Contraception

Oops! Politico confused on 'politically prominent evangelicals' in Trump's health department

Oops! Politico confused on 'politically prominent evangelicals' in Trump's health department

Politico started today with a story on "The religious activists on the rise inside Trump's health department."

At least one reader immediately pointed out a factual error way up high.

Hint: The mistake involved an oft-discussed, hard-to-define group. You got it, it's the evangelicals again.

"This article manages to get the facts wrong in its very first sentence," James Hasson said on Twitter. "Roger Severino is a Melkite Greek Catholic, not an evangelical. That's kinda important if your whole premise is that evangelicals in HHS are "support[ing] evangelicals at the expense of other voices..."

Hat tip to "D Minor" -- another Twitter user -- who alerted your friendly GetReligionistas to Hasson's tweet.

Here's the original wording of Politico's lede:

A small cadre of politically prominent evangelicals inside the Department of Health and Human Services have spent months quietly planning how to weaken federal protections for abortion and transgender care -- a strategy that's taking shape in a series of policy moves that took even their own staff by surprise.
Those officials include Roger Severino, an anti-abortion lawyer who now runs the Office of Civil Rights and last week laid out new protections allowing health care workers with religious or moral objections to abortion and other procedures to opt out. Shannon Royce, the agency's key liaison with religious and grass-roots organizations, has also emerged as a pivotal player.

If Severino isn't actually an evangelical, you can understand Hasson's concern, right?

I did some quick Googling and didn't immediately find any online mention of Severino being a Melkite Greek Catholic. So I asked Hasson for the source of his information. It turns out he had a pretty good one: Severino himself.

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Today in Kellerism: New York Times reporters offer contraceptive mandate apologetics (updated)

Today in Kellerism: New York Times reporters offer contraceptive mandate apologetics (updated)

The Little Sisters of the Poor is an order of Roman Catholic nuns who take care of elderly people, many (if not most) of whom are indigent or nearly so.

As a non-profit, the Little Sisters provide health insurance for their employees, under a so-called "church plan," a special type of insurance for, well, religious organizations. The Christian Brothers, another Roman Catholic order, administers the insurance for the Little Sisters.

Years of back-and-forth charges and counter-charges over a 2011 rule promulgated by the Obama administration Department of Health and Human Services have just about come to an end. The current administration, following the promise made by President Donald J. Trump, is planning to roll back the contraceptive mandate's application to religious groups -- both religious groups (and their branch organizations) and other doctrinally defined schools and non-profit ministries, such as the Little Sisters.

Cue up a dose of Kellerism, the journalistic belief that certain issues have already been decided by American elites and do not need "balanced" coverage. Unsurprisingly, The New York Times, whose onetime editor Bill Keller provided the name for this GetReligion term, is at the head of the class on this story, headlining its piece, "White House Acts to Roll Back Birth-Control Mandate for Religious Employers."

Let's dive in:

WASHINGTON -- Federal officials, following through on a pledge by President Trump, have drafted a rule to roll back a federal requirement that many religious employers provide birth control coverage in health insurance plans.
The mandate for free contraceptive coverage was one of the most hotly contested Obama administration policies adopted under the Affordable Care Act, and it generated scores of lawsuits by employers that had religious objections to it.

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Texas Baptist universities claim Supreme Court victory, but Houston, Dallas papers go mum

Texas Baptist universities claim Supreme Court victory, but Houston, Dallas papers go mum

Um, this is awkward.

This morning, tmatt handled the major angle — that would be the Little Sisters of the Poor — on the U.S. Supreme Court sending several challenges to the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive-coverage requirement back to the lower courts.

My assignment: review major newspaper coverage here in the Southwest of the victory claimed by Christian universities in Texas and Oklahoma that challenged the mandate.

That would be easier to do, of course, if I could find any evidence of such coverage. (Hence, the awkward part.)

"If the Dallas Morning News does not cover the Texas schools, that's amazing," the boss man said in delivering my marching orders. "Ditto for the Houston Post since Houston Baptist University is in the middle of this."

"If the Houston Post covers this, that will be really amazing since it shut down in 1995," I replied.

I will not quote the boss man's exact response to that little attempt at humor. (I kid. I kid.)

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The Little Sisters of the Poor are happy; headline writers (Cue: audible sigh) are not

The Little Sisters of the Poor are happy; headline writers (Cue: audible sigh) are not

If there is anything in the world that, in my experience, mainstream news editors hate it's when stories that they are not all that interested in go on and on and on and on without a clear resolution. Like it or not, many of these stories have to do with religion.

If there is anything in the world that, in my experience, mainstream news editors hate it's when stories that they are not all that interested in go on and on and on and on without a clear resolution. Like it or not, many of these stories have to do with religion.

Right now, in newsrooms across this complex land of ours, there are editors saying: "What? The United Methodists STILL haven't made up their *%^#*)@ minds on ordaining gay people?" (Cue: audible sigh.) 

I used to call the news desk from national church conventions -- left and right -- in the 1980s and editors would say, "Look, I don't have time for all those details. Just tell me who won."

The goal is to write that final headline that Will. Make. This. Stuff. Go. Away.

This brings me, of course, to the Little Sisters of the Poor and the ongoing efforts by the White House to draw a bright line -- in this case a line made of condoms and birth-control pills -- between freedom of worship (think religious sanctuaries) and the free exercise of religion beliefs (think doctrinally defined charities, parachurch groups and schools). 

You can just sense the frustration at The Washington Post as the U.S. Supreme Court pointedly refused to issue a ruling for or against the religious ministries and schools that have been fighting, fighting and fighting against the Health and Human Services mandates requiring them to cooperate in slipping contraceptives and other Sexual Revolution services into their health insurance plans. 

You want excitement in a headline? Well, this isn't it: "Supreme Court sends Obamacare contraception case back to lower courts."

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Obamacare case: RNS reports both sides, though little on those in between

Obamacare case: RNS reports both sides, though little on those in between

Yaayyy! Someone remembered that there are two sides (at least) to a controversy!

And it's not Normal, Moderate Americans vs. Those Nuts on the Right!

The Religion News Service does the right thing in a newsfeature about "two 20-something Christians, both motivated by faith," who were found in counter-demonstrations outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

At issue is that long-smoldering battle over Obamacare: whether it can require religious groups to provide contraceptives that they believe will cause abortions and kill embryonic humans. The Little Sisters of the Poor, along with six other plaintiffs, have taken the feds to court over the matter. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by summer or earlier.

For such a story, many mainstream media would have tried a blend of what tmatt calls the Frame Game and the Two Armies approach. On the liberal side, they'd single out a young, stylish, articulate woman. Her conservative opposition would likely be a middle-aged, overweight male who used bad grammar.

Instead of such cheap devices, the RNS article chooses two young female college students -- both of them even named Katie -- each spelling out sincere beliefs. It shows respect for both, allowing us readers to make up our own minds.

Here is how we are introduced to Katie Stone and Katie Breslin:

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Entangled in doctrine? Will journalists even mention a key fact in HHS mandate cases?

Entangled in doctrine? Will journalists even mention a key fact in HHS mandate cases?

Once again, it's time for a landmark event linked to America's ongoing conflicts between the First Amendment and the Sexual Revolution. In terms of journalism, the key question is whether elite news organizations will actually include in their coverage one of the key facts in these arguments.

So now we await the coverage of today's U.S. Supreme Court discussions related to seven cases in which religious schools and ministries have opposed Obamacare. These religious organizations claim the government is forcing them to cooperate in efforts to undercut doctrines that help define their organizations and their work.

