President Obama announced Friday a change in the way that employees of religious organizations will receive free contraceptives that can cause abortions, but it fell far short of what is needed to protect religious liberty, say evangelicals and Catholics, reports Baptist Press. The controversy began when the Department of Health and Human Services in January finalized a rule requiring private insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, including “emergency” ones such as Plan B and “ella” that can block implantation and kill the embryo—an action that pro-life groups and many Christians view as an early abortion. The drugs would be free for employees and be covered as part of the health care law’s goal to offer free preventive services. The HHS rule included an exemption for most churches, but that exemption does not cover Christian colleges and schools or faith-based hospitals and social service programs. Programs such as Catholic Charities, Prison Fellowship, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s GuideStone Financial Resources would be affected. Obama said Friday that the burden on providing emergency contraceptives would fall on insurance companies, and that the coverage still would be free. “If a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company—not the hospital, not the charity—will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge without co-pays and without hassles,” Obama said. “The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services and no religious institution will have to provide these services.” Religious leaders, though, were not pleased, and said the same problems with religious liberty remained. “It is an attempt to deal with a matter of religious conviction with an accounting gimmick,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press. O. S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Recourses, called it an “approach that does not address the issues at hand for Southern Baptists who oppose so-called contraceptives that can and do cause an abortion.” GuideStone provides health insurance coverage to 60,000 people, including pastors and missionaries. “The President’s statement today,” said Hawkins, “is an insulting affront illustrating a basic lack of understanding that this issue will not be solved by sleight-of-hand word games.”

Other news:

  • Twenty-five Notre Dame faculty members—led by the university’s top ethics expert and including some of the school’s most eminent scholars—signed a statement declaring that President Barack Obama’s latest version of his administration’s mandate that all health insurance plans in the United States must cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions, is “a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand,” reports CNS News. The statement—put out on the letterhead of the University of Notre Dame Law School—is also signed by leading scholars from other major American colleges and universities, including Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown, Brigham Young, Yeshiva, and Wheaton College. Notre Dame gave Obama an honorary degree in 2009.
  • To kick off National Marriage Week, Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute has released a new study called “162 Reasons to Marry,” reports The Christian Post. The findings reveal that married persons enjoy stronger relationships with their children, have better mental and physical health, and are less likely to commit a crime. According to Dr. Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, marriage is the foundational relationship of society because all other relationships stem from what children see displayed by their parents. “Within a family built on a good marriage, the child gradually learns to value and perform five fundamental tasks in society.” Those tasks include raising a family, practicing religion, getting an education, finding a job, and participating in government. The report points out that fewer than half of children in the United States are now reaching the end of childhood in an intact married family. With that, FRC believes “it will be good for all adolescents to learn again and again that an intact married life is a great good to aim for. If they are clear on the goal, they may be motivated to reach it.”
  • After winning the GOP primary in three states and rejuvenating his campaign, presidential candidate Rick Santorum confessed at a prayer meeting with 175 pastors at a Texas church Wednesday that the institution of marriage turned his life around, reports The Christian Post. Despite his notable victories in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado the night before, the former Pennsylvania senator did not focus very much on his presidential campaign during the meeting at Bella Donna Chapel in McKinney, Texas. Instead, Santorum talked about what he credits as one of the main reasons behind his success—his faith, which he admitted had not always been very strong, The New York Times reported. “Your prayers are the reason I am here and I encourage you and your congregations to continue to pray,” Santorum revealed to the pastors, before admitting that religion was not always the most important thing in his life. What sparked a change in him was his marriage and the births of his eight children. “Faith began to be part of our lives as we built our marriage,” Santorum said of his relationship with his wife, Karen. “The institution of marriage saved my life.” The former Pennsylvania senator has experienced death and illness in his family, which he identified as some of the most difficult challenges he has had to overcome. He lost one son, Gabriel, who died only a few hours after being born prematurely in 1996. His young daughter, Isabella, who was born in 2008, has also been struggling with a serious illness, and Santorum had to cancel speaking appearances weeks ago to be by her side when she was admitted to a hospital with pneumonia in both of her lungs. Bella, as the family calls her, suffers from a rare and serious genetic disorder called Trisomy 18, which kills about 90 percent of affected children before or during birth. Santorum reportedly told the group of pastors, “These children have a lot to teach us, yet we live in a world that wants to put them in the shadows.” While Romney remains in the pole position in the GOP race, key evangelical and conservative Christian leaders have largely given their backing and endorsed Santorum for the Republican presidential nomination. Back in January, at a meeting in Texas involving such leaders as James Dobson and Gary Bauer, Santorum achieved what was described as a “landslide majority” victory in a poll taken among the Christian leaders over whom they would support for president. Santorum is seen as the most socially conservative of the GOP candidates, due to his strong family values, opposition to same-sex marriage and pro-life stance.
  • GOP presidential hopeful Santorum described last week’s court ruling striking down California’s ban on same-sex marriage as “almost absurd” and an example of “judicial tyranny,” reports The Los Angeles Times.  “Judicial tyranny is a serious issue in this race and in this country,” he said Sunday. “We need judges who respect the people’s voice. Let the people decide with respect to what the Constitution says.”
