Obama administration picks a fight with Catholics

The Obama administration has chosen to ignore the First Amendment and add insult to injury for Catholics whose schools, hospitals … Continued

The Obama administration has chosen to ignore the First Amendment and add insult to injury for Catholics whose schools, hospitals and charities help make this nation great. Now the real fight begins.

Religious leaders had feared the worst from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her Department of Health and Human Services, which since September has been considering whether to exempt Catholic and other religious employers from a regulation mandating insurance coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including some that cause abortion.

But on Friday afternoon, Sebelius announced the bad news in the most offensive way possible. Refusing even the smallest compromise with religious employers, she simply gave them an extra year to comply with the law.

“This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty,” Sebelius wrote in a brief statement from HHS. “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

Her attempt to appear compromising is absurd. What “balance” could Sebelius possibly mean? The HHS regulations include the narrowest exemption for religious employers ever proposed by the federal government, and even more restrictive than such exemptions in most states.

Any pretense of seeking “common ground” with faithful Catholics–which President Obama offered during his much-protested appearance at the University of Notre Dame nearly three years ago–has been stripped away. Only weeks ago, it seemed that the White House might be more sympathetic than Sebelius to the concerns of Catholic and other religious leaders. President Obama met personally with Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, reportedly assuring a good outcome to the HHS debacle. But now one newspaper is reporting that the president himself gave the bad news to Archbishop Dolan on Friday morning, something akin to two generals exchanging courtesies before the battle rages.

Later, the archbishop issued a statement that offered no hope for common ground: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” Dolan said. “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their health care is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom.”

The U.S. bishops and leaders from the Protestant, evangelical and Jewish communities have warned the Obama administration many times against any compromise of religious freedom. Many religious organizations also vigorously opposed the interim HHS rule, such as the 18 Catholic colleges that joined last September in protest together with The Cardinal Newman Society and the key bishop responsible for Catholic education.

But now the fight is in the courts, and the attention shifts to one small Catholic college that has stood valiantly to oppose the HHS rule in federal court. The suit filed by Belmont Abbey College in the District Court in Washington, D.C., is perhaps the best hope that religious organizations have to halt the HHS mandate, along with a similar suit filed by Colorado Christian College in its home state. Both colleges are represented by the impressive Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which won this month’s unanimous Supreme Court decision against the Obama administration’s attempt to abolish special protections for religious employers with regard to their “ministerial” employees.

Hidden away in the hills of North Carolina, the monks of Belmont Abbey College have endured far more than their share of harassment from the federal government, and now they are fighting back. Since 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has held that the college is violating a federal law barring “pregnancy discrimination” by refusing to cover prescription contraceptives in its employee health plan. The EEOC has simply ignored the college’s appeal, leaving Catholic employers uncertain which is next to receive an EEOC complaint.

In a press conference explaining Belmont Abbey’s lawsuit against the HHS mandate, President Bill Thierfelder said he would rather close the college before submitting to tyranny.

“We want to serve our community but we feel cornered,” Thierfelder said. “Let me make it clear. We are not forcing our beliefs upon anyone else. We respect the constitutional right of all faiths to freely exercise their religion. We simply want that constitutional right given to us as well.”

Because it’s not simply a “Catholic issue,” he said. This is a matter of basic constitutional liberty.

“This affects every American and their right to freedom and the right of conscience,” Thierfelder said. “If the government can compel private organizations to abandon their conscience as a condition of serving the public, what can’t the government do?”

That’s the question facing thousands of religious organizations across the country. Negotiations with the Obama administration are over, if they ever really began with sincerity from the White House. If the federal government cannot respect the First Amendment, then religious organizations must join the fight in the courts.

And they must win.

Patrick J. Reilly is president of The Cardinal Newman Society, which promotes faithful Catholic identity in Catholic higher education.

