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Archive of September 25, 2012

HHS mandate allows minors free contraception, sterilization

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Minor children on their parents’ health care plans will have free coverage of sterilization and contraception, including abortion-causing drugs, under the controversial HHS mandate – and depending on the state, they can obtain access without parental consent.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel for the religious liberty legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, said the mandate “tramples parental rights” because it requires them to “pay for and sponsor coverage of abortifacients, sterilization, contraception and education in favor of the same for their own children.”

The Department of Health and Human Services ruled in January 2012 that most employers who have 50 or more employees must provide the coverage as “preventive care” for “all women with reproductive capacity.”

The mandate also requires the coverage for beneficiaries, including minors, on the affected health plans, Bowman told CNA Sept. 20. That means that a minor on her parents’ plan could be sterilized if she finds a doctor willing to perform the procedure.

“She can be sterilized at no cost,” Bowman stated. “Whether her parents will know and/or consent might differ by state. But the Guttmacher Institute and other abortion advocates explicitly advocated for this mandated coverage of minors so that access without parental involvement might be able to increase.”

The Guttmacher Institute, in a Sept. 1 briefing on state policies, said that an increase in minors’ access to reproductive health care over the last 30 years shows a broader recognition that “while parental involvement in minors’ health care decisions is desirable, many minors will not avail themselves of important services if they are forced to involve their parents.”

The institute, the former research arm of abortion provider Planned Parenthood, said that 26 states and the District of Columbia allow all minors 12 years and older to consent to contraceptive services. At least one state, Oregon, allows 15-year-olds to consent to sterilization.

CNA repeatedly contacted the Department of Health and Human Services for comment but did not receive a response.

Employers who do not comply with the mandate face fines of $100 per employee per day. Large employers like the University of Notre Dame could face annual fines in the millions.

There are presently 30 lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate in federal court on religious freedom grounds. The 80 plaintiffs include Catholic dioceses, universities, health care systems and charities.

The mandate’s narrow religious exemption would not apply to many Catholic institutions, despite Catholics’ moral and religious objections to the covered procedures and drugs. Several Protestant institutions have also challenged the law, citing objections to abortion-causing drugs.

The Obama administration has said it will accommodate some religious objections, though the details of those arrangements remain unclear.

Bowman rejected the idea that the Obama administration’s proposed accommodations will affect the coverage of minors.

“The accommodation does not even claim it will change this part of the mandate,” he said.

Legislation to allow all employers with religious or moral objections to opt out of the coverage failed in the U.S. Senate earlier this year.

Defenders of the Obama administration have depicted resistance to the mandate as a “war on women.”

At the same time, a grassroots campaign called The Women Speak for Themselves has garnered the support of 34,000 women. The group says those backing the mandate are trying to “shout down anyone who disagrees” with them by invoking “women’s health,” while ignoring the negative physical and social effects of contraception for women.

Updated at Sept. 25, 2012 at 9:44 a.m. MST. Adds fines for employers in ninth paragraph.

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Australian bishops pledge cooperation with abuse inquiry

Melbourne, Australia, Sep 25, 2012 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Australia’s Victoria state have said the Catholic Church in Victoria will cooperate “fully” with the Australian state’s parliamentary inquiry into child abuse.

“Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has caused deep concern among Catholics and the wider community,” Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne said Sept. 21. “It is shameful and shocking that this abuse, with its dramatic impact on those who were abused and their families, was committed by Catholic priests, religious and church workers.”

The Victorian parliament has launched an inquiry into how religious and other non-governmental organizations handled child abuse, following suicides by dozens of people abused by clergy, Agence France Presse reports.

The Catholic bishops said the incidence of abuse has fallen “dramatically” from the “appalling numbers” in the 1960s and 1970s. In the last 16 years, the Catholic Church in Victoria has upheld about 620 cases of criminal child abuse, with most claims regarding incidents between 30 and 80 years ago.

The bishops said there have been “very few” complaints of abuse since 1990.

Michael Holcroft, President of the Law Institute of Victoria, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that there is a need for independent investigations.

“Obviously there’s a public perception that the church investigating the church is Caesar judging Caesar, and I think that the community is now looking for somebody external, someone independent to get to the bottom of what's obviously been a big problem for a long, long time,” he said.

