Category Archives: First Amendment

Timeline of Benghazi victim #5: Nakoula Basseley Nakoula

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is escorted out of his home by Los Angeles County Sheriff's officers in Cerritos, California (Sept 15, 2012)
Okay, I’m the first to admit that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is a fairly unattractive victim. He has a long history of run-ins with the law, primarily on fraud charges, including bank fraud, check-kiting, and operating businesses under various aliases.

Oh, and of course, he’s still alive, unlike Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty, the four Americans killed during the Benghazi, Libya, attack. But as he sits in jail, denied bail, Nakoula’s a victim of the Obama Administration’s refusal to admit that what happened in Benghazi had nothing to do with Nakoula’s film, Innocence of Muslims, and everything to do with a planned terrorist attack aimed at the United States, specifically on 9/11.

So in order to keep up the administration’s Potemkin façade of riot and death by video (and only video), Nakoula currently remains in jail (since September 27) on charges of violating his probation, including using the Internet without permission from his parole officer.

Before I go into the timeline, there is this bit of legal perspective from Ken from Popehat (h/t Patterico):

Based on 6 years as a federal prosecutor and 12 as a federal defense lawyer, let me say this: minor use of a computer — like uploading a video to YouTube — is not something that I would usually expect to result in arrest and a revocation proceeding; I think a warning would be more likely unless the defendant had already had warnings or the probation officer was a hardass. But if I had a client with a serious fraud conviction, and his fraud involved aliases, and he had the standard term forbidding him from using aliases during supervised release, and his probation officer found out that he was running a business, producing a movie, soliciting money, and interacting with others using an alias, I would absolutely expect him to be arrested immediately, whatever the content of the movie. Seriously. Nakoula pled guilty to using alias to scam money. Now he’s apparently been producing a film under an alias, dealing with the finances of the film under the alias, and (if his “Sam Bacile” persona is to be believed) soliciting financing under an alias. I would expect him to run into a world of hurt for that even if he were producing a “Coexist” video involving kittens.

And Patterico’s comment on that is right on the money:

The problem we have here is that the head of the federal executive has criticized this guy repeatedly. His administration pressured Google to take down his movie; his Cairo embassy called it an “abuse” of free speech; and his State Department apologized for it in a country (Pakistan) where a public official offered money for the filmmaker to be killed.

So even if the line guys are doing their jobs the way they would otherwise, the President has made them look like political hacks. Which is unfortunate on several levels.

So, now to the timeline:

  • July 1-2 – You­Tube user “sam ba­cile” up­loads a 14-minute trail­er for a movie titled Innocence of Muslims, con­sist­ing of video clips that mock the Is­lam­ic proph­et Muhammad. (Los Angeles Times)
  • September 4 – An Arabic-dubbed version of the trailer is uploaded to YouTube.
  • September 8 – The Egyptian religious television channel Al Nas airs the video and condemns it.
  • September 11 – Four Americans, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, are killed when militants attack and burn the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In Egypt, protesters scale the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and tear down an American flag. Emails from the State Department Operations Center linking terrorists (not protestors) to the Libyan attack are sent to a number of government and intelligence agencies (including the White House Situation Room, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI) two hours after the attack begins. (CBS News, Sharyl Attkisson)
  • September 12President Barack Obama, in an interview with Steve Kroft of CBS 60 Minutes, says: “You’re right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt, and my suspicion is, is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start.” This part of the interview is not aired or reported by CBS until posted online on October 19. (Breitbart.com)
  • September 12 – President Obama condemns the film and any violence that has resulted from it. (USA Today)
  • September 12/September 13 – The U.S. government identifies and provides the media with the name of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, a Coptic Christian in southern California who is on probation after his conviction for financial crimes as the key figure behind the anti-Muslim film that ignited mob violence against U.S. embassies across the Mideast. It is not immediately clear whether Nakoula is the target of a criminal investigation or part of a broader investigation into the deaths of the four Americans in Libya. (AP, Stephen Braun) Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies are called to Nakoula’s Cerritos home after reports of a large group of news media gathered outside.
  • September 13 – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns Nakoula’s film while meeting with Moroccan officials. (TPM)
  • September 13- The U.S. apologizes for free speech in an online statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Cairo:

    The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. … Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

