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  • What They’re Saying: Obamacare's Contraception Mandate Tramples Religious Liberty

    On January 20, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finalized regulations for preventive services under Obamacare that require religious institutions beyond churches to provide and pay for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization in their health coverage. The mandate violates the teachings and beliefs of many religious institutions and puts their ministries of service to millions at risk. It tramples religious liberty, and it has rightly offended many Americans.

    The quotations below from sources across the political spectrum are just a sampling of the outcry against the Obamacare mandate on preventive services. They show the significance of the backlash and the profound nature of the principles at stake.

    As rumors of “compromise” on the details of the mandate drift through political and press circles, it is critical to remember that no simple, superficial fix can remedy the problem. No tweaks or additional exemptions can resolve the fundamental problem caused by Obamacare’s central design flaw: Centralizing health care erodes civil society and forces individuals and institutions to hand over to bureaucrats the moral compass and their freedom to make private health decisions.

    Only repealing the Obamacare statute can solve the fundamental problems for religious liberty—and freedom generally—raised by these and many other voices:

    Washington Post editorial board: “The administration’s feint at a compromise—giving [religiously-affiliated] employers another year to figure out how to comply with the requirement—is unproductive can-kicking that fails to address the fundamental problem of requiring religiously affiliated entities to spend their own money in a way that contradicts the tenets of their faith.…[T]he significance of the new health-care law is that the federal government will for the first time require all employers to provide insurance coverage for their workers—in other words, to spend their own money to help underwrite this coverage—or, in many cases, to pay a penalty. In this circumstance, requiring a religiously affiliated employer to spend its own money in a way that violates its religious principles does not make an adequate accommodation for those deeply held views.”

    Source: “Respecting religious exemptions,” Washington Post, January 22, 2012

    USA Today editorial board: “Few Americans of any political stripe would disagree with the simple proposition that the government should steer away from meddling in church affairs. Certainly, it should never try to force a religiously affiliated institution to violate a central tenet of its faith. Yet in drawing up the rules that will govern health care reform, the Obama administration didn’t just cross that line. It galloped over it, requiring employers affiliated with the Catholic Church to include free birth control in their health insurance plans. That’s contrary to both Catholic doctrine and constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.”

    Source:Contraception mandate violates religious freedom,” USA Today editorial, February 7, 2012

    David Brooks, New York Times: “Every once in a while, the Obama administration will promulgate a policy that is truly demoralizing. A willingness to end the District of Columbia school voucher program was one such case. The decision to force Catholic social service providers to support contraception and other practices that violate their creed is another. These decisions are demoralizing because they make it harder to conduct a serious antipoverty policy….[F]aith motivates people to serve. Faith turns lives around. You want to do everything possible to give these faithful servants room and support so they can improve the spiritual, economic and social ecology in poor neighborhoods. The administration’s policies on school vouchers and religious service providers are demoralizing because they weaken this ecology by reducing its diversity. By ending vouchers, the administration reduced the social intercourse between neighborhoods. By coercing the religious charities, it is teaching the faithful to distrust government, to segregate themselves from bureaucratic overreach, to pull inward.”

    Source: “Flood the Zone,” New York Times, February 6, 2012

    Kathleen Parker, Washington Post: “Catholic institutions are under siege by the federal government vis-a-vis the Affordable Care Act, which requires nearly all employers to provide health insurance that covers contraception, including in some cases abortifacient drugs. The Obama administration insists that these offerings are part of women’s health and should be made easily available; Catholics, both liberal and conservative, believe that these requirements are the edge of the wedge. Essentially, the new law forces them either to forfeit their most fundamental beliefs or to face prohibitive penalties—or to close hospitals, schools and other charities, with catastrophic consequences for millions who depend on them. For perspective, one in six patients in the United States is cared for in a Catholic hospital.”

    Source: “Komen, Catholics and the cost of conscience,” The Washington Post, February 3, 2012

    Kathleen Parker, cont., Washington Post: “We’re actually not having a debate about birth control. To repeat: The debate is about freedom of conscience. It ain’t about the Pill.…As to the separation of church and state argument that church critics keep raising, keep in mind that this separation was also intended to protect religious believers from state interference. When the state insists that one’s religious beliefs be supplanted by another’s, in this case by secularism, then might one argue that the state is establishing a religion in contravention of the Constitution’s intent?…Catholic leaders are justified in their outrage, especially those who helped Obama with health-care reform and now feel betrayed. Exhibit A: Sister Carol Keehan, CEO of the Catholic Health Association, who supported the health-care act with assurances from Obama that Catholics’ rights of conscience would be protected, despite criticism from many other Catholic leaders. She has now met the crowded underside of Obama’s bus.”