Chrissie Foster, the mother of two daughters raped by their parish priest in the mid-1980s, objected that the Church only revealed the figure on Sept. 21. Foster also accused the Church of doing nothing to stop abusive priests.

Archbishop Hart stated the Church’s support for “brave” victims of abuse who come forward and speak to the inquiry and the Church’s support for those who do not testify.

“We acknowledge the suffering and trauma endured by children who have been in the Church’s care, and the effect on their families,” the archbishop said. “We renew our apology to them.”

He said the Catholic Church’s submission to the inquiry examines what the Church has learned from “past failures” and how it has changed its approach to victims and offenders.

The submission discusses the Church’s commitment to caring for children and developments in society’s and the Church’s understanding of “the pernicious nature of pedophilia.”

“The Church, both internationally and in Australia, has continued to review and refine its processes, procedures, and practices,” he said. “We put the child first, and our refined measures promote the protection of children.”

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Catholics in India calling for protest of 'objectionable' Bollywood film

Mumbai, India, Sep 25, 2012 (CNA) - Catholic groups in India have called for the protest of an upcoming Hindi film if scenes portraying believers and clergy in an offensive manner are not removed from the film.

“If the clergy of any other religion would not be seen in such a manner, why is it expected that the Christian community keep quiet over such mockery and ridicule of its faith?” Joseph Dias said in a Sept. 21 statement from the Catholic-Christian Secular Forum.

Dias, who is head of the ecumenical group, noted that while stereotyping of Christians has existed in films, the movie “Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal” is a “new low” for Bollywood.

Among the objectionable scenes are a dance number featuring a Catholic priest on the steps of a church while wearing a garland of lottery tickets and rosary, a live person hiding in a coffin marked with a cross, and a priest holding a bouquet of flowers bearing the message, “I love you.”

In an e-mail to supporters, Dias encouraged all Christians to voice their disapproval over the film, which is set to release Sept. 26. Dias said that for the most part, Christians do not “protest vociferously enough.”

A group of representatives from various Catholic groups in India along with a priest of the Archdiocese of Bombay met and submitted a request to the Central Board of Film Certification Sept. 23 asking that the film's release be postponed until the objectionable scenes are removed.

Despite the Indian government having control over the censorship and rating of the country's booming film industry, Dias said it seems that movies mocking Christianity slip through more easily than others.

“The movie passed by the (Central Board of Film Certification) has hurt our religious sentiments and is giving the impression that the government is taking Christians for granted,” he said.

Judith Monterio of the Mumbai-based  Association of Concerned Catholics said the negative portrayal of Christians is so serious that a special screening of the film to a board of Catholic representatives should be required before the film can hit theaters, the Times of India reported.

Father Rueben Tellis of the Bombay archdiocese said that a permanent member of the Catholic community should be placed in the Central Board of Film Certification to prevent future offenses.

Although India is the second most populous country in the world, with roughly 1.2 billion people, only about two percent of the population is Catholic.

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Peruvian archbishop condemns rise in terrorism, drug trafficking

Piura, Peru, Sep 25, 2012 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren of Piura urged Peruvians to pray for the Virgin Mary's intercession, as drug trafficking and terrorism are on the rise throughout Latin America.  

In a Sept. 24 Mass in honor of Our Lady of Mercies, Archbishop Eguren recalled the 1992 capture of Abimael Guzman, the leader of the Peruvian terrorist group called the Shining Path.  

Although the group's activity declined in the years following Guzman's arrest, small remnants are beginning to grow again through involvement in drug trafficking.

During his homily Archbishop Eguren condemned the recent killing of several soldiers and policemen by drug traffickers in the jungles of southern Peru.

He also called on Peruvian President Ollanta Humala to give the Armed Forces the resources it needs “to regain as soon as possible its capacity as a defense and deterrent” against terrorism.

Archbishop Eguren concluded his homily urging “a great movement of national unity against terrorism in which all Peruvians, those in uniform and those not, to close ranks against it, and clearly and unambiguously condemn it.”

Terrorism, he underscored, “is profoundly inhumane, anti-Gospel, and an enemy of the dignity of the person and social peace.”

