Saturday, February 18, 2012

The 3 - February 18, 2012

This edition of the blog comes your way from Nashville, where just a few hours ago, the annual event known as National Religious Broadcasters commenced. The event brings together representatives of a variety of media, including radio, television, Internet, church media, and more, and will continue through Tuesday. NRB will no doubt be one of the top 3 stories affecting the Christian community for next week's edition. For this week, the contraception controversy is not going away, and there are new developments there. And, the action forcing churches out of school buildings in New York City has been put on hold. Plus, gay marriage has passed Legislatures in 2 states, and the governors of those states have taken different action.

3 - New developments in contraception controversy

The Obama Administration mandate that proposes to force a number of religious institutions to pay for contraception in their health care plans is continuing to attract a response in a number of sectors. This week, at least 12 state Attorneys General announced that they will take legal action in order to keep the Federal government from mandating that religious organizations pay for free contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs, in their health care plans.

It's also been pointed out that the language of the original mandate did not change after the so-called "compromise" was announced last week.

Also, legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and House to repeal the mandate. And, a hearing was held before a House committee regarding the implications of this directive by the White House. The hearing was criticized by some as saying that certain committee members wanted to deny women these reproductive services, and the contentiousness of the hearing prompted Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., to address it directly:

“I’ve heard this hearing is about trying to prevent women from getting
contraceptives and women’s health. That’s a twisting off, to try to say this is
about some barbaric group trying to limit women’s access to health,” he said.
“I’ve had the implication this hearing is about the fact that government
is more compassionate than the church, that they care more about people than the
church does, that there are obvious needs here and the church is so out of step
with culture that they don’t know the issues of medication,” he said.

“But today, this hearing is about can this administration, or any
administration, say, ‘I know your doctrine, but I have a different doctrine, and
you will change your doctrine to my doctrine, or I will fine you.’ That’s what
today is about. Can any administration step into a church and say that?”

Indeed, religious liberty is on of the 3 principal issues at work here. Also, one has to be concerned that the government is telling insurance companies that they must provide free contraceptive services. And, another issue that has emerged is the negative social implications of free contraception. It has been pointed out that if you provide free birth control, especially to unmarried teenage girls and young women, that it increases the chance they will have sexual relations, which leads to a moral decline - and perhaps they can still become pregnant or infected with disease. If there are seemingly no physical consequences to immoral and unwise behavior, then people will engage in that type of activity to a greater degree.

2 - New York City churches get repreive on renting public school buildings

Last Sunday was the final day for churches in New York City to meet in public school buildings - they were renting space from the city for the space. But, a court order was issued this week that allows 10 extra days before the ban goes into effect. Alliance Defense Fund is involved in the case, and it reports that the court issued the order because “the Plaintiffs have demonstrated irreparable harm and a likelihood of success on the merits of their Free Exercise and Establishment Clause claims….”

Jordon Lorence of ADF testified before the court on Tuesday, and had these comments after the court's decision:

“The court’s order is a message of hope for fundamental freedoms in New York
City because it means that, for the time being, the city must welcome churches
as it does other groups. ADF will continue to fight this battle relentlessly
until the city no longer unconstitutionally prohibits activity for purely
religious reasons.”

The New York state Legislature has a bill before it that would provide relief for the churches and enable them to continue meeting in these school buildings. The Senate has already passed it, and it is awaiting action before the state Assembly.

This is a policy unique in the nation, but because of the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to take up the court case involving the rights of churches to meet in school buildings, it could lead to other municipalities attempting to put the same sort of policy in place. So, I would imagine that this situation is being carefully watched.

1 - Governors in Washington state, New Jersey take opposite actions on gay marriage

This past week, Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington state signed into law the new bill legalizing same-sex marriage there. Opponents of gay marriage have already begun to mobilize, and are attempting to garner the requisite number of signatures on a petition that would allow a referendum vote, and presumably keep the law from going into effect.

On this opposite coast, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey vetoed the state Legislature's latest attempt ot legalize gay marriage in that state. He said that because of the magnitude of the issue, that the voters of the state should have the right to weigh in on the issue. According to The Christian Post, Christie said:

...the legislature should trust the people of the state and seek their input
by "allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly
significant societal change." That, he stressed, is "the best way to resolve the
issue of same-sex marriage in our state."

Christie also said that he had been "just as adamant that same-sex couples in
a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married
couples – as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits.

The Maryland House has passed a bill legalizing gay marriage, and the governor there has promised to sign it once it makes it through the other chamber of the legislature. So far, whenever the issue of defining marriage as one man and one woman has been put before the voters, they have affirmed traditional marriage, which is encouraging and indicates the still-strong support for marriage, consistent with the Biblical definition.

No comments: