Muslim Religious Freedom vs. Catholic Religious Freedom

In his June 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, President Obama declared that “it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit.” However, when it comes to Catholics and other persons of faith who object to being forced to pay for their employees’ birth control against their core religious convictions, Obama’s answer is that they are to practice their religion as he sees fit.

On the campaign trail, Obama proudly points to his Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Obamacare regulation requiring virtually all health-care plans to provide women with cost-free sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients.

At a rally in Virginia last week, for example, Obama must have been summoning the spirit of Georgetown Law School graduate and free birth control activist Sandra Fluke with whom Obama campaigned last August on this very same issue and who spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

Obama told his Virginia audience on October 5th that the Obamacare regulation mandating free contraception for female college students was one of the reasons “why we passed this law.”

“And we are going to keep it,” Obama vowed.

We can expect the issue to be raised in the upcoming debates, as the Obama campaign tries to get its mojo back with its shopworn “war on women” argument.

Obama argues that women must remain in charge of their own bodies, and that the Republicans are trying everything they can to take this right away by seeking to deny women access to birth control pills and the like. The claim is another typical Obama red herring, which sets up a false target with a misstatement of the other side’s position and then shoots it down.

Obama said during his Virginia rally that no boss, insurance company or government official should “control” what health care a person gets.  He must have forgotten about his own rationing board of fifteen unelected bureaucrats, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board,  which will be doing precisely that for senior citizens dependent on Medicare.

Even more to the point, access to birth control pills and other means of contraception are already ubiquitous and inexpensive. Obama is really arguing for something else. His regulation is all about mandating that someone who is religiously opposed to contraception, sterilization and abortifacients be forced to subsidize someone else’s decision to purchase and use them for birth control purposes.

Obama defended the mandate as a cost-saving measure in general terms. Last March, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was much blunter. She told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health that the Obamacare HHS mandate would save money because the “reduction in the number of pregnancies is–compensates for the cost of contraception.”

Whether or not Sebelius is right on the pure cost-benefit economic analysis, her defense of the HHS mandate goes to the heart of the objections made by those who, on religious grounds, resist being forced to pay for someone else’s decision to prevent a new life from coming into being.

The Obama administration says not to worry.  The regulation, they argue, provides an exemption for “religious employers” and was modified to make the health insurance carriers for religiously affiliated employers, such as hospitals and universities, reimburse employees directly for their contraception, sterilization and abortifacient expenses.

Not so fast.  A “religious employer” qualifying for exemption from the regulation, according to the HHS, means employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith. That narrow definition would not apply to ministries of service to the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in religiously affiliated schools and universities, and others in need. As the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops put it in a statement it issued last March on religious freedom: “Those deemed by HHS not to be ‘religious employers’ will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.”

The Obama administration thought it could solve this problem through a sleight of hand. Let the religiously affiliated organizations such as hospitals and universities off the hook in having to make direct payments for their employees’ birth control treatments, but require their insurance carriers to do so instead.  However, the truth is that religiously affiliated organizations would still be paying the insurance premiums that support these mandated reimbursements. And some organizations self-insure, which means that they would remain the direct payers.

Providing an insurance plan that does not include the mandated coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients would subject the religiously affiliated employer to exorbitant penalties of $100 per day per employee. A Catholic university or hospital with tens or hundreds of employees would face potentially millions of dollars in fines per year, forcing many to close as the price of sticking to their religious beliefs. The employees could end up losing both their jobs and their health insurance coverage. University students and hospital patients will lose invaluable services, all because women like Sandra Fluke insist on free birth control at someone else’s expense.

I go back to President Obama’s declaration to the Muslim world that “it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit.”  Obama went beyond this general statement.  In the same speech, he apologized to the Muslim world that his country’s “rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation.”  Obama then promised to change all that: “I’m committed to work with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat [the Islamic duty of charitable contributions].”

Interestingly, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a large U.S. Islamic “charity” set up expressly to accept zakat, was convicted in 2008 by a federal jury for giving more than $12 million to the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. Perhaps Obama simply forgot that all those tough rules on charitable giving have existed for a good reason – to prevent such front groups posing as “charities” from funneling donations to terrorists.  In any case, he is willing to give Islamic charities the benefit of the doubt and ease the rules on zakat so that Muslims can practice Islam “as they see fit.”

