Obama’s Frontal Attack on Religious Freedom

Nothing like a few hot-button issues in the news these days to wake this blogger from dormancy!

The second of three such issues (the first one being the post below this one) is the Department of Health and Human Services mandate which essentially forces private employers to provide free contraceptive and abortifacient services in their employee health plans, despite any objection to providing such services based on religious and/or moral beliefs.

This mandate, under the direction of President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, has been widely condemned by the Catholic Church as well as those of other Christian denominations. Even Orthodox Jews have jumped on board in calling foul on this full, frontal attack on the First Amendment.

This article summarizes the main points of contention quite well.

Fortunately, both houses of Congress have bills countering the HHS mandate, including one introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio.

As with Komen vs. Planned Parenthood, the issue is largely being drawn along pro-life vs pro-choice/abortion lines. As with the Komen/Planned Parenthood case, this issue isn’t totally about pro-life vs. pro-abortion although it does inhabit that territory due to its diametric opposition to Catholic teaching vis-a-vis contraception and its impact on Catholic institutions. In fact, one can be totally in favor of using contraceptives and be against the mandate on the simple grounds of religious freedom and protection of conscience. Hence, the support even among non-Catholic groups whose stance on contraception is normally much more relaxed.

Another thing in common with Komen vs. Planned Parenthood is that there is a silver lining: unity among Catholic leadership rarely seen in the past 2 or 3 decades. To date, over 90% of U.S. Catholic bishops have spoken out against the HHS mandate. A good example:  check out what Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik had to say. President Obama, who in his speech at Notre Dame University in 2009 promised to be sensitive to Catholic issues, is risking losing the U.S. Catholic vote (Obama carried Catholics by a good 9 percent margin in 2008) and he may very well have violated the old maxim that you always let “sleeping dogs lie”. Obama can’t seem to help himself in indulging in his own deeply-seeded liberal beliefs, putting his already shaky re-election bid at bigger risk of failure.

Actually, there is an exemption clause, but it only applies to institutions which overwhelmingly hire and employ people of their own faith. Obviously, Catholic institutions reach deep into and serve the community at large, not just fellow Catholics. Therefore, most Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable organizations would not qualify. For this very reason, even Jesus and His apostles would have failed to qualify.

Now, I’m under no illusion that every single Catholic is outraged by this. One can argue that Obama is taking a calculated risk fully knowing that most Catholics freely support contraceptive use and probably don’t agree with their own church’s teaching on it. But again, I argue that it’s not all about the contraceptives themselves as it is government intrusion. Properly framed this way, most Americans would have a hard time stomaching this atrocity.

“Separation of church and state” is normally a liberal cry to conservatives who are perceived to be the ones trying to inject religion into every facet of civic life. The fact that it’s liberals – especially the pro-abortion wing – that are in full support of the mandate serves to point out the blatant hypocrisy of their continuous demand that conservatives keep religion out of their lives. In other words, these liberals think it’s OK for church and state to be joined as long as it’s the state calling the shots. Want to support separation of church and state? Fine, apply it to both sides.

What we’re seeing here is a transparent, brazen attempt by the Obama administration to inject the state into the free expression of religious beliefs and protection of conscience. Isn’t that what the Founding Fathers meant when they drew up the First Amendment?

19 Responses

  1. Our laws have long made health plans available to most people in the form of “employee benefits” received through their employers. Apart from political expediency, employers really did not need to be involved at all, but since the law put them in that position, they effectively have had a say in what types of plans are available to their employees. Some employers have even taken advantage of their position to tailor the plans they make available to fit their own religious views, rather than leave such matters to their employees.

    Now that the government has prescribed that health plans provide some services that do not conform to the religious views of some employers, those employers have complained they face a moral bind–that is they are forced to provide plans that include services they find objectionable. This moral bind could have been avoided if the law had not required employers to provide such qualifying health plans and, instead, simply made such plans readily and directly available to everyone, funding them, at least partly, through taxes or assessments paid by employers relieved of the burden of providing health plans. Had the government done that, employers would not face a moral bind and health plans would be widely available as the law intends.

    Oh. Wait. Does the current health law afford employers that very option? Why, yes, it does. http://pnhp.org/blog/2011/03/15/employer-sponsored-health-plans-under-the-affordable-care-act/ Eureka! No moral bind! (And the assessments, by the way, are hardly prohibitive as some commentators suppose. Some employers, indeed, are considering that option on the basis that it is economically advantageous.)

    Problem solved–except perhaps for an employer who really desires not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather wants to retain control of his employees’ health plans, limit their choices to conform to the employer’s religious beliefs, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed. The employer could not do that–unless he obtained an exemption from the law.

    Oh. Wait. Aren’t some employers clamoring for just such an exemption, so they can do just that? Why, yes, they are.

    • The assessments may not seem like much to some, but for employers with hundreds of employees, $2000 per employee is a lot of money especially for non-profits. Not a convincing argument in my opinion and just one of the many reasons “Obamacare” is disliked by so many people. Yes, there may be an “out” for employers who don’t want to provide contraceptives, but why does it have to be “all or nothing”? Except for three states (CA, OR and WA), those that have exemption clauses are much wider and inclusive than the HHS mandate, one that gives both employer AND employee increased option.

