“The Constitution is not for Democrats or Republicans or Independents. It is for all of us, and a great nonpartisan effort should be led by our elected representatives to ensure that it remains so.” (Our First, Most Cherished Liberty/USCCB)
CHICAGO, April 17, 2012— In an audacious rebuke to President Obama, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops threw down the gauntlet.
USCCB issued a “Statement on Religious Liberty”. The statement calls for the repeal of the contraception mandate put on employers by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The statement makes it very clear this is not a Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other religious issue. It is an American issue. It is a demand for religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The statement is a call for all Americans, no matter their faith or position on issues, to preserve the guarantee of religious liberty.
The HHS mandate requires employers to provide coverage for contraception, abortifacient and sterilization services. The mandate makes no exceptions for religious institutions and their affiliated entities. The administration tried to reach an accommodation with the church.
The accommodation was a dishonest effort. It was merely rearranging some words.
The institutions would not have to pay for contraception et al, the insurance company would; but the institutions must provide, pay or partially pay for the insurance that pays for… You get the picture.
The bishops state emphatically this is an unjust law and unjust laws “must not be obeyed”. They are including lay employers in their statement. Employers, who for reasons of faith or conscience, may not want to provide or pay for contraceptive, sterilization, or abortifacient services.
According to the bishops, there can be no accommodation made for an unjust law. An unjust law “must not be obeyed”, not merely objected to.
This is a powerful statement. The bishops may be setting the stage for employers, religious clergy, or even themselves to willingly go to jail over their beliefs.
They are calling for two weeks of action from June 21st to July 4th. Protest and civil disobedience have not been discounted.
This document is not only concerned with the HHS mandate on contraception. The bishops cite government assaults on religious liberties that discriminate and obstruct other religious activity:
- State immigration laws that run contrary to the long established religious sanctuary tradition.
- Altering church structure and governance bills; government mandating how churches should be legally structured and internally governed.
- Christian student organizations on-campus discrimination. Christian groups cannot demand their leadership be Christians.
- Catholic foster care and adoption services being cut off from state aid and contracts; states have cut off contracts due to the church’s refusal to accept gay and single parents for adoptions and foster care.
- Discrimination against small denominations by municipalities; small religious sects are denied the use (rental) of public facilities for services.
- Government discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services, especially for Migration and Refugee Services in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking. Mandated birth control and abortion provisions.
The bishops assert that religious liberty is not just the right to worship freely as one chooses. There is a duty and obligation to make contributions to humanity based upon whatever faith is practiced without compromising the tenets of faith, morals, conscience, or values.
“Religious believers are part of American civil society, which includes neighbors helping each other, community associations, fraternal service clubs, sports leagues, and youth groups. All these Americans make their contribution to our common life, and they do not need the permission of the government to do so. Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.”
If President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius are doubling down on the health care mandates, the Catholic bishops are tripling down on the administration.
Make no mistake; this document is no screed, no Tea Party style manifesto. It is no populist pandering statement to arouse passions. It is an eloquently written, well thought out, and researched document.
The statement of the bishops is not a new idea. During the early part of the last century a so-called “robber baron” posited if the companies on the Dow Jones Average, the largest companies in the country at that time, decided that a law or regulation was unjust or illegitimate and decided not to obey it, the law would be impossible to enforce. It would have to be repealed*.
What if large numbers of major and small companies, individuals, and institutions decide to disobey a law they feel is unjust?
There is an old military adage- officers should never give an order they know will not be obeyed. It appears the Obama administration passed a regulation they knew would not only be disobeyed but difficult to enforce.
Hypothetically speaking, what can the administration do if large numbers of involved entities refuse to obey the regulation, refuse to pay the fines, or even cancel their insurance? Worse, what if the business community and masses of people just says no to the whole act?
How many people are they going to criminalize over this?
How many companies are they going to drive into bankruptcy or people are they willing to imprison over the mandate or the act itself?
The Affordable Care Act is proving to be an unnecessary burden on society and an albatross around the president’s neck.
*Attributed to Cornelius Vanderbilt
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone.
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