Minnesota Catholic bishops object to contraception mandate

AFTERNOON EDITION

This just in from the 12th century. Andy Birkey at The Minnesota Independent reports: “Minnesota’s Catholic bishops sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday urging her department to drop a mandate on health insurance companies to cover birth control as part of their health plans. The bishops argue that entities like Catholic Charities would have to offer insurance plans to their employees that offer coverage for contraceptives or else stop providing health benefits to employees. ‘While we support providing access to those services which can truly prevent disease or disability for woman such as pap smears and mammograms, we join other persons of good will who strenuously object to mandatory coverage for contraceptives and sterilization procedures,’ the bishops wrote in the letter.”

The flux in No Child Left Behind, with Minnesota schools working to get waivers exempting them from standards, gets a look from Megan Boldt at the PiPress. She writes: “Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius wrote a letter to parents this week saying not to worry if their children’s schools show up on the state’s watch list of schools that have failed to meet No Child Left Behind goals. The list of schools facing consequences will be released this morning, but soon it might not mean anything. Minnesota is one of several states that have requested a waiver from the controversial law, which requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. … there are some, particularly business leaders, who are disappointed that Minnesota is asking for a waiver from the No Child law. The premise of the law was to make sure all students —- no matter their race or socioeconomic background — were prepared for life after high school, said Jim Bartholomew, education policy director for the Minnesota Business Partnership. ‘Frankly, it’s a very reasonable expectation. So are we going to put the brakes on that?’ Bartholomew said.” And, frankly, it’s a reasonable expectation that schools be funded adequately enough to provide necessary remedies.

You can check out coverage of the watch list here and here.

Where is Our Favorite Congresswoman? The “job-killing” EPA is at it again. The Duluth News Tribune says: “Scientists at the Natural Resources Research Institute of the University of Minnesota Duluth have received a $2 million grant to study the base of the Great Lakes food chain — tiny phytoplankton that serve as the primary energy for fish in the lakes. The grant, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will help researchers track the number and makeup of the tiny organisms.”

Did you see the list of which Minnesota schools’ graduates have the highest mid-career salaries? the Business Journal says. No. 1 is not exactly a surprise.

The role of — tax exempt — churches proselytizing for (and against) politicians and social policies got a nice workout on Cathy Wurzer’s MPR show this morning. Among the back and forth between Pastor Greg Boyd (in favoring of enforcing laws against such activity) and Pastor Brad Brandon (con), was this:
“Brandon: The Bible says that when the righteous rule, the people rejoice, and when the wicked rule, the people mourn. We are given a great freedom in this country to choose who rules over us. And if I can influence, I’m not imposing my will on anybody else, but I am persuading and I’m called to persuade as a pastor. I’m persuading people to see that there are righteous rulers out there and there are certainly, from both political parties, both political parties, there are —.

Wurzer: Isn’t it righteous in the eye of the beholder, too?
Brandon:
It could be, but this is what I’m saying. My eye, my pulpit, my church, my congregation, and so I have to do what I feel is right, and I have to say what I think is right. Now again, I think that there are wicked people out there on both sides of the ticket.
Boyd: First, I don’t see how you being a Christian, or anyone being a Christian, makes you smarter on politics, but I would see your point if it was as unambiguous as someone being righteous and wicked, but are you really going to say that people who oppose Michele Bachmann or oppose anybody are wicked?
Brandon: I didn’t say that … I simply said that …    

Boyd: Well you said, you quoted the verse, righteous and wicked, so here’s the righteous one and here’s the wicked one.
Brandon: What I simply said was that there are wicked people out there. And it’s my job — .
Boyd: And you’re going to tell us who that is?
Brandon: Yeah, I could, from my beliefs …
Boyd: So, ‘Here’s the righteous candidate and here’s the wicked one.’
Brandon: Don’t you speak your mind every morning when you get up, every Sunday morning when you get up (to the pulpit)?
Boyd: From the Bible, from Scripture, from kingdom.
Brandon: And I do the same thing.”
BTW, I, too, have a list of “wicked” people I’d like to see thrown out of or banned from public office. I just gotta get me a church …

