intersection

the Church, the State, and me

Lord, thou hast made us for thyself, therefore our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.
- St. Augustine of Hippo
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Posts tagged "Obama"

From Donald Sensing:

… The US Army today has more than 560,000 troops and the USMC more than 200,000. Obama is wrong. We have hundreds of thousands more bayonets now than in 1916.

Sarcasm and condescension only work if the speaker’s presumption of lofty superior knowledge is borne out by his command of actual facts. You can’t successfully accuse your opponent of being an ignoramus when you don’t know what you’re talking about yourself….

Check it out.

So I could say my extended absence has been due to our moving and unpacking all gazillion boxes (which have been in storage for two years) and deciding where everything should go (should the dining room table go here or here?) and finishing up uncompleted house projects (yes, I do need a closet) and becoming more involved in local “happenings”—and that would all be true.

But I could also say that it has been due to a slight feeling of unreality about the presidential election, and because I haven’t had the time (because of the move) to think this feeling through, I haven’t had a clear direction. And then I read Ace and everything fell into place:

Let me suggest something that many conservatives realized after the debate: Obama did not do that badly. For Obama. He was the same listless, droning, exhausted-of-ideas scold we have seen for at least two years now (and maybe three).

He was Obama. This is what he is. He is not quick-witted. He is not, as I think I saw Mickey Kaus note, a wonk. He has never been a wonk, a detailed-policy guy.

He is a guy who speaks vacuously of hopes and dreams and change and fairness.

He always has been.

The problem, for the liberals, is not Obama. This is what you bought. This is your guy. It wasn’t his A game, but it was something close to his B+ game.

The problem was Romney, who was commanding, fluent, reasonable, articulate, sharp-witted, warm, occasionally funny, full of ideas, full of facts, full of thoughtful, detailed criticisms of Obama policy (who the hell expected him to bring up, as an afterthought, Dodd-Frank’s failure to specify what a “reasonably qualified” mortgage applicant was, and how that chilled lending? Obama sure didn’t!), and, therefore, ultimately, full of qualification for the job and yes, full of gravitas.

That’s the problem.

Not Obama. I repeat: This is who Obama is. He has never been this brilliant intellect and keen policy analysts liberals have, in their BubbleWorld, dreamed him as.

The problem is not that Obama is or was awful. The problem is that he is what he always is — adequate and hardly ever more — and Romney is actually on top of things, an accomplished executive with a winner’s thirst for victory an an A-student’s understanding of what victory requires.

So part of the extreme emotional deflation of people like Sullivan — who only a few years ago called me a “frothing Caesarist” (I take that to mean a lickspittle for a Man on a White Horse) — is due to their having invented in their minds a conquering hero, an Eternal Champion, a Mussolini-like figure of incredible prowess in all matters including sexual (“Mussolini breaks a new horse every day, and a new woman every night,” an old Fascist saying went).

And he’s never been that. He’s been a very average politician, whose only above-average skill is giving a scripted, TelePrompTed address to people who already support him.

So for people like Sullivan, this is a bit of a bitchslap to their entire fantasy worldview, the day they saw Obama As What He Is rather than What They Fantasized Him To Be.

And they’re shocked by this. They feel their psychical mooring-lines stretching to the break.

This is partly Obama’s fault, of course. He encouraged this.

But it is much, much more the fault of people who pride themselves on being skeptical realists who permitted their minds to run to the magical and to the (frankly, blasphemously) religious….

The fusion of religion and politics has in fact been every bit as deleterious as the liberals always warned us.

It’s just that they were the ones who actually fused God and President.

I long for the days when elections were not about Salvation, and the Press Corps were not Acolytes, each vying to prove their devotion unto their Prophet….

And all I can say is “yes, absolutely, once again Ace nails it” (no, not in that way). But read it all yourself, there’s lots more.

I am not a conspiracy-theory enthusiast. I think it’s hard enough for one person to keep a secret, much less the dozens it would take to organize some of the most famous conspiracy-theory events out there.

So, yes, we did land men on the moon—more than once. (Can you imagine all of Houston keeping a secret?)

And, yes, the Twin Towers came down because they were plowed into by airplanes directed by Al-Qaeda terrorists, and yes…steel can melt.

