Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 11, 2014 (CNA) -
Catholic, Jewish and Muslim representatives in Colombia have signed a historic joint statement for peace in a July 1 ceremony at the residence of the Archbishop of Bogota.
Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez, Rabbi Alfredo Goldschmidt, and Sheik Ahmad Tayel led the ceremony which included prayer, song and the presentation of commemorative plaques. The three representatives concluded the event with the signing of an inter-religious declaration for peace.
Lamenting the “rivalries” that have existed between different faith groups throughout history, Cardinal Salazar noted that Pope Francis “wanted to make a gesture of reconciliation from Rome between two enemies who today seem to be irreconcilable: Israel and Palestine.”
“In imitation of this gesture, the community has come together for a time of prayer to pray for peace in the whole world, but especially for peace in Colombia,” he said.
For his part, Rabbi Alfredo Goldschmidt said the prayer for peace is an opportunity to close the door to the hatred and violence that has fueled Colombia’s decades-long conflict.
“It pains us that a group of people disrupt the entire country from living in peace as a society. What happens in Colombia is happening in the Middle East and in many countries of the world,” he said.
Colombia’s vice president Argelino Garzon also attended the ceremony and said it was a sign that should motivate all Colombians to work for greater unity.
The adjunct secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Father Pedro Mercado Cepeda, said representatives of the three religious communities worked for several months on the statement that calls for a greater commitment to foster peace and reconciliation.
“We are on a path of diversity, each one with his different beliefs, which we recognize and respect, but with common goals such as that of peace,” Fr. Mercado said.
Vatican City, Jul 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop Bernardito Cleopas Auza, the new head of the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations, served on the front lines in response to Haiti’s disastrous 2010 earthquake.
Now he will have to tackle key international issues like restricting the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Archbishop Auza, 55, hails from the Philippines and is a former nuncio to Haiti. He is the first Filipino to lead the observer mission at the U.N., and the fourth Filipino to serve as nuncio.
On July 2, Archbishop Auza was named to replace Archbishop Francis Chullikat, an Indian-born prelate who had led the Holy See’s main U.N. presence since 2010.
The new permanent observer is set to arrive in New York at the end of August.
The Holy See’s mission at the United Nations is of key importance for the Holy See’s diplomatic work. It aims to assist the U.N. in realizing “peace, justice, human dignity, and humanitarian cooperation and assistance,” the mission’s website says.
The mission aims to communicate the Catholic Church’s centuries of experience to humanity.
Archbishop Auza will likely bring his commitment for the poor to the core of the mission.
He was born in the city of Talibon on the central Philippines island province of Bohol, the eighth of 12 children. Archbishop Auza received a licentiate in philosophy in 1981 and another licentiate in theology in 1986. He received a master’s degree in education in 1986. He advanced his studies in Rome, where he received a licentiate in canon law and earned a doctorate in sacred theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. He also studied at the Vatican diplomatic school, the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.
Thereafter, he served as secretary of the apostolic nunciature in Madagascar and Mauritius from 1990-1993 and in Bulgaria from 1993-1996. He was appointed counsellor in the nunciature of Albania in 1997, after which he served as charge d’affaires in London. He then served as counsellor of the Second Section of the Vatican Secretariat of State from 1999 to 2006, and worked for the Holy See’s mission to the U.N. in New York from 2006 to 2008.
In 2008, he was appointed papal nuncio to Haiti. He was in Haiti in 2010, when a massive earthquake hit the western part of the country. At least 316,000 people died in the quake and many buildings were destroyed, leaving hundreds of thousands without homes.
Among the dead was Haiti’s senior churchman, Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince.
Archbishop Auza helped lead the Catholic Church’s response. He worked on the front lines of the disaster to rebuild the country and to help its people. He especially helped collect relief money from the Vatican and other sources to direct to Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries.
Now, the archbishop is going to take over one of the most influential posts of Vatican diplomacy. The first issue he will handle will likely be nuclear weapons, the target of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to be discussed in 2015.
The archbishop’s predecessor at the U.N., in his last intervention at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparation Conference April 30, stressed the need to achieve a non-proliferation treaty which would not lead to an indiscriminate nuclear ban that would preclude “civilian” uses.
“It would be better to have the nuclear-weapon states working with the non-nuclear states to prepare a common path to develop a legally binding instrument banning the possession of nuclear weapons,” said Archbishop Chullikat.
