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Archive for December, 2012

religious freedom (2)Good news! A second court ruling showed skepticism that the Obama administration intends to enact a meaningful “accommodation” of the conscience rights of non-profit groups battling the HHS insurance mandate.

A Washington, D.C. circuit Court of Appeals overturned lower courts and ruled Tuesday that the lawsuit of two plaintiffs– evangelical Wheaton College and Catholic Belmont Abbey College— will not be dismissed.

HHS has denied the colleges exemptions from the mandate that health insurance provide free abortion-causing drugs and sterilization. And although the Obama administration had previously announced plans to create a new rule, or accommodation, it has not yet taken the steps necessary to make that promise legally binding.

The Court of Appeals decided the colleges’ cases should stay alive while it scrutinizes whether the government will meet its promised deadlines. In fact, it ordered that HHS must appear in court every 60 days until its promised accommodation has become part of the official Obamacare “preventative services” regulatory regime!

Over 100 individuals, schools and businesses have sued the HHS mandate. Just last week, a New York district judge resisted the Obama attorneys’ claim that the grounds for these religious liberty lawsuits will soon disappear once the accommodation is made. District Judge Brian Cogan didn’t buy that logic; he allowed the Catholic Archdiocese of New York lawsuit to go forward, saying,

“There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”

Of course no serious person believes that any promised tweaking of the mandate can eliminate its essential undermining of religious freedom. The mandate flies in the face of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires that only a ‘compelling’ governmental interest has any potential to infringe on religious exercise, and then only if carried out in the least intrusive way.

The Obama administration attorneys have only a liberalizing-abortion agenda, and no true compelling interest, for forcing free coverage of morally offensive “preventive” services.  They have offered ridiculous justifications for not granting exemptions, including:

  1. a person loses religious liberty rights once they run a business;
  2. religion is limited to worship inside a building and serving only those who believe as you do.

KANSAS CONSCIENCE PROTECTIONS
Kansas lawmakers have secured important conscience protection for:

  • taxpayers;
  • private employers;
  • medical personnel and facilities.

In 2011, Kansas passed pro-active legislation forbidding the establishment of elective abortion coverage in any anticipated state health insurance “exchange’ (a kind of marketplace for policies). Eighteen other states have passed similar bans.

Also that year, Kansas lawmakers passed a measure to protect employers’ right to refuse to cover any abortions (other than those to save the mother’s life) in their company health plans. Under this law, employees can buy a special, separate “rider” policy for elective abortions. This law is similar to ones other states have had for decades which have been upheld in court. The Kansas law is in effect but the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has sued, and the matter is headed for trial next year.

Under the 2012 Kansas Healthcare Rights of Conscience Act, health professionals cannot be fired, and medical facilities cannot be sued, for not performing abortions, or for not providing referrals for them. Conscience decisions on sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs are also protected.

Kansas has established significant laws to protect life and conscience, but the push to normalize abortion and restrict religious liberty continues.

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Stan Hazlett

Stan Hazlett

The director of Kansas’ state attorney ethics division, Stan Hazlett, is facing serious charges of his own, basically that he was “dishonest,” “unfair,”and broke the rules governing discipline of attorneys.While similar charges against Hazlett are part of the Phill Kline defense (discussed below), scathing allegations against Hazlett were filed in a May 2012 legal brief (that fills a three-inch deep binder) by Alma attorney, Keen Umbehr. Umbehr says he has been victimized by Hazlett,

who pressed for disciplinary action against Umbehr without having received the required decision from a 3-person disciplinary review panel that there was “probable cause” that ethical violations were committed.

Umbehr was the subject of a complaint to Hazlett initiated by the director of the state department of women’ corrections. Umbehr had shown the temerity to expose the scandal of sex between guards and inmates, including drugs and a procured abortion.

The resulting explosive Topeka Capital Journal newspaper series on conditions inside the women’s prison ran in October 2009. It was written by reporter Tim Carpenter, who accompanied Umbehr when meeting with jailed clients. The scandal triggered federal investigations that continue today.

Umbehr was threatened with loss of his law license for not volunteering that Carpenter was a reporter. After two years, it was found that he had not violated any professional ethics.

Umbehr’s filing shows how Hazlett stonewalled verifying whether the ethics charges were being handled according to the rules. Umbehr alleges the initial required review panel never even convened and that Hazlett lied repeatedly about it. Umbehr’s action against Hazlett now proceeds to a panel of the state Supreme Court.

As relates to former AG Phill Kline’s protracted case, Kline’s attorney, Tom Condit issued a demand letter to Hazlett Nov, 21, for additional documentation on the working of Hazlett’s office in light of the derogatory comments tweeted by an appellate law clerk (see post here). Condit’s letter draws attention to numerous failings by Hazlett, in pursuing Kline:

There are seemingly infinite ironies between the many failings and omissions of your [Hazlett] office and …the standard of absolute perfection required of all of Mr. Kline’s acts and communications.”

Condit notes that— as in the Umbehr case— Hazlett failed to secure a written “probable cause” finding for Kline. When asked for the report, Hazlett asserted that review panel results were “oral.”  This is the same excuse Hazlett gave Umbehr, although the Rules clearly state that the panel must commit their findings to the record.

Also noteworthy in the Kline case, is that Hazlett’s own investigators did not find Kline guilty. And Hazlett ignored the “not guilty” findings of a special inquisition of Kline in 2007 and the ruling of Wichita Judge Owens on related matters.

So what compelled Hazlett to take the path he did with Kline?  The results of the legal complaint filed by attorney Umbehr may verify whether Stan Hazlett has been violating the very ethics he is in charge of enforcing.

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