Northeast Ohio churches speak out against President Obama’s birth control policy

By: Kristin Byrne,

President Barack ObamaBRUNSWICK, Ohio – Catholic churches in northeast Ohio are on mission to have their message heard after President Obama announced a federal mandate regarding health care coverage for contraception.

The regulation requires faith-based institutions to provide insurance for things like contraception. It’s been revised so churches can opt out of providing coverage, but that doesn’t matter much to some local church members, like Mike Ruffing. He’s been a member of St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Brunswick for eight years.

“Regulating some type of aspect of providing insurance for something that is against their conscience is more than just a Catholic issue, that’s a government infringing upon people’s religious freedoms,” he said.

Ruffing has been emailing lawmakers, other church members and anyone who’ll listen. His pastor, Father Bob Sec, is taking action, too. He’s been keeping his parishioners up to speed on the topic and telling them where the church stands on the issue.

“I think we’ve been called to faithful citizenship and faithful stewardship what that means is that we need to be participants in the conversation of shaping out society, shaping our culture, and shaping the laws of the land.”

Other churches feel strongly something has to be done. St. Thomas More Catholic Parish has created a petition against the new mandate and members at the Queen of Heaven Catholic Church in Uniontown can pick up postcards to mail to lawmakers.

A Former president will visit Lions International

President Carter, to visit LionsJust days after President Obama called on citizens to write to soldiers, help in soup kitchens and devote time to assist others, former President Jimmy Carter will come to Oak Brook to continue his long legacy of service.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, Carter will visit Lions Clubs International headquarters to dedicate a “Gift of Sight” bronze sculpture, which is a gift from The Carter Center, a not-for-profit group working to advance human rights.

Since Carter is a longtime Lion, the statue is a thank-you to the organization for its latest donation of more $203 million for international sight programs and research through its SightFirst initiative.

Al Brandel, president of Lions Clubs International, said it was easy to convince Carter to travel to Oak Brook.

“I didn’t have to twist his arm,” he said with a laugh.

Brandel said most of the $203 million was raised by local Lions Clubs throughout the world, including groups in Bloomingdale, Glen Ellyn and Naperville. Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization with 1.3 million members.

“We are so proud of the clubs we have around the world doing things in their own communities that sometimes don’t even come to our attention,” Brandel said.

While Lions Clubs serve their communities in whatever way they see fit – rebuilding after disasters, helping needy families during the holidays – the group also has a long history of working to prevent and reverse blindness.

Brandel said the club forged a partnership with The Carter Center in 1996 to fight river blindness, which is caused by infection.

“It was just a marriage made in heaven” Brandel said. “We have almost totally eliminated river blindness in South America and now our focus will be on Africa.”

The life-size sculpture Carter will dedicate Tuesday depicts a child leading a man who lost his sight to river blindness.

Carter’s dedication corresponds with a two-day symposium that runs Monday and Tuesday at the club’s Oak Brook headquarters. Representatives from organizations and governments worldwide will gather to discuss youth development and blindness prevention.

Brandel said the event attracted attention of major not-for-profit groups, including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Carter’s visit, he said, will help the initiatives gain more visibility.

“The attention we bring to ourselves and our good works will not only increase our membership but improve the communities we are serving,” Brandel said. “It is a synergy of us all getting together and giving something bigger and better to the people we serve.”