Loading
Pro-life provisions in US bishops' grant ruled unconstitutional
By Kevin J. Jones
US District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns and Sr. Mary Anne Walsh.
US District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns and Sr. Mary Anne Walsh.

.- A federal judge sparked criticism after he ruled unconstitutional the government's accommodation of pro-life beliefs in an anti-human trafficking contract with the U.S. bishops.

“The bishops are disappointed and probably will appeal. This is another assault on the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops' conference, told CNA March 27.

The bishops' contract proposal for a major five-year grant was approved in 2006 under the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act. The proposal contained language ensuring that its victim services are not used to “refer or fund activities that would be contrary to our moral convictions and religious beliefs.”

It stated that subcontractors could not provide or refer for abortion services or contraceptive materials for its clients.

On March 23 U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns said that the government violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment “insofar as they delegated authority to a religious organization to impose religiously based restrictions on the expenditure of taxpayer funds, and thereby impliedly endorsed the religious beliefs of the USCCB and the Catholic Church.”

The District of Massachusetts judge said the case is not about government forcing a religious institution to act contrary to its fundamental beliefs, but about “the limits of the government’s ability to delegate to a religious institution the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them).”

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Massachusetts had challenged the funding, which totaled $19 million and served over 2,700 trafficking victims.

Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, praised the decision.

“The court is right to insist that organizations receiving government funding cannot use their religion as an excuse to discriminate and withhold crucial services from victims of human trafficking,” she said March 24.

The bishops' grant ended on Oct. 10, 2011 amid controversy over the Obama administration’s decision not to renew the contract. In November of 2011, The Washington Post reported that political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services decided against the grant despite staffers’ recommendation that it continue based on an independent review board’s high scores for the USCCB.

George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary for the Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, said in December of 2011 that the administration decided that the grants would go to the groups that would offer referrals for “family planning services” and “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”

But Steven Wagner, former director of the HHS department that administered funds for human trafficking programs, told CNA in a Dec. 1 interview that the funding initiative was created with the understanding that abortion and contraception were “totally inappropriate” to provide to those seeking aid.

Wagner, who from 2003 to 2006 helped design the assistance program for trafficking victims, said that none of the original grant applicants sought to provide referrals for contraception or abortion.

He warned that the administration was placing trafficking victims at “tremendous risk” by placing them in the hands of less-qualified organizations.

Abortion and contraception are not among the needs of trafficking victims that the federal program should seek to address, he added.

Sex traffickers often benefit from abortion because it allows their victims to be “back on the market” sooner. There are also problems with abortion clinics facilitating trafficking by providing abortions but failing to report suspected trafficking to authorities, Wagner said.


Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic
Apr
18

Liturgical Calendar

April 18, 2014

Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Good Friday)

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Jn 18:1 - 19:42

Gospel
Date
04/18/14
04/17/14
04/16/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Is 52:13-53:12
Second Reading:: Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Gospel:: Jn 18:1-19:42

Homily of the Day

Jn 18:1 - 19:42

Homily
Date
04/18/14
04/17/14
04/16/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: