Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wheaton College Wins Huge Court Battle Over Obama’s Birth Control Mandate

A judge ruled Thursday the government would violate federal civil rights laws if it forced Wheaton College to provide services like contraceptives in its health care plans against its religious beliefs, and granted a permanent injunction against it.

When the Obama administration instituted a contraceptive mandate several years ago through the Health and Human Services department, Wheaton College was one of the dozens of organizations to immediately oppose it. Wheaton, one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, often referred to as the “Harvard of Christian schools,” argued being forced to pay for the contraceptives would violate its religious rights. The permanent injunction bars the government from ever forcing the school to pay.

This is the first district court order offering permanent protection from the HHS mandate after the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Zubik v. Burwell, which said that the government could not fine religious groups for following their faith and said it could find other ways to provide services to the women who want them. The injunction not only protects them from Obama’s “old” mandate, but from any similar, future mandates as well.

Attorney Diana Verm, an attorney with Becket, the non-profit organization which represented Wheaton along with another firm, and also Little Sisters of the Poor, in their fight against the HHS mandate, told me in an e-mail, “The district court had ruled against Wheaton before because of prior court of appeals precedent that has since been overturned by the Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell, where the Supreme Court told the government it could not fine groups like the Little Sisters and Wheaton College for following their faith.”

A portion of the injunction says, “After reconsideration of their position, Defendants now agree that enforcement of the currently operative rules regarding the “contraceptive mandate” against employers with sincerely held religious objections would violate RFRA, and thus do not oppose Wheaton’s renewed motion for injunctive and declaratory relief.”

Wheaton College’s values are steeped in Christian tradition. Originally founded in 1860 by prominent abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard, the motto, “For Christ and His Kingdom” guides everything it does. Thus, in 2012, after receiving no response from HHS about its concerns regarding the mandate, Wheaton filed a lawsuit to defend its right to run its school according to its religious principles, not unlike, various other, similar, religious organizations.

In a statement, Phillip Ryken, president of Wheaton College said, “We are grateful to God that the court recognized Wheaton’s religious identity and protected our ability to affirm the sanctity of human life. The government should never have tried to force us to provide drugs and services against our faith, but that episode is now behind us.”

The complex and laborious issue regarding the HHS contraceptive mandate went to the Supreme Court five times; each time the Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting religious groups. The most promising thing about this current order, in terms of religious liberty, is that the judge essentially admits federal government violated the law when it demanded organizations provide contraception in the first place, and that’s why the judge granted temporary protection to religious objectors. Hopefully other judges will follow suit and declare injunctions for the other organizations in limbo, who still oppose the mandate, and are waiting for similar recognition and protection of their religious rights.


Progressive Policies Put Schools at Risk

Amidst the media-orchestrated hysteria emanating from those who believe gun control will solve America’s mass shooting problem, one of the principal questions being asked is whether children have the right to attend school without fearing for their lives. Tragically, for a nation that has abided progressive ideology for far too long, it’s the wrong question. The more accurate question: How much danger is one willing to put one’s child in to satisfy progressive orthodoxy?

As the Miami Herald reveals, the Florida killer had widely recognized behavioral problems. “Teachers and other students said he kicked doors, cursed at teachers, fought with and threatened classmates and brought a backpack with bullets to school,” the paper reported. “He collected a string of discipline for profanity, disobedience, insubordination, and disruption.”

How did the system handle him? In 2014, administrators transferred him to a school for children with emotional disabilities. Two years later, they changed course and put him back in Marjory Stoneman Douglas. A year later, he was banished again for disciplinary reasons, and ended up being “toggled between three other alternative placements,” as the Herald puts it.

Notice the missing element here — he was never expelled. “Under federal law, [he] had a right to a ‘free and appropriate’ education at a public school near him,” the paper explains. “His classmates had a right to an education free of fear. Their rights often collided.”

Does this mean expulsion no longer exists? According to, schools can expel a student for a number of reasons. In fact, the Gun-Free Schools Act requires any student bringing a gun to a school to be expelled for a minimum of one year. Moreover, states can decide what other types of misconduct may precipitate expulsion, including distributing medication, harassing or bullying other students, or continually defying teachers.

The catch? The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities in programs that receive financial assistance from the federal government. Section 504 requires the aforementioned “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) be provided to each qualified person with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction — regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.

Furthermore, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that education to take place in the “least restrictive environment” possible. It also provides special protections for disabled students facing expulsion, requiring school officials to follow special procedures that include a hearing to determine if the misconduct was directly related to the student’s disability. If that is the case, a special education team must develop, or modify, a behavioral intervention plan.

With regard to violent students like the perpetrator in Parkland, these laws are problematic. Yet they are only half the problem. A 2017 column by Jeffery Benzing addressed the other half, noting that Broward County “used to rank No. 1 at sending students to their state’s juvenile justice system,” he explained. “The stats troubled Broward County leaders, and they responded with a bold solution: Lower arrests by not making arrests.”

Broward compiled a list of 12 misdemeanor offenses no longer requiring police notification. They included criminal mischief, vandalism and non-violent incidents involving alcohol, marijuana or drug paraphernalia. The program was championed as a move away from a “zero tolerance” policy critics labeled a “school to prison pipeline.”

It gets worse. “One particular motivation behind programs like Broward County’s was the pressure from multiple sources to reduce the statistical disparity between black and Hispanic student arrests on one hand and white and Asian student arrests on the other,” reveals columnist Jack Cashill. Based solely on his last name, the Parkland killer “became a statistical Hispanic,” Cashill adds. “As such, authorities at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland had every reason not to report his troubling and likely criminal behavior to the police.”