(But I’m not touching the JFK assassination—even anti-conspiracy theorists know when to get out.)

So, I don’t go looking for conspiracies, especially in politics or government, but I am beginning to wonder if the U.S. government, especially the Executive Branch, is purposely targeting traditional Christians by making it difficult for churches to conduct their business, hold their meetings, travel unencumbered, and fulfill their mission of being Christ’s Body in the world. Here’s a list, just off the top of my head, of recent events:

*  Inclusion of the Holy See (the Vatican) on U.S. State Department’s 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

From Catholic.org:

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – The US State Department has added an unlikely name to the list of countries that are considered money-laundering centers – the Vatican. The listing was published Wednesday in the 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, and lists 190 countries.

The list is divided into three categories, primary concern, concern, and monitored. The Vatican has been listed with 67 other countries which also includes Poland, Egypt, Ireland, Hungary, and Chile.

A State Department official did confess that the Vatican had recently established programs to prevent money laundering….

In plain English, there is no accusation of wrongdoing, nor even evidence of it. The State Department merely sees the Vatican as a possible risk because of the large volumes of money processed through its banking system.

Now this is somewhat understandable. The Vatican has had financial problems in the past, which is why they are instituting changes. They are also in the “countries of concern” category, the middle group, primarily it seems because of the amount of money they handle, not because of any specific wrongdoing.

But then this happens, and you have to ask “why now?” since the Vatican has already taken steps to address its problems:

*  Closing by JP Morgan Chase of the Vatican’s account

From Reuters:

JP Morgan Chase (JPM.N) is closing the Vatican bank’s account with an Italian branch of the U.S. banking giant because of concerns about a lack of transparency at the Holy See’s financial institution, Italian newspapers reported.

The move is a blow to the Vatican’s drive to have its bank included in Europe’s “white list” of states that comply with international standards against tax fraud and money-laundering.

The bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), enacted major reforms last year in an attempt to get Europe’s seal of approval and put behind it scandals that have included accusations of money laundering and fraud….

Last year, the Vatican adapted internal laws to comply with international standards on financial crime.

The 108-acre sovereign state surrounded by Rome now complies with the rules of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

It also established an internal Financial Information Authority (FIA) along the lines of other countries and has committed to comply with international anti-money laundering standards and liaise with the group and law enforcement agencies….

JP Morgan’s actions are less understandable than those of the U.S. State Department. If the Vatican is in the midst of instituting reforms, why close their account? Investigations haven’t presented any new information and talk of money-laundering and tax fraud are still just allegations. Was there pressure, overt or implied, by the U.S. government?

* Concern about travel documents

The United Methodist Church has repeatedly on the international level upheld the traditional Christian understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, despite ongoing attempts from various groups to allow for same-sex unions. Once again at their General Conference this April they will face this issue. In a write-up for First Things, Thomas C. Oden mentions in passing the ability of foreign delegates, especially those from Africa, to get the proper travel documents to attend the conference:

The struggle for the soul of the United Methodist Church has reached a decisive point. At every quadrennial national meeting since 1976, the issue of the ordination of partners in same-sex unions has been raised and defeated. Until now my church has not gone the way of the Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ, the mainline Presbyterians, and the Evangelical Lutherans. At the General Conference this April, Methodists face another battle over this issue, and the legislative outcome is in doubt. The contest will hinge on how many of the African delegates will get visas and on whether we can meld together the voices of evangelicals, moderates, overseas delegates, and centrist liberals who care about the future of the United Methodist Church and who wish to avoid a decade of devastating court challenges….

The presence of Christians from Africa and Asia is essential for the UMC to continue to uphold the biblical mandate on marriage. I wonder how many will get visas—I guess we’ll have to wait until April to see.

A paperwork hold-up did affect some long-scheduled Nigerian clergy unable to get visas to come to the U.S. for a religious conference earlier this year. Apparently, the State Department pointed to the security issues involved with Nigeria, which is a valid concern, but given the lead-time for the paperwork, questions remain.

*  Abridgement of First Amendments rights

And of course, the biggest area indicating that the administration is targeting traditional/conservative Christians is the mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for all employers, religious or not, to pay for (either directly or indirectly) contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients. Or, as Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York said in response to the 2013 deadline for compliance: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

If religious freedom falls and the Catholic Church as well as other religious institutions pulls back from operating for all instead of just their own faithful, the government will have succeeded in keeping them from following Christ’s Great Commission, of imposing the State between people gathering together to help each other, and of gravely weakening all of our “inalienable” rights.

But I reassure myself that this can’t possibly be a conspiracy with the adage:

Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence.

And that goes double when dealing with government bureaucrats.

Okay, people, here it is, read it below: Obama’s great “compromise” on the HHS contraception/abortifacient rules, all decked out in government-ese. Where is Joe Wilson when you need him?

Because from the rules to be published in the Federal Register come February 15, we learn this:

  • Pregnancy is a disease, a “preventable” disease.
  • This “compromise” changes nothing: religious institutions opposed to chemical birth control (including abortifacients) will still, one way or another, be paying for this coverage.
  • Women really are the weaker sex, since apparently we are incapable of functioning without government help.
  • The woman who finds herself with an “unintended pregnancy” is a threat not only to herself, but to society at large.

From the Office of the Federal Register, the final rules for the HHS “Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Issuers Relating to Coverage of Preventive Services Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” that will appear in the February 15 Federal Register

(And, don’t forget, sixty days from February 15, these rules go into effect by order of the federal government.)

First, the Summary from page 1:

SUMMARY: These regulations finalize, without change, interim final regulations authorizing the exemption of group health plans and group health insurance coverage sponsored by certain religious employers from having to cover certain preventive health services under provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

And now the Overview (from pages 8-14):

III. Overview of the Final Regulations

In response to these comments, the Departments carefully considered whether to eliminate the religious employer exemption or to adopt an alternative definition of religious employer, including whether the exemption should be extended to a broader set of religiously affiliated
sponsors of group health plans and group health insurance coverage. For the reasons discussed below, the Departments are adopting the definition in the amended interim final regulations for purposes of these final regulations while also creating a temporary enforcement safe harbor, discussed below.

Think about this: HHS actually carefully considered whether to toss the First Amendment (which they’ve done anyway with their so-called “compromise”). And they’ve only created a “temporary enforcement safe harbor.” Changes they are a-coming

During the temporary enforcement safe harbor, the Departments plan to develop and propose changes to these final regulations that would meet two goals – providing contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing to individuals who want it and accommodating non-exempted, non-profit organizations’ religious objections to covering contraceptive services as also discussed below.

PHS Act section 2713 reflects a determination by Congress that coverage of recommended preventive services by non-grandfathered group health plans and health insurance issuers without cost sharing is necessary to achieve basic health care coverage for more Americans. Individuals are more likely to use preventive services if they do not have to satisfy cost sharing requirements (such as a copayment, coinsurance, or a deductible).

Well, of course, you might be more apt to use something given to you for free. Then again, having spent your own money for something usually makes you more conscientious about it. So it’s a toss-up, but let’s have the federal government mandate that private companies (insurers) give something away at no cost to the receiver, because the Obama administration has shown themselves to be such wizs at economics.

Use of preventive services results in a healthier population and reduces health care costs by helping individuals avoid preventable conditions

Pregnancy, the new disease…

and receive treatment earlier. Further, Congress, by amending the Affordable Care Act during the Senate debate to ensure that recommended preventive services for women are covered adequately by non-grandfathered group health plans and group health insurance coverage, recognized that women have unique health care needs and burdens. Such needs include contraceptive services.

They’re right, it is such a burden being a woman, what with being able to create life and all. We need help, we can’t do it ourselves! Please, give us free stuff because we’re helpless otherwise.

As documented in a report of the Institute of Medicine, “Clinical Preventive Services for Women, Closing the Gaps,” women experiencing an unintended pregnancy may not immediately be aware that they are pregnant, and thus delay prenatal care. They also may not be as motivated to discontinue behaviors that pose pregnancy-related risks (e.g., smoking, consumption of alcohol). Studies show a greater risk of preterm birth and low birth weight among unintended pregnancies compared with pregnancies that were planned….