    Source: Obama runs roughshod over religious freedom,The Washington Post, February 8, 2012

    Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Health Association of the United States, Catholic Health World: “CHA and its members were profoundly disappointed to learn that the definition of a religious employer was not going to be broadened in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ rules for preventive services for women. The impact of being told we do not fit the new definition of a religious employer and therefore cannot operate our ministries following our consciences has jolted us. The contributions of Catholic health care, education and social services to this country’s development are legion. They have responded to the needs of all, not just Catholics. They have been delivered by many who do not share our faith, but share our commitment. From President Thomas Jefferson to President Barack Obama, we have been promised a respect for appropriate religious freedom. The first amendment to our Constitution affirms it. We are a pluralistic country, and it takes respectful dialogue to sort this out fairly. This decision was a missed opportunity.”

    Source: “Something has to be fixed,” Catholic Health World, February 15, 2012

    Michael Sean Winters, author of Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics and How the Catholics Can Save the Democrats, National Catholic Reporter: “Religion is not something we only do on Sunday morning and do amongst ourselves.…The administration’s logic seems to be that when a poor person comes to a Catholic soup kitchen, we should not ask if he is hungry, we should ask if he is Catholic. Sorry, but that is not how we conceive of our Catholic mission and social justice Catholics should be the first to recognize this instead of shamefully making apologies for the administration or bashing the bishops or shifting the conversation away from these first principles into a defense of contraception.…It is time for so-called progressive Catholics to stop serving as chaplains to the political status quo and recognize a first principle when they see one. It is time for Catholics to insist that a conscience exemption that only applies to religion on Sunday and no help for the poor unless they are also Catholic is no conscience exemption at all.”

    Source: “Compromise? Not So Fast,” National Catholic Reporter, February 8, 2012

    Chicago Tribune editorial board: “The Obama administration, by not providing a broad conscience exception for this insurance mandate, is denying the church’s right—protected by the First Amendment—to freely practice its faith. This mandate sets up an agonizing dilemma for church institutions. The Rev. John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, succinctly summarized it in a letter last year to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: ‘This would compel Notre Dame to either pay for contraception and sterilization in violation of the Church’s moral teaching, or to discontinue our employee and student health care plans in violation of the Church’s social teaching. It is an impossible position.….Here the administration is dealing with a matter of faith, a matter of conscience. It should reverse this decision, to protect religious freedom.”

    Source: “A matter of faith: HHS should provide a broader conscience exemption on contraceptive coverage,” Chicago Tribune, February 3, 2012

    Washington Times editorial board: “The merits of contraception or the consciences of individual Catholics is not the primary issue here. This is about the role of government and the scope of Obamacare. It may have come as a surprise that the HHS secretary had the power to dictate the fine print of everyone’s health care coverage. During the debates over Obamacare, religiously affiliated health care providers were promised that they would receive a ‘conscience waiver’ for any provisions of the law that created this kind of moral dilemma. This is what then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Democrat, dismissively referred to as ‘this conscience thing.’ It’s an important illustration of why it is important to know what is in legislation before it is passed.”

    Source: “Obama’s lack of conscience: Administration birth-control policy violates Catholic views,” The Washington Times, February 7, 2012

    William McGurn, Wall Street Journal: “[T]his is far more than a ‘Catholic’ issue. At a minimum, it means higher taxes and less efficiency for all if the government picks up the slack. The Founders did not intend the federal government to be limited only by law. They also wanted it limited by a public square thick with private social institutions. The American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks notes that more than half of all the civic institutions in American life have a religious purpose or affiliation—and that our liberty is linked to theirs.…At last week’s National Prayer Breakfast, the president harkened back to his 2008 script, talking up how his own faith informs his public decisions. What people see these days, however, is the candidate who derided small-town Americans as ‘bitter’ people clinging ‘to guns or religion.’ Turns out he was more correct than he knew. Except that what these Americans are clinging to might better be described as the Second and First Amendments.”