Broward wasn’t the only county under pressure. In 2014, the Obama administration sent out a Dear Colleague letter whose subject was the Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline. Issued by the DOJ and the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights, the letter made it clear that an aggressive “disparate impact” approach would be taken with regard to disciplining minority students.

In short, schools that meted out a “disproportionate number” of disciplinary measures to minority students, relative to their percentage of the school population, could be charged with discrimination under Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Thus, the Obama administration and Broward County officials made sure many kids couldn’t even be disciplined, much less arrested, for egregious behavior.

That “see no evil if its statistically problematic” approach was heartily embraced by a thoroughly politicized Broward County Sheriff’s Department, whose conduct before and after the shooting was nothing short of appalling. But that didn’t stop Sheriff Scott Israel from showing up at CNN’s NRA bash-fest in a despicable attempt to the shift the blame from his department’s criminal incompetence to guns — wholly oblivious to the irony that no better case for self-defense could be made than his own department’s cowardice and ineptitude.

The bigger picture? America no longer has reform schools where youthful offenders were once sent instead of prison. We have “alternative schools,” along with efforts to maintain all but the most incorrigible students at home. We also have court-monitored probation, curfews and other programs.

All of them appear to have one overriding concern: don’t stigmatize anyone.

Yet at what point does the attempt to avoid stigmatizing a child make it clear to the same child that despicable behavior doesn’t engender serious consequences?

“This is a systemic problem we have that isn’t about blaming one agency or the other,” insisted Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

How about blaming an ideology, Mr. Runcie? Beginning in the 1960s, progressives assured Americans they could “do their own thing,” and that “God is dead.” While religious leaders receded, lawyers and therapists stepped up. “Good and evil” became “legal and illegal,” or “well and unwell.”

In process, shame and objective truth were obliterated.

Thus, it is unsurprising that nothing has been more shameless and less truthful than the avalanche of progressive virtue-signaling with regard to gun control.

America desperately needs culture control. But while it continues to metastasize, the nation needs short-term and long term solutions for protecting vulnerable school children.

Short-term, we need armed, qualified security guards and/or teachers at every school in the nation. Those who disagree are progressive fantasists who live in a dream world. In the real world, they must be ignored.

Long-term solutions? The restoration of a public school system where civics and virtue are integral parts of the curriculum. One where disciplinary procedures are clear and apply equally to everyone. One where respect for teachers is paramount, and one where children are taught how to think, not what to think.

Every serious problem this nation has can be tied to the failing state of our public schools. And when those schools seek to blame the parents for those failures, they need reminding that they “educated” the parents — and the politicians and the celebrities, etc., etc. — as well.

A fish may rot from the head down, but a culture rots from the roots up. It’s time to root progressive ideology out of our public schools.


Australia: Aspiring doctors begin Macquarie's 'cash grab' $250,000 medical degree

Amid outrage and controversy, Australia's newest full-fee medical school opened its doors on Monday, welcoming about 50 fresh-faced students who have the ability to cough up $250,000 for the privilege.

While they too welcomed the aspiring doctors, the Australian Medical Students' Association (AMSA) and Australian Medical Association (AMA) lambasted Macquarie University for its "short-sighted cash grab", saying the degree didn't come with a guarantee of an internship and would cause greater bottle necks in the training system.

“The pipeline is stretched and bursting; in 2016 we had 200 medical graduates left without an internship which you need to become a qualified doctor,” said AMSA president Alex Farrell.
Alex Farrell, president of Australian Medical Students' Association, says the opening of Macquarie University's new medical school is not a good thing.

Alex Farrell, president of Australian Medical Students' Association, says the opening of Macquarie University's new medical school is not a good thing.

“Macquarie University is irresponsibly profiting from the dreams of young students [because] these students may end up with a six-figure debt and no job.”

On Monday, the public university kicked off its four-year, graduate-entry Doctor of Medicine program. It welcomed 50 domestic students, which is 10 more than its aim.

But the university failed to hit its target of 20 international students, enrolling only three for the 2018 cohort and leaving a funding gap of more than $1.75 million over four years, according to AMSA.

Ms Farrell said Macquarie University had made a “business move” and was concerned that other universities would follow suit and exploit the same loophole, which allows public universities to offer domestic, full-fee places for graduate-level programs.

“We know from overseas that high tertiary fees drive graduates into highly paid specialties, and away from areas of workforce shortage such as general practice or rural practice,” said Ms Farrell.

“In doing so, these programs, while lining the universities’ pockets, do a disservice to the public and the Australian healthcare system.”

But Professor Patrick McNeil, Macquarie University’s executive dean of medical and health sciences, told Fairfax Media that no university could guarantee an internship to any student at any program in Australia.

He said some of the graduates would receive post-degree training at MQ Health, the university’s medical centre. He rejected the suggestion the program would “clog the pipeline”.

“We don’t have an oversupply of graduates and in fact Australia imports nearly 3000 foreign trained doctors to Australia every year,” he said.

“Also, given the size of Australia’s population increase, the world’s not going to end because we’re graduating a small number of graduates.”

Professor McNeil said the fresh cohort was “incredibly excited, highly motivated” and their GPA and GAMSAT results were similar to that of their peers at University of Melbourne.

He revealed they had 500 applicants. The final cohort is made up of 30 women and 20 men, and the average age is 23.

AMA president Michael Gannon said he opposed the opening of new medical schools, expansion of student numbers and “what Macquarie represents”.

“We’re already seeing the states and territories struggling to provide internships for all medical graduates so we’re worried that a university will just decide to chase the funding and the prestige that comes with having a medical school without having any need to give consideration to what the product means at the end,” he said.


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