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The Obama Administration's War on Religion is Beyond Bold

On Monday May 21st, 43 Catholic institutions filed lawsuits against Health and Human Services for its mandate of August 2011.

While there has been quite a kerfuffle recently over a mythical "war on women", the weightier issue of a war on religion now has been enjoined. The University of Notre Dame and 42 other Catholic institutions filed lawsuits on Monday against Secretary Sebelius and Health and Human services (HHS). In August of 2011, under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, HHS Issued a mandate requiring religious institutions to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs including Plan B (“the morning after pill”) and ella (“the week after pill”), as well as sterilization and contraception. While churches are narrowly exempted, other religious institutions such as colleges and charities must comply with the unprecedented edict. The suits filed Monday join previous ones, including three filed by presidents of evangelical colleges and universities.

In January of 2012, posturing by the President and other officials appeared to offer a compromise. But what became of the appearance of walking back such an explosive governmental intrusion into the religious liberties of American religious institutions? The entire charade was bogus. This administration handed out exemptions from Obamacare mandates to corporations like McDonald's so frequently that each additional episode became laughable. And yet, no exemptions have been granted to secure the religious liberties guaranteed under the mandate of the First Amendment to the Constitution. The administration in January 2012 merely gave institutions a year to comply. They alluded to a possible adjustment to the mandate in the future, and yet, simply allowed the rule to be codified into law as written.

Essentially the administration is saying, ‘We take your religious principles very seriously–so we’re giving you an extra year to get over them,’

Noted Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
She also stated:

No employer, particularly in this economy, should be forced to make the choice between violating its deeply held religious beliefs or terminating its health insurance plans for employees and paying a heavy fine.

This new mandate is an unprecedented departure from the free exercise of religion that such institutions have been guaranteed traditionally. But the careful guardianship crafted by our Constitution's Framers and by our legal system seems completely lost on Secretary Sebelius. In the video of a congressional hearing linked here, Secretary Sebelius readily admits her ignorance of the Constitution's First Amendment guarantees. In fact, she did not obtain a legal memo, nor did she consult any Supreme Court decisions on religious liberty before drafting the HHS mandate on abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception in August of 2011.

A perusal of a well-publicized U.S.Supreme Court decision in January of 2012 might have helped prepare the HHS Secretary for her grilling by Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, and the barrage of lawsuits fIled this week. In the court case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Supreme Court overwhelmingly upheld the "ministerial exception” which exempts religious groups from some nondiscrimination laws when picking their ministers.

The ruling allowed religious entities like the Hosanna-Tabor grade school to exercise wide latitude in its firing of an employee. The teacher in the suit, Cheryl Perich, had filed a lawsuit under the American Disabilities Act. The result was a highly unusual, unanimous 9-0 decision. Clearly, our Supreme Court justices of every stripe take religious liberty according to the First Amendment rather seriously.

On freedom of conscience, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “no provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of civil authority.

This administration's brash aggression towards religious institutions is a fool's errand. Perhaps Secretary Sebelius assumed that her stealth assault on freedom of conscience was impervious to ordinary safeguards since she is no mere member of Congress. But no amount of shrouding this HHS edict in the noble garb of a crusade for women's health alters its overriding effect on the guarantee of religious liberty by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

 

 

First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution :

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


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Marc Acampora May 25, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Chris, with all due respect, you are mistaken on all points. First, the US Constitution makes no reference whatsoever to a creator, nor to any specific religion or belief sysyem. There are only two places that religion is mentioned. In the main document, the only reference is in Article VI, paragraph 3: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." The second place is the first part of the First Amendment, the "establishment clause" mentioned above. The founding fathers were brilliant and gave careful consideration to the treatment of religion by the Constitution. It is highly improbable that they just forgot to include mention of god or Jesus or Christianity or any other specific faith. The words of the document are well thought out and clear. It is revisionists like you who seek to twist the words of the document to suit your own personal beliefs. It is revisionists who try to cite the personal beliefs of the founding fathers (often incorrectly) to imply "intent". continued
Marc Acampora May 25, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Second, you are correct in the concept that "expressing a belief in a public setting" does not impose a belief on me and I would defend anyone's right to do so, including mine. However, printing a religious belief on US currency, or government employees leading schoolchildren of all beliefs in prayer in a classroom are not the same as an individual expressing their belief in public. The error you make is that you equate government neutrality or silence about god as an imposition of atheist beliefs on you. That is skewed logic. If the government institutionalized atheist beliefs, there would be statements on money such as "god is a myth", and school teachers would teach children that there is no god. But that's not what atheists advocate. They simply don't want ANY religious belief promoted by our mutual government or supported by our mutual taxes. Keep government out of religion and keep religion out of government. Any mixing of the two is a recipe for disaster, and a violation of our Constitution.
Rhonda Gatch May 25, 2012 at 01:49 PM
The relevant facts here relate to religious liberty and decades of rulings by lower courts on the ministerial exception. It is irrelevant whether certain interest groups or Sec. Sebelius agree/s. This article is about a timely court case headed for the US Supreme Court and the tone deafness of much of this current administration. Watch the video clip and you will witness a complete lack of knowledge as a citizen of this country in the HHS secretary, who has attempted to wield more power than is within her realm. Again, research the UNANIMOUS, 9-0 decision in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC.
chris May 25, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Good point, Rhonda, we're off subject, and I'll quit after this post and give Marc the last word. Marc, you are correct about my error on inclusion of "Creator" in the Constituion, it was rather in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, where we forever establish the source of our liberty as an endowment by the Creator. I fail to see your point that adding a reference to God on the currency or a teacher praying in a classroom falls under making a law regarding the establishment or free exercise of religion. By your standard it would seem the Declaration of Independence itself was an unconstitutional document.
Marc Acampora May 29, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Chris, the Declaration does not establish the source of our liberty as an endowment by our Creator. There either is a god or is not (most likely not), irrespective of what is stated in the Declaration. The Declaration preceded the Constitution by several years and is not the law of the land. The Constitution IS the supreme law of the land and was carefully thought-out so as to prohibit government from respecting an establishment of religion. Do you think it would be OK to print "God is a Myth" or "Allah is the Only True God" on all US currency? If you are not comfortable with either of those statements on our currency, then you understand my point.

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