OMG, I think the government has just said that unplanned pregnancies truly are anathema to our nation. Women with “unintended pregnancies” are the new smokers, to be avoided at all costs, frowned upon by society, and offered remedial help (aka abortifacients) if they are unhappy with their pregnant state. Just say no…to pregnancy.

The religious employer exemption in the final regulations does not undermine the overall benefits described above. A group health plan (and health insurance coverage provided in connection with such a plan) qualifies for the exemption if, among other qualifications, the plan is established and maintained by an employer that primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.

So much for exempting religious institutions like hospitals, charities, etc. The government is pushing religious institutions out of the public square by limiting this insurance exemption to entities that primarily employ persons of the same faith. No one is stopping anyone employed by a Catholic hospital, for example, from going out and buying their own contraception or insurance provision to cover those costs, but that’s not good enough for the government.

As such, the employees of employers availing themselves of the exemption would be less likely to use contraceptives even if contraceptives were covered under their health plans.

A broader exemption, as urged by some commenters, would lead to more employees having to pay out of pocket for contraceptive services, thus making it less likely that they would use contraceptives, which would undermine the benefits described above.

Because, don’t forget, pregnancy is a disease.

And women are the weaker sex and are incapable of taking control of their own reproductive decisions, so the government must step in.

Employers that do not primarily employ employees who share the religious tenets of the organization are more likely to employ individuals who have no religious objection to the use of contraceptive services and therefore are more likely to use contraceptives. Including these employers within the scope of the exemption would subject their employees to the religious views of the employer, limiting access to contraceptives, and thereby inhibiting the use of contraceptive services and the benefits of preventive care….

Because, repeat after me: Pregnancy. Is. A. Disease.

And HHS is wrong–access is not limited by giving those institutions an exemption. Any female employee can go to their doctor and get a prescription with no limits whatsoever. (And, to be honest with you, it’s no business at all of the government to determine whether or not an employee shares the “religious tenets” of their employer or not.)

With respect to certain non-exempted, non-profit organizations with religious objections to covering contraceptive services whose group health plans are not grandfathered health plans, guidance is being issued contemporaneous with these final regulations that provides a one-year safe harbor from enforcement by the Departments.

In other words, to quote Archbishop Dolan, “we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

Before the end of the temporary enforcement safe harbor, the Departments will work with stakeholders to develop alternative ways of providing contraceptive coverage without cost sharing with respect to non-exempted, non-profit religious organizations with religious objections to such coverage.

You know, I just don’t believe them, and you shouldn’t either. There is little to no interest in working with faith communities on how to deal with this because HHS needs to make sure everyone knows that they, and they alone, make the rules.

Specifically, the Departments plan to initiate a rulemaking to require issuers to offer insurance without contraception coverage to such an employer (or plan sponsor) and simultaneously to offer contraceptive coverage directly to the employer’s plan participants (and their beneficiaries) who desire it, with no cost-sharing. Under this approach, the Departments will also require that, in this circumstance, there be no charge for the contraceptive coverage….

Because we all know that the pharmaceutical companies will make the contraceptives for free, the packaging companies will package them for free, the truck drivers will transport them for free nationwide, and the doctors will prescribe them for free. Because that’s how it works in the minds of those who have no idea of the marketplace. In reality, of course, the employer continues to pay for the coverage through increased premiums for everyone (because nothing is free).

The Departments intend to develop policies to achieve the same goals for self-insured group health plans sponsored by non-exempted, non-profit religious organizations with religious objections to contraceptive coverage.

Um-humm…I don’t believe that either.

A future rulemaking would be informed by the existing practices of some issuers and religious organizations in the 28 States where contraception coverage requirements already exist, including Hawaii.

Why in the world would you call out Hawaii by name, except for the fact that you’re going to use them as a model?

There, State health insurance law requires issuers to offer plan participants in group health plans sponsored by religious employers that are exempt from the State contraception coverage requirement the option to purchase this coverage in a way that religious employers are not obligated to fund it. It is our understanding that, in practice, rather than charging employees a separate fee, some issuers in Hawaii offer this coverage to plan participants at no charge.

