Monday, December 28, 2009

Catholic Health Association Backs Away from Support of Casey Language?

From the icky but quick lifenews (I swear Steven Ertelt has no life):

On December 17, Sister Carol Keehan, the president of the CHA, released a statement obtained showing it praising a phony compromise on abortion funding

Sen. Bob Casey floated a compromise in an attempt to get Sen. Ben Nelson to withdraw his then-objection to the Senate bill because of its abortion funding. The measure would have forced pro-life advocates to opt out if they objected to their tax dollars paying for abortions. Otherwise, Americans would be forced to pay for abortions under the legislation.

The proposal was thoroughly trashed by pro-life groups with the National Right to Life committee and other organizations calling it "unacceptable" and Richard Doerflinger, a spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying the bishops appreciated the goals of some of Casey’s proposal, but that they did not actually stop taxpayer funding of abortion.

But Keehan said in the statement that, although she hadn't seen the text of the Casey proposal, "we are encouraged by recent deliberations and the outline Senator Casey is developing."

Keehan claimed that "now that a public health insurance option is no longer on the table, we are increasingly confident that Senator Casey’s language can achieve the objective of no federal funding for abortion."

"It is our understanding that the language now being written would prohibit federal funding of abortion," Keehan said.

The language did not ban abortion funding and it left some Catholics -- and the New York Times -- with the impression that CHA was at odds with the Catholic bishops.

In a Christmas Day news story, "Catholic Group Supports Senate on Abortion Aid" the Times reported that there is "an apparent split with Roman Catholic bishops over the abortion-financing provisions of the proposed health care overhaul" and that "the nation’s Catholic hospitals have signaled that they back the Senate’s compromise."

The Times exploited the supposed divide with quotes from pro-abortion Representative Diana DeGette, who said “We have known for quite some time that the Catholic hospitals and also the nuns are really breaking from these hard-line bishops."

Today, Keehan talked with the Catholic News Service about the dustup.

She said CHA has never wavered in its commitment to health care that protects "from conception to natural death" and she disputed the Times' report.

"There is not a shred of disagreement between CHA and the bishops," Sister Carol said. "We believe there is a great possibility and probability that in conference committee we can work toward a solution that will prevent federal funding of abortion."

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Oklahoma and Patients' Rights.

It's hard to look at this "balanced" post from the WSJ and not get a bit riled. A new and outrageous law in Oklahoma would require that doctors post details from a woman's life online if she has an abortion. How that is not a violation of a patients' rights, I don't know. And how it doesn't discriminate against women? For a legal and private health care service?

The article shows that apparently someone in Oklahoma has some sense of equality and privacy, the judge who suspended the law until February:

How much information should be known about who has abortions–and why they do it? What if the questions are so specific that they might reveal the identity of the woman involved?

The state of Oklahoma is being forced to grapple with those questions after the legislature passed a law requiring doctors to ask the patients 37 questions from marital status to financial condition, the answers of which would then be posted on a public Web site. Abortion rights groups complained, saying that the questions very likely might reveal the identities of women in rural areas, according to this story from ABC News and the Christian Science Monitor:

An Oklahoma County judge, Daniel Owens, recently extended a restraining order against enactment of the law until Feb. 19, when a hearing is scheduled to see if a law suit involving the new law is dismissed. This AP story says the Center for Reproduction Rights and two women sued on technical grounds, saying the legislation violated a rule in the state constitution that requires a piece of legislation to deal with only one issue–called the “single subject law.”

The Tulsa World has this related story on the cost to Oklahoma to defend its abortion legislation, including another recently passed law–requiring a woman to have an ultrasound within one hour of the procedure–that was also tossed out as having violated the single subject law. The article quotes Tony Lauinger, chairman of Oklahomans for Life as saying the question of cost to the state to defend the statutes on its books isn’t the point. “The principal consideration would be the question of what is a human life worth? … If the effect of this pro-life legislation will be to save lives, which we fully anticipate would be the effect of it, then it is a very modest sum very well spent.”

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The Real Reason the AMA Supports Health Care Bill.

