Saturday, June 25, 2016

The 3 - June 26, 2016

In this week's edition of The 3, some news out of California involving churches and faith-based organizations being forced to pay for abortions in their health care plans.  Also, the newly-passed religious freedom law in Mississippi underwent some court challenges this week.  And, the presumptive Republican nominee for President, Donald Trump, met with evangelical leaders.

3 - Federal government to force churches in California to pay for abortions

In 2014, the California Department of Managed health reclassified abortion as a "basic health service," and ordered all insurance plans in the state to begin covering surgical abortions, according to  Even churches were not exempted.

Churches filed a lawsuit, which has been moving through the courts. The plaintiffs also asked the Obama administration to uphold the Weldon Amendment, which is a federal law that protects conscience rights. This week, the HHS Office of Civil Rights released the results of its investigation into the California abortion mandate, stating it found no violation and is closing its investigation of the complaints without further action.

The OCR stated that the Weldon amendment only protects health insurance plans, not the purchasers of such plans, and since insurance companies have not complained, then there has been no violation.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Casey Mattox commented to, stating:

“The Obama Administration is once again making a mockery of the law, and this time in the most unimaginable way. Churches should never be forced to cover elective abortion in their insurance plans, and for ten years the Weldon Amendment has protected the right to have plans that do not include coverage for abortion-on-demand. But the state of California has ordered every insurer, even those insuring churches, to cover elective abortions in blatant violation of the law..."

Rep. Chris Smith, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus stated to “Nearly two years after California imposed its draconian mandate that requires all insurance companies to pay for abortion the Obama Administration has reached a new low — reinterpreting the Weldon amendment to allow the mandate to continue,” adding, “This means that Californians, including churches, will continue to be forced to pay for elective abortions in their insurance plans.”

2 - Religious freedom law in Mississippi faces court challenges

This week, the bill in Mississippi offering protections for people who object to gay marriage in religious grounds faced several court challenges.  On Monday, the first hurdle was cleared, as
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves said, according to WAPT Television, that two gay men who plan to marry each other within the next three years can't prove they would face immediate harm if the bill, House Bill 1523 becomes law July 1. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the couple and it filed papers Tuesday asking Reeves to reconsider that decision.

According to the article, the law lets clerks cite religious objections to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. State attorneys say it's a reasonable accommodation to protect religious beliefs. Another article on the TV station's website says:

The bill protects three beliefs: That marriage should only be between a man and a woman, that sex should only take place within such a marriage and that a person's gender is set at birth.

Another court hearing took place in Jackson on Thursday regarding the law, which is set to go into effect on Friday, July 1.

1 - Evangelicals meet to hear from, question Trump

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, agreed to meet with evangelical leaders on Tuesday in New York City.  A large gathering of an estimated 900 people or so gathered at a Midtown hotel, and it was preceded by a smaller meeting.  National Religious Broadcasters President and CEO Jerry Johnson wrote on the NRB website:

In addition to the hour-long meeting with hundreds of pastors and others, as a member of the Steering Committee, I met with Trump in a smaller gathering of leaders who were able to talk with him about various concerns of evangelicals.

At the larger meeting, Trump emphasized his commitment to religious liberty by vowing to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, who would be vetted by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. He also said he wants to restore the free speech rights of Christians by rescinding the infamous Johnson Amendment, which has limited the political speech of churches and other 501(c)(3) tax-exempt ministries. Additionally, Trump said he wants to encourage the use of the greeting “Merry Christmas” in American culture and government.

Also at the meeting, Trump reiterated his proposal to temporarily halt Muslim immigration to the United States, adding a more nuanced suggestion that he would pause immigration from regions where radical Islamic terrorism is present. He also promised that his judicial appointments would be pro-life.

Also, as Johnson and others have reported, that day Trump announced the formation of an Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.

The meeting were closed to the general media, although David Brody of CBN News attended the meeting, and offered some commentary.  Brody wrote:

One theme that Trump kept bringing up is the fact that Christianity in America is under attack. "Government has gotten so involved in your religion,” Trump said. He made the case that evangelicals need to rise to the occasion because their rights are under attack. "You have such power and influence…(but) if you don't band together, you're really not that powerful." That line was met with strong applause.

The CBN journalist also wrote, "Is there work to be done? Yes. But we may look back at this meeting as an important turning point in Trump’s effort to consolidate the evangelical vote."  A subsequent story featured quotes about the meeting from a number of pro-family leaders, including Kelly Shackelford of First Liberty Institute, who was positive about Trump's comments on religious liberty, and Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony list, who lauded Trump's pledge to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court.

Brody also quoted Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, as saying: "As it pertains to the evangelical vote and the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, today's meeting may very well be a tipping point."  In yet another CBN story, Brody mentioned African-American leader Bishop E.W. Jackson, who tweeted quotes and videos of Trump's speech throughout the gathering. Brody wrote: "His tweets reveal that Trump placed significant emphasis on the strength of the evangelical Christian vote in the upcoming election. Trump believes he owes his success to evangelicals."

You can also catch my conversation with Stuart Shepard of Family Policy Alliance about the meeting, as well as the California abortion directive adversely affecting churches, at the website,

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