I wrote to my elected federal officials indicating my thoughts of the Obama Administration’s rule-making under the PPACA (aka ObamaCare) with respect to requiring religious hospitals to support free abortions and contraceptive care. I understand that contraception and abortions are legal, and that those desiring such items have the legal right to receive them. But, the requirement everyone other than a physical church (where direct healthcare services are never offered anyhow) to provide such services went way beyond the right to receive free contraception and abortions at some other location. More information on this is located at this post. A description of President’s accommodation is in this post.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) had the audacity to write me back to inform me that my concern was no longer even an issue because President Obama had accommodated the religious organizations. Simply put, Senator Boxer assured me that those having religious-based concerns had nothing more to worry about.
On April 12, 2012, we saw another example of how Senator Boxer and the Obama Administration have not accurately assessed the response to the “accommodation”. On that day, religious leaders made a call to focus:
all the energies the Catholic community can muster… The U.S. bishops issued a strong call to action to defend religious liberty and urged laity to work to protect the First Freedom of the Bill of Rights.”
The paper provided a brief history lesson regarding the role of religious freedom in the formation of our nation. It included:
In 1634, a mix of Catholic and Protestant settlers arrived at St. Clement’s Island in Southern Maryland from England aboard the Ark and the Dove. They had come at the invitation of the Catholic Lord Baltimore, who had been granted Maryland by the Protestant King Charles I of England. While Catholics and Protestants were killing each other in Europe, Lord Baltimore imagined Maryland as a society where people of different faiths could live together peacefully. This vision was soon codified in Maryland’s 1649 Act Concerning Religion (also called the “Toleration Act”), which was the first law in our nation’s history to protect an individual’s right to freedom of conscience.
Maryland’s early history teaches us that, like any freedom, religious liberty requires constant vigilance and protection, or it will disappear. Maryland’s experiment in religious toleration ended within a few decades. The colony was placed under royal control, and the Church of England became the established religion. Discriminatory laws, including the loss of political rights, were enacted against those who refused to conform. Catholic chapels were closed, and Catholics were restricted to practicing their faith in their homes. The Catholic community lived under these conditions until the American Revolution.
By the end of the 18th century, our nation’s founders embraced freedom of religion as an essential condition of a free and democratic society. James Madison, often called the Father of the Constitution, described conscience as “the most sacred of all property.” He wrote that “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.” George Washington wrote that “the establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the Motive that induced me to the field of battle.” Thomas Jefferson assured the Ursuline Sisters—who had been serving a mostly non-Catholic population by running a hospital, an orphanage, and schools in Louisiana since 1727—that the principles of the Constitution were a “sure guarantee” that their ministry would be free “to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.”
It is therefore fitting that when the Bill of Rights was ratified, religious freedom had the distinction of being the First Amendment. Religious liberty is indeed the first liberty. The First Amendment guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Reading the above strong statements, it occurs to me that George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson should be the best authorities of what is required under the Bill of Rights.
The letter describes the united views that numerous religions have against the Obama Administration’s requirement, as follows:
What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it. Religious believers are part of American civil society, which includes neighbors helping each other, community associations, fraternal service clubs, sports leagues, and youth groups. All these Americans make their contribution to our common life, and they do not need the permission of the government to do so. Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued a statement about the administration’s contraception and sterilization mandate that captured exactly the danger that we face:
Most troubling, is the Administration’s underlying rationale for its decision, which appears to be a view that if a religious entity is not insular, but engaged with broader society, it loses its “religious” character and liberties. Many faiths firmly believe in being open to and engaged with broader society and fellow citizens of other faiths. The Administration’s ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization’s religious principles. This is deeply disappointing.
This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue. …
A recent letter to President Obama from some sixty religious leaders, including Christians of many denominations and Jews, argued that “it is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients.”
The above is hardly a statement that everyone is as happy as President Obama and others on his side of this issue would have us believe.