Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 | Uncategorized | 37 Comments
The Obama Administration’s decision to force the Roman Catholic and other Christian churches to pay for contraception and abortificients for employees who work in church-affiliated hospitals and other institutions may turn out to be one of the most disastrous US political blunders since the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Michael Gerson:
In politics, the timing is often the message. On Jan. 20 — three days before the annual March for Life — the Obama administration announced its final decision that Catholic universities, hospitals and charities will be compelled to pay for health insurance that covers sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients.
Catholic leaders are still trying to process the implications of this ambush. The president had every opportunity to back down from confrontation. In the recent Hosanna-Tabor ruling, a unanimous Supreme Court reaffirmed a broad religious autonomy right rooted in the Constitution. Obama could have taken the decision as justification for retreat.
It was a decision, says Gerson, that the Administration didn’t need to make.
And it would have been a minor retreat. The administration was on the verge of mandating nearly universal contraceptive coverage through Obamacare without public notice. There would have been no controversy at all if President Obama had simply exempted religious institutions and ministries. But the administration insisted that the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s Hospital be forced to pay for the privilege of violating their convictions.
Basically, the wall of separation between church and state, so well-beloved by this country’s liberals, no longer exists what with our idiot president having dynamited it.
Obama chose to substantially burden a religious belief, by the most intrusive means, for a less-than-compelling state purpose — a marginal increase in access to contraceptives that are easily available elsewhere. The religious exemption granted by Obamacare is narrower than anywhere else in federal law — essentially covering the delivery of homilies and the distribution of sacraments. Serving the poor and healing the sick are regarded as secular pursuits — a determination that would have surprised Christianity’s founder.
Although other churches will be affected as well, our idiot president’s principal target is the Roman Catholic Church.
Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama’s decision — an edict delivered with a sneer. It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal. Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19th-century Republican nativists.
Quite simply, this is the greatest American government intrusion into religious affairs that this country has ever seen.
The implications of Obama’s power grab go further than contraception and will provoke opposition beyond Catholicism. Christian colleges and universities of various denominations will resist providing insurance coverage for abortifacients. And the astounding ambition of this federal precedent will soon be apparent to every religious institution. Obama is claiming the executive authority to determine which missions of believers are religious and which are not — and then to aggressively regulate institutions the government declares to be secular. It is a view of religious liberty so narrow and privatized that it barely covers the space between a believer’s ears.
Gerson finishes thus.
The administration’s ultimate motivation is uncertain. Has it adopted a radical secularism out of conviction, or is it cynically appealing to radical secularists? In either case, the war on religion is now formally declared.
Tru dat. But Gerson used to work for George W. Bush. What do 2008 liberal Catholic Obama voters think? Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter won’t be voting for our idiot president this fall.
No, I come at this issue as a liberal and a Democrat and as someone who, until yesterday, generally supported the President, as someone who saw in his vision of America a greater concern for each other, a less mean-spirited culture, someone who could, and did, remind the nation that we are our brothers’ keeper, that liberalism has a long vocation in this country of promoting freedom and protecting the interests of the average person against the combined power of the rich, and that we should learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. I defended the University of Notre Dame for honoring this man, and my heart was warmed when President Obama said at Notre Dame: “we must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity — diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief. In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family.”
Because getting shivved by somebody you thought was your friend is no fun at all.
I accuse you, Mr. President, of treating shamefully those Catholics who went out on a limb to support you. Do tell, Mr. President, how many bullets have the people at Planned Parenthood taken for you? Sr. Carol Keehan, Father Larry Snyder, Father John Jenkins, these people have scars to show for their willingness to work with you, to support you on your tough political fights. Is this the way you treat people who went to the mat for you?
So Mike’ll be sitting out November.
But, yesterday, as soon as I learned of this decision, I knew instantly that I also could not, in good conscience, ever vote for Mr. Obama again. I once had great faith in Mr. Obama’s judgment and leadership. I do not retract a single word I have written supporting him on issues like health care reform, or bringing the troops home from Iraq, or taking aggressive steps to halt the recession and turn the economy around. I will continue to advocate for those policies. But, I can never convince myself that a person capable of making such a dreadful decision is worthy of my respect or my vote.
Even reliable leftist E. J. Dionne Jr. has serious reservations.
One of Barack Obama’s great attractions as a presidential candidate was his sensitivity to the feelings and intellectual concerns of religious believers. That is why it is so remarkable that he utterly botched the admittedly difficult question of how contraceptive services should be treated under the new health care law.
His administration mishandled this decision not once but twice. In the process, Obama threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus and strengthened the hand of those inside the Church who had originally sought to derail the health care law.
Speaking as a Catholic, I wish the Church would be more open on the contraception question. But speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government, I think 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 should have done more to balance the competing liberty interests here.
While a friend of Rod Dreher cannot contain his anger.
As an openly pro-Obama Catholic in 2008, allow me to express OUTRAGE at the recent HHS regulations on insurance coverage. Today’s NYT piece explains the situation and despite its avowedly anti-Catholic tone — more on that in a minute — it makes abundantly clear that Obama has not a leg to stand on. All right-wing hyperbole to one side, this is an attack on religious liberty, and a naked one.
Politically, I do not understand the thinking here. In an election year in which your health care plan will be the central plank of your opponent’s case, you decide to give a large middle finger to Catholics (last time I heard an important demographic in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania). Note that the bishops want to be, and should be, the prime supporters of universal health coverage. But Obama, to placate the abortion lobby, has decided to not merely ignore Catholic concerns as he already did, but now to affirmatively attack them. It is unimaginable that he could be this politically stupid. He now provides evidence that makes ME ( largely a liberal Democrat) wonder if this administration and elements in the Democratic Party are not in fact pursuing a wider agenda to reduce religious voice and presence in the public square. Until now, I had left that kind of theorizing to the conservative talk shows — but what else explains this move?
Since I don’t know the relationship between the views of National Catholic Reporter commenters and those of the Catholic population as a whole, I honestly don’t know whether (1) all this will blow over in eleven months or (2) Barack Obama just took very careful aim and shot himself in the foot.
I suspect (2) is probably closer to the truth. Obama got a substantial number of Catholic votes in 2008. If this HHS policy motivates conservative Catholics to turn out to vote against him while convincing people like Michael Sean Winters to stay home, I don’t think that our idiot president stands a chance of keeping his job.