Archive of November 20, 2012

Author says society's marriage discussion must remember children

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2012 (CNA) - Catholics seeking to build up a strong culture of marriage must focus on promoting a healthy understanding of it rather than simply fighting against attacks, according to the author of a new book on discussing marriage.

"Our goal isn't to prevent same-sex couples from marrying," said William B. May, president of Catholics for the Common Good, a San Francisco-based lay apostolate that seeks to evangelize the culture.

Rather, he explained, the goal is to promote marriage, the fundamental social institution that unites the parents of children who come into the world from their union.

May told CNA in an early November interview that one of the biggest problems in promoting a healthy culture of marriage is that the meaning of marriage has been obscured.

Many people think that marriage is simply "the public recognition of a committed relationship,” an adult-centered union that is about happiness and personal fulfillment "rather than the foundation of the family," he explained.

But in reality, marriage unites a man, a woman and any children born from their union, he said, noting that this fundamental relationship has been recognized by every culture, society and religion throughout history, each in their own way.

In his new book, “Getting the Marriage Conversation Right: A Guide for Effective Dialogue” (Emmaus Road, $5.95), May explains how to successfully discuss marriage and presents the results of research conducted on marriage and family life.

"There are a lot of things that are contributing to the crisis of marriage," he acknowledged, pointing to no-fault divorce, contraception and the sexual revolution as examples. As a result, Catholics problematically find themselves working to defend marriage "rather than promote the reality of what marriage is."

The fundamental question is, "Do we need an institution that unites kids with their moms and dads?" he said, underscoring that marriage is the only institution that does this.

The nature of marriage is "a fact that can only be recognized and not changed," he said. It has nothing to do with homosexuality, but is “stamped in our very nature.”

When understood in this way, May argued that it becomes clear marriage cannot simply be expanded to include same-sex couples, because doing so would actually redefine its essence. 

May pointed to recent ballot measures in Maine, Maryland and Washington state, where voters recently approved efforts to redefine marriage.

The ballot language in these states dealt largely with marriage licenses, May said, and it was not apparent to many voters that the initiatives would actually be eliminating the only civil recognition of a union joining mothers and fathers.

“Getting the Marriage Conversation Right” discusses the breakdown in the culture of marriage and the importance of building it back up. It also covers frequently asked questions about marriage, commenting on topics such as homosexual adoption, claims of discrimination, effects of freedom of consciences and the relationship between civil and religious marriage.

In addition, the book delves into the fundamental right of children to know and be cared for by their fathers and mothers, as much as possible.

May pointed to the natural human interest in one’s ancestors, as well as the way that adopted individuals often feel a desire to search for their biological parents.

"We have a desire for connection," he explained. "It's part of our identity. It's part of who we are."

He also noted that redefining marriage comes with dire consequences because it removes the most basic institution that safeguards children.

Promoting marriage for the sake of children is important, he explained, observing that both liberal and conservative think tanks recognize marriage as a key way of “dealing with the root causes of poverty and fatherless homes."

However, this becomes impossible once marriage is redefined, he said, because the institution loses its connection to children, and initiatives to promote fathers as being important and necessary become viewed as discrimination under the law.

In Massachusetts, kindergarten students now read books telling them that marriage is not about the family, he noted.

May suggested that his new book can be used as a practical guide to dialogue about marriage and can be helpful for parents, priests and Catholic school teachers to explain marriage to children.

It fosters "reality-based thinking" and helps marriage advocates act on the offensive, rather than being constantly on the defensive, he said.

Ultimately, there is a need to develop programs and curricula encouraging young people to get married before having children, he said.  No one wants their children to grow up to be single parents, but society does not encourage strong and healthy marriages.

The push to restore marriage "starts around the family dinner table," he emphasized.

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Judge grants HHS mandate injunction to Bible publisher

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A federal court has granted an injunction protecting Protestant Christian Bible publisher Tyndale House Publishers from the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires it to provide insurance coverage for abortion-causing contraceptives.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said Nov. 16 that the mandate “affirmatively compels the plaintiffs to violate their religious beliefs in order to comply with the law and avoid the sanctions that would be imposed for their noncompliance.”

The judge, an appointee of George W. Bush for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said the government has not proven that mandating Tyndale provide the coverage furthers the government’s compelling interests in promoting public health.

“First Amendment rights are among the most precious rights guaranteed under the Constitution,” his decision said.

The Carol Stream, Ill.-based company has 260 full-time employees. It is the largest privately held Christian publisher of books, Bibles and digital media in the world. The 50-year-old business directs over 95 percent of its profits to religious non-profit causes.

The company provides its employees with some coverage for contraception, but objects to requirements that it provide drugs that may cause abortions.

The D.C.-based legal group Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the company and its president and chief executive Mark D. Taylor.

“Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish,” the group’s senior legal counsel Matt Bowman said Nov. 16. “The court has done the right thing in halting the mandate while our lawsuit moves forward.”

The Obama administration opposed the injunction on the grounds that the publisher does not meet its religious exemption qualifications. That exemption applies only to non-profit organizations that primarily employ and serve people of their own religion, and that have instilling religious values as their primary purpose.

“For the government to say that a Bible publisher is not religious is startling,” Bowman said. “It demonstrates how clearly the Obama administration is willing to disregard the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom to achieve certain political purposes.”

The court’s opinion said that Christian principles, prayer and activities are “pervasive” at Tyndale and its ownership structure is “designed to ensure that it never strays from its faith-oriented mission.”

It noted that the company’s primary owner is the non-profit Tyndale House Foundation.

Legal challenges against the mandate are proceeding in federal courts across the country. There are at least 40 cases with over 110 plaintiffs, including Catholic dioceses, charities, universities, and health care systems. Several Protestant colleges and other businesses have also filed suit.

The suits contend that the mandate violates the U.S. Constitution and federal religious freedom protection laws.

While the Obama administration has proposed a broader religious accommodation, its details and acceptability to objectors are still unclear. The Obama administration has also fought against proposed legislation to broaden the religious exemption and President Obama’s re-election campaign attacked his Republican rival Mitt Romney for supporting the proposed exemptions.

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Family is the first seminary, says Archbishop Gomez

Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 20, 2012 (CNA) - Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said this week that Catholics need to encourage vocations to the priesthood especially in their home life.

“In this Year of Faith, we need to refocus ourselves, especially in our families, on helping men to hear this beautiful and noble calling from Jesus...the family is always the 'first seminary,'” he wrote in his Nov. 16 column for The Tidings.

The archbishop's reflections were marked by the U.S. bishops' annual fall assembly last week and by his own pastoral letter of last month, “Witness to the New World of Faith.”

Since the family is the “domestic Church,” Archbishop Gomez said that is where children first learn about the Holy Family and Christ's commandment of love. Children learn from their parents the habit of going to Mass and confession regularly.

“Ordinary family life teaches them that their faith should make a difference in how they live.”

Archbishop Gomez encouraged his parishioners to use daily family prayer to pray for priests and seminarians, thus teaching their children the beauty and value of the ordained priesthood.

He also called for practical measures of appreciation for priests, suggesting inviting priests over to spend time with one's family and thanking them after Mass for the gift of the Eucharist.

In turn, he urged priests to be good examples who will encourage young men to follow in their footsteps.

“The greatest thing a priest can do is to simply live his vocation with enthusiasm. The example of happy priests, who have strong friendships with their brother priests and good relationships with their parishioners – this is immensely inspiring and attractive.”

Archbishop Gomez also reflected on the noise of modern culture, which he said can keep young people from hearing God's call to a religious or priestly vocation.

“We need to help our children develop habits of prayer and meditation. And this begins by simply getting them to be comfortable without distractions, so they can listen to the silent voice of God in their hearts.”

“So maybe in this Year of Faith, we can ask our children to make some time each day to turn off their smart phones and their electronic games and devices. To just be quiet with God.”

The archbishop concluded by promoting Eucharistic adoration and by looking forward to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

“Through our Blessed Mother Mary, let’s remember to give thanks for our priests – who bring us the most beautiful thanksgiving of all, the holy Eucharist.”

