Month Archives: November 2013

Supreme Court to Review Cases Challenging the HHS Mandate on Religious Liberty Grounds

by Emily Minick

November 26, 2013

Today Family Research Council (FRC) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) released the results of a new poll conducted to determine how Americans feel about Obamacare and the HHS mandate. The results of the survey show that 59 percent of likely voters “oppose the mandate requiring the coverage of preventive care services for women which includes all FDA approved contraceptives, including drugs that can destroy a human embryo, and sterilization services without a direct cost to the patient.”

These poll results are extremely relevant given the Supreme Court today decided to hear two cases this session challenging the HHS mandate on religious liberty grounds. The Supreme Court granted cert to Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. represented by Alliance Defending Freedom and the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, respectively.

Several Congressional and Senate Members also released statements today on the Supreme Court’s decision and the new poll released by FRC and ADF:

Rep. Diane Black along with Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski and Rep. Joe Pitts

Rep. Chris Smith

Senator Roy Blunt

Rep. John Fleming

Rep. John Boehner

The HHS mandate’s assault on religious freedom is still a great concern to many Americans. Congress must also act to protect individuals and businesses who do not want to violate their moral beliefs in order to purchase healthcare in this country.

Who would want to get married today?

by Robert Morrison

November 25, 2013

With the mounting concerns over the “debacle” of ObamaCare, with Iran given permission to retain their nuclear program provided they “freeze” just certain portions of it, the world looks like a threatening place. So, who would want to marry and bring children into such a world, beset by economic worries, dogged by environmental concerns and living as we do under what President Kennedy called “a nuclear sword of Damocles”?

Well, things didn’t seem a whole lot brighter in 1978. Thirty-five years ago, my fiancee and I prepared for our wedding in San Francisco. The weather that entire week was gray and menacing. So somber was the mood. Hundreds of bodies were being returned to the Bay Area from Jonestown where people had been forced to drink poison Kool-Aid. The aftermath of that suicide cult hung over the city like a pall. Then, too the day after we exchanged our vows in dear old St. Paulus Evangelical Lutheran Church, we began our honeymoon in an Alpine village in Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains. It was there we saw the news. San Francisco’s Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk had been assassinated.

The first good news we had from the outside world came on the third day of our getaway. We sat at a picnic table surrounded by snow-covered mountains and saw the newspaper headlines: “Pope on a Slope.” Pope John Paul II had been elected just six weeks earlier. There was great excitement around the world for this dynamic new leader on the world stage. Even as non-Catholics, we shared in the enthusiasm for the Polish Pope. Whoever heard of a Pope who skiied?

In the thirty-five years since that wedding day, we have had the usual portion of joys and sorrows. We have endured the loss of beloved parents and the death of a 16-year old cousin. We have had to cope with financial gains and losses. Was there something in those vows about for “not-so-richer or poorer”?

I had always been taught that a man should lay down his life for his wife. And I was prepared to do just that.

So imagine my surprise when I found my wife saving my life. I had just turned forty when I was stricken with a violent headache. It felt as if there were nine-inch nails being driven into my skull.

Rushed to the Emergency Room at Bethesda Naval Hospital, my wife, an officer in the Medical Service Corps, waited in the ER with our two small children for long hours for a diagnosis. Despite the lateness and the children crying in the summer’s heat, my wife pressed them to give me a spinal tap. The test results confirmed that I had viral meningitis.

Told there were no beds available for me at the hospital, my wife stubbornly refused to let me be taken to a local civilian hospital. She has often said that she wasn’t sure we had insurance for such treatment, but I know she did not want me taken to a place where she did not know the medical staff and their reputations. Emphatically, she told them she was a staff officer and knew there had to be a bed somewhere in the giant facility.

I awoke several days later in the Neuro Step-Down Unit. I was surrounded by dying patients. Naturally, I assumed I was one of them. It’s an experience you tend to remember.

Some time later, when I was out immediate danger, the navy doctors and my wife crowded around my hospital bed in their crisp, starched whites.

He’ll have short-term memory lapses. He’ll be emotional. And irritable,” they told her. Not skipping a beat, my beloved shot back: “And the difference I am supposed to notice in him is what?” One of the best ways to cross that threshold back from death’s door, I submit, is a good laugh.

Throughout our marriage — when children and grandchildren came and when we were earnestly praying for their safety — we remembered the words of that Polish Pope when he was first brought out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s in Rome. I had not heard the words, but read them from the clickety-clack of a teletype machine as it printed its message on a roll of yellow paper. I was on board our Coast Guard cutter, in the middle of the Bering Sea, about as far away from Rome as you can get.

The Pope spoke to the City and to the World and said:

Be Not Afraid!

Those words sustained us in our marriage. After four hundred twenty months of marriage, those are words I would still share with today’s young people: Trust in God and trust in your love for each other. Go ahead boldly and be not afraid.

Remembering John F. Kennedy: November 22, 1963

by Robert Morrison

November 22, 2013

At my recent high school reunion, several of my classmates remarked on the “Happy Days” we had lived through. It was true. Our class entered junior high the autumn that Sputnik was launched, 1957, and we took our SAT’s the Saturday after the peaceful conclusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962. In those years, no wars, no riots, no mass shootings, no political scandals, and most emphatically, no political assassinations clouded our futures.

Going off to college at University of Virginia that fall, my Long Island upbringing had not prepared me for what I would find. We were all looking forward to Thanksgiving and our first trip home as “First Year Men,” the quaint designation of freshmen at this very traditional Southern school. I was in my dorm room cramming for my French class that afternoon when Miss Harriet, the maid, a black woman, came rushing down the hall wailing and crying out that someone had shot the president.

I quickly went to her and reassured her that such things did not happen in this country. One of the guys in Humphreys House was merely playing a ghoulish trick on her, I said, trying to comfort her. We went to the common area where a television was on. It was almost never on in the middle of the day. But several other First Year Men were gathered around watching, shushing Miss Harriet and me. We stared wordlessly as the national news preempted the local Richmond TV station. Soon, Walter Cronkite of CBS News announced that President Kennedy was dead in Dallas, Texas.

I made a point of reading the New York Times every day, but I didn’t even know he was in Dallas. No one knew what we should do. French classes, all classes, were forgotten. Miss Harriet, who had grown up in the segregated South, knew a lot more about the things that happen in America than I did. The only thing I could think of doing was going to church. I was unchurched at that time. And it would be another twelve years before I would join a church, but on that grim, gray Friday afternoon, I felt, we all felt, we should go to church and pray.

So off we trudged to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on the Corner, across the street from Jefferson’s Rotunda. The early sunset in that gathering darkness was obscured by the suddenly overcast sky. I do not recall the priest’s words, but they were doubtless from the Book of Common Prayer. Columnist George Will has written that that ancient prayer book gives us our very idea of stateliness. The words were those read for the death of Kings and Prime Ministers and commoners alike. Through the centuries, English sailors, often illiterate themselves, demanded that their captains “read the words” over the bodies of their dead shipmates.

I was far more familiar with President Kennedy’s record as Chief of State. He had pledged “to get America moving again,” and so, it seemed, he had. When the Soviet Union stunned the world by launching the first man in space in April 1961, President Kennedy stole a march on our rivals by saying America would go to the Moon. And by the end of the decade, too.

Kennedy had thrilled so many of us, especially the young, with his boldness and his dashing spirit.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

He would later say that America had thrown its hat over the wall of space and had no choice but to go after it. We knew that Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev had made the space race his own vehicle for legitimizing godless Communism. He had specifically chosen the young cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin to be the first man in space because Gagarin was such an outspoken atheist. When reporters asked the grinning young Russian what he saw in his orbital flight around the world, he said: “Nyet boga” (No God).

President Kennedy awarded medals to American astronauts like John Glenn. When the intrepid Marine Colonel was launched into space, the ground crewmen called out: “Godspeed, John Glenn!”

