This article originally appeared on The Catholic Sun
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The snowy, wet concrete and throng of reporters didn’t stop Fr. Frank Pavone and the Rev. Patrick Mahoney from kneeling down and praying in front of the Supreme Court the morning of March 25.
“We will not compromise our faith,” Fr. Pavone prayed over the roaring crowds. “We will not allow the government, Oh Lord, to dissect and define the beliefs of our religion. … We will decide what moral code we will live, and we will live it freely here on this soil in the United States of America.”
The snow began around 8 a.m., but it had little effect on the hundreds who rallied outside the Supreme Court in response to the justices hearing oral arguments in the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius cases.
The two key rallies stood on opposing sides. The crowd advocating for free choice in contraceptive use was nearly triple in size to its opponents and featured more than 25 speeches.
Right beside them, the religious freedom rally also hosted speakers as well as a prayer vigil.
Signs among religious freedom supporters read, “Religious Freedom: Everyone’s Business.” Many of the opposing signs said, “Not my boss’s business.”
The debate is over the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and its mandate that employers provide its workers health care that covers contraceptives, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties sued over the mandate, claiming they should be allowed a religious rights-based exemption from having to provide the contraceptive coverage.
At the rallies, David and Susan Thompson Gaines stood on the street corner with homemade signs. They traveled from Arlington, Va., to rally before going into work.
“My boss doesn’t have the right to tell me what my health care should be,” Susan Gaines told Catholic News Service. “I just want to make sure that the Supreme Court listens to the people and follows the law.”
One of the arguments in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases is that corporations are not people and therefore do not hold religious rights.
“It’s a mistake to go for the simple and convenient concept that a corporation is a person,” David Gaines said. “If you set that aside, then you see corporations as corporations. Corporations don’t have any more religious feelings than rocks.”
The prayer vigil led by Rev. Mahoney and Fr. Pavone began around 10 a.m.
Rev. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, welcomed people of every faith.
“We are not here imposing our values on people. That’s what they’re doing over there,” Rev. Mahoney said, addressing those at the “Not my boss’s business” rally. “We’re about freedom and choice. We’re not about coercion and force.”
The “Not my boss’s business” rally was attended by various groups, including Catholics for Choice, a group the U.S. bishops said years ago had “no affiliation, formal or otherwise, with the Catholic Church.” Some held up signs saying, “We are the 99% of Catholic women who use birth control.”
The sign referred to surveys showing that 99 percent of sexually active women who identify themselves as Catholic say they have used artificial birth control at some point in their life in opposition to the church’s prohibition on such birth control methods.
In a full-page advertisement published in The Washington Post March 25, Catholics for Choice accused the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops of “using fake arguments about religious freedom” and “simply trying to use the courts to impose teachings they have failed to enforce from the pulpit.”
In response, Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the USCCB, said in a statement: “What is fake here is Catholics for Choice making this a contraceptive issue rather than acknowledging the fact that forcing people to pay what violates their sincerely held religious beliefs is a religious freedom issue.”
Among the speakers at the religious freedom rally was U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
“There is a reason why the very first protection in the Bill of Rights is the protection of religious liberty,” Cruz said. “The very first thing the framers wanted to protect … was the right of each and every one of us to worship God consistent with the dictates of our conscience.”
Cruz called the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate a “disaster” and “train wreck of a law that is hurting so many millions of people.”
He referenced the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order that carries out a nonprofit ministry is assisting the elderly poor and has refused to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees. The order has sued over the mandate and its refusal to comply may force them to pay millions of dollars in fines to the federal government.
“The idea that we’re trying to fine Catholic nuns millions of dollars to force them to violate their faith … runs utterly contrary to centuries of tradition to the protection of our Constitution,” Cruz said.
Fr. Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said he attended the rally not only to support for-profit businesses, like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, but also nonprofit religious organizations, like Little Sisters of the Poor and his own organization, whom the HHS mandate also affects.
Priests for Life launched one of the first nonprofit lawsuits at the beginning of 2012, and on March 29, the Supreme Court will decide whether to consider the case now or wait for it to go through the entire appeals process, he said.
“We believe the court will come down on the right side, both for the (nonprofit) religious groups and also for the businesses,” Fr. Pavone told CNS.
Fr. Pavone said Congress seems to be on “the wrong side of this whole concept” of religious freedom.
