Mar
21
2014
by Sue Hacker Nelson   |   comments

Each week, we highlight stories from our newsfeed on Prismatic. No account is required to see what we think is worth reading, so visit our profile often! We update it daily so there is usually something new to check out. Here is a sample of what we liked this week:

Diseases once thought eradicated reappear in the U.S. from PBS Newshour
On March 7, the New York City Department of Health issued a warning about an outbreak of measles in northern Manhattan and the Bronx and urged all New Yorkers to make sure they are vaccinated against measles. Canadian officials joined the call for vaccination on March 14, after five new measles cases were confirmed in British Columbia.

NYC: HIV no longer in top 10 causes of death from WABC
There's good news in the fight against AIDS. For the first time in more than 30 years, it is no longer one of the top 10 causes of death in New York City.

Visual arts forge connections among artists, churches and communities from Episcopal News Service
When ceramic artist Linda Vonderschmidt LaStella joined St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Metuchen, New Jersey, she was encouraged to join The Arts at St. Luke’s. But when she attended meetings, “the only things spoken about were performance and music,” she recalled. “At the end of each meeting, I’d go, ‘Where are the ‘visuals’?”

Ancient skeleton is the earliest case of cancer yet detected from BBC News
Researchers have discovered the earliest confirmed case of cancer in a young man who lived in ancient Egypt. The discovery of a diseased skeleton dating back to around 1,200 BC was made at the Amara West site in northern Sudan.

Let us know which articles you liked (or didn't) in the comments!


                    

Mar
20
2014
by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/hobby-lobby-2">Hobby Lobby Case: Can a business owner opt out of federal requirements for religious reasons?</a></h1>

As a member of the Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute for 2014, I have pledged to raise the voice of our faith community on issues of reproductive justice. In Hobby Lobby #1, we asked a few questions based on the summary at Supreme Court blog. In this post, we will look at a few of these questions and their potential impact from a layperson's perspective. 


Can a business owner opt out of federal law requirements by claiming a substantial burden on their exercise of religion?


Supporters feel strongly that they should be able to do so without the associated penalty. By being forced to offer plans that include access to comprehensive contraception coverage for their employees, the controlling owners of the corporations feel they are being forced to pay for treatment that violates their religious beliefs. 

David Green, CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.:

A new government health care mandate says that our family business must provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don't pay for drugs that might cause abortions. Which means that we don't cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs.

[Note: There is considerable evidence that this is not how these treatments work; instead, they work by preventing fertilization. See NPR coverage here and Princeton University here.]

Thoughts:

  1. These are legal medical treatments in the United States.

  2. Medical treatments and health care decisions should be made by individuals and their health care professionals. An employer should never be given the opportunity to intervene and determine a patient's medical care based on their own personal beliefs.  

  3. As members of a free society, we contribute resources (taxes) for public use. However, we do not have the right to require that our dollars only be used for those items with which we agree. For instance, the Catholic Church is adamantly opposed to the death penalty; yet Catholics do not require that their public contributions be separated to ensure they are not used to fund executions.

  4. In light of #3, the provision of medical care that affects only the employee seems comparable. In both cases, public or combined monies are possibly used for a purpose that individuals might disagree with. However, the use of these dollars in this way requires no active participation or expression on the part of the dissenting individual. 

“Anybody who pays taxes can find something deeply offensive in what the government does: ‘I’m not paying my taxes because of torture at Guantánamo. I’m not paying my taxes because of drones.’ People can’t pick and choose their taxes, because you couldn’t have a functioning tax system.”

-Robert Post, a First Amendment expert at Yale Law School

Stay tuned for more information after oral arguments on March 25!


Matthew Ellis is the CEO of Episcopal Health Ministries and a member of the 2014 Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute

Mar
19
2014
by Matthew Ellis   |   comments

As a member of the Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute for 2014, I have pledged to raise the voice of our faith community on issues of reproductive justice. This post is intended to fairly summarize background information on the Hobby Lobby case from my perspective. 


