Yellowstone National Park officials are investigating after an Idaho woman reported her 3-year-old daughter shot herself with a handgun in a campground.
Park rangers responded Saturday morning to Grant Village Campground, but resuscitation efforts failed, resulting in what officials said was the first shooting death in the park since 1978.
Park spokesman Al Nash said Sunday that part of the campground remained cordoned off while park rangers and special park agents conduct the investigation. He said he didn’t know where the girl’s body was taken.
“We don’t have all of the information, and we haven’t drawn any conclusions,” Nash said.
He said he didn’t know how many family members were camping or where they are from in Idaho. Names haven’t been released.
A federal law went into effect Feb. 22, 2010, allowing visitors to possess firearms in the park. Nash said records show two shooting deaths occurred in the park in 1978, but he didn’t have details.
By JESSE J. HOLLAND
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states cannot require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up easier.
The justices voted 7-2 to throw out Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter registration law.
Federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” Justice Antonia Scalia wrote for the court’s majority.
The court was considering the legality of Arizona’s requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “motor voter” registration law. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which doesn’t require such documentation, trumps Arizona’s Proposition 200 passed in 2004.
Scalia’s majority opinion (PDF) found that the Arizona law conflicts with a federal “motor voter” law. The federal law allows would-be voters to mail in a registration form, without supplying proof of citizenship. Instead, the federal law says, those signing the form need only swear that they are citizens.
Scalia said states weren’t entirely hamstrung, however. They may still reject would-be voters based on information establishing they are ineligible. Also, they may ask the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to alter the federal form to include information they need to determine eligibility. If the commission rejects a request, the states may appeal. In the case before the court, Arizona wasn’t able to persuade the commission to change the form, but it may still appeal, Scalia said.
Scalia had appeared to side with Arizona in March oral arguments. At that time, he had suggested that it would be fine for a state to ensure the integrity of its voting system when the federal form is lacking. “When the commission fails to do what enables the state to assess qualifications, the state will do it,” he said. “No problemo.”
The 7-2 opinion in opinion in Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council is based on the elections clause, which allows Congress to pre-empt state regulations governing the “times, places and manner” of holding congressional elections.
States aiming to restrict abortion access were dealt a setback Tuesday when the US Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal of a lower court decision blocking an Indiana measure that would have prohibited Medicaid funding for health providers that perform abortion services.
The decision is likely to affect a similar proposed ban making its way through the legislature in Arizona. Both states argue that taxpayers are inadvertently funding abortions when health-care clinics like Planned Parenthood receive Medicaid funding for services other than abortion. Federal law prevents the direct funding of abortion services, but the measures in Indiana and Arizona are seen as going a step further in stripping Medicaid dollars from any organization that offers abortion.
Opponents of the measures say the strategy denies low-income patients the right to obtain health care from their provider of choice. The Indiana chapter of Planned Parenthood, which operates 28 clinics in the state, says that it serves more than 9,300 Medicaid patients annually for preventive-care services that include cancer screenings, routine medical exams, and birth control.
Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of the Indiana chapter, released a statement Tuesday, characterizing legislators’ strategy as “trying to score political points and wasting taxpayer dollars.” Medicaid funding represents about 20 percent of the group’s annual budget of $15 million.
The federal government is accusing a Miami business of having forced employees to practice Scientology.
Dynamic Medical Services, which provides medical and chiropractic treatment, is accused by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of having compelled at least four of its employees to participate in Scientology religious practices, and of having fired two for their refusal.
The company, in a statement faxed to ABC News, says it prides itself on the diversity of its staff and that it denies that it engaged in any improper or unlawful actions with regard to its employees. It intends, it says, to vigorously defend itself against the government’s “baseless allegations” and expects to be vindicated.
The Church of Scientology did not respond to requests for comment by ABC News.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, filed May 8, Dynamic Medical, owned by Dr. Dennis Nobbe, violated federal law by requiring employees named in the suit to spend at least half their work days in courses that involved “Scientology religious practices, such as screaming at ashtrays or staring at someone for eight hours without moving.”
This is from last December and is only one woman’s story, but it contains important information everyone should be aware of when it comes to dealing with cyberstalking and/or harassment (especially if you’re dealing with a local police department that doesn’t take it seriously or is trying to discourage you from filing a report).