“They think religious freedom is just freedom to worship — what you do on Sunday morning,” Fr. Pavone said. “(But) it also has to do with what you do on Monday morning and what you do in your business decisions.
“It’s a narrowness,” he said. “It’s a blind spot that we need to overcome.”
When the oral arguments finished, the Rev. Rob Schenck addressed the crowd outside the court and explained some of what happened during the arguments.
He said former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who argued on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, “gave one of the most outstanding arguments I’ve heard in 20 years.”
Rev. Schenck also said that near the end of the arguments, Donald Verrilli of the opposing side “just seemed to collapse, especially under some withering questions by … Justice (Anthony) Kennedy, with whom this decision appears to rest,” he said.
The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, left before addressing the crowd, and both rallies ended around noon.
Most likely, the Supreme Court will hand down a decision in both cases in June.
— By Navar Watson, Catholic News Service
Below is my latest column, Politics and the Pulpit: Part One: “Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open!”
Also, be on the lookout for an action alert coming soon about President Obama and abortion. I want him to hear from the pro-life community regarding something he recently said. I will send the alert to the same people to whom I send this column; if you know others who should receive it, please have them sign up in the email box on the front page of our website, PriestsForLife.org.
Praise for our work: During a pro-life rally in front of one of the main planned parenthood abortion clinics in Washington, DC a few years ago, several major pro-life African-American leaders spoke to the tragedy of abortion on demand in general, and in particular, to the fact that African-American babies are five times as likely to be killed by abortion as white children in America. Those speeches were among the most powerful I have ever heard on the subject. The speech by Dr. Alveda King was especially powerful and moving. That day, I promised many in that group that I would introduce legislation to address the insidious race targeted abortion practice in this country…. This resulted in the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act or PRENDA. It is absolutely true that Alveda King along with the other African American leaders who spoke that day in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Washington, DC, inspired and catalyzed the writing and introduction of the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act. May God bless their noble efforts and the outcome of this historic legislation. – Trent Franks, Member of U. S. Congress
Politics and the Pulpit: Part One: “Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open!”
Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life
It’s an election year, and it’s time to open our mouths, in the Church, about politics, candidates, and the right to life.
Our fight for our unborn brothers and sisters is a fight for freedom and against tyranny; for people and against oppressive governments. Our Founding Fathers fought this fight, and so must we, with the same readiness for self-sacrifice.
This is true for every American. How much more true is it for us as the Church, as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ? The Gospel is a Gospel of freedom. “I have come to proclaim liberty to the captives…to let the oppressed go free,” Jesus said in defining his mission.
Carrying out this mission requires the freedom to speak the truth as we understand it. Not only was this fundamental right explicitly acknowledged by our Founding Fathers and placed at the top of the Bill of Rights, but it has been affirmed time and time again by the Supreme Court, not only to point out the existence of such freedom, but also its characteristics.
In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964)), the Court asserted that the protection of citizens to advocate for particular issues reflects our “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” (emphasis added).
In 2010, the Supreme Court also affirmed the following:
“Speech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people. The right of citizens to inquire, to hear, to speak, and to use information to reach consensus is a precondition to enlightened self-government and a necessary means to protect it. The First Amendment ‘has its fullest and most urgent application to speech uttered during a campaign for political office.’”
“[I]t is inherent in the nature of the political process that voters must be free to obtain information from diverse sources in order to determine how to cast their votes.” (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010)).
The corresponding freedom of the Church to speak and teach the truth — a freedom also contained in the Founders’ recognition of freedom of religion — is something explicitly insisted upon in the Church’s own documents. This freedom is, in fact, an essential aspect of the Great Commission left by Jesus Christ: “Preach the Gospel to every creature.” “Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.” Because the Gospel covers every aspect of life and human activity, the Church must also be free to comment on political matters. In this regard we see the following strong statement from the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes):
“At all times and in all places, the Church should have the true freedom to teach the faith, to proclaim its teaching about society, to carry out its task among men without hindrance, and to pass moral judgment even in matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it.” (n. 76)
In my upcoming columns, I will help us prepare for the midterm elections by reflecting on how we in the Church have often stifled this freedom, and why it is time to repent and open our mouths.
This column can be read and heard online.
Comments on this column? Go to Askfrfrank.com
Fr. Frank’s columns are podcast. See Priestsforlife.org/podcast
Remember to support our work at Priestsforlife.org/donate
EWTN’s Life on the Rock will feature the Silent No More Awareness Campaign on Tuesday, February 11 at 9am ET. Watch on the internet at EWTN.com.
