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October 23, 2014 0

HHS Issues Overly-Broad Draft Rule Following Hobby Lobby

The U.S. Supreme Court’s deeply-troubling deci­sion in Bur­well v. Hobby Lobby allows cer­tain for-profit, cor­po­ra­tions to opt out of the Afford­able Care Act’s (ACA) con­tra­cep­tion man­date based on reli­gious objec­tions.  In in an effort to com­ply with the deci­sion, the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices (“HHS”) issued a new pro­posed rule defin­ing orga­ni­za­tions and cor­po­ra­tions eli­gi­ble for reli­gious accom­mo­da­tion sim­i­lar to those already avail­able to reli­gious non­prof­its.  ADL firmly believes that the pro­posed rule is too broad and recently sub­mit­ted com­ments urg­ing a more nar­row def­i­n­i­tion of eli­gi­ble organizations.  hs-issues-overly-broad-draft-hobby-lobby

The ACA requires employer-provided health insur­ance to include cov­er­age for the full range of Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA)-approved con­tra­cep­tives and health ser­vices. Rec­og­niz­ing that con­tra­cep­tion impli­cates reli­gious beliefs, HHS exempted houses of wor­ship and other pervasively-religious employ­ers from the con­tra­cep­tion man­date.  It also accom­mo­dated religiously-affiliated non­prof­its (includ­ing schools and hos­pi­tals) by cre­at­ing a mech­a­nism through which employ­ees’ con­tra­cep­tives are made avail­able by third-party insur­ers with­out cost-sharing by the employer or the indi­vid­u­als access­ing these services.

Notwith­stand­ing these extra­or­di­nary accom­mo­da­tion efforts, own­ers of sec­u­lar, for-profit cor­po­ra­tions have filled dozens of law­suits under the First Amend­ment and Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act (RFRA) assert­ing reli­gious objec­tions to the con­tra­cep­tion man­date.  These cases cul­mi­nated in the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby deci­sion.  ADL joined an ami­cus (friend-of-the-court) brief to the Court in the case argu­ing that the con­nec­tion between an employee’s pri­vate deci­sion to uti­lize con­tra­cep­tives made avail­able under the ACA is so far removed from an employer (likely entirely unknown), it could not pos­si­bly meet the RFRA stan­dard of impos­ing a “sub­stan­tial bur­den” on the reli­gious prac­tices of the cor­po­ra­tions’ owners.

How­ever, the Supreme Court’s dis­turb­ing deci­sion ruled that RFRA empow­ers cer­tain pri­vate, closely-held cor­po­ra­tions to impose their reli­gious beliefs on employ­ees by refus­ing to include con­tra­cep­tive cov­er­age in their employee health insur­ance plans.  Fol­low­ing this deci­sion, HHS issued its pro­posed new rule for closely held, for-profit cor­po­ra­tions – and asked for com­ments on how to define eli­gi­bil­ity for this accommodation.

ADL firmly believes that every woman should have access to the full range of FDA-approved con­tra­cep­tives, with­out addi­tional costs.  Our com­ments on the pro­posed rule argue that a nar­row def­i­n­i­tion of eli­gi­ble orga­ni­za­tions is nec­es­sary in order to limit the num­ber of sec­u­lar, for-profit own­ers who could impose their reli­gious beliefs on their employ­ees – and to limit over­all lit­i­ga­tion.  We also urged that closely-held cor­po­ra­tions seek­ing to opt out of the con­tra­cep­tion man­date be required to demon­strate that their reli­gious objec­tions are guided by sincerely-held reli­gious beliefs doc­u­mented in cor­po­rate char­ters, busi­ness prac­tices, poli­cies, and operations.

A final rule is expected in the next few months.

