Sunday, May 22, 2016

The 3 - May 22, 2016

On this week's edition of The 3, there is news out of Oklahoma that involves a strong pro-life bill that was vetoed by the governor.  Also, the U.S. Supreme Court made an unusual move of sending the cases dealing with the Obamacare contraceptive mandate back to the lower courts.  And, United Methodists have completed their gathering in Portland, which resulted in no legislative action on issues concerning homosexuality.

3 - OK legislature passes bill that would criminalize abortion, governor vetoes

After the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill making it a felony for physicians to perform abortions, one might assume that outspoken pro-life governor Mary Fallin would have signed the bill.  But, as The Stream reports, on Friday, the governor vetoed the bill, which would have effectively outlawed abortions in the state.

Governor Fallin said that she was rejecting the bill because it is “vague and would not withstand a criminal constitutional legal challenge.”  In her statement, she said: “The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered ‘necessary to preserve the life of the mother.'”

The bill, SB 1522, would have made it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for a physician to perform an abortion. The bill would exempt physicians who perform abortions to preserve the life of the mother.  Sponsor, Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm, had said the measure was aimed at ultimately overturning Roe v. Wade.  The governor said she wanted to see that court ruling overturned, as well, but that the best way was the appointment of a conservative, pro-life justice to the Supreme Court.

The bill passed the Senate on Thursday with a vote of 33-12 and the House in April by a 59-9 margin. The Oklahoma Legislature can override a veto by two-thirds vote of each house.

2 - U.S. Supreme Court sends contraception mandate cases back to lower courts

The U.S. Supreme Court made an unusual move earlier this week, sending the cases it was considering involving the contraceptive mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services back to the appeals courts from which they came. According to a report on the WORLD website, the high court said that a supplemental briefing indicated that the religious nonprofits and the federal government could work out their differences and find an acceptable accommodation to the mandate, which is part of Obamacare.

As the article pointed out, after the court heard oral arguments in March, it made a highly unusual request: asking the two sides to write briefs explaining an acceptable accommodation to the mandate. That request, according to the article, seemed to be a strategy to avoid a 4-4 tie after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

In the ruling on Monday, known as a per curiam ruling, the court did not issue an opinion on the merits of the case, which means it did not decide whether the federal government’s current mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A per curiam ruling is an unsigned opinion from the entire court.

Attorneys representing Little Sisters of the Poor and other plaintiffs in the case were encouraged. According to the WORLD story, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the Little Sisters as well as a number of other petitioners, declared the ruling a “win.” Alliance Defending Freedom, also representing some of the plaintiffs, said the court was right to protect nonprofits from fines for the time being and that the group would “look forward to addressing the remaining details.”

Emily Belz wrote the article for WORLD, and you can hear my conversation with her about this case, as well as presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump's list of recommended Supreme Court justices, here.

1 - United Methodists meet in Portland, sexuality issues off the table temporarily

Every four years, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church meets, as delegates from throughout the world gather to decide on church policy.  The church's stance on homosexuality has been an issue at the Conference for decades now, and there was anticipation about whether or not current language in the United Methodist Book of Discipline declaring homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching would be retained.

Religion News Service published a story on the General Conference. It reports that on Wednesday, delegates voted 428-405 to allow the church’s Council of Bishops to appoint a commission to discuss matters related to homosexuality, including whether or not to accept same-sex marriage or ordain LGBT clergy.

According to the article, the bishops said they want the commission to “develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.”  Pressure from LGBT activists was very apparent this year - just before the conference, 111 United Methodist clergy came out as LGBT, and during the event, an additional 1,500 clergy expressed support for their colleagues.

But, year after year, conference after conference, the conservative and evangelical position seemingly continued to be in the majority.  There is mixed speculation about whether or not the recommendations of the panel would be brought to the 2020 General Conference or to a specially-called conference.

In examining some comments that have been made, it is clear to me that the denomination has three distinct factions at this point:  the progressives, who will seemingly accept nothing less than a sweeping acceptance of homosexual practice, ordination of gay clergy, and performance of same-sex marriage. There is also a group that seems to be sizable that would like to leave sexuality matters up to local authorities, perhaps on a district or conference level.  Then, there are the conservatives and evangelicals, including many from Africa, who want to hold to the view of marriage as one man for one woman, defining homosexuality as a practice that contradicts Scripture.

There was some good news on the pro-life front.  According to John Lomperis, who is the United Methodist Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy.  He stated that the denomination...

...overwhelmingly voted to end our denomination’s scandalous 43-year affiliation with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), voted by an even larger margin to delete an official UMC resolution expressing appreciation for RCRC, and in other actions, we voted decisively to repeal a 40-year-old official “Responsible Parenthood” resolution very broadly defending abortion and endorsing the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, re-adopted a resolution decrying sex-selective abortion while describing abortion as “violent” and criticizing those done for “trivial reasons,” and allowed the expiration of a 16-year-old official UMC resolution bewailing an alleged “crisis” of some hospitals not offering abortions. 

To access a report from The Meeting House radio program from the President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Mark Tooley, click here.

No comments: