Last week, the Obama administration finalized a radical new rule that uses the health care law to require all health insurance providers to cover abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization as well as contraception, all free of charge. The administration based the rule’s “religious exemption” on a provision drafted by the ACLU, applying the rule even to religious organizations such as Catholic schools, hospitals, universities, and charities that oppose such things as a matter of religious belief.
The weak exemption the administration allowed applies only to religious organizations serving primarily people of the same religion. It is so narrow that Timothy Dolan, the Catholic Archbishop of New York City and current head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “even Jesus and His disciples would not qualify for the exemption in that case, because they were committed to serve those of other faiths.”
Because Catholic institutions serve people of all faiths, the adoption by the Obama administration of the ACLU exemption language is an explicit and intentional assault on the Catholic Church in the United States. President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius know full well that they are ordering Catholic institutions to violate their church’s teachings if they want to stay in business. They also know full well that they are explicitly running over the First Amendment protection of religious freedom that every American is supposed to enjoy as a birthright.
President Obama’s message to Catholics is clear: Catholics will not be able to build organizations according to their faith and the teachings of their church as long as they refuse to accept President Obama’s radicalism. President Obama’s order is a violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of conscience and an unprecedented assault on Christianity.
Catholics are uniformly opposed to the rule. Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association—an ObamaCare supporter—expressed disappointment “that the definition of a religious employer was not broadened.” Even liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne blasted the rule, arguing that “the Church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings.”
The administration’s small concession—that it would allow organizations with religious objections an extra year to comply—does nothing to acknowledge their concerns. As Archbishop Dolan responded, “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”
This past Sunday, Catholics in churches across the country were read a letter from the Bishop of Marquette Alexander Sample drawing their attention to this unprecedented action by President Obama, describing the administration as having “cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.”
“Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights,” the letter said.
Bishop Sample is right. In choosing the radical agendas of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU over the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty; in dramatically undermining the numerous Catholic educational, health, and charitable institutions that provide so much good to so many Americans; and in implementing a rule no elected official has ever voted on, President Obama has chosen Saul Alinksy radicalism over the Constitution. It’s hard to see how many people of faith will long remain in a political party so hostile to their beliefs and their rights.