February 8th, 2012
By: Brianna Keilar
After an avalanche of criticism, the White House is working on a way to thread the needle on a new health care policy which will require all employers-including religious institutions-to cover contraception in their health insurance plans.
Policy makers are angling for a loophole that would ensure women receive coverage without forcing Catholic charities, hospitals and institutions to pay for it, two senior administration sources told CNN Wednesday.
The administration is especially interested in the Hawaii model, in which female employees of religious institutions can purchase contraceptive coverage directly from the insurer at the same price offered to employees of all other employers.
Sources said policy makers are also looking at laws in 28 states that have similar coverage requirements.
One source prominent in the progressive Catholic community said the Hawaii plan is a “reasonably good vehicle to try” for a solution that can allay the concerns of Obama’s Catholic allies.
Another favored plan, the source said, would be legislation that would allow women employed by religiously-affiliated employers to get contraceptive insurance from the exchanges created under Obama’s sweeping health care reform, rather than from their employer’s insurer.
But the source added the administration has not yet reached out to leaders in the progressive Catholic community to work on a compromise.
Senior administration sources said while the Hawaii plan has appeal, it would not work nationally because the federal government cannot compel insurers to provide a side-contraception plan.
As for a timeframe, policymakers will announce their decision when the Department of Health and Human Services officially releases the rule, sources said.
The new policy stirred an outcry last week among conservatives and religious groups–particularly Catholics, whose teaching opposes abortion and the use of contraceptives.
While churches are exempt from the rule, hospitals and schools with religious affiliations must comply. The new policy goes into effect on August 1, but religious groups will have a year-long extension to enforce the rule.
While the regulations have caused a firestorm of criticism, a new study released by the Public Religion Research Institute shows the majority of Catholics support the administration’s plan. Nearly 6 out of 10 Catholics think employers should be required to provide this kind of insurance coverage. Among Catholic voters, support for the measure is slightly lower at 52%.
The administration first signaled it was softening its stance on the rule on Tuesday, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the administration was seeking alternative solutions for the issue.
“The president’s interest at a policy level is in making sure that this coverage is extended to all women because it’s important,” Carney said. “(On) the other side is finding the right balance…concerns about religious beliefs and convictions. So we will, in this transition period …seek to find ways to implement that policy that allay some of those concerns.”
On Wednesday House Speaker John Boehner called the policy an “ambiguous attack on religious freedom” and announced the chamber would pursue legislative action to prevent the rule from going into effect.
“If the president does not reverse the department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people, and the constitution, that we’re sworn to uphold and defend, must,” Boehner said on the House floor, adding the Energy and Commerce committee would spearhead the effort.
The Republican presidential candidates have also been vocal about the policy on the campaign trail. Frontrunner Mitt Romney has said he would eliminate the rule on his first day in office.
But on Thursday the White House hit back repeating an argument used by Romney’s GOP opponents and pointing to a Massachusetts law in effect while Romney was governor that required hospitals-including Catholic ones-to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.
“This is I think ironic that Mitt Romney is expressing – criticizing the president for pursuing a policy that is virtually identical to the one that was in place when he was governor of Massachusetts,” Carney said.
Romney, however, vetoed the original bill, and his veto was overridden by the state legislature. Responding to Carney’s remarks on Thursday, the candidate said Carney needs to “check his history.”
“I worked very hard to get the legislature to remove all of the mandated coverages, including contraception,” Romney said during a media availability. “So quite clearly he needs to understand that was a provision that got there before I did and it was one that I fought to remove.”
March 4th, 2011
The New York Times
By: Jennifer Medina
A priest accused of having a long-term sexual relationship with a teenage girl, writing her decades later to ask for forgiveness and declare that he was a sex addict, is being removed from ministry in a parish, and the diocese’s vicar of clergy has also resigned, officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Friday.
The priest, the Rev. Martin P. O’Loghlen, was once a leader in his religious order and was appointed to an archdiocesan sexual abuse advisory board, although officials at both the order and the archdiocese knew at the time about his admission of sexual abuse and addiction. He served on the board, which was meant to review accusations of abuse by priests, for at least two years in the late 1990s, according to church and legal documents.
Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said church officials planned to announce the removal of Father O’Loghlen from his current parish in San Dimas on Sunday. Church officials decided to act after being contacted by a reporter about the priest’s history of sexual abuse.
Mr. Tamberg said in a statement that officials of the priest’s religious order assured the archdiocese in 2009 that Father O’Loghlen was fit for the ministry. He said that the archdiocese’s vicar for clergy, Msgr. Michael Meyers, resigned on Friday. Monsignor Meyers had been in the position since July 2009 and it was his job to grant clergymen what are known as faculties to serve as priests.
The Los Angeles Archdiocese, led by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, has been rocked by sexual abuse accusations for years. In 2007, it agreed to a $660 million settlement with 508 people who said that priests had sexually abused them as children.
“The failure to fully check records before granting priestly faculties is a violation of archdiocesan policy,” Cardinal Mahony said in a statement. “We owe it to victims and to all our faithful to make absolutely certain that all of our child protection policies and procedures are scrupulously followed.”
Father O’Loghlen had sex on several occasions with Julie Malcolm in the 1960s while she was a student at Bishop Amat High School in nearby La Puente, Ms. Malcolm said. Nearly three decades after the abuse ended, Father O’Loghlen tried to reach Ms. Malcolm, who was then living in Phoenix.
After receiving several phone messages from Father O’Loghlen, Ms. Malcolm filed a complaint with the Diocese of Phoenix and later filed a lawsuit against the priest and his religious order, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In 1999, she settled the lawsuit for $100,000, Ms. Malcolm said.
“I am deeply sorry for our becoming involved and readily accept the fact that I was the responsible one in our relationship,” Father O’Loghlen said in a five-page handwritten letter dated June 23, 1996. “Clearly, I was the one in power position. If I had not made a move nothing would have happened between us. I sincerely hope that there were some moments of joy for you in our relationship, but ultimately it caused you much significant pain.”
Father O’Loghlen goes on to say that since Ms. Malcolm filed her complaint, he has undergone psychological evaluations, which determined that he is “not a pedophile” or a “sexual predator.” But, he adds, “I do have a sexual addiction.”
Copies of the letter and other documents were provided to The New York Times by Joelle Casteix, the southwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who had received them from Ms. Malcolm.
Father O’Loghlen, 74, was ordained in Ireland in 1961. He began teaching at Bishop Amat later that year and remained there for six years. In 1967, around the same time of his involvement with Ms. Malcolm, he moved to Damien High School, a boys’ school nearby, where he was vice principal and principal for more than 10 years.
In 1995, Father O’Loghlen became the provincial leader in the western region for the religious order of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. After he contacted Ms. Malcolm in 1996, leaders in the Los Angeles Archdiocese and officials with the religious order based in Rome exchanged several letters.
According to copies of those letters, Father O’Loghlen admitted to molesting Ms. Malcolm and told his superiors that he was undergoing counseling. Msgr. Richard Loomis, then the vicar for clergy in Los Angeles, told officials in Rome that he would not remove Father O’Loghlen from the archdiocese but that his service should be limited.
February 11th, 2011
By: Trevor Strokes
Jerry Crowden was on his way for a vacation on July 4, when a vehicle ran a red light and hit the pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Sheffield.
His wife, Darlene, escaped the upside-down vehicle and Jerry, with a broken neck, pulled his daughter, Jennifer, and her friend from the wreckage.
Members of his church community rallied around and established e-mail lists and phone trees to help pray for the pastor in need.
Doctors at UAB said if the pastor survived, he would become paraplegic.
“With prayers, he is not!” said Lecia Ford, one of Crowden’s supporters.
The majority of Americans share the view that prayer has the power to deliver good health, a notion that scientists have tested and later repudiated.
Four out of five Americans believe that prayer works regardless of what a person actually believes, according to a May Gallup poll. The poll included a random sample of 1,049 adults interviewed in May via landline or cell phone.
Researchers have looked into whether prayer can impact a person’s health, a field critics say is rife with pseudoscience.
That doesn’t sway the feelings of the majority of Americans.