The AMA's support for health care bill as approved by the Senate and House and now in reconcilliation has consternated both liberals and conservatives alike the past few months. Many, including myself, have supposed that the AMA sees the bill as benign to it's monopoly of health delivery in the US and therefore find it the least of its worries. Other concessions (like the disclusion of the public option which would have driven down prices) have made the bill easy for the industry to swallow. And because there's really no reform to the "reform," the industry supports this mandate of money to the medical industry. A mandate that comes with no real regulation of medical delivery, which the AMA has traditionally strongly opposed, being the teeth that have gnashed at reform and any bill of patients' rights in the past.

But a new article at the Chicago Tribune reveals the underbelly of the business of medicine and the financial gains the AMA will reap from this fake "reform" bill:

As Democrats tout the American Medical Association's endorsement of their health care overhaul, critics are pointing to their studious sidestepping of a little-known monopoly that sends millions into the trade group's coffers each year, saying it's no surprise the Democrats were able to gain the AMA's support.

The AMA, which this year reversed its long-standing opposition to such changes, holds the exclusive rights to the medical billing codes that doctors are required to use when they submit bills to insurance plans. They are the equivalent of a bar code for nearly every medical procedure, from transplanting hearts to tucking tummies and scoping colons.

It is a monopoly that critics say gets in the way of making health care less expensive and potentially more effective.

The arrangement is the product of a once-secret deal, struck in the early 1980s, that allowed the government to streamline billing procedures for its insurance programs by setting a single code set as the standard. Under that deal, the AMA maintains and updates the codes at no cost to the government, but generates millions each year selling the code books and software licenses to doctors and insurers.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., an obstetrician, said doctors are "adamantly opposed" to the health care bills, and pointed to the code monopoly to explain the AMA's support.

"The [code] revenue's protected," Coburn said during debate on the Senate floor. "That's the revenue the AMA gathers from the payment system that continues to be fostered in this bill, which is their main source of revenue."

The original deal related only to
Medicare and other government insurance programs. Since then, Congress has expanded the regulation to require the codes to be used in electronic billing transactions with private insurers. Some interpret the agreement to be revocable at any time through a simple rule-making process. Critics question whether the AMA can represent the interests of doctors while it relies on revenue that comes from a government-sanctioned monopoly.

AMA President Dr. James Rohack would not disclose how much the group raises from the codes each year, but he said that it is a portion of the $70 million claimed from sales of "books and products" in 2008. Membership dues raised $44 million for the AMA that year.

"There's an inherent conflict of interest," said Kathryn Serkes, director of policy at the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a competing doctors' group that has been challenging the code monopoly for years. "The AMA has a vested interest in keeping those codes going and keeping that system going because they're making money from those, tens of millions of dollars every single year."

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Of Cancer and the Cold War.

Susan Chambre at Monthly Review takes a look at Ellen Leopold's new book, Under the Radar: Cancer and the Cold War. I'm beside myself with anticipation of this book's arrival here. To me, it's a new lens through which to view the subjugation of patients' rights for the sake of medical and technological advancement. By looking at cancer and the cold war, Leopold, according to Chambre, writes that it's a:

a provocative thesis about the forces that shaped cancer research and care in the United States. She points out that

Many of the features of our response to cancer today can….[b]e traced back to the aspirations of the Cold War. From the 1950’s through the 1980’s, the disease was uniquely intertwined with the characteristic undertakings and covert operations of the period. Almost every aspect of the current approach to the disease bears the imprint of this Cold War entanglement. The special terror and guilt that cancer evokes, the prominence of radiation therapies in the treatment arsenal, the current bias toward individual rather than corporate responsibility for rising incidence rates, toward research that promotes treatment rather than prevention, toward treatments that can be patented and marketed — all reflect a largely hidden history shaped by

the Cold War.

Chambre notes some of the weaknesses in the thesis, however:

Leopold provides an interesting and carefully researched analysis of the ways that political and economic interests shaped our response to cancer. The idea that the domestic side of the Cold War conditioned our response to disease is an intriguing one. It is, however, an incomplete explanation. The book overlooks some of the significant historical and cultural forces predating the Cold War that played and still play an important role. The secrecy and lack of concern for human rights characterizing the Cold War era have a long history when it comes to medical care and experimentation, as David Rothman carefully documented in Strangers at the Bedside.

