By Dave Andrusko
The Obama mandate, never far out of anyone’s mind, cropped up on Sunday’s network talk shows with renewed urgency.
Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on the topic of religion and politics, Cardinal Timothy Dolan turned one question from host Bob Schieffer around to make a key point.
“Yeah, I don’t think religion should be too involved in politics but I also don’t think the government and politics should be overly involved in the church, and that’s our problem here. You’ve got a dramatic, radical intrusion of a government bureaucracy into the internal life of the church that bothers me.”
The Obama Administration is mandating that all religious institutions-–universities, hospitals, and charities–-pay for health insurance that covers sterilization and contraception, not just Catholic institutions. Opponents such as Cardinal Dolan, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, see the mandate as a clear abridgment of religious freedom.
Schieffer quoted from pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden, who’d said previously (referring to the “accommodation” offered by Obama), “On the substance, the President ended up exactly where he intended, where he began,” and Schieffer asked if Dolan was “good with that.”
“It hasn’t helped us much because we still have to pay for it, because most of us are self-insured and we are still worried not just about our institutions but also the individuals. So we still find ourselves in a very tough spot, and we’re still going to continue to express what we believe is just not a religious point of view but a constitutional point of view that America’s at her best when the government doesn’t force a citizen or a group of citizens in a religious creed to violate their deepest held moral convictions.”
Over at NBC’s Meet the Press, Archbishop William Lori was part of a panel discussion. Although moderator David Gregory clearly was unsatisfied with Lori’s answers, the back and forth comments were instructive.
First, Archbishop Lori, Chairman of the newly formed Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, established by the USCCB, said,
“What we’ve seen, the bishops of the United States have seen is an erosion of religious liberty. Perhaps we wouldn’t use the word ‘war’ [on religion]. I wouldn’t underestimate, however, how engaged we are in the struggle and how determined we are. But there has been– the HHS mandate is certainly the most urgent of these– undermining of religious liberty. But there’s many other things that are going on.”
“But explain why you think it undermines it. I mean, what the– what the actual mandate actually does and why you think that’s– an erosion of freedom.”
Archbishop Lori responded
“Well, first of all, we have the government imposing its definition on what religion and religious organizations are to be. And it’s an inward looking definition. If you’re only serving your own, hiring your own, inculcating your own doctrine, you’re exempt. But the minute you serve the common good which is what all of our organizations do, then you’re not exempt. Then you are subject to having to provide fund and or facilitate– services which are contrary to the church’s teaching.”
Later another contributor observed, “And I just wonder whether it’s in either candidate’s interest to be bringing up specific religious issues,” which prompted this from Archbishop Lori:
“It’s not a theological debate. We are not trying to get the government to stop something or to start something. What we are talking about is the government– forcing religious organizations to do something that is against their teaching? This is a religious liberty fight.
“We recognize there’s a lot of opinions about– about abortifacients and sterilization and contraception. What we’re saying is that we’re not just houses of worship. We are places that try to live our teachings as we serve the common good. We have this freedom now. We’ve had it for generations. Our teachings have been accommodated. But now they’re not being accommodated. This represents a definite diminishment of our freedom to provide our services.”
On ABC’s “This Week,” Jake Tapper interviewed Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, again on the role of religion. Tapper said of Warren that “He may be the nation’s and world’s most famous and influential pastor.” Warren echoed Cardinal Dolan’s and Archbishop Lori’s assessment that the mandate is about religious freedom.
At the end of a response to one question, Warren said, “You know the — the first freedom in America is actually the freedom of religion. It’s not the second, third, fourth or fifth.” This prompted the follow exchange:
“TAPPER: You — you’ve written about this, especially on Twitter a great deal when it comes to the Obama administration’s health care rule when it pertains to contraception. You — you objected to that. Initially they dialed it back.
“R. WARREN: Yeah.
“TAPPER: How are you with what they called an ‘accommodation?’ Where you OK with that, or no?
“R. WARREN: Well, no I’m not. But the issue here is not about women’s health. There’s a greater principle and that is do you have a right to decide what your faith practices? Now, I don’t have a problem with contraception. I’m a Protestant, I’m an evangelical. But, I do support my Catholic brothers and sisters to believe what they want to believe.”
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