Carla Franklin was cyberstalked and bullied for years by a man she briefly dated. She has now become an advocate and expert for online harassment. Host Michel Martin talks with Franklin about her experience and cyberstalking laws. *Advisory: This conversation may not be comfortable for all listeners.
More on Carla’s story at The Daily Beast - Busting a Cyberstalker: How Carla Franklin Fought Back—and Triumphed
- The Haunting of Erin Andrews - Two years after that infamous video, the ESPN reporter still can't escape it — even though she put her stalker behind bars. As she gears up for college football season, she opens up about the public and private battles she's still waging. Marie Claire 13 July 2011
- Cyberstalking 'now more common' than face-to-face stalking - First study of its kind shows complete strangers target victims, of whom nearly 40% are men. The Guardian 8 April 2011
- A Sinister Web Entraps Victims of Cyberstalkers - The problem of cyberstalking can be devastating, and it is not easily legislated away. The New York Times 17 April 2006
- How to Report Internet Harassment - eHow
- Cyberbullying / Stalking & Harassment - Wired Safety, an online safety, education, and help group
- Stalking Resource Center - National Center for Victims of Crime in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women
- Stalking - U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women
- State Cyberstalking and Cyberharassment Laws - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
- Online Harassment/Cyberstalking Statistics - Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA)
Who to follow on Twitter:
- @parryaftab - Parry Aftab: privacy and security lawyer, founder of wiredsafety.org & stopcyberbullying.org, Managing Director of WiredTrust
- @SRC_NCVC - Stalking Resource Center (SRC): works to enhance the ability of professionals, organizations, and systems to effectively respond to stalking through training and technical assistance.
- @TheJusticeDept - Official U.S. Department of Justice account
- @OJPgov - Official Office of Justice Programs account
- @NCSLorg - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): a bipartisan organization serving the legislators and staff of states, commonwealths and territories
Notice this local news headline that comes from the San Francisco area, where the bulk of the population is supportive of Gay Marriage. This should read “Gay Spouses” or “Gay Families” don’t you think? You also have to ask if it’s a “windfall” if everyone else is entitled to these tax benefits and you are barred from them by religious prejudices?
These types of gay marriage slights and diminutions come naturally even to people who are pro gay marriage because anti-gay bigotry is so deeply embedded in our culture from over one and a half millenniums of Christian repression that runs all the way back to the Holy Roman Emperors in 342 AD.
Accountants and tax lawyers are encouraging married same-sex couples to apply now for tax refunds, Social Security benefits and other financial perks of marriage they may have been denied under the federal law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay and lesbian unions.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments later this month to a provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. If the court strikes it down, some married couples and gays whose spouses have died may be eligible for retroactive payments.
The Obama administration on Friday urged the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense Of Marriage Act in a brief that calls the law unconstitutional because it violates “the fundamental guarantee of equal protection.”
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argues in the brief that Section 3 of the 1996 federal law prohibits the marriage of same-sex couples and should get the court’s close scrutiny.
“The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples. Because this discrimination cannot be justified as substantially furthering any important governmental interest, Section 3 is unconstitutional.”
DOMA, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, has been found unconstitutional by lower courts. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in one of those cases, U.S. v. Windsor. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 27.
Verrilli argues in his brief that gays and lesbians have been historically discriminated against. He describes how DOMA should proceed if the Supreme Court does not apply the increased scrutiny:
“The government has previously defended Section 3 under rational-basis review, and does not challenge the constitutionality of Section 3 under that highly deferential standard.”
But less than 24 hours after arriving at the retreat, she and her spouse were told to leave. The military chaplains who organized the program last month said that the couple was making others uncomfortable. They said they had determined that under federal law the program could serve only heterosexual married couples.
Lieutenant Hardy is a lesbian in a same-sex marriage who had hoped that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 would allow her to fully participate in military life. But she and many other gay and bisexual service members say they continue to encounter a raft of rules and regulations barring them from receiving benefits and privileges routinely accorded to heterosexual service members.