“My feeling is that prayer is very beneficial to anyone, especially one who is going through difficult times,” said Dr. Eddy Garner, director of missions for the Colbert/Lauderdale Baptist Association, who was familiar with Crowden’s case. “The important thing is that we are asking our living God to intercede.”
American and South African researchers concluded that prayer can physically improve the health of those being prayed for, especially when the prayer is done physically close to the person in need.
The researchers concluded that rural residents in Mozambique who were hearing or visually impaired showed improvements when they received prayer that involved direct bodily contact, also referred to as proximal prayer.
“We chose to investigate ‘proximal’ prayer because that is how a lot of prayer for healing is actually practiced by Pentecostal and charismatic Christians around the world,” said Candy G. Brown, associate religious studies professor at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Brown led the study that was published in August in the Southern Medical Journal that is based in Birmingham.
The research was funded by the John Templeton Foundation, an organization that has received criticism from the scientific community as bringing religious questions into scientific inquiry.
“I read through the Southern Medical Journal’s latest prayer study, and it brought to mind a similar attempt by the journal’s editors to gather a lot of public attention by publishing a seriously flawed study of the healing power of Christian prayer (the editors seem indifferent to the efficacy of prayers of other faiths),” wrote Andrew Skolnick via e-mail.
Skolnick is the former executive director for the Center for Inquiry’s Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health and served as an associate editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association for nine years.
The Southern Medical Journal published a study in 1988 titled, “Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population.”
July 2, 2010
Maitland-based Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit Thursday to overturn a ban on Bible distribution on public school campuses in Collier County. According to the Liberty Counsel, the Collier County School Board allowed World Changers to distribute free Bibles to students during off-school hours on Religious Freedom Day, but now the school officials claim that Bibles do not provide any educational benefit to the students and the distribution should stop.
The Collier County School District policy specifically allows the distribution of literature by nonprofit organizations, but only with the approval of the superintendent and the Community Request Committee, whose members are appointed by the superintendent. Approval was denied to World Changers, despite the fact that its distribution included a disclaimer of any school endorsement or sponsorship and that receiving a Bible was purely voluntary.
“How sad that on the eve of Independence Day, when we celebrate the religious and political freedom our forefathers won for us at the cost of much blood and great sacrifice, we are compelled to sue to protect the right simply to make free Bibles available to students in public schools,” said Mathew D. Staver, Liberty Counsel founder.
April 29, 2010
by Kirsten Cole
Organ donation has become a vital way to save lives around the world, but a vast shortage of donors continues to mean people are losing their lives while on waiting lists.
But there is a unique proposal that could change all that.
New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky nearly lost his daughter, Willie, at 4 years old when she needed a kidney transplant, and again 10 years later when her second kidney failed.
“We have 10,000 New Yorkers on the list today waiting for organs. We import half the organs we transplant. It is an unacceptable failed system,” Brodsky said.
To fix that, Brodsky introduced a new bill in Albany that would enroll all New Yorkers as an organ donor, unless they actually opt out of organ donation. It would be the first law of its kind in the United States.
“Overseas, 24 nations have it. Israel has it. Others have it. And it works without a lot of controversy,” Brodsky said.
Currently one of the biggest obstacles to being a donor is while 9 out of 10 are favorable to it only 1 out of 10 is signed up to be a donor.
On Wednesday, the New York Organ Donor Network honored families who’ve donated the organs of loved ones with a planting ceremony at New York Botanical Gardens. Jean Carnevale had a timely talk about organ donation with her 27-year=old son before he died in a fatal car accident.
“Michael and I had a conversation two weeks prior on the way to a family member’s funeral,” Carnevale said.
And Emily Melendez and her siblings made the choice for their 68-year-old mother.
“Although I lost my mom, she lives on in three other people,” Melendez said.
“The thing about organ donor is we have the cure right now in our hands. It’s not like trying to cure cancer,” said Elaine Berg of the Organ Donor Network.
Legal experts said if the law is passed, it will likely face challenges in court from family members or some religious groups.
“I think it’s a little heavy handed. I think we should have the right to choose that,” said Rachel Rogers of Crown Heights.
But many are hoping this law will help people to make a choice — one way or the other.
Currently, you can make your organ donation wishes known by signing the back of your driver’s license, signing up online or through a health care proxy.