    Source: “Obama and the ‘Bitter’ Clingers—Round Two,” Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2012

    Yuval Levin, National Review Online: “The particulars of what the Obamacare insurance mandate rule does, and the unwillingness of the administration to exempt religious employers, are just stunning. Religious institutions are basically going to be fined for holding views regarding contraception, sterilization, and abortion that are different from the Obama administration’s views.…[W]hat is at issue in the controversy over the administration’s rule is not just the question of religious liberty but the question of non-governmental institutions in a free society.…In this arena, as in a great many others, the administration is clearly determined to see civil society as merely an extension of the state, and to clear out civil society—clearing out the mediating layers between the individual and the state—when it seems to stand in the way of achieving the president’s agenda. The idea is to leave as few non-individual players as possible in the private sphere, and to turn those few that are left into agents of the government. This is the logic of a lot of the administration’s approach to the private economy, not just to civil society. It is key to the design of Obamacare…of significant portions of Dodd-Frank…and of much of the regulatory agenda of the left. And it is all the more so the character of the administration’s approach to charitable institutions. It is an attack on mediating institutions of all sorts, moved by the genuine belief that they are obstacles to a good society.

    “This approach is especially noxious and pernicious when it is directed at religiously affiliated institutions—both because they deserve special standing and because they do some of the hardest and most needful work of charity and care in our society. We should use every available means to protect those institutions from this mortal danger, and that certainly includes resorting to the language of conscience and exemption. But as we do so, we should not forget that we are dealing with an instance of a larger and deeper danger, and we should do what we can to combat that danger in its own terms. It is perhaps the gravest threat to freedom in American life today.”

    Source: “Religious liberty and civil society,” National Review Online, January 30, 2012

    Wall Street Journal editorial board: “The country is being exposed to the raw political control that is the core of the Obama health-care plan, and Americans are seeing clearly for the first time how this will violate pluralism and liberty.…The entire thrust of ObamaCare is to standardize benefits and how they must be paid for and provided, regardless of individual choices or ethical convictions.…When politics determines who can or should receive what benefits, and who pays what for it, government will use its force to dictate the outcomes that it wants—either for reasons of cost, or to promote its values, which in this case means that ‘women’s health’ trumps religious conscience. …The White House is now trying to cauterize the political damage and saying it is open to some ‘compromise’ on its own contraception decision. But the rule is already final. HHS tried to sell it as a compromise when it was announced, and in any case HHS would revive this coercion whenever it is politically convenient some time in Mr. Obama’s second term. Religious liberty won’t be protected from the entitlement state until ObamaCare is repealed.”

    Source: “Obamacare’s Great Awakening,” The Wall Street Journal, (February 8, 2012)

    Posted in Featured, Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to What They’re Saying: Obamacare's Contraception Mandate Tramples Religious Liberty

    1. steve h says:

      it just baffles me how neoconservatives and religious zealots are against contraception…and they are typcially the same ones who are against any increase in the safet net. They are ok with the young and the poor having baby after baby, but they don't want to be responsible in giving any sort of financial assistance to those very same babies. I'm happy with the ruling. I don't think some university or hospital should be allowed to refuse covering the costs of contraception from its employees – if one of the orderlies wants to have a loving and phsycial relationship with their significant other or spouse – but do not want to have a child at this time, how could anyone be against that? These religious zealots are getting far too involved in people's personal lives. They preach about 2 passages in the bible but ignore the others – like the passages that says you can't eat shrimp or lay in same bed as your woman if she is menstrating or you have to have you hair cut a certian way or shave a certain way. Let's get all these silly religious rules out of politics.

      • Brad - Detroit says:

        Completely missing the point. What if the HHS decided to suddenly compel all men named Steve that they have to pay for all girls named Sally's abortions ? I am thinking that it would be violating Steve's rights to have him pay for an abortion that he had nothing to do with. Once you cross that fuzzy line of violating people's 1st amendment rights, you really can't go back. Be careful what you wish for.

    2. Stirling says:

      Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has had a long history of pro- Abortion, and ties to Planned Parrenthood while she was governor, and has just continued the policies at HHS Secretary.. She should be one of those that is put in the spotlight (by congress) for her questionable record she claims to be a catholic, but her actions show a lack of respect for her religion and life.

    3. Jeanne Stotler says:

      In the 58 yrs I have been eledgable to vote, I've voted Rep. most of the time, BUT never was I asked to violate my tenets of Faith. I am a conservative, tea party Rep. and believe in what the founding fathers wrote (a descendent is a signer) IF WE give in on one admendment or right we will soon seeanother than another slip way. We are in dire danger of becoming like Nazi Germany, the old adage 'If you forget the past, you aredoomed to repeat it" Wake up America, take back our country and and our rights and laws.