Lieutenant Hardy had been assured by the chaplain’s office in the weeks before the retreat that she and her wife were welcome to attend. The chaplains said in hindsight that those assurances were given in error.
“I felt hurt, humiliated,” said Lieutenant Hardy, 28. “These were people I had been deployed with. And they were telling me I can go to fight the war on terrorism with them, but I can’t attend a seminar with them to keep my marriage healthy.”
Gay marriage is now legal in nine states and in Washington, D.C. But because same-sex marriages are not recognized under federal law, the spouses of gay service members are barred from receiving medical and dental insurance and surviving spouse benefits and are not allowed to receive treatment in military medical facilities. Spouses are also barred from receiving military identification cards, which provide access to many community activities and services on base, including movie theaters, day care centers, gyms and commissaries.
By now you have of course heard all the scary predictions coming from the Right about how this country is doomed if Obama is re-elected. About how America will become a socialist dictatorship, will give up its sovereignty to the U.N., all guns will be banned, and Christians locked up as the Muslims take over, etc, etc…
The funny thing is that we have heard all of this before, back when Obama first ran for office back in 2008. The vast majority of these scenarios were promoted by the so called ‘Christian’ Right and were hyped relentlessly by their websites and media channels. Today we see history repeating itself as similar predictions are made, perpetrated by the same groups of people. I wanted to take a look back to see which if any of their predictions actually came true.
When I started thinking back and trying to recall all of the doomsday predictions made about an Obama Presidency I immediately felt overwhelmed. There were just so many of them, made by so many different people and groups, I wasn’t sure I would be able to remember many of them, much less locate them for reference.
Fortunately for me my search almost immediately led me to a great source of scary Obama predictions all conveniently packaged together. One that even includes citations helpful in locating where many of these fearful scenarios originated from.
In 2008 Focus on the Family published a fictional ‘Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America’ (.pdf) that purports itself as being from a Christian in the future scary world of Oct. 2012. It describes what they thought 2012 would be like under the Obama administration from a Christian Right perspective…
I can hardly sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ any more. When I hear the words,
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Now in October of 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years, I don’t think I can still answer, ‘Yes,’ to that question. We are not ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ Many of our freedoms have been taken away by a liberal Supreme Court and a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, and hardly any brave citizen dares to resist the new government policies any more.
The 2008 election was closer than anybody expected, but Barack Obama still won. Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far-Left policies that had marked his career. They were wrong.
Ominous opening ehh?
The Supreme Court
…The decisive changes on the Supreme Court started in June, when Justice Kennedy resigned – he was 72 and had grown weary of the unrelenting responsibility. His replacement – another young liberal Obama appointment – gave a 5-4 majority to justices who were eager to
create laws from the bench…
…Then in August 2009, two months after Kennedy resigned, Justice Scalia unexpectedly announced his resignation due to health reasons and by October 2009 another Obama appointment took his oath and joined the court…
…Finally the far-Left had the highest prize: complete control of the Supreme Court. And they set about quickly to expedite cases by which they would enact the entire agenda of the far Left in American politics – everything they had hoped for and more took just a few key decisions.
Nope, never happened, instead we got “corporations are people my friend” AKA ‘Citizens United.’ However if it had happened then they claim it would have led to…
The most far-reaching transformation of American society came from the Supreme Court’s stunning affirmation, in early 2010, that homosexual ‘marriage’ was a ‘constitutional’ right that had to be respected by all 50 states because laws barring same-sex ‘marriage’ violated the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution…
…After that decision, many other policies changed, and several previous Supreme Court cases were reversed rather quickly — raising the question, ‘Is America still the land of the free?’
Now that a proper background has been set for how the following things “could happen” they begin to list their nightmare fantasies for the country under Obama.
(1) Boy Scouts: ‘The land of the free’?
The Boy Scouts no longer exist as an organization. They chose to disband rather than be forced to obey the Supreme Court decision that they would have to hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with
…It had become increasingly difficult for the Boy Scouts to find meeting places anyway, because in 2009 Congress passed and President Obama signed an expansion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which extended federal civil rights protections to people engaging in homosexual behavior. So the Boy Scouts had already been kicked out of all public facilities.