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Quarter million people in France march for marriage

Paris, France, Nov 20, 2012 (CNA) - Nearly 250,000 people across France took to the streets on Nov. 17 to voice their support for marriage against ongoing efforts by political leaders to legalize same-sex unions.

Supporters held marches in Paris, Toulouse, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Rennes, Metz, Dijon and Bordeaux, to protest proposals by French President Francois Hollande to make same-sex unions equal to marriage.

The thousands of protestors also voice disagreement with measures to replace “father” and “mother” on official birth certificates with “parent A” and “parent B.”

Many carried banners with slogans such as, “Nothing better for a child than mom and dad,” “No to parent A and B: father and mother are equal and complementary,” and “Children are born with a right to father and mother.”

Protestors in Lyon were joined by Cardinal Philippe Barbarin and the rector of the Muslim Mosque of Lyon, Kamel Kabtane, who said, “We share the same fundamental values and we should defend them together.”

“Gay marriage” supporters held their own counter protest in Lyon, which became violent and led to the arrest of 50 by police. Some also marched semi-naked, donning religious veils with anti-Catholic slogans painted on their bodies.

During his campaign, President Francois Hollande promised to support “same-sex marriage,” and on Nov. 7 he sent a proposal to his cabinet members to legalize the practice.

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Pope's book on childhood of Jesus has family focus

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict's third and final book on Jesus' life has been launched, and this time he delves into Christ's childhood.

“The Pope's book refers especially to the infancy of Jesus in the context of a family and focuses on family tradition,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi,  president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, at a Nov. 20 press conference.

“His words aren't just informative, they are also participative in the sense that they capture the reader and draw him in,” he added.

The book, titled “ Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives,” will be available on Nov. 21 in bookshops and will be released in nine languages in 72 countries.

The book launch was held at the Pius X Hall, just off Saint Peter's Square, and was presented by the two publishing houses in charge of its release, the Vatican Publishing House and publisher Rizzoli.

Hundreds gathered at the hall to hear Cardinal Ravasi and the director of the Vatican Publishing House, Father Giuseppe Costa. The two clergymen were also joined by theology Professor Maria Clara Bingemer of the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro and Paolo Mieli, the former director of the Italian national newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“Pope Benedict XVI talks about the spiritual path of Mary in relation to the 'yes' that she said to accepting God's plan for her,” Bingemer explained.

“Her response is free but not irrational,” she added. “Mary tries to understand the angel's announcement and remains master of herself. It's about an unconditional 'yes' to God's will.”

It focuses particularly on how Christ's infancy is relevant today and on the importance of the family.

The book is the Pope's third and final volume in his “Jesus of Nazareth” series. It examines the details and context of Jesus’ birth found in the Gospels, particularly focusing on his parents, the magi and Simeon.

Pope Benedict’s first book in the series was published in 2007. That work was dedicated to reflecting on the period from Jesus' baptism to his transfiguration. The pontiff said he penned the book as “an expression of his personal search for the face of the Lord.”

His second book, released in 2011, detailed the passion and death of Christ. Both books have been New York Times bestsellers.

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Cuban Church urges continued aid for Hurricane Sandy victims

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Nov 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba is calling on the international community to continue helping the thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy, and has set up two bank accounts to receive donations.

“The city is recovering, but the spiritual and material reconstruction will take a long time,” Archbishop Dionosio Garcia said in a Nov. 11 message.

“God speaks to us even in suffering, and we are capable of hearing his words in the most bitter of times. But we must be attentive and strive for interior silence in order to hear them.”

On its Facebook page, the archdiocese requested that donations be sent to its accounts at the Vatican's Institute for Religious Works and the U.S.-based Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre Foundation. Donations should be specified as to assist the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

“In the civil order the effects have been devastating, the data indicates 150,000 homes were damaged and thousands were totally destroyed,” the archbishop said.

“We are seeing the humanitarian damage that this has caused. The images in the media speak for themselves but they never convey the pain that people and families are experiencing.”

Archbishop Garcia also encouraged those who lost their parishes to “continue celebrating the faith, giving hope and drawing close to those in need.”

