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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Obama Administration: We Can and Will Force Christians to Act Against Their Faith

CNSNews.com) - In a legal argument formally presented in federal court in the case of Hobby Lobby v. Kathleen Sebelius, the Obama administration is claiming that the First Amendment—which expressly denies the government the authority to prohibit the “free exercise” of religion—nonetheless allows it to force Christians to directly violate their religious beliefs even on a matter that involves the life and death of innocent human beings.

Because federal judges—including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor—have refused to grant an injunction protecting the owners of Hobby Lobby from being forced to act against their Christian faith, those owners will be subject to federal fines of up to $1.3 million per day starting Tuesday for refusing to include abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plan.

The Obama administration is making a two-fold argument for why it can force Christians to act against their faith in complying with the regulation it has issued under the Obamacare law that requires virtually all health care plans to cover, without co-pay, sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs.

The first argument the administration makes against the owners of Hobby Lobby is that Americans lose their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion when they form a corporation and engage in commerce. A person’s Christianity, the administration argues, cannot be carried out through activities he engages in through an incorporated business.

“Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery in a filing submitted in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.

“Because Hobby Lobby is a secular employer, it is not entitled to the protections of the Free Exercise Clause or RFRA [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act],” Delery told the court on behalf of the administration. “This is because, although the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association are ‘right[s] enjoyed by religious and secular groups alike,’ the Free Exercise Clause ‘gives special solicitude to the rights of religiousorganizations.’”

In keeping with Delery’s argument, the Washington Post, as a corporation, can use its First Amendment-protected freedom of speech to write editorials in support of the Obama administration imposing its contraception mandate on businesses like Hobby Lobby. But the members of the family that created and owns Hobby Lobby, because they formed Hobby Lobby as a corporation, have no First Amendment freedom of religion that protects them from being forced by the government to act against their religious beliefs in providing abortion-inducing drugs.

The second argument the administration makes to justify forcing Christians to act against their faith is more sweeping. Here the administration argues it can force a person to act against his religion so long as the coercion is done under the authority of a law that is neutral and generally applicable—in other words, as long as the law was not written specifically to persecute Christians as Christians, the government can use that law to persecute Christians.

Hobby Lobby is a family business. David Green created it in his garage in Oklahoma City in 1972. He and his wife, Barbara, and their three children—Steve, Mart and Darsee Green Lett-- have grown the business to where it now operates 500 stores in 41 states. David Green is Hobby Lobby’s CEO; Steve Green is its president; Mart Green is vice CEO; and Darsee Lett is vice president. Mart Green is also CEO of the privately owned Mardel chain of Christian bookstores, which operates 35 stores in 7 states. Through Hobby Lobby, the Greens have created more than 13,000 jobs. Mardel has created 372 jobs.

The Greens, who are Evangelical Christians, do not suspend their religious beliefs while running their businesses. Instead, they strive to run them fully in accordance with their Christian beliefs. They are unanimous in stating that they have always “sought to run Hobby Lobby in harmony with God’s laws and in a manner which brings glory to God.” They do not have two sets of morals—one for when they are at church or at home and another for when they are working on their businesses. They have only one set of morals—that they strive to follow at work or any other activity. For example, they close their business on Sundays, so their employees can spend that day with their families, and they pay their full-time workers a minimum hourly wage of $13, which is far exceeds the federal minimum wage.

They also provide their employees with a generous self-insured health care plan, and they even operate an on-site, cost-free health clinic at their corporate headquarters. But, guided by their Christian faith, the Greens believe that human life begins at conception and that aborting on unborn life is wrong. In keeping with this, they do not cover in their employee health plan abortions, abortion-inducing drugs or IUDs that prevent implantation of an embryo.

Unlike Catholics, the Greens do not believe that contraception and sterilization are morally wrong.

In September, the Greens, Hobby Lobby and Mardel bookstores sued Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the departments of Health Human Service, Labor and Treasury. Their complaint said that the Obamacare contraception mandate violates their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion because supporting abortion or counseling for abortion is contrary to their religious faith.

As the mandate now stands, the Greens must begin complying with it on Jan. 1. On Nov. 11, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton refused to grant a preliminary injunction to stop the mandate from being enforced on the Greens while the court decided their case on its merits. In his ruling on the injunction, Judge Heaton determined that the Greens were not likely to establish they had a right to “free exercise” of religion while operating Hobby Lobby.

‘[T]he court concludes plaintiffs have not established a likelihood of success as to their constitutional claims,” said Judge Heaton. “The corporations lack free exercise rights subject to being violated and, as the challenged statutes/regulations are neutral and of general applicability as contemplated by the constitutional standard, plaintiffs are unlikely to successfully establish a constitutional violation in any event.”

The Greens appealed their request for an injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. A panel of two appeals court judges refused their plea. They then appealed to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who sits over that circuit, and she declined to reverse the lower courts and issue an injunction.

When Sotomayor ruled against a preliminary injunction on Thursday, theBecket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the Greens, issued a statement indicating that the Greens would not start complying with the mandate on Tuesday and that they would continue to pursue their case in federal court.

“Hobby Lobby will continue their appeal before the Tenth Circuit,” said Becket Fund General Counsel Kyle Duncan. “The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time. It left open the possibility of review after their appeal is completed in the Tenth Circuit. The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.”

As the nation approaches the much publicized fiscal cliff, it also approaches a moral cliff: Will the Obama administration compel Christians to act against their faith? As of now, the answer seems plain: Starting Tuesday, it will.

If anybody attacks Iran it will be World War III...Celente


Egypt official: Israel will be wiped out in a decade

'There will be no such thing as Israel,' Muslim Brotherhood's Essam al-Aryan says after creating uproar by calling on Jews to return to Egypt 'to make room for Palestinians'

Muslim Brotherhood official and advisor to the Egyptian president, Essam al-Aryan has spent the past few days trying to explain what he meant when he called on Jews to return to Egypt.

The London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Tuesday that al-Aryan estimated that the State of Israel will be wiped out within a decade.

The Muslim Brotherhood official, who also serves as the Freedom and Justice Party's deputy chairman, explained on his Facebook account that Jews must return to Egypt in order to make room for Palestinian refugees.

"Palestine houses people who conquered it and those occupiers have previous homelands," he wrote.

He added that Israel is destined to collapse. "There will be no such thing as Israel, instead there will be Palestine which will be home to Jews, Muslims and Druze and all of the people who were there from the start.

"Those who want to stay will stay as Palestinian citizens. Those who conquered Palestine will have to go back to their countries."

Egypt's presidential palace is trying to distance itself from al-Aryan's statements. A palace source told al-Sharq al-Awsat that al-Aryan does not represent the presidency's stance and is not an official presidential spokesman.

On Thursday, al-Aryan said that the return of Egyptian Jews to Israel will enable Palestinians to return to their homeland. "Every Egyptian has a right to return especially if he is making room for a Palestinian. I want to enable the Palestinians to return to their land," he said. "I call upon the Jews, Egypt is worthier of you than Israel."

The statements set off a firestorm of controversy and prompted criticism by parties across Egypt's political spectrum. Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan said the statements do not represent the movement's stance. "Egyptian Jews are criminals who must be punished for what they did to Egypt and the Palestinians," he said.

In his interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat, al-Aryan also commented on a clause in the new constitution allowing Christians and Jews freedom of religion. "We have a Jewish minority and when the Palestinian issue is resolved they will have the option of returning to Egypt or going to other places."


Netanyahu cautions against ‘rushed’ peace agreement

Israel should not rush into a peace agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as the Hamas terror group could take over the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.

Netanyahu, speaking at his weekly Bible-study session, compared political changes in the region to the weekly portion, saying just as a benevolent Pharoah was replaced by one who enslaved the Jews, leaders around the region are being forced out and that could happen to Abbas as well.

“In this week’s Torah portion it is written, ‘Now there arose a new king over Egypt who knew not Joseph.’ That’s also happening today,” he said from his Jerusalem residence, referring to the Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, who replaced Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s leader last year.

“Everyone knows that Hamas could take over the Palestinian Authority,” Netanyahu said. “It can happen after an agreement [with Israel], it could happen before an agreement, as was the case in Gaza.”

Netanyahu was referring to a violent 2007 coup during which Hamas took over the Gaza Strip and pushed out the more moderate Fatah movement.

In recent days, President Shimon Peres has called on Netanyahu to use the opportunity presented by Abbas’s moderate views to find a way to make peace with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu, however, said that doing so would ignore security needs.

“As opposed to the voices that I have heard recently urging me to run forward, make concessions, withdraw [from the West Bank], I think that the diplomatic process must be managed responsibly and sagaciously and not in undue haste,” he said. “Otherwise a third base for Iranian terrorism will arise here, in the heart of the country. Peace can be achieved only when security is assured.”

Netanyahu was likely referring to Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon as local Iranian-sponsored terror bases.

Netanyahu reportedly restated his commitment to a two-state solution on Monday, but stressed the need for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and for security arrangements to be in place for an agreement to be reached.

Netanyahu’s reaffirmation came on the heels of comments by Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely claiming his call for a two-state solution, made in a 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University, was “tactical” and meant for external consumption only.

“Two states for two peoples was never part of [Likud's] election platform,” Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar told Ynet last week.

The Times of Israel

Same-sex marriage ceremonies begin in Maryland

Jeremiah 5:21-23
New International Version (NIV)

21 Hear this, you foolish and senseless people,
who have eyes but do not see,
who have ears but do not hear:
22 Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord.
“Should you not tremble in my presence?
I made the sand a boundary for the sea,
an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.
The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail;
they may roar, but they cannot cross it.
23 But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts;
they have turned aside and gone away.

BALTIMORE (AP) — Same-sex couples in Maryland were greeted with cheers and noisemakers held over from New Year's Eve parties, as gay marriage became legal in the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line on New Year's Day.

James Scales, 68, was married to William Tasker, 60, on Tuesday shortly after midnight by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake inside City Hall.

"It's just so hard to believe it's happening," Scales said shortly before marrying his partner of 35 years.

Six other same-sex couples also were being married at City Hall. Ceremonies were taking place in other parts of the state as well.

The ceremonies follow a legislative fight that pitted Gov. Martin O'Malley against leaders of his Catholic faith. Voters in the state, founded by Catholics in the 17th century, sealed the change by approving a November ballot question.

"There is no human institution more sacred than that of the one that you are about to form," Rawlings-Blake said during the brief ceremony. "True marriage, true marriage, is the dearest of all earthly relationships."

Brigitte Ronnett, who also was married, said she hopes one day to see full federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Maryland, Maine and Washington state were the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote, in November, a development Ronnett said was significant.

"I think it's a great sign when you see that popular opinion is now in favor of this," said Ronnett, 51, who married Lisa Walther, 51, at City Hall.

Same-sex couples in Maryland have been able to get marriage licenses since Dec. 6, but they did not take effect until Tuesday.

In 2011, same-sex marriage legislation passed in the state Senate but stalled in the House of Delegates. O'Malley hadn't made the issue a key part of his 2011 legislative agenda, but indicated that summer that he was considering backing a measure similar to New York's law, which includes exemptions for religious organizations.

Shortly after, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore wrote to O'Malley that same-sex marriage went against the governor's faith.

"As advocates for the truths we are compelled to uphold, we speak with equal intensity and urgency in opposition to your promoting a goal that so deeply conflicts with your faith, not to mention the best interests of our society," wrote O'Brien, who served as archbishop of the nation's first diocese from October 2007 to August 2011.

The governor was not persuaded. He held a news conference in July 2011 to announce that he would make same-sex marriage a priority in the 2012 legislative session. He wrote back to the archbishop that "when shortcomings in our laws bring about a result that is unjust, I have a public obligation to try to change that injustice."

The measure, with exemptions for religious organizations that choose not to marry gay couples, passed the House of Delegates in February in a close vote. O'Malley signed it in March. Opponents then gathered enough signatures to put the bill to a statewide vote, and it passed with 52 percent in favor.

In total, nine states and the District of Columbia have approved same-sex marriage. The other states are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.


Pope's deplores rampant capitalism

The Pope blessed the gospel during Mass in St Peter's Basilica
Pope Benedict XVI has condemned "unregulated capitalism" for contributing to world tension, in a new year address to worshippers.

The Pope also thanked the world's peacemakers and said humanity had "an innate vocation for peace".

The Roman Catholic Church leader spoke at a Mass in the Vatican, then greeted a crowd outside St Peter's Basilica.

He deplored "hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor".

Those "hotbeds" also grew out of "the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism", as well as "various forms of terrorism and crime", he said.

The 85-year-old pontiff delivered a prayer for peace to the crowd in St Peter's Square after his homily at Mass.

"The peacemakers are many, but they are not loud. As leaven in dough, they raise humanity according to God's plan," he said.

Comparing the new year to a journey, he prayed that it "may lead on a path to peace for every person and every family, for each country and for the whole world".


Iran test-fires missiles near Strait of Hormuz

TEHRAN, Iran -

Iran's navy says it has test-fired a range of weapons during ongoing maneuvers near the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for one-fifth of the world's oil supply.

The Monday report by the official IRNA news agency quotes exercise spokesman Adm. Amir Rastgari as saying the Iranian-made air defense system Raad, or Thunder, was among the weapons tested.

Iran says the system fires missiles with a range of 50 kilometers (30 miles), capable of hitting targets at 22,000 meters (75,000 feet).

He said torpedoes and underwater and surface-to-surface rockets were also successfully tested.

The drill began Friday and ends Wednesday. It's one of a number of exercises Iran holds annually.

Iran has in the past said it might close the strait over Western sanctions, but has not made such threats recently.

Read more: http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/20472047/iran-test-fires-missiles-near-strait-of-hormuz#ixzz2GkQb4tRD