June 30, 2014
Employers Allowed to Use Religious Beliefs to Refuse to Comply With Law Requiring Contraception Coverage
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of closely held corporations that sought an exemption to a federal law requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception. The owners of the plaintiff companies – Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based craft supply store chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania furniture company – cited religious objections to contraception as a reason not to comply with the law.
The American Civil Liberties Union, religious organizations, other civil rights and women’s health groups, business leaders, and members of Congress filed friend-of-the-court briefs arguing that the companies’ owners cannot impose their personal religious beliefs on employees to withhold coverage for health services with which they disagree.
"This is a deeply troubling decision. For the first time, the highest court in the country has said that business owners can use their religious beliefs to deny their employees a benefit that they are guaranteed by law," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. "Religious freedom is a fundamental right, but that freedom does not include the right to impose beliefs on others. In its ruling today, the Court simply got it wrong."
More information about these cases can be found at:
June 26, 2014
MDHS approves ACLU, ACLU of MS and MS Center for Justice Request for Delay of House Bill 49 Implementation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2014
JACKSON, Miss. – On June 24, Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) agreed to a request to delay the implementation of House Bill 49, a law that would require TANF applicants to complete a questionnaire and possibly be drug tested, until the end of a public hearing comment period. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi (ACLU of MS) and the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) made the request on June 20 citing the Mississippi Administrative Procedure Law that states an agency is not permitted to adopt the law “until the period for making written submissions and oral presentations has expired.”
“We have taken the position that all provisions within this new law must be well defined. If not, the economic harm and family sanctions would be exponential and the livelihood of TANF recipients would be left to chance,” said Charles Irvin, Legal Director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “The public has the right to engage in the functions of government in order to create a more perfect union and any opportunity to ease the burden on our most at risk citizens must be advanced.”
ACLU, ACLU of MS and MCJ identified legal and practical problems with the proposed rules and regulations related to the enactment of H.B. 49. The concern arises from the uncertainty of who will shoulder the costs of the screening as well as the treatment, the effect on households and children when individual TANF recipients fail to comply with the screening requirements and the privacy worries in the non-disclosure policy, among others.
Beth Orlansky, Advocacy Director for the Mississippi Center for Justice, said H.B. 49 is a prime example of what happens when we put action before due diligence.
“The bill was rushed through to approval with little thought given to how it would affect the lives of those who fall under its authority,” Orlansky said. “This puts some of the most vulnerable children in our state at even greater risk. The state simply is not ready for the realities of this bill.”
The law was initially scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2014. It will be delayed due to a scheduled public hearing on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. at the Hinds County Extension Office on 1735 Wilson Boulevard in Jackson. The hearing, which is open to the public, will include commentary from TANF recipients, legislators and representatives from multiple advocacy organizations.
Find more about the hearing.
March 12, 2014
With the Mississippi House of Representatives on the verge of passing a bill that would legalize discrimination by commercial businesses throughout the state, more than 350 clergy leaders from across the country released a statement denouncing the bill and challenging their fellow Christians who support it to examine their conscience.
The “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which would allow businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, is closely modeled on the Arizona bill that made national news last month when it was vetoed by Republican Governor Jan Brewer under a storm of controversy.
The signers represent hundreds of congregations and include Mississippi clergy leaders along with some of the most high-profile national evangelical and mainline protestant leaders in the country, including:
Bruce Case, Senior Pastor of Parkway Hills United Methodist Church in Madison, MS; Rev. Austin Hoyle, Youth Minister and Associate Pastor of Parkway Hills United Methodist Church in Madison MS; Rev. Michael McLaughlin, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, MS; Rev. Richard Cizik, President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good; Rev. Dr. James C. Perkins, President-elect of the Progressive National Baptist Convention; Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL; Noel Castellanos, CEO Christian Community Development Association; Mr. James Winkler, President of the National Council of Churches; Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and more.
The statement read, in part:
“These misguided efforts eerily echo Jim Crow laws that robbed African Americans of their basic human dignity. Businesses once barred not only blacks, but Jews and Asians from buying homes in certain neighborhoods or eating in restaurants even after Supreme Court rulings overturned segregation laws.”