And we’ve already gone over the fact that that is a false statement: the insurance company will pass the costs on to everyone through increased premiums, so the religious employers will still be required to pay for coverage they consider morally evil.

The Departments will work with stakeholders to propose and finalize this policy before the end of the temporary enforcement safe harbor….

I’m sure they will, just like they did before the rules were finalized this time.

Because sometimes, the headline is just too good to pass up. From the Wall Street Journal editorial page:

Here’s a conundrum: The White House wants to impose its birth-control ideology on all Americans, including those for whom sponsoring or subsidizing such services violates their moral conscience. The White House also wants to avoid a political backlash from this blow to religious freedom. These goals are irreconcilable.

So you almost have to admire the absurdity of the new plan President Obama floated yesterday: The government will now write a rule that says the best things in life are “free,” including contraception. Thus a political mandate will be compounded by an uneconomic one—in other words, behold the soul of ObamaCare….

Under the new rule, which the White House stresses is “an accommodation” and not a compromise, nonprofit religious organizations won’t have to directly cover birth control and can opt out. But the insurers they hire to cover their employees can’t opt out. If that sounds like a distinction without a difference, odds are you’re a rational person….

Insurance companies won’t be making donations. Drug makers will still charge for the pill. Doctors will still bill for reproductive treatment. The reality, as with all mandated benefits, is that these costs will be borne eventually via higher premiums. The balloon may be squeezed differently over time, and insurers may amortize the cost differently over time, but eventually prices will find an equilibrium. Notre Dame will still pay for birth control, even if it is nominally carried by a third-party corporation.

This cut-out may appease a few of the Administration’s critics, especially on the Catholic left—but only if they want to be deceived again, having lobbied for the Affordable Care Act that created the problem in the first place….

We couldn’t recall any spirit of conciliation when the birth-control mandate was finalized in January, so we went back and checked the transcript of that call with senior Administration officials. Sure enough, back then they said that the rule “reflects careful consideration of the rights of religious organizations” and that a one-year grace period “really just gives those organizations some additional time to sort out how they will be adjusting their plans.”

A journalist asked, “Just to be clear, so it’s giving them a year to comply rather than giving them a year to in any way change how they feel or the Administration to change how it feels.” Another senior official: “That is correct. It gives them a year to comply.”…

There is simply no precedent for the government ordering private companies to offer a product for free, even if they recoup the costs indirectly….

The larger tragedy is that none of them objected to government health care, which will always take choices away from individuals and arrogate them to an infallible higher power in Washington. Who was it again who claimed that if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan?

Read it all.

During the debates/discussions about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Sr. Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association worked hard to get the legislation passed. Of course, she had no idea what was in it, and over the past few weeks, has expressed disappointment at the new HHS mandates on contraception coverage.

But, no worries, she hasn’t left the Democratic plantation yet–she’s fully on-board with the new “accommodations” by the White House:

…The country’s Catholic bishops have not yet responded to the White House’s statement. However, both Planned Parenthood and the Catholic Health Association (CHA) have expressed satisfaction with the new plan.

“The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed,” said Sr. Carol Keehan of CHA. Keehan and her organization are perhaps best known for flouting the position of the Catholic bishops during the fight over Obama’s health care reform, throwing their weight behind the bill despite the opposition of the U.S. bishops over concerns the bill would increase abortion funding. Keehan was personally singled out by former USCCB President Cardinal Francis George for condemnation for her role in helping pass the health reform law.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards issued a statement, saying: “In the face of a misleading and outrageous assault on women.s health, the Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work….

Wow, just where a Catholic sister ought to be, sitting on the same side as Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States.

From Christians for a Sustainable Economy:

The crisis of the modern welfare state is a crisis of government, and it is more than that. Too many private charities and foundations dispense aid on the basis of what feels good rather than what works. As a result, they end up providing, instead of points of light, alternative shades of darkness….

Private charities and foundations can do a better job than government but only if they follow seven principles that effective poverty fighters of the past understood. Here are the principles, with historical meaning and contemporary applications, in alphabetical order.