Also over at MPR, Euan Kerr reports on the reopening of the Weisman Art Center: “The Weisman’s architect, Frank Gehry, will attend a gala celebration of the reopening on Saturday. The WAMdemonium open house for the public will be on Sunday. A mind-bending building, the Weisman’s sculpted exterior, with curved and jutting metal walls suggests an irregular, maybe even cramped interior. The galleries inside are conventionally shaped and spacious — large to the point where one wonders how they fit inside. The expansion, which has pushed out the back of the building, heightens that sensation.”

Here’s hoping these critters avoid the fate that befell that other video star, Hope the Bear. Josephine Marcotty’s Strib story says: “One of the most ambitious loon research projects ever conducted will allow bird lovers to track 13 young Minnesota loons as they make their way south to warmer climes. The loons, which are wearing electronic tracking devices, are gathering as part of large groups on Minnesota lakes, preparing to make their way to the Gulf Coast, where they will live for the next two years as they mature. A website created by the researchers tracks each loon in the study as it moves from lake to lake. Scientists will use these and other loons from Wisconsin and Michigan to determine what effect last year’s Gulf oil spill will have on the birds’ long-term health.”   

There’s been a third abduction attempt in Minneapolis. Matt McKinney of the Strib reports: “The would-be abductors have targeted girls ages 12, 14 and 16. Two occurred in the afternoon and one in the evening. In two, the girls had to fight their attacker to get away. Investigations continue on all three cases, which do not appear related, according to Sgt. Steve McCarty, a Minneapolis police spokesman. He said police have focused on a suspect in the most recent crime, which took place Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the 3200 block of N. 6th St. In that case, a 16-year-old girl told police she was walking when a man driving a truck pulled up and tried to make her get in. She refused, and he got out of the truck and forced her in. They drove a short distance before she found a knife in the truck, fought off the man and escaped, according to police.”

Further “proof” that “gummint never creates jobs”: The Feds have ponied up a $105 million loan for a cellulosic (non-feed crops) ethanol plant in Iowa. A Strib/wire story says: “The plant, being built by Poet LLC, of Sioux Falls, S.D., is expected to produce up to 25 million gallons of ethanol per year from corncobs, husks and stalks in 2013. Preliminary site work will begin this fall on the $250 million plant, Poet said. Poet’s was one of three new loan guarantees for green-energy projects announced last week even as the agency faced scrutiny over $528 million in government backing for solar panel maker Solyndra, which went bankrupt this month. Others new loan guarantees were for a geothermal energy project in Nevada and a wind farm in New Hampshire. Farmers around Emmetsburg last year began harvesting crop biomass and delivering it to Poet’s 22-acre storage yard next to existing corn-ethanol plant. Poet says it eventually hopes to build similar cellulosic ethanol plants at its 26 other Midwestern corn-ethanol plants, including four in Minnesota.

This has to affect Summit Avenue real estate prices. According to the AP, the Minnesota Department. of Agriculture is going to release wasps (not WASPs) on the leafy, upscale boulevard … to kill off the emerald ash borer. “The stingless wasps are one of the few natural enemies of the emerald ash borer in their native Asia, so the Minnesota Department of Agriculture plans to release them this afternoon as part of a broader pest management plan. Other weapons include removal of infested trees and treating trees with insecticides.”

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/30/2011 - 02:44 pm.

    Rev. Brandon has a point. And to help him, all we need to do is eliminate churches’ tax-exempt status (at all levels) and he can prattle away from his pulpit all he wants. A nice side-effect would be more revenue for the government, including cities such as St. Paul, which have more tax exempt property than any city reasonably can support.

    But then, I suppose the Rev. wouldn’t care for this version of pay to play.

    PS Where can I buy some stingless wasps for my neighborhood? It’s pretty unlikely that the City of St. Paul is going to buy any for my neighborhood. (Yeah, I know: Summit Ave. is an historic area and mine isn’t.)