    4. O_Henry says:

      “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” RWR 10-28-80

    5. Ken in Ohio says:

      As a practicing Catholic, not a perfect Catholic; that's why I keep practicing; I am not surprised that the Obama Administration thought that they could run this through. After all, the Catholic Church in the United States has for years aligned themselves with democrat policy even in the face of the policy of collective salvation and other affronts to the greater teachings of the church. We have reached a time when Catholic democrats must decide what they are first, Catholics or democrats. The two are no longer mutually inclusive. This is as striking a case of government interference in religion as has been witnessed since the "wall of separation" was introduced by the Supreme Court in the late 40's.

    6. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Does any of the above comments make a damn to Obama or his lackeys. Does the fact that this is unconstitutional make any difference? Despite the obvious, there are still the likes of Reid, Peolsi, and many others that defend Obama to the hilt. How much more direct violations of our Constitutional rights are we suposed to take before we stop Obama and his policies?

    7. Jeanne Stotler says:

      I started my education in Catholic schools, after 3 yrs ofpublic High Schol I was accepted into Nursing school at Georgetown Univ. I choose to uphold my Catholic teachings and have refuse to participate in abortions, sterileizing wome or men. I raised 9 of my 10 children and took a lot of offside comments about obying my conscience. Material wealth is not going to get anyone into heaven, it says so in the Bible, even though we did well, not rich, we did have to put some things on hold in preference of our childre's welfare and Catholic education. I also believe in upholding the Constitution, the 1st Admendment gives me the right to practice my religion as I see fit, it tells the Congress it cannot pass any laws interfering with ANY religion it also gives Congress control over the executive branch, they are not upholding Article 1 or are they putting Obama on notice he's wrong. Smaller gov't. and gaurantee of rligious freedom on all things.

    8. R DeVine says:

      The Obama administration has shown it’s complete willingness to trample the Constitution, infringe on religious freedom by mandating to the Catholic church what there religious values can be.

      Even if a compromise is reached, he has already demonstrated his contempt for the Church, and doing so will only be for political expediency.

      Supporters of this mandate seem to think that they have a “right” to contraception. They do have a right to abstinence. And it is great birth control.

    9. Bobbie says:

      a persons person is a persons own. no one can control the actions of another and that's why it's important people take the responsibilities for their actions and pay their own costs their actions bring into their livelihoods. Some religions may emphasize on personal responsibilities but it's not a religious thing to be personally responsible. It's a duty as your own person.

      Having the government exploiting women to suggest we need access to birth control everywhere we work sounds extremely suggestive, very condescending and demeaning. Where's the democracy? Where are the majority of women working for catholic charities that wants contraception paid by catholic charities. where are they? Why is there absolutely no focus on the MALE! All I hear are big mouthed government members of the female specie speaking to women telling women what Barbara Boxer can't KEEP SAYING "NO" to when no one asked in the first place! THESE women and men in government control or ties are much less intelligent than the average women in this losing freedom and self worth fast, society.

    10. Gayle says:

      Where is the "keep your laws off of my body" crowd now? This is not a religious issue; instead it has ramifications with regard to the First Amendment and religion. What would happen if the government, via this part of Obama care, were allowed to dictate to individuals the "establishment of religion" in any form? What becomes of individual rights and indeed the Constitution?

    11. Ted says:

      Like it or not, when you erode the moral fabric of society, society becomes loosely knit and falls apart. As a species, humankind begins to lower itself to a lesser status. Obama knows that if you give people what they think they want, you can control them and lead them around like cattle. I used to be left of center until I saw that unless I subscribed to more left leaning views I was considered unknowledgeble and dull, a bigot, and against freedom. No. actually my moral compass gives me much more freedom, and I won't let Obama or any liberal government take it away. By the way, it is the churches and more conservative organizations that actually give more aid and support to poor people and facilitate adoption and support of young women than any government agency. It is the churches and conservative organizations, I have found, that work to raise oppressed into a better life. Government organizations merely perpetuate oppression by giving handouts and supporting those who won't or don't want to make more of their lives. It's been quite an awakening.

    12. Allen says:

      Obamacare is in effect, "establishing a secular religion," for the whole country.
      Obama is a militant crusader bent on consistently chipping away at this country's foundations.

      The youth of this country are more interested in the latest tatoo designs.

      There will be two classes, rich and poor, aka kings and serfs,

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