Tuesday, October 23, 2012

HHS mandate threatens all freedoms, regardless of your views on contraception

As the old saying goes, if you put a frog in boiling water, it'll jump right out, but if you start the frog in tepid water and bring it to a boil, by time the frog knows what's happening, it's too late to get out. This is exactly what is happening with the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that requires all employers, regardless of religious beliefs, to provide for coverage of contraception, sterilization and abortifacients in any health plans they offer to employees. Like the frog in the pot of water, the government is starting slowly with the stripping of our rights, hoping we won't notice until all our rights are gone and it's too late to do anything about it.

There are so many things wrong with this HHS directive that it's astounding there are some Americans who don't even realize how serious it is. Someone who may have no moral qualms whatsoever with contraception or even outright abortion may look at this mandate and say, "So what? It doesn't affect me personally, so who cares about this mandate?" But a little bit of critical thinking on the matter is important.

Imagine if an American Muslim business owner who doesn't eat pork on religious grounds because it's considered sinful was forced to pay for pork through his employees' health plans because pork's been shown to have more health benefits than red meat. Wouldn't Muslims be offended and wouldn't such an action strip them of their First Amendment rights not to engage in behavior they think is sinful? As a side note, but one nonetheless worthy of consideration, do you think this administration would ever try to do that to Muslims? Personally, I can't see this administration doing that, not necessarily because of any pro-Muslim bias, but because this administration's hostility is blatantly geared toward Christians.

In reality, the HHS mandate is saying that a woman's right to free contraception is more important than Catholics' First Amendment rights not to participate in something they see as a grave sin. That is a serious moral breach, a serious Constitutional breach, and a devastatingly dangerous action on the part of government to say it has authority over someone's conscience. Think about it. Do not be fooled into believing this is not serious for you just because you may have no moral objections to contraception. If the government can take this right away from Catholics, it can take any right away from you.

Of course, if you side with President Obama's ideology on things in general, then maybe you're not worried about what rights he may take away, because most likely, they'd be rights you'd willingly forfeit (e.g,. your right not to participate in contraception). But one day we could have a new president with a different ideology than our current president, but who shares the idea that personal rights don't matter. The precedent has been set, so now that new president could come after certain rights of yours that do matter to you. This is why this HHS mandate affects all of us.

The issue here is also not whether contraception provides health benefits to a woman. The issue is not that Catholics are forcing their moral views on women - they're not. Nobody anywhere is preventing a woman from using all the contraception she wants (just like a Muslim wouldn't force a non-Muslim to abstain from pork). Women working at Catholic institutions are free to practice contraception if they personally choose to, and they are free to work anywhere they choose should they not be happy with their current employer.

The issue is that, for the first time in American history, the federal government is forcing people to buy products they believe to be sinful. And if the government can force this, they can force anything. So regardless of personal views on contraception, do not lose sight of the big picture, because it is a profoundly dangerous picture that our current government is painting.

Still, some may argue that government uses our tax dollars to engage in war or other things we find morally objectionable, such as capital punishment, so what's the difference? The difference is that the U.S. Constitution explicitly authorizes both war and captial punishment, which are legitimate government powers. Those who don't like that reality are welcome to try a Constitutional amendment to wipe out the government's war powers and do away with capital punishment.

However, there is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes the federal government (and, by extension through the 14th Amendment, any state government) to mandate that a religious institution be complicit in an act it believes constitutes sin. More to the point, the Constitutional grant of religious freedom, by which the government agrees to stay out of managing a religious institution's affairs, either practical or doctrinal,  prohibits such conduct entirely. The HHS mandate is one more example of the Obama administration's fundamental lawlessness.

There are groups of all different beliefs coming out in opposition to this mandate, including Jewish groups who don't believe contraception is wrong, because they recognize that birth control really isn’t the issue. The issue is religious liberty and our Constitutional rights -- period.