Signers of the statement applauded those lawmakers who are rejecting the discriminatory legislation that would return to Mississippi to an era when religious claims and government policy were used to further Jim Crow laws.
Religious leaders’ stances on this issue will also shape the future of the church. A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 55 percent of white evangelical Protestant Milliennials believe religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.
The full list of signers and the full text of the statement are below and can be found here. Signers’ affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.
As evangelicals, mainline Protestants and Catholics we are alarmed by the pending Mississippi bill that would allow virtually anyone, including businesses, to discriminate against customers in the name of religious liberty. We call on Mississippi and all states to abandon legislation that threatens democracy, civil rights and religious freedom itself.
These misguided efforts eerily echo Jim Crow laws that robbed African Americans of their basic human dignity. Businesses once barred not only blacks, but also Jews and Asians from buying homes in certain neighborhoods or eating in restaurants even after Supreme Court rulings overturned segregation laws.
We must not allow faith to be used in the service of discrimination.
When we seek to codify legislation that discriminates against any class of people—no matter our diverse theological beliefs about marriage—we tarnish the treasure of religious freedom and the highest ideals of our democracy. Most of all, we are complicit in violating the Golden Rule that unites us as Christians—to love God and our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Pastor Bruce Case
Parkway Hills UMC
Rev. Austin Hoyle
Parkway Hills UMC
Youth Minister and Associate Pastor
Rev. Michael McLaughlin
First Presbyterian Church
...Read more on Faith in Public Life here.
February 12, 2014
Mississippi Legislators are once again playing politics with women’ lives and intruding into women’s private, medical decisions. Presuming that they know better than a woman and her doctor, legislators are considering a new ban on abortions after 20 weeks.
Every pregnancy is different and we cannot know all the circumstances surrounding a personal, medical decision to have an abortion. What we do know, is that women’s health and well-being should be supported and valued.
Two years ago the legislature and Governor Bryant took aim at the state’s only abortion provider and passed a bill requiring that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Although they claimed – wrongly - that the bill would protect women’s health, they were clear that their purpose was to end abortion in Mississippi. The Jackson Women’s Health Clinic took the state to court and has been granted permission to operate pending the outcome of the litigation.
Mississippi is not the first state to consider a 20 week abortion ban. South Carolina is considering a ban and the Arkansas Legislature approved a measure banning most abortions at 12 weeks and another banning most abortions at 20 weeks. Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed both bills, saying they were unconstitutional, but lawmakers overturned both vetoes in bipartisan votes. The Arkansas ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the 12 week ban. Texas and Arizona have also passed 20 week abortion bans. The Arizona law was struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and in January the Supreme Court refuse to hear the case, leaving the Ninth Circuit decision in place.
Mississippi’s bill, HB 1400, trivializes women’s health and well-being by creating a cookie cutter approach to women’s healthcare and ignoring individual circumstances of Mississippi women and families. Imagine a woman who is happily planning for a new addition to her family and develops complications. Instead of being able to make the best decision for herself and her family, HB 1400 would force her to make the decision that legislators in Jackson choose; a decision that does not take her personal circumstances into consideration, a decision that requires her doctor to practice medicine based on politics, not best medical practices.
Women in Mississippi face new challenges to access safe legal abortion every year. We must stand firm; just because legislators don’t like the decision a woman might make, they cannot deny women access to basic constitutionally protected health care and the ability to work with her doctor to make the best decision, based on her own individual circumstances.
Mississippi already has some of the most restrictive laws in the country. It is time for our legislature and Governor to start putting women’s healthcare first and take positive measures to ensure every Mississippian has access to quality healthcare. If they really care about women’s health they should be working to expand Medicaid and implementing comprehensive medically accurate sex education programs in our schools. It is time to stop playing politics with women’s lives.
November 10, 2011
Posted by Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, Reproductive Freedom Project
The people have spoken: Twice in South Dakota; twice in Colorado and now in Mississippi. Red state, blue state — it doesn’t make a difference. The message to government is clear: Women’s lives matter. Respect for women, respect for their decisions about their health and families, respect for their basic rights, matters. So keep out of our bedrooms, our doctors’ offices, and our personal lives and do your @##@$*#& job already.