As you read the coverage, look for this fact: Will the stories mention whether or not these organizations ask employees and students to sign doctrinal, lifestyle covenants in order to join these voluntary associations? In a previous post on this issue I noted that, when viewed from the perspective of these religious groups (and their viewpoint is a crucial element in this debate), the question can be stated like this:

... Can religiously affiliated schools, hospitals, charities and other nonprofit ministries be forced by the government into cooperating with acts that violate the doctrines that define their work and the traditions of their faith communities? Should the government actively back the efforts of employees (and other members of these voluntary associations, such as students) to break the contracts and doctrinal covenants that they chose to sign? Again, do Christian colleges have to cooperate in helping their own students and employees violate the covenants that they signed in order to join these faith-based communities? Do the Little Sisters of the Poor need to help their own employees violate the teachings of the Catholic Church?
Flip things around: Try to imagine the government forcing an Episcopal seminary to fund, oh, reparative therapy sessions for a gay student or employee who wanted to modify his sexual behaviors? Why force the seminary to violate its own doctrines?

A crucial church-state term here is "entanglement."

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On Hobby Lobby, explain that 'deeply held religious belief'

On Hobby Lobby, explain that 'deeply held religious belief'

You got so close,Philadelphia Inquirer.

You got so close to a fair, enlightening news story on a Democratic senator who says he opposes abortion but rejects the religious concerns raised by Hobby Lobby in its recent U.S. Supreme Court win.

But here's where you fell way short: in providing crucial details concerning the actual religious objections involved. Your story seems to get politics. Religion? Not so much.

The Inquirer report, of course, was published before a Democratic bill to reverse the high court's Hobby Lobby ruling failed in the Senate Wednesday.

Let's start at the top:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Casey, an antiabortion Democrat, plans to vote Wednesday for a bill that would overturn the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby decision and force most businesses to offer employees the full range of contraceptive coverage, even if the owners raise religious objections.

The Pennsylvanian is siding with fellow Democrats - who argue that they are protecting women's right to decide their own health care - and against many religious groups and Republicans, who say the court ruling protected religious liberties.

Casey, who is Catholic, said Tuesday in an Inquirer interview that he draws a distinction between abortion - which he still opposes - and contraception, which he has long supported and which he believes can reduce the number of abortions.

"The health-care service that's at issue here is contraception, which means prior to conception," Casey said.

But abortion has been a central part of the Hobby Lobby firestorm, which has also touched on health care, religious freedom, individual rights, and election-year politics.

OK, fair enough. Casey believes that the contraception involved here "means prior to conception." But what do Hobby Lobby's owners believe? Don't expect an answer anytime soon in this story.

More from Casey:

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Big news report card: Hobby Lobby and contraceptives

One of the big misconceptions about the Hobby Lobby case (with apologies to Conestoga Wood Specialties) is that the Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts retailer refuses to pay for employees’ contraceptive coverage. Hobby Lobby’s health care plan … includes access, copay-free, to the following categories of FDA-approved birth-control:

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Hobby Lobby, explains the family-owned company’s position:

The Green family has no moral objection to the use of 16 of 20 preventive contraceptives required in the mandate, and Hobby Lobby will continue its longstanding practice of covering these preventive contraceptives for its employees. However, the Green family cannot provide or pay for four potentially life-threatening drugs and devices. These drugs include Plan B and Ella, the so-called morning-after pill and the week-after pill. Covering these drugs and devices would violate their deeply held religious belief that life begins at the moment of conception, when an egg is fertilized.

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How NOT to cover the ruling in the Hobby Lobby case

Hey @GetReligion, read the fear-filled, one-sided piece in @Forbes re: what will happen if @HobbyLobbyStore prevails: http://t.co/O47OaXrg6m @MattBranaugh Are you suggesting there is more than one side to this story?

@GetReligion Surprising, I know. According to this piece, everyone already agrees the government is right and Hobby Lobby is wrong.

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s highly anticipated ruling in the Hobby Lobby case expected as soon as today, Forbes offers a perfect example of how not to cover the decision.

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