Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Pro-life family wins case to avoid paying Obamacare surcharge on health insurance

I'm Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve this decision

Scheming Unborn Baby scheming about becoming an ADF lawyer

Great news from Life News.

Excerpt:

A pro-life leader and his family who lost their health plan due to Obamacare filed suit in federal court this year. The family was suing because they were being forced on to the state’s health insurance exchange, which only offers plans that require them to pay for other people’s abortions.

Barth and Abbie Bracy had insurance through a private insurer, but Obamacare forced the insurer to cancel the policy effective later this year. Forced on to the Obamacare exchange, the Bracys were left only with plans that include a mandatory surcharge used to fund the elective abortions of others. Ironically, Barth Bracy is executive director of The Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee and has warned people of exactly the problems his family is now facing.

The lawsuit also challenged secrecy clauses within Obamacare which forbid Americans from being told prior to enrollment whether the plans they would purchase on an exchange will include abortion coverage. The clauses also forbid Americans from being told how much of the premium is a federally mandated abortion surcharge that pays for other people’s elective abortions.

Now, their attorneys, Alliance Defending Freedom, have informed LifeNews that the Bracy family won’t be forced to pay Obamacare’s abortion surcharge.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit against federal and state officials Wednesday after the addition of Obamacare plan options that, for the first time in Connecticut, will not require participants to pay for others’ elective abortions. Despite the Connecticut change, many American families are still being forced to pay hidden abortion surcharges.

“Americans should not have to pay a special fee for other people’s abortions in order to take care of their own family’s health,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “The Bracy family has experienced first-hand the kind of deception that was used to pass and that continues to pervade this law. While we are pleased that Connecticut families will now have a choice to avoid paying this abortion surcharge, it is a shame that other families won’t have that choice, and that most Americans don’t even know that they must pay this secret fee.”

Federal law forbids taxpayer subsidies for elective abortions; however, the Affordable Care Act requires every exchange plan that includes abortion to collect a separate fee that is used exclusively to pay for abortions. The ACA further forbids disclosure of the abortion surcharge to customers.

So it’s not just this family that won the case – it’s the whole state!!! I think this is just amazingly awesome. We need more people like this to take on the government, and thank God the ADF is there to defend them. We need more Christian lawyers who are willing to take cases like this.

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City of Houston demands that pastors hand over all sermons on homosexuality

Houston's openly gay mayor, Annise Parker

Houston’s openly gay mayor, Annise Parker

Fox News has the story and the backstory, too.

Excerpt:

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.”

The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa.  The city council approved the law in June.

The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.

However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities.

After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors.

The pastors were not part of the lawsuit. However, they were part of a coalition of some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational.

“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF attorney Erik Stanley.  “This is designed to intimidate pastors.”

Mayor Parker will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons.

Why is it that people on the secular left are so comfortable with bringing in the government to threaten, intimidate and coerce those who disagree with them? Could it be that they know that what they are doing is morally wrong, and have to force others to celebrate it so their guilty consciences will be appeased? After all, you don’t see chaste people marching around in pride parades, or demanding government force people to celebrate chastity. We know we are right, and opposition to chastity doesn’t bother us. Our consciences are clean.

Well, the ADF is on this Houston case, and that’s a good thing. Seems like anywhere Christians are under attack, the ADF is there to defend us. If you want to keep up with this story, I recommend subscribing to the Alliance Defending Freedom podcast and the Family Research Council Daily and Weekly podcasts.

 

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T-shirt company forced to print gay pride t-shirts and attend diversity training

From Kentucky.com.

Excerpt:

Hands On Originals discriminated against the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington when it refused to print the group’s Lexington Pride Festival T-shirts in 2012, according to a hearing officer in the case.

Greg Munson issued his decision Monday. The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission released it Tuesday morning.

“The evidence of record shows that the respondent discriminated against GLSO because of its members’ actual or imputed sexual orientation by refusing to print and sell to them the official shirts for the 2012 Lexington Pride Festival.”