On Nov. 19 the first plane containing aid for the victims of the hurricane in Santiago took off from Miami’s International Airport.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said the 9,000 pounds of aid represent “our first effort of solidarity with the Church in Cuba.”

“The food will go to Caritas in Santiago and will be received by the director of Caritas and the Archbishop of Santiago,” he said.

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At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success

Lincoln, Neb., Nov 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - As he was installed in the Diocese of Lincoln on Tuesday, Bishop James D. Conley stressed the need for bishops and all Catholics to be holy so that the Gospel will impact the culture and the Church will prosper.

“My brother bishops, there is nothing more important for a bishop than the care of souls,” he said in his Nov. 20 homily. “If the Church is to flourish in the world today, if the New Evangelization is to really take root, if we are to truly build a culture of life – holiness must begin with us.”

The installation Mass began at 2 p.m. local time in Lincoln’s Cathedral of the Risen Christ.

Dozens of priests and bishops processed up to the altar. Their procession was flanked by a Knights of Columbus honor guard and followed by the Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

Among the more than 40 archbishops, bishops and abbots in attendance were apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Vigano, emeritus Bishop of Lincoln Fabian Bruskewitz, Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.

Bishop Conley’s childhood friend, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, was also among the  bishops in attendance.

The new Bishop of Lincoln’s homily focused on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the sufferings of Jesus Christ.

“Christ crucified is the beautiful and harrowing mystery of our faith. It seems inconceivable, unreasonable, and unjust that the God of the universe conquers death by dying on a cross,” he said. “The scandal of the Incarnation is that Christ became man to die on a cross, between two criminals, so that we could share in the life of God for all eternity.”

“But the love of God is found precisely at the foot of the Cross,” he said. “We gaze at the crucified Christ because the crucifixion leads to the victory.”
Bishop Conley remembered his time in a rural monastery in France and his youthful effort at truck farming in north central Kansas near the Nebraska border.

“Those are the places where I learned to pray. Those are the places where I learned to hear the voice of the Lord. The rhythms of the rural life are at the heart of my own spiritual life,” he said. “So I’m grateful to the Lord that has brought me here to Lincoln.”

The bishop credited his attendance at Blessed John Paul II’s papal Mass in Iowa in 1979 for helping inspire his own vocation to the priesthood. The Pope “radiated joy and hope” despite his sufferings under the Nazis and the Communists, he recalled.

Bishop Conley then addressed each of the groups present: the bishops who preceded him, the priests and religious of the diocese and the laity.
He expressed gratitude for the diocese’s “rich Catholic history” and the leadership of his predecessors Bishop Bruskewitz and Bishop Glennon Flavin.

“If the Church is to flourish in the world today, if the New Evangelization is to really take root, if we are to truly build a culture of life - holiness must begin with us,” he told his brother bishops.

“Last week in Baltimore, Cardinal Dolan put it like this: ‘we cannot engage culture unless we allow him to first engage us.’

“And, if we want the New Evangelization to take root, it starts on our knees with the conversion of our own hearts,” Bishop Conley stated.

The bishop urged his diocese’s priests to contact him whenever they need to and to pray for him, as he will pray for them always.

“You were made for greatness. We are all made for greatness. And your bishop wants nothing more from you than sanctity. The Church needs holy priests now more than ever,” he said, encouraging priests and bishops to make their priesthood “characterized by joy.”

“Our sufferings can transform our hearts into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They can allow us to love as Christ loves,” he said.

He thanked vowed religious men and women for their witness to Jesus and he called seminarians “a supreme blessing to the diocese.”

He also had a message for the laity.

“Your greatest vocation is to holiness,” he said. “Your holiness can transform the world.”

Bishop Conley, 57, was made auxiliary bishop of Denver in 2008. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri and lived briefly in Colorado before moving to Kansas as a child. He was raised Presbyterian and converted to Catholicism in part because of his experiences as a student at the University of Kansas Integrated Humanities Program in the 1970s. He was ordained a priest in 1985 for the Diocese of Wichita.

