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The White House so delicately catered to the religious sensitivities of Osama bin Laden’s sympathizers that the administration ordered his corpse washed, wrapped it in a white sheet, and made it the subject of Islamic prayers. American Catholics, 54 percent of whom supported Barack Obama in 2008, have no such luck winning the administration’s religious toleration.
At issue is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s bureaucratic mandate that all employers—including Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities—pay for contraceptives, sterilization, and morning-after pill abortifacients through their health insurance plans. The administration recently revealed that the only relief Catholic conscientious objectors will receive is a reprieve until August 2013.
“The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, ‘To Hell with you!’ There is no other way to put it,” Bishop David Zubik explained to his Pittsburgh diocese last week. “‘To Hell with your religious beliefs. To Hell with your religious liberty. To Hell with your freedom of conscience.’” Zubik’s fellow bishops were somewhat more diplomatic in the language they used last Sunday.
At the behest of Catholic bishops, parish priests across America read a rebuke to the Obama administration from the pulpit at mass. “The federal government, which claims to be ‘of, by, and for the people,’ has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people—the Catholic population—and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful,” one variant of the letter explained. “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those ‘services’ in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies. In so ruling, the Obama Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.”
The provision is certainly an assault on liberty. But why did it take an assault on the Church’s liberty for the bishops to recognize this?
The state forcing private employers to buy employees health insurance, let alone the more intrusive dictate of what specifically such coverage must provide, usurps liberty. That an unelected bureaucrat, rather than an elected legislature, would issue an order not promulgated in the alleged enabling legislation assaults democracy. The one-size-fits-all order that men, post-menopausal women, and homosexuals purchase health insurance that pays for birth-control pills, RU-486 abortion pills, and other services that they cannot possibly use imposes a choice that none would freely make.
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