On February 22, 2014, Dr. Alveda King will be on Ask the Lawyer with Mike Connors at 6:00 pm ET to discuss Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision. Listen online at www.AM970theanswer.com
Fr. Denis Wilde, O.S.A. will celebrate the EWTN live televised Mass February 18, 19, 20 and March 11, 12, 13. The Mass airs live at 8 am and repeats at 12 noon, 7 pm and 12 midnight (all times Eastern). Repeat airing times are subject to change. See the airing schedule on the EWTN website for final repeat airing times.
Defending Life: Watch on EWTN Thursday, February 13 at 11:00 p.m. Listen on EWTN Radio every Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 5 a.m. (All times Eastern) (Defending Life will be pre-empted on Wednesday of this week and only air on Thursday). Topic: Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. Janet Morana and Fr. Scott Daniels discuss sidewalk counseling and the work of Msgr. Philip Reilly and the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, who have been carrying on the practice for over 22 years.
The Catholic View for Women on EWTN
Topic: MAKING THE SWITCH FROM CONTRACEPTION TO NFP. Teresa, Janet and Astrtid discuss the beauty of the Church’s teaching on contraception and the way Natural Family Planning can improve marriages. Airing Wednesday, 02/12/2014 at 11:00 PM ET and Friday, 02/14/2014 10:30 AM ET
Gospel of Life: Watch on National Religious Broadcasters network (NRB), Wednesday, February 12 at 4:30pm ET. The NRB Network is on DIRECTV, channel 378. Listen to Gospel of Life episodes on the web at www.gospeloflife.com/tv/. Topic: Descendants of Dred Scott & Booker T. Washington
Defendiendo La Vida : ¿SE PUEDE SER UN JÓVEN PRO-VIDA? – AZENET GONZÁLEZ. Serie conducida por el Padre Víctor Salomón, de la Asociación de Sacerdotes por la Vida, en que entrevista a diferentes personalidades comprometidas en la defensa y promoción de la vida humana. Hoy presentamos a Azenet González con el tema ‘¿Se Puede ser un Jóven Pro-Vida?’ Saturday, 02/15/2014 04:30 AM
Dr. Alveda King is on “Airing the Addison’s with Wil and Meeke” on Mondays from 11:20-12:00 ET and “Changing Your Community” with Emmanuel Boose at 4:00 PM ET and 4:00 AM ET on Saturdays. Listen online at www.UrbanFamilyTalk.com.
Radio Maria: Fr. Victor Salomón hosts a weekly pro-life radio program in Spanish on Radio Maria, Washington DC. The program called Gospel of Life airs every Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. ET. Listen by cell or internet by going tohttp://www.radiomariausa.org/index.php?radiocode=dcs&language=es. It can also be listened to by a radio with a subcarrier option. For purchase of this type of radio call 718-247-9100 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Radio Jesus: Fr. Victor Salomón will be the guest on Radio Jesus, 93.9 FM, Bronx, NY, every 3rd Saturday of the Month from 1-2pm ET. You can also listen on-line at http://www.misionerosdejesus.org/.
When I was a minister in the Reformed Episcopal Church in Catonsville (near Baltimore) Maryland, I especially enjoyed making pastoral visits to Saint Martin’s Home which was administered by The Little Sisters of the Poor. St. Martin’s is a full service nursing and long-term care facility for impoverished and indigent elderly and disabled persons. While St. Martin’s employed and utilized lay staff and volunteers, it was the presence of the sisters, in their flowing black and white habits that cast a reassuring and comforting sense about the love and care provided for their residents. It was evident to me that every sister knew each patient by name, age and personal and family circumstances. They are devoted to providing a place where each person’s dignity is respected and protected, and where their physical and spiritual health is promoted.
I came to know the sisters quite well and they invited me to be their preacher for the Week of Christian Unity each January. I was very proud and humbled to be associated with such a wonderful group of deeply dedicated Christian women; women of voluntary poverty, prayer and service. When we discovered a desperate and distraught elderly neighbor living just a couple of doors away from our center across the street from the US Supreme Court, the The Little Sisters helped us contact her family oversees and reunite her with them, all at no cost to anyone.