Archbishop Auza will continue the Catholic Church’s leading role in the debate. As one of the founders of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Holy See has always backed the right use of nuclear energy for civilian reasons. At the same time the Holy See has always worked for a treaty which would lead to a ban on the possession of nuclear weapons.
Several times the Holy See has been asked to raise its status in the United Nations to that of a member state. However, it has preferred to keep its permanent observer status so as to be able to exercise its moral authority without being obliged to vote on war resolutions or resolutions against the Church’s teaching.
There is a separate Holy See permanent observer mission to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva.
Austin, Texas, Jul 11, 2014 (CNA) -
A study claiming better wellbeing among children of same-sex couples was based on data that merits “healthy scepticism” due to “suspect science” such as selective surveying, a sociology professor has said.
“In such a charged environment, the public – including judges and media – would do well to demand better-quality research designs, not just results they approve of,” Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a July 9 essay at the Public Discourse website.
His comments respond to the study “Parent-reported measures of child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families: a cross-sectional survey,” which was published June 21 in the journal BMC Public Health by researchers from the University of Melbourne.
The study analyzed data from the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families, which received surveys from 315 Australian parents representing 500 children. About 80 percent of these children were from households of female couples.
The study’s authors said the study demonstrated that children raised by same-sex attracted parents in Australia are “faring well on most measures of child health and wellbeing” and show “higher levels of family cohesion” compared to the broader population, based on parent reports.
It said these children experience “perceived stigma” that has a negative impact on mental and emotional wellbeing.
Major U.S. media websites such as the Washington Post and NBC News carried reports on the Australian study.
However, Regnerus saw flaws in the study’s data.
He said the data collection process is comparable to an effort to study the wellbeing of children of evangelical Christian parents by recruiting survey respondents from parents of Sunday school attendees at churches in prosperous, socially supportive communities, and then comparing this sample to a population-based survey studying average children from average families.
“Would the social scientific community consider this study a solid one, employing high-quality sample selection methods and useful both for understanding the experience of Christian households in America and for comparing this group of children with other children?” Regnerus asked.
“To put it mildly, it’s unlikely. And I would agree with them.”
He said his hypothetical survey of Christian parents is a “close analogy” to the data used in the study, which was based on what is known as a convenience sample.
The data sample was not random and based on the broad population. Rather, the data was gathered by recruiting parents in same-sex households through gay and lesbian news media, e-mail lists, community events and community groups such as Gay Dads Australia and the Rainbow Families Council of Victoria.
Regnerus said that the data collection method “is not the way to build a sense of average same-sex households with children.”
“To compare the results from such an unusual sample with that of a population-based sample of everyone else is just suspect science. And I may be putting that too mildly.”
The survey sample reflects the responses of those who “actively pursued participating in the study.” Responding parents “are all well aware of the political import of the study topic, and an unknown number of them certainly signed up for that very reason.”
He said that in addition to selective participation, there would be a temptation among respondents to self-report more positive assessments than normal.
Regnerus said that the Australian data includes responses from parents raising children born in “comparatively new ways.” Eighty percent of children raised by female couples were conceived from artificial insemination or assisted reproductive technology, while 82 percent of children raised by male couples were born through a surrogate.
Since 99 percent of children are not born through these methods, these children are not representative due to the “comparative expense” involved in their conception.
“This is not consonant with the average couple’s experience, whether that couple is an opposite-sex or same-sex pair,” Regnerus said. “In this study, as in much of the same-sex marriage movement, the public is treated only to the lives and experiences of the LGBT elite. Those with more modest means are missing in action.”
He said that social scientists need to do “the difficult, expensive work of locating same-sex attracted parents (however defined) through random, population-based sampling strategies” to determine whether their results are true and valid.
Regnerus is the author of a study that suggested children raised in same-sex households face more difficulties than those raised in conventional families.
In 2012 he published research that found “statistically significant” differences in 25 of 40 outcomes between U.S. adult children who grew up with married, opposite-sex parents and those who grew up with a mother who had a same-sex relationship.
Households led by parents of either sex who engaged in same-sex relationships also showed greater household instability.
Children from same-sex female households showed more physical and mental health problems, more instability in romantic relationships, and lower average income as adults. They also showed higher levels of unemployment, smoking, need for public assistance and involvement in crime.
