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The Point Washington Update - December 5, 2013

In this edition:

Article #1

Excerpted from "U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Healthcare Law Again," AUL blog, Nov. 26, 2013 - “The U.S. Supreme Court again has the chance to defend the constitutional rights of all Americans, in considering the punishing mandates in a landmark, anti-life law,” commented Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest, on hearing news that the court decided to review two cases challenging Obamacare’s HHS Mandate, Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. “Punishing Americans for their moral objection to life-ending drugs and devices is abhorrently un-American.”

Conestoga Wood Specialties is owned by Christians and operated according to the owners’ Mennonite Christian beliefs. Hobby Lobby is an Oklahoma-based national arts and crafts retailer founded and run by David Green and his family. The Greens attribute God’s grace for Hobby Lobby’s success and over the course of four decades of expansion the Green family’s Christian faith has remained an integral part of the business. Both Conestoga Woods and Hobby Lobby do not oppose all contraception, but those drugs and devices that have been labeled as “contraception” by the FDA although they are known to have life-ending effects.

In our briefs, AUL demonstrates that the life of a new human being begins at fertilization (conception), that so-called “emergency contraception” has a post-fertilization effect that can prevent a new human being from implanting in the uterus, and that forcing employers to provide coverage for such drugs violates their constitutionally protected freedom of conscience.

The briefs were filed on behalf of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Christian Medical Association, Catholic Medical Association, National Catholic Bioethics Center, Physicians for Life and National Association of Pro Life Nurses.

Commentary #1

CMDA Executive Vice President Gene Rudd, MD – "Some challenge the rights of these business owners because they do not agree with their understanding of the science—that they are protecting early human life. I remember the debate back in the 1970s among those who foresaw the backlash when the public eventually discovered that developing technologies would abort the development of early human life.

“The strategy since has been to diminish our understanding of the continuum of human life. The strategy includes verbal ploys such as ‘blob of tissue’ and ‘pre-embryo,’ all intended to disguise the truth. Has it worked? Yes, some are either deceived or they failed to value and protect life. But not these business owners. They want their business practices to honor life.

“They want to follow the words of Jesus, who said, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Luke 8:21, NIV 2011).

“But the new warning from the government is that you should not expect to have a conviction and also think you can live by it. Our Administration would rather you live by its social agenda.

“Under the guise of promoting healthcare, the Administration seeks to force individuals and their businesses to provide reproductive services which the owners find morally objectionable. Some seek to refuse the owners’ rights because they do not share the same convictions. They would rather abandon 200 years of Constitutionally-protected ‘free exercise,’ forcing these owners to comply with and pay for their social views.

“Will our Supreme Court uphold the rights of these individuals to run their businesses by their convictions? Freedom of religion, freedom to live out your conviction, is at stake.”

Article #2

Excerpted from "Top senators lobby for charitable deduction," published in The Hill, November 20, 2013 - Two senior tax writers are lobbying to ensure that the charitable deduction remains intact in any tax overhaul. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) say in a new letter that deduction's full value should be kept, to reiterate the government's "long-standing dedication to encouraging private acts of charity and compassion."

"The charitable deduction is unique. It is the only provision that encourages taxpayers to give away a portion of their income for the benefit of others," Thune and Wyden wrote to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the panel's ranking member, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

"For this reason, it is not a loophole, but a lifeline for millions of Americans in need."

Charitable groups have long made a similar argument for leaving the deduction alone in tax reform or deficit reduction efforts. Scrapping the tax break, those groups say, would put a dent in their services, putting more strain on state and local governments that would be forced to make up the difference. President Obama has long called for capping itemized deductions at 28 percent, instead of the top individual rate, currently 39.6 percent.

Commentary #2

CMA VP for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody – “I met with Senators Thune and Wyden some weeks ago to discuss strategies to protect your charitable gift tax deduction and also the idea of sending this letter. Along with colleagues in the non-profit sector, I have been lobbying many lawmakers to help them recognize that the government should not tax you for money you give away to help others.

“Politicians taking aim at eliminating or limiting the charity gift deduction are playing with political fire. Two out of every three Americans (67 percent) oppose reducing or eliminating the charitable tax deduction.i Some other reasons to keep the charity deduction:

  • Any weakening of tax deductions—whether capping the amount you can give or eliminating the deduction if you only give a certain amount—ultimately hurts the people helped by charitable organizations. Experts estimate that changing the charity tax deduction will decrease giving by up to $78 billion.ii
  • Cutting charity is not a revenue generator for the government. Any drop-off in charitable giving caused by tinkering with the deduction means the government will have to begin paying for the social services no longer provided by charities.
  • One in 10 Americans works for a non-profit, so cutting charity means threatening up to 13.5 million jobs.iii

“I hope you will take a moment to click on this link and use our easy form to send a pre-written note to your legislators, urging them to protect charity by preserving the charitable gift tax deduction. Thank you.”

i United Way Worldwide survey, Nov. 29, 2012.
ii "Should We End the Tax Deduction for Charitable Donations?" Wall Street Journal, Dec. 14, 2012.
iii "Protecting America’s Strong Tradition of Giving," Charitable Giving Coalition website.

Article #3

Excerpted from "Archbishop: DOMA ruling, ENDA passage put marriage at 'critical point,'" Catholic News Agency, Nov. 15, 2013 - The Supreme Court's ruling that rendered the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, and the Senate's passage Nov. 7 of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [ENDA] put the legal defense of marriage "at a critical point in this country," said the archbishop who heads the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. “The Supreme Court's DOMA decision is now being used to judicially challenge marriage laws in more than a dozen states that still recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman," said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco.

The effects of ENDA, Archbishop Cordileone said during a Nov. 11 presentation at the U.S. bishops' fall general meeting in Baltimore, "go much further" than preventing employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to the point where "ENDA-like laws have contributed to the erosion and redefinition of marriage at the state level."

One remedy, he said, could come in the form of the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which would bar the federal government from discriminating against those who "act upon their religiously motivated belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage." The bill's scope would include protection for individuals and organizations, both non-profit and for-profit. Archbishop Cordileone pointed to a case in New Mexico where a unanimous state supreme court ruled that a photo studio must photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony "if they wish to remain in business."

Commentary #3

CMA VP for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody - When professional photographers lose in court for simply declining to photograph a same-sex marriage, on the basis of conscience, it's not at all hard to imagine physicians losing in court for declining to provide IVF services or abortion counseling or for simply discussing the health risks of sex outside of heterosexual marriage. Physicians will remember that in November 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists moved to minimize conscience rights by stating that regardless of convictions, physicians were required ethically to either perform abortions or refer patients for abortions. The healthcare professionals' conscience protection federal regulation that we helped advance during the Bush administration, in response to the ACOG threat, fell prey to the much more restrictive view of religious liberty of the Obama administration, which gutted the reg.

As demonstrated by the current HHS contraceptive mandate, a move to restrict faith-based organizations' hiring rights through a Supreme Court case (Hosanna-Tabor) and other actions (see, the administration frames religious liberty as merely the freedom to believe or to worship--not to live out your faith-based conscience convictions on moral issues like abortion, marriage and medical ethics.

Some see this trend and simply shake their heads and wonder what the world is coming to. Better to stand up and have a say in what the world is coming to. We still live in a democratic republic, so your voice can still make a difference. Please consider taking a moment to complete the simple and quick legislative action step below. Thank you.

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