In case you missed it, the people of Mississippi voted yesterday to reject a so-called “personhood” amendment that would have criminalized all abortions without exception, including treatment for ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, as well as some of the most common forms of birth control. No one believed they could do it and we owe this landmark victory--and a huge debt of gratitude--to the people of Mississippi who fought tirelessly and against all odds to defeat this extreme and dangerous initiative. Mississippi, reputed to be the most conservative state in the nation, now joins South Dakota (which has twice voted to reject abortion bans) and Colorado (which has twice voted to reject a “personhood” amendment) in saying enough is enough—stop playing politics with women’s lives.
Indeed, while this is a huge win for Mississippi, the effects of their victory will and should be felt nationwide. This past year saw an unprecedented legislative attack on the reproductive rights and health of women and families around the country. We saw bans on insurance coverage for abortion; laws that tried to strip any and all public funding from organizations that provide, or even talk about, abortions; and a law that would require any woman seeking an abortion to visit a crisis pregnancy center to be lectured by anti-abortion activists about why her decision is wrong. If anything, the vote in Mississippi tells us there is a huge disconnect between these politicians and the people they are supposed to represent. Yesterday’s vote should make it crystal clear that the American people do not support this extremist, anti-woman, anti-family agenda. The American people trust women, and it’s about time their elected representatives do so, as well.
November 02, 2011
Republican Gov. Haley Barbour said on Nov. 2 he's concerned about Initiative 26, an extreme measure that could have unintended consequences.
"I believe life begins at conception. Unfortunately, this personhood amendment doesn't say that," Barbour said on MSNBC. "That ambiguity is striking a lot of pro-life people here as concerning."
Barbour also made comments to Fox News and local media. For the full story, read here.
October 14, 2011
Oct. 18 Community Forum and Discussion
American Association of University Women, Cleveland Branch
Delta State University Alumni House in Cleveland, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Oct. 19 Save The Pill Rally!
Oxford Courthouse Lawn, 5 p.m.
Oct. 20 Forum on Initiative 26 and Initiative 27
Sponsored by the Biloxi Branch of the NAACP
Church of the Redeemer in Biloxi, 6 p.m.
Oct. 20 Election Forum
Tougaloo College Pre-Law Society, 6 p.m.
500 West County Line Road
Tougaloo, MS 39174
Oct. 25 Personhood and You: Implications of Initiative #26
Barnard Observatory, 7 p.m.
Student Union Dr. and North Lane, adjacent to the Grove in Oxford
Oct. 25 Amendment 26: Exploring the Implications of MS's Personhood Initiative
Mississippi College School of Law, 6 p.m .
151 E. Griffith St., Jackson
Oct. 31 Ballot Initiatives Town Hall
New Hope Baptist Church in Greenville, 6 p.m.
Nov. 1 Vote No To Amendment 26 Dance In!
Drill Field @ Mississippi State University
Starkville, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 Community Forum on the Legal Consequences of Proposition 26
The University of Mississippi School of Law, Room 1078 at 5 p.m.
Nov. 3 Ballot Initiatives Town Hall
Mound Bayou Community Facilities Building in Mound Bayou, 6 p.m.
For more information about the events, contact Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh, 601 354-3408. None is sponsored by the ACLU of Mississippi.
September 30, 2011
Oct. 13, 2011
A townhall meeting was held at Jackson State University to discuss Initiative 26. More than 150 came out as ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Nsombi Lambright and others talked about the dangers the proposed constitutional amendment would have on women and families if it is passed on Nov. 8.
The initiative, which attempts to give legal rights to fertilized eggs, would ban some commonly used forms of birth control, in vitro-fertilization and abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. The measure has been publicly opposed by medical associations and other organizations. Lambright explained to the gathering that the initiative would allow government intrusion in decisions that should be made by women and their families.
The implications of the measure are serious. The initiative would force women whose lives are at risk to carry a pregnancy to term or risk criminal charges. The threat of criminal charges also would loom over doctors who must consider whether to perform life-saving treatments on women. Lambright urged participants to educate others about the perils of Initiative 26, and to vote "No" on Election Day.
The event was sponsored by the Jackson State University School of Social Work.
