National Shorts

Christian Nonprofits Lose Appeals Court Challenge to Contraceptive Mandate


(WNS)–The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled against several Christian nonprofits who sought to prove the government’s accommodation under the contraceptive and abortifacient mandate violated their First Amendment rights, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The accommodation requires nonprofits to fill out a form declining coverage for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and allowing their insurance companies to issue coverage to their employees directly.  The Affordable Care Act, adopted in March 2010, requires all group health plans to cover preventive services, including contraception, without employee cost sharing. “Contraception” includes drugs such as Plan B and Ella, which can act as abortifacients, and are morally objectionable to people who believe life begins at conception. Organizations with 50 or more employees who do not comply with the law are subject to huge fines. Churches are exempt from the mandate, while nonprofits are offered a religious exemption accommodation.


The Episcopal Church Formally Embraces Gay Marriage


(WNS)–Less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the Episcopal Church formally amended its canons and liturgy so that two people of the same sex can marry in the denomination’s churches. Yesterday’s decision in Salt Lake City completes a decade-long trajectory towards the mainstreaming of homosexuality in the mainline denomination and raises further questions about the health of the worldwide Anglican communion.  Episcopal deputies voted 184-23 in favor of the new marriage liturgy and 173-27 in favor of redefining marriage, according to the Deseret News. Because the Episcopal House of Bishops voted similarly earlier this week, Episcopal marriage is now between two people, not a man and a woman.


Lawmakers Push Protections for Marriage Views


(WNS)–Conservatives in the House and Senate are pressing for a quick vote on bicameral legislation that would protect faith-based organizations from losing tax-exempt status due to holding traditional views on marriage. “Inaction in this matter would place a great number of organizations at risk,” Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., said during a joint press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill. “It’s sad that we even need such a bill, but the First Amendment is being ignored by many and forgotten by others.”  For many faith-based organizations, long-standing fears over tax-exempt status were confirmed earlier this year during Supreme Court oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges—in which the court later declared a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. When Justice Samuel Alito asked if universities that oppose same-sex marriage could lose their tax-exempt status, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said it is possible: “It’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is—it is going to be an issue.”


Couples Sue Christian Clerk Who Won’t Issue Marriage Licenses


(WNS)–Four Kentucky couples—two heterosexual and two homosexual—have sued a county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to them. “My conscience will not allow me to issue a license for a same-sex couple because I know that God ordained marriage from the very foundation of this world to be between a man and a woman,” Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis told local news channel LEX18. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that same-sex couples have the right to receive marriage licenses. Shortly thereafter, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, ordered all of the state’s county clerks to comply with the ruling. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit in federal court on behalf of the couples. The suit claims Davis’ duties as a government official should supercede her religious beliefs.


Kansas Governor Protects Pastors From Lawsuits Over Gay Weddings


(WNS)–Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback issued an executive order today protecting clergy and churches from lawsuits over their refusal to participate in same-sex marriages. “We have a duty to govern and to govern in accordance with the Constitution as it has been determined by the Supreme Court decision,” Brownback said in a prepared statement. “We also recognize that religious liberty is at the heart of who we are as Kansans and Americans, and should be protected. The Kansas Bill of Rights affirms the right to worship according to ‘dictates of conscience’ and further protects against any infringement of that right. Today’s Executive Order protects Kansas clergy and religious organizations from being forced to participate in activities that violate their sincerely and deeply held beliefs.” County clerks in Kentucky have been sued for refusing to issue marriage licenses. But so far, no members of the clergy or religious institutions are facing lawsuits for refusing to conduct or host a wedding for a homosexual couple.


Wisconsin Passes 20-week Abortion Ban


(WNS)–Wisconsin’s legislature passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act last week, making it the 12th state to ban abortions in most cases after 20 weeks gestation. The state Assembly passed the bill by a 61-34 vote. Gov. Scott Walker has promised to sign the bill. Passed by the Senate in June, the bill prohibits abortions after 20 weeks unless the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life or would cause irreversible injury within 24 hours. It imposes fines up to $10,000 and up to three and a half years in prison for violations.


No Pot for PTSD Patients in Colorado


(WNS)–Colorado officials in July rejected placing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. The Colorado Board of Health voted 6-2 against a proposal to include PTSD patients. Qualified ailments for pot prescriptions include cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, and severe nausea or pain. The list has not changed since Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2001. The board noted there is no medical research to prove PTSD sufferers are valid recipients for medical pot. Its members could not justify marijuana use for PTSD, despite hearing approving testimony from physicians.






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