, and we take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to working for health care which truly and fully safeguards the life, dignity, conscience and health of all, from the child in the womb to those in their last days on earth.”
Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2010 (CNA) - Parallel to the actions of 13 states’ attorneys general, the Thomas More Law Center has filed a lawsuit challenging the health care reform bill. The suit argues that it is unconstitutional to force someone to purchase health care coverage and to force those who object to pay for abortions.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Law Center, claimed the health care bill was “a product of political corruption and the exercise of unconstitutional power.” A successful lawsuit would ensure “a limited form of government,” he said.
Plaintiffs in the suit are the Law Center and four individuals from southeastern Michigan. Defendants are President Obama, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, who are being sued in their official capacity.
According to the complaint, filed in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, because of their “deeply held religious beliefs” the plaintiffs object to “being forced by the federal government to contribute in any way to the funding of abortion.” Abortion funding is contrary to their First Amendment rights of conscience and free exercise of religion, the complaint continues.
The lawsuit also charges that the health care reform law imposes unconstitutional government mandates on citizens. It challenges Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause to pass the law, and claims violations of the Tenth Amendment which reserves power for the states and the people.
“Let’s face it, if Congress has the power to force individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or pay a federal penalty merely because they live in America, then it has the unconstrained power to mandate that every American family buy a General Motors vehicle to help the economy or pay a federal penalty,” Thompson argued.
He commented that Americans agree on the need for reform of health care, but said they do not want reform “by trampling on our Constitution.”
Attorneys general from 13 U.S. states have also filed a lawsuit charging that the Constitution “nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage."
Lawrence Friedman, a professor who teaches constitutional law at the New England School of Law in Boston, told the Associated Press that he believes the lawsuit has little chance of success.
The state officials argue the federal law unconstitutionally forces the states to carry out its provisions but does not reimburse them for costs. They add that states cannot afford the new law. They claim Florida will pay an additional $150 million in 2014, growing to $1 billion a year by 2019.
Other states are considering joining the 13 states or filing separate lawsuits.