Challenges to physician authority and the emergence of patients’ rights began in the 1960s, at a time when the Cold War continued to shape domestic policy. But the willingness of patients to undergo risky experiments in hopes of being cured predated the Cold War era — and is by no means only the result of patients acceding to medical authority or unknowingly participating in risky experiments, as Renee Fox describes in Experiment Perilous. Indeed, this willingness to challenge medical authority represents an important strand in U.S. life and culture, dating back to the early nineteenth century when Americans began to take charge of their health and “battle” or “fight” disease. Further, the book overlooks the important role of cancer advocates and organizations, such as the Laskers and the American Cancer Society (ACS), in shaping the emphasis on treatment to the detriment of prevention, and the ways that corporate funding to organizations, such as the ACS, have contributed to a limited interest in environmental and occupational hazards in cancer diagnoses.

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The Conscience of Pharmacists in the UK.

I don't know much about the profession of pharmacy. I have only used a pharmacist for various reasons related to birth control and I can't say I have an affinity for any I've encountered at the many drug stores I've been to around the world. I have gone to a pharmacy for one reason: to get the drugs a doctor has prescribed for me.

In the US we are waiting in a grey area for the US government to rescind the discriminatory Bush "conscience clause" that grants nearly anyone working in the medical profession to exercise their religious ideology to refuse services to patients. It's a horror for any woman to encounter government sanctioned discrimination for her lifestyle or reproductive needs and I hope the pressure being exerted by women's and patients' rights advocates will sway the Obama administration to deny those in positions of medical authority from abusing their power to impose sanctions on any one.

As we wait for a decision to come down here in the US, Britain is having its own battle over the exercised consciences of pharmacists. The Mail Online has a story about the questions the Council for Health Care Regulatory Excellence is asking about the continued practice there that religious ideology may be used to deny a patient a prescription for medication. From the article:

To alarm, however, the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, a Government quango that oversees the health professions, is asking whether the practice should continue.

Calls for the conscience clause to be scrapped have come from pharmacists as well as groups such as the National Secular Society.

But anti-abortionists are warning the code of ethics is in danger of being ‘hijacked by an anti-life agenda’.

The consultation, which ends on January 12, is part of plans to set up a new General Pharmaceutical Council to regulate the profession.

The Department of Health denied that Ministers, who have been struggling to bring down teenage pregnancy rates, had any role in the questionnaire.

Some experts have questioned whether the clause is ‘in keeping with the rising rights and expectations of Health Service users’.

The Church of England, however, says many Christians would wish for their right to refuse emergency contraception to be preserved.

Get that? Choosing to take birth control means you're "anti life." So who should best decide when you have children? Your pharmacist.

On the one hand, I feel strongly that no one should be required to perform a service that violates their religion. Yet, this right of conscience can't impede one's performance of a task that so deeply and personally effects other's lives. If pharmacies continue to staff employees who oppose performing even the most basic duties of their job - like filling prescriptions for birth control in any form - the pharmacy should also ensure that patients have access to an employee who will do their job.

And giving entire health care organizations the right to a conscience - as here in the US has led to the second largest provider of health care services, the Catholic church, doing so with unchecked discrimination against women, gays, and the elderly - is an unconscionable denial of patients' rights.

Watching the battle over pharmacists' consciences in Britain may help us to understand what comes for us here in the US. I've used a clinic for my reproductive health care since I returned to New York. Beyond the nasty picketers outside who assume that all clinic attendees are there for abortion, I find clinics better meet and understand women's needs now that shaming and discrimination have invaded hospitals and expenses have driven many of us on the lower income brackets away from private doctors. And I've given up on chemical birth control. Thirty dollars a month was just out of the question now that I work for myself.

But I was fortunate enough to have a $500 nest egg I could put down for an IUD. (Sterilization is still completely out of the question for single, childless women who don't want to have children but also don't deem psychological evaluation - a requirement for such women to receive sterilization, as if choosing not to have children makes you crazy - as a suitable requirement for such a reproductive decision.)