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Conscience rights for pharmacists upheld in Illinois ruling

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - An Illinois appeals court’s ruling on the conscience rights of pharmacists is being hailed as a victory for religious freedom and could offer hope to current lawsuits challenging the federal contraception mandate.

“Government can’t force pharmacists and pharmacies to violate their religious beliefs to stay in business,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has been co-representing the pharmacists for seven years.

Rienzi told CNA on Sept. 24 that the ruling provides a “useful” parallel in examining the controversial Health and Human Services mandate that forces many religious employers to violate their sincere beliefs by providing health insurance coverage of contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs.

“I think the same principle would apply,” he said.

On Sept. 21, an Illinois appellate court held that the state cannot force pharmacies and pharmacists to sell early abortion-inducing drugs if doing so violates their religious beliefs.

The ruling comes after seven years of litigation over a state mandate requiring all pharmacies and pharmacists to sell Plan B, known as the “morning after pill.” Pharmacists who did not comply were threatened with penalties, including fines and “the loss of professional licenses.”

Several pharmacists and pharmacies that hold moral objections to the morning-after pill because it can cause the abortion of a human embryo filed lawsuits.

A circuit court ruled that “the plaintiffs had sincere religious beliefs preventing them from dispensing emergency contraceptives” and issued a permanent injunction preventing the state from enforcing the mandate against them.

The court of appeals has now affirmed the injunction, arguing that pharmacists and pharmacies are protected under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

This law prohibits discrimination in health care licensing due to religious objections that prevent cooperation with certain procedures or products.

Rienzi said that the state mandate is an instance of “religious discrimination, as surely as a fine on going to church.”

He noted that in the Illinois case, the defendants made the same argument put forward by the Obama administration in defending the contraception mandate, claiming that the right to religious freedom is surrendered when one enters a for-profit business. However, the court rejected this argument, he said.

The Becket Fund was also involved in a recent Washington state case where a federal court struck down a similar requirement.

Rienzi finds rulings like these encouraging for the ongoing fight over the contraception mandate. More than 80 plaintiffs across the country have filed lawsuits challenging that mandate and the threat that it poses to their free exercise of religion.

The contraception mandate is “particularly offensive,” Rienzi said, because there are numerous other ways for the government to ensure that women have access to contraception without forcing objecting employers to facilitate it.

“There’s no need to do this,” he explained. “These are religious beliefs that people have lived with just fine for our whole history.”

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Cardinal Wuerl recalls Church's unchanging foundation in Christ

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - With its identity firmly rooted in the person of Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church's mission to proclaim the Gospel continues unchanged throughout time and place, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

Carrying out this mission requires the participation of all of the faithful, the cardinal said, adding that “if we want a world that more clearly reflects the high ideals of the Gospel, all of us must be actively engaged in this transformation.”

The Catholic “vision of life” teaches us that rather than acting as mere spectators, we “are all called to be participants in the struggle to establish a truly good and just society,” he said.

In a new pastoral letter titled, “The Church, Our Spiritual Home,” Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the unique identity and mission of the Catholic Church and its members.

The Catholic Church is not a club or a man-made organization resulting from the decision of people coming together, he said, but rather, the Body of Christ and the continuation of Jesus' teaching ministry here on earth.

And while the faithful are also citizens in a political system, the Church itself is not a political party, he said. Therefore, while the Church speaks about morality and natural law, its teachings are not rooted in political alignment with a party, but from its mission and identity which come from Christ.

Amid claims that “the Church needs to come into the 21st century,” we must also remember that the Church “is not an expression or manifestation of current popular or cultural conditioning,” Cardinal Wuerl added.

“We do not possess the power to change what we have received,” he stressed. “We can only pass it on – or fail to pass it on.”

Nor is the Church a “special interest group,” he said, noting that although any individual or group can say they are Catholic, “only the bishops as successors to the Apostles speak for the faith.”

The authority of the bishops is rooted in Scripture, as Christ chose Apostles to continue his work, and they appointed their successors, who received the same Holy Spirit that is poured out in the sacrament of holy orders today, he said.

With this in mind, the cardinal explained, we can be confident that the Church is Christ’s enduring, visible presence in the world and the beginning of the realization of God’s kingdom, which will ultimately be fulfilled in eternity.

