A First Amendment Victory vs Obama’s HHS mandate

A small business run by practicing Catholics has prevailed over the big government of President Obama.  By “small” I mean small enough (under 50) so that it could evade the Obama birth control mandate simply by not providing health insurance.  But it wanted to provide health insurance coverage, so it took Obama and Company to court by claiming their right to practice their religion in accord with the First Amendment.

This case has special significance for me.  One day some years ago when Sheila and I were still leading CCL, a generous donation arrived from someone completely unknown to any of us.  It was from a former quasi-fundamentalist Protestant minister who first learned about our work from an Episcopalian minister with whom he was doing social work.  The minister gave him some copies of our CCL magazine.  Reading them, our friend told himself, “This is good stuff and it’s Catholic,” and then he realized that he had never previously used the words “good” and “Catholic” in the same sentence.

When he and his wife had married, it never occurred to him that there could be a moral issue about birth control; it was just a matter of what method to use.  But he was a convinced Christian with an open heart and mind, and when he saw the Christian case against contraception and for natural family planning when needed, he (and she) embraced it.  Then they decided that if the Catholic Church was right on this issue, they owed it either to the Church or to themselves to investigate the truth claims of the Church.  Once again their open hearts and open minds were enlightened by the grace of Faith, and they entered into full communion with the Church.  Wayne and Patty Hepler became practicing Catholics

Eventually, we invited Mr. Hepler to be on the CCL Board of Directors, and he later served as its Chairman for several years.  Then, while still very much interested in our efforts to support Humanae Vitae, he also saw a need for another apostolate, and he founded and built the St. Thomas More retreat center.  The family hardwood business continued to flourish, and it provides employees with health insurance that excludes any coverage for abortion and contraception.

With the imposition of the Obama HHS birth control mandate, the Hepler business filed suit for protection from the mandate so that they could continue to exercise their First Amendment rights of the free exercise of their religion.

On April 19, 2013 Judge Joy Flowers Conti of the U.S. District Court for the Western District for Pennsylvania ruled in favor of plaintiffs Wayne Hepler and Carrie Kolesar, his oldest daughter.  I understand that this is the first such case decided on First Amendment grounds, and that provides great hope for many others in similar situations.

Congratulations to Wayne and Patty Hepler, their children, and their employees for their fidelity and perseverance, and to their attorney for a job well done.


You can read more about this at http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/health-care/item/15189-family-run-businesses-successfully-defend-faith-against-obamacare-mandate.  It first appeared at www.LifeNews.com, but I was unable to find it there today.   However, that site’s archives has several previous articles on this subject dating back to September 2012.

The Boston Massacre

FREEDOM, NOT FEAR, MUST WIN OUT.  Such was the headline on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial page today concerning the Boston Massacre last Monday, April 15th.

Of course, every sane person finds the terrorist bombings horrible, but that may be about as far as universal agreement will go.  The Enquirer opines that the terrorists, whoever they might be, “resent that this is the freest land on Earth, that we can travel at will, that individual rights and freedom are enshrined in our founding, that we have freedom to pursue prosperity and that the rights of individuals are paramount.”  That may be true, but it may also be far wide of the mark.

If the terrorist has been influenced by Islamists, it might be more helpful to look at some of the objections made by Islamists as well as moderate Islam against the American and European culture of death, a label used by many sane people including Blessed John Paul II.  At the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, Mother Teresa noted that if a culture teaches that mothers can kill their own babies, how does it argue against the killing of innocent children and adults?  Whenever we have a tragedy such as Sandy Hook or Boston, can we ignore and suppress the fact that the free citizens of this country are using their freedom each day to kill some 4,000 innocent babies?

Internationally, the United States is aggressive in promoting abortion in cultures that have previously stood against the murder of the unborn.  When the abortionists have pushed their agenda at the United Nations and other international assemblies, we know that the Vatican has gained key pro-life support from traditionally Muslim countries more than from those in the once-Christian West.  We know that Islamists have complained about the American promotion of pornography, excessively revealing clothing, and women in roles not approved by Islamists.  Female runners might fit their criteria for bombing.