That is why it is so shocking and inexplicable that the federal government has targeted the Little Sisters, compelling them at threat of millions of dollars in fines, which would surely bankrupt them and close St. Martin’s Home as well as their other facilities for the elderly poor. At issue is the Obama Administration’s insistence that the Little Sisters comply with the mandate to purchase and distribute birth control to its employees and some of its volunteers. None of the employees or volunteers has asked the government to do this. It is the Administration that has decided this is what The Little Sisters must do at the threat of crippling sanctions.
The Little Sisters appealed to the US Supreme Court for emergency protection. On January 1, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor granted that emergency stay. Then, the government responded saying the Little Sisters got it all wrong, the government will excuse them from the mandate if they will just submit a form, which acts like a supplication, begging to be excused. The Sisters said they couldn’t for to do so would be to participate in the mandate which is a violation of their conscience and faith. The Sisters asked that the whole Court, all nine Justices consider their request for protection. This past weekend, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, the US Supreme Court voted unanimously to grant the Sisters the protection they sought. Now, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals will consider the whole matter and meanwhile the Little Sisters are protected from the Administrations initial threat to drive them into bankruptcy and shutter their homes for the indigent poor.
This is why it is so critical that the missionaries of the National Pro-Life Center at the US Supreme Court remain active and in place, providing the Justices and their high level staffs the information, the education and the inspiration they need to better form their consciences so they will make better decisions. The prayer and outreach mission at the Court has continued for fifteen years at great sacrifice and expense. I like to boast that our five missionaries and their families do all their work on Capitol Hill for less than the starting salary of a single lawyer. Your generous gift makes this work possible. Help us to support the Little Sisters and others who must turn to the Court for the relief they are entitled to under the Constitution. And thank you for your support of the National Pro-Life Center missionaries in Washington.
The March for Life in Washington, DC is now the longest sustained public demonstration in American history. It has drawn between 10,000 and 1,000,000 peaceful, prayerful participants since 1974. The annual procession from the Ellipse to the United States Supreme Court building has now become a Washington fixture. Many government officials strategically schedule themselves and their staff to be out of town, even the President has left Washington the day before the March and returned the day after. In its early days, the March drew national media attention, but not so much anymore. Some major news agencies ignore it altogether. The National Parks Service doesn’t count its numbers, and doesn’t mention it on its day book. Many see in this a deliberate attempt to make the March insignificant and curtail its influence. Others say it’s just because it’s been around so long.
The obvious question is “Why March?” If it doesn’t garner the public attention it once did, if it has not persuaded the High Court, Congress or the President to change the law, wouldn’t it be better to try something else?
It is still important, perhaps now more than ever before, to march for life. The March and more specifically, the Marchers, have come to serve as a symbol, an expression, a “Sign of Contradiction” if you will, calling to mind the national sin against innocent lives and restating, over and again, the unalienable and inviolable right to life which belongs to every human being, especially the innocent unborn. It is also a sign of the collective conscience. Each of us knows the unfortunate human condition expressed by St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” (Rom 7:19) When we as individuals commit sin, our consciences are alerted, assemble themselves and rise up against the sin, driving us to repentance, amendment of life and reconciliation. The Marchers are like a collective conscience in society. Conscious of the intrinsic evil of abortion, euthanasia and other horrible attacks against innocent life, the Marchers assemble themselves, rise up against the sin of killing innocents and call the nation to reversal, amendment of national policy and restoration of the right to life.
Such public demonstrations, which include the extensive coordination and cooperation between so many individuals, social institutions and the Church is a very healthy and much needed exercise in a culture that overemphasizes selfish interests and personal gratification even at the expense of the abandonment, exploitation and suffering of others. The March is an antidote for the toxin of selfishness and ignorance of the plight of the innocent victims and their families. Elected and appointed officials and all those who responsible for public policy are reminded by 50,000 plus students, families, teachers, first responders, health care workers, religious, clergy and many other members of the American family that they have a positive obligation to defend and protect the most innocent and vulnerable members of that family. The Marchers put flesh and blood on an otherwise abstract debate about morality and policy. Every Marcher, after all, was an embryo, a fetus. Many Marchers are members of the “Silent No More Awareness Campaign”, women who were victimized by abortion expressing their regret and calling on others not to make the same mistake.
The March for Life remains a very important and meaningful effort to exercise our national conscience and urge everyone concerned to all they can to protect and save as many innocent human lives as possible and save the moral and social fabric that is foundational to a just and enduring society.