There are over 96,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Lincoln, out of a total population of 588,000. The diocese has 150 diocesan priests, 141 religious sisters, and 44 seminarians. There are 134 parishes in the diocese and over 7,600 primary and secondary students in 27 Catholic elementary schools and six Catholic high schools.

The diocese is the home of a diocesan seminary and the seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a priestly society dedicated to the celebration of the Tridentine Latin Mass.

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Court dismisses blasphemy case against Christian teen

Lahore, Pakistan, Nov 20, 2012 (CNA) - The Islamabad High Court has dismissed all charges leveled against a disabled Christian girl accused of violating Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

Although 14-year-old Rimsha Masih was said to have deliberately burned pages of the Quran, a 15-page court ruling released Nov. 20 found no witnesses able to verify the accusation.

Bishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore told Aid to the Church in Need that the ruling is “very good news” for Catholics in Pakistan.

“It is also good for Pakistan – the whole of Pakistan – as it shows that there is justice, that where there are good people then justice can prevail,” he added.

While details were still emerging, a local deputy imam came forward saying that Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti, Rimsha’s accuser, stuffed pages from the Quran into a bag with burnt pages of a religious textbook that a young man brought to him. The young man claimed that Rimsha had burnt the book.

As a result, Rimsha was arrested Aug. 16 and spent three weeks in high security prison. She was released in September on a bail of 100,000 rupees or $10,500.

Police investigating the case found no evidence in support of Chishti’s claims and said he framed the girl.

An official medical board that examined the girl confirmed her physical age as 14 years, but said her mental age is below that due to learning disabilities. Early reports described Rimsha as having Down’s syndrome and being only 10 or 11 years-old.

Prior to her Aug. 28 court appearance, rallies in support of the teen were held in Pakistan and throughout Europe.

Archbishop Shaw said Pakistani Catholics are thankful for those who voiced support for Rimsha.

“We appreciate their efforts and we pray that people like this may continue their efforts so that many, many other people may get justice and live a dignified life,” he said.

The Vatican voiced support for the girl when Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, defended Rimsha and said that “the more the situation worsens and intensifies, the more dialogue is needed,” Vatican Radio reported.

Paul Bhatti, leader of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance and brother to slain Catholic government official, Sahbaz Bhatti, called the ruling an “historic step for Pakistan” that sends “two clear messages” of justice and of warning for those who have misused the blasphemy law, Fides News reported.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which strictly prohibits defamation of the prophet Muhammad or the Quran, has received sharp criticism for its vague wording and arbitrary enforcement in recent years.

Bhatti said that although the law has been used pit Muslims and Christians against one another, Rimsha’s case received “the support of many Muslim leaders.”

“… this was very important for the final outcome,” Bhatti said.

In 2010, Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian mother, was sentenced to death by hanging after being convicted of blasphemy against Muhammad for defending her Christian faith at work.

Muslim Governor Salman Taseer was the first to lose his life for his support of Asia Bibi when he was shot in 2011 by a member of his own security, who afterward said he was proud that he had killed him because of his comments criticizing Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

The same year, a group of extremists killed the only Catholic in the Pakistani government, Shabaz Bhatti, who opposed the law on blasphemy and spoke out publicly in defense of Bibi.

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Benin's president thinks Pope is right about hope in Africa

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Just one year after Pope Benedict XVI visited the African country of Benin, its president believes that it can live up to his challenge of becoming a place of hope.

President Thomas Boni Yayi met Pope Benedict for the second time on Nov. 19 at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. The encounter marked one year since Benedict XVI's visit to the West African nation, which neighbors Nigeria and Cameroon.

"I spoke with the Holy Father about Benin, which is a very small country," said President Boni Yayi. "But it has turned into a big country since his visit."

"He has focused his attention on us, not only for our sake, but for the Church," he added.

President Boni Yayi recalled how the Pope said during his 2011 visit that “it's absolutely necessary to associate the African continent with hope.”

“I told him he's right. He also told me that our country and the African continent is in the process of change and we have to understand that what he said is feasible," said the president, who is an economist.

"If we organize ourselves at every level, including all ages and all continents, we can change. We can change the African continent so that it has prosperity, under God the Father."