1. Affiliation

A century ago, when individuals applied for material assistance, charity volunteers tried first to “restore family ties that have been sundered” and “reabsorb in social life those who for some reason have snapped the threads that bound them to other members of the community.” Instead of immediately offering help, charities asked, “Who is bound to help in this case?” Mary Richmond of the Baltimore Charity Organizing Society summed up in 1897 the wisdom of a century: “Relief given without reference to friends and neighbors is accompanied by moral loss. Poor neighborhoods are doomed to grow poorer whenever the natural ties of neighborliness are weakened by well-meant but unintelligent interference.”

5. Employment

New York charity leader Josephine Lowell wrote that “the problem before those who would be charitable, is not how to deal with a given number of the poor; it is how to help those who are poor, without adding to their numbers and constantly increasing the evils they seek to cure.” If people were paid for not working, the number of nonworkers would increase, and children would grow up without seeing work as a natural and essential part of life. Individuals had to accept responsibility: Governmental programs operating without the discipline of the marketplace were inherently flawed, because their payout comes “from what is regarded as a practically inexhaustible source, and people who once receive it are likely to regard it as a right, as a permanent pension, implying no obligation on their part.”

Today, programs that stress employment, sometimes in creative ways, need new emphasis….

6. Freedom

Charity workers a century ago did not press for governmental programs but instead showed poor people how to move up while resisting enslavement to governmental masters. Job freedom was the opportunity to drive a wagon without paying bribes, to cut hair without having to go to barbers’ college, and to get a foot on the lowest rung of the ladder, even if the wages there were low. Freedom was the opportunity for a family to escape dire poverty by having a father work long hours and a mother sew garments at home. Life was hard, but static, multigenerational poverty of the kind we now have was rare; those who persevered could star in a motion picture of upward mobility.

Today, in our desire to make the bottom rung of the ladder higher, we have cut off the lowest rungs and left many on the ground. Those who are pounding the pavements looking for work, and those who have fallen between the cracks, are hindered by what is supposed to help them. Mother Teresa’s plan to open a homeless shelter in New York was stopped by a building code that required an elevator; nuns in her order said that their code forbade such mechanical helps and that they would carry upstairs anyone who could not walk, but the city stuck to its guns and the shelter never opened….

7. God

“True philanthropy must take into account spiritual as well as physical needs,” poverty fighters a century ago noted, and both Christians and Jews did. Christians worshipped a God who came to earth and showed in life and death the literal meaning of compassion—suffering with. Jewish teaching stressed the pursuit of righteousness through the doing of good deeds. Groups such as the Industrial Christian Alliance noted that they used “religious methods”—reminding the poor that God made them and had high expectations for them—to “restore the fallen and helpless to self-respect and self-support.”

Read it all, check out their site and check out their letter to President Obama.

Mitt Romney writes on the egregious HHS mandates in the Washington Examiner:

…My own view is clear. I stand with the Catholic Bishops and all religious organizations in their strenuous objection to this liberty- and conscience-stifling regulation. I am committed to overturning Obamacare root and branch. If I am elected President, on day one of my administration I will issue an executive order directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a waiver from its requirements to all 50 states. And on day one I will eliminate the Obama administration rule that compels religious institutions to violate the tenets of their own faith. Such rules don’t belong in the America that I believe in.

The America I believe in is governed by the U.S. Constitution and I will not hesitate to use the powers of the presidency to protect religious liberty….

The Obama administration is forcing religious institutions to choose between violating their conscience  or dropping health care coverage for their employees, effectively destroying their ability to carry on their work.

Those of us who object have an irrefutable case. American courts have long held as a foundational principle the right of religious institutions to control their own affairs. It was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court as recently as January 11  in a case involving ministerial hiring. It is notable that in that case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC, the Obama administration was also challenging the basic time-honored principle of ecclesiastical autonomy. But a unanimous Court rejected the Obama administration’s position, declaring it to be “extreme” and explaining that the suit was “hard to square with the text of the First Amendment itself, which gives special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations.”

In an effort to mollify the Bishops, Health and Human Services has now given religious institutions an additional twelve months to comply. That twelve-month extension is a clumsy attempt to push this matter past this year’s presidential election. As long as the rule hovers in front of us, we must keep up the battle. In a polity that provides all manners of exemption on the basis of religious freedom, it is an appalling trespass on the First Amendment.