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  • BBaaTT

    This only makes more urgent the need to get into the local communities and educate our families, leaders and churches about the Reign of God, God’s laws. The Church is not seeing what God is doing here. The Church is looking to peoples laws to solve problems and issues instead of changing and education peoples hearts and minds. Changing the President and/or the laws regarding abortion will not change people and their need for convenience, materialism, selfishness, and greed. God is forcing us to see the big picture–educate from the ground up and soon you don’t have a problem. We are taught to ask, “what is God teaching me from this problem I am having not ‘Why me, Lord.'” The Catholic Church needs to do the same and ask, “What is God trying to teachthe Church from this.” The answer is readily apparent. Dont look to man’s laws to solve the problems of the Church and its members.

  • hermanmack1

    Why can’t the church just allow the coverage to be available as part of the national health plan and stop making a federal case out of it?. It’s an insurance plan, and if the Catholic employees don’t want or need to take advantage of some of the plans benefits or coverages such as birth control or abortions then that’s up to them..Don’t get abortions, and don’t practice birth controll. What’s the big deal?
    The Catholic Church needs to quit wasting our taxpayer dollars by forcing us into bickering over this stuff in the halls Washington. Those people have alot more important things to waste their time on right now.

  • glasmann

    Has this been mentioned? What about Jehovah Witness employers preventing blood transfusions or organ donations/receipts in THEIR employee insurance policies? Should this also be excluded from their insurance? On the other hand, perhaps they do a better job of screening out the non-believing employees than the catholics.

  • Tomor

    What is the big deal????

    The big deal is that Catholic organizations are being forced to provide and pay for services ( such as abortifacients) considered immoral by the Catholic Church. Also Catholics will be taxed to pay for these services even tho they believe them to be immoral and even tho Stupek was guaranteed by Obama that abortion services would not be provided.

    Most of the readers on this blog do not seem to be able to distinguish between people receiving these services on their own volition (which the Church does not object to as it is legal in America to participate in these immoral actions ) but does object to forcing individual Catholics to pay for such services and forcing Catholic organizations to provide and pay for these services even tho the Church believes them to be immoral.

    Forcing a religious organization to provide and pay for services against its conscience is a violation of the First Admendment’s guarantee of religious freedom in the USA — that’s the “big” deal — Obama’s administration is violating the Constitution.

  • Tomor

    The Church is not looking to man’s laws to solve the problems of the Church and its members. It is looking for man’s laws to respect the Church’s right to religious freedom in America from coercion of being forced to provide services it deems to be immoral. It is also looking for man’s laws not to violate the First Amendment to the Constitution.

  • tony55398

    If I pay for your insurance, it’s up to you to use it wisely, not me. If I give you money and you use it for drugs is it my fault or yours, you’re free to do with it as you will, are you not?


    Catholics want their own form of Sharia law to be imposed of believers and non-believers alike.

  • ccnl1

    Romney believes that the horn-blowing angel Moroni appeared to the con artist Joe Smith. Not good for someone who wants to be president of any group !!! Obama “mouths” that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO’s support of abortion however vitiates has Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting block in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

    The 78 million voting “mothers and fathers” of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39.

    39 x 2 million = 78 million. Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

    And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for “pro-life” JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

  • lilbit1

    If you take out all religious bias you’re left with one clear fact. The fact that the president is violating the First Amendment. The Amendment which clearly states that we have FREEDOM of religion and FREEDOM to practice our beliefs as long as we are’t enforcing them on other people. What Obama is doing is infringing on the right of Catholic employers. They shouldn’t have to provide what they don’t believe. I’m not saying that their employees can’t go elsewhere to find healthcare that they want, but the government can’t force them to offer something that they don’t believe in.
    Whether you believe in God or not; whether you’re Catholic or not, how would you feel if the government tried to tell you what you had to believe; or rather, they were telling you to deny your faith; especially if what they were telling you was explicitly against your religion.
    I don’t know about the rest of you but I like my Constitutional Rights. Every single one of them just the way they are.

  • persiflage

    The Church should get out of the healthcare business if they don’t want to abide by the law. People seeking various kinds of healthcare, including contraception, are not interested in anti-choice agenda of the Vatican………

  • RickWatcher

    One more piece of fruit from the tree of Obama that shows he is no Christian and anti-Constitutional.
    Here are the words of James Madison during the debates of the Amendments to the Constitution on June 8, 1789:
    The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal RIGHT OF CONSCIENCE be in ANY MANNER, or ON ANY PRETEXT, infringed.
    Later in his speech he called this right, “The freedom of the press and RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE, those choicest privileges of the people,….”
    Now our marxist President and his buds in congress are attempting to take that also. And Obama is supposed to have been a Professor of the Constitution? That is indeed a laugh.
    Awake from your slumber and see the truth before it’s too late.

