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Fox News Priest: HHS is “Raping” the First Amendment

May 23, 2012, 4:07 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Father Jonathan MorrisIn a statement objecting to a perceived lack of coverage of the recent Catholic lawsuits against the Department of Health and Human Service’s contraception regulations, Catholic priest Jonathan Morris characterized the HHS policy requiring employers to include contraception services in their health care plans as a “rape” of the First Amendment:

Any national media outlet that fails to report the obvious raping of our First Amendment rights by this Health and Human Service mandate, is trumpeting either woeful incompetence or shameless bias.  The Catholic Church didn’t pick this fight, but it knew that if it didn’t fight back now, every religion would eventually lose, and America would be fundamentally redefined.

Morris is the Program Director of The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM radio and a Fox News analyst who regularly appears on programs like Fox & Friends and The O’Reilly Factor. The statement was included in a list of comments by conservative figures in a press release from the right-wing Media Research Center.

Not only is Morris’s rape analogy a grossly misleading characterization of a complicated policy debate, it’s a shockingly insensitive insult to the millions of people who have been victims of horrific sexual violence.

As the response to Rep. Clyburn’s use of this same language to describe Bain capital earlier this week has reinforced, this kind of extremism has no place in our political dialogue. That’s especially true when it comes from a member of the clergy, and Fr. Morris should immediately issue a retraction and an apology.

Catholic bishops are already concerned about their efforts on this issue being associated with extreme rhetoric. USCCB President and supervising bishop of Fr. Morris, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, would do well to weigh in here to make clear that this language has no place in the Church’s campaign.

Photo credit; Premiere Speakers, Wikimedia

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Catholic Bishop Calls Out Right-Wing Groups Trying to “Co-Opt” Bishops

May 23, 2012, 1:05 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Bishop Stephen BlaireBishop Stephen Blaire, who previously stood up to a conservative journalist trying to soften his critique of the Ryan budget, is speaking up again about right-wing groups trying to “co-opt” the bishops.

In an interview with America magazine’s Kevin Clarke, Bishop Blaire talks about the bishops’ religious liberty campaign and his concerns about public perceptions of it:

Bishop Blaire explained he was worried that some national groups appear to be seizing on the issue and transforming the dispute over religious liberty into a political fight.

“I am concerned that in addressing the H.H.S. mandate,” he said, “that it be clear that what we are dealing with is a matter of religious liberty and the intrusion of government into the church and that it not be perceived as a woman’s issue or a contraceptive issue.

“I think there are different groups that are trying to co-opt this and make it into political issue, and that’s why we need to have a deeper discussion as bishops.”

Bishop Blaire believes discussions with the Obama administration toward a resolution of the dispute could be fruitful even as alternative remedies are explored. He worried that some groups “very far to the right” are trying to use the conflict as “an anti-Obama campaign.”

Bishop Blaire makes an excellent point. While many defenders of the bishops dismiss any charges of partisan electoral motivation, it’s important to remember that the bishops aren’t acting in an apolitical bubble.

Both the Republican Party and Religious Right groups are piggybacking on the bishops’ efforts for partisan ends. In some cases, these parallel efforts appear to be intertwined when partisan groups coordinate shared events and Bishops making thinly veiled electoral endorsements.

The Church does need to be very careful to separate out what it sees as disagreements on specific policy issues from the sweeping electoral narrative about the “War on Religion.” Good on Bishop Blaire for calling out this dangerous dynamic. Hopefully more of his fellow bishops will join him in publicly rejecting partisan politicization of sensitive issues.

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FPL Daily News Reel: May 22, 2012

May 22, 2012, 4:10 pm | By Nick Sementelli

The FPL News Reel is a daily round-up of the top faith and politics stories in the news. You can sign up for the email version of the News Reel here, subscribe to the RSS feed here, and follow it on twitter at @FPLNewsreel.

The GOP’s immoral budget
By John Gehring — The Hill, Congress Blog
Conservatives who talk a big game about family values should be held accountable when their economic policies undermine human dignity.

Churches tread lightly on politics in 2012 election
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald — Religion News Service
With the 2012 election less than six months away, congregations are getting the message that Americans want religion out of politics. But that doesn’t mean they plan to keep mum in the public square.

Federal lawsuits by Catholic dioceses, groups seek to stop HHS mandate
By Nancy Frazier O’Brien — Catholic News Service
Forty-three Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals, social service agencies and other institutions filed suit in federal court May 21 to stop…a mandate that would require them to cover contraceptives and sterilization in their health plans.

Did the Catholic organizations have to sue over the health care mandate?
By E.J. Dionne Jr. — Washington Post, Opinion
…the Catholic community is split because many of us who initially backed the bishops cannot understand why they did not respond to the administration’s olive branch. Many bishops seem to want this fight.

Obama and Romney offer differing views of God
By Lisa Miller — Washington Post, On Faith
People always ask, “What would Jesus do?,” but in America today, it’s impossible to know. And that’s because there are (at least) two prevailing views of God at work in our public and political conversation.

