Last Updated:11:16 PM, January 22, 2012
Posted:9:48 PM, January 22, 2012
Friday’s ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services proved yet again that ObamaCare’s critics are right. It’s a breathtaking attack not only on the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom, but also on the separation of church and state.
Kathleen Sebelius, the nominally Catholic HHS chief, bluntly informed religious medical institutions that offer services to the general public that she will indeed compel them to offer free birth control, sterilization and “morning after” pills as part of their employees’ health-care plans. They have exactly one year to get with the program or suffer the consequences.
That’s all their vehement objections to her August “guidelines” got them: “This additional year will allow these organizations more time and flexibility to adapt to this new rule,” read a department statement defending HHS’ insistence on what it euphemistically calls “preventive services.”
In other words, they have a year to figure out how to violate their religious beliefs and contravene church teaching. And if they choose to cancel their health-care plans rather than submit, they’ll incur a hefty annual fine under the tender mercies of ObamaCare.
Added bonus: This contemptuous slap at Catholicism and for mainstream Christianity in general comes wrapped in the guise of “compassion.”
Never mind that the administration just got its head handed to it by the Supreme Court over religious freedom. In a slam-dunk 9-0 vote, the justices this month slapped down Team Obama’s claim thatit, not religious institutions, has the right to decide who qualifies for the “ministerial exception” to employment-discrimination laws.
Liberal and conservative justices alike rejected the Justice Department’s ludicrous argument that religious teachers are no different than, say, soda jerks.
And yet it’s right there in the first words of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” had Attorney General Eric Holder’s ideologues bothered to look.
Now Sebelius follows up with more of the same. Conservatives have been howling for years about the left’s war on traditional faith, and now here it is in all its naked, unabashed glory.
Fine, there’s a fig-leaf “exemption” for institutions that primarily employ or serve members of their own faith. But that’s nearly meaningless in the real world, where Catholic hospitals, a major part of the American health-care system up to now, employ and offer services to everyone.
Lawsuits against the ruling have already been announced, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops says it will jump in as well. “This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights,” said New York Archbishop (and cardinal-designate) Timothy Dolan, who called the decision “literally unconscionable.”
And it’s not just Catholics who should be sounding the alarm bells. The administration’s contempt for principles of faith shows that ObamaCare will do precisely what the critics warned: crush private medical insurance and put nonconforming medical institutions out of business.
Coming just weeks after the president’s recent illegal appointments (to the National Labor Relations Board and the new “consumer credit” agency), Sebelius’ high-handed attitude is another sign of how the administration means to proceed: Rule by executive fiat, and damn the Constitution.
The high court’s ruling on the “ministerial exemption” should be enough to get her edict tossed out – but it’s still unclear how the justices will rule on ObamaCare itself. Happily, with oral arguments set for March, we should know before Election Day.
But until the health-care law is struck down or repealed, expect to see a new breed of “conscientious objectors” — this time in defense of both faith and the Constitution.