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.
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?