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 "religion"

Whoops, guess the Catholic bishops are not too happy about Vice President Biden’s dissembling during the debate last night (although, strangely, they don’t say who said this—trying to be politically neutral? Hey, a fact’s a fact: Biden said it, he needs to own it):

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

"With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact."

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate. For more details, please see USCCB’s regulatory comments filed on May 15 regarding the proposed “accommodation”: www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/rulemaking/upload/comments-on-advance-notice-of-proposed-rulemaking-on-preventive-services-12-05-15.pdf

Check it out.

Who shares your values?

13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

 14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

Psalm 51: 13-14 (King James Version of the Bible)

10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Psalm 51: 10-12 (King James Version of the Bible)

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

Psalm 51: 7-9 (King James Version of the Bible)

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.

Tell me again why women are entitled to contraception at no cost to them and at cost to the taxpayer or the insurance company? Why this issue? Why now? Why this benefit and not something else? From Lifesitenews.com:

The White House announced today that, instead of forcing religious employers to pay for birth control, it will force insurance companies to offer the drugs free of charge to all women, no matter where they work.

The plan, touted as a concession to freedom of religion and conscience, was immediately denounced by pro-life Rep. Chris Smith. “The so-called new policy is the discredited old policy, dressed up to look like something else,” said Smith.  “It remains a serious violation of religious freedom. Only the most naï or gullible would accept this as a change in policy.”

“The White House Fact Sheet is riddled with doublespeak and contradiction,” Smith continued. “It states, for example, that religious employers ‘will not’ have to pay for abortion pills, sterilization and contraception, but their ‘insurance companies’ will. Who pays for the insurance policy? The religious employer.”

President Obama reiterated the statement in a press conference this afternoon, saying that “the insurance company, not the hospital, not the charity, will be required to reach out” to women employed by such institutions to offer birth control “without copays, without hassles.”

The new rule is reportedly similar to coverage laws in Hawaii that allow employers with religious objections not to directly pay for contraception, but instead to direct employees on how to conveniently access all such drugs and procedures.

In an email to the Weekly Standard, Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said this week that such an “adjustment” would be not only inadequate, but even worse than the current mandate.

“It would be no improvement to say: ‘Sure, you don’t have to include the coverage, you just have to send all your lay employees and women religious to the local Planned Parenthood clinic,’ he wrote.

Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League also told LifeSiteNews.com that the new rule amounted to a “shell game.” “At the end of the day, religious employers are still required to provide insurance plans that offer free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortifacients in violation of their moral tenets,” he said….

Read it all.

1Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

2Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

Psalm 51: 1-3 (King James Version of the Bible)

We’re looking at colleges this year. I think we’ll strike Vanderbilt from our list–I can’t even imagine paying tuition for this kind of sloppy thinking that violates every bit of common sense (and, yes, I know Vanderbilt is a private university and can set policies like this):

The students were waiting for the doors to open for a community forum about the university’s nondiscrimination policy. That policy bans student religious groups from requiring their leaders to hold specific beliefs.

University leaders say the policy ensures that campus organizations are open to all students. Opponents of the ban say it restricts their freedom of religion.

Four campus groups — the Christian Legal Society, Beta Upsilon Chi, Graduate Student Fellowship and Fellowship of Christian Athletes — all violate the policy. That means they could lose their standing as registered student organizations….

Provost Richard McCarty and David Williams, vice chancellor for university affairs and athletics, stated that the university would not back down from its nondiscrimination policy.

That policy is simple, McCarty said.

Registered student organizations must allow all students to be members and to stand for election as leaders….

Let’s see:

  • Requiring beliefs for membership–well, maybe those groups should welcome all as long as they’re not disruptive
  • Requiring beliefs for leaders–now that seems pretty self-evident to all but the Vanderbilt administration

And more at The Blaze:

At the center of debate is the university’s nondiscrimination policy, which bans student-led faith groups, among others, from requiring leaders to hold specific beliefs.

The policy, which in many ways contradicts theological requirements, has created angst among members of both the student body and the university’s faculty. These opponents see the ban as a crackdown on their freedom of religion and speech. School leaders, though, maintain that the policy is necessary to ensure that all students feel welcome at campus clubs and events….

A response to the HHS mandated regulations by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America:

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, which is comprised of the 65 canonical Orthodox bishops in the United States, Canada and Mexico, join their voices with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and all those who adamantly protest the recent decision by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and call upon all the Orthodox Christian faithful to contact their elected representatives today to voice their concern in the face of this threat to the sanctity of the Church’s conscience.

In this ruling by HHS, religious hospitals, educational institutions, and other organizations will be required to pay for the full cost of contraceptives (including some abortion-inducing drugs) and sterilizations for their employees, regardless of the religious convictions of the employers.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. This freedom is transgressed when a religious institution is required to pay for “contraceptive services” including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that directly violate their religious convictions. Providing such services should not be regarded as mandated medical care….

Read it all.

Opposition to the mandated HHS regulations requiring employers to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients is not just a Roman Catholic thing. Unfortunately, I think the writers of this letter miss the bigger point: why is it the responsibility of the American taxpayer to provide contraceptives at no cost to the recipient?

Pregnancy is not a disease, drugs are not necessary to “prevent” it, so why is the government requiring it? This is the problem with government control of health care: they will stipulate everything about it, deliver inefficient service, cost much more money, and mandate people purchase services they are morally opposed to.

But, hey, this is a start:

We write to you specifically as organizations and leaders that are not part of the Catholic community. We write not in opposition to Catholic leaders and organizations; rather, we write in solidarity, but separately—to stress that religious organizations and leaders of other faiths are also deeply troubled by and opposed to the mandate and the narrow exemption.

Most press reports on the controversy concerning the contraceptives mandate portray the opposition as coming only from the Catholic Church and Catholic organizations. But this is wrong. It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients. It is not only Catholics who object to the narrow exemption that protects only seminaries and a few churches, but not churches with a social outreach and other faith-based organizations that serve the poor and needy broadly providing help that goes beyond worship and prayer.

The faith-based organizations and religious traditions represented by the undersigned leaders do not all share the same convictions about the moral acceptability of the mandated services. But we are all deeply concerned about the narrow exemption, including proposals made to expand it while still leaving unprotected many faith-based organizations. Many of us previously signed a letter, dated August 26, 2011, to Joshua DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, asking his help in persuading your administration, if it maintains the contraceptives mandate, to replace the current “inaccurately narrow and practically
inadequate definition of ‘religious employer’.” An organization does not cease to be a religious organization just because it serves the poor and needy in material ways and does not confine its help to prayer and religious teaching.

We reiterate our opposition to the narrow exemption….

Mr. President, religious organizations beyond the Catholic community have deep moral objections to a requirement that their health insurance plans must cover abortifacients. Religious organizations beyond the Catholic community object to the current narrow exemption which puts them outside the definition of “religious employers.” And religious organizations beyond the Catholic community object to any revision of the exemption that would limit it to churches and denominationally affiliated organizations.

We believe that the Federal government is obligated by the First Amendment to accommodate the religious convictions of faith-based organizations of all kinds, Catholic and non-Catholic….

Check it out, and here’s a question: if you are a Catholic layperson and have a business, will you be required under these HHS regulations to offer insurance coverage to your employees that mandates contraception, including abortifacients? Just because one is not in a religious organization doesn’t mean one relinquishes all of one’s First Amendment rights.

Will employers who morally disagree with this mandate only have the choice of not offering health coverage? Is this part of the goal here–to have more and more people turning to the government for insurance because more and more employers, for religious and/or moral reasons, cannot comply with the HHS mandates?

Makes you wonder.

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.