Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lamar Smith Supports Religious Liberty, but Will He Do Anything about It

Austin area Congressman Lamar Smith replies to my letter regarding the protection of religious liberty from the unconstitutional healthcare laws instituted by the Obama administration:

Dear Mr. Gimenez,
Thank you for taking the time to give me your opinion regarding Department of Health and Human Services regulations and the conscience rights of health care providers. I appreciate hearing from you.
We agree that all citizens should be free to practice their religious beliefs without fear of employment discrimination.
H.R. 1179, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to protect rights of conscience with regard to requirements for coverage of specific items and services. This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, of which I am not a member.
Please be assured that I will have your views in mind as this bill progresses through the legislative process.
For more information on my work in Congress or to send me an electronic message, please visit the 21st District's website, http://lamarsmith.house.gov.
Lamar Smith
Member of Congress

Monday, January 30, 2012

Catholics Mobilize In Austin against Obama Administration's Assault on Religious Liberty

The Catholic Diocese of Austin has mobilized with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to protest the decision of the Obama Administration to order employers to provide health care insurance that pays for sterilization and contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs. The mandates run counter to the Catholic conscience for the protection of the unborn and interfere directly with ability of Catholics to practice their faith.

In other words, this is an all-out assault on the religious liberties of Catholics and those Christians who believe abortion in all its forms is murder.It's also an assault on the Constitution.

Please visit these sites to learn more about the issue and to participate with the protest.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Diocese of Austin

Despite his leading his Sunday homily with a quote from the "Philosopher Karl Marx," my associate pastor Fr. Adrian Chishimba after the Mass read a letter from the Most Reverend Joe S. Vasquez, Bishop of Austin. You can see his letter here and here is an excerpt:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

[I have to comment on Fr. Chishimba's appreciation for the "wisdom" of Karl Marx as a lead-in to his homily. I nearly threw up when he started his lesson that way, quoting a man whose published poems, "Savage Songs," contained an "intense pessimism about the human condition, hatred, a fascination with corruption and violence, suicide pacts and pacts with the devil," according to historian Paul Johnson. Please read more about Marx in the chapter "Howling Gigantic Curses," in Johnson's book "Intellectuals." If he had more knowledge of the atheist, non-Christian, "philosopher," maybe Fr. Chishimba would have questioned the value of a man whose poetic imagery contains such gems as" "We are chained, shattered, frightened/Eternally chained to this marble block of being...We are the apes of a cold God." Reconcile that with a lead-in to a homily, any homily. And I won't even delve into the bloodstained history of Marxism right now. Surely that too is anathema to Fr. Chishimba's appreciation for this "philosopher." Unfortunately, you can never be sure these days with some Catholic priests. ]

Saturday, January 21, 2012

US Supreme Court strikes down San Antonio court's redrawn map

U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Texas Redistricting
AUSTIN - Today, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion which vacated the orders implementing Texas redistricting maps prepared by the Western District of Texas three-judge panel. The opinion also remanded the case back to the Western District of Texas three-judge panel for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion.
This opinion means that currently there are no district lines for State House, State Senate and Congressional districts. By vacating the three-judge panel’s order, the Supreme Court did not reinstitute the legislative maps drawn by the Texas Legislature in 2011. Rather, the opinion states that the three-judge panel is to issue new Texas redistricting maps in a manner consistent with the guidance found in the Supreme Court opinion as to what factors should be considered in drawing these new maps.
The Republican Party of Texas interprets this opinion as meaning that the three-judge panel exceeded its authority by altering district lines where there had not been established a probable basis for constitutional or legal challenge. However, as a note of caution – today’s opinion by the Supreme Court did not order the enactment of maps and lines drawn by the Texas Legislature in 2011. The opinion still allows the three-judge panel to make some alterations to the legislatively drawn maps.
In addition, it should be noted that when the Western District three-judge panel issues new maps for the 2012 elections - these maps are "interim" only. Final maps for Texas redistricting still have to be cleared under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which will take place in front of a Washington D.C. federal panel. At this time, we do not know exactly when new lines will be published by the Western District federal panel, nor do we know where the district lines will actually be.
The RPT applauds the good news that the Supreme Court acted relatively quickly, and that the Justices acted in time to allow for an April unified primary. To keep the current election schedule, it is incumbent upon the Western District three-judge panel to also act expeditiously and redraw the maps in the next week or so. We are hoping that they will do so.

In commenting on the Supreme Court decision, RPT Chairman Steve Munisteri stated, "We are pleased that the Supreme Court recognized that the Western District three-judge panel exceeded its authority in drawing lines for our elected officials. The opinion stated very clearly that the Legislature's intent and judgment is an important consideration and "starting point" in the process of judicially redrawing maps and that the Legislature’s intent should not be overlooked. I am especially pleased that the Supreme Court apparently took notice of the Republican Party of Texas’ advisory which we filed last week and our subsequently filed brief in support of that advisory. In those documents, we alerted the Court to the fact that an expeditious decision was needed in order to maintain our current April 3rd primary schedule, to prevent havoc with our elections, and to protect the parties’ State Conventions as well. Again, we would like to thank Chris Ward and the law firm of Yetter Coleman LLP who did a fabulous job in providing a brief pro bono on a quick turnaround."
Munisteri continued, "I am hopeful that the Western District three-judge panel will issue new maps in time for us to maintain our current April 3rd primary. Until the panel issues new orders, we will not know how many legislative districts will likely be Republican and how many will be Democrat. Thus, any conclusion as to the overall result of today’s ruling by the Supreme Court will have to be withheld until that time. In the meantime, the RPT will continue to advocate for an election schedule that will allow an early April primary."

The Republican Party of Texas also issues the following advisory to all of our county chairmen, precinct chairmen and party activists. At this time, it is not known with certainty whether the April 3rd primary schedule will hold. The timely decision by the Supreme Court today makes it possible for the April 3rd primary schedule to hold, but we will not know this for certain until we get further guidance from the three-judge panel in San Antonio. As soon as we receive additional information from that panel relative to this issue, the State Party will issue an advisory through our website, social media, and email database.
Click here to read the full Supreme Court decision.
Click here to read the RPT advisory brief submitted to the Supreme Court.