  2. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 09/30/2011 - 03:02 pm.

    So those Catholic bishops are opposed to mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptives, but they certainly weren’t opposed to priests abusing alter boys; they actively tried to conceal those crimes.

    In their view, contraception and family planning are bad, but sexual abuse is good.

  3. Submitted by Patrick Shull on 09/30/2011 - 03:29 pm.

    Catholic church really needs to get out of the dark ages and come to the 21st century. For so many reasons, one contraception and birth control is actually a good thing in so many ways and they need to realize this now.

    Churches in America should not be exempt from any laws or taxes that this country has for everyone else. This would help pay most of our debt and probably get us out of debt with China with one year if every religion had to pay taxes.

    For the child left behind, well last time I checked I think that it should be mandatory for every person in America to be able to read, write, spell, and to add and subtract numbers. Geez, last time I checked even gas stations are trying to make sure that their employees know how to do the simple things in life and if you can’t you don’t work. I think this law is a joke, but at the same time I have no clue why its even a law in the first place when it should be one of those unwritten ones. To make sure that teachers are teaching and students are behaving and learning, we need to install cameras in every classroom and then we will know what is going on and if the teachers are doing their jobs and also not screwing the students and making sure the kids are learning and if they are trouble makers than take it up with those individuals and if that don’t work than go after the parents. But again this costs money to install cameras and also the unions are against this and the privacy idiots are also against this even though its public property. But the general public and unions are dumb and don’t want to change anything because its working out so well.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/30/2011 - 04:07 pm.

    “[Don’t worry if their children’s] schools show up on the state’s watch list of schools that have failed to meet No Child Left Behind goals….it might not mean anything.”

    I’m guessing that any parent of a struggling kid who gives two shakes about their kids would have been expecting it, and for those that don’t care it *never did* mean anything….

    Parents of kids attending schools that have been meeting and exceeding the standards won’t care either way; they know their kids are headed for success, and as Judge Smails once said “The world needs ditch diggers too”.

    And most imporatantly to the defenders of the status quo (Teachers unions and their leftist lapdogs), not meaning anything means they can scurry back under their rocks and wait for that sweet retirement as planned.

  5. Submitted by David Greene on 09/30/2011 - 05:07 pm.

    The health insurance/religious organization interplay isn’t so clear cut to me, and frankly, it’s insulting to have my faith characterized as some dark ages torture chamber.

    Now, I do not agree with the Church’s absolutist position on contraceptives. I think they are both necessary and beneficial. HOWEVER, I do understand some of where the Church is coming from. I believe contraceptives can indeed lead to sexual exploitation of women, particularly in the high school and college years. They make it very easy for men to treat women as sex objects with no repercussions and no responsibility for the man’s actions. It makes it all the easier for men to pressure young women into having sex.

    Birth control in the context of a committed relationship is a good and helpful thing. Birth control in the context of one night stands may not be.

    So I can sympathize with an organization that does not want to promote that kind of use. Shouldn’t religious organizations be free to practice their beliefs? If they don’t want to offer contraceptive coverage, make them say so explicitly and applications can decide whether they can live with the benefits provided, just like in any job.

  6. Submitted by Fluffy Rabinowitz on 09/30/2011 - 05:15 pm.

    The Catholic Church has no problem paying for Viagra- which is much more expensive than birth control pills.

  7. Submitted by Phil Dech on 09/30/2011 - 06:29 pm.

    Go Carleton! Reminds me of the cheer we used at games whenever St. Olaf would score against us:

    That’s all right! That’s okay! YOU’LL be working for US someday!

  8. Submitted by will lynott on 09/30/2011 - 07:07 pm.

    Um, would it surprise those Catholic bishops to know that just about all of their female flock are taking contraceptives? Just asking.

    The so-called “No Child Left Behind” law (a risible misnomer if ever there was one) was a misbegotten and surpassingly stupid initiative from the very beginning. The sooner that last remaining spark of life in it winks out, the better.