The Obama administration also went to court to force a public school district to allow one of its teachers – a Muslim woman – to take a special three-week unpaid leave during the school year in order to partake in the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Never mind the burden on the school, which would have to scramble to find suitable substitute teachers during the three week period. Never mind that such pilgrimages are required of Muslims only once in their lifetimes if they can make it.  The teacher did not have to make the pilgrimage that particular year. Also, never mind that the pilgrimage to Mecca lasts only five days, not the three weeks she asked for.  The school district settled rather than continue to incur escalating legal fees to defend its position. The right of the Muslim teacher to practice Islam as she saw fit was vindicated by the Obama administration.

Why are Muslims given such special accommodations, while Catholics and other persons of faith are being forced into an untenable position by the HHS mandate as they try to practice their religion as they see fit? Either they must give up doing good works through their religiously affiliated organizations or violate their core religious belief in the sanctity of life in order to comply with the HHS sterilization, contraception and abortion-inducing drug payment mandate.

The Obama administration is not only abridging the First Amendment right of free exercise of religious beliefs by virtue of the HHS mandate.  It is engaging in blatant religious discrimination by not making the sort of far-reaching accommodations it extends to Muslims.

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  • Marti

    Deport all Muslims in this country.
    I as well as many people are getting sick of all the dhimmies in this country.
    Our men and women in the military are being maimed and slaughtered all in the name of political correctness.Our Bill of Rights and Constitution are the Law of our Land, either obey, assimilate, or get out!
    Vote the Muslim sympathizer out of office!

    • Sunbeam

      That should be the right thing to do……to deport them back if they're not there to live the American way of life but rather choose to supersede its own way of life, I see this pose as great threat to the nation, and that these should be deported back to their own homeland where they came from. It would serve as a deterrent to others. We need new legislation and laws to be enforced and meted out so that people will have to think twice before they commit any criminal activity deemed dangerous to home security.

      • Kufar Dawg

        How will you be able to tell if any given muslime is here "to live the American way of life"? Especially considering islam is a religion that ADVOCATES LYING.

  • Kepha

    They talk about "women's helath". Very well, who isn't a soft touch for research into ovarian and uterine cancer, or other diseases of women? The Left seems to think that "women's health" is limited to the right of a woman to kill her unborn child.

    • oldtimer

      How about women's rights? Islam gives no rights to women and treat their women like scum. Muslim doctors(male) and other male health care practioners, don't even want them for patients, even in emergency situations.

  • tagalog

    The First Amendment says that Congress (now, any legislature) shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

    Christianity is an evangelical religion; Christ abjured his followers to go forth and spread the gospel. So evangelical Christianity naturally involves public attempts to convert the non-Christian (and, presumably, one Christian group attempting to persuade other Christians to leave their old Christian group and join another one). This is part of the free exercise of Christianity. It is not up to government to decide when a religion is exercising its religion and when it is not; government can regulate time, place, and manner of such exercise, but can't condition government subsidies on its own defintions of religious activity.

    So how does the government get away with denying exemptions for conscientious objection to the contraception rule to religious groups that serve people who don't subscribe to their religion? Isn't that government making law that prohibits (or at least inhibits, or "chills" as folks put it these days) the free exercise of their religion in violation of the First Amendment?

    • Moishe Pupick

      W., 10/10/12 common era

      A basic tenet of the pro-life movement is that human life begins at conception. This is an expression of the Papal Doctrine of Ensoulment, first enunciated in the late 19th Century. Not all religions believe this; and arguably, the Anti-Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment would prohibit such a purely religious doctrine, about which U.S. citizens of various religions disagree, to be part of U.S. secular law.. Orthodox Judaism calls abortion one of the "abominations of Egypt." However, it does allow for abortion to save the life of the mother. Even so, it is strongly against abortion on demand. Do the pro-life people really want every local police department and D.A.'s office to have jurisdiction over every
      miscarriage? Do conservatives who speak of "limited government" want to create a U.S. Department of Intra-Uterine Surveillance? Sometimes the cure turns out to be worse than the disease.