They discussed local cultures in Africa and the Church's role in education to promote peace in the region. The two leaders also spoke about the Church's contribution to the Benin's development.

Pope Benedict gave the president a carved and framed image of St. Peter's Square, while Boni Yayi gave him a crucifix and an African chasuble.

President Boni Yayi then met with the Holy See's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and with the undersecretary for relations with States, Bishop Ettore Balestrero.

The Pope has called Africa 'the great hope for the future.'

He visited Benin Nov. 18-20, 2011, to deliver his Apostolic Exhortation about the future of Christianity on the continent, "Africae Munus," which means “The Pledge for Africa.”

The document was the outcome of the 2009 Synod of African Bishops in Rome.

Pope Benedict said that his trip was "meant to serve as an appeal to Africa to concentrate every effort on announcing the Gospel to those who do not yet know it, to renew the commitment to evangelization, to which each member of the baptized is called by promoting reconciliation, justice and peace."

President Thomas Boni Yayi took up office in 2006 and was re-elected in 2011.

But his tenure has not been without its trials. In 2007, gunmen attacked his convoy during an election campaign tour.

And in Oct. 2012, three people were accused of poisoning him and charged with conspiracy and attempted murder. His would-be assassins include his doctor, one of his nieces and an ex-minister of commerce.

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Hobby Lobby appealing refusal of HHS mandate injunction

Oklahoma City, Okla., Nov 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The retailer Hobby Lobby will appeal a federal court’s refusal of its request for an injunction against a Health and Human Services rule that requires the Christian-owned business to cover abortion-causing drugs in its health insurance plans or face millions of dollars in fines.

“We disagree with this decision and we will immediately appeal it,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The religious freedom group is representing the Oklahoma City-based company, which is owned by Founder and CEO David Green and his family. Hobby Lobby’s sister company Mardel, Inc. is also a plaintiff in the case.

Green and his family object to providing abortion-inducing drugs.

“Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to live and do business according to their religious beliefs. The Green family needs relief now and we will seek it immediately,” Duncan said Nov. 19.

The case is the latest in the controversy over the Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs. Its narrow religious exemption applies only to non-profit organizations which aim to spread religious values and which employ and serve primarily people of their religion.

Employees who violate the mandate risk fines of $100 per employee per day. Hobby Lobby, which employs over 13,000 full-time employees, said it faces a daily $1.3 million fine beginning Jan. 1, 2013 if it ignores the law.

A lawyer for the federal government said the drugs do not cause abortions and the U.S. has a compelling interest in mandating insurance coverage for them, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton of the Western District of Oklahoma on Monday ruled that Hobby Lobby and Mardel “are not religious organizations.” The judge also noted that the plaintiff’s lawyers did not cite any case and the court did not find any case concluding that “secular, for-profit corporations” such as Hobby Lobby have “a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.” He said the mandate only “indirectly” burdens the Greens’ religious beliefs.

Judge Heaton wrote that the court is “not unsympathetic” to the company’s dilemma. He said the 2010 health care law’s expansion of employer obligations has caused “concerns and issues not previously confronted by companies or their owners.”

The question of whether restrictions on business corporations violate the religious freedom of their owners is one of “largely uncharted waters,” he said.

Meanwhile, David Green said the legal action was necessary because of Hobby Lobby’s dedication to God.

“It is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,” he said. “Therefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

Hobby Lobby has 500 stores in 41 states. It is the largest business to file a legal challenge against the HHS mandate. It is also the first business not owned by Catholics to do so.

The company is one of the few national retailers that continues to close its stores on Sunday “in order to allow our employees and customers more time for worship and family,” its website says.

The mandate is causing significant anxiety among Catholic and other employers with religious and moral objections to providing the mandated coverage. It could affect many Catholic colleges, charities, health care systems and even some dioceses which must provide the coverage or face crippling fines.

There are currently 40 lawsuits with over 110 plaintiffs challenging the mandate.

While the Obama administration has proposed an accommodation to expand religious freedom protections, its details and effectiveness are still unclear. The administration has opposed congressional efforts to broaden the exemption and President Obama criticized Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for supporting a broader religious exemption.

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