Kennedy also stood strong for civil rights. Like President Eisenhower before him, Kennedy was willing to risk political capital for high principle. He put before Congress the most far-reaching bill to end segregation in public accommodations. If we didn’t take part in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s massive civil rights march in August of that year, we surely watched it on television and read about it in TIME and Newsweek. Dr. King spoke of Civil Rights in specifically religious terms: “Free at last, free at last, Great God Almighty, I’m free at last!”

In both of these areas, Civil Rights and the Space Race, Kennedy left a legacy for others to build on. Of course, the greatest issue of the day was the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (USSR) and the worldwide threat of Communism.

President Kennedy gave a masterful speech at the Berlin Wall the previous June. He effortlessly spoke to a throng of appreciative West Germans. He prodded the Soviets, saying that for all the faults of Western societies, no one ever had to build a wall to keep their people in. He said to all who were doubtful of the real differences between East and West, “let them come to Berlin.” (Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen!)

Eloquently quoting the Latin maxim civis romanum sum — I am a citizen of Rome — as the ancients boasted, Kennedy said today the proudest statement of free men was “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (I am a Berliner).The world took note: America had a strong and determined leader.

We cannot remain unaware of the darker side of Camelot. The tawdry stories of Jack Kennedy’s relentless adultery, his degradation of young women, will tarnish the brilliant image he so carefully cultivated.

Still, to the young people of America and the world, who knew none of this, John F. Kennedy was a model and an inspiration. It’s hard to imagine how America could have prevailed over militant atheism and Communism without his forceful leadership, without keeping his promises on Civil Rights and the Race to the Moon.

That’s the John Kennedy whose legacy shines still. When the U.S. finally landed on the Moon on July 19, 1969, an anonymous visitor to Arlington National Cemetery left a note at the grave marked by the eternal flame. Kennedy’s bold challenge had been met. The note said: “The Eagle has landed.”

When the Eagle landed, and before setting foot on the Moon, Astronaut Buzz Aldrin made a point of celebrating communion with his Presbyterian congregation in Houston.  As such momentous times, whether of triumph or of tragedy, we yearn for transcendant meaning. And at such times, faith alone fills that yearning. 

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.): Restoring “Under God” to Air Force Academy Oath

by Bethany Brock

November 21, 2013

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) appeared on yesterday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins,” and explained why he and 27 other representatives wrote a letter to the Superintendent of the Air Force Academy, Lieutenant General Michelle Johnson, about the deletion of the phrase, “so help me God,” from the oath in the Cadet Handbook.

Pompeo sees the deletion of this phrase as “an attack of core freedoms and our Christian nation” and as a part of a larger attempt to remove religious freedom from military institutions.

These are not isolated random events,” Pompeo asserts, “They are a concretive effort by folks who are on what I call the ‘hardcore progressive left’ who want to take religion out of the American mainstream, who want to paint it as irrational or paint those who hold dearly to their religious beliefs as being outside of the mainstream or the norm. The military institutions are certainly a part of that.”

The phrase, “so help me God,” is a part of the oath, but is optional for military members to include when taking the oath to serve.  Pompeo pointed out that the Supreme Court has evaluated matters similar to this phrase both in the public square and in military institutions and found them both proper and constitutional.

He affirms, “This is not about establishment. This is not about denying other folks freedom to exercise their religious rights. This is about a basic set of values and a basic set of core religious freedoms, so we asked the Superintendent to reconsider the decision that has been made. We want to work with the Department of the Air Force, as well and get the leaders inside of the Air Force at large to reconsider this.  We are hopeful that they’ll start to do that.  I hope that’s what they ultimately conclude and I hope to get this right for the nation.”

Pompeo understands that military institutions are usually one of the first places that cultural changes take place. “In some cases I’m very proud of that. There are certainly some things that the military has led the way on. But this is a place that the left has determined they can make inroads.”