While members of the Church – including those within the hierarchy – are capable of committing grave sins, he said, their failings do not detract from the truth of the message they proclaim, which the Holy Spirit continues to safeguard.  

Therefore, he said, the sins of those in the Church “must not cloud our belief in the truth of Christ’s teachings.”

Although the hierarchy play an important role in proclaiming the Gospel, the laity also share in this important duty, Cardinal Wuerl continued.

“The hierarchical structure of the Church does not mean that the bishops and priests continue Christ's ministry all alone,” he said.

Rather, he explained, lay men and women “have responsibility for the temporal order because it requires all knowledge, skills, talents and insights they acquire and exercise in their varied secular skills.”

As they work to apply the teaching of the Gospel within their own spheres, such as law, medicine and education, they must take care to properly form their consciences so that they can respond correctly to the complex challenges arising in the modern world, he said.

The cardinal warned of theologians, groups and individuals who claim the title Catholic while promoting teaching that does not adhere to the faith of the Church as expressed by the Pope and the bishops in communion with him.

Such ideas should not be accepted as valid, he said, encouraging the use of the Catechism to confirm the authenticity of questionable ideas.

“We do not belong to the Church to set within it our own path to salvation,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “We are members of the Church because we want to be shaped by its teaching and gift of grace. Christ founded the Church to be the gift to lead us to eternal life.”

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Americans represented among Synod of Bishops experts

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed 10 Catholics from the United States as advisers and auditors for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome.

The gathering of 200 bishops from around the globe will take place at the Vatican Oct. 7-28 under the title of “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”

The experts and auditors are not voting members of the synod but are available to give advice and help to the participating bishops. On Sept. 22 Pope Benedict nominated 45 such experts and 49 observers.

Among the five experts from the United States are Dr. Ralph Martin of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and Sr. Sara Butler of St. Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein.  

Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the global fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus, is one of the five American auditors invited to participate by Pope Benedict along with the founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, Curtis Martin.  

This year's Synod of Bishops will also help launch Pope Benedict’s Year of Faith which is aimed at rolling out the Church’s “new evangelization” of the Western world.

Of the 94 experts and auditors appointed, 29 are female – a record number for a Synod of Bishops. Geographically, the majority are drawn from Europe.

The synod also marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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Christian leaders praise Romney, Republican platform

Denver, Colo., Sep 25, 2012 (CNA) - A diverse group of 28 Christian leaders has sent a letter to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney praising him for the social policies included in the Republican Party's 2012 platform.

“On those matters of social policy that address our deepest concerns—the sanctity of human life, compassion for the downtrodden and persecuted, the identity of the family, and religious freedom, the Republican platform speaks clearly and powerfully,” the letter says.

The group also says the platform demonstrates the principles that will guide his administration if Romney is elected president.

The letter includes selections of the platform which its signatories particularly admire.

The Republican Party's “compassion for the downtrodden and persecuted” is exemplified in the letter by its allegiance to ending religious persecution overseas, to ending human trafficking, and a commitment to non-discrimination.

The letter applauds the defense of conscience and religious freedom in the platform, as well as the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The letter also focuses on the moral principles in the Republican platform, which are “squarely within the Judeo-Christian tradition” and are “at stake in today's society.”

Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, are thanked for running on a platform which is a “political compass” in the “confusing moral thickets of our day.”

The signers encourage support for Romney even though there may be “differences in a candidate's theological doctrine.” This is despite the fact that “some have tempered their enthusiasm” for the Mormon candidate. Government policy is the issue, the letter says, not theology.

The letter is signed by 28 Christian leaders, both Catholic and Protestant, and includes the organizations to which each of the individuals belongs.

The Catholic signatories include Leonard Leo of The Catholic Association; Raymond Flynn, US Ambassador to the Vatican under President Clinton; Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life; and Deal Hudson of The Catholic Advocate.

They are joined by Anthony Lauinger of National Right to Life; Peggy Hartshorn of Heartbeat International; Jim Daly of Focus on the Family; and Tony Perkins of Family Research Council.

Also signing were Frank Wright of National Religious Broadcasters and Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. and director of African American Outreach for Priests for Life.

The full text of the letter is as follows.