  • September 14Karen Redmond, a spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, says that Nakoula’s federal probation on charges of bank fraud in 2010 is under review, but provides no details of why or when the probation review was initiated, or how long the process would take. (CNN)
  • September 14 – Bodies of the four Americans killed in Libya are returned to the U.S. for burial. At their memorial service at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, Charles Woods, father of fallen Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, says that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assures him that they are going to “arrest and prosecute” the man that made the scapegoated YouTube video critical of Islam. (Breitbart.com)
  • September 15 – Nakoula is escorted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to an overnight “voluntary interview” with a probation officer, after federal officials say they are reviewing his probation. He is interviewed for about half an hour at the station shortly after 12 a.m. in his hometown of Cerritos, California. Nakoula leaves the local sheriff’s station after the federal officials are done interviewing him. (CNN and the New York Daily News)
  • September 17 – Family members of Nakoula leave their their home early Monday morning to join the filmmaker in hiding. Nakoula has not returned to his home since being interviewed by federal probation officers about his role in the creation of the film, which federal authorities claim have ignited ignited violent anti-American protests across the Muslim world. Shortly before 4 a.m., officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department escorted members of Nakoula’s family, who had their faces covered, out of the house and into police vehicles so they could rejoin Nakoula at an undisclosed location. It is the understanding of Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, that they won’t ever return to their Cerritos house, though that decision is “entirely up to the family.” (ABC News)
  • September 20 – The U.S. government airs an advertisement in Pakistan condemning Nakoula’s film and apologizing, once again, for free speech. The ad, which costs around $70,000 and airs on approximately seven different television markets in Pakistan (according to U.S. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland), is appearing in an attempt to undercut anger against the U.S. The television ad features clips of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton during press appearances in Washington in which they condemn the video. Their words are subtitled in Urdu. “We absolutely reject its content and message,” said Clinton in the advertisement. A caption on the ad reads: “Paid Content.” Obama and Clinton did not film their statements for the ad, instead clips were taken from statements condemning the film each had made earlier. President Obama’s remarks were recorded in Washington, D.C. on September 12 and those of Secretary Clinton were from September 13 in Morocco. The ad ends with the seal of the American Embassy in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. In an email, the embassy also sent out a link to video of ordinary Americans condemning the anti-Islam film, which appeared on YouTube. (CBS News and the Jewish Press)
  • September 27 – A hearing on Nakoula’s probation violations results in charges being brought against him and denial of bail. Citing a lengthy pattern of deception, U.S. Central District Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal says Nakoula should be held as a flight risk after officials say he violated his probation from a 2010 check fraud conviction. Authorities say he has eight probation violations, including lying to his probation officers and using aliases, and he might face new charges that carry a maximum two-year prison term. Nakoula remains behind bars until another hearing where a judge will rule if he broke the terms of his probation. Under his probation, Nakoula is banned from using computers and the Internet without supervision. Some critics have said the probation-violation probe of Nakoula is a sign that the White House is seeking to appease extremists and weakening U.S. speech freedoms. U.S. law-enforcement officials portray the investigation of Nakoula as a routine response to public information about a potential violation. (Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post)
  • October 10 – Nakoula appears before U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder in Los Angeles. He denies he violated his probation that resulted from a bank fraud conviction in 2010. Snyder schedules an evidentiary hearing for November 9, 2012 (after the presidential election). (Wikipedia)

Nakoula currently remains in jail.

From the PJ Tatler

USCCB responds to inaccurate statement of fact on HHS mandate

Whoops, guess the Catholic bishops are not too happy about Vice President Biden’s dissembling during the debate last night (although, strangely, they don’t say who said this–trying to be politically neutral? Hey, a fact’s a fact: Biden said it, he needs to own it):

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.

For more details, please see USCCB’s regulatory comments filed on May 15 regarding the proposed “accommodation”: www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/rulemaking/upload/comments-on-advance-notice-of-proposed-rulemaking-on-preventive-services-12-05-15.pdf

Check it out.

Cardinal Burke explains: Catholic employers cannot provide contraceptive coverage because they would be materially and formally cooperating with sin

From Renew America, on Thomas McKenna’s interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke on EWTN’s Catholic Action Insight:

Thomas McKenna: “It is beautiful to see how the faithful have rallied behind the Hierarchy….How does your Eminence comment on the union of solidarity of our bishops?”

Cardinal Burke: “Yes, I have received emails and other communications from lay faithful who say that they are supporting their bishops 100% and they have communicated to their bishops their gratitude and assured them that they want them to continue to be courageous and not to be deceived by any kind of false accommodations which in fact continue this same kind of agenda which sadly we have witnessed for too long in our country which is totally secular and therefore is anti-life and anti-family. I admire very much the courage of the bishops. At the same time I believe they would say it along with me that they are doing no more than their duty. A bishop has to protect his flock and when any individual or government attempts to force the flock to act against conscience in one of its most fundamental precepts then the bishops have to come to defend those who are entrusted to their pastoral care. So I am deeply grateful to all of the bishops who have spoken about this and who are encouraging the members of their flock to also speak up because our government needs to understand that what is being done with this mandate is contrary first of all to the fundamental human right, the right to the free exercise of one’s conscience and at the same time contrary to the very foundation of our nation.”

Thomas McKenna: “So a Catholic employer, really getting down to it, he does not, or she does not provide this because that way they would be, in a sense, cooperating with the sin…the sin of contraception or the sin of providing a contraceptive that would abort a child, is this correct?”

Cardinal Burke: “This is correct. It is not only a matter of what we call “material cooperation” in the sense that the employer by giving this insurance benefit is materially providing for the contraception but it is also “formal cooperation” because he is knowingly and deliberately doing this, making this available to people. There is no way to justify it. It is simply wrong.”…

Read it all, and check out the entire interview here.

Cardinal Dolan: “‘radical,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatically intrusive’”

From James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal:

The president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops is careful to show due respect for the president of the United States. “I was deeply honored that he would call me and discuss these things with me,” says the newly elevated Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. But when Archbishop Dolan tells me his account of their discussions of the ObamaCare birth-control mandate, Barack Obama sounds imperious and deceitful to me….

“So you can imagine the chagrin,” Archbishop Dolan continues, “when [the president] called me at the end of January to say that the mandates remain in place and that there would be no substantive change, and that the only thing that he could offer me was that we would have until August. . . . I said, ‘Mr. President, I appreciate the call. Are you saying now that we have until August to introduce to you continual concerns that might trigger a substantive mitigation in these mandates?’ He said, ‘No, the mandates remain. We’re more or less giving you this time to find out how you’re going to be able to comply.’ I said, ‘Well, sir, we don’t need the [extra time]. I can tell you now we’re unable to comply.’”

Archbishop Dolan explains that the “accommodation” solves nothing, since most church-affiliated organizations either are self-insured or purchase coverage from Catholic insurance companies like Christian Brothers Services and Catholic Mutual Group, which also see the mandate as “morally toxic.” He argues that the mandate also infringes on the religious liberty of nonministerial organizations like the Knights of Columbus and Catholic-oriented businesses such as publishing houses, not to mention individuals, Catholic or not, who conscientiously object.

“We’ve grown hoarse saying this is not about contraception, this is about religious freedom,” he says. What rankles him the most is the government’s narrow definition of a religious institution….

“We find it completely unswallowable, both as Catholics and mostly as Americans, that a bureau of the American government would take it upon itself to define ‘ministry,’” Archbishop Dolan says. “We would find that to be—we’ve used the words ‘radical,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatically intrusive.’”

It also amounts to penalizing the church for not discriminating in its good works: “We don’t ask people for their baptismal certificate, nor do we ask people for their U.S. passport, before we can serve them, OK? . . . We don’t serve people because they’re Catholic, we serve them because we are, and it’s a moral imperative for us to do so.”…

The archbishop sees a parallel irony in his dispute with Mr. Obama: “This is a strange turn of the table, that here a Catholic cardinal is defending religious freedom, the great proposition of the American republic, and the president of the United States seems to be saying that this is a less-than-important issue.”…

Read it all.

Protests against Obama mandate to take place in 129 cities


From LifeNews.com:

Thousands of pro-life advocates across the country will take part on Friday in “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rallies taking place in more than 129 cities.

The rallies are meant as a public demonstration against the Obama mandate that requires religious organizations, churches and other objecting employers to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

This makes this event one of the largest in American history with respect to simultaneous rallies occurring in cities across the nation and the main rally in the nation’s capital will be on the plaza of the HHS (Hubert Humphrey Building) on March 23, at 12:00 noon

“The HHS mandates and the issue of religious freedom have now ignited a political firestorm that will be a major issue in the 2012 Presidential Elections. In an odd way, President Obama’s forcing Christian institutions to violate their conscience and core beliefs has energized the faith community in a way that none of the republican candidates have yet been able to accomplish,” said [the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition and one of the organizers of the rally in Washington, DC].

Polling data shows Americans are strongly opposed to the Obama mandate. A February Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds 38 percent of likely voters think health insurance companies should be required by law to cover the morning after pill without co-payments or other charges to the patient. But 50 percent of Americans disagree and oppose this requirement while 13 percent are undecided….

Read it all, and check here for rally locations.

When you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail


An oldy but goody (August 2010), from News Channel 5 in Franklin, Tennessee:

…But a now former Middle school football coach in Williamson County said writing a politically-charged country song got him fired, after it rubbed a few parents the wrong way.

26 year old Bryan Glover is not shy about his political opinions. He is proud tea party Republican and felt compelled to voice his disappointment in the current administration through his music. But he never thought sharing his new song would leave him unemployed.

The song is called, “When You’re Holding A Hammer, Everything Looks Like A Nail.” It is a reference to Glover’s frustrations with the current administration and President Obama. Glover co-wrote the tune with a parent on the Grassland Middle School football team. He never thought sending it out to friends, family and player’s parents could put the hammer on the nail of his job with the school….

Within hours, parents called the school to complain of the politically charged lyrics and Glover said the principal at Grassland Middle School told the head football coach to release Glover from his position with the team.

“He just said parents were complaining, maybe there was a comment of racial overtones,” Glover said,

“I found it amusing,” said parent Michael Kasaitis about Glover’s country song.

He said no matter the opinion on his music, the link was sent from his personal email account and it is free speech.

“I was totally upset. He has every right to write a song, write a book or to make his opinion known,” said Kasaitis….

Read it all.

USCCB: United for religious freedom

From the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a further response to the Obama administration’s mandate against religious freedom:

…One particular religious freedom issue demands our immediate attention: the now-finalized rule of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would force virtually all private health plans nationwide to provide coverage of sterilization and contraception—including abortifacient drugs—subject to an exemption for “religious employers” that is arbitrarily narrow, and to an unspecified and dubious future “accommodation” for other religious organizations that are denied the exemption….

Second, we wish to clarify what this debate is—and is not—about. This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.

So what is it about?

An unwarranted government definition of religion. The mandate includes an extremely narrow definition of what HHS deems a “religious employer” deserving exemption—employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith. We are deeply concerned about this new definition of who we are as people of faith and what constitutes our ministry. The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom. Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry. HHS thus creates and enforces a new distinction—alien both to our Catholic tradition and to federal law—between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need, of any faith community or none. Cf. Deus Caritas Est, Nos. 20-33. We are commanded both to love and to serve the Lord; laws that protect our freedom to comply with one of these commands but not the other are nothing to celebrate. Indeed, they must be rejected, for they create a “second class” of citizenship within our religious community….

A mandate to act against our teachings. The exemption is not merely a government foray into internal Church governance, where government has no legal competence or authority—disturbing though that may be. This error in theory has grave consequences in principle and practice. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers” will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world. For decades, the Bishops
have led the fight against such government incursions on conscience, particularly in the area of health care. Far from making us waver in this longstanding commitment, the unprecedented magnitude of this latest threat has only strengthened our resolve to maintain that consistent view.

A violation of personal civil rights. The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing “services” contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption. This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so….

Read it all.

You demand I buy your birth control, but you don’t even require your dates to buy you dinner before using it

From Roxeanne de Luca at Haemet:

Back in the Dark Ages, men used to buy women diamonds before getting them into bed.  Now that you’ve done away with that requirement, how about at least asking men to buy your Ortho Tri Cyclen? If you’re an equal partner, negotiating a sexual encounter, why are you so unequal that you’re the ones crying to rich men in Congress for help, like Oliver Twist asking for another serving of food, while all the guys on Law Review are writing their Notes and applying to clerkships without a care in the world? And whose fault is that? Rick Santorum’s? Pope Benedict? or yours, for not having the basic self-respect to tell Mr. Law Review that he’s not getting any unless he understands that “equality” doesn’t mean that the woman buys the Pill and the condoms, too?

Read it all. And from the comments:

You’ve nailed the dirty, little secret of the so-called “sexual revolution”: the primary result has been allow men to be sexual pigs. All that marching and bra-burning and lawsuits…just so men can treat women like dirt.

Thanks, feminists!

Klavan: “The true meaning of slutgate”

From Andrew Klavan at PajamasMedia:

…Anyway, Rush called [Sandra Fluke] a slut, probably hoping that that sort of ungentlemanly behavior toward women would land him a show on HBO like that super cool Bill Maher, who called Governor Sarah Palin the c-word (whatever that is) and entertained guests who fantasized about raping Michele Bachmann.  If only Rush could get a show like Bill Maher then he could be bitter and irrelevant too – probably the only things missing from Rush’s life.

So now the left is calling for Rush’s head and the right is arguing hotly that the left says equally misogynist things and even sometimes dumps their women into the water and then leaves them there locked in a car to drown while they go back to their hotel to chat with their friends and call their lawyer. And yet a leftist killer of women can go on to become the Lion of the Senate, and even a piece of work like James Carville who implied one of his boss’s sexual harassment victims was trailer trash gets a network gig. Hey, maybe Rush was trying to get a network gig like James Carville!

Where was I?

Oh yeah. Before we were talking about sluts, we were talking about contraception and about how every girl should get her contraception paid for.  Dinner too. And flowers. They like that.

But notice something no one is talking about? Try and think what it might be. Correct! It’s the First Amendment of the Constitution. Which Barack Obama shredded by insisting religious institutions pay for what he thinks they should pay for instead of what they believe they should pay for. Also the free market. Which Barack Obama illegally violated by using the power of government to tell private insurance companies what services they have to provide.

