Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Court counters conscience assaults while administration trains its guns on nuns
A Supreme Court ruling provides a harbor of protection that will help the faith community weather the remaining years of an administration apparently bent on waging an aggressive campaign against religious freedom.
The Court's ruling in a consolidated pair of religious freedom cases involving family-owned businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties upheld the rights of conscientious objectors to opt out of a federal mandate that employers must provide insurance coverage of virtually all contraceptives and sterilization surgeries.
Under the sweeping authority accorded the bureaucracy by Obamacare, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has rigidly imposed the mandate on religious objectors. The Obama administration, though meek and muddled when faced with foreign tyrants and terrorists, has trained its guns aggressively on domestic conscientious objectors to abortion, especially targeting religious conservatives who often oppose administration policies.
The administration pointedly refused to provide exceptions for most religious objectors who conscientiously oppose pills that can end the life of a human embryo, choosing instead to highlight the clash of values as a wedge issue to rally its abortion-supporting political base in the 2012 election.
The HHS Obamacare mandate threatens to punish with draconian penalties (in one case, $179 million per year) anyone who dares oppose the administration's ideology. An astounding 300 plaintiffs, including elderly Catholic nuns, faith-based charities, family business owners, Mennonite woodworkers, evangelical nonprofits, Bible publishers, hospice nurses and other unlikely enemies of the state, have fled to the courts like refugees to escape the administration's jackbooted intolerance of their convictions.
The Court ruling last week focused on the HHS Obamacare mandate's violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a two-decade old, bipartisan law that prohibits unwarranted and heavy-handed government interference with religion. Yet the cases also serve to highlight more broadly how Obama's intolerant and divisive domestic policy threatens the fundamental purpose, values and assumptions of the US Constitution. Consider the preamble to the Constitution and how its goals and principles relate to the HHS Obamacare mandate:
"Form a more perfect union" - The Constitution's framers knew from firsthand experience that maintaining a union requires accommodating a diversity of opinions and conscience convictions. Mandating submission to the state's contraception and abortion ideology could not more clearly contradict the requirements for unity.
"Establish justice" - Establishing justice means to many increasing healthcare access for all citizens, especially for the poor. Ironically, the conscience-trampling HHS Obamacare mandate penalizes and threatens access to healthcare, by barring employers from providing healthcare coverage consistent with life-honoring standards.
"Insure domestic tranquility" - Peace can prevail even amid diverse and conflicting values, by avoiding conflagration through compromise. The administration's inflexible, intolerant HHS mandate that unduly penalizes the faith community--to the point of requiring even elderly nuns to participate in contraception--needlessly and recklessly undermines domestic tranquility.
"Provide for the common defense" - The purpose of the preventive services provision of Obamacare (under which the HHS mandate falls) is to provide a defense against disease--not against pregnancy. President Obama has asserted that 99 percent of women already use contraceptives, so why not focus instead on increasing patients' access to hard-to-get, lifesaving medicines? It's like taking aim at the Boy Scouts while jihadists assault Iraq.
"Promote the general welfare" - Given the unquestioned ubiquity and relative affordability of contraceptives, it's implausible for the administration to argue that the welfare of every woman from the Hamptons to Beverly Hills hinges on government-mandated free handouts. Nor, as the dangerously dwindling populations of Europe and Russia and the forecasts for Social Security attest, does it serve the general welfare for the government to focus its policies on preventing the births of its future citizens.
"Secure the blessings of liberty" - By penalizing conscientious objectors with draconian, multi-million-dollar fines, the HHS Obamacare mandate denies the blessings of liberty to all who disagree with the administration's ideology.
While in this ruling, freedom triumphed over tyranny, many battles for constitutional principles remain. Next up: a lawsuit involving the HHS Obamacare mandate imposed on the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of elderly nuns providing hospice care.
The Supreme Court's rulings on these cases, by framing the boundaries of government power and plumbing the depth of our liberties, will ripple out toward every aspect of the Constitution and impact how we as a diverse society value conscience and tolerate dissent.