The New Caesar, the HHS Accommodation and the Attack on Religious Freedom
At the time of the drafting of the Bill of Rights there was no such thing as an Internal Revenue Service and no 501 c3 organization status
The new accommodation states that the "free" dispensing of contraceptives, abortificacients and sterilization somehow "furthers the governmental interests in promoting public health and in promoting gender equality".
President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius, HHS Secretary
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On February 1, 2013, the Obama Administration announced a new modification to its alleged accommodation for religious institutions which object to being compelled to offer contraception, sterilization and abortifacients to their employees - or face the punitive boot of the State.
The original mandate required all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to cover sterilization, abortion inducing drugs, and contraception in their health care plans. The alleged exemption provided for religious employers did not cover hospitals, universities, soup kitchens, outreaches to the poor and many other vital expressions of our Catholic faith and mission.
The purported accommodation which followed the opposition to this horrid Mandate amounted to a shell game which accomplished nothing. When the Mandate was recorded in the Federal Register, nothing had changed. After the uproar did not subside, and facing 44 lawsuits which were filed, the Administration offered the latest accommodation. The actual eight page rule is found within an 80 page document which can be read here.
Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said in the official Government Press Release, "Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns. We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women's organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals."
As usual, Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey spoke with refreshing candor, "The so-called new policy is the discredited old policy, dressed up to look like something else," Smith said. "The mandate remains a serious violation of religious freedom. Only the most naÔve or gullible would accept this as a change in policy."
"The proposed rule issued today remains a direct, obnoxious, unprecedented government attack on the conscience rights of religious entities and anyone else who for moral reasons cannot and will not pay for abortion inducing drugs-such as ella-or contraception and sterilization procedures in their private insurance plans." The entire statement is here.
Of course, anyone who is genuinely concerned over the blatant violation of the First Amendment guarantee of the fundamental right to religious freedom this matter involves hoped that this new overture was sincere. Some hoped it might actually offer some ground for a resolution.
Understandably, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, deferred any comment. He expressed hope for resolution and prudently waited while legal counsel reviews the 80 page document.
Our Bishops have a top shelf General Counsel in Anthony R. Picarello Jr. He is a constitutional lawyer with a demonstrated expertise in Religious Liberty cases. Prior to this assignment, Picarello served as General Counsel to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
The Becket Fund has already weighed in on the purported modification to the proposed accommodation, with skepticism. One of the many services this excellent public interest law firm provides is a clearinghouse site where you can go and find out about each lawsuit and its current status called Mandate Information.
Another outstanding group doing public interest work is the Alliance Defending Freedom. They offered a quick analysis, the thrust of which is found in the title of their article, Only a Sliver of Religious Organizations Covered by Proposed Exemption to HHS Abortion Pill Mandate. They are correct.
What are we coming to when religious groups need bend the knee to a New Caesar? Part of the reason for the American founding was religious freedom. What kind of verbal nonsense calls abortificacients, and sterilization preventive health care?
The new accommodation states that the "free" dispensing contraceptives, abortificacients and sterilization somehow "furthers the governmental interests in promoting public health and in promoting gender equality". What?
Why are we even accepting the idea that an employer who objects on religious and moral grounds to distributing such items - even if they are offered for "free" by a straw ...
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