Regnerus’ research was based on data from the University of Texas at Austin New Family Structures Study.
His research came under criticism from major media outlets and homosexual activists, one of whom filed a misconduct charge against Regnerus that his university later said was not substantiated.
A group of 18 social scientists supported Regnerus in the controversy.
Los Angeles, Calif., Jul 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
U.S. authorities are working poorly with Catholic efforts to provide pastoral care to underage immigrants detained near Los Angeles, the city's archbishop, Jose Gomez, wrote on Thursday.
“Our Church has been trying to respond to this situation in a spirit of cooperation and generosity,” Archbishop Gomez said in his July 10 column at The Tidings.
“So far, it has been frustrating trying to find ways to work with the authorities to provide pastoral care for these children. But we are continuing to try.”
Archbishop Gomez said that there are “several hundred” undocumented teenagers, primarily from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, at the naval base in the city of Port Hueneme.
“We need to give them guidance and warmth and a sense of welcome. No matter what, we need to remember these are innocent children who are lonely and frightened and far from home, caught up in circumstances they did not create and they cannot control.”
U.S. authorities have apprehended over 52,000 unaccompanied minors in the U.S. this year. The number of unaccompanied minors has doubled annually since 2011.
Many are fleeing violence in Central America and Mexico, while others are seeking to join parents or other relatives already in the U.S. Some are encouraged by rumors of more lenient treatment for children.
The surge of unaccompanied minors has added more fuel to the fiery immigration debate in the U.S. Varieties of protesters have assembled outside detention centers to support or oppose the immigrants, or the U.S. government’s response to immigration.
On July 7 White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it is “unlikely” that most minors will qualify for humanitarian relief. Without a legal basis to remain in the U.S., they “will be returned.”
However, Archbishop Gomez urged care for the young migrants.
“No matter how they got here, no matter how frustrated we are with our government, we can’t forget that these are children of God who are also just kids.”
“No different than our sons and daughters, our nieces and nephews and cousins.
The archbishop stressed the need to protect children, noting the danger of human trafficking.
“We all need to work together – government agencies and faith communities – for the good of these children. We cannot turn our heads and look the other way,” he said.
The California bishops issued a statement July 9 noting that the influx of migrants are fleeing violence and destitution, and saying the situation "transcends politics; it is truly a humanitarian crisis that calls all of us, Catholics and others of good will, to respond with compassion and with urgent action."
Saying that "many individuals have contacted our parishes and social service agencies asking how they can help," the bishops said this"reflects the best of the American spirit."
"The most affected dioceses will be asking parishioners and others for donations of time and money. We ask you to respond to this call. In this critical moment, Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan reminds us of what we are called to do."
The bishops also encouraged "opposition to the 'fast track authority' requested by the Administration that could send children back to the violence they attempted to flee without a proper hearing -- and in violation of their rights."
"We recognize the passion surrounding this issue. We call on all Californians of good will to express themselves with civility and respect, and to refrain from violence," the bishop stated. "May the heart of Christ guide the people of California to a just and compassionate response for these huddled masses of children gathered at our door."
In his column, Archbishop Gomez cited Pope Francis’ recent letter to Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento marking the anniversary of the Pope’s July 8, 2013 visit to Lampedusa, a small Italian island that has become a way station for migrants seeking to enter Europe from North Africa.
Pope Francis in his letter encouraged Christians and all people of good will “to reach out and lend a helping hand to all those who are in need.”
The Pope said Christians must meet the challenge of immigration “not with the logic of indifference but with the logic of hospitality and sharing in order to protect and promote the dignity and centrality of every human being.”
Archbishop Gomez encouraged Catholics to pray “that we all might find the courage to care” and to pray for “greater tenderness and understanding for our immigrant families and children, and especially for the undocumented young people have come to our country in recent months.”
Singapore, Jul 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A recent film festival held in Singapore gathered filmmakers and faithful to consider and to share Catholic social doctrine through the storytelling of movies.
“Cana Film Festival is a platform for documentaries, short and independent feature films for Catholics, family and friends to be initiated into media literacy and the social teachings of the Church,” Winifred Loh, director of the festival, told CNA July 3.
The festival, held June 7-8 at the Catholic Centre in Singapore, aimed at “capturing the essence of Church’s social mission and the importance of its members living out our faith in daily life.”
“The Cana Catholic Centre is a gathering place in Singapore for Catholics and friends to share, support, learn and grow in the spirit of love, joy and peace in each other through our faith,” Loh continued.
She said the film festival was the center's first such effort, and was “focused on the universality of Catholic social teaching and our shared humanity, which is mirrored by the films of diverse origins exhibited during the festival, and their empowering, socially enriching messages.”
The films were chosen for exhibiting some of what organizers identified as ten principles of Catholic social teaching: human dignity; association; subsidiarity; participation; the common good; the universal destination of goods; solidarity; the dignity of work; the dignity of creation; and the promotion of peace.
“We face a complexity of issues today, including challenges at work, rising materialism, families breaking up, an increasing divide between rich and poor, climate change, and the list goes on, and each day raises more questions than we care to reflect on,” Loh said.
Loh pointed out several interrogatives that become pertinent dilemmas, such as “How do I decide what and how much to buy? Should I give money to that handicapped person who is begging down the street? How should I behave towards the foreign workers around me? Why should I care what my company produces? How should I react to so much disaster in the news?”
“Beneath all the above questions lies a more fundamental one,” Loh said.
“What does it mean to live out our faith today? What are the concrete ways in which we can put into practice the Gospel command to love our neighbor?”
Loh said that “since films often deal with real issues and emanate from the heart, audiences can be touched and inspired” by them.
“Even if it’s for personal reflection and prayer, it is the seed of change. In many cases, the film opens the audience’s minds to alternative perspectives that they would not have typically experienced.”
She lamented that there are “many good films in terms of production quality and story telling, but which do not get distributed to the mainstream or find an audience. It's unfortunate … these stories need to be told.”
The festival director thanked the encouragement, enthusiasm, and generosity of the film directors, and cooperation of the local Catholic community. The film festival included panel discussions after the screenings.
The festival was conceived of in February, and was a collaborative effort of the Daughters of St. Paul and the Cana Catholic Centre in Singapore.
The Cana Film Festival included films aimed at both children and adults, and which came from Australia, Belgium, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lithuania, Singapore, and Turkey.
Denver, Colo., Jul 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A court decision advancing “gay marriage” in Colorado undercuts truth and helps erode the family in society, the state’s bishops have said.
On Thursday, Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree ruled that Colorado’s marriage amendment was unconstitutional, claiming it “bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest.”
The bishops said the July 10 ruling “advances a misinterpretation of the institution of marriage in modern society, reducing marriage to a sheer emotional arrangement that can simply be redefined to accommodate the impulses of culture.”
“Upholding the truth about marriage advances the dignity of all people, and it promotes a culture that acknowledges, values and respects the unique and complementary gifts of both a mother and a father in the lives of children,” they said July 10 through the Colorado Catholic Conference.
Though Crabtree immediately stayed his own ruling, it has already affected the issuing of marriage licenses in the state.
On Friday, Boulder County District Court Judge Andrew Hartman rejected Colorado Attorney General John Suthers’ request to halt the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder from distributing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Suthers has said the licenses are invalid under state law.
The Denver Clerk and Recorder has also begun to distribute “gay marriage” licenses. Pueblo Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz said that his office would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Friday, the Denver Post reports.
The bishops voiced support for the marriage amendment, saying that “as Catholics we have a duty to protect and preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman in our laws and policies. We are called to make this stand because redefining marriage will only further erode the family structure of our society.”
They stressed their sensitivity to the pastoral care of homosexual persons “in our communities, families and churches.”
“At the same time, our role as Catholic bishops requires that we speak the truth with charity. We affirm what our Church teaches – namely that we must treat our homosexual sisters and brothers with dignity and love, as we would all God’s children.”
The Colorado marriage amendment passed in 2006 with 56 percent of the vote.
While media depicted the amendment as a “ban” on same-sex unions, the amendment simply defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman for the purpose of state law. It does not ban private ceremonies.
The Colorado legislature passed a civil unions law in 2013 that gave unmarried heterosexual couples and same-sex couples in registered civil unions the same rights and duties as married couples. The bill drew additional concern because it dropped religious freedom protections for adoption agencies.
Even before the latest controversy, significant legal pressure has targeted those who do not support “gay marriage” in the state.
