Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Notre Dame Flip-Flops Again, Will Cover Contraception and Abortifacients

    In a stunning reversal, the University of Notre Dame has retreated from its decision to stop providing contraception to students and faculty through the university health-care plan. This decision is just the latest evidence to suggest that the Notre Dame administration is less committed to its Catholic identity and mission than it is to conforming itself to the demands of popular culture and societal pressure.

    In 2013, the university brought one of the most high-profile lawsuits against the Obama administration in the wake of the Health & Human Services contraception mandate, which required all employers — regardless of religious or moral objections — to provide birth control and abortifacient drugs to employees free of charge.

    Just last month, the HHS under President Donald Trump expanded the existing exemptions to that mandate, a move that resolved over 70 pending lawsuits (including Notre Dame’s), which were filed to seek relief from the coercive policy on religious grounds.

    In late October, Notre Dame announced that it would end contraceptive coverage for faculty and students after receiving this exemption. The reaction from most quarters of the media, and from small groups of left-leaning Notre Dame graduate students, was exactly what one might expect — general shock and horror over Notre Dame’s “War on Birth Control,” magnified by the university’s status as the largest employer (so far) to eliminate coverage.

    But these brave birth-control warriors needn’t have troubled themselves. If they had paid any attention to the controversies brewing at Notre Dame in recent years, they would’ve had plenty of evidence to reassure them that it’d only be a matter of time before the university managed to find a way to reconcile its Catholic convictions with its desire to blend in among its Ivy League peers.

    And critics wouldn’t even have had to wait very long. It took no more than week for Notre Dame to announce that it would, in fact, not be ending contraceptive and abortifacient coverage for its employees and students, after all. Very conveniently, the university’s insurance provider, Meritain Health, graciously agreed to continue funding contraception indefinitely.

    According to Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown, the university had believed that Meritain would automatically discontinue no-cost coverage at the end of the year, and that was the university’s reason for its previous announcement.

    “The university’s interest has never been in preventing access to those who make conscientious decisions to use contraceptives,” said Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins on Tuesday. “Our interest, rather, has been to avoid being compelled by the federal government to be the agent in their provision.”

    There are a couple of key problems with these claims. For one thing, allowing Meritain to continue providing free-of-cost birth control of its own accord is precisely the “accommodation” offered to Notre Dame by the Obama administration just after the HHS mandate went into effect — and that accommodation was rejected by Notre Dame as insufficient.

    In other words, Notre Dame sued the federal government not just for relief from the mandate, but also for a more substantial exemption than the weak accommodation the Obama administration proffered. Under that proposed arrangement, Notre Dame would sign a form saying that its religious beliefs precluded it from providing contraceptives and authorizing its insurance provider to do so instead.

    According to Notre Dame’s own lawsuit, this accommodation was “contrary to its faith” because it still compelled the university to “facilitate practices that Catholic doctrine considers morally wrong.” By allowing Meritain to continue covering birth control, is the university essentially admitting that its claims in court were untrue?

    This leads to a second issue with Notre Dame’s latest gyrations: They are founded on the fiction that Meritain is operating completely independent of the university’s control. But presumably the insurance plan in question is subject to the university’s input and approval. Meritain surely could not continue providing contraception if Notre Dame told it not to.

    On this point, a particularly revealing quote from another Notre Dame administrator, Paul Browne: “We have made the decision not to interfere with the provision of contraceptives administered by insurance administrators and funded independently.”

    If Notre Dame truly objected to playing any role in distributing contraception and abortifacient drugs to its employees and students, it could very easily direct Meritain to cease providing those services altogether. The university has evidently chosen not to do so. But its administrators continue trying to make it seem as if the matter is entirely out of their hands. It remains unclear whether the university has formally filed for an accommodation, which would allow Meritain to be reimbursed by the federal government for the cost of contraceptive services.

    Notre Dame alumni group Sycamore Trust perhaps put it best in a bulletin announcing this latest flip-flop: The decision to continue providing contraception and abortifacients is a “breathtaking repudiation of [the university’s] judicial representations” and a move that “has set the precedent for this sort of insurance system for surgical abortion, sterilization, and any other procedure that has a significant constituency in the university community.”

    We need not get into the ugly history of the recent controversies that have led many to believe that Notre Dame grows less committed to its Catholic mission by the year. It is enough to say simply: Notre Dame has once again shown itself to care more about the verdict of powerful cultural influencers than about upholding the convictions of the faith it purports to represent.


Hollywood Actress: Why I Homeschool My Kids

My name is Sam Sorbo. I’m a mom to three wonderful children, and the author of “They’re YOUR Kids: An Inspirational Journey from Self-Doubter to Home School Advocate.”

Home schooling seems like a radical idea—but only because we are conditioned to think of it that way. Why? Because most of us attended school. But after nine overhauls of our public education system in less than 30 years, according to Pew Research Center data, the U.S. has fallen in world standings for education, to 39th in math and 24th in reading. We are officially behind Estonia. … The schools aren’t getting the job done.

