Following a somewhat vague initial response to President Obama’s “accommodation” to Catholic and other religious leaders’ objections to the ObamaCare mandate requiring religiously-affiliated charities, hospitals, and organizations to provide free contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a much stronger statement regarding the “accommodation:”
…we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders–for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals–is unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns.
We just received information about this proposal for the first time this morning; we were not consulted in advance. Some information we have is in writing and some is oral. We will, of course, continue to press for the greatest conscience protection we can secure from the Executive Branch. But stepping away from the particulars, we note that today’s proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.
We will therefore continue–with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency–our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.
Indeed, the Wall Street Journal confirms that President Obama’s “accommodation” has simply made matters worse for him. Aneditorial sums up the lameness of his attempt at making his edict more politically tolerable:
So you almost have to admire the absurdity of the new plan President Obama floated yesterday: The government will now write a rule that says the best things in life are “free,” including contraception. Thus a political mandate will be compounded by an uneconomic one–in other words, behold the soul of ObamaCare.
Under the original Health and Human Services regulation, all religious institutions except for houses of worship would be required to cover birth control, including hospitals, schools and charities. Under the new rule, which the White House stresses is “an accommodation” and not a compromise, nonprofit religious organizations won’t have to directly cover birth control and can opt out. But the insurers they hire to cover their employees can’t opt out. If that sounds like a distinction without a difference, odds are you’re a rational person.
But, jumping on the muted initial statement by the Catholic bishops about the “accommodation,” President Obama’s Catholic left base rushed in with their response, signaling their satisfaction with the shell game, never mind that the consciences of religious organizations can’t tell the difference between directly covering free contraception, etc. or writing a check out to an insurance company to do it for them. And never mind that they are satisfied with President Obama- the government- telling a private company what it can and cannot do.
Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association, who provided the “appearance” of Catholic support for ObamaCare to the president, responded to the “accommodation:”
The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions. The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed. We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished. The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance. This difference has at times been uncomfortable but it has helped our country sort through an issue that has been important throughout the history of our great democracy.
So, if we follow the logic of Sister Keehan, it appears it is against one’s conscience to kill someone yourself, but it is not against one’s conscience to hire someone to kill on your behalf. As the Wall Street Journal so aptly noted, “If that sounds like a distinction without a difference, odds are you’re a rational person.”