This is the position the Obama administration has put Catholics in: The church has been obliged to negotiate with the White House for its First Amendment rights.
Something is terribly wrong with this picture.
Having to beseech the sovereign for one’s fundamental human rights was one of the grievances that led our founders to separate from Britain.
Yet, as part of the new federal health-care act, the Obama administration recently announced plans to force the Catholic church, and other organizations, to provide free birth control as part of their insurance policies.
Such a mandate does violence to the church’s, and many other people’s, moral consciences – and is a clear violation of religious freedoms under the First Amendment.
Not to worry, the president reportedly consoled a Catholic delegate – all while the administration moved to institute the mandate.
Nor is it any consolation when the church or others have been granted leave to negotiate the mandate’s terms with the president’s men.
Sorry, Mr. President. The First Amendment is non-negotiable.
Certainly Republicans have jumped opportunistically on this episode as more election-year evidence of the Obama administration’s modus operandi of pushing the envelope until someone pushes back. But it’s not just Republicans and Catholics who are aghast at what this administration is doing.
Noting that “Few Americans of any political stripe would disagree with the simple proposition that the government should steer away from
meddling in church affairs” and that “Certainly, it should never try to force a religiously affiliated institution to violate a central tenet of its faith,” the liberal editorial page of USA Today opined this week that, “in drawing up the rules that will govern health care reform, the Obama administration didn’t just cross that line. It galloped over it.”
And even MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, a fire-breathing liberal and former Democratic operative, called the Obama administration’s move “frightening, when the state tells the church what to do.”
The administration’s birth-control mandate is “contrary to both Catholic doctrine and constitutional guarantees of religious freedom,” USA Today declared.
It’s bad enough that the Obama administration is being so dictatorial. It’s also being patently disingenuous. Officials tried to claim they exempted the Catholic church and similar organizations from the mandate. What a crock.
“The exemption,” USA Today notes, “does not cover Catholic organizations that employ or serve large numbers of people of different faiths – the very definition of many Catholic colleges, hospitals and charities. Those organizations and the people who lead them would be put in the impossibly awkward position of facilitating contraception even though the church teaches that it is ‘intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence.’”
We have no doubt the administration’s actions will not stand; they are too wrong, and the push-back too strong.
But we can’t just push back every time this administration pushes too far. We can never again allow an American administration to “gallop” over our fundamental rights again.