  • Joseph Farah, founder, editor, and CEO of WorldNetDaily and a nationally syndicated columnist, has come out saying that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be impeached. Said Farah, “I remember when she justified the consideration of foreign law in considering cases before America’s high court. It’s hard to imagine a more serious infraction against our Constitution or a bigger betrayal of the oath justices are required to take upon their lifetime appointments, but Ginsburg found a way to top herself recently. In an interview with Egyptian television, she insulted the Constitution before a foreign audience, telling Egyptians they shouldn’t look to the U.S. model for a governing document because it’s old and apparently outdated. Here are some of her exact words, in case you missed them: ‘I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a Constitution in the year . I can’t speak about what the Egyptian experience should be, because I’m operating under a rather old constitution.’ She said Egyptians should be ‘aided by all Constitution-writing that has gone on since the end of World War II. I might look at the Constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary. . . . It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recent than the U.S. Constitution.’ These quotes are nothing short of scandalous. They are borderline treasonous. But they also illustrate an absolute contempt for the U.S. Constitution—the one document Supreme Court justices are to use as their scale of justice. But what should we expect from an old, bitter former political director of the American Civil Liberties Union? This is what many of us recognized we got when Bill Clinton nominated her for appointment. We tried to persuade Republicans in the Senate not to confirm her. But they did not listen. They are equally culpable for the mess they helped create. Her insult and attack on the Constitution is shared by all of them who voted to confirm her. She was approved 96–3.”
  • Becoming a Victoria’s Secret “angel” is a big deal in the modeling industry, but it wasn’t enough for Kylie Bisutti to forget her Heavenly Father. The 21-year-old model recently decided to leave one of America’s most well-known lingerie companies because showing off her body left her feeling convicted, reports In 2009, Bisutti was chosen over 10,000 others for an opportunity to walk the runway and claim those trademark Victoria’s Secret wings. At that time, she was a newlywed and just beginning to grow in her Christian faith. Back then, Bisutti said she would “do whatever it takes” to win, but now her position has changed. “I just became so convicted about wanting to honor my husband with my body,” she explained. “It was more of just a heart issue for me.” Add to that a conversation Bisutti said she had with her 8-year-old cousin, who she said really put things into perspective. “She just looked at me and (said), ‘You know, I think I want to stop eating so that I can look like you,'” the young model recalled. “That just broke my heart.” Now Bisutti is on a new mission to honor her Christian beliefs and be a good example to others. She said her husband has been very supportive of her decision, and even prayed about it. “He’s very thankful,” Bisutti said, laughing. “Very, very thankful.”
  • The FDA has won its two-year fight to shut down an Amish farmer who was selling fresh, raw milk to eager consumers in the Washington region. A judge this month banned Daniel Allgyer from selling his milk across state lines, and he told his customers he’ll shut his farm down altogether, reports The Washington Times. His customers are wary of talking publicly, fearing the FDA will come after them. “I can’t believe in the federal government is raiding Amish farmers at gunpoint all over a basic human right to eat natural food,” said one, who asked not to be named but who got weekly shipments of eggs, milk, honey, and butter from Rainbow Acres. “In Maryland, they force taxpayers to pay for abortions, but God forbid we want the same milk our grandparents drank.” Fans of fresh milk, which they also call “raw milk,” attribute all kinds of health benefits to it—from better teeth to stronger immune systems. It is particularly popular among parents who want it for their children, and, in a unique twist, the movement unites those on the left and the right who argue thee federal government has no business controlling what people choose to eat.
  • Analysts have begun warning that the recent increase in violent protests in Egypt is putting the nation’s millennia-old minority Christian community in great danger, and members may be forced to leave their homeland, reports WorldNetDaily. “Tolerance is not a characteristic Islamists embrace,” said Michael Rubin, Middle East analyst for the American Enterprise Institute. “Just as Arab nationalists drove Jews out of Arab countries in the 20th century, Islamists will drive Christians out in the 21st. I’m afraid a millennium-old community in Egypt will soon disappear.” WorldNetDaily also notes that reports coming out of Iran say persecution of Christians is only growing more bold and brazen, as Iranian authorities once again raided a house church—this time in Shiraz—and arrested between six to 10 members of the congregation. The detainees are being held in an undisclosed location. Jihad Watch publisher Robert Spencer says the Iranians don’t know that they’re doing the very thing that will produce more Christians. “They don’t know that Christianity grows amid persecution,” Spencer said. “Islam has expanded through violence and intimidation, so it isn’t at all surprising that they’d resort to it again.”
  • Sweden’s Liberal Party is calling for a law change that will allow social service workers to take children away from their homeschooling families. Robert Kiska of the Alliance Defense Fund says the requested changes add to the already stringent penalties on homeschooling parents, reports For example, one family has been fined the equivalent of $26,000 because of their participation in homeschooling. Kiska says this latest effort is totalitarian in nature. “That the government should have the right to take children away from their families simply for the act of home education—that is without due process, without any real evidence gathering—that is almost a military state power,” he contends. He points out that other European countries are practicing the same policies, and it is just a matter of time until it spills over into the United States. “You know, I always say that when Europe coughs, the United States gets the cold, especially when you have the United States Supreme Court, where I think right now . . . the majority of the justices are in favor of importing international precedent,” the ADF legal counsel comments. “And you have an administration equally keen on importing international precedent.”
