Many liberal Catholics and other religious leaders originally supported Obamacare because they mistakenly interpreted scripture to support socialist welfare schemes like universal healthcare. Â Now they are discovering that by ceding charitable enterprises over to government, they have made a deal with the devil.
The Catholic Church, along with others, is preparing to fight tooth and nail against the Obama administration’s unconstitutional mandates, which seek to force religious institutions to act against their faith.
Catholic leaders are furious and determined to harness the voting power of the nationâ€™s 70 million Catholic voters to stop a provision of President Barack Obamaâ€™s new heath car reform billÂ that will force Catholic schools, hospitals and charities to buy birth control pills, abortion-producing drugs and sterilization coverage for their employees.
â€œNever before, unprecedented in American history, for the federal government to line up against the Roman Catholic Church,â€ said Catholic League head Bill Donohue.
Already Archbishop Timothy Dolan has spoken out against the law and priests around the country have mobilized, reading lettersÂ from the pulpit. Donohue said Catholic officials will stop at nothing to put a stop to it.
â€œThis is going to be fought out with lawsuits, with court decisions, and, dare I say it, maybe even in the streets,â€ Donohue said.
But the Catholic Church is not alone. Â Orthodox and Protestant churches are now joining the fight:
On January 20, 2012, theÂ U.S. Conference of Catholic BishopsÂ said that â€œTo force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable.â€ Â Also on that day, theÂ National Association of Evangelicals commentedÂ that â€œThe HHS rules trample on our most cherished freedoms and set a dangerous precedent.â€
On January 26, theÂ Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America stated, â€œIn declining to expand the religious exemption within the healthcare reform law, the Obama Administration has disappointingly failed to respect the needs of religious organizations such as hospitals, social welfare organizations and more.â€Â On the same day,Â Agudath Israel of America stated:
The Obama Administration had an opportunity to declare that there is a fundamental American value at stake here â€” religious freedom â€” and provide strong and unequivocal protections to religious employers. Â Instead, it took a step backwards by imposing religiously-objectionable mandates on countless religious entities, and by devising a cramped limitation on what â€œreligious groupsâ€ are and what their public mission in society should be.
On February 3, theÂ Lutheran Church Missouri Synod said, â€œThis action by HHS will have the effect of forcing many religious organizations to choose between following the letter of the law and operating within the framework of their religious tenets.â€Â TheÂ Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America notedÂ that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion and that â€œThis freedom is transgressed when a religious institution is required to pay for â€˜contraceptive servicesâ€™ including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that directly violate their religious convictions.â€
Peggy Noonan writes at the Wall Street Journal that this is “A Battle the President Can’t Win“:
…President Obama just may have lost the election.
The president signed off on a Health and Human Services ruling that says that under ObamaCare, Catholic institutionsâ€”including charities, hospitals and schoolsâ€”will be required by law, for the first time ever, to provide and pay for insurance coverage that includes contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures. If they do not, they will face ruinous fines in the millions of dollars. Or they can always go out of business.
In other words, the Catholic Church was told this week that its institutions can’t be Catholic anymore.
I invite you to imagine the moment we are living in without the church’s charities, hospitals and schools. And if you know anything about those organizations, you know it is a fantasy that they can afford millions in fines.
There was no reason to make this rulingâ€”none. Except ideology.
The conscience clause, which keeps the church itself from having to bow to such decisions, has always been assumed to cover the church’s institutions.
Now the church is fighting back. Priests in an estimated 70% of parishes last Sunday came forward to read strongly worded protests from the church’s bishops. The ruling asks the church to abandon Catholic principles and beliefs; it is an abridgment of the First Amendment; it is not acceptable. They say they will not bow to it. They should never bow to it, not only because they are Catholic and cannot be told to take actions that deny their faith, but because they are citizens of the United States.
If they stay strong and fight, they will win. This is in fact a potentially unifying moment for American Catholics, long split left, right and center. Catholic conservatives will immediately and fully oppose the administration’s decision. But Catholic liberals, who feel embarrassed and undercut, have also come out in opposition.
The church is split on many things. But do Catholics in the pews want the government telling their church to contravene its beliefs? A president affronting the leadership of the church, and blithely threatening its great institutions? No, they don’t want that. They will unite against that.
The smallest part of this story is political. There are 77.7 million Catholics in the United States. In 2008 they made up 27% of the electorate, about 35 million people. Mr. Obama carried the Catholic vote, 54% to 45%. They helped him win.
They won’t this year. And guess where a lot of Catholics live? In the battleground states.
There was no reason to pick this fight. It reflects political incompetence on a scale so great as to make Mitt Romney’s gaffes a little bitty thing.
There was nothing for the president to gain, except, perhaps, the pleasure of making a great church bow to him.
Enjoy it while you can. You have awakened a sleeping giant.