Munson wrote that the application of the Fairness Ordinance did not violate the T-shirt vendor’s right to free speech and the free exercise of religion. The Human Rights Commission found in 2012 that Hands On Originals violated the city’s fairness ordinance, which prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation.

Alliance Defending Freedom defended the business, and here was their line of argument:

“No one should be forced by the government — or by another citizen — to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jim Campbell, who argued before the hearing examiner on behalf of Hands On Originals on June 19.

“Blaine (Adamson, of Hands On Originals) declined the request to print the shirts not because of any characteristic of the people who asked for them, but because of the message that the shirts would communicate.”

In the statement, Hands On Originals’ co-counsel Bryan Beauman, with the Lexington firm of Sturgill, Turner, Barker and Moloney, said, “No one wants to live in that kind of America — a place where people who identify as homosexual are forced to promote the Westboro Baptists and where printers with sincere religious convictions are forced to promote the message of the GLSO. … In America, we don’t force people to express messages that are contrary to their convictions.”

In cases like this, the Human Rights Commissions will try to drag the trial out for as long as possible, in order to send an intimidating messages to minorities they want to discriminate against and coerce. This case went on for two years, and probably cost a lot of money to defend. In Canada, Ezra Levant’s case went 2 years and also cost $100,000. The goal here is to use the legal system as a form of terrorist action, to intimidate anyone who disagrees with the secular left. And it works.

If you are looking for something to do with your life, becoming an ADF attorney or supporter is probably a very good option.

Do you think that intimidation like this is uncommon? Well, I’ve blogged about things like before – e.g. – getting Frank Turek fired, forcing out Brendan Eich at Mozilla, expelling students from university, discriminating against foster parents,violence at student demonstrations, coercing Christian businesses, leaking the names of pro-marriage donors,closing down adoption agenciesthreatening teachers with termination, terminating police chaplainsvandalizing businessesvandalizing churches, or actually being convicted of committing domestic terrorism by attacking the Family Research Council building with guns. So sometimes it’s coercion, and sometimes it’s vandalism and sometimes it’s domestic terrorism. It depends on how extreme the gay activist is in his views.

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October 5th is Pulpit Freedom Sunday: is your church getting involved?

I listened to this podcast from the Alliance Defending Freedom  and this podcast from the Family Research Council on the weekend.  Both of them mentioned that something called Pulpit Freedom Sunday was happening this Sunday.

So I looked it up and found this online:

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an event associated with the Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort designed to secure the free speech rights of pastors in the pulpit. Pulpit Freedom Sunday encourages pastors to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to speak truth into every area of life from the pulpit. Alliance Defending Freedom also hopes to eventually go to court to have the Johnson Amendment struck down as unconstitutional for its regulation of sermons, which are protected by the First Amendment.

The web site is here. They are up to 3520 pastors now who are participating. My pastor did not participate last year. He is not very intelligent when it comes to apologetics and policy, so he probably doesn’t know what to say. Or maybe he just afraid, which I can understand more than not knowing what to say.

Not everyone is happy with this. The IRS is investigating churches (not Democrat-favoring churches, of course) for speaking about specific issues.

Here’s an article on that.

Excerpt:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has agreed to investigate the political activity of churches after reaching a settlement with an atheist legal group. But a court has yet to decide whether or not to close the case.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the IRS jointly asked a Wisconsin federal court last week to dismiss a 2012 lawsuit, FFRF v. Koskinen. The FFRF had alleged that the IRS failed to have a policy in place for investigating political activity at tax-exempt churches and religious organizations, nor did the agency enforce its 501(c)(3) codes against electioneering.

Meanwhile, more than 1,600 churches have deliberately broken the existing law since 2008, endorsing political candidates from their pulpits during Pulpit Freedom Sunday events organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The next “showdown” will be October 5.