  • A former Navy chaplain who was forced out of the service for praying publicly in Jesus’ name while in uniform says the Obama administration is clearly trying to censor military chaplains who dare to speak out against the pro-abortion and pro-homosexual agenda, reports The Obama White House opened a can of worms last week when it issued an edict requiring Catholic-affiliated agencies to provide medical coverage for employees’ contraceptives and abortions. The controversy moved to the military when Catholic Army chaplains were ordered not to read a letter telling parishioners that the Catholic Church “cannot and will not comply with this unjust law.” Gordon Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain who now runs The Pray In Jesus’ Name Project, further details how the mandate is affecting the military. “The secretary of the Army said you have to line out some of the language, or else we’re going to charge the chaplains with sedition and treason for opposing the Obama administration,” he reports. “Can you believe this? They are actually threatening chaplains with court-martial if they dare to preach against sin in their own church.” So Klingenschmitt is encouraging people of faith to contact their members of Congress and tell them to support the Military Religious Freedom Act (HR 3828) sponsored by Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), which would protect all members of the armed forces from having to compromise their religious and spiritual beliefs.
  • Gov. Chris Gregoire handed gay rights advocates a major victory, signing into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington State, making it the seventh in the nation to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed, reports ABC News. Gregoire signed the bill in the state reception room in the Capitol, surrounded by gay rights supporters. It’s a historic moment, but same-sex couples can’t walk down the aisle just yet. The law takes effect June 7, but opponents are already mounting challenges on multiple fronts. Opponents planned to file a challenge Monday that could put the law on hold pending the outcome of a November vote. Separately, an initiative was filed at the beginning of the session that opponents of gay marriage say could lead to the new law being overturned. The Democratic governor signed the bill as Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who opposes gay marriage, was in town speaking with conservative voters. Santorum planned to meet with Republican lawmakers at the Capitol. Gregoire’s signature comes nearly a week after a federal appeals court declared California’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, saying it was a violation of the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples.
  • A landmark legal ruling banning the tradition of saying prayers at council meetings was denounced last night as an “assault on Britain’s Christian heritage,” reports MailOnline. The High Court controversially backed an anti-religious campaign to abolish official acts of worship. Christians and politicians reacted with dismay after a judge overturned centuries of custom by outlawing a town hall in Devon from putting prayers on the formal agenda. It prompted concern that it would pave the way for Parliament to abandon prayers before Commons and Lords business, mark the end of hospital and Forces chaplains, and could even lead to the abolition of the Coronation Oath, pledged by Kings and Queens taking the throne. The ruling means prayers will not be allowed at the start of council meetings across England and Wales, though they may still be said before the official start. It comes as two Christian B&B owners who refused to let a gay couple share a room lost an appeal against a ruling they must pay thousands in compensation to the men.
  • Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute is saying that people should pay close attention to what’s happening in the  Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota because the kinds of irrational arguments and manipulative tactics used by homosexual activists and their allies, like writer Sabrina Erdely, are being used in every state to corrupt public education. Erdely identified nine teens who committed suicide over a two-year period. Five of the teens whose names Erdely mentions, however, were neither homosexual nor called homosexual epithets. Readers should be asking why in an article about a purported “war on gay teens” being waged by Evangelicals, Erdely even mentions teens whose suicides were completely unrelated to homosexuality. It should be equally clear that conservative community members are not at war with “gay teens.” They’re at war with the efforts of homosexual activists and their allies to promote their ontological, moral, and political beliefs in public schools while censoring all dissenting voices. Erdely’s article depends on accepting her unproven assumption that moral opposition to volitional homosexual acts constitutes hatred of persons. This is a feckless but politically expedient argument that few liberals apply consistently. They never argue that their moral opposition to certain types of behavior constitutes hatred of those who engage in it.
  • To sell his tax-code tweaks, new regulatory schemes, and insatiable ardor for big government, President Obama invoked Abraham Lincoln in his State of the Union address: “I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.” Was Lincoln the father of big government? In a new Special Report, Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D., of Gettysburg College lays out the argument that the modern state’s paternity lies with the Progressives, reports If big government means a permanently large and growing federal budget and a vast civil service, then Lincoln may deny paternity for both. While the federal budget indeed ballooned to meet the cost of the Civil War (from $63.2 million in 1860 to $1.29 billion in 1865), it shrank once the war ended (back to $293 million by 1870). “If Lincoln had plans to create ‘big government,’” Guelzo notes, “none of his successors seems to have known what they were.” Similarly, while the federal government employed more people during the war, the number shrank once the war ended. If big government means a plethora of agencies possessing intrusive powers, then Lincoln is again vindicated. Lincoln’s administration produced no dramatic increase in executive agencies. Between the 1850s and the end of the Civil War, the federal government added seven new agencies for a total of 22 (a far cry from the 513 agencies in 2010).