Jefferson City, Mo., Aug 9, 2012 (CNA) - A constitutional amendment protecting Missouri residents’ right to pray in public passed by large margins in the Aug. 8 election.
Mike Hoey, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, said the vote “repudiated religious intolerance.”
“You don't have to see bringing religion to the public square as a threat,” Hoey told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “We see it as positive thing, and most Missourians did too.”
About 83 percent of voters, almost 780,000 people, favored the measure while 17 percent were opposed.
Amendment 2 says that government will not impose religion on Missouri residents or force any citizen to participate in religious activity. It also secures the right of individual or corporate prayer in public or private so long as the prayer does not disturb the peace or disrupt public meetings.
It guarantees elected officials the right to pray on government premises and public property.
The amendment allows students to express their religious beliefs in schoolwork, to opt out of school requirements that conflict with those beliefs, and to exercise their beliefs in private, voluntary and non-disruptive ways.
The amendment also requires public schools to display the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights in “a conspicuous and legible manner.”
Republican State Rep. Mike McGhee had unsuccessfully sponsored the amendment for years until it passed the legislature in 2011.
Opponents of the measure include the Anti-Defamation League of Missouri and Southern Illinois and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
They said that the ballot language was misleading in its presentation for not mentioning its rights for students and elected officials.
Karen Aroestey of the regional Anti-Defamation League said the bill is “possibly unconstitutional in its application, so now we’re headed for the courts.”
Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said that the amendment will allow more taxpayer-funded lawsuits against school districts from individuals “on both sides of the church-state debate.”
Missouri’s Catholic bishops backed the amendment.
“True religious freedom does not just constitute freedom to worship on Sunday, but also includes the freedom to express one’s faith publicly,” they said Aug. 3.
They said the amendment comes at a time when religious values are “becoming marginalized,” and noted that Catholic teaching supports believers’ right to give “their prayerful witness” to the common good of society.
Austin, Texas, Aug 9, 2012 (CNA) - More than 2,400 viewers responded to an advertisement offering help to women in crisis pregnancies, which aired over 50 times on Black Entertainment Television during summer 2012.
“Women deserve to know about the compassionate help that is available to them, and this campaign accomplished just that,” Heroic Media CEO Brian Follett said in an Aug. 8 statement about the results of the ad that offered referrals to local pregnancy centers.
“We are thrilled with the 2,400 responses and can't wait to reach even more women with messages of hope in the coming weeks and months,” said Follett.
Heroic Media's “call for help” message included a toll-free number for the national “Option Line.” Viewers could call or send a text message for resources and information about alternatives to abortion.
The advertisement aired on Black Entertainment Television was targeted toward women facing abandonment or other consequences of an unplanned pregnancy. In it, a woman tells viewers: “A baby is a life you created – a baby that will love you, and need you, in return.”
The message stresses the availability of help, telling women they “don't have to do this alone.”
Public response to the pro-life ad is “encouraging,” said Marissa Gabrysch, Director of Marketing, Research and Communications for Heroic Media. She said the response numbers “represent women who are responding to hopeful messages and finding compassionate, practical and free services.”
Heroic Media has run four national television campaigns since 2010. During 2011, the company received more than 146,000 inquiries in response to its messages promoting pregnancy options online, through television, and in outdoor advertisements.
Denver, Colo., Aug 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - President Barack Obama reaffirmed his support for mandatory contraception coverage in a Wednesday campaign stop in Denver, drawing criticism from a lawyer representing a Colorado company fighting the mandate on religious freedom grounds.
Matt Bowman, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, objected to the president’s contention that offering exemptions to the mandatory coverage allows employers to control women.
“The only ‘controlling’ actions in this case involve the president's command that families abandon their faith just because they want to earn a living or serve their community,” Bowman told CNA Aug. 8. “The government is picking and choosing what faith is and who can live it out, and then targeting religious people with massive penalties while bureaucrats exempt millions of other people for political reasons.”
President Obama addressed a rally on the Auraria Campus in Denver. He criticized his opponent, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, for favoring legislation the president said would “allow any employer to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees.”
“It would be up to the employer to decide. Your boss, telling you what’s best for your health, your safety,” the president said.
“I don’t think your boss should get to control the health care that you get. I don’t think that insurance companies should control the care that you get. I don’t think politicians should control the care that you get.”
The Department of Health and Human Services mandate requires most employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs. It went into effect for many employers on Aug. 1.
The Alliance Defending Freedom religious liberty group is representing the Colorado-based Hercules Industries, a manufacturer of heating, ventilation and air conditioning units. The company’s Catholic owners object to the mandated coverage, saying it violates their beliefs.
On July 27 a federal judge granted the company an injunction protecting it from the mandate.
The HHS mandate has prompted Catholic leaders and others to seek changes through Congress. The Blunt Amendment, which would have provided broad conscience exemptions for health care coverage providers, was killed in the U.S. Senate March 1 by a 51-48 vote.
President Obama contended in his Denver speech that the demand for exemptions comes from the “far right” of the Republican Party. However, three Democratic senators voted against killing the Blunt Amendment.
The lack of broad religious exemptions to the mandate has helped fan the controversy. The mandate would apply to many Catholic charities, health care systems, universities and even archdioceses. Over 40 Catholic institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, have challenged the mandate in courts around the country.
The mandate has also brought tens of thousands of people to nationwide protests and caused a diverse number of religious groups, including non-Christians, to decry the mandate’s infringement on religious freedom.