      • Joseph Klein

        You have a legitimate point about difficulties in enforcing anti-abortion laws in some circumstances, but it is irrelevant to the issue of whether a religiously affiliated organization whose faith prohibits persons of that religion from having or aiding an abortion or using contraceptives for birth control purposes can be required by the government to pay (not from general tax revenue but more directly from the insurance policy the organization willingly provides to its employees) for someone else's decision to have an abortion or to use contraceptives.

      • tagalog

        1. I don't think a miscarriage qualifies as an induced termination of pregnancy; it's entirely natural for the most part, isn't it? An induced miscarriage, such as a woman deliberately hurting herself so she would miscarry, would be a murder or something pretty close to it, don't you think? That subcategory of miscarriages could be seen as quite rightly the concern of the government, I suspect, even in the pro-abortion climate we are currently experiencing.

        2. If the state governments outlaw abortion, as they once did, that would be OK for conservative purists, don't you agree? There would be no need for a "U.S. Department of Intrauterine Surveillance" would there, because the U.S. government would be following its Constitutional duty to refrain from making laws it was not given power to make; the state governments would be dealing with the issue as the U.S. Constitution contemplated.

        3. The argument you've made in reply to my post does not address the free exercise of religion issue that I raised. Free exercise claims are typically dealt with by the courts, who are in business for such conflicts and claims, no need for more government surveillance. But thanks for the additional stuff.

      • aspacia

        Yes Moishe, however, I tend to lean toward abortion for those who cannot afford another child or just one child if they so choose.

  • AppleAnnie

    Reading a book by George Weigel – The End and Beginning – re John Paul II's experiences with nazism and communism in Poland. The Soviets were/are determined to undermine and if possible destroy the Catholic church in Poland. There are so many coincidences then to now. 0bama et al are using the same tactics against the American Catholic church as the old commies did in Poland. Attempts to marginalize the role of the church in Poland. Break it away from the Solidarity efforts. Persecuting priests. Infiltrating the church with communist sympathetic priests. I hope the American Bishops read this book.

    • tagalog

      Well, no. However bad Obama might be, he's not a Nazi or a Soviet Communist. The Soviets tore down the Polish churches when they occupied Poland, to the point where religious Poles were sometimes reluctant to even look at the ruins of the torn-down churches for fear of being called religious and prosecuted. That's documented in a recent book about postwar Europe, including Poland (Savage Continent by Keith Lowe). Obama isn't there. I don't know what Pope John-Paul's experiences with the Nazis were.

    • RoguePatriot6

      You make good points and I'm going to try to squeeze in some reading of tha book. __This may be off topic but I'm curious about your name, "AppleAnnie". Do you live in Arizona? The reason why I ask, is that we visit an orchard every year by that name.

  • Wendy Nailart

    I've wondered about the seeming contradictions in policy regarding religion, while my liberal friends bash Romany for the "polygamy" of Mormons… and the violence of Mormon fringe groups, they promote teaching about Islam in school (see the Byron California Islam program, read between the lines if reading snopes) … and want crossed removed and all reference to "God". I asked if, when the are teaching kids about Muslim practice they also beat a teenage girl to death for wearing a short skirt, press a child to death for stealing bread, execte a homosexual, kill a young woman for being raped by her brother in law…. she made some comment about fundamentalist Christians (I'm not, I don't belong to a church).
    The duality of it shows a frightening ignorance… when Islam comes to power the word "God" will be in everything.

    • RoguePatriot6

      You have to understand that we are dealing with two types of liberals here. One type is what we refer to as "appeasers", they think that as long as they appease Islam and not offend those behind this agenda they will be left alone and allowed to live as they please. Then we have the hardcore haters of Christianity who have mutual interests with Islamists. They hate Christians and Jews, so as long as Christianity is never taught, you will never hear "WAAAAHHHHH, SEPERATION OF CHURCH AND STATE". You'll only hear it when Christians interfere with their goals of totally secularizing this nation, yet as stupid as it sounds they welcome Islam and ignore that Islamists do the very things that liberals falsely accuse Christians of doing. Such as hatred of homoexuals, violence, subjugation of women, persecution and hatred towards Jews…etc, granted some are but not even a candle can be held to what Islamists do and teach kids on a daily basis.