Alabama governor signs bill tweaking immigration law
By Kelli Dugan — Reuters
The revised law also maintains a section from the original law that requires school systems to account for the immigration status of students unable to provide valid proof of residency.

Adam Taylor: Hunger, Nutrition, and the G8
By PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly
World Vision’s vice president for advocacy and government relations says the leaders attending this weekend’s G8 summit in Washington should invest in agricultural and nutrition programs to lift people out of poverty because “it’s the right thing to do, it’s the moral thing to do, and it’s the smart thing to do.”

Limbaugh takes post-Fluke ratings hit
By Dylan Byers — Politico
Limbaugh’s detractors attribute the losses to a rejection of the show following his controversial comments about the Georgetown law student.

LAPD modifies surveillance program of Muslims
By David Finnigan — Religion News Service
After lobbying from Muslim and Sikh leaders, the Los Angeles Police Department has agreed to modify its information-gathering program on suspicious activities after the New York Police Department came under fire for spying on local Muslims.

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Catholic Sister Organizes for Peace and Justice

May 21, 2012, 2:15 pm | By Nick Sementelli

The Chicago Tribune has a great profile of Sister Kathleen Desautels:

At 74, the 5-foot-2 Catholic nun is a powerhouse. She served as one of the peace guides during the big anti-NATO rally and march from downtown to Cermak Road andMichigan Avenue. Her job was to help keep protesters calm and the procession moving.

“I like to think I’m the hostess of the protest. Some people want to cause trouble or get arrested, and you can’t stop them. But others are just solid gold people who are working to change things. Sometimes they’re anxious, and one of the jobs of a peace guide is to give them information to help them feel comfortable.”

Sister Kathleen represents her religious congregation, Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, on the staff at the Chicago-based 8th Day Center for Justice, a Catholic peace and justice organization whose mission is to shake things up.

“We’re not a social services agency, and we don’t do charity work,” she said. “But we’re called to be an alternative, critical voice.

“The disparity between the rich and poor, we’ve been working on that forever, along with issues surrounding immigration, labor rights, the environment, the prison system, police brutality, women and children, wars around the world. We at 8th Day believe they’re all interconnected.”

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FPL Daily News Reel: May 21, 2012

May 21, 2012, 1:51 pm | By Nick Sementelli

The FPL News Reel is a daily round-up of the top faith and politics stories in the news. You can sign up for the email version of the News Reel here, subscribe to the RSS feed here, and follow it on twitter at @FPLNewsreel.

Marquette faculty members rebuke Ryan budget
By Annysa Johnson — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Marquette letter calls it “a glaring misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.”

A choice of capitalisms
By E.J. Dionne Jr. — Washington Post, Opinion
In this election, we’re not having an argument that pits capitalism against socialism. We are trying to decide what kind of capitalism we want. It is a debate as American as Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay — which is to say that we have always done this.

Obama could have a prayer among Ohio’s white evangelicals
By Mitchell Landsberg — Los Angeles Times
White evangelical voters are widely presumed to march in lock step with the right wing of the Republican Party. The reality is more nuanced. Some, like Beard, say their faith has led them to question conservative orthodoxy on issues such as immigration, the environment and racial and economic equity.

Evangelical Leaders Split Over Violence Against Women Act
By Tobin Grant — Christianity Today, Politics Blog
Some faith leaders, including National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson, oppose stripping away provisions that could aid mail-order brides and other immigrants. Other evangelical groups, including Concerned Women for America, want the act scrapped altogether.

Obama and the Two Types of Marriage
By Melissa Rogers — Huffington Post, Opinion
Americans must decide whether they support or oppose recognition of same-sex marriage in our civil laws, but they also must determine how religious objectors will be treated where same-sex marriages are recognized and the spirit in which these debates will be conducted.

Romney’s Faith, Silent but Deep
By Jodi Kantor — New York Times
Now, as the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Mr. Romney speaks so sparingly about his faith — he and his aides frequently stipulate that he does not impose his beliefs on others — that its influence on him can be difficult to detect.

Florida-style ‘Stand Your Ground’ gun laws sub impulse for intelligent thinking
By Walter Rodgers — Christian Science Monitor, Opinion
Even as George Zimmerman stands trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, many Americans argue these laws make us safe. I’ve had pistols held to my head from Bosnia to Beirut. Your best self-defense is your tongue.

At NATO protest, it’s clear Catholic nun is a powerhouse in the peace movement
By Dawn Turner Trice — Chicago Tribune
At 74, the 5-foot-2 Catholic nun is a powerhouse. She served as one of the peace guides during the big anti-NATO rally and march from downtown to Cermak Road and Michigan Avenue. Her job was to help keep protesters calm and the procession moving.

Health secretary addresses health care, religious freedom in protested graduation speech
By Dan Merica — CNN
In an anticipated and controversial address Friday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius delivered a speech that blended inspirational messages to graduates with a discussion of public policy’s tough decisions…

Catholic college drops health plan over contraception mandate
By Stephanie Simon — Reuters
A small Catholic college in Ohio said Tuesday it was dropping health insurance coverage for students rather than comply with a federal mandate that the plan provide free birth control.

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