HHS mandate: President Obama’s broken promise

GETTY IMAGES WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 23: Protesters participate in a “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally in front of … Continued


WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 23: Protesters participate in a “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally in front of the Department of Health and Human Services March 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. The rally was one of 129 rallies held in cities across the United States as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on the Obama administration’s national health-care legislation.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ so-called “contraception mandate” became official law Wednesday. And the moment that it did, the nature of religious freedom in this country was dramatically changed.

First, a major misconception must be cleared up. Specifically, American citizens need to understand that the mandate that became law is the mandate that was originally proposed by the Obama administration. This original version requires employers to provide and pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs in their health-care plans, regardless of religious objection.

What many people have referred to as the “accommodation” exists as nothing more than rhetoric. It is an idea that President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius proposed, and then gave themselves and Americans a year to “think about.” While this accommodation was largely rejected as little more than an accounting gimmick laced with moral implications for objecting religious employers, currently it matters little. What matters is the fact that our president and HHS proposed a law that Catholics of all stripes deemed an unconstitutional affront.

View Photo Gallery: Politicians had a lot to say about the Supreme Court ruling upholding the health-care law. Vote up if you agree with their views.

By way of reminder, here are just some remarks from the unlikely allies against the original mandate.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. wrote, “the [Catholic] Church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings.” He said that the administration had “utterly botched” the way it handled the mandate.

Former DNC Chairman Tim Kaine said that the administration made a “bad decision in not allowing a broad enough religious employer exemption.”

National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters said of President Obama’s handling of the mandate, “The issue of conscience protections is so foundational, I do not see how I ever could, in good conscience, vote for this man again.” MSNBC host Chris Matthews said that it is, “frightening when the state tells the church what to do.”

The editorial boards of several left-leaning publications, some of them Catholic, also denounced the mandate in its original form. The editors of Commonweal wrote, “It is hard to see what is “liberal” in coercing religious individuals and institutions. … One does not need to oppose contraception to see that, in this case, it’s far less important than the principle, and practice, of religious freedom.” The editors of the Washington Post opined, “This time, too, we think the administration came down on the wrong side of a tough call.”

The editors of America Magazine stated:

And the editors of the National Catholic Reporter proclaimed:

This ruling, folks, is now in effect. Which raises the question: What say they now?

What say they, and every American, to the fact that starting Wednesday, religious people in America now must seek a “safe harbor” if they cannot in good conscience comply with a law that violates their most deeply held beliefs?

What say they to the reality that even with the existence of a nebulous safe harbor and the promise of an accommodation, religious liberty is now on borrowed time from the government? Borrowed time with a glaring, red expiration date?

What say they to the fact that, private employers, equally entitled to religious freedom as non-for-profit employers, will be completely hung out to dry beginning Wednesday? In the latest anti-business move, this administration shows its hostility to the men and women that create jobs, telling them they can do so only on the government’s terms. Telling them their religion has no place in their workplace.

Americans who cherish religious freedom now must decide if they can trust a president who stated that “longstanding federal laws to protect conscience will remain intact” (Executive Order 13535) and seemingly echoed that sentiment during his Notre Dame commencement address, promises that as of Wednesday, he would have broken. Notre Dame is now one of the many religious institutions suing the Obama administration for religious freedom violations.

And even those who found the administration’s olive branch to be more than a withered fake should recognize that the president and his bureaucrats held it out, then threw it out after letting liberal Catholics’ hurrahs give him exit music as his mandate was simultaneously published without a trace of compromise.

This country was founded to be a safe harbor from persecution, a place where religious freedom reigned supreme. That her own citizens now have to seek safe harbor within her borders is a state of existence that should have never come to pass.

View Photo Gallery: The U.S. Supreme Court staged three days of arguments over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March.

Ashley E. McGuire is a senior fellow with the Catholic Association and editor of www.Altcatholicah.com

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  • WmarkW

    So an employer who’s a Jehovah’s Witness could refuse to cover surgery involving blood transfusion. Or a Christian Scientist any form of surgery or medicine at all?