      Besides the cost issue, there is an important issue of principle that we shouldn’t ignore…one the Obama/HHS mandate does nothing to resolve.

      • Do you realize that $2,000 per employee is much, much less than an employer would pay per employee for health plans? That is why some employers–for entirely economic reasons–are considering dropping health plans and paying the assessment instead.

        • Unless, of course, the employees of a company which decides to pay the penalty go to the health care exchange and end up costing more than what they paid previously for health insurance. The penalty is there for a reason…and I guarantee you it’s not so companies can make an extra buck by dropping health care coverage. Also, what’s to stop the $2000 assessment from increasing, which it surely will?

          But I digress…

          • You are right to note that the amount of the assessment may need adjustment in order to properly serve its function. Currently, it appears quite low.

            In any event, note we are no longer talking about a moral dilemma (the sort of thing that may warrant an exemption), but rather an ordinary issue of dollars and cents (the sort of thing every taxpayer faces).

  2. Do Catholic hospitals currently dispense contraceptives, Robert?

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    • Rick:

      No, not if they’re following basic Catholic teaching,

      • Well, they are. In fact, in the last decade they’ve been ordered by the courts at least a couple times to do it. And they do it.

        This isn’t a new issue. But it is a new opportunity for a partisan attack on Democrats and the president, in particular. Pure and simple.

        Oh, and “shaky re-election bid?” Cmon. Even you don’t believe that one. It’s been over a week since the Florida primaries and the boys have yet to write one word, one single word, on the outcome. As do you.

        Nuthin’ for nuthin’, but I think we all know who is shaky these days.

        .

        • My answer was correct and of course you knew the answer as well.

          The article from the totally-unbiased-and-fair Think Progress linked to another article that actually talked about the informal study of Catholic universities…and the results presented a mixed bag as is expected in an era where too many Catholics depart from Church teaching on key issues like contraception. Noteworthy too are the universities that are forced by courts to provide contraceptive coverage. Just because some Catholic institutions violate their own teaching doesn’t de-legitimize the real concerns of those of us who see this mandate as obviously wrong on so many levels (speaking of partisan attacks…did you see Chris Matthews’ reaction linked in the post above this one?).

          Rick, please answer the following question for me since you’ve managed to avoid addressing it either here or over at your blog:

          Do you believe it’s right for government at ANY level to mandate a Catholic institution to provide a service for which they are against on religious grounds? If so, it is an acceptance of your part of state interfering with religion?

          • Robert, it’s the law. Where was the Right and the Catholic Church back in 2004 and 2007 when it being litigated and ruled upon by the courts? Where was the outrage? Where were you, Robert?

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            • I asked you to answer my question, Rick, not to regurgitate a court decision. C’mon you’re not running for political office, are you? What do you say?

              • Decisions, Robert. More than one. Neither of which you note in your missive. All of a sudden when a Democrat is President you have a big problem with it.

                I don’t know about you, Robert, but I respect the opinions of the courts. I don’t always agree with them, but I respect their rulings. If the Catholic institution wants to provide services to a diverse population, then they fall outside the exemptions that have been provided for them in the law. It’s a choice for them to make and to live with.

                .

                • OK, Rick. You don’t want to answer the question. That’s alright. Personally, I think you’re afraid to explicitly admit that you believe that government should intrude into the conscience rights of believers, especially when their beliefs go against what you happen to believe in. It’s that simple. Next time you complain about those pesky, self-righteous, right-winged Christians wanting to meddle in government, I’ll duly note this thread.

                  Tell me, what federal law is in effect RIGHT NOW that’s even remotely close to the HHS mandate? What states outside of CA/OR/NY have exemption clauses that are so narrow and senseless that a Catholic organization which sets out to perform its apostolic duties (you know, serving a diverse population) can’t qualify? Which states outside of the three mentioned above have exemption clauses that are so narrow that even Jesus and his Apostles wouldn’t qualify? Perhaps I ask too many questions…but that’s because you don’t answer them.

            • “Robert, it’s the law.”

              Slavery was the law once. Laws can be wrong and they can be changed. You and the modern Left would rather force your preferences on people you disagree with than look for political outcomes that respect people’s differences. Contemptible.

    • That was a pretty stupid question, Rick, even for you.

    • BTW, Happy 4th Blog Anniversary. You’re very welcome for all the traffic you generate referencing Babalú!

      • Me too….I could count the number of daily site visits on one or two fingers if it wasn’t for South Florida Daily Blog.

      • George….you can take down the Sarah Palin poster on the ceiling above your bed. She ain’t running. Give up The Dream.

        Is August a good time for you to start your hyperventilating and calling for the end of the world if Obama is elected again? Post the order to the troops calling them to vote for the Republican, no matter who they are, because otherwise we are dooooooooomed! Isn’t that what got your kind in trouble in 2008?

        Funny stuff.

        What’s not quite as funny, George, is your extreme hate towards 50% of your fellow Americans simply because they don’t see things the way you do. Where does that hate take you? That’s the question….

        .

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