Friday, October 26, 2012

The HHS Mandate revisited

Nobody wants to cry "wolf" if it is not necessary. However, throughout the bible there is a rich tradition of prophets calling their people back to God. Time and time again the Israelite people turned to idols and each time it led to their eventual overthrow. Cardinal George of Chicago has been speaking prophetically. In his latest column to the Chicago Archdiocese he said that "the secularizing of American culture is a much larger issues" than political causes or the outcome of the presidential elections. "The world divorced from God who created and redeemed it inevitably comes to a bad end. It's on the wrong side of the only history that finally matters." He notes that the 2012 political campaigns have brought to the surface "anti religious sentiment, much of it explicitly anti-Catholic, that has been growing in this country for several just communism's better scrubbed bedfellow." Perhaps more disturbing is his remark "I am correctly quoted as saying that I expected to die in bed, my succesor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square." He said he was trying to express in "overly dramatic fashion what the complete secularization" of society would bring. Why the alarm? Apparently many Catholics are not aware of the implications of the Affordable Care Act and what it will mean for Catholic institutions. As a refresher, the HHS mandate requires that employers provide insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization abortion-inducing drugs, and related education and counselling. All of these practices are against Catholic teaching. Any employer that does not comply will incur substantial fines that may result in eliminating the employer's ministry. This is an unprecedented attack on religious liberty. The HHS mandate determines whether an employer is religious enough and leads the way toward redefining religious liberty as the freedom to worship. But what about the supposed "Accommodation?" On February 10, 2012, responding to intense opposition to a broad spectrum of religious institutions all over the country, including all 181 Catholic bishops presiding over a diocese, President Obama announed that there would be an "accomodation" for religious institutions opposed to facilitating practices contrary to their moral teachings through their employee health plans. In the so-called accommodation, insurance companies-not the religious employers themselves-would be forced to pay for the abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. However, since any funds the insurance companies would use to make such payments ultimately come from the premiums paid by employers, Obama's "accommodation" is nothing more than a kind of economic shell game. In the final analysis, the so-called "accomodation" still forces religious institutions to provide employees with health plans covering free "services" that violate their religious convictions-or face crippling fines should they refuse. President Obama's HHS Mandate violates freedom of conscience, a right that is guaranteed by the First Amendment and even several federal laws. The right to practice one's religious beliefs is protected by the Bill of Rights. The Obama administation's attempt to force all Americans to buy coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that induce abortion, is a radical incursion into freedom of conscience. Never before in US history has the federal government forced citizens to directly purchase a product in contradiction to their moral and religious beliefs. Having fled religious persecution in Europe, America's Founding Father's cherished religious liberty as the most precious of values. In his work "Forged in Faith" Rod Gragg notes: " For the cause of liberty-that uniquely American faith-based freedom-America's founding fathers were willing to sacrifice their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, and would do so with a firm reliance on Divine Providence. More than a few of them would lose their fortunes. Some would lose their lives-but the sacred honor they defended would remain intact. the founding document they risked all to create-the Declaration of Independence-would long endure as an American commitment to the self evident truth 'that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." What are you willing to sacrifice to maintain religious liberty?

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