Apparently in the “future” scoutmasters are “hired” (and paid?) but they cannot afford their own tents? Also, since the majority of Scout activities are held in church owned properties I wonder if they are not actually at greater risk of losing their facilities by recognizing homosexual members?
(2) Elementary schools: ‘The land of the free’?
Elementary schools now include compulsory training in varieties of gender identity in Grade 1, including the goodness of homosexuality as one possible personal choice. Many parents tried to ‘opt out’ their children
from such sessions, but the courts have ruled they cannot do this, noting that education experts in the government have decided that such training is essential to children’s psychological health…
…Tens of thousands of Christian teachers either quit or were fired…
…they quit by the thousands, no matter the personal cost, rather than commit what they believed to be a direct sin against God…
…private Christian schools decided to shut down after the Supreme Court
ruled that anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation extended to private institutions such as schools, and that private schools also had to obey the law and teach that homosexuality and heterosexuality are both morally good choices.
Private schools are currently a hugh growth industry, especially the “Christian faith based” ones, now that federal and state education money is available to them in many cases.
(3) Adoption agencies: ‘The land of the free’?
There are no more Roman Catholic or evangelical Protestant adoption agencies in the United States. Following earlier rulings in New York and Massachusetts, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 ruled that these agencies had to agree to place children with homosexual couples or lose their licenses…
…Christian parents seeking to adopt have tried going through secular adoption agencies, but they are increasingly excluding parents with ‘narrow’ or dangerous views on religion or homosexuality.
Anyway this assumes that keeping a child out of a loving and affluent home simply because they would be raised by two mommies or two daddies rather than a mom and a dad is the right thing. If that really is more important to these agencies than their license then that would be their own choice and responsibility, wouldn’t it?
(4) Businesses with government contracts: ‘The land of the free’?
All businesses that have government contracts at the national, state or local level now have to provide documentation of equal benefits for same-sex couples…
Even if this had happened why would it be wrong? They are already required to show that they do not discriminate based on race, sex, or religion, why would adding sexual orientation be such a great burden?
(5) Public broadcasting: ‘The land of the free’?
The Bible can no longer be freely preached over radio or television stations when the subject matter includes such ‘offensive’ doctrines as criticizing homosexual behavior…
Hate speech laws show no sign of having any real popular or judicial support in America, nor does the first amendment allow them. Even hate crime legislation that only penalizes violent acts against homosexuals has faced strong resistance everywhere they have been proposed.
(6) Doctors and lawyers: ‘The land of the free’?
Physicians who refuse to provide artificial insemination for lesbian couples now face significant fines or loss of their license to practice medicine…
…Lawyers who refuse to handle adoption cases for same-sex couples similarly now lose their licenses to practice law.
Nope, this hasn’t happened either. You don’t think that doctors and lawyers can stick up for themselves if need be?
(7) Counselors and social workers: ‘The land of the free’?
All other professionals who are licensed by individual states are also prohibited from discriminating against homosexuals. Social workers and counselors, even counselors in church staff positions, who refuse to provide
‘professional, appropriately nurturing marriage counseling’ for homosexual couples lose their counseling licenses. Thousands of Christians have left these professions as a result.
Not that this would necessarily be a bad thing if it happened, hateful people really should not be counselors in the first place. Regardless, Church staff counselors would be protected via the first amendment, at least as long as their service was provided free, the state would then have no grounds to regulate their activity. Private professional licensing boards are another matter altogether, but again church counselors are not even required to have a license if the service is free.
(8) Homosexual weddings: ‘The land of the free’?
Church buildings are now considered a ‘public accommodation’ by the Supreme Court, and churches have no freedom to refuse to allow their buildings to be used for wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples. If they refuse, they lose their tax-exempt status, and they are increasingly becoming subject to fines and antidiscrimination lawsuits.
Not even possible under the first amendment.
(9) Homosexual church staff members: ‘The land of the free’?
While churches are still free to turn down homosexual applicants for the job of senior pastor, churches and parachurch organizations are no longer free to reject homosexual applicants for staff positions such as parttime youth pastor or director of counseling…
Again, not even possible under the first amendment.
(10) Homosexuals in the military: [‘The land of the free’?]