No one is talking about those things, because the leftist media knows how to skew the narrative so that all of us – not just them, but every single one of us – is talking about what they want us to talk about instead of what we should be talking about: the real news, the real issues. The left’s illegal abuse of power….

Read it all.

From a plea for choice to a roar of entitlement

From Debra Saunders at Real Clear Politics:

…But for the right, this is an issue of the Obama administration’s telling church-based groups that they must act against their deeply held beliefs. As House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy told me, the argument did not start with Congress. It was a response to Obama. “It wasn’t about birth control. It’s about religious freedom.”

The tables have turned. Abortion used to be a matter of choice. Ditto birth control. But now that they have considerable political power, the erstwhile choice advocates want to take away the choice of dissenters to opt out.

Choice is gone. Tolerance is musty memory. “Access” is the new buzzword — and access means free. Under Obamacare, employer-paid health plans can charge women copayments for necessary and vital medical services if they are seriously ill, but birth control is free….

What is more, Fluke asserted that if students have to go out and get their own birth control — because they chose to attend a Catholic institution — that hurts their grades. Therefore, Washington must force religious institutions to go against their deeply held beliefs and hand out birth control, if indirectly.

Washington has accomplished a great leap, from a plea for choice to a roar of entitlement.

No doubt, this approach works well with intolerant liberals who want to impose their views on others. But it is enough to cause some of us social moderates, who worry about the encroachment on religious and personal liberty, to go into the loving arms of social conservatives.

Read it all.

Dolan blasts White House contraception plan as ‘freedom of religion battle’

From the New York Post:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan ramped up the battle with the White House today, blasting the government for a controversial new regulation that would require providing free contraceptive services to workers of religious institutions.

“Don’t impose your teaching upon us and make us do as a church what we find unconscionable to do!” the freshly minted prince of the church told a roaring crowd of 1,000 at Holy Trinity Diocesan HS in Hicksville.

In a blistering attack interlaced with humor, Dolan never mentioned President Obama by name — only his policies….

He told the crowd of church leaders that the battle over the US Health and Human Services regulation is bigger than contraception.

“It is a freedom of religion battle,” Dolan said. “We are talking about an unwarranted, unprecedented radical intrusion into the interior life of integrity of a church’s ability to teach, serve and sanctify in its own.”…

“We live in an era that seems to discover new rights every day and then expects government and culture and society to pay for it. The church emphasizes responsibility more than rights.”

Read it all.

Obama risks $100 billion if Catholic hospitals close

From Ed Morrissey writing for the Fiscal Times:

Perhaps Barack Obama assumed that religious leaders would simply offer a token protest to his new mandate for religious organizations to provide free birth control, even when contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization violate the core doctrines of their faith. The president might have had reason to expect that Catholic bishops wouldn’t put up much of a fight, considering their support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, from which Health and Human Services derives the authority to dictate their coverage requirements to employers….

The strongest statement of opposition came this week from President Obama’s home town of Chicago. Francis Cardinal George sent a message to parishioners in the archdiocese that the Catholic Church would shut down its various institutions in the community before violating the core doctrine of Humanae Vitae by providing contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients to its employees, free or otherwise. In a lengthy missive, George remarked that Catholic bishops are fighting for a separation of church and state, and that the mandate represents an unprecedented arrogance in Obama’s attempt to have government define the boundaries between faith and works….

If the Obama administration insisted on enforcing its mandate on Catholic organizations, George concluded, then “two Lents from now” their listing of Catholic hospitals and health-care institutions would be empty.

What would that mean to the U.S., and to Obama’s health care reform mandate? Put simply, it would create a disaster for the delivery of health care in the country, and rapidly escalate the public costs of health care….

The Catholic Church has perhaps the most extensive private health-care delivery system in the nation. It operates 12.6 percent of hospitals in the U.S., according to the Catholic Health Association of the U.S., accounting for 15.6 percent of all admissions and 14.5 percent of all hospital expenses, a total for Catholic hospitals in 2010 of $98.6 billion. Whom do these hospitals serve? Catholic hospitals handle more than their share of Medicare (16.6 percent) and Medicaid (13.65) discharges, meaning that more than one in six seniors and disabled patients get attention from these hospitals, and more than one in every eight low-income patients as well. Almost a third (32 percent) of these hospitals are located in rural areas, where patients usually have few other options for care.

Compared to their competition, Catholic hospitals take a leading role in providing less-profitable services to patients. They lead the sector in breast cancer screenings, nutrition programs, trauma, geriatric services, and social work. In most of these areas, other non-profits come close, but hospitals run by state and local governments fall significantly off the pace. Where patients have trouble paying for care, Catholic hospitals cover more of the costs….

Read it all.

AUL: The con

Watch it all.