In other words, like millions of women who know what it's like to manage the hassle of doctors and pharmacists when earning little income, I've found another path to reproductive services. But I recognize that I'm privileged. Such policies as the US should strike down and the UK is reconsidering do the most damage to those who don't have the same privilege and resources that I do. Not only is allowing pharmacists to decide who has effective birth control discriminatory against those who don't hold such religious values, it perpetuates the class divide in this country that has kept women without the freedoms or privacy to make their own health care decisions - most often the very women who are economically, socially, and educationally most discriminated against in the first place.

Such policies shouldn't be upheld; they should be deemed illegal.

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Top Ten Medical Stories of the Decade.

From MSNBC. Not sure I agree with them. Let me know what you think.


Subsidiarity and Health Care Reform.

One of the common arguments given by the religious right against government reform of health care is the Catholic principle, as espoused by Pope John Paul and others, of subsidiarity which states that what can be done at the local level should be, and not mandated by the highest orders of government. The concept, when stated as such, and wielded as such, becomes an argument against government regulation and for free markets or traditional structures of family and society that are an undying but dated myth.

Yet this approach to subsidiarity, as I've seen demonstrated on endless Catholic right blogs lately, often warps the objectives of health care reform (which as it stands now passed by the House and Senate and slated for reconciliation and passage this week, to my mind, is no reform at all but a give-away to the medical industry).

Subsidiarity is one of the tenets of Catholic social teaching and, in American political parlance, is not so different from what we call federalism: that states have independence from the federal government to manage and govern themselves.

This article by Daniel Kuebler from the National Catholic Register (January 2010 issue) makes a number of inaccurate and broad assumptions about the objectives of health care reform (and other "entitlement" programs) and the role that federal regulation must play in our society. Most damagingly it mistakes individual autonomy and personal freedoms for benign forces and avoids the privilege that is given to some segments of society by "free market" ideology and substitutes such concepts as justification for discrimination. Kuebler opens with:

During the campaign to push health-care reform, President Obama and his progressive supporters have repeatedly made a dubious distinction between freedom and responsibility. Those who oppose government-mandated or government-run health care are berated for shirking their responsibility to help create a fair and just society. Worse yet, they are chastised for placing personal freedom over responsibility to their fellow man.

Unfortunately, this false dichotomy between freedom and responsibility is embedded in the progressive worldview that currently dominates our national political leadership. Worse, it represents a grave danger to any society built upon progressive principles.

Progressives tend to view society as something that needs to be ordered from the top down. Those at the top are given the task of making key decisions and ordering society as they see fit. Government “experts” determine how to provide health care, who should go to college, what we should eat and what kind of cars we can drive. And, like parents of rebellious teenagers, they remind us that the restrictions and rules they have imposed upon us are all for our own good.

It is easy to see how individual freedom runs afoul of this way of governing. Anyone acting freely — that is, in a manner not in accord with the principles laid out by the government — is not acting responsibly and needs to be reprimanded. In the progressive mindset, individual freedom easily gets a bad name.

This is not to say that people don’t abuse their freedom. It happens all the time. However, the cure for this is not to take away freedom but to encourage the responsible use of it. The problem with progressive governments, which have their hands in every aspect of our lives, is that they actually discourage responsible use of human freedom. Why should a citizen act responsibly if the government is going to take care of him regardless of how he lives his life?

Universal day care provided by the government does not encourage responsible parenting. Rather, it allows those who neglect their children to continue their irresponsible behavior, often in good conscience. After all, the government is taking care of the kids for a few hours each day. In this environment, the government gradually encroaches upon the natural role of the parent, deciding, among other things, what moral values should be instilled in day-care kids.

John Paul II recognized this problem in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. “By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the social assistance state leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients.”

John Paul recognized that it is best to deal with problems and issues such as poverty, child care and health care not universally but locally. “It would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied,” wrote John Paul, “by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbors to those in need.”

This traditional Catholic insight, known as the principle of subsidiarity, is not unique to John Paul II, but has been echoed by Pope Benedict in Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love): “We do not need a state which regulates and controls everything, but a state which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces that combine spontaneity with closeness to those in need.”

Firstly, Kuebler confuses government regulation and government control. It's an unfortunate but common conflation of concepts. Of all the necessary roles of federal government, I believe all can agree that it must primarily protect citizens. This protection is least questioned when it addresses protection from outside aggressors, as we witnessed most harshly under the Bush government when such a role, aided by strong public approval, pushed our administration to invade other countries and reduce citizen freedoms through the patriot act and other spying programs.

