I was recently poring over the 80-page document of proposed rules from the Obama Administration, which purports to clarify its position on the Health and Human Services (HHS) health coverage “mandate” regarding those “religious organizations” that will, and those that will not, be granted exemptions from having to provide insurance coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs. Sadly, I found those “exemptions” to be shockingly inadequate, refusing as they do to grant any semblance of religious conscience accommodation to vast numbers of faith-based organizations. Shortly before that, I had been reviewing the briefs filed in the Supreme Court in the Proposition 8 case, and the written arguments attacking the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), both cases assailing the inviolability of traditional marriage as we have known it throughout the life of our Republic. They are now scheduled for oral argument before the High Court three weeks after the close of the upcoming NRB Convention.
At the same time, I found myself thanking God for the National Religious Broadcasters and our valuable members and partners, who will be gracing our Convention soon in Nashville. I can only regard the timing of our Convention as providential as these huge issues loom large over our national landscape. Attendees will have an unparalleled opportunity to hear experts address these, and other vital issues that will impact the future of free exercise of religion, free speech, and our freedom to present the Gospel on various communications platforms. Take Monday morning at the Convention as an example. I will have the privilege of joining Eric Metaxas, celebrated author and host of BreakPoint; the Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall; Matt Bowman, who is lead counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF); and John Stonestreet, fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, to dissect the policy earthquake that may be heading our way as a result of the HHS mandate and the same-sex marriage cases.
Later on Monday, Ashton Hardy, NRB Board member and former General Counsel for the FCC, will moderate a panel featuring nationally syndicated talk show host Janet Parshall and a group of constitutional attorneys who will address more religious liberty issues, including the status of pending cases attacking the lack of religious accommodation in the HHS mandate, as well as recent findings on the increase of religious freedom attacks in America, the continued assault on displays of the Christian cross, and some troubling signs regarding the new federal hate crimes law. Also addressed will be new areas of anti-faith attack, including one law that would be a veritable gag order against Christian counselors and the ongoing pattern of free speech suppression by new media technology companies as they control Internet-interactive devices and web platforms.
But not all threats to Christian communications come in through the front door. There are plenty of “side door” legal traps for the unwary broadcaster in light of the increasingly complex regulations emanating from the FCC. Broadcasters ignore these traps at their peril. Happily, there is a special FCC “super session” to give you state-of-the art education on those areas. Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to attend NRB 2013 in Nashville. But if you haven’t made up your mind yet, consider the wealth of information and expertise that is ready and waiting for you on these momentous issues at this historic juncture in American history. Can you really afford to sit this one out?
By Craig Parshall
Senior Vice President & General Counsel, National Religious Broadcasters
Director, John Milton Project for Free Speech
Published: February 14, 2013