The bishops and the mandate: Principled witness vs. politics as usual

From Robert P. George, Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson, writing for the Witherspoon Institute:

…Let’s consider some facts. When national opposition to the mandate was a white-hot blaze, President Obama announced a few changes meant to satisfy critics. Hours later, the mandate was enshrined in the Federal Register without any of those changes having been made. The President’s self-imposed deadline for making good on his promises? After the election.

He claimed to be accommodating religious, especially Catholic concerns. It was a compromise, say America’s editors. That would make it history’s first unilateral compromise: The White House had secured (and promptly rolled out) the approval of longtime supporter Sr. Carol Keehan—and Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards—but not a single bishop.

In fact, the New York Times reports, the proposal was never really meant to address the bishops’ concerns. It was calculated to give cover to liberal Catholics, whose renewed support of the mandate would mute the roar of criticism of Obama from champions of religious freedom on the Left and Right both….

Well, the bishops certainly do oppose mandating this funding (and always have), for contraceptives and abortifacients are, as Cardinal Timothy Dolan and others have noted, not health care. Anovulent pills can be used for genuinely health-related purposes, which the bishops support and even cover for their own employees. But what contraception and abortion prevent or “treat”—the existence of new people—is no illness or disease. They serve, as such, no common good. And when one weighs religious liberty against what is no public good at all, it’s easy to see how the scales of justice will tip. Bishops who point this out are not flexing “political muscle” in a hyped-up “difference over policy,” as America’s editors suggest. They are drawing the plain implications of Catholic principle—to which Jesuit magazines are, we presume, editorially committed.

But suppose, for the sake of argument, that these services were forms of health care. Imagine too that the “compromise solution” were more than the election-year I.O.U. of a politician who had already revealed himself to be reckless about religious freedom (and even averse to that term). We still face the fact that the mandate would require Catholic and other religiously opposed employers to provide plans that cover services they find morally abhorrent, or else pay crippling fines. Insurance companies would be the ones to advertise (and, officially, to fund) the plans’ controversial parts, but objecting employers would in practice bear their costs. …

Freedom of conscience is hardly safer after the new proposal: Objecting employers will still have to contract for insurance plans covering what they judge to be immoral. Their employees will still have this coverage through employers’ contracts, effectively on their dime….

But it gets worse. All these threats—to conscience, to witness, to religious freedom, to pluralism and civic virtue—would take their toll for no good reason, whatever one’s view of the services at stake. The cause of subsidized contraception and abortion has, again, no share in the common good. But suppose it were a public good, and important enough to justify risks to conscience and witness and religious freedom; suppose Obama’s revision really would be implemented as promised; and would, so implemented, diminish all these risks. The case for the mandate would still fail, for whatever risks remained would be unnecessary.

For one thing, contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs are widely available—not just at drug stores but also (to cite the administration’s own announcement) at “community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support.”

But even more tellingly, the administration has on non-religious grounds granted exemptions from the mandate to employers that account for an estimated 88 million employees in 2013. If coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients is indispensable, why is it not guaranteed for these tens of millions? If, on the other hand, the administration can afford to exempt employers for other reasons, why not show the same solicitude for employers with moral and religious objections? HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebellius, who promulgated the mandate, may have let the reason slip when she declared herself at “war” with those she cast as enemies of—you guessed it—“women’s health.”…

The administration’s dubious record on religious freedom, its selective intransigence on the insurance mandate, indeed the weakness of its position from every vantage-point leave only one explanation. Against people seeking to keep and share their faith, the Obama administration has chosen to give shining witness to its own dogmas—for which it would risk one-term martyrdom; before which it would bend every pillar of society, make every last man and woman bow. The Catholic bishops remain standing in bold resistance, and somehow it is this—and not their own, rather awkward posture on the matter—that embarrasses the editors of America magazine.

Read it all.

Cardinal George: No Catholic hospitals in 2 years unless HHS mandate is rescinded

Hey, for the administration, that’s a feature, not a bug. From Catholic New World (archdiocese of Chicago), a column by Francis Cardinal George:

Catholic hospitals, universities and social services have an institutional conscience, a conscience shaped by Catholic moral and social teaching. The HHS regulations now before our society will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to follow their conscience.

So far in American history, our government has respected the freedom of individual conscience and of institutional integrity for all the many religious groups that shape our society. The government has not compelled them to perform or pay for what their faith tells them is immoral. That’s what we’ve meant by freedom of religion. That’s what we had believed was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Maybe we were foolish to believe so.

What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down.

In the public discussion thus far, efforts have been made to isolate the bishops from the Catholic faithful by focusing attention exclusively on “reproductive” issues. But the acrimony could as easily focus next year or the year after on assisted suicide or any other moral issue that can be used to distract attention from the attack on religious liberty. Many will recognize in these moves a tactic now familiar in our public life: those who cannot be co-opted are isolated and then destroyed. The arguments used are both practical and theoretical.