A Colorado baker was recently the subject of legal action because he declined to bake a same-sex “wedding” cake, citing his Christian beliefs. He was ordered by the state’s Civil Rights Commission to train himself and his employees to conform to state anti-discrimination law. The baker decided to stop baking wedding cakes altogether rather than risk further legal action.
Vatican City, Jul 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The secretary-general for Caritas International has voiced his concern over the lack of aid being provided to those suffering from conflicts, urging the faithful to get involved and break the “cycle of indifference.”
“It’s difficult to raise funds for the whole Middle East. For Syria there’s a lot to be done inside and outside with refugees, what is happening right now with Israel and Palestine again, will have consequences where we will have to intervene as well,” Michel Roy told CNA July 11.
“So the whole Middle East is at stake right now, and there are people dying of hunger, or malnourished among the people in Syria that are not reachable by the humanitarian organizations.”
“This is tragic for all to see that the world is not able to help those people, those nations come to an end with their conflicts,” he lamented.
Stationed in Rome, Roy is secretary-general for the international aid organization Caritas, which has correspondents in various countries around the world, including many in the Middle East.
Referring to the climbing number of displaced persons and refugees around the world due to ongoing violence in Middle Eastern countries, the charity leader stated that biggest challenge they face “is the availability of resources to come and help.”
The situation in Iraq “remains dire,” he explained, noting that although “ISIS has probably conquered what they want to conquer so things have quieted down,” the “reality of those territories remains dire, because they are not accessible” to aid.
“Most of the communities have gone away” and taken refuge in more secure cities in the Kurdish area, “so what tomorrow will be like is difficult to say.”
“Politically there is no solution, militarily people are so insecure of their future that they don’t dare go back, so the problem is with how to come and help those who have taken refuge in neighboring provinces.”
This help is increasingly difficult to give considering the “hundreds of thousands” in need, Roy observed, because you are “Providing food and water and shelter,” but “multiplied by a big number.”
“This was not planned, nobody thought that this would happen,” he continued, explaining that “At the U.N. level the monies available are quite insufficient globally for this new crisis. Globally there is a complete lack of funding for most crisis.”
Referring to the 4 million Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries for refuge, with 2 million in Lebanon alone, the charity leader stated that he is faced with questions such as “Can we go on with 2 million Syrians” in Lebanon in addition to their own 4 million, and “is Lebanon going to be taken into this war more than it is now?”
He also drew attention to increasing tensions between Israel and Palestine, stating that “What is happening in Gaza and Israel right now is horrible.”
“We should not come to that situation, and we don’t know when it’s going to end, but it’s going to be a lot of people killed and distressed.”
Speaking of the Vatican campaign “PAUSEforPeace” launched by the Pontifical Council for Culture July 10 that advocates a moment of silence for those affected by war during Sunday’s final game of the World Cup, Roy voiced that “This is a very good initiative.”
“Faith leaders have to come in and let their voice be heard, because they bring the way forward. We know that war will not be solved by violence and war, it will be solved by dialogue and negotiations that bring peace.”
Referring to Pope Francis’ frequent call for solidarity with those who suffer, Roy explained that “We have to engage, we cannot be indifferent. Pope Francis is calling us to break this cycle of indifference.”
“We live a nice life in many places, but we must not forget what is happening around,” he said.
“There are brothers and sisters we must take care of through various ways; prayer, material support and political engagement so that solutions can be found.”
Jerusalem, Israel, Jul 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Under the back and forth of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rockets, concerned Catholic migrants from India are praying for peace in the Holy Land.
“So far, the migrants are safe and no casualties have been reported,” Fr. Tojy Jose, OFM, head of the Indian Chaplaincy in the Holy Land, told CNA July 11.
“Migrants and tourists are apprehensive about the current situation, especially the newly arrived ones: for them it’s a new and terrifying experience.”
The community of Indian emigrants in the Holy Land have entrusted their protection to Mary, the “protector and patroness” of the Indian chaplainsy, Fr. Jose said.
Since July 7 Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have fired hundreds of rockets on Israel, and the Israelis have responded with a comparable number of airstrikes on the Gaza strip.
More than 100 Palestinians have died in the airstrikes, according to the Palestinian health ministry, which has also reported that 675, most of the civilians, have been injured.
Hamas' rockets have caused damages and injuries in Israel, but have yet to lead to any fatalities.
