Roundup of Oklahoma editorials

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman, Dec. 3, 2013

With Hobby Lobby case, court has chance to defend religious liberty

If Hobby Lobby persuades U.S. Supreme Court justices that it shouldn’t have to pay for some forms of birth control because it would violate religious principles, well, the end would be near in terms of women’s health care!

So say liberals who are wringing their hands over the prospect of Hobby Lobby winning its case. One of them is U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who helped ramrod to passage the Affordable Care Act, a portion of which requires companies to provide insurance covering birth control.

“When the Supreme Court hears this case, the choice must be clear,” Pelosi said last week after the high court agreed to take on cases brought by Hobby Lobby and a Pennsylvania furniture company. “Health care decisions should be made by a woman and her doctor, not by her boss, by insurance companies or by Washington politicians.”

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said, “Allowing a woman’s boss to call the shots about her access to birth control should be inconceivable to all Americans in this day and age.”

And yet neither woman has a problem with the nation’s boss, President Barack Obama, calling the shots by ordering Americans, through Obamacare, to enroll in insurance plans they don’t want or don’t need. Pelosi, Murray and other liberals insist that women be able to have any and all options for birth control — free, of course — while Obamacare options are almost nil. The disconnect is remarkable.

Hobby Lobby and several other for-profit companies began this fight in 2012 after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate requiring faith-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and charities to offer free contraception and abortifacients as part of health insurance coverage. After considerable blowback, the administration tweaked the rule to make insurance companies, not the religious employers, offer free contraception.

Self-insured companies such as Hobby Lobby were still out of luck, though, and so they went to court. This summer the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said Hobby Lobby could sue over the mandate, rejecting the administration’s argument that for-profits couldn’t claim it violates their constitutionally protected religious freedoms.

CEO David Green understandably feels that his family is being forced to choose between following the law or following its religious beliefs, which are part and parcel to the management of Hobby Lobby. As we have noted in the past, the Green family actively supports Christian ministries, closes its stores on Sundays and has full-time chaplains on staff to minister to employees.

And it’s worth mentioning that the company doesn’t object to all the contraceptives covered by the mandate. Its beef is with those that prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, such as the morning-after pill.

“This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family business to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution,” Green said last week.

Liberal groups such as Planned Parenthood worry that if Hobby Lobby wins, it could lead company execs to cite personal beliefs in choosing not to cover other things such as vaccines or surgeries. These are Chicken Little arguments. The sky wouldn’t fall if the Supreme Court found in Hobby Lobby’s favor.

Instead, it would simply be a victory against this administration’s attack on religious liberty.

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Tulsa World, Dec. 3, 2013

Wise choice

Oklahoma voters can be very wise.

In 2000, when the state was looking at what to do with potentially billions of dollars from a settlement with big tobacco companies, the voters decided to do the right thing with most of the money —— invest in a healthy population.

The settlement was the result of a huge multistate lawsuit that alleged the costs of the diseases caused by smoking were being foisted on state governments. Tobacco companies agreed to the long-term payout rather than the possibility of an industry-destroying judgment.

So far, Oklahoma’s share has amounted to more than $1 billion, and that money should keep on doing good in the state perpetually.

While voters dedicated a quarter of the money for the state’s general fund, the remainder was directed to an endowment with the proceeds dedicated to improving the state’s health.

The trust is now close to $797 million. This year at least $35 million from the fund’s earnings will be used in 67 health-promoting programs, many of which never would have seen the light of day or would have faded without the funding.

Key among those programs is smoke cessation — working to help Oklahomans kick their nasty, deadly tobacco habits, even if it makes the cash cow dry up. Of course, the fact that most of the money was held in trust, not spent immediately, means that even if everyone went tobacco-free overnight, the money would continue to roll in,

The tobacco trust decision was one of the wisest choices in state history. It is a vehicle for undoing tobacco’s damages and promoting a healthy Oklahoma.

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Muskogee Phoenix, Dec. 2, 2013

Industry can preserve environment

Environment and industry can co-exist.

Proper regulation is an essential part of making that happen.

Compliance is the first, best, option. Working together to quickly resolve problems that arise is an essential part of the process.

Muskogee’s significant industrial water users appear to be doing both.

A recent annual report on industrial users that discharge pretreated effluents into Muskogee’s wastewater treatment plant show most are compliant.

During the reporting year, which ended Oct. 31, four violation notices were issued to four significant industrial users. Two violations were issued as a result of a user exceeding established pollution limits, and two others were issued to two companies that submitted late reports.

Late reports are not good, but a late report that shows the user is in compliance is preferable to exceeding the limits.

Environmental technician Ron Bladen said that when a user exceeds its limits, subsequent testing is required. Bladen said subsequent testing at the two companies reported to have exceeded limits — Owens-Brockway Glass Container Inc. and Dal-Tile — showed both had “come back into compliance.”

The report shows that most users are following regulations and that the industries are working with the city to solve problems as they arise.

We all use Muskogee’s water. We need it. It is good to see industries respect our environment.

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