I’m optimistic that the military leadership – both civilian leaders and those in uniform will see this for what it is and move back and allow these deep traditions of religious freedom to continue to exist,” concluded Pompeo.

Click here to listen to the entire interview

McKinsey analysis shows HealthCare.gov is a case study in bad management, not bad web development

by Stephan Hilbelink

November 21, 2013

Newly released documents reveal that the Obama administration had private consultants from McKinsey & Co. perform an evaluation of the HealthCare.gov website’s progress in late March. McKinsey’s analysis wasn’t good and the Health and Human Services Department and White House knew of the issues back then. But six lessons revealed in the document risk getting lost in the politics of the website’s rollout. More than a pawn in a Republican vs. Democrat chess game, HealthCare.gov is a case study for all future web development clients on how to not build a website. Here are six reasons why, from Page 5 of the McKinsey analysis:

Evolving requirement: HHS was ill prepared to hand their vendors the requirements and information needed to build HealthCare.gov. HHS was still giving developers its requirements during the site design and construction phase, and even after. This means the designers and developers had to create and recreate graphics and code with every new requirement that the HHS handed them. They had no consistent road map with which to work.

Multiple definitions of success: There was no universal, cohesive definition of what the final HealthCare.gov website was to be when it launched. This should have been one of the easier decisions for HHS and the White House to make since they knew that the website wasn’t fully operational.

Significant dependency on external contractors: HealthCare.gov had at least four major contractors: CGI Federal, QSSI, Serco and Equifax. That means HHS was listening to at least four opinions on how things should be done. In actuality, CGI Federal should have been the final decision maker on functionality. Additionally, since contractors also hire out to other contractors on big projects, there could possibly have been eight-plus entities working on this site at once. This many entities working on the same project can easily break it down.

Parallel “stacking” of all phases: There is a reason designer and developers require all content and information before starting the design phase of a website. Designers need that information to make the wireframes, interface and navigation optimal while developers need it to map out the best programming path. Both need all the necessary information beforehand to guarantee they choose the best industry practices to build the website’s components. Poor planning and preparation by a client can kill a project. Poor planning significantly reduces productivity and often drastically increases costs.

Insufficient time and scope of end-to-end testing: So HHS had a website cobbled together by numerous contractors with different visions of success and no clear end goal. Add in that HHS was still giving its contractors additional requirements for the site well past the planning stage. Welcome to a testing nightmare. The contractors likely weren’t testing the site because HHS was still feeding them information, which would mean they would have to retest all over again after implementing the new requirements. Because of these add-ons, testing became an afterthought.

Launch at full volume: McKinsey’s analysts knew HealthCare.gov would be a disaster back in March and thought it a fool’s errand to try launching the full website, especially after seeing the development nightmare. They even point out specific problem areas to HHS and the White House on page 15 of their presentation, and call for an end to scope creep – those additional requirements – until version 2.0.

McKinsey’s analysts noted that CGI Federal was trying to make things work as of the end of March, but obviously CGI Federal’s efforts weren’t enough. CGI isn’t responsible for that though: A lack of client planning will always kill a product.

This website’s failure falls on the shoulders of HHS and the White House. They had two full years to plan this site but they failed miserably to do basic planning and research to make the initial launch a success. It is clear through this assessment that the current administration created this horrific mess themselves and their contractors have little responsibility for this technology train wreck.

Stephan Hilbelink is a website designer and developer with the Family Research Council.

Medal of Freedom, Life of Darkness

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 20, 2013

Among those who have just received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama is Gloria Steinem, who has done as much for advancing abortion-on-demand as any single person in the last half century.

In an interview with The Washington Post, she said, “Approximately one in three women in this country needs an abortion at some time in her life”. Aside from the dubiousness of this statistic, note that she uses the term “needs.”

Needs? Laura Enriquez has written convincingly on abortion as a preferential, not medically necessary, condition. What is clear is that what passes for “need” in the world of Ms. Steinem is actually the desire of a woman in a difficult or inconvenient situation to end a pregnancy.