    Oh, and Pastor Boyd–you go, man!

  9. Submitted by Annie Grandy on 09/30/2011 - 11:55 pm.

    I do wish that bunch of dom’s who refer to themselves as bishops would butt out of women’s lives. But then they already have, haven’t they? So what could they possibly know about the need for birth control? Last time I checked women are able to make their own decisions, they would just like them to be paid for the same as men’s are (viagra).

  10. Submitted by Jean Schiebel on 10/01/2011 - 09:47 am.

    I agree it is time to remove tax exemption from all churches.
    Maybe then we wouldn’t see arena like congregations popping up all over.
    Lets begin with Reverend Hammond’s Living Word church in Brooklyn Park.

  11. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/01/2011 - 10:55 am.

    Pastor Brandon demonstrates the arrogance which so typifies those of his “conservative” “Christian” ilk in that he reveals in his comments about “my pulpit, my church, my congregation” that he has set himself up in place of God (and is incapable of realizing that he has done so).

    It is in fact, NOT HIS pulpit, HIS church, nor HIS congregation. All these things belong to God.

    Pastor Brandon is clearly incapable of conceiving of the possibility that God might disagree with him on anything, but seems, rather, to assume that every thought, every image, every feeling, every intuition of which he becomes aware, having arisen within someone as blameless as himself, MUST BE, by virtue of its presence within him, perfectly in harmony with whatever God has in mind.

    Sadly, I have also heard “liberal” preachers evidence, in the midst of their sermons, a decided inability to discern where the words of Jesus left off and their own words took over – demonstrating an inability to separate and take ownership of their own thoughts and opinions as separate from and inevitably inferior to those of Jesus, himself.

    If your own pastor, like Pastor Brandon, is completely willing to tell you exactly “what God wants you to do,” I’d suggest you might want to run the other way as fast as you can, because that pastor has lost his or her orientation (that of a mere human imperfectly acting in the service of God) and is now only capable of proclaiming what “I” (he or she) wants you to do (and blaming it on God even when God has nothing to do with it, which is far too often the case).

    The other favorite Biblical dodge of such pastors is proclaiming that their own interpretations of scripture are inerrant because “God cannot disagree with God”, which only means “No one is allowed to question what I proclaim to be true. I am clearly, unequivocally correct in my views on what the Bible says, because my views come from (my unacknowledged and largely-invisble-to-me) interpretations of the Bible and it is simply inconceivable (to me) that God could EVER disagree with what I believe God meant by what my religious ancestors reported that God said or did.”

    A better approach for church leaders would be to seek to help the members of their congregations to make solid Spiritual connections with God and learn to discern which of the things that seem to arise as inspirations from God are true and which might be coming from their spiritual connection with passionate friends or from the urges arise from within them; from their own unacknowledged and unmet needs (which generally render those “inspirations” to be false and self-serving).

    The primary purpose of the Bible itself and of the churches and denominations which seek to use it as a foundational document is to point beyond itself and themselves to the God who is far bigger (and far more subtle) than we humans can ever fully comprehend.

    It is tragic that so few recognize this; that lacking sufficient Spiritual connections themselves, and lacking the patience to “let go and let God,” so many follow the very human tendency to insert themselves in place of God and try to force the world, their churches, and their congregations to meet their own needs and follow their own “wisdom” rather than encouraging their members to act out what God is truly inspiring them to be and to do at any particular moment in time.

  12. Submitted by Lauren Maker on 10/01/2011 - 04:59 pm.

    Perhaps it has not occurred to the bidhops that not all of their female workers may be Catholic, and by asking for this exemption, the Church is seeking to use the government to impose their religious views on their non-Catholic employees.

    As we’ve seen, it’s not like the Church itself seems to have a conscience or is composed of persons of good will, as comment #2 has noted.

  13. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 10/03/2011 - 11:30 am.

    It would be fine if the “ditch digger” remained a “ditch digger”. What causes all sorts of problems is when a ditch digger becomes a 6th District Congressperson and reeks havoc on the rest of us.e

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