BOSTON – Outside many Massachusetts abortion clinics you’ll often find a large painted line on the ground that curves around the entrance or exit and sets off a 35-foot area know as a bubble zone.
State law forbids any abortion protestor, sidewalk counselor or advocate from entering that zone to talk about the abortion issue.
Advocates of the law say its purpose was to keep partisans from harassing or intimidating abortion workers or customers heading into or out of those clinics.
But pro-life demonstrators and sidewalk counselors outside the clinics say the law is keeping them from saving lives because they can no longer effectively reach women headed to get abortions.
“It takes away the person-to-person aspect of it and puts you at a distance,” longtime pro-life demonstrator Ray Neary told CBN News outside a clinic in Boston.
He said imagine trying to communicate with a pregnant woman from 35 feet away.
“You have to yell at them as though you’re in opposition to them, and you’re not,” Neary explained. “You’re trying to save that child that’s in that womb.”
That’s why friends of his, like sidewalk counselor Eleanor McCullen, filed suit against the law. McCullen v. Coakley is scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 15.
Neary said because of McCullen’s quiet counseling with pregnant women outside the clinics, she managed to save babies over and over again.
“One of the women who comes here a couple of days a week has saved over a hundred. And she’s (McCullen) brought them to crisis pregnancy centers,” Neary said.
“She keeps up with them. And they were saved by one individual who was able to stop to talk to them and tell them what’s going to happen if they go inside those walls,” she said.
Not only are lives on the line, but so is the First Amendment right to free speech. The law sets up a zone where pro-life Americans can literally end up in prison if they speak their minds about abortion inside that zone.
Rev. Paul Schenck, with the National Pro-Life Center, fought a similar case against bubble zones all the way to the Supreme Court years ago. He said they kill meaningful conversation.
“Imagine calling out to someone from 35 feet away, in public space no less,” Schenck said. “It’s impossible to carry on the kind of quiet conversation that a situation that is that dire requires.”
Twenty Years of Regrets
Texans Jeff and Tricia Bradford say if someone had approached them to try to talk them out of an abortion, they might have a 20-year-old daughter today.
As very young adults, they were five months away from getting married when Tricia found out she was pregnant. They were worried how it would shame their families for them to get married with Tricia displaying a prominent baby bump during the ceremony.
The young couple went to get an abortion without thinking much about the baby herself.
“We had believed all the lies that it’s just a blob of tissue,” Jeff told CBN News. “And so we went to the wedding really just not wanting to embarrass our family.”
They didn’t tell anyone about the abortion and tried to even bury it from their own consciousness for some 15 years until Tricia broke down during a counseling session.
“I had no idea how long this had been influencing my every thought, my every decision,” Tricia said of the pain and guilt they’d tried to hide. “And ultimately, God just stopped us in our tracks.”
“We had never mourned our child,” Jeff said. “We had never dealt with the feelings of abandonment, not standing by my wife at that time. You know, every woman is a life-giver and we didn’t choose the life of our child. And I know those are things she had no one to talk to about for years.”
Now Jeff openly shares their story and their regrets as he works full-time as vice president at Online for Life. This Texas-based group searches out abortion-bound women online and offers them alternatives and help.
Online for Life also maintains the website AbortionMemorial.com where Jeff and Tricia are pictured with the four children they’re now raising.
“As a father of four beautiful children and through God’s grace, my wife and I have now been married 20 years,” Jeff wrote on the website.
“However, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t regret my decision. After all, any good father would jump in front of a train to save the life of their child,” he said. “The life of our first daughter, Sara, should not have been any different.”
***Read more of Jeff’s story here.
More than 1,400 babies have been saved through Online for Life’s efforts. Jeff believes such intervention by someone could have saved the child Tricia and he aborted.
“If somebody had stayed with us, would have stood in the gap, I believe we’d have a 20-year-old little girl here today,” Jeff said.
Heart-to-Heart Talk Saves Babies
Evidence proves a heart-to-heart talk can really make the difference. Linda Rubis, from Frederick, Md., felt God prompt her to call her daughter one night several years ago. She discovered her daughter was at an abortion clinic.
“I said, ‘Honey, God doesn’t make mistakes. You need to save this child. You need to save this baby. It’ll be a blessing,’” Rubis told CBN News.
Linda’s daughter saved her own child, but also did more that night at the abortion clinic.
“She left there,” Rubis explained. “But before she left, she spoke to two other girls there about saving their babies, too.”