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October 23, 2014 0

Tufts University Hosting National Students For Justice In Palestine Conference

Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP), the nation’s largest pro-Palestinian stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion with more than 80 active chap­ters on col­lege and uni­ver­sity cam­puses, will hold its 4th National Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine Con­fer­ence at Tufts Uni­ver­sity. The con­fer­ence, which runs from Octo­ber 24–26, is titled “Beyond Sol­i­dar­ity: Resist­ing Racism and Colo­nial­ism from the U.S. to Pales­tine,” a ref­er­ence to SJP activists’ efforts to con­nect vary­ing strug­gles and move­ments to the Pales­tin­ian cause.sjp-national-conference-tufts-university

As with pre­vi­ous SJP national con­fer­ences this year’s con­fer­ence is only open to stu­dents who are active with a cam­pus group. The con­fer­ence is set to fea­ture a wide array of anti-Israel activists, includ­ing uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sors, stu­dents, clergy mem­bers, and mem­bers of the global Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) movement.

Among the invited speak­ers are J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can Stud­ies & Anthro­pol­ogy at Wes­leyan Uni­ver­sity and an advi­sor to the U.S. Cam­paign for the Aca­d­e­mic and Cul­tural Boy­cott of Israel (USACBI); Muham­mad Desai, the coor­di­na­tor of BDS South Africa who was seen singing the words “shoot the Jew” at a 2013 anti-Israel protest; Sara Ker­sh­ner, a co-founder of the Inter­na­tional Jew­ish Anti-Zionist Net­work; and sev­eral stu­dent activists from var­i­ous SJP chapters.

The con­fer­ence pan­els, accord­ing to the SJP con­fer­ence web­site, will con­sist of dis­cus­sions that con­flate social jus­tice with the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. Panel titles include: “From Fer­gu­son to Pales­tine: Resist­ing State Vio­lence and Racism,” and “Migrant Jus­tice and the Undoc­u­mented Pales­tin­ian Expe­ri­ence in the U.S.” SJP chap­ters often try to link domes­tic issues and events, such as the Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri shoot­ing and its after­math to the con­flict in Gaza, couch­ing hos­til­ity toward Israel in social jus­tice terms to appeal to a broader audi­ence. In addi­tion, there will also be a ses­sion on “Islamic Move­ments of Pales­tine,” that will exam­ine “how Islam informed resis­tance move­ments and what dif­fer­ent ways Islamic move­ments oper­ated in Palestine.”

In pre­vi­ous years SJP held its national con­fer­ence at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity in 2011, the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan in 2012, and at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity in 2013. The con­fer­ences typ­i­cally include inflam­ma­tory lan­guage and rhetoric to describe Israel, and, at times, speak­ers have glo­ri­fied the use of vio­lence by Pales­tin­ian groups.

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October 22, 2014 0

Pro-Hezbollah Hackers Target Media Group For Its Position On Israel

On Octo­ber 20, pro-Hezbollah hack­ers took con­trol of the Twit­ter account of a promi­nent Lebanese Chris­t­ian TV sta­tion, Murr Tele­vi­sion, known as MTV Lebanon, because the sta­tion allegedly failed to describe Hamas com­bat­ants killed in the fight­ing with Israel as “martyrs.”mtv-lebanon-hacking-hezbollah

The hack­ers changed the Twit­ter account’s cover image to a photo of a Hezbol­lah fighter under a Hezbol­lah flag and tweeted a mes­sage from the account stating:

“[Only] when you learn the dif­fer­ence between a mar­tyr and a killed [per­son], between an agent [of Israel] and a resis­tance fighter…. [Only] When you learn that Israel is the enemy, then your account will return to you. So we don’t for­get Palestine.@MTVLebanonNews.”

While no group has claimed respon­si­bil­ity for the hack­ing, Hezbol­lah’s media arm,Al Manar, praised the attack in a report pub­lished yes­ter­day that read in part, “For sev­eral hours today, the flag of Hezbol­lah kept wav­ing over the pub­lic page of MTV twit­ter account.”

The hack­ing of MTV Lebanon and sub­se­quent prais­ing of it by Hezbollah’s media arm could rep­re­sent a new tac­tic in the way ter­ror­ist groups in the Mid­dle East attack their oppo­nents online and spread their ide­ol­ogy to a wider audi­ence. It does not appear that Hezbol­lah has pre­vi­ously endorsed cyber-attacks against its opponents.

ADL has tracked sev­eral hack­ing oper­a­tions against Jew­ish and Israeli insti­tu­tions by anti-Israel groups.

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