Practically, we’re told that the majority of Catholics use artificial contraception. There are properly medical reasons, in some circumstances, for the use of contraceptive pills, as everyone knows. But even if contraceptives were used by a majority of couples only and exclusively to suppress a possible pregnancy, behavior doesn’t determine morality….

Bishops are the successors of the apostles; they collectively receive the authority to teach and govern that Christ bestowed upon the apostles. Bishops don’t claim to speak for every baptized Catholic. Bishops speak, rather, for the Catholic and apostolic faith. Those who hold that faith gather with them; others go their own way. They are and should be free to do so, but they deceive themselves and others in calling their organizations Catholic….

The provision of health care should not demand “giving up” religious liberty. Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship-no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.

The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church. The bishops didn’t begin this dismaying conflict nor choose its timing. We would love to have it ended as quickly as possible. It’s up to the government to stop the attack….

Read it all.

Of course, I happen to think that the Obama Administration would be perfectly happy if all religious institutions closed their hospitals, charities, etc. It leaves an empty field for the state to take over and increase their hold on the economy and their control over all people’s options and actions. (And that the Catholic Church helped create this debacle by their perception that the government was a good faith partner and the best solution, through taxes, for things like universal healthcare. They forgot their own principle of subsidiarity and that whoever pays the bills, sets the rules.)

H/t to New Oxford Review.

Sharia law in Pennsylvania

From John Hinderaker at PowerLine:

Andy McCarthy’s post on a criminal prosecution in Pennsylvania that was dismissed based on an application of sharia law and a recognition of the special, privileged status of Islam is the most chilling thing I have read in quite a while. This is Andy’s account of the events that led to the prosecution:

The victim, [atheist activist] Ernest Perce, wore a “Zombie Mohammed” costume and pretended to walk among the dead (in the company of an associate who was the “Zombie Pope” — and who, you’ll be shocked to learn, was not assaulted). The assailant, Talag Elbayomy, a Muslim immigrant, physically attacked Perce, attempted to pull his sign off, and, according to police, admitted what he had done right after the incident. The defense argued that Elbayomy believed it was a crime to insult the prophet Mohammed (it is, under sharia law), and that because he was in the company of his children, he had to act to end this provocation and set an example about defending Islam.

As you will see, Judge Martin did not lecture the defendant about free speech or how disputes are resolved in a civilized country. He instead dressed the victim down for failing to appreciate how sensitive Muslims — including the judge himself — are about Islam.

The most remarkable thing about this story is the judge’s soliloquy in which he explains why he dismissed the case. It was recored by the complainant. You can read the whole thing at the link; here are some excerpts:…

And Mr. Thomas [Elbayomi's defense lawyer] is correct. In many other Muslim speaking countries – excuse me, in many Arabic speaking countries – call it “Muslim” – something like this is definitely against the law there. In their society, in fact, it could be punishable by death, and it frequently is, in their society.

So apparently Perce should consider himself lucky.

Here in our society, we have a constitution that gives us many rights, specifically, First Amendment rights. It’s unfortunate that some people use the First Amendment to deliberately provoke others. I don’t think that’s what our forefathers really intended. I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to piss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did.

I don’t think you’re aware, sir, there’s a big difference between how Americans practice Christianity – uh, I understand you’re an atheist. But, see, Islam is not just a religion, it’s their culture, their culture. It’s their very essence, their very being….

Read it all.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan issues strongest statement yet against the HHS mandate

It’s all over the Internet today, a letter dated February 21, 2012, to the bishops of the United States from Timothy Cardinal Dolan, President of the USCCB, and the Most Reverend William E. Lori, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty (all emphasis is mine):

Dear Brother Bishops,

Since we last wrote to you concerning the critical efforts we are undertaking together to protect religious freedom in our beloved country, many of you have requested that we write once more to update you on the situation and to again request the assistance of all the faithful in this important work. We are happy to do so now.

First, we wish to express our heartfelt appreciation to you, and to all our sisters and brothers in Christ, for the remarkable witness of our unity in faith and strength of conviction during this past month. We have made our voices heard, and we will not cease from doing so until religious freedom is restored.

As we know, on January 20, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a decision to issue final regulations that would force practically all employers, including many religious institutions, to pay for abortion inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraception. The regulations would provide no protections for our great institutions—such as Catholic charities, hospitals, and universities—or for the individual faithful in the marketplace. The regulations struck at the heart of our fundamental right to religious liberty, which affects our ability to serve those outside our faith community.

Since January 20, the reaction was immediate and sustained. We came together, joined by people of every creed and political persuasion, to make one thing resoundingly clear: we stand united against any attempt to deny or weaken the right to religious liberty upon which our country was founded.