One change regarding the status of homosexuals did not wait for any Supreme Court decision. In the first week after his inauguration, President
Obama invited homosexual rights leaders from around the United States to join him at the White House as he signed an executive order directing all branches of the military to abandon their ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and to start actively recruiting homosexuals. As a result, homosexuals are now given special bonuses for enlisting in military service (to attempt to
compensate for past discrimination)…
Verdict: Partially Right (finally)
It took President Obama almost 3 years to decide to reverse DADT, but there are no special recruitment efforts or bonuses for homosexuals. The other consequences and discrimination against “straight” soldiers predicted later in the paragraph haven’t happened either. Besides which DADT was a nonsensical policy anyway, it was equivalent to saying…”Sure we allow Gays in the Military, we just pretend they don’t exist.”
Religious speech in the public square
(11) High schools: ‘The land of the free’?
High schools are no longer free to allow ‘See You at the Pole’ meetings where students pray together, or any student Bible studies even before
or after school. The Supreme Court ruled this is considered speech that is both ‘proselytizing’ and involves ‘worship”…
The courts have consistently ruled that religious activities are allowed on school grounds when attendance by students is a voluntary choice. At school functions such as sports events, dances, and rallies which all students may want to attend religious convocations are not allowed. This is because those of other religions or the non-religious are thereby having their first amendment right of freedom from state sponsored religion infringed upon. Why is this so very hard for the Christian Right to understand?
(12) Church use of school property: ‘The land of the free’?
Tens of thousands of young churches suddenly had no place to meet when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools in all 50 states had to stop allowing churches to rent their facilities — even on Sundays, when school
was not in session. The court said this was an unconstitutional use of government property for a religious purpose…
The courts have no interest whatsoever in who uses school property when school is out, this is why you find churches, A.A., N.A., Boy Scouts, Book Clubs, and various other social groups using school building for meetings. You have left the realm of plausibility and entered a fantasy world where the courts would do this solely to inflict harm on Christians.
(13) Campus ministries: ‘The land of the free’?
Campus organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity, Navigators, Baptist Campus Ministry, and Reformed University Fellowship have shrunk to skeleton organizations, and in many states they have ceased to exist…
…a subsequent Supreme Court decision predictably ruled that
universities had to prohibit campus organizations that promote ‘hate speech’ and have discriminatory policies. Therefore these Christian ministries have been prohibited from use of campus buildings, campus bulletin boards, advertising in campus newspapers, and use of dormitory rooms or common rooms for Bible studies…
Once again, there is no such thing as “hate speech” under American law and groups organized for religious purposes are free to practice their religion in any manner they choose within the constraints of criminal law.
(14) Pledge of Allegiance: ‘The land of the free’?
Public school teachers are no longer free to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. The 9th Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals heard a new challenge to the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge, and, as it had in 2002 in Newdow v. United States Congress, Elk Grove Unified School District, et al., it held the wording to be unconstitutional. Now the Supreme Court has upheld this decision.
The possibility does exist that one day the court will hold that “under God” is an unconstitutional addition to the pledge on first amendment grounds. However rather than requiring that the pledge be banned such a ruling would only mean that it would have to revert to its pre-1954 form before those words were added.
(15) Freedom of Choice Act: [‘The land of the free’?]
Congress lost no time in solidifying abortion rights under President Obama. In fact, Obama had promised, ‘The first thing I’ll do as president is sign the
Freedom of Choice Act’ (July 17, 2007, speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund). This federal law immediately nullified hundreds of state laws that had created even the slightest barrier to abortion. States can no longer require parental involvement for minors who wish to have an abortion, waiting period, informed consent rules, restrictions on tax-payer
funding or restrictions on late-term abortions. The act reversed the Hyde Amendment, so the government now funds Medicaid abortions for any reason. As a result, the number of abortions has increased dramatically…
The Freedom of Choice Act has never even been voted on by either chamber of Congress, much less passed. Instead we have gotten a plethora of new laws passed by state legislatures that further restrict access to abortion services by women.
(16) Nurses and abortions: ‘The land of the free’?