      You don't believe me? Try promoting Christianity or it's principals at that same school and you'll never hear the end of it from the ACLU and all the rest of the lib/progs in California.

      • Kufar Dawg

        Excellent points. One of my former friends exhibited a rabid hate for Christianity, but seemed to support islamofascism because it was eliminating Christianity. I'm glad to be rid of this sicko and I'm glad his wife kicked his ass to the curb.

    • sablegsd

      allah(satan) is not God.
      And I for one will not submit.

    • aspacia

      It is not duality; it is hypocrisy.

    • @BlissDesignz

      Next time they do that kindly remind them Obama's father WAS a polygamist! Evidently he never divorced the wife in Kenya when he married Stanley Ann Dunhum. When he split with Obama's Mom he moved back in with wife #1. Polygamy is rampant today with Muslims & they feel it's their right. Of course the left says nothing. But when it's a prior generation of someone on the right that lived in a different country watch out!

  • RoguePatriot6

    "Obama argues that women must remain in charge of their own bodies, and that the Republicans are trying everything they can to take this right away by seeking to deny women access to birth control pills and the like."

    Bull!!!! Women do have access to birth control. All they have to do is go to any local drug store and buy it. It's just that simple. As far as "remaining in charge of their own bodies…", they are. On any given night they can say "NO" and choose to take their body home. If some dude denies them that right, that's why we either have a guns or the police, which ever is more available at the time would probably do the trick.

    • aspacia

      Sometimes BC fails; what then?

      • RoguePatriot6

        Then you deal with it. I for one have no problem with holding the father's of these kidsliable for bringing them into the world however the federal government forcing private citizens or organziations, to provide it, against whatever convictions they my have is a tad bit to close to the slippery slope than I care to get.

  • Andrew Whitehead

    Islam has become the new black in America, circa the last century. We had to expect this from Obama as he did make himself very clear at Cairo during his first World Apology Tour that "Islam" is special and entitled to special rights not available to ordinary citizens. And if you happen to be a Jew? Forget about it.

    The religious and ethnic bigotry of this president is obvious to dead person; why do conservatives let him get away with it? Are there any true conservatives left in the congress?

  • sablegsd

    So, these parasitic koranimals that don't believe in insurance, how many are on medicaid?
    And why are they still letting these spawn of satan come here? STOP the invasion.

  • FPF

    It’s time to encourage pregnancy among citizens since it will generate a lot of demand on baby related consumer products. Compare to $120 a year a person might spend on contraception pills, parents with babies will probably spend ten times or more on baby products that will actually stimulate economy by creating demand and jobs. A society with no baby is a society with no hope. Apparently O administration promised the hope of a fundamental change of the USA to “no hope”

  • Islamsucks

    A vote for Barry Hussein Obama is a vote for Islam.

  • Tom

    One reason the Muslims get more respect and benefits is that it has been a long time since Catholics, other Christians, Jews, Budists, Hindus, and Mormans sanctioned the killing of anyone based solely on their religion, departure from their religion, or atheism. The same can not be said for many of the Islamic leadership and their followers. We cannot deport citizens or aliens who are here legally on the basis of their religion. But, we can deport, in prison, and fine legal aliens whose “practice” of their religion becomes a criminal act such as felonious restraint, spousal abuse, child abuse, kidnapping, assault & battery, attempted murder, and murder. All of these punishments except deportation could be enforced on citizens.

  • @BlissDesignz

    You missed the biggest comparison between the two of them.. MUSLIMS DO NOT HAVE TO PURCHASE OBAMACARE BUT WILL BE COVERED BY OBAMACARE!!! Apparently it violates their conscience since Muslims see buying insurance as being akin to gambling. Of course I would have assumed that ones conscience if they feel they're in direct violations of God's principals & assisting in the murder of his original creation that would be more extreme but apparently not!