By Dave Andrusko
We try to provide you almost every day with an update in the many-pronged resistance to Obama’s Mandate that forces virtually all employers (religious, religiously-affiliated, or secular) to pay for services they regard as morally objectionable. Today we’ll talk about three.
#1. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has led the charge for the Catholic Church as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). We’ve reprinted large excerpts from several of his correspondences on the topic, the latest being a letter to the members of the USCCB (www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2012/03/cardinal-dolan-we-did-not-ask-for-this-fight-but-we-will-not-run-from-it).
In his letter to the parishioners of the archdiocese, Dolan succinctly captures what is at stake for the various faith communities in the first paragraph:
“Can a government bureau, in this case the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), define for us or any faith community what is ministry and how it can be exercised? Can government also coerce the church to violate its conscience?”
And he is quick to point out what testimony at a congressional hearing and articles appearing in prominent non-Catholic sources demonstrate:
“It was a Baptist minister, Governor Mike Huckabee, who observed, ‘In this matter, we’re all Catholics.’”
The fight is not over just the specifics, Dolan wrote.
“Pure and simple, it’s about religious freedom, the sacred right, protected by our Constitution, of any Church to define its own teaching and ministry.”
What transpired leading up to the original mandate and the “accommodations” the Obama Administration pretended to make subsequently is worth quoting at length.
“When the President announced on January 20th that the choking mandates from HHS would remain — a shock to me, since he had personally assured me that he would do nothing to impede the good work of the Church in health care, education, and charity, and that he considered the protection of conscience a sacred duty — not only you, but men and women of every faith, or none at all, rallied in protest. The worry that we bishops had expressed — that such government control was contrary to our deepest political values — was eloquently articulated by constitutional scholars and leaders of every creed. Even newspaper editorials supported us!
“On February 10th, the President announced that the insurance providers would have to pay the bill, not the Church’s schools, hospitals, clinics, or vast network of charitable outreach. He considered this “concession” adequate.
“Did this help? We bishops wondered if it would, and announced at first that, while withholding final judgment, we would certainly give it close scrutiny.
“Well, we have — and we’re still as worried as ever. For one, there was not even a nod to the deeper concerns about trespassing upon religious freedom, or of modifying the HHS’ attempt to define the how and who of our ministry through the suffocating mandates.
Two, since a big part of our ministries are “self-insured,” how is this going to help us? We’ll still have to pay! And what about individual believers being coerced to pay?”
There are other problems as well and the conclusion the Bishops have reached?
“we’re still very worried. There seem far more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity.”
The remainder of his letter deals with what to do next. That includes talking with the Administration (“I don’t know if we’ll get anywhere with the executive branch”); working with Congress to pass legislation to “protect what should be so obvious: religious freedom”: and the courts (“our bishops’ conference and many individual religious entities are working with some top-notch law firms who have told us they feel so strongly about this that they will represent us pro-bono”).
#2. Speaking of the courts, there was an interesting piece in today’s Washington Post, updating readers on the court battles. ”Since November, at least eight lawsuits have been filed in federal district courts across the country challenging the constitutionality of the rule,” writes N.C. Aizenman. “The plaintiffs include religiously affiliated schools, colleges, universities and charities, as well as a Catholic television network, two private citizens and the Republican attorneys general of six states.” (The Department of Justice has already filed motions to dismiss two of the cases, arguing that the Department of Health and Human Services is still developing the rule.)
Aizenman’s story then goes on to offer reasons why the lawsuit could win and what defenders of the mandate say are the lawsuit’s weaknesses/hurdles to overcome.
#3. The Catholic News Agency reported today that The Little Sisters of the Poor is “strongly objecting” to the federal rule and say it should be repealed as soon as possible. The order serves 13,000 needy elderly of all faiths in 31 countries around the world. Quoting the order,
“Because the Little Sisters of the Poor cannot in conscience directly provide or collaborate in the provision of services that conflict with Church teaching, we find ourselves in the irreconcilable situation of being forced to either stop serving and employing people of all faiths in our ministry – so that we will fall under the narrow exemption – or to stop providing health care coverage to our employees,” the order said on March 1.
The news story went on to explain that the sisters warned that the successful implementation of the federal rule could set a precedent for “further intrusion of government into health care.”
“If the federal government succeeds in enforcing this rule, what is to stop it from rationing health care to seniors or including euthanizing procedures on the list of required ‘preventive services’ as a way of eliminating the costs associated with caring for our aging population?”.
“Would health care providers like the Little Sisters of the Poor then be forced to cooperate in such practices?
“We wish to affirm that the HHS mandate is an unjust and dangerous infringement upon the natural and constitutional rights of Americans and that the only just solution is to rescind it. The Little Sisters of the Poor call upon Congress and the Executive Branch to reverse this decision as soon as possible and we pledge our prayers and sacrifices for the true good of our beloved country.”
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