I would like to suggest that some progress might be made in the war against terror by examining the Western behaviors that lead certain Islamists to allege justification for terror.  In short, why not provide a smaller target?  This would not be an act of cowardice.  It would simply be an act of humility.  Cannot America admit that it has been horribly wrong to promote abortion, contraception, and pornography?  Can’t America admit that it is counter-productive to ridicule the modest-dress codes of traditional cultures?

Breastfeeding and Social Justice

Is it proper to call breastfeeding a matter of social justice?  I submit that when something satisfies an essential life-need, is easily available, cheap, and can make a significant difference in the health of those who are helpless to help themselves, it becomes a matter of justice to provide that “something” — which is breastfeeding in the case at hand.

There is a huge problem, however, in writing or talking about this because justice-talk raises questions about morality and guilt and habitual family practices.  So I will start by noting that neither my wife nor I were breastfed.  That is, this was not part of our respective family traditions.  My wife’s introduction to breastfeeding was providential.  In our first pregnancy, her childbirth instructor urged all the prospective moms to breastfeed and to attend La Leche League meetings, and Sheila followed those instructions.

That was a real blessing to our children and to her.  La Leche League touted many of the advantages of breastfeeding for the baby, but today researchers have found even more advantages for both babies and mothers.  For example, now we know that after menopause the former breastfeeding mother still enjoys stronger bones and thus fewer hip fractures.  This gets very practical.  Sheila still plays tennis and has had five hard falls on tennis courts with no damage.  Yet we have known of much younger women who have broken legs or hips from what seemed to be much easier falls.

My concern is that people who should be getting this information are not getting it.  We share this information in our natural family planning manual and course, but we may be close to unique.  How many Catholic women do you know who were urged during their preparation for marriage to breastfeed their children?  And by “urged” I mean they at least briefly reviewed some 20 advantages for the baby and another 8 for the mother, and they were also told about the natural baby spacing effects of ecological breastfeeding.

This is where the justice issue comes up.  I think that the advantages to the baby are so significant that all those who are preparing couples for marriage and for family life should be doing their best to encourage this form of baby-care.  And since birth control has become a political as well as a moral issue, it should also be stressed that the frequent nursing of ecological breastfeeding is a natural baby spacer.   That’s God’s plan for spacing babies, and it requires no abstinence.  I think teaching these things is a simple matter of justice for helpless babies and for married couples, all of whom need this information.  It is such a matter of justice worldwide that I hope that Pope Francis will address it.  For more on breastfeeding and NFP, see the website under my signature.

I encourage you to read an excellent two-page essay on the Eradication of Poverty by Ruth Lawrence, M.D. because Dr. Lawrence really demonstrates what I am trying to say.  I am not trying to lay a guilt trip on anyone who hasn’t breastfed or properly instructed others in their care because of ignorance.  But what Dr. Lawrence and I are saying is that the great benefits of breastfeeding-in-general and especially ecological breastfeeding are now common knowledge among those educating others about marriage, baby-care, and the fertility cycle.  Or at least they should be.  This is the 21st Century, not the bottle-crazed mid-20th Century.

I will close with the last three lines from the Lawrence essay:

Breastfeeding is the most precious gift a  mother can give her infant.
If there is illness or infection, it may be a life saving gift.
If there is poverty, it may be the only gift.
John F. Kippley

Religion and morality in the public square

This is my first blog at this WordPress site. I have selected the quotation of our first President, George Washington, as the tag line of this site. He provides excellent proof that the Founding Fathers of the United States of America believed that religion and morality played not only an important but even an indispensable role in our national life.

Almost everyone says he or she want peace, but what is peace? The best definition comes from St. Thomas Aquinas: Peace is the tranquility of due order. Morality is about the due order that ought to exist between us human beings.

In the 1920s sexual theorists who called themselves progressives and revisionists thought that efficient contraception was a key to marital and social happiness. In 1929 secular humanist Walter Lippmann did not answer them with the Bible; he simply appealed to common sense by noting that their theories followed the logic of birth control but not the logic of human nature.

Future blogs will review current events in the light of these and other working principles.