The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby on March 25, 2014. The Supreme Court blog summarizes the issue here:

Issue: Whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq., which provides that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest, allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.

It's clear that for supporters on either side of the argument, this is much more than a simple interpretation of whether or not the owners of Hobby Lobby can exclude contraception coverage from being included in their health plans provided to employees based on a religious objection. Each side seems to see this as the first step on a very slippery slope:

Hobby Lobby and its supporters: David Green, the CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby, Inc., stated the following in an op-ed published by the USA Today on September 12, 2012: 

A new government health care mandate says that our family business must provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don't pay for drugs that might cause abortions. Which means that we don't cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs.

Opponents: Denying employees access to medically accepted health care because of religious objections violates the religious liberty of the employees. In addition, other business owners could claim religious liberty issues to pick and choose which laws they want to obey based on their religious convictions, whether those convictions are genuine or simply financially beneficial. 

Questions to Consider:

  1. Can a business owner opt out of federal law requirements by claiming a substantial burden on their exercise of religion? 

  2. Does the government have a compelling interest to mandate this contraception coverage? If yes, is that burden the least restrictive means to further this interest?

  3. Are employees otherwise entitled to health care coverage of contraceptives by federal law? [Yes, according to the ACA]

  4. Does the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) allow a corporation to deny its employees health coverage of specific contraceptives based on the religious objectives of the corporation's owners?

This is a very emotional case with passionate advocates on both sides. In the following posts, I will examine these questions from a lay perspective, not a legal one. The objective of these posts is not to predict the Supreme Court decision or to anticipate the oral arguments; instead, my goal is to encourage you to become more informed about this case and its potential impact. We will also examine The Episcopal Church's position on the issues relevant to this case. 

Further reading from the Kaiser Family Foundation:
 

Can't get enough health care policy? We've got you covered:
 

Mar
14
2014
by Sue Hacker Nelson   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/friday-roundup031414">Friday Roundup</a></h1>

Each week, we highlight stories from our newsfeed on Prismatic. No account is required to see what we think is worth reading, so visit our profile often! We update it daily so there is usually something new to check out. Here is a sample of what we liked this week:

Who cares for the home-care aides? from CNN
When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the late 1980s, my husband and I were not able to meet her needs by ourselves. Like so many families, we turned to committed and compassionate home-care workers, who supported not only my mother but also the whole family during the progression of my mother's disease.

A Big List of 875 Free Courses From Top Universities: 27,000 Hours of Audio/Video Lectures from Open Culture
In recent months, we’ve enhanced what’s now a list of 875  Free Online Courses from top universities. Here’s the lowdown: Our big list of free courses lets you download audio & video lectures from schools like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, Harvard and UC Berkeley.

Why Do 16th-Century Manuscripts Show Cats With Flaming Backpacks? from National Geographic News
A series of 16th-century manuscripts that have been making waves on the Internet look like a Monty Python version of the Renaissance: They show cats outfitted with flaming backpacks, attacking castles and villages. But the illustrations are legit. They're intended to show how cats and birds could in theory be used to set fire to a besieged city, according to a University of Pennsylvania scholar.

Let us know which articles you liked (or didn't) in the comments!


                    

Mar
13
2014
by Sue Hacker Nelson   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/2014-national-gun-violence-sabbath-weekend-is-march-13-16">2014 National Gun Violence Sabbath Weekend is March 13-16</a></h1>

Places of worship across the nation are joining the Washington National Cathedral and Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a coalition of 50 national denominations and faith-based organizations (including EHM), to remember those who have lost their lives to gunfire, pray for those whose lives have been forever changed because of the loss of a loved one, and to continue the discussion on how communities of faith can work together to help reduce gun violence.

The weekend will include events from coast to coast, including a centerpiece kickoff event at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on the evening of Thursday, March 13.  This event will be live streamed beginning at 4pm Eastern at this link

There will also be a live webcast. At 6:30 pm, in Perry Auditorium, clergy and national leaders discuss how we move forward as people of faith and sustain ourselves in our work to prevent gun violence.

More information on how you can participate can be found here!

tags Guns