Churches and other religious organizations provide huge benefits to American society by funding hospitals, charities and social service agencies. Any act by government that threatens those vital services should be cause for great public concern.
And so it is with the ObamaCare rule that religiously affiliated charities, schools, hospitals and so forth must furnish their employees with health insurance that directly or indirectly includes birth control. While many religious groups do not object to birth control, the Catholic Church certainly does, and the ObamaCare regulation, if not withdrawn, will force a number of Catholic institutions to choose between violating their beliefs and shutting down.
The archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, recently spelled out in stark terms the threat that the Obama administration poses to religious freedom.
"This year, the Catholic Church in the United States is being told she must 'give up' her health care institutions, her universities and many of her social service organizations," the archbishop wrote in a newspaper that serves the Archdiocese of Chicago. "This is not a voluntary sacrifice. ... The [Department of Health and Human Services] regulations now before our society will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to follow their conscience.
"So far in American history, our government has respected the freedom of individual conscience and of institutional integrity for all the many religious groups that shape our society. The government has not compelled them to perform or pay for what their faith tells them is immoral. That's what we've meant by freedom of religion. That's what we had believed was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Maybe we were foolish to believe so.
"What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church ... . 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down."
It would be devastating to our society's safety net for the less fortunate if Catholic-affiliated social service institutions were forced to shut down, and it would be a gross violation of First Amendment liberties if they could remain open only by violating their beliefs and conscience.
It is therefore essential that the administration back down from ObamaCare's contraception requirement.