  • glennst01

    Catholics do have the right to their opinions and beliefs, but obfuscation is not a right.

  • glennst01

    “Freedom OF religion” INCLUDES “Freedom FROM religion.” Let’s not forget that, for god’s sakes!

  • glennst01

    Hey religious guys, give up your gov’t funding and do your own thing. Just don’t make me pay for it in tax breaks. OK?

  • ccnl1

    The nitty-gritty of the contraception/abortion situation:

    “WHO USES CONTRACEPTIVES? (From Guttmacher)

    • Virtually all women (98%) aged 15–44 who have ever had int-ercourse have used at least one con-traceptive method.[2](and men?)

    • Overall, 62% of the 62 million women aged 15–44 are currently using one.[2] (and men)

    • 31% of the 62 million women (and men?) do not need a method because they are infertile; are pregnant, postpartum or trying to become pregnant; have never had inte-rcourse; or are not se-xually active.[2]

    • Thus, only 7% of women aged 15–44 are at risk of unwanted pregnancy but are not using con-traceptives.[2] (and men?)

    • Among the 42 million fertile, s-exually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89% are practicing con-traception.[2] (and men?)

    The problem is that the contraceptives of choice are the Pill and the male condom. Because these contraceptives are not used properly (e.g. some women forget to take the Pill on a daily basis), the failure rates (from Guttmacher) are 8.7% and 17.4 % respectively. This results in over two million unplanned pregnancies every year. And as per the CDC, the abortion rate in the USA is ~one million/yr. The failure rates when the Pill and male condom are used properly are 0.3 % and 2 % respectively. Until there is dramatic reduction in these failure rates, one wonders why Obama “Care” should support their use. There are other more effective means.

    Method…….Typical Failure Rates

    Pill (combined)…… …8.7
    Tubal sterilization….. 0.7
    Male condom ……….17.4
    Vasectomy …………….0.2

    Periodic abstinence 25.3
    Calendar 9.0
    Ovulation Method 3.0
    Sympto-thermal 2.0
    Post-ovulation 1.0

    No method 85.0″

    (Abstinence) …….0

    (Masturbation)…. 0

    Combined Pill and male condom….. ?? but it would statiscally be much better than using only the Pill or the male condom.

  • catatonicjones

    Hey, “The failure rates when the Pill and male condom are used properly are 0.3 % and 2 % respectively” means they are 99.7% and 98% successful.

  • ccnl1

    Yes but the Pill and male condoms are not used properly because of the stupidity/drug highs/alcohol stupors of many males and females.

  • anniea2

    For those who wonder why conservatives embrace “social issues” in the national discourse – this is why.

    We were promised with Roe vs. Wade that this issue is a private one, and that religious rights were not impacted. Once legal, it has been forced on those of us of faith through tax funds going toward abortion services, and now through mandated insurance that funds abortion (morning after pill).

  • charityprevails

    don’t worry – when the “religious guys” go and “do their own thing” you’ll be up to your ears in taxes – paying for the new public hospitals that will be needed to replace the charity-driven catholic hospitals shut down by these restrictive laws; paying for new social service organizations to replace the charity-driven adoption, foster care, mental health, homeless support, and food bank services provided by catholic charities in major cities throughout the nation. have fun with that.

  • nkri401


    I’ll be happy to pay my share of the tax.

    A charity that ask for your soul is not much of a charity.


  • charityprevails

    nkri401 – And that’s why other’s religious beliefs are not forced upon you… unlike the situation that’s being described here.

    don’t agree with the hospital/school/social service organization because they are managing things according to their beliefs? go somewhere else. hire another doctor. mail-order your prescriptions. don’t force YOUR beliefs on someone else, under the guise that they are forcing their beliefs on you.