1. How Trump Can Help Religious Charities: Adopting the Russell amendment would be a quick win for the new administration., By Orrin Hatch, Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2016, Pg. A13.

The House is scheduled to vote Friday on the National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation is passed annually to set the military’s budget and settle other policy issues. A significant hangup had been Democratic opposition to a provision known as the “Russell amendment,” which would have clarified conscience protections for religious groups that receive federal contracts. The amendment is named after Rep. Steve Russell (R., Okla.), who offered the amendment at the House Armed Services Committee.

In 2014 President Obama issued an executive order providing hiring protections for the LGBT community in federal contracting. This kept in place a religious hiring exemption that parallels existing federal law, but soon after the order was issued administration officials said the exemption would be interpreted so narrowly as to render it useless.

So why did the White House and its allies in Congress work so hard to kill religious-liberty protections, and why did Republicans allow them to do so?

The Russell amendment would have protected what the Obama administration said should be protected. And it would not have overturned the protections for the LGBT community in the president’s 2014 executive order. These safeguards could have survived, and thrived, side by side.

Because Congress was unwilling to enact this language, addressing the ambiguity in the 2014 executive order now falls to President-elect Trump and the next Congress. The country’s new leadership must make a choice: Will it support civil-rights protections that have existed for more than half a century and enable religious organizations to serve the most vulnerable in our communities? Or will it place those vital services in jeopardy for political expediency?
Mr. Hatch is the senior U.S. senator from Utah.


2. Congressional panel recommends prosecution, investigations of Planned Parenthood affiliates, By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, December 2, 2016, Pg. A8.

The special committee of Congress looking into the sale of fetal tissue has recommended that prosecutors investigate one Planned Parenthood affiliate and referred a handful of other organizations for criminal or regulatory probes, a panel member revealed Thursday.

Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast violated both Texas and U.S. laws when it sold body parts to the University of Texas, Rep. Mia B. Love, Utah Republican, said on the House floor, detailing the progress of the Select Investigative Panel that is conducting the probe.

Ms. Love, who revealed the committee’s referrals Thursday, said they include several accusations against StemExpress, concluding that the company was profiting from the sale of fetal body parts and was violating privacy laws.

She also said abortion clinics in Arkansas and Ohio broke state laws by trafficking fetal tissue.

Earlier this year, the panel held StemExpress in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents.


3. House votes to double budget for Planned Parenthood investigation, By Cristina Marcos, The Hill, December 1, 2016, 5:46 PM.

The House on Thursday approved an additional $800,000 for the select committee investigating abortion provider practices, doubling its budget for the year.

Lawmakers passed the measure along party lines, 234-181, as Democrats called for the investigative panel to be disbanded instead.

The panel is now likely to spend nearly $1.6 million in total over the course of just under a year after the House previously approved a $790,000 budget. It is expected to issue a report before it disbands at the end of this year.

The House created the investigative committee in October of last year to investigate Planned Parenthood and abortion providers’ handling of fetal tissue.


4. Archbishop Lori: Trump should protect the freedom to serve, By Archbishop William Lori, Catholic News Service, December 1, 2016.

The federal government has played an unfortunate role in attempting to coerce people of faith to violate their consciences.

President-elect Donald Trump can alleviate the current financial and regulatory burden that weighs heavily on people of faith.

First, the president-elect can – and should – rescind executive orders that effectively exclude faith-based organizations from partnering with the federal government, such as Executive Order 13672.

Second, the president-elect should direct the head of HHS to place an immediate moratorium on the HHS mandate.

The president-elect should also direct HHS to stop enforcing its “transgender mandate” issued under the purported authority of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.

Doctors and hospitals should be free to use their best medical judgment to treat patients who experience gender dysphoria. Health care providers should not be told by the federal government that they must participate in procedures that have the effect of mutilating a patient’s otherwise healthy reproductive organs. Hospitals should not lose Medicare or Medicaid funding over this issue.

Third, the president-elect should rescind the Obama administration’s “guidance” and related memos on Title IX that force schools – including at the K-12 level – to treat students according to their “internal sense of gender.”

Teachers and school administrators at the local level should be free to use their best judgment – working with parents and counselors – of how to deal with extremely sensitive issues involving young children.

Fourth, the president-elect should direct the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to stop enforcing its “gender identity” mandate on homeless shelters, such as many operated by faith-based providers like Catholic Charities.
HUD’s mandate would force women in federally funded homeless shelters to share shower facilities, restrooms and sleeping areas with biological men who “identify” as women. Many times, victims of domestic violence seek a safe haven in shelters. Women and girls should not have to give up their privacy or safety when they go to a shelter.

Our hope is that the next administration will ensure that Americans remain free to serve.


5. The End of Catholic Marriage, By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, December 1, 2016, 12:46 PM, Opinion.

Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on the family, have produced variations in official Catholic teaching on marriage from diocese to diocese, region to region – a “submerged schism,” to borrow a phrase from the Vatican-watcher Andrea Gagliarducci, which thanks to the astringent words of certain bishops is no longer even that submerged.

One reading of Pope Francis’s intentions is that this is roughly what he wanted – a decentralized, quasi-Anglican approach to questions where the church and the post-sexual revolution culture are in conflict, in which different parts of the Catholic world could experiment with different pastoral approaches to confession and communion for the remarried-without-annulment. But at the same time, he and his allies have consistently – if not yet magisterially – expressed their strong preference for the more liberal side of the debate, suggesting that if they imagine a decentralization of pastoral practice, they also imagine it being temporary, with any differences ultimately resolved in favor of a reformed approach to divorce, remarriage and the Eucharist.

But then turn your eyes to the teaching document recently produced by San Diego’s bishop, the Francis-appointed, beloved-of-progressives Robert McElroy, following a diocesan synod convened to discuss the implementation of “Amoris.”

This is a teaching on marriage that might be summarized as follows: Divorce is unfortunate, second marriages are not always ideal, and so the path back to communion runs through a mature weighing-out of everyone’s feelings — the feelings of your former spouse and any kids you may have had together, the feelings of your new spouse and possible children, and your own subjective sense of what God thinks about it all. The objective aspects of Catholic teaching on marriage — the supernatural reality of the first marriage, the metaphysical reality of sin and absolution, the sacramental reality of the eucharist itself — do not just recede; they essentially disappear.

But let’s be clear: The way out of all these difficulties proposed by the bishop of San Diego is a way out of the traditional Catholic understanding of marriage, period. Drop the mention of annulments and the pro forma nod to “indissolubility,” replace “priest” with “pastor,” and there is nothing in his language that couldn’t be reproduced by a Protestant church dealing with the same issues and seeking to reintegrate its remarried members to fellowship and the Lord’s table. It is a plausible approach if you don’t believe what Catholics are supposed to believe about the sacraments; it is perhaps well-suited to Christian traditions that do not. It is reasonable-sounding response to modern realities; so is Episcopalianism. But it is not an approach that treats Christian marriage as actually indissoluble, actually real in a way that transcends the subjective experiences of the spouses, and a Catholicism that takes this approach can claim to believe in its historic teaching on marriage only in the most vaporous of ways — which is to say, not.

But if Pope Francis does not mean his apostolic exhortation to be implemented along the sweeping, come-all-eventually-back-to-communion lines proposed by Bishop McElroy, he should say so, and soon. Because in the diocese of San Diego, there may be something called the sacrament of matrimony, but the church itself plainly does not believe in Catholic marriage anymore.