“This is a victory, and we’re pleased with this development in which the IRS has proved to our satisfaction that it now has in place a protocol to enforce its own anti-electioneering provisions,” said FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor in a press release.

However, the case has not yet been closed. Father Patrick Malone of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had been granted permission to interveneon the side of the IRS, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which represents Malone) has asked the court to dismiss the case but “with prejudice.” In other words, Becket argues the FFRF should not be able to sue the IRS again on this particular issue, while the FFRF argues that it should be able to do so.

Regardless of the court’s final decision, the IRS won’t be free to investigate churches until a moratorium related to the agency’s controversial scrutiny of tea party organizations is lifted after a congressional investigation closes.

CT has noted how the six-year run of Pulpit Freedom Sunday has tried to provoke the IRS into (ironically) punishing pastors as a means to reexamine the rights of pastors to promote politicians from the pulpit. The initiative even gained an unexpected allylast year in Sen. Charles Grassley and the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations (CAPRO).

Meanwhile, LifeWay Research has found that only 10 percent of Protestant pastors believe pastors should endorse political candidates (while noting that is a different question from should the IRS ban the practice.)

The IRS has not released the language of the settlement, and ADF is concerned about how secretive the church investigations will be—if they indeed happen. ADF has issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in pursuit of the documents surrounding the settlement between the FFRF and the IRS.

“This is one of the major problems with the IRS,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel with ADF. “They are secretive, which breeds mistrust and leads to problems in knowing just how they will enforce and interpret the law.”

Becket has also requested information on documents the FFRF and the IRS are not making available, including: “all documents relating to any investigation or determination by a high-ranking IRS official, in writing, of the acts and circumstances, including potential violations of the electioneering restrictions, that led to the high-ranking official to reasonably believe that a church or religious organization may have violated the requirements for tax exemption under 501(c)(3).”

Stanley says ADF’s strategy—helping churches realize how government is censoring what they say—will not change. If the IRS does monitor electioneering more closely, he hopes the issue will end in a lawsuit.

“The Johnson Amendment is unconstitutional,” said Stanley. “If the IRS begins enforcing it again against churches, Alliance Defending Freedom stands ready to defend a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit.”

ADF has organized Pulpit Freedom Sunday for six years, with 1,621 church and religious leaders participating in 2012 (2013 dropped to nearly 1,100 participants). But until now, the IRS has all but ignored ADF’s attempts to bring the issue to a head. According to Stanley, the IRS does not want to challenge the Johnson Amendment—which bans tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates—in court.

I think it’s interesting that the FFRF is not so much interested in debating whether atheism is true as they in shutting down theists who seek to live consistently with their beliefs by using the power of big government. I think that’s pretty par for the course though, if you look through 20th century history. That’s what atheist regimes have done, so we should expect individual atheists to do that as well.

I don’t recommend to the atheists at FFRF that they intimidate Christians, though, as Jesus seems to think that limiting the practice and free expression of Christian convictions is a bad idea.

Read Matthew 18:1-7:

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,

3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5 And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;

6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

7 “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

I think that we Christians need to take positions that are in accord with what God’s Word says, and we need to be ready to defend our positions in public using public arguments and public evidence – especially scientific research – that will be persuasive to non-Christians who do not accept the Bible. That’s the only way to stop the cultural decline caused by the secular left.

The best introductory book on the interface between Christianity and politics is “Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late“, co-authored by Jay Wesley Richards. The Kindle edition is $9.99. Richards’ Ph.D is from Princeton University.

The best comprehensive book is “Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem. The Kindle edition of that one is $4.99. Grudem’s is from Cambridge University. First-rate Christian scholarship on practical Christianity.

And you can listen to Grudem delivering Sunday school training at his church on every single chapter of that book right here. All free, and no ads. Be sure and scroll through all the previous years to get all the topics! Ethics, social policy, fiscal policy, foreign policy and more!