Fr. Jose said that many outdoor activities of Israeli immigrants have been cancelled, and that “attendance in the church has decreased, as it is not safe to travel.”
“The Indian chaplaincy is making special prayer intentions for peace in all our centers during this weekend's services.”
The chaplain said that migrants relatives and friends in India are worried by the current unrest in Palestine and Israel, and continue making enquiries about the security and safety of their loved ones.
The visit of Pope Francis gave much “hope for peace and harmony” in this region and everyone thought that it would strengthen the peace negotiations, he said, and that there would be some sort of “reconciliation and mutual restraint.”
“This conflict has affected everyone living in this region, especially the aged, sick, disabled, migrants, and children,” Fr. Jose said. “It has far-reaching effects on these people.”
“Innocent people are paying the price for this conflict.”
He said that the Indian chaplaincy has announced security warnings on its Facebook page, and said that “the Indian Embassy has opened an emergency wing and is ready to extend help to the people in case of any eventuality.”
“I am constantly in touch with the embassy officials, and am appraising the daily situation,” he added.
The Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land said July 8 that “we offer our sincere condolences to all those in mourning, Israelis and Palestinians. We must continue to pray that those that have fallen recently will be the last to die violent deaths in this escalation of hatred and vengeance.”
The commission stressed that “we need radical change. Israelis and Palestinians together need to shake off the negative attitudes of mutual mistrust and hatred.”
“We are called to educate the younger generation in a new spirit that challenges the existing mentalities of oppression and discrimination. We need to shake off any leadership that feeds on the cycle of violence.”
The international community has called for a ceasefire, but none seems to be in sight.
The recent escalation in violence between Israel and Hamas followed the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and the July 2 killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.
The Gaza Strip is a 141 square mile area, part of Palestine, located to the west of Israel and home to 1.7 million persons.
Since Hamas came to power there in 2007, Israel has conducted an economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, restricting the flow of persons and goods in an effort to limit rocket attacks on Israel launched from the territory.
Ann Arbor, Mich., Jul 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Following the Hobby Lobby decision upholding religious freedom, a woman business owner has secured a court injunction against the HHS mandate requiring coverage for contraceptives and abortifacient drugs.
Karen Mersino, who co-owns Mersino Management Company with her husband in Michigan, welcomed the ruling.
“It’s a real win for religious freedom,” she said July 10.
The July 9 injunction from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit concerns the company’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The injunction reports that attorneys for the Mersinos’ company conferenced with government attorneys after the Supreme Court’s June 30 Hobby Lobby decision.
In the conference, the government’s attorneys dropped their opposition to the injunction request.
The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thomas More Law Center is representing the Mersinos’ company.
Erin Mersino, senior trial counsel with the Thomas More Law Center, said the injunction gives “immediate relief from the illegal aims of the HHS mandate that violates our clients’ sincerely held religious beliefs.”
She said the business owners “truly live out their faith everyday through the integrity with which they treat others, through their numerous charitable works, and through their overwhelmingly selfless devotion to their community and Church.”
The HHS mandate’s required coverage for sterilization procedures and contraception, including some drugs that have caused abortions, have provided a particular burden for Catholics and others with pro-life religious and moral convictions. Non-compliance with the mandate is punished by severe fines.
The owners of Mersino Management Company are both Catholics. Their corporate offices all display a document that reads: “Honor God in all we do by serving our customers and employees with honesty and integrity.”
Pro-life groups are also challenging the mandate.
Attorneys representing the non-profit March for Life, which runs the annual national pro-life march in Washington, D.C., filed a legal challenge against the mandate on July 8. They said the organization’s sincere moral beliefs bar it from cooperation in providing drugs that can cause abortion through its insurance programs.
The organization is being represented by attorneys from the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.
“Pro-life organizations must be free to operate according to the beliefs they espouse,” said Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom. “The government should not be allowed to force them to pay for insurance coverage that covers drugs that can cause an abortion – the very tragedy March for Life and other pro-life groups oppose.”
The Supreme Court’s June 30 decision ruled that Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood Services and other closely-held for-profit corporations are protected against the mandate by the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Many non-profit organizations, including Catholic dioceses, hospitals, universities, and charitable organizations, have filed legal challenges against the federal mandate. The outcome of those lawsuits is still pending.