American Elephants

Forty-three Catholic Institutions File Lawsuits over HHS Mandate. by The Elephant's Child

Twelve legal challenges have been filed today by 43 plaintiffs against the ObamaCare regulation that requires health care plans to include abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization procedures. The University of Notre Dame was prominent among the  challengers. Many religious institutions object on religious or moral grounds to providing, paying for and facilitating coverage for such procedures.

In addition there are several other institutions that have already filed lawsuits, with the Becket Fund for religious Liberty: Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, Eternal Word Television Network and Ave Maria University. Hercules Industries has filed suit as a family owned business that would be forced to violate its religious beliefs in February in Newland v. Sebelius in the U.S. District Court for Colorado.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has called the ObamaCare mandate an “unprecedented” violation of religious freedom by the federal government.

The case seems very strong  that the mandate is in direct conflict with the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Aside from that ObamaCare does grant religious exemptions to the mandate to Muslims, the Amish, American Indians and Christian Scientists. Then there is the famous Supreme Court decision in Youngstown Steel &Tube v. Sawyer in 1952.  The Court held that “the president may not rule by decree, conscripting private industry to carry out his commands.  The chief executive may only execute laws passed by Congress, according to their terms.  He may not make up laws of his own and then enforce them.” That would seem to squash  this particular mandate, and Obama’s personal revision of it, quite thoroughly.

The plaintiffs have a lot to complain about.  Freedom to practice one’s own religion is one of America’s most cherished freedoms. It is not about contraception, abortion-inducing drugs , or sterilization. These services are widely available in the United States, and nothing prevents the government from making them available. But Barack Obama may not decree that religious institutions must violate their beliefs. The first phrase of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” And only Congress gets to make laws. That is not a power of the Executive Branch.

The administration clearly thought that this fit right into their silly “War on Women” theme. They assumed that the Catholics would fall in line, and claims that conservatives were trying to deny women the right to contraceptives because they objected to taxpayers being forced to pay for something that women should pay for themselves at $9 a month or less, would emphasize how conservatives were against women’s health.

Notre Dame’s president Fr. John Jenkins stated firmly:

Many of our faculty, staff and students — both Catholic and non-Catholic — have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives.  As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs.  And we believe that, if the Government wishes to provide such services, means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents.  We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the Government not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings. We have engaged in conversations to find a resolution that respects the consciences of all and we will continue to do so.

This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives.  For if we concede that the Government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions.  For if one Presidential Administration can override our religious purpose and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values, then surely another Administration will do the same for another very different set of policies, each time invoking some concept of popular will or the public good, with the result these religious organizations become mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringements.  If that happens, it will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name.

If this case winds up before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli will have his hands full trying to defend this governmental usurpation of powers.

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“… For if one Presidential Administration can override our religious purpose and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values, then surely another Administration will do the same for another very different set of policies…”

That’s something that never stops amazing me… people (in this case the Dems) never seem to stop and think about the fact that the current decision maker will not be in office forever (or even another 64 years, Julia!), and that if it’s okay that this gets to make a unilateral decision like this, the next one will get to do it too (sauce for the goose…).


Comment by Lon Mead

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