For more information on Pulpit Freedom Sunday, check out this web site.

If you want to hear about things like this, then subscribe to the FRC podcasts and the ADF podcast.

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Conservatives and Christians taking campus discrimination / censorship cases to court

And they are winning – as The College Fix reports.

Excerpt:

They’ve been ordered not to hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution. They’ve been denied promotions because of their faith. They’ve been forced to help pay for abortion-inducing birth control. They’ve been judged solely by the color of their skin.

And they’re fighting back. And they’re winning.

Conservative and Christian students and professors who have been denied free speech or faced discrimination and religious persecution because of their beliefs have recently enjoyed a string of courthouse victories in what’s amounting to something of a banner year for such causes.

There’s been at least six big legal wins in as many months.

Here’s one of the six that surprised me:

Last month, the high court gave the evangelical Wheaton College the injunction it wanted against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, setting a national precedent on the matter.

Wheaton was among dozens of Christian and Catholic universities to file suit against the federal mandate, saying they should not be forced to pay for birth control if it violates their religious beliefs. Now the White House is writing new regulations to allow for such exemptions.

I was on a long drive Friday night, and was listening to the audio book version of Nancy Pearcey’s “Total Truth”. Both me and the woman I am mentoring are reading it. She was talking about Alan Sears and the pro-religious-liberty law firm “Alliance Defending Freedom”. ADF is one of the groups who defends the rights of students on campus.

I found a profile of Alan in this Breitbart article.

It says:

Alan Sears is a committed Christian attorney who served in the Reagan administration, including in the Justice Department, who became increasingly concerned about the ACLU and its leftist allies’ success at sterilizing American life of every reference to God, faith, and biblical values. After returning to the private sector, he was recruited by more than thirty Christian leaders to start an organization that would build a nationwide network to fight for religious freedom, the sanctity of life, the importance of marriage, and the rights of parents. The Alliance Defense Fund thus began in 1994.

Fifty years ago, references to faith were widespread in American life, where public prayers were common and official communications and presidential speeches would frequently cite the Bible or Christian belief, and such things were not controversial. Now the ACLU and far left has succeeded in giving us so many years of sterile secularism that it has become the new baseline. Many local school boards that once had to be sued by the ACLU to ban singing Christmas carols at a properly named Christmas Concert are now quite content to ban those carols on their own, and to order the concert renamed a Winter Concert.

Now the pendulum is swinging the other way. Instead of an ACLU lawyer suing that school on behalf of some militant atheist parent, now an ADF lawyer is suing the school for telling a Christian student that she cannot draw a picture of Jesus when she’s asked to draw someone who is important to her.

Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, Sears has built an organization that is every bit an equal to the ACLU. Its staff of roughly 200 employees includes dozens of lawyers, who coordinate the efforts of over 2,200 “allied attorneys” nationwide, in almost every state of the Union and more than a dozen countries around the globe. To date, these lawyers have contributed an astounding $141 million in pro bono legal work (yes, that means free of charge) to people and organizations involved in legal fights on ADF’s issues. These attorneys become part of the Alliance upon completing ADF’s weeklong legal training conference. (Full disclosure: I have attended this training academy twice—once as a lawyer in their legal track and once as a journalist in their media informational track.)

ADF also makes grants to support lawyers and scholars for their work on behalf of those issues of faith, life, marriage, and families. And its Blackstone Legal Fellowship program takes over 100 promising law students every year and treats them to nine weeks of excellent food and accommodations over the summer in exchange for spending their days in lectures and seminars on natural law, government, philosophy, and learning key legal doctrines, followed by six weeks of “field work,” to equip them for lifelong service of ADF’s mission-related issues in whatever field they end up pursuing in their career.

Something to think about if you are a young person. It’s a tough thing to make it through secular law school with your faith intact, but if you can, the benefits to all of us can be huge. It’s a high-risk, high-reward option for talented young Christians and conservatives to pursue.

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