Another factor so dangerous about this mandate is that the government, by only narrowly exempting what it considers to be a religious institution, e.g., an actual parish, is defining what constitutes religion. That means that Catholic hospitals, charities and social services are bound to the mandate (despite the blatant lie Joe Biden told in the vice presidential debate). These institutions are vital to the mission of the Church, but HHS does not deem them "religious employers" worthy of conscience protection because they do not "serve primary persons who share their religious beliefs." That's because these institutions serve millions of people in need, including non-Catholics. HHS denies Catholic employers in these organizations religious freedom precisely because their purpose is to serve the common good of soeciety - a purpose that government should encourage, not punish.

The mandate also means that the millions of individual Catholic employers in non government-defined religious institutions, such as a Catholic owner of an auto mechanic shop, are forced to check their religious beliefs at the door, for they are no longer allowed to practice them as they choose if they are forced to provide for things that they believe to be sinful.

When the government gets in the business of telling us where our religious beliefs begin (inside the walls of a church, according to the government) and where they end (basically once we leave that church), then our country is in serious peril, because the government can make these parameters more and more narrow at will, to the point of outlawing Church teachings against things like homosexuality, saying it violates federal anti-hate laws. One may argue that religious institutions are protected in the Constitution from such things, but the HHS mandate already proves that the Constitution no longer provides adequate protection against an administration who flings our laws aside at whim.

Historically, governments that have sought complete control over their people always started with the small freedoms first, and then went for the rest. The HHS mandate is nothing but a slippery slope toward the end of any freedom this government wants to strip from us.

This is not a "right-left" issue, nor is it just a Catholic issue. Knowing Obama’s disdain for the Constitution and Christianity, his assault against Catholics is just the beginning, and, if left unchecked, his trampling of freedoms won't be reserved for religious people only. The HHS mandate must be stopped - not for the sake of Catholics only, but for all Americans. The only way to do that is to vote in new leadership on November 6, as it may well be our only chance to keep America free.

Make no mistake, we are currently sitting in a pot of tepid water, and the government is slowly turning up the heat. It's imperative we jump out before it's too late.

What do you think?  Click on the comments link in the bar below to share your thoughts. No registration necessary.


  1. Julie,
    I wholeheartedly agree with you on the HHS mandate and the obvious moral/constitutional attack it imposes on our religious liberties. I fully support Mitt Romney since I take him at his word that he will throw this mandate out once sworn in. If you have the time I would be interested in your thoughts in two areas of concern that I have had recently regarding this issue. Do you believe Mitt Romney has taken full advantage of the opportunities he had available to expose this attack on religious freedom, specifically in the debates? Also, what do you think of Obama being invited to the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner by Cardinal Dolan considering Obama’s clear disregard for the unborn? I personally think he shouldn’t have been invited because it sends mixed messages (photo ops included) to some Catholic voters and voters in general who will conclude that Obama has been given legitimacy in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I am disturbed that the Catholic bishops will on one hand speak strongly against the HHS mandate and yet Cardinal Dolan will welcome the most anti-life president in history to such an event. I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Ed B.

      Thanks very much for your comments. I support Mitt Romney, but do wish he'd have exposed the attacks on religious freedoms, and by extension, the violation of our Constitution, when given the opportunities in the debate (and the Libya actions as well). But I am assuming his strategy has to do with not wanting to preach to the choir while potentially alienating independent voters who may be put off by such rhetoric (although I cannot personally understand why anyone would be put off by such truths). As for Cardinal Dolan, I don't understand that either - nor agree with his invitation to Pres. Obama. In 1996, he didn't invite Bill Clinton or Bob Dole, and he didn't invite Kerry or Bush in 2004, so I don't know why he wouldn't use a non-invite as a chance to make a statement to backup the archdiocese's lawsuit against the HHS mandate. I believe if people really stood up for their convictions rather than play politics or worry about appearances, we'd cover a lot more ground toward turning our country around for the better. I don't know what Cardinal Dolan's true motives were, but I disagree with his extending an invitation in this case. It sure is frustrating (like Notre Dame's actions as well). It's worth our continued vigilance though. Let's keep up the good fight! Thank you for your support - I appreciate it.