WBEZ | religious freedom http://www.wbez.org/tags/religious-freedom Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Christian activist feuds with suburban park district over a nativity scene http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/christian-activist-feuds-suburban-park-district-over-nativity-scene-104049 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/2105928599_347c483aff.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A controversy over a holiday display in a suburb west of Chicago could have a simple resolution: a little paperwork.</p><p>In early November, Christian activist Jim Finnegan offered to donate a large nativity to the Arlington Heights Park District. The town&rsquo;s annual holiday display includes a Christmas tree and dreidels, but Finnegan was not satisfied.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like the difference between Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas,&rdquo; said Finnegan, who lives in Barrington and used to be a resident of Arlington Heights. &ldquo;We stand up for what the true meaning of Christmas is, and that&rsquo;s the birth of Christ.&rdquo;</p><p>In addition to being the only current member of the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee in the western suburbs, Finnegan is a board member at the Illinois Family Institute and a co-founder of a group that advocates against abortion rights in Ireland.</p><p>When the park district said they didn&rsquo;t want Finnegan&rsquo;s nativity, he called up his lawyer, Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society. The <a href="https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/about/" target="_blank">Thomas More Society</a> is a Chicago-based law firm that represents people who oppose same-sex marriage and abortion.</p><p>Finnegan and Brejcha are both connected to a group in Springfield that advocated successfully to place a large nativity scene on the state capitol five years ago. In the 1980s, Finnegan was involved in a battle over the nativity scene in Chicago&rsquo;s Daley Plaza that resulted in <a href="http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=19882197700FSupp1497_11966.xml&amp;docbase=CSLWAR2-1986-2006" target="_blank">a lawsuit</a>.&nbsp;That nativity scene went up this month without a hitch. Finnegan said the various nativity scenes he has advocated for were paid for by an anonymous donor.</p><p>The pair sent a letter Nov. 20 indicating that Finnegan&rsquo;s first-amendment rights were being violated.</p><p>But Timothy Riordan, the attorney for the Arlington Heights Park District, said Finnegan had simply never filled out an application for a permit. Instead, he asked the district to accept a donation of a nativity they didn&rsquo;t want.</p><p>&ldquo;In our view there&rsquo;s no real controversy,&rdquo; Riordan said.</p><p>He sent Finnegan&rsquo;s lawyer an application for a park use permit on Nov. 26.</p><p>&ldquo;He wanted to donate the nativity scene to the park district,&quot; Riordan said. &quot;The park district indicated it wasn&rsquo;t interested in accepting that donation. The park always had a holiday display and just didn&rsquo;t think it was consistent with the display they&rsquo;d had in the past. If you want to use a park for any purpose, there&rsquo;s a form.&rdquo;</p><p>Finnegan said Tuesday that he plans to apply for a permit to place the nativity in a different part of the same park.</p><p>&ldquo;I trust that the story will have a happy ending,&rdquo; Brejcha said. &ldquo;I congratulate Arlington Heights on having a beautiful park display. It&rsquo;s a positive step that they may be hospitable to the nativity scene after all.&quot;</p></p> Tue, 27 Nov 2012 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/christian-activist-feuds-suburban-park-district-over-nativity-scene-104049 The GOP's dystopian healthcare plan http://www.wbez.org/blog/achy-obejas/2012-02-17/gops-dystopian-healthcare-plan-96502 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-17/AP120216021093.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-17/AP120216021093.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 438px; " title="House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California (AP/Carolyn Kaster)"></p><p>Don’t be fooled by the crazy carnival around Obama’s contraception rule. The GOP’s main mission here is not to protect religious freedom. It’s simply to destroy Barack Obama and his signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.</p><p>Yesterday was a red letter day for their efforts: California Congressman Darrel Issa held a hearing on the president’s new rules for employer provided insurance and contraception. But he didn’t call it that -- he bald-faced called it <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/02/16/issa_s_first_panel_of_witnesses_on_contraception_hearings_included_no_women_.html%20">a hearing on “religious freedom</a>” and lined up a host of male witnesses to tell him everything he wanted to hear. Women witnesses? No, not necessary, said Issa, who apparently doesn’t think women can opine on even his ostensible subject of religious freedom.</p><p>An attack on women? Of course. But, above and beyond, it’s missile pointed at the Affordable Care Act. But here’s the damn kicker: The rule on contraceptives that the Republicans are freaking out about -- the one Obama just eased to please the Catholic Church and the religious right and the loons in the Republican party -- has been in place since December 2000.</p><p>That’s right -- the contraceptive rule Obama just eased was the gift of <a href="http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/controversial-obama-birth-control-rule-already-law">George W. Bush</a>. Did anyone scream about this before now? Did the Catholic Church bellow and roar in 2000? Hell no. In fact, DePaul University, the world’s largest Catholic university (and where I work), has been offering contraceptives through its insurance plan for years.</p><p>From <em>Mother Jones</em> Magazine: “In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn't provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don't offer prescription coverage or don't offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC's interpretation of the law, you can't offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.”</p><p>In fact, 26 states -- including <a href="http://www.nwlc.org/resource/contraceptive-equity-laws-your-state-know-your-rights-use-your-rights-consumer-guide-0">Illinois and red states such as Arkansas, Georgia, and West Virginia</a> -- have made contraceptive equity the law of the land and required insurance companies to provide it.</p><p>So this is a scandal, <em>now</em>?</p><p>In their most recent move, the GOP is upping the religious angle in their <a href="http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/republican-plan-give-bosses-moral-control-health-insurance">attacks on the Affordable Care Act</a>. Missouri’s Sen. Roy Blunt has authored a coda to the law called the “<a href="http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/292318-s-1813-amendment.html#document/p5/a44791">Conscience Amendment</a>” which would allow <em>any</em> employer -- not just religious or religiously affiliated employers but <em>anyone</em> -- to opt out on any part of the healthcare for <em>any reason</em> if it’s based on “moral grounds.”</p><p>In other words, Tom Cruise, as a Scientologist, could deny mental health benefits to anyone in his employ because Scientologists don’t believe in psychiatry. Anyone with an ax to grind about premarital sex could deny employees pre-natal care. A Christian Scientist could deny all healthcare to all employees.</p><p>Does that sound like the United States or some weird dystopian fiction?</p></p> Fri, 17 Feb 2012 16:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/achy-obejas/2012-02-17/gops-dystopian-healthcare-plan-96502