Suing for faith, freedom

Suing for faith, freedom

May 24th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

The Obama administration's hostility to at least some expressions of faith can be palpable at times, and not only in Obama's deeply insulting pre-presidential declaration that blue-collar workers "cling" to religion because they are "bitter" about the economy.

A casual, though telling, remark such as that pales next to his demand that religiously affiliated charities, hospitals, schools and such offer their employees health care plans that include free abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and birth control -- even if that violates their most fundamental beliefs and teachings.

The organizations naturally object.

Their objections are not about preventing women from obtaining contraceptives. Employees of the organizations still can get contraception by other means and use it at will. Rather, the groups are attempting to uphold the principle that they cannot be forced to sabotage their own teachings by becoming the agent through which birth control is provided.

Up to now, it had been thought that that principle was reinforced by an impenetrable layer of constitutional concrete. But the Constitution has proved an especially pliable thing to this administration, and when basic liberties were pitted against the president's desire to impose the myriad regulations of ObamaCare on a range of unwilling parties, ObamaCare won hands down.

That disturbing stand has brought us to where we are today: with a majority of the states having sued to have ObamaCare overturned and with more than 40 Catholic organizations and dioceses filing a dozen lawsuits this past Monday over the contraceptive mandate.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the state litigation in June. If the court upends ObamaCare, it could eliminate the need for the Catholic organizations' lawsuits.

But it is understandable that the groups would not want to wait around in hopes that the high court will strike down the law in the earlier case. At stake is their ability to continue providing charitable services at all. Millions of Americans who rely on their excellent work would suffer if the organizations had to shut down in order not to deny their faith by offering health care plans that include services which starkly undermine their teachings.

"Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now," said New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The president of the Catholic-affiliated University of Notre Dame, the Rev. John Jenkins, was no less blunt.

He wrote: "[I]f one Presidential Administration can override our religious purpose and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values, then surely another Administration will do the same for another very different set of policies, each time invoking some concept of popular will or the public good, with the result these religious organizations become mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringements. If that happens, it will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name."

Jenkins can scarcely be dismissed as an unbending critic of the president. In 2009, he gave Obama an honorary degree at Notre Dame, despite heavy opposition from many Catholics. So it would seem obvious that his opposition to the birth control mandate is principled rather than merely political.

The liberty of all Americans -- not only Catholics -- is on the line, and the latest lawsuits highlight afresh the stunning assault on the free exercise of religion that ObamaCare plainly represents. Anyone who takes constitutional freedoms seriously should hope that efforts to overturn the law prevail.