Friday, January 20, 2012

Three down, another seven Amendments in the Bill of Rights to go—UPDATED

Having signed just last month a law that effectively made our Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights inapplicable when accused of terrorism, the Obama Administration confirmed today that First Amendment rights are revokable when contraception is the issue.
The Obama administration will allow religious organizations an additional year to comply with a new rule requiring employers that offer their workers health insurance to include coverage of birth control without out-of-pocket costs, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced Friday.
But the rule itself and the types of employers covered by it remain unchanged [bold type mine.—TL]. This is likely to disappoint [understate much?] religious groups such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had lobbied vigorously for a permanent exemption for all employers that oppose birth control on religious grounds.
Sister Carol Keehan of Catholic Health Services was duly "disappointed".  The USCCB, however, used much stronger language in the person of president and Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, who said, “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences. ... To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable.  It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty."  And Sr. Jane Marie Klein, chairperson of the board at the 13-hospital Franciscan Alliance, was equally direct: “This is nothing less than a direct attack on religion and First Amendment rights. ... I have hundreds of employees who will be upset and confused by this edict. I cannot understand it at all.”

Already the conservative writers are flexing their typing fingers, ready to pour out condemnations.  Grace-Marie Turner at National Review Online calls the decision "an outrage", and asserts, "... [There] is a war on religion from the Left, and it is very dangerous to the institutions that make our civil society function."  And Fr. John Zuhlsdorf writes, "We must now, more than ever, promote prayer, fasting and almsgiving in this upcoming battle.  And I will repeat my call to bishops and priests to work, more than ever, to restore the Sacrament of Penance to prominence in our lives.  We will have to play our part in this upcoming battle with a clear conscience and clean heart, with the strengthening of the sacraments."

Update: January 21, 2012
Kyle Duncan, who was once the Solicitor General for Louisiana and is now with the Becket Fund, has an article in the National Catholic Register in which he basically rehearses the Constitutional arguments he'll be bringing forth in two separate lawsuits against the mandate.  But more to the point, Duncan and the Motley Monk both remind us that, in view of SCOTUS' resounding rejection of the Administration's arguments in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC not even two weeks ago, HHS doesn't have a true hope of prevailing when suits against this mandate hit the Court.  Hosanna-Tabor was a shot across Pres. Obama's bow ... and he has seemingly ignored it.  What gives?

The Motley Monk has a suspicion: "Perhaps the reason Ms. Sebelius allowed the one year exemption was that she knows it is illegal, violating the First Amendment, and is likely to be overturned by the Courts sometime in late 2012 or 2013.  That would allow the Obama administration to promote its pro-abortion credentials during the election while at the same time tell pro-life forces that the matter is being litigated and, while it is, the status quo remains in place."  Not that Obama and Sebelius need to bolster their pro-abort street cred, but the argument is still persuasive.

In sum, this is a propaganda victory for Planned Barrenhood and its vast hordes of mindless sycophants and apologists, but not much more than that.  By the time August 1, 2013 rolls around, the mandate will have been stricken down ... and, please God, a Republican Administration will be in place.

More links as they roll in.  Meanwhile, here's a clip of Abp. Dolan's response:

Cardinal Newman Society: “It is the greatest irony, that by worshipping the cult of ‘choice’ the Obama Administration has determined that religious organizations lack the freedom to act in fidelity to their beliefs."

Creative Minority Report: "This is outrageous. We must demand that the next President/Congress reverse this on day 1."

Pro Ecclesia, Pro Familia, Pro Civitate:  "... [Religious] persecution is now the official policy of the Obama Administration because many Catholic organizations simply will not comply and will therefore be subject to legal repercussion."

Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Fishwrap(!): "They have punched Sr. Carol Keehan and Fr. Jenkins and many other Catholics who have taken shots for this Administration in the nose."

Kathryn Jean Lopez, CatholicVote: "Planned Parenthood and friends today are celebrating what they perceive as a victory over the U.S. Catholic bishops. In truth it’s an attack on religious liberty and more Catholic and other freedom-loving Americans need to make their voices heard."

Brian Burch, Pres., CatholicVote: “It’s hard to believe that on this date, exactly one year from next year’s inauguration, President Obama would hand the Republican Party a golden opportunity to focus on religious liberty and win back the Catholic vote it lost in 2008. The only question is: Will the Republican presidential nominee seize the opportunity?”

Bill Donohue, Catholic League, Catholic Lane: "That this dictatorial edict is being announced in an election year indicates both contempt for the First Amendment and plain stupidity."

Mark Shea, Patheos.org:  "The Lord thy God King is a jealous god. He will not tolerate Catholic religious liberty!"

Jeff Miller, The Curt Jester: "Good thing we have a Catholic as head of the HHS – oh wait."

The Motley Monk, The American Catholic: "Perhaps the reason Ms. Sebelius allowed the one year exemption was that she knows it is illegal, violating the First Amendment, and is likely to be overturned by the Courts sometime in late 2012 or 2013.  That would allow the Obama administration to promote its pro-abortion credentials during the election while at the same time tell pro-life forces that the matter is being litigated and, while it is, the status quo remains in place." [Good point!]

Father Z, What Does The Prayer Really Say?: "I’d vote for a frozen orange juice can in November 2012." 

Cdl. Daniel DiNardo, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston: "I join my brother bishops, fellow Catholics and all people of goodwill who prize religious liberty as a cornerstone of our common life in expressing strong opposition to the HHS mandate." 

Kyle Duncan, Becket Fund, National Catholic Register:  "Animating these measures is a sinister form of 'tolerance' that should make religious Americans shudder. It is a cast of mind that relegates the genuinely religious to the margins of polite society. It tolerates countercultural views on sexual morality — provided they are kept safely out of sight."