Christians Concerned Over Conscience Clause Constriction: News Roundup

This week in the news: debate continued over the upcoming King hearings on Islamic radicalization, and the Obama administration scaled back conscience protections for health care workers.

King Hearings
Representative Peter King’s (Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security) planned hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims and Muslims’ cooperation with law enforcement are due to begin the week of March 7th. This week found both protesters and supporters camped outside his Long Island offices.
“About 100 opponents of the hearings were confronted by about the same number of supporters, some waving "Don't Tread on Me" flags and chanting slogans favoring the hearings. For a time, protesters from each side argued heatedly in face-to-face confrontations in a parking lot adjacent to the congressman's office before police stepped in and separated the groups with barricades.” (Wall Street Journal)
A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute found that a majority of Americans – 56% – approve of the hearings, while only 29% disapprove. (Baptist Standard) A slightly smaller percentage – 46% – feel that American Muslims have not done enough to oppose extremism in their communities. However, that same study also found that 72% of people think that Congress should investigate religious extremism anywhere it exists, and not just focus on the American Muslim community. Read the full survey results.
Earlier this month, coalition of voices called on Representative King to abandon plans for these hearings (Human Rights First), claiming that they are “divisive and wrong” for singling out a group of Americans based on their faith tradition and that they will “almost certainly increase widespread suspicion and mistrust of the American Muslim community and stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.” (Muslim Advocates’ letter to Rep. King) Tanenbaum was proud to sign on to this letter. (Moving Beyond Differences)
Conscience Protections Scaled Back
“After two years of struggling to balance the rights of patients against the beliefs of health-care workers, the Obama administration on Friday finally rescinded most of a federal regulation designed to protect those who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds.” (Washington Post)
The decision substantially changes the rule put forth by the Bush administration. That rule was interpreted to allow health care providers to refuse to participate in a range of medical services, from providing birth control pills to performing in-vitro fertilization for lesbians. The new rule narrowly focuses only on those providers who object to performing or assisting with abortion procedures. (Religion Clause)
Catholic bishops and Christian medical groups reacted strongly to the decision. “The Christian Medical Association harshly criticized the HHS action, saying it "diminishes the civil rights that protect conscientious physicians and other health care professionals against discrimination."” (BeliefNet/Religion News Service)
Others were more measured: “Speaking for the bishops' conference, Deirdre McQuade said that the administration's move was "a cause for disappointment, but also offers reasons for hope regarding an emerging consensus in Washington on the need for clear conscience protections for health-care providers." She said that the USCCB would work to expand the "conscience clause" protections.” (
In other news:
  • Lawsuit alleges FBI violated Muslims’ freedom of religion (Washington Post)
  • Religion in the News: Islam was No.1 topic in 2010 (Pew)
  • Judge tosses suit against Obama health care plan (Yahoo News)