On Friday, February 10, the Administration issued the final rules. By their very terms, the rules were reaffirmed “without change.” The mandate to provide the illicit services remains. The exceedingly narrow exemption for churches remains. Despite the outcry, all the threats to religious liberty posed by the initial rules remain.

Religious freedom is a fundamental right of all. This right does not depend on any government’s decision to grant it: it is God-given, and just societies recognize and respect its free exercise. The free exercise of religion extends well beyond the freedom of worship. It also forbids government from forcing people or groups to violate their most deeply held religious convictions, and from interfering in the internal affairs of religious organizations.

Recent actions by the Administration have attempted to reduce this free exercise to a “privilege” arbitrarily granted by the government as a mere exemption from an all-encompassing, extreme form of secularism. The exemption is too narrowly defined, because it does not exempt most non-profit religious employers, the religiously affiliated insurer, the self-insured employer, the for-profit religious employer, or other private businesses owned and operated by people who rightly object to paying for abortion inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. And because it is instituted only by executive whim, even this unduly narrow exemption can be taken away easily.

In the United States, religious liberty does not depend on the benevolence of who is regulating us. It is our “first freedom” and respect for it must be broad and inclusive—not narrow and exclusive. Catholics and other people of faith and good will are not second class citizens. And it is not for the government to decide which of our ministries is “religious enough” to warrant religious freedom protection.

This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization—although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all. If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end? This violates the constitutional limits on our government, and the basic rights upon which our country was founded.

Much remains to be done. We cannot rest when faced with so grave a threat to the religious liberty for which our parents and grandparents fought. In this moment in history we must work diligently to preserve religious liberty and to remove all threats to the practice of our faith in the public square. This is our heritage as Americans. President Obama should rescind the mandate, or at the very least, provide full and effective measures to protect religious liberty and conscience.

Above all, dear brothers, we rely on the help of the Lord in this important struggle. We all need to act now by contacting our legislators in support of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which can be done through our action alert on www.usccb.org/conscience.

We invite you to share the contents of this letter with the faithful of your diocese in whatever form, or by whatever means, you consider most suitable. Let us continue to pray for a quick and complete resolution to this and all threats to religious liberty and the exercise of our faith in our great country.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Most Reverend William E. Lori
Bishop of Bridgeport
Chairman, Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

Check it out.

Convincing witness in the face of radical secularism

From an address by Benedict XVI to the bishops of the United States on the occasion of their visit ad lumina Apostolorum:

At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such….

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a “language” which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.

The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion….

Read it all.

Feds ask for delay in Belmont Abbey College’s lawsuit against HHS mandate

When you got nothin’, you stall. From LifeSiteNews.com:

Days after saying the birth control mandate was “final,” the Obama administration has told a federal court it shouldn’t rule on a lawsuit against the new rule because the administration may decide to change it at an unspecified later date.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Belmont Abbey College in the case, said Friday that the administration’s response lacked any constitutional defense of the mandate, which would force religious organizations, including charities, hospitals, and even religious orders, to cover birth control, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs.

“Apparently, the administration has decided that the mandate, as written and finalized, is constitutionally indefensible,” said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Its only hope is to ask the court to look the other way based on an empty promise to possibly change the rules in the future.”…

And you would trust this administration why? So read it all, and check out the news from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

My bishop writes another letter–will I hear it at Mass this weekend?

From the Catholic News Herald, a copy of the letter Bishop Jugis has asked be read at all masses this weekend (I’ll let you know what I hear at my church):

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you today regarding the healthcare regulations that would require religious institutions to provide contraception for their employees. Since the HHS guidelines were released in January, a great many people in the Diocese of Charlotte have contacted my office to express their concern. More recently, President Barack Obama offered a compromise in the administration of the regulations.

Unfortunately, the compromise does not address the fundamental concern of conscience protection and religious liberty that the original regulations threaten.

The compromise retains the nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients, for all religious employers. This remains a grave moral concern.

Additionally, it appears that the regulations will still mandate that all insurers include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, including the Diocese of Charlotte, are not exempt from this mandate.

The lack of clear conscience protection for key stakeholders is unacceptable and must be corrected.

The bishops in the United States therefore continue – with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency – the efforts to correct this problem. We urgently need legislation to correct the mandate’s threats to religious liberty and conscience rights. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act has been introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467) to ensure that those who participate in the market for health insurance “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

As a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice prevail, and that religious liberty be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. I ask you to visit CatholicVoiceNC.org to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and to contact Congress in support of legislation to reverse the Administration’s decision.

Assuring you of my prayers, and asking God’s blessings upon you, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis

Bishop of Charlotte

And check out Concerns remain among local Catholics over HHS contraception mandate, also in the Catholic News Herald.