    The limits religion places on medical decision-making have to be made by patients, in consultation with their medical and spiritual advisors. Not through the economic power their employer holds over them.

  • maryland4541

    This line of argument by the Catholic bishops and their supporters is erroneous. There is nothing wrong with an administration mandating that public health agencies receiving public funding provide services to the public (including women).

    If the Catholics were only providing providing health care amongst themselves–and receiving no federal funding–none of this would apply.

    The Catholics cannot have it both ways. They cannot receive federal funds–from all US taxpayers and the general public consensus–and claim religious freedom to decide unilaterally what services they will and will not provide.

  • mnright

    What part of the second amendment do you not understand? Religious freedom wasn’t about not having the 10 commandments in the public square; it was about not having the government abridge those freedoms. If the government wants to give out free contraception, sterilization, and abortaficants they can do that. What they cannot do is require private companies and religious organizations to do that against their religious beliefs. How would you feel if the government decided that every business must provide all of their employees bible study classes that taught abstinence and that premarital sex is a sin? It would be an outrage of course. There is no national crisis of the shortage or availability of birth control. Contraception is wildly available for almost no cost at Planned Parenthood or even Wal-Mart. This also isn’t a public safety issue. If you don’t want to get pregnant, you can abstain from sex or cut out a couple packs of smokes or a couple beers and go buy condoms or birth control pills. I guess the question is; what is more important, religious freedom or free contraception? I vote for freedom!

  • pihto999

    There is nothing wrong with an administration mandating that public health agencies receiving public funding provide services to the public (including women).
    Not sure what how Catholic hospitals all of a sudden became “public health agencies” and what kind of public funding they get, but hopefully when GOP holds all 3 branches of Gov this logic will be followed as well: welfare leeches on public funding will be forced to provide public service, like sweeping the streets, cleaning the river banks, etc

  • pihto999

    The absolutely uncalled for harmful link between employment and health insurance should be broken once and for all. That would have taken care of this “problem:” among other things.

    But generally, this is how Obama’s ultra-left operate: in your face, we will force you to do what’s necessary for fundamental US transformation into Cuba.

  • wilson11

    Since when does my employer’s religious beliefs require my observance? health benefits are exactly that, an earned benefit not a gift from my employer. My employer’s religious beliefs should have no effect on the type of healthcare I am entitled to.

  • wilson11

    Interesting, how long have you been off your psychiatric medications?

  • wilson11

    The minute public funds go to “churches” this violates the establishment clause of the Constitution. Catholic churches are welcome to run hospitals with their private funds in any way they see fit. The minute “Catholic” hospitals started taking money from the public purse, they accepted the requirements of the Public’s oversight. and this means there private interpretation of religious observance cannot be forced on others including patients or employees.

  • Fire Obama

    Is someone forcing you to work for a religous employer, or any employer for that matter? If you don’t like the benefits that you are provided by your employer, go work somewhere else. It’s that simple.

  • God is a Socialist

    An organization cannot hold any belief or have any right to practice a religion – only human beings have that right. As the good Ms McGuire of course knows, no human right is absolute. Right of control over one’s person and a right to security of one’s body are just some of the universal rights that can inform such a health-care mandate (at least it would in most “civilised” nations). Nothing in the mandate violates anyone’s freedom to freely practice one’s chosen religion. The anger I see here comes from peoples’ misconceptions about faith and religion and about human rights. This mandate will do a lot of good and the anger of a few misguided believers will not change that.

  • tz12341

    you can’t sell inaliable rights…the church provides medical services in exhange for government funds….they also take care of the poor for free…for now….so can’t wait for your taxes to go up

  • tz12341

    you are an idiot. do you have any idea what would happen to your great society if the catholic hospitals closed. Catholic hospitals provide services in exchange for government funding. They don’t sell inaliable rights.

  • tz12341

    Work somewhere else. Or …heaven forbid…pay the $10 a month yourself. That sounds a lot better than the government mandating what you should and shouldn’t buy.