National Media Watch

ACLU Defends Catholic In Rehab Program

DETROIT NEWS, Dec. 6 — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit in Detroit on behalf of a man who was sentenced to attend a faith-based Pentecostal drug rehabilitation program, reported the Detroit News. The suit claims that the program did not provide drug treatment or counseling but was trying to prevent the man from practicing his Catholic faith.

When Joseph Hanas pleaded guilty to marijuana possession in February 2001, a judge placed the 19-year-old in the state-sponsored Inner City Christian Outreach Residential Program, which is run by a Pentecostal Church. Hanas said his rosary and prayer book were taken from him and Catholicism was denounced as witchcraft. He said he was told the only way to avoid prison time and a felony record was to convert to Pentecostalism.

While the judge acknowledged the failings of the center, he ruled that Hanas did not complete the program and sentenced him to additional jail time.

Kary Moss, director of the Michigan ACLU, said, “This man was punished for insisting on the right to practice Catholicism and refusing conversion to the Pentecostal faith.”

Indiana Lawmaker Defends Using Name of Jesus

ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 1 — Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma is trying to overturn a federal ruling that says that opening prayers in the House of Representatives may not mention Jesus Christ, said the Associated Press.

Bosma, a Republican, has asked the Indiana attorney general's office to investigate the possibility of overturning the decision.

In a case brought by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, Judge David Hamilton of the Southern District of Indiana issued an injunction preventing sectarian prayer as part of the official business of the House. While legislative prayers can continue, Hamilton said, Bosma must advise those praying that they are not to advance one faith or to use Christ's name or title.

“If it stands, this will be the farthest-reaching decision, to my knowledge, of any federal court specifically focusing on the name Christ and removing that from public discourse,” Bosma said. “I question how soon it will be when my ability to stand here and say the name just in discussion on the floor of the House will be taken away as well.”

Governor Decides Not to Exempt Catholic Hospitals

BOSTON GLOBE, Dec. 8 — Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had initially endorsed a proposal exempting Catholic and other private hospitals from a new law requiring the dispensing of “emergency contraception” to rape victims. But the governor withdrew his support.

The proposal was put forth by Romney's public health commissioner, Paul Cote Jr., w ho said the new law conflicted with an older statute barring the state from forcing private hospitals from dispensing contraceptives or information.

But the governor said at a news conference Dec. 8 that his legal advisers found the new law superseded the old one and that all hospitals are required to offer the so-called “morning after” pill.

Romney said that in his view, “it's the right thing for hospitals to provide information and access to emergency contraception to anyone who is a victim of rape.”

“Emergency contraception” works both to prevent a human egg from being fertilized, but also can act as an abortifacient if that has already happened.