But when it comes to social services, what Kuebler forgets is that not all of the US population is starting from an equal footing. Kuebler starts off with the example of government-provided day care as detrimental to society's traditional family structure and undermining of parent's responsibility to children. His false position is that aiding mothers and family's with government-funded day care is unnecessary. Not all family structures, he fails to understand, are traditional and not all family incomes allow for stay-at-home parenting. In other words, Kuebler is working from an idea of "traditional" family that doesn't exist - and frankly never really did.

All the encouragement in the world isn't going to help a single mother living in the section 8 housing across the street from me to earn enough money to support her children if she doesn't have child care. Punishing this single mother for having children out of wedlock or for divorcing the father of her children is where he is headed - which is blatant discrimination against a woman for her life choices or for lack of the same economic and educational privileges that I imagine he enjoys. And the position starts from an idea of the US family that simply doesn't exist.

When Kuebler gets to health care, his argument's inside-out logic is most obvious:

This is the problem with the progressive nanny state. It numbs our better instincts and saps our personal responsibility. It does this because it loses sight of the individual in its desire to advance society. In the case of health-care reform, Obama and his supporters have tried to sell their package as a way to reduce overall costs and improve our country’s standard of care. Whether one is buying this or not is irrelevant, because the premise behind health-care reform is deficient. As Pope Benedict indicates in Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), “Progress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient.”

Progress that champions a cold cost-benefit calculus for the allocation of health-care resources is progress we can do without. A bureaucracy that views human beings as commodities to be herded through a health-care system — in some financially expedient manner in order to help minimize the impact on the national debt — can hardly be called progressive. Nor is it progress to look to expand federally funded abortions or mainstream euthanasia, even though it may make financial sense in the short term.

In the long term, though, “progress” that marginalizes human life will have devastating effects.

Firstly, he erringly assumes that "liberal" or "progressive" are cohesive labels with uniform concepts and ideologies. Even while the democratic party is torn over the measures laid out in the health care bill. It would be a stretch in any world to call this bill a government mandate of health care (or reform, for that matter.) What it ultimately amounts to is a government bail out of the insurance industry which is empowered to insure every citizen at costs that it determines. This bill protects the free market at a serious and debilitating cost to health care for all.

Secondly, Kuebler misreads the Catholic church's position on health care. Again and again the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has made clear that they support reform (even demanding coverage of illegal immigrants and competition for private insurers in the form of a government run public option), but that they have (wrong-headedly) chosen to hinge their support on the funding of abortion. Their own discrimination against women has seriously gotten in the way of their support for universal, affordable health care.

Thirdly, and most glaringly, Kuebler fails to note that our current system of providing health care, which is largely what he argues to support, doesn't work. The free market or what he touts as the glorious "individual freedoms" and personal responsibility is a ruse. If the system treated all citizens equally, we wouldn't be at a point where 50 million Americans are one broken leg or one diagnosis away from bankruptcy or death. No mention here of the 25,000 who die each year without health insurance.

Personal responsibility is a simple argument to make when you leave out economic, educational, and racial privilege. Which is what our current system does. But Kuebler discounts them quickly and easily because he has a traditional myth of family and community structure to cling to. He rather ignore the working poor, the generationally poor, the underprivileged, the ill, the under-educated, and the discriminated against because they don't fit well into his model of "personal responsibility."

By condemning "practical" or financial considerations, he clearly states that he would rather not make economic ends meet but discriminate against "nanny state" beneficiaries for their inherent life situations. And yet, it is precisely the financial and practical considerations that government is charged to address. It's the old Reagan era argument that women on welfare are draining the federal government of funds, are lazy because they are poor, and are immoral because they don't have a man around to bring home the bacon. As if a poor woman tending her child at home, surviving at the very bottom of the economic ladder, forced to live on food stamps and go without the basic comforts that many others enjoy is living the good life on his dime.

