Republicans were handed an unexpected gift this week when the Obama administration overreached and mandated – as part of its health care law – that Catholic organizations provide to their employees insurance coverage for several activities or products that are anathema to the Church – contraception, aborting drugs and sterilization. The churches were exempt – but not Catholic hospitals and charities – and the administration denied their edict applies to the abortion-inducing drugs – but no matter. Catholics were up in arms, precipitating the mass reading (forgive the pun) by priests in churches last Sunday of both the decree and the harsh, negative response of the Catholic bishops to the Obama diktat.
One might recall that President Obama bought the last several votes he needed to pass his health coverage bill from Catholic Democrat Congressmen by assuring them that Catholic organizations would be exempt from these mandates. (He now reiterates that he meant churches and schools but not other organizations. The Congressmen now feel duped. Shame on them anyway.) Many Catholic leaders have vowed civil disobedience – just refusing to obey the law and its mandates. And the law itself, whose constitutionality will be heard next month in the US Supreme Court, should be challenged again because the hundreds of waivers only provided to companies favored by the administration create an unbalanced and unfair application of the law in any event.
Only true believers would seek to antagonize an entire voting bloc in an election year, and the Obama administration – the radical left of American life – perceives this issue as one of rights rather than morality or religion. Certainly, this decree panders to the feminist-left for whom abortion rights are a sacrament. But more importantly, Obama and his minions are in the vanguard of those who in the recent past have succeeded in the “privatization of morality,” in Melanie Philips’ felicitous phrase. They passionately reject the notion that religion, a divine-based morality that is actualized through divinely-inspired law, has any real validity or should be accorded any respect or deference in the modern era. They see it as archaic, backward, and the precipitant of untold wars – mostly true, until the 20th century, whose wars and exterminations were largely the work of the political and atheist left (think Communism and, for the most part, fascism). Nonetheless, to man who is now the measure of all things, one who governs his life and shapes his public policy conclusions based on spiritual insight is deemed repugnant to democratic life. Religion, to this way of thinking, should be relegated to the churches and synagogues until it withers and dies, to be replaced by the new world order of reason and enlightenment. It should certainly have no right to be heard in public matters.
Thus, the administration exercised its tin ear and argued to the Supreme Court (in the recent Hosanna-Tabor case) that a religious school should not have the right to dismiss a math teacher who also performs religious functions but should have to follow the existing labor laws. The Court – this, most divided Court – rejected that argument 9-0, a judicial smack down of epic proportions, ruling that both the First Amendment Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause prohibit the Government from interfering in ministerial decisions. It was the first time in a long time that the Free Exercise clause (prohibiting Congress from making any law prohibiting the “Free Exercise” of religion) was bolstered. Certainly, Obama – adjunct professor of Constitutional Law that he was – should have known this before dispatching his Solicitor General to argue this matter. But the left is often blind to religion, its demands on the faithful and the superiority of its laws –preferring the rule of man.
One need not be Catholic to perceive the devastating effect on religious life that these edicts have (Or might have had, if the decision had gone the other way). Of course, Catholic employees at these institutions never anticipated having coverage for these situations, so it is not as if anything was taken away from them. And it again calls into question the troubling, coercive, heavy hand of government that seeks to micromanage every aspect of our lives – including what health insurance plans must cover. (Why can’t people just choose what they want covered, like from a menu of options? It would dramatically lower health coverage costs, as most people are forced to pay for things they don’t need or want because of these crushing mandates.) But the main effect of the war on religion is to sow distrust between religious institutions and government that should not, and need not, exist in American life.
For example, every same-sex marriage law to date bears an exemption for religious institutions. A rabbi need not perform them, nor must a shul host such an event. (Caterers, photographers, orchestras, halls, etc. are not so fortunate and can easily be sued by state “Human Rights Commissions” for refusing to accommodate such events.) But for how long? Personally, I would never trust the application of such a law, which requires only one leftist judge to rule that the “exemption” is “offensive, odious, hateful, racist, etc.” That is one reason – but there are, of course, others – why these laws meet with such resistance by most religious groups. In a society where religious sensitivities are trampled upon, even the ground is not the limit. There is no telling the depths to which society may fall.
The bedrock of American life is its moral core that has been steadily eroded for almost fifty years, leaving in its wake broken or dysfunctional homes, skyrocketing out-of-wedlock births, aimless youth who just want to protest and occupy, absentee fathers and sometimes mothers, and a relentless cycle of poverty and misfortune for millions.
Politicians are not always credible in advocating moral values, but Republicans have a golden opportunity here to convert the Catholic vote, angered as it is by the lack of discipline and heavy-handedness of the administration. They should exploit this blunder, before it is reversed, as it will inevitably be reversed – either through the political system or through the courts. They should remind people of faith that the ideology of the left that consecrates the pursuit of immorality (and frankly, has little use for a religion-based nationalism, on which the State of Israel was founded) is today embodied in the Obama administration and its policies. And those who fight this decree should have the support of the Jewish people as well.