Nurses are no longer free to refuse to participate in abortions for reasons of conscience. If they refuse to participate, they lose their jobs, for they are now failing to comply with federal law. Many Christian nurses have left the health care field rather than violate their consciences…
No such Federal law exists, nor has such a law even been proposed by a member of Congress.
(17) Doctors and abortions: ‘The land of the free’?
The same restrictions apply to doctors: Doctors who refuse to perform abortions can no longer be licensed to deliver babies at hospitals in any state. As a result, many Christian doctors have left family medicine and
obstetrics, and many have retired.
See response to (16) above.
(18) Pornography: ‘The land of the free’?
It’s almost impossible to keep children from
seeing pornography. The Supreme Court in 2011 nullified all Federal Communications Commission restrictions on obscene speech or visual content in radio and television broadcasts. As a result, television programs at all hours of the day contain explicit portrayals of sexual acts…
Now your just being silly, no one (almost) wishes to see pornography on normal television 24/7. Besides, those that do wish to see that type of content around the clock can go to adult cable channels that already carry it.
(19) Guns: ‘The land of the free’?
It is illegal for private citizens to own guns for selfdefense in eight states, and the number is growing with increasing Democratic control of state legislatures and governorships. This was the result of a 6-3 Supreme Court decision in which the court reversed its 5-4 decision that had upheld private gun ownership in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)…
…In this new decision, the court specified that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms’ was limited to that purpose specified in the Second Amendment, namely, to those people who were part of a ‘well regulated militia’ in the various states…
The Supreme Court has made no further rulings on gun ownership since the Heller case threw out Washington D.C.’s handgun ban.
END OF PART I
See Part II at littlegreenfootballs.com
When you hear Mitt Romney talking about “Freedom of Religion” this is what he really means. He doesn’t think it’s wrong to impose your religion on employees through manipulation of their compensation package. Under that logic it would be ok for employers who are Jehovah’s Witness’ to refuse to cover blood transfusions in their employee health plans.
Efforts by conservative religious organizations to restrict Americans’ access to birth control are ongoing. For the time being, the action has shifted to the courts.
A federal court in Missouri handed down an important ruling last week, dismissing a lawsuit brought by O’Brien Industrial Holdings, a St. Louis firm that mines and processes a variety of ceramic material for heavy industry.
This may not sound like a particularly religious enterprise to you. That’s because it’s not. The owner of the firm, Frank O’Brien, is a devout Catholic. He believes he has the right to use his religion as a guideline for determining what type of health care his employees will receive.
The problem is, the new health care law requires most employers to provide birth control as part of a baseline health insurance package. It’s the insurance companies that provide this coverage, not the firms. But to people like O’Brien, that’s not enough.
Francis Manion, a lawyer at TV preacher Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, represented O’Brien’s firm in court. Manion argued that the contraceptive mandate violates O’Brien’s freedom of religion as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal law designed to protect the religious liberty of individuals.
U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson rejected that line of argument.
“Frank O’Brien is not prevented from keeping the Sabbath, from providing a religious upbringing for his children, or from participating in a religious ritual such as communion. Instead, plaintiffs remain free to exercise their religion, by not using contraceptives and by discouraging employees from using contraceptives,” Jackson wrote.
“The burden of which plaintiffs complain is that funds, which plaintiffs will contribute to a group health plan, might, after a series of independent decisions by health care providers and patients covered by [O’Brien Industrial Holding]’s plan, subsidize someone else’s participation in an activity that is condemned by plaintiffs’ religion,” continued Jackson. “This Court rejects the proposition that requiring indirect financial support of a practice, from which plaintiff himself abstains according to his religious principles, constitutes a substantial burden on plaintiff’s religious exercise.”
She added, “RFRA is a shield, not a sword. It protects individuals from substantial burdens on religious exercise that occur when the government coerces action one’s religion forbids, or forbids action one’s religion requires; it is not a means to force one’s religious practices upon others.
“RFRA does not protect against the slight burden on religious exercise that arises when one’s money circuitously flows to support the conduct of other free-exercise-wielding individuals who hold religious beliefs that differ from one’s own.”
Jackson makes a crucial point here. O’Brien has the right to believe whatever he wants about birth control and other medical issues. He does not have the right to force his employees to adopt those views or live under his religion’s rules.