Liberals and conservatives have made common cause to defend the rights of religious minorities in the past.  But somehow, today, when it comes to the agenda of the left-wing of the Democratic Party—those who brought us abortion on demand and who fight against the teaching of abstinence education in our children’s schools—their devotion to religious freedom goes out the window. They would force Catholics and others who have beliefs rooted in their faith to sacrifice the teachings of their faith to the mandate of federal bureaucrats.

It is a prerequisite to the preservation of our liberty that our government not dictate to religious institutions the principles by which they are to carry out their charitable and divine mission….

Read it all, and I sure hope he means it.

From Ace commenting on Michael Gerson’s piece in the Washington Post on the new HHS mandated regulations–excellent as usual: Radical: For No Reason Except To Punish Cultures He Abhors, Obama Mandates That Catholic Organizations Must Now Pay for Abortions for Their Workers:

…I don’t know what to say except the arrogance is breath-taking. Obama doesn’t understand the point of government.

The point of government is to run an orderly house in which a great many people may live together in relative harmony despite sharply disagreeing with each other on many things.

A hotelier, if his goal is to just run a successful hotel, should not care very much if some rooms are rented by Jews, and some by Catholics, and some by atheists; and some by families, and some by pairs of cheatin’ spouses.

Only if the hotelier puts his own moralism over the business would he attempt to force his guests to live by his specific rules of life.

Obama is a moralist, and an arrogant one. For all the talk of Christians being rigid moralists, the dirty little secret is that the left is far more rigidly, arrogantly moralistic, and it is cheerleaded by our cultural institutions (media, academia) rather than pushed back against, so its arrogance is encouraged.

Obama is pushing, very hard, a rigid moral system, and attempting to “shove it down the throats” of people who do not seek nor need his moral instruction.

It just happens to be that his code of morality is an unconventional one, borne not in the first century but in the twentieth, and which, when taken to extremes, has included conceptions of sexuality which are essentially Satanic in their license.

Can he make a little space for those who do not rush to embrace his Madonna Moralism?

No. For to do so would be to confess doubt about the Moral Scheme he has in mind for people; it would signal that he’s not utterly certain of his own moral beliefs.

And few on the political left have any sense of modesty about any of their culture-changing schemes….

Read it all.

From John Hayward at Human Events, a note that transporting oil by rail is much more environmentally dangerous than using a pipeline, but not as financially advantageous to the well-connected crony capitalists:

…Amusingly, a spokesman for the Sierra Club admitted “there is no question that [transporting] oil by rail or truck is much more dangerous than a pipeline,” but that didn’t stop the zero-growth eco-fanatics from calling in their chips with President Downgrade to kill that pipeline.

Those rail shipments are expected to “increase exponentially with increased oil production and the shortage of pipelines,” according to Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. That’s going to be quite a windfall for the railroad companies, isn’t it?

As it happens, 75 percent of the oil currently shipped by rail out of North Dakota is handled by Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC… which just happens to be a unit of Warren Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. What a coincidence!

For some reason, nobody from BNSF or Berkshire Hathaway would return the AP’s telephone calls, but oilman Harold Hamm told them he was sure this was just a wonderful “lucky break” for Barack Obama’s favorite billionaire, who is “certainly favored by this decision.” I’ve heard Buffett’s famously overtaxed secretary will be a guest at the State of the Union address tonight. Maybe someone could ask her about it….

Read it all.

Because crony capitalism is just that, very, very crony:

…As it turns out, it is not just natural resources and aquifer purity that Obama had in mind when sealing the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline. No - it appears there were far more relevant numerial metrics that determined Obama’s decisions. Such as the bottom line number of Buffett’s Burlington Northern, which according to Bloomberg, is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to benefit from the Obama administration’s decision to reject TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline permit….

Read it all, and more here from Bloomberg:

Warren Buffett’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to benefit from the Obama administration’s decision to reject TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL oil pipeline permit….

“Whatever people bring to us, we’re ready to haul,” Krista York-Wooley, a spokeswoman for Burlington Northern, a unit of Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), said in an interview. If Keystone XL “doesn’t happen, we’re here to haul.”…