Mitt Romney
Romney for President
585 Commercial Street
Boston, MA 02109

Dear Governor Romney,

In this election year, matters of religious belief are once again highly visible in the public square. Some
have tempered their enthusiasm for sound governing principles by their concern over differences in a candidate’s theological doctrine. It is time to remind ourselves that civil government is not about a particular theology but rather about public policy, and the question we ask is this one: what are the policy principles that will govern your administration should you prevail on Election Day.

For that answer we must look to the Republican platform, the document that most clearly defines your
principles, and those of your party, on a wide range of topics. Among them are those that derive from
Biblical truth, an important source of our nation’s political philosophy. As you know, this year the platform proposals received hearty debate and intense scrutiny by Republican delegates from every state just prior to the party convention in Tampa. The platform was adopted resoundingly and embraced
wholeheartedly by you and your running mate Paul Ryan.

From our perspective as leaders who are motivated by Christian faith, it is a remarkably strong document and we congratulate you for it. On those matters of social policy that address our deepest concerns – the sanctity of human life, compassion for the downtrodden and persecuted, the identity of the family, and religious freedom, the Republican platform speaks clearly and powerfully. Its principles
are squarely within the Judeo-Christian tradition, and we affirm the compelling words that convey its
positions. Here are some of them:

Sanctity of Human Life

“Faithful to the 'self-evident' truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children … (p. 14)”

“We also salute the many States that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation. We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy (p.14).”

Defense of Marriage

“A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order … is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States … It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.
“That is why Congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of States and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions … We affirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of states which have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other States to do so. (p. 10).”

Religious Freedom

“The Republican Party includes Americans from every faith and tradition, and our policies and positions respect the right of every American to follow his or her beliefs and underscore our reverence for the religious freedom envisioned by the Founding Fathers of our nation and of our party. (p. 9).”

“We pledge to respect the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard the independence of their institutions from government … we assert every citizen’s right to apply religious values to public policy and the right of faith-based organizations to participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, removing religious symbols, or submitting to government-imposed hiring practices (p.12).”

Religious Persecution

“To those who stand in the darkness of tyranny, America has always been a beacon of hope, and so it must remain … Religious minorities across the Middle East are being driven from their ancient homelands, fanaticism leaves its bloody mark on both West and East Africa, and even among America’s Western friends and allies, pastors and families are penalized for their religious convictions. A Republican Administration will return the advocacy of religious liberty to a central place in our diplomacy (p. 45).”

Human Trafficking

As we approach the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by the first Republican President Abraham Lincoln, we are reminded to be vigilant against human bondage in whatever form it appears. We will use the full force of the law against those who engage in modern-day forms of slavery, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children and the forced labor of men, women, and children (p.46).”

Non-discrimination

“... We consider discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, creed, disability, or national origin unacceptable and immoral. We will strongly enforce anti-discrimination statutes and ask all to join us in rejecting the forces of hatred and bigotry and in denouncing all who practice or promote racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, or religious intolerance (p.9).”

“The Republican Party includes Americans from every faith and tradition, and our policies and positions respect the right of every American to follow his or her beliefs and underscore our reverence for the religious freedom envisioned by the Founding Fathers of our nation and of our party. (p. 9).”


These then are some of the concepts in the Republican platform that speak to the moral principles at stake in today’s society. No such document will satisfy everyone, and its enactment will only be as vigorous as the political leaders we elect. Nonetheless, the platform is a strong statement of social
principles, and we encourage everyone to judge it for themselves (it is available at http://whitehouse12.com/republican-party-platform/). In the confusing moral thickets of our day, this is
a political compass that provides clear and sharp direction, a guide that is sorely needed by our country’s office holders. Once again we congratulate you and the Republican Party for your diligent work in producing the 2012 platform.