September 30, 2011
By Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh
I have worked to protect the rights of women across the country for nearly 20 years. As an organizer for a national women’s rights organization, I traveled around the country working beside activists to prevent anti-abortion extremists from shutting down abortion clinics with their rhetoric, their bodies, and sometimes their bullets.
I have been outside hundreds of clinics watching extremists spew hate and judgment on women and their families entering these facilities while holding a Bible to justify it. I have seen parents with up to a dozen children ranging from newborn to teens standing in 100-plus degree weather for eight hours holding signs (that most of them couldn’t even read or understand) in an attempt to intimidate or shame women from getting an abortion. I have worked with federal, state, and local law enforcement in an effort just to get existing laws enforced at clinics which are legal businesses and more importantly – healthcare facilities. I have taught doctors, nurses, and receptionists how to protect themselves and their children from harassment in their homes, in their children’s schools, and at the healthcare facilities.
In all these years of working tirelessly with loving caring human beings who risk their lives every day to provide safe, legal, and sometimes medically necessary healthcare to women – nothing would stop the bullet that killed my friend and someone I admired – Dr. George Tiller. He was killed while attending service at his church.
Today, we are seeing a different kind of “bullet” aimed at the heart of women. This past legislative session was frightening for those of us who fight to defend the dignity of women across this country. We are still making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes and we face assaults on our fundamental rights to control our own bodies. We watch legislators in our states and in DC spew vitriol about us in an attempt to legislate our womb and our ability to access services. While the men hold these great debates about us, we are getting breakfast for our kids, heading off to our second job, meeting with our children’s teachers, and caring for our aging parents while trying to scrape up enough money for the rent that is due in a few days.
Mississippi extremists want to take away the right to abortion and birth control by passing the “so called” Personhood Ballot Initiative #26. It is dangerous and is an all out assault on women and their families. If passed, this amendment would not only ban abortion but also birth control and many assisted reproductive healthcare procedures which include in-vitro fertilization. The initiative will insert government control over our wombs, our ability to choose when and how many children we have, and we will be criminally investigated when we have a miscarriage.
I still have nightmares about my friend being murdered. I see the bullet exit the weapon in slow motion and I dream that I put my hand up and stop it. Initiative #26 is a bullet. The bullet is moving slowly through the air in Mississippi. This time, I am putting my whole body up to stop it. Will you?
Don’t allow this initiative to pass. Individuals across the state are banding together and getting out there to educate voters on the broad and sweeping implications of Initiative #26 if passed. Organizations are educating their members and mobilizing to the streets. Even if you oppose abortion, this “bullet” will explode into a million pieces and it WILL hit you too. Get out there and talk to your friends, family, church, and civic organizations. Make a case for stopping the bullet. On November 8, use your hand to stop the bullet and vote NO on Initiative #26. If you sleep in on November 8, you might just wake up to a nightmare.
September 15, 2011
The Mississippi Supreme Court refused Sept. 8 to prevent proposed Initiative Measure Number 26 from being placed on the November 2011 ballot. The initiative attempts to redefine the term “person” in the Mississippi Bill of Rights to apply at the moment of fertilization. The court did not rule on the constitutionality of the initiative, but instead said that it would not rule on any proposed measure before the election.
The initiative was challenged by a Mississippicitizen because it failed to comply with the ballot initiative process as set forth in the Mississippi Constitution, which forbids making modifications to the Bill of Rights.
“We're disappointed with the ruling,” said Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “A measure will be on the ballot that will allow the government to dictate what is a private matter that's best decided by a woman, her family and within the context of her faith.Mississippivoters should reject this intrusive and dangerous measure.”
“This initiative is extreme and could severely undermine women's access to birth control, in vitro fertilization and life-saving medical procedures,” said Bear Atwood, legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “This measure is harmful to women and has no place on the ballot.”
“It is unfortunate the court decided it could not review the initiative at this point in time, but the Mississippi Constitution is clear -- you cannot make any changes to the Bill of Rights through the initiative process,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
“As a lifelong Mississippian, I am disappointed that this broad and intrusive measure has been allowed on the ballot,” said Cristen Hemmins, plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the initiative. “I call on all voters to vote ‘no' on #26. The government should not be interfering with the personal and private health care decisions of Mississippi families.”