This is not to say that women make such decisions lightly. Rather, human nature (male and female) being what it is, if a legal option is presented by which one can alleviate something hard, it defies the experience of recorded history that most people will not take it. The roughly 55 million unborn children aborted since 1973 within the 50 states are a grim but irrefutable evidence of that claim.

Here is what Steinem has said about the abortion she had 57 years ago:

It [abortion] is supposed to make us a bad person. But I must say, I never felt that. I used to sit and try and figure out how old the child would be, trying to make myself feel guilty. But I never could! I think the person who said: “Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” was right. Speaking for myself, I knew it was the first time I had taken responsibility for my own life. I wasn’t going to let things happen to me. I was going to direct my life, and therefore it felt positive. But still, I didn’t tell anyone. Because I knew that out there it wasn’t [positive].

Consider her almost unspeakably painful assertion, that “taking responsibility for (one’s) own life” includes taking a life that is not your own. Commentary about such a proposition would be superfluous.

Ms. Steinem has received our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom. Yet she remains trapped in her own blindness, a state in which there is no freedom whatever. Christians should pray that in her waning years, she would come to know the true freedom that a forgiving and loving Savior alone can offer.

The State of Abortion Law in the U.S.

by Anna Higgins

November 20, 2013

This week, voters in Albuquerque (ABQ) voted no on a local ordinance proposal that would have banned abortions past 20 weeks gestation, the age at which we know preborn children can feel pain. If passed, the ordinance would have protected countless women and children from the barbaric practice of late-term abortion in what many have called the late term capitol of the United States. The United States is one of only four countries in the world that permit the brutal practice for any reason.

This measure, although defeated, served an inestimably important educational function. The hard work that was put into the measure was not in vain. Due to efforts such as these, people are waking up to the fact that abortion necessarily involves two lives and that late term abortion is an unnecessary evil. In fact, 64% of Americans support banning the practice of late-term abortion. We must build on this effort in ABQ and begin to introduce similar legislation in cities across the country. These efforts go a long way towards exposing the truth about abortion. They also force those who support the heinous practice to defend themselves in light of the reality that abortion causes excruciating pain to the preborn child and is dangerous for the mother.

Also this week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an emergency stay of the Texas law that requires abortionists to obtain admitting privileges in local hospitals. The denial of stay indicates that the Fifth Circuit’s refusal to enjoin the law pending a decision on the merits is not clearly erroneous. Thus, the Texas law will remain in effect until the Fifth Circuit has decided the case on its merits. As Ken Klukowski noted, the dissent in this decision indicated that it is likely that the Court will take up this case eventually. If it does, this will be the first abortion case taken up by the Court since 2007.

Meanwhile, the federal Unborn Child Pain Capable Protection Act, which handily passed the House in June, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.). The bill is expected to generate a spirited debate if permitted to come to a vote. Introduction of such bills and public debate is essential to a robust Republic. The American people deserve to know the truth about abortion and must be allowed to express their will through their representatives. The will of the people was suppressed by the Court in 1973 with the decision in Roe v. Wade, but recent legislative movements to restrict abortion across the country show that even 40 years later, the people are still fighting for their right to be heard on the issue.

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas): Obama Administration Doesn’t Believe in Rule of Law

by Bethany Brock

November 20, 2013

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) appeared on yesterday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins,” to give an update into Congress’s investigation into the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups: 

We want to let the American people know that we have not forgotten about the IRS abuses of grassroots American organizations and to remind everybody of what’s going on. We haven’t stopped our oversight in Congress of this issue, Benghazi, Fast and Furious or some of the other abuses of the Obama Administration. With respect to the IRS matter, we just want to let the American people know that we still hear them and they still have a voice up here,” said Flores.

Flores said many of the investigations that Congress is involved in should be further along than they are currently. “The administration is slow-playing us on every request for information. In some cases, we have had to issue subpoenas to get the information we’ve requested. In some cases, we’ve had to hold some folks in contempt.” 

