3 - NC College reverses Christmas tree sale ban, so-called "war on Christmas" returns
I'll be right up front - I don't like the term, "War on Christmas" - I don't think that the celebration of our Savior's birth constitutes any sort of war, and if there was a war, it was settled through the cross. The war is over, and Jesus Christ is Lord.
But, I've had a hard time coming up with another term to describe this give-and-take that comes about this time of year involving the expression of Christmas. So, when we refer to this "war", if refers to two fronts: the retail side of things, which involves how stores and companies refer to this holiday season in their advertising - some, who desire to somehow be politically correct and risk offending the sizable portion of the population claiming to be Christians, will use terms other than Christmas to position the season that wouldn't even be taking place if it weren't for the celebration of Christ's birth - I believe that would be "Christmas".
And, the other front includes public, or governmental institutions, who have over-responded to fears that by acknowledging Christmas, that they are somehow violating the law of the land, the Constitution of the United States. One of the initial volleys on this front this season involves a college in North Carolina, according to WorldOnCampus.com:
Administrators at Western Piedmont Community College had told members of a club called the BEST Society in November they could not use the word "Christmas" in their announcement about a Christmas tree sale, the proceeds of which will be used to support Angel Tree, which provides Christmas gifts for children who have an incarcerated parent.
On Tuesday, lawyers with legal coalition Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent a letter to the school, warning administrators they had violated the students' First Amendment rights by censoring the content of their message. On Wednesday morning, the school re-posted a press release announcing the sale on its website, with a headline that reads "WPCC Club Sells Christmas Trees!!"
"It's ridiculous that anyone would have to think twice about using the word 'Christmas' as part of a Christmas tree sale," said Matt Sharp, one of the ADF lawyers representing the group. "Not only is it perfectly constitutional to use the word 'Christmas,' it is unconstitutional to prohibit use of it. This is another perfect example of the immense misunderstanding that far too many college officials have about what the First Amendment truly requires."
So, the Christmas tree sale will go on as planned at WPCC, but this is just one of what I will imagine will be a host of skirmishes across America concerning the expression of the celebration this time of year as actually Christmas. But, this is indicative of the misunderstanding that is prevalent concerning our Judeo-Christian religious traditions that are part of the fiber of American life.
2 - 2 courts rule against plaintiffs in lawsuits on the contraception mandate
We're continuing to keep score regarding lawsuits involving the mandate from the Obama Administration under the new health care law, requiring employers, even religious organizations, to provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans. Religious entities had received a temporary reprieve from having to comply, but a number are continuing to object. Other companies, who object on religious grounds, will have to pay fines beginning on January 1, 2013 - less than a month away.
One of those companies, Hobby Lobby, lost their bid in court for a temporary halt to the mandate going into effect for them last week. Tyndale House Publishers received short-term relief until their case can go to trial. Hobby Lobby was not deemed "religious" enough, apparently, while Tyndale, in another court, won a temporary order from having to pay the fines.
And, 2 religious organizations who had filed suit had court decisions last week go against them. According to CitizenLink, this week, U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry said in an opinion that the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has not yet suffered harm from the mandate, since most of the mandate’s regulations do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2014. Also on Tuesday, a Tennessee district court dismissed the Catholic Diocese of Nashville’s lawsuit challenging the HHS mandate for similar reasons, ruling that the diocese has not yet suffered any injuries related the mandate.
Also, in a case regarding the health care law as a whole, this past Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition for rehearing filed by Liberty Counsel in the ObamaCare case of Liberty University v. Geithner. Liberty Counsel filed the petition for rehearing on behalf of Liberty University and two private individuals. The Court directed that the case be reheard at the federal court of appeals in Richmond. This may pave the way for the case to return to the High Court in 2013. At issue is the constitutionality of the employer mandate and also whether ObamaCare’s forced funding of abortion is unconstitutional under the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion Clause and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
The entire health care law was opposed by Christian groups because of its provision for taxpayer funding of abortion, as well as other concerns, including possible rationing of care that would endanger the lives of vulnerable individuals, including the elderly and the disabled. The HHS contraception mandate is yet another provision of the new law that has been found to be objectionable on religious grounds, and dozens of lawsuits continue to move forward. Some plaintiffs have received temporary relief, others have not, but a number of these cases will be going to court, where these religious entities and companies founded on religious principles will get the opportunity to give the reasoning for their opposition.
1 - CDC reports decline in abortion rate for 2009, credit to pro-life activity
Some good news that I believe can be attributable to the effectiveness of the pro-life movement has recently been released. It actually came out just before Thanksgiving, but there has been extensive response by the Chrisitan, pro-life community over the past few days. According to LifeNews.com, abortion fell 5 percent nationwide in 2009, according to new information from the Centers for Disease Control, which tracks abortion figures nationwide. Now, one child losing his or her life from the womb is too many, but there is reason to be encouraged.
Since 1969, CDC has conducted abortion surveillance to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions in the United States. However, because the data doesn’t include numbers from all 50 states, most pro-life groups consider the data incomplete.
LifeNews.com says that "the numbers are a good reference for understanding trends and the trend is that abortions are on the decline thanks to pro-life laws, the work of pregnancy centers and shutting down abortion clinics and practitioners who run afoul of the law."
Also, the CDC confirms abortions continue to hurt women, noting that “In 2008, the most recent year for which data were available, 12 women were reported to have died as a result of complications from known legal induced abortions.”
And, while some n the mainstream media attribute the decline to various forms of contraception, I believe the pro-life narrative is much stronger - poll after poll are showing opposition to abortion, incremental pro-life laws are restricting access to the termination of pregnancies, pregnancy resource centers are effectively sharing the redeeming message of God's grace, combined with ultrasound technology that shows the development of the pre-born child. Plus, the number of abortion clinics has dramatically declined in America over the past 2 decades. And, as I believe you'll see next month, with the 40th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, there is an unprecedented passion, especially among young people, millennials who are cause-driven and have been turning out to advocate for life. We have much about which to be encouraged as we continue to stand on God's view on the sanctity of human life.