These days, science gives pro-lifers more factual information than ever to share what a complex human life is growing within the pregnant woman’s body.
Linda Pototschnik, from Mount Airy, Md., spoke of one such stunning finding.
“The little baby at six weeks has a billion cells and more information within his little body, his DNA, than every word ever spoken by every human being who’s ever lived since the beginning of time,” Potoschnik said.
An Abortionist’s Change-of-Heart
CBN News met Rubis and Pototschnik at an appearance in Libertytown, Md., by Mississippi’s first abortionist Beverly McMillan and her husband Roy.
Beverly shared how a truly divine encounter in her own car convinced her to stop performing abortions. The then back-sliding Catholic had just been looking at a scripture in a secular book when suddenly she felt something.
“Christ was in the car. He was in the backseat behind my right shoulder – as real to me as you are right here,” she told CBN News. “And I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew He was there.”
Beverly had been performing abortions in Mississippi for years but became convinced she couldn’t be both a good Christian and an abortion doctor.
“Carrying the abortion business into the holiness of the Church, something was not right with that,” she explained.
Now Beverly and husband Roy are fervent pro-life advocates and their car is covered in anti-abortion bumper stickers. Roy said these are short but powerful doses of truth.
He pointed out, “One of my bumper stickers says ‘It’s easy to be pro-choice if you’re not the one being killed.’”
Their efforts in league with other Mississippi pro-life advocates have helped close down all but one of Mississippi’s abortion clinics.
Meanwhile, the fight goes on in Massachusetts and next week before the U.S. Supreme Court to put a needle in the state’s 35-foot bubble zone law.
Rev. Schenck insists such a law costs the lives of babies.
“A woman does not have an abortion because she’s pro-choice. She has the abortion because she feels she has no choice,” Schenck explained.
“And what the sidewalk counselor is doing is making that last effort to reach out to her in kindness and love and offer her the support she needs to give her child life,” he said. “Well, you can’t do that from 35 feet away.”
WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) – On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of McCullen v. Coakley. The case originated in my home State of Massachusetts. It concerns a matter which I spent years of my legal career fighting, the growing practice of suppressing speech which is unpopular.
I was the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice) during the 1990′s. I moved to Virginia at the invitation of Pat Robertson to build that public interest law firm. During that time Jay Sekulow also joined the ACLJ as Chief Counsel.
I had the privilege of working with Jay as he effectively defended religious liberty and stood up for the Free Speech rights of those who give a voice to children in the womb, as well as help their mothers and fathers understand the Right to Life and what occurs in every procured abortion.
Before Jay joined the ACLJ, I was counsel at the Federal District Court level in the case of Schenck v Pro-Choice Network of Western New York. It involved my friend, Pro-Life hero, now Catholic priest, Fr Paul Schenck and his twin brother Rob, also a pro-Life champion.
When Jay so passionately argued that case at the Supreme Court, I had the privilege of serving as Co-Counsel. His argument was brilliant, the cause was just and the result made history. There the US Supreme Court struck down floating buffer or bubble zones as unconstitutional.
After ordination to the office of Deacon in the Catholic Church, I left the ACLJ for further theological study and other policy efforts. I had sincerely hoped we had helped to burst the bubble zones which threatened unpopular speech and constituted overt viewpoint discrimination. I was wrong.
In the year 2000, in a case called Hill v. Colorado, the Supreme Court upheld a one hundred foot bubble or buffer zone which has been imposed around abortion facilities under Colorado law. A Pro-Life sidewalk counselor cannot go within eight feet of anyone entering an abortion facility clinic to counsel, dialogue, educate or protest without consent in Colorado.
It is a bad law – and it gave rise to an even worse Supreme Court opinion. So much for the protection of the Free Speech clause found in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution, at least for those who speak out for the Right to Life of children in the womb and try to help their mothers and fathers choose to have them.
No matter what the Supreme Court said in its specious and poorly written opinion; the result was to sanction viewpoint discrimination. Only Pro-Life speech is precluded. That is wrong and must be rectified. McCullen v. Coakley presents just such an opportunity.
The case originated with a courageous seventy seven year old Massachusetts woman named Eleanor McCullen. She is a mother and grandmother who goes to abortion clinics and peacefully seeks to help the mothers and the fathers understand the truth concerning what happens in every abortion. She also gives out knitted stocking caps filled with educational information on alternatives to abortion.
She and her colleagues believe that the First Amendment is supposed to protect them. They are completely peaceful, do not block access, and offer support, educational information and assistance. They go to where abortions happen in order to be near those who they believe have a right to receive this information. They engage in what should be a protected activity on a PUBLIC SIDEWALK.
However, Eleanor and her colleagues were precluded from exercising their constitutional Right to Free Speech and assembly by a Massachusetts Law which makes it a crime to “enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk” within 35 feet of an entrance, exit, or driveway of “a reproductive health care facility.”
In other words, this law only applies to abortion facilities. Like the horrid legislation in Colorado – which was not only upheld by but made worse in its application – by the bad opinion of the Supreme Court in the Hill case, it presumes that the women and men entering these facilities do not want to hear what is being said. It singles out one viewpoint for censorship. It restricts the active censorship it imposes to abortion facilities. It is repugnant to the Constitution.
The effect is content based restriction of speech on a public sidewalk in front of abortion facilities. It is indefensible under any proper constitutional analysis. It should be eminently clear, to any fair-minded observer. This is all an example of what Jay Sekulow used to call the abortion distortion years ago when he argued the Schenck case. It still is an abortion distortion and it is an egregious violation of the First Amendment.
The people being excluded from speaking on that public sidewalk are only the Pro-Life people. The State and the people who promote abortion are stifling their speech and impeding their free assembly. The people from the abortion facility are exempted from the law by its specific language. They can say anything they want. Eleanor McCullen may soon make history by establishing once again the protections which were wrongfully removed from Pro-Life speakers in the Hill opinion.
Trying to predict the outcome of a Supreme Court case is often a futile gesture. However, given the reaction of the Justices, the questions asked and the reporting coming from trustworthy and reliable sources, it appears that the Court will once again burst the bubble and strike down this blatantly unconstitutional restriction of Free Speech. Buffer Zones for Pro-Life Speech threaten the foundation of Freedom.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
Yesterday I listened to President Obama at the Willard Hotel in Washington as part of the Saban Forum. The president was defending his recent arrangement with Iran over the development of a nuclear weapon. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, who strongly disagrees with President Obama, also addressed the Forum, expressing his doubts and dismay over the agreement that Secretary of State Kerry put together in Geneva. Israel fears the US is allowing Iran time to further develop a nuclear bomb.
After so much conflict in the middle east, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, it seems impossible that there shall be no harm or ruin on the holy mountain. But that is the 2500 year old promise of the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading. How can this be?
We sang with the psalmist today –
Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
The key to peace, any peace, is justice. In the pledge of allegiance we recite: with liberty and justice for all. Sounds simple, but is it? Justice is complicated. It is defined in the Catholic Dictionary as “A virtue, the constant and permanent determination to give everyone his or her rightful due.” But what is everyone’s rightful due? That’s where the difficulty is. We talk a lot about rights, the right to worship God (religious freedom), the right to speak our minds (Freedom of Speech), the right to marry (is it only a man and woman, or can a man marry a man and a woman marry a woman?), bear arms and so on. At the Forum yesterday President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed the right of the Jewish State to exist, but do the Palestinians also have a right to an Arab state? Here’s where it all gets very complicated. Can we ever know what true justice is?
Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,
Well, we have courts of law to work out the finer points of social justice (when the US Supreme Court was designed by Chief Justice William Taft, he called it a “Temple of Justice”), Jesus gave us a very simple, very basic rule to determine what is just for each other: the Golden Rule –
Do to others, as you would have them do to you.
In giving this rule, Jesus was very cleverly expanding on a rule already practiced by the Rabbis which said –
Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. It’s important to point out that Jesus did not rescind (take back) this rule when he gave his Golden Rule. He left this one in place while adding his new one. So, “Do to others what you want them to do to you and do not do to others what you don’t want them to do to you!”
OK: treat the other person just the way you want to be treated.
Now that’s a simple rule. While it may not resolve the big questions about peace in the Middle East, or cases at the Supreme Court, it does give to us guidance in our everyday relationships, in our families, among neighbors, church members, classmates, fellow employees, people of different religions, political parties, cultures and so on.
…do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
It’s when we imagine that we belong to a special group that is better than another that we get into trouble over justice. When we think that because we’re part of this group or that group, that we should be treated better than the other person, that’s when we wind up violating justice, dividing people and causing strife.
So how do we find peace and justice in our relationships?
Just treat the other person just the way you want to be treated.