Flores believes that the IRS investigation will follow a similar track, “We’ll have to issue subpoenas to compel the administration to produce information and ultimately, we may have to hold some people in contempt of Congress to get to the bottom of this matter.”

And when I say get to the bottom,” Flores continues, “I mean that we want to know who knew what and who told the IRS to target these grass roots organizations so that we can hold those people accountable. And of course the ultimate objective is to make sure it never happens again.”

The IRS’s targeting of grass roots organizations is part of a larger pattern of abuse and cover-ups and scandals that have come out of this administration.  According to Flores, “The IRS is just one of many problems that comes out of an administration that doesn’t believe in a rule of law.”

Click here to listen to the entire interview

Gordon Chang Gives Details of China’s Paltry One-Child Policy Changes

by Chris Gacek

November 19, 2013

Go to this article in Forbes by Gordon Chang who reports on China’s coming demographic cratering.  China’s fertility rate has declined from 5.9 under Deng to 1.4 presently with the advent of the brutal one-child policy.  As Chang explains, the recently announced population-control policy changes will allow a modest number more urban dwellers to have two children.  However, this minor adjustment is not going to be rolled out quickly.  Perhaps, the greatest resistance to population policy change lies in the fact that the family planning police represent the Communist Party’s strongest control over the populace.  Thus, the Party will be deeply reluctant to relax its grip on that nation even though population decline is rapidly approaching.  You can also listen to this excellent interview of Chang by John Batchelor.  Go to the player and start at 31:00.  

The Gettysburg Inversion

by Robert Morrison

November 19, 2013

President Obama has declined to go to Gettysburg for the 150th anniversary of the Emancipator’s great address. It is altogether fitting and proper that he should do this. The comparisons that would inevitably have been made with Lincoln’s elegaic prose would not have been kind.

This president has said that wherever he goes is Obama Country. So, for now, that hallowed ground will be spared. Lincoln spoke to the eternal verities of the laws of nature and of nature’s God when he described this nation as one conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Lincoln would later tell listeners in Baltimore, in a less noted speech, that the world stands in need of a good definition of liberty. He compared the differing views of the shepherd’s wielding his crook to drive the wolf from the sheep’s throat. The sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator. The wolf thinks himself deprived, his liberty infringed.

The world needs a good definition of created equal. To President Obama and his legions of supporters, created equal means, among other things, the right to marry whomever you love and to dispose of those unborn children whom you do not.

To President Obama, there is no necessary conflict between being created equal and this government-sanctioned, fully funded slaughter of innocents. Redefining marriage against the laws of nature and nature’s God is seen as a necessary evolution of an enlightened society.

Obamacare is intended to normalize abortion-on-demand. The president has internalized what NARAL founder Lawrence Lader said: “Abortion is central to everything in life and how we want to live it.” That is why Mr. Obama went to Planned Parenthood in 2007 — a year before he appeared before the famous Greek columns in Denver — to assure the world’s largest trafficker in abortion that he would never depart from their agenda.

If millions of Americans believe he deceived them about keeping their health insurance plans, Planned Parenthood’s minions are not among those feeling betrayed. The president told Speaker Boehner he would shut down the government rather than consent to one dollar being cut from Planned Parenthood’s appropriations.

President Obama became the first leader to address an abortionists’ convention, these shedders of innocent blood. He urged them to keep it up. He assured them of God’s blessing.

In the midst of the current political fight over his signature accomplishment, President Obama could ill afford to go to Gettysburg to explain how his philosophy and his actions are consistent with Lincoln’s government of the people, by the people, for the people. This is especially so when Obamacare may prove lethal to millions of those very people.

He would not want to answer a question unavoidably raised by Lincoln’s 1859 description of America’s Founders and their core beliefs. Lincoln said it was their enlightened view that “nothing stamped in the divine image was sent into the world to be trod upon.” The question the president would doubtless be asked: “Are not unborn children so stamped?”

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