Cc: Reince Priebus, Chairman
 Republican National Committee

Signed by the following as individuals (affiliations listed for identification purposes only)

Raymond Ruddy
President, Gerard Health Foundation

Tom Minnery
Executive Director, Citizen Link

Margaret H. (“Peggy”) Hartshorn, Ph.D.
President, Heartbeat International

Jonathan Falwell
Thomas Road Baptist Church

Kristan Hawkins
President, Students for Life of America

Ralph Reed
President, Faith and Freedom Coalition

Leonard Leo
Director, The Catholic Association

Anthony Lauinger
Executive Vice President, National Right to Life

Joel Belz
Founder, World Magazine

Dr. Jack C. Willke, MD
President, Life Issue Institute

Joseph A. Brinck
President, Sanctity of Life Foundation

James Bopp, Jr.
The Bopp Law Firm

Raymond L. Flynn
Former Mayor of Boston and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican

Andrea S. Lafferty
President, Traditional Values Coalition

Rev Louis P. Sheldon
Chairman and Founder, Traditional Values Coalition

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life
President, National Pro-life Religious Council

Dr. Alveda King
Director, African American Outreach Priests For Life

Tim Wildmon
President, American Family Association and American Family Radio

Penny Young Nance
President, Concerned Women for America

Jim Daly
President, Focus on the Family

Deal Hudson
President, Pennsylvania Catholics Network

Tony Perkins
President, Family Research Council

Franklin Graham
President, Samaritan’s Purse

Gary Bauer
President,
American Values

Allen & Leslee Unruh
Alpha Center & National Abstinence Clearinghouse

Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Chancellor and President, Liberty University

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
President NHCLC Hispanic Evangelical Association

Frank Wright, Ph.D.
President and CEO, National Religious Broadcasters

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Congressman questions Obama's commitment to fight human trafficking

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2012 (CNA) - New efforts announced by President Barack Obama to fight human trafficking have renewed criticism of his administration for preventing a highly effective Catholic group from receiving funds to aid victims.

In a Sept. 25 speech at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, Obama praised the work of those who have “decided that their conscience compels them to act in the face of injustice.”
 
He pointed to his Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in working to fight human trafficking and mentioned the Catholic Church as a faith community that is “truly doing the Lord’s work” in its anti-trafficking efforts.  

Obama announced a new executive order to prevent human trafficking through new regulations for U.S. contractors and subcontractors, including a prohibition on trafficking-related practices such as charging recruitment fees.

Large contract holders will be required to implement awareness and compliance programs, and a process will be created to identify industries with a problematic history.

The order also requires additional “guidance and training” for those responsible for enforcing the new measures.

The announcement, however, drew criticism from Representative James Lankford (R-Okla.), who said that the president has put his own political gain before the good of trafficking victims.

While he says that he “wants to promote awareness of human trafficking,” Obama has a “record of removing the experts at providing these services,” Lankford charged in a statement responding to the president’s speech.

He pointed to the administration’s decision last year not to renew a grant with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services to aid human trafficking victims.

An independent review board gave the bishops’ group superior ratings for their work over several years. However, the group was passed over for a grant renewal, and the funds were instead given to an organization with a significantly lower score.

The decision came after new guidelines for grant applicants indicated that “strong preference” will be given to organizations that offer referrals for the “full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”

Critics contended that the administration was putting the promotion of abortion before the needs of trafficking victims.

The bishops’ group “was not eligible for assisting victims of human trafficking solely because they would not encourage victims of abuse to seek an abortion or contraceptive drugs,” Lankford said.

The Oklahoma congressman accused the president of acting out of political motives. He said that the new executive order was “modeled directly” after a piece of legislation that he had introduced, the End Human Trafficking in Government Contracting Act.

Successfully included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 that was passed by the House, the legislation is expected to be added to the Senate version of the bill as well.

Lankford argued that the president should not have circumvented the legislative process when the bill had “broad bi-partisan support in the House and Senate.”

The temporary executive order undermines months of work that has been done by both parties to more permanently address the problem, he said.

The congressman noted that more than 20 executive policies and regulations have already been enacted but “have failed to stop the practice.”

“One more executive order will not solve the problem,” he said. “We have a loophole in our law that must be closed, and we have serious enforcement issues of existing law.”
 
Pointing to the choice of a lower-rated organization over the bishops’ group, Lankford questioned the president’s commitment to promoting effective efforts to fight human trafficking.

He accused Obama of using the executive order “to jump in front of the moving crowd and claim leadership, when real leadership involves not just doing something, but doing the right thing, at the right time.”

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Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

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Mt 13:54-58

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