If you feel incapable of teaching your own children it’s because you were taught that you were not capable. Don’t handicap your child by insisting on sending her to an institution for eight hours a day.

We need to rethink education in this country. My mission is to empower parents to be the lead learners for their children. I say lead learner because education is not about downloading information into the child. Education should focus on how to learn, not what. Especially in today’s economic environment, where technological advances change the business landscape so quickly, we need elasticity in our abilities, and that comes from being able to teach ourselves.

But instead, public schools teach children that they must be in a classroom with an instructor to learn. This predicated the snowflake crisis in our universities, where young people feel “triggered” by diverse ideas. They only know what they’ve been taught, and cannot think for themselves, so anything that challenges their worldview is perceived as hostile, and they lose their self-confidence and self-control.

Public school forms a wedge between the child and the parent—that’s inevitable.

“Mommy, you have to sign this. The teacher says so.” Or, “Mommy, don’t use plastic bags for my lunch. You’re killing dolphins.” The school challenges the parent’s authority from Day One.

It’s no wonder teenagers rebel. By that time, the parent’s authority has been completely undermined by a system that insists on its way above all else. Parents surrender their precious children to literal strangers, to be taught values and principles and sex-ed and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and then they are confused when their children disagree with them.

What is it about a child turning 5 that immediately incapacitates his parents as teachers, forcing him into kindergarten, often when he’s not yet ready to give up his nap?

Instead of being utterly enervating, home schooling is empowering. My children have taught me. My goal is for parents to realize the incredible relationship and experience that is home education facilitates if they only would choose to keep their children close.

Have you ever done homework with your child? Then you have home schooled. You’re just doing it at the end of the day, when everyone is tired and cranky and hungry. My way, home schooling, is easier, and a lot more fun.


Will Free Speech Prevail on Campus?

Alarm over the state of free speech and academic freedom on American campuses is nothing new under the collegiate sun. But it has reached fever pitch in the past few years.

The unease is justified, given the notorious disruptions and dis-invitations of legitimate and worthy speakers; the censorious echo chambers of academic disciplines intolerant of dissent; and the often-unprincipled use of speech-smothering policies such as trigger warnings, safe-spaces, bias-reporting, and mandatory sensitivity training.

More and more faculty members across the political spectrum who had remained quiet for years now feel compelled to speak out because they believe things have spun out of control.

This said, the actual extent of the problem has always remained a question. Many schools and departments have avoided confrontations, and the media is not interested in “success stories” that no doubt take place. After American Enterprise Institute political scientist Charles Murray and his faculty host were physically attacked at Middlebury College last March in a disruption heard around the academic world, Murray was able to speak at Notre Dame, Harvard, and Columbia without incident.

Given the multiplicity and complexity of higher education, empirical estimates of harm will remain at least somewhat inexact. But a growing number of surveys have helped us approach a more accurate picture. It reveals genuine cause for concern, but also reasons for hope.

On the obvious negative side, we have beheld a growing number of anecdotal accounts of student disruptions and faculty intolerance. Some of the most serious disruptions in 2017 occurred at U.C. Berkeley, Evergreen State, Middlebury, and Claremont McKenna. On the faculty front, a massive rebellion of scholars in Third World studies recently compelled an academic journal, Third World Quarterly, to retract an article that politely called for rethinking the pros and cons of colonialism. Also, faculty at the eminent University of Pennsylvania Law School publicly denounced an accomplished colleague for the sin of extolling bourgeois values on the op-ed page of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Recent surveys of student attitudes also provide cause for concern. To pick one example, a study published last month by the Brookings Institution found that half of students polled believe it is okay to shout down a speaker whom one finds offensive, with almost 20 percent agreeing that using violence to prevent offensive speech is acceptable. Surveys conducted by the Cato Institute and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education report similar findings, mixed with more nuance.

Other studies leave more room for ambiguity and hope. Many of the new surveys do not compare college students with society writ large. But a recent article in The Economist, cites evidence that young people who have attended college remain more tolerant of controversial speakers than the general public—a finding consistent with a long line of social science research that correlates education with increased tolerance of unwanted speech.

In addition, a Gallup survey of 3,000 students for the Knight Foundation and Newseum found that 78 percent favor schools where “offensive and biased” speech is allowed. Even at Yale, where an infamous protest against free speech and pro–free speech faculty erupted last fall, 72 percent of students opposed speech codes, with only 16 percent favoring them.

So, what gives? The Economist supplies an explanation that makes sense, given my own experience as a free speech scholar and activist: Typically, fewer than 20 percent of students are anti-free speech, but the anti-speech activists are more aggressive than their tolerant counterparts and better able to influence school administrators. For their part, the administrators who appease them in the name of “diversity” lose sight of higher education’s primary duty: to pursue truth with intellectual competence, honesty, and freedom.

Higher education can turn things around if it finds the resolve and fortitude. Will it?


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