20 January 2012

Obama Administration Aborts Religious Liberty

As part of the gradual implementation of Obamacare, President Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a standard for health plans that will require most employers to cover contraception in their health plans.  Progressive policy pundits at America Progress proudly proclaim that the decision to mandate full coverage of contraception without cost sharing effectively achieves near universal coverage of contraception.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)  & Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) 2008
The Obama Administration ignored entreaties for a broad exemption that would have allowed for religiously-affiliated employer to opt out of contraception coverage. These petitions were made following Mr. Obama’s 2009 Notre Dame Commencement speech, where he suggested drafting a “sensible conscience clauses”.   Well, as it turned out, this clause only applied to those having religious objections to insurance–which covered the Amish, Christian Scientists, Native Americans and (of course) Muslims.

In the end, the Obama Administration is imposing their original narrow exemption to the qualifying health plans, which only applies to houses of worship or religious organizations that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith. As for religiously affiliation organizations that do not qualify for the exemption, they can apply by August 1st, 2012 for a one year transitional waiver to give them time to determine how they can comply with the bureaucratic ukase. Ironically, it will cause many organizations that truly believe otherwise to drop coverage or even to go out of business.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution reads in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”.  Perhaps Sebelius and President Obama believe that these mere words do not apply since it stems from Executive Branch action. Perhaps they do not care as to the Constitutionality since it will win plaudits from Obama’s liberal political base.

No wonder Pope Benedict XVI recently used his periodic meeting at the Vatican with Bishops from Maryland, DC and Virginia to warn:
[I]t is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

It is shocking to think that Americans had to be warned about preserving and protecting their religious liberty.  We are a nation that was established on the example Pilgrims who traveled to the wilderness to freely exercise worshiping in the way that they choose. Moreover,  James Madison worked tirelessly to perfect our union by enshrining the Bill of Rights into our Constitution, which featured the preservation of  religious liberty and the exercise of the freedom of conscience.

It is worth remembering George Washington’s observation about religion:

Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

But the Father of our country did not count on proselytization of radical secularism by progressive politicians in power.

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