Then Kuebler throws in some good old justification for suffering:

When the government denies the sanctity of life, strips man of his freedoms and subsumes all responsibility, the human person wanders aimlessly through a state of self-indulgence. There is nothing to strive toward, and no reason to behave responsibly, if the government is poised to take care of everything. Private virtue is no longer needed, and individuals gradually lose the ability and desire to shape the moral norms of society.

By painting women's reproductive rights as self-indulgent he gives away his discriminatory views that a woman's role in society is sanctioned by the church and should continue to be so. Parenthood is a responsibility one should embrace as punishment for illicit sex, for not keeping the father happy and at home, for not having access to proper contraception. Poverty is rightful suffering afflicted on those who are too lazy to get good educations, land well-paying jobs, or for being born in the wrong families, he determines.

Kuebler can take the high road all he wants because he ignores the segment of society, ever-growing, that has been subjugated by the myth of traditional family, "boot straps" ideology, and discriminatory teachings of morality. What his argument for subsidiarity boils down to is blatant but euphemized discrimination against those who do not ascribe to his traditional (religious) ideas of family or women's roles. All challenges that befall those who do not nor can not live the way he believes deserve whatever suffering they have, be it lack of insurance, single parenthood, or minimum wage jobs that don't provide enough money for rent and other needs. He refuses to accept that the class structure in society is man- and corporate- made. And he refuses to acknowledge that government's role is to protect citizens from such discriminatory and preying tactics.

For all his claims of the righteousness and rightness of self-sustaining community, I'm not certain that I would want to be his neighbor, lest my "personal responsibility" not meet his mythical ideas of godly behavior. That's not freedom or autonomy. It's justified prejudice and blaming of victims. Where's the plurality and compassion in that?

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Top Ten Religion Stories of 2009.

From Religion Clause comes this list, below. See the bottom paragraph of Howard Freidman's post for two more lists:

Top 10 Church-State, Religious Liberty Developments In 2009

Here are my nominations for the 2009 Top Ten Developments in Church-State Separation/ Free-Exercise of Religion. The choices are based on the long-range implications of the developments on legal doctrines and on future of relations between government and religion. Some of this year's top picks continue trends selected last year. (2008 Top 10.) Others reflect new concerns. I am sure that some readers will disagree with the picks, so I invite your comments. Most of these developments were reflected in a number of Religion Clause postings over the year. Links are to representative posts on the issue.

1. U.S. Catholic bishops are at increasing odds with President Obama over abortion. Very public disputes, sometimes splitting the Catholic community, erupted over Notre Dame's award of an honorary degree to Obama and over the USCCB's insistence on strict language in health care reform bills to limit abortion coverage.

2. Conservative Christian groups mount extensive but unsuccessful attempt to prevent passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

3. The Freedom From Religion Foundation becomes a major player in pressing for church-state separation by challenging a wide variety of practices, from sectarian prayers at city council meetings, to the tax code's parsonage allowance, to engravings at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

4. The Rifqa Bary case requires Florida and Ohio courts to become involved in run-away teenager's claim that her Muslim father threatens her life because of her conversion to Christianity.

5. U.S. Supreme Court rules that a Utah city can refuse to allow the religious group, Summum, to put up a monument containing its "Seven Aphorisms" in a public park, even though a 10 Commandments monument and other monuments are already there.

6. Britain's new Supreme Court holds that a Jewish school's admissions policy using the traditional Orthodox definition of who is a Jew amounts to ethnic, and therefore racial, discrimination.

7. Courts around the country decide disputes over ownership of property after numerous conservative Episcopal parishes move to Anglican affiliations.

8. South Carolina's attempt to issue state-sponsored "I Believe" license plates is ruled a violation of the Establishment Clause.

9. France convicts Scientology and its leaders of fraud while German court limits tactics of German government against Scientology.

10. A Utah trial court rejects a settlement proposed by Utah's Attorney General in the complicated attempt to reform the FLDS United Effort Plan Trust, while the estate of a deceased leader of the polygamous FLDS Church seeks control of the $120 million trust.

There are at least two other Top 10 lists published this month on religion related stories. You may find it interesting to compare their picks, many of which differ a good deal from mine, though they were using somewhat different criteria. They are Don Byrds' Top 10 Religious Liberty Stories of 2009; and Religion Newswriters Top 10 Religion Stories.

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