While the Obama administration has said it will seek a better religious freedom accommodation, its details are still unclear and the mandate is already affecting many secular employers.
President Obama’s Wednesday speech portrayed the religious freedom issue as settled.
“We recognize that many people have strongly held religious views on contraception, which is why we made sure churches and other houses of worship, they don’t have to provide it, they don’t have to pay for it,” he said.
“We worked with the Catholic hospitals and universities to find a solution that protects both religious liberty and a woman’s health.”
However, Catholic leaders insist more action is needed.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, renewed the call for broader conscience exemptions in an Aug. 3 letter to Congress.
“The fundamental importance of the religious freedom issue at stake demands a timely congressional response,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “Through this mandate, the Administration is promoting an approach to religious freedom that is more grudging and arbitrary than any yet seen in federal law.”
Lima, Peru, Aug 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During the presentation of a new book on his experiences during the 1997 hostage crisis at the Japanese embassy in Lima, Cardinal Juan Cipriani recalled the days as “very difficult.”
The cardinal noted that “a lot of faith, a lot of prayers,” went into the ordeal in which he acted on behalf of the Vatican in seeking a peaceful solution.
In December of 1996, a group of terrorists stormed the Japanese embassy in Lima and held dozens hostage. The following April, Peruvian officials launched a military operation to free those kidnapped and regain control of the embassy.
All fourteen terrorists were killed, as well as two commandos and one hostage.
Cardinal Cipriani said his book on the crisis had been half-written for over fifteen years. He finished it after reviewing “a series of archived documents, because I found it very difficult to recall the events.”
“I felt a deep sorrow that was hard to explain and that was made worse by the totally biased interpretation of the events by some in the government and the media.”
He recalled in his book that during the long ordeal, the hostages “were especially appreciative of their families, their children and their spouses. There was the sense that: how many things could I do better now that I am taking stock of my life.”
The cardinal concluded his remarks by encouraging Peruvians to remember the words of Blessed John Paul II that “violence is never a path towards anything good.”
St. Louis, Mo., Aug 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The keynote speaker at the annual Leadership Conference of Women Religious assembly assured the sisters that their qualities of “evolutionary leadership” will serve them well in their future decisions.
Barbara Marx Hubbard, an author and promoter of “conscious evolution,” told approximately 900 sisters who gathered in St. Louis for their annual assembly that they are facing a profound moment in time.
“We have come here together at the most critical time in the history of humanity because we’re facing a moment of choice,” she said.
Hubbard expanded on her philosophy, saying that out of every crisis comes the opportunity for evolution or destruction.
“How might the contents of conscious evolution be a service to a full next step to the larger world and to the Church itself?” she asked the assembly.
Hubbard's address comes after the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith issued in April 2012 the results of a four year study of the organization that found a doctrinal “crisis.” The report placed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle in charge of carrying out a reform of the group.
Among the key findings of the assessment were serious theological and doctrinal errors in presentations at the conference's annual assemblies in recent years.
Several of the addresses, the assessment said, depicted a vision of religious life that is incompatible with the faith of the Church. Some attempted to justify dissent from Church doctrine and showed “scant regard for the role of the Magisterium.”
“As you know, she is a scientist and futurist and LCWR is very interested in hearing understandings about the rapid shifts that are occurring in the world today,” the group’s president Sr. Pat Farrell told the media Aug. 2.
Hubbard made no mention of the Vatican's assessment and the sisters have been encouraged not to “speculate publicly” about what will happen.
LCWR’s leaders are expected to make an announcement Aug. 10 about how they will respond to the Vatican mandate for reform, after consultation in a series of executive sessions.
Hubbard believes the conference has shown great capacity to “speak truth to power,” as evidenced by the recent “Nuns on the Bus” campaign.
Although the bus tour, which overlapped the U.S. Bishop's Fortnight for Freedom prayer initiative to defend religious freedom, was not directly sponsored by the LCWR, but a “progressive” Catholic social justice organization called Network, many of its participants were conference members.
“So my conclusion is that you are the best seedbed I know for evolving the Church and the world in the 21st century,” Hubbard said.
National Catholic Register correspondent Ann Carey contributed to this report.
Boston, Mass., Aug 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The campaign of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has released an ad accusing President Obama of declaring “war on religion” by supporting the controversial HHS mandate.
“President Obama used his healthcare plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith,” the ad says.
“Mitt Romney believes that’s wrong,” it states.
The ad, titled “Be Not Afraid,” draws on a Feb. 1 column by Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson to say that President Obama has declared war on religion.
It also features Romney’s footage from his recent Poland trip and touts his endorsement by Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.
On July 31 in Warsaw, Romney cited Pope John Paul II’s words “Be not afraid.” He said those words “would bring down an empire and bring freedom to millions who lived in bondage.”
The ad says “When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?”
The Romney campaign released the ad with the Republican National Committee.
The Department of Health and Human Services, using powers granted by the 2010 health care legislation, has mandated that most employers cover sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs, as “preventive care” for women.
The mandate’s narrow religious exemption does not cover many Catholic charities, health care systems and universities. The Obama administration has proposed an accommodation but its details are still unclear. Catholic leaders and others have demanded a broader exemption for religious employers and for secular businesses.
Backers of the mandate have accused opponents of waging a “war on women” in an effort to appeal to women voters in swing states.
The Romney campaign’s release of the ad comes after President Barack Obama in an Aug. 8 campaign speech in Denver reiterated his support for the controversial mandate.