Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was one of the key architects of Obamacare and one of the legislation’s greatest champions. But now he fears a “train wreck” as the Obama administration implements its signature healthcare law. In a recent hearing he asked Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for details about how the Health Department will explain the law and raise awareness of its provisions, which are supposed to take effect in just a matter of months:
Has there ever, in the history of America, been a presidential administration as dismissive of religious liberties as the Obama Administration?
The Administration seems to truly believe that when religious beliefs come into conflict with one of the President’s pet policies—such as employers being forced to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients—that religious liberties must be set aside. A prime example is the Administration’s idea that by forming a business entity intended to limit liability, a person loses their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.
As CNSNews reports, during an oral argument in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last fall, a lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department told a federal judge that the Obama administration believed it could force the judge’s own wife—a physician—to act against her religious faith in the conduct of her medical practice.
For George Washington’s birthday, Julia Shaw reminds us that the indispensable man of the American Founding was also an important champion of religious liberty:
All Presidents can learn from Washington’s leadership in foreign policy, in upholding the rule of law, and—especially now—in the importance of religion and religious liberty. While the Obama Administration claims to be “accommodating” Americans’ religious freedom concerns regarding the Health and Human Services (HHS) Obamacare mandate, it is actually trampling religious freedom. President Washington set a tremendous example for the way that Presidents should handle such conflicts.
Washington knew that religion and morality are essential to creating the conditions for decent politics. “Where,” Washington asked, “is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?”
Religion and morality are, Washington wrote, essential to the happiness of mankind: “A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.”
According to the Becket Fund, there are currently 44 active cases against the Obama administration’s HHS mandate requiring employers to include abortion, sterilization and abortifacients as “health care”. There have been 14 for-profit companies that have filed suit; 11 of those have received temporary injunctions against implementing the mandate.
“Hobby Lobby will continue their appeal before the Tenth Circuit,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing Hobby Lobby in the case. “The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time. It left open the possibility of review after their appeal is completed in the Tenth Circuit.”
Duncan said Hobby Lobby will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees.
However, to remain true to their faith, Duncan added, “it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.
On Friday the Obama administration proposed a rule that it says will appease the concerns religious organizations have about the controversial abortion/contraceptive mandate issued last year by the Department of Health and Human Services. Here’s what you should know about the mandate and the proposed changes.
As part of the universal health insurance reform passed in 2010 (often referred to as “Obamacare”), all group health plans must now provide—at no cost to the recipient—certain “preventive services.” The list of services includes sterilization, contraceptives, and abortifacient drugs.
If this mandate is from 2010, why are we just now talking about it?
On January 20, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that that it would not expand the exemption for this mandate to include religious schools, colleges, hospitals, and charitable service organizations. Instead, the Administration merely extended the deadline for religious groups who did not already fall within the existing narrow exemption so that they will have one more year to comply or drop health care insurance coverage for their employees altogether and incur a hefty fine. For example, Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned company that is opposing the mandate, is facing fines up to $1.3 million per day.
Is there a religious exemption from the mandate? If so, who qualifies for the exemption?
In the 1880s America’s most flighty fad was fowl-bedecked fashion.
“Trendy bonnets were piled high with feathers, birds, fruit, flowers, furs, even mice and small reptiles,” writes Jennifer Price, “Birds were by far the most popular accessory: Women sported egret plumes, owl heads, sparrow wings, and whole hummingbirds; a single hat could feature all that, plus four or five warblers.” The result was the killing of millions of birds, including many exotic and rare species. Reporting on the winter hat season in 1897, Harper’s Bazaar declared, “That there should be an owl or ostrich left with a single feather apiece hardly seems possible.”
Americans outraged by this senseless destruction of wildlife launched, as Price says, “the first first truly modern conservation campaign” in the 1890s—decades before John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, and others made conservation efforts popular. Over the next two decades a flock of legislation began to be passed to protect birds, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA).
Appearing 55 years before the Endangered Species Act, the statute made it unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell specific migratory birds, including bald eagles, barn owls, and mourning doves. The federal law became an important conservation tool, a means of preventing the wanton slaughter of wildlife for trivial commercial reasons.
But tools can often be used as weapons, and the Obama administration has used the MBTA as a bludgeon against the oil and gas industry. Last year the executive branch argued that the MBTA should be broadly interpreted to impose criminal liability for actions that indirectly result in a protected bird’s death, and used that reasoning to file criminal charges against three energy companies.
In 2011, the Obama administration cut off funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that was used to fight human trafficking. The USCCB lost funding for its refusal to provide abortions, sterilizations and artificial birth control in their anti-trafficking programs, as these services are all immoral, according to Catholic teaching.
Now, the bishops have re-grouped, and are launching a new initiative in the fight against human trafficking.
The USCCB’s new educational campaign, The Amistad Movement, rolls out this year. Lummert [Nathalie Lummert, special-programs director at the USCCB’s Office of Migrant and Refugee Service] explained the program reaches directly into at-risk urban and rural communities, where traffickers seek to blend their victims into the immigrant population. The program trains community leaders to identify victims, help rescue them and muster the support and resources they need.
“They will be empowered to identify trafficking in their community, rather than someone from the outside trying to identify it,” Lummert said.
Nearly 17,000 men, women and children are trafficked from overseas each year, according to the USCCB Anti-Trafficking Program.
Lummert goes on to say that now that the government is not funding programs like this, the bishops have greater flexibility in what they are able to offer. “We’re able to leverage more resources,” Lummert said. “When you have a variety of private sources and private donors, you are really free to do what the Church wants to do.”
In the Washington Times, Nile Gardiner praises Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future, the new book by Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg. Gardiner, the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation and a Washington-based foreign affairs analyst for The Telegraph, says Becoming Europe “should be on the desk of every member of the House and Senate who cares about the future of America as a prosperous and free nation.” Gardiner recommends the book for its “rich detail describing the economic and social ‘Europeanization’ of America, from the rise of vast welfare systems to growing skepticism of the merits of the free-enterprise system.” Excerpt from the review:
“Becoming Europe” is a meticulously researched and well-argued thesis that lays out what is at stake for the world’s superpower, as it faces a stark choice between European-style decline or a return to the original vision of America’s Founding Fathers, as well as the classical liberal teachings of Alexis de Tocqueville, Friedrich von Hayek and Adam Smith. Mr. Gregg, who is director of research at the Acton Institute, paints a grim picture of the direction America is taking but, nevertheless, conveys a positive message to his readers. Mr. Gregg argues that while America is indeed on the path to the European model, it can still turn back and avoid the fate that Europe looks doomed to suffer. In many respects, this is an optimistic book based upon faith in America’s ability to renew itself through rediscovering the principles of economic liberty.
I agree with Mr. Gregg’s assessment. As Gallup polling consistently shows, America is still at its core a conservative nation, one that cherishes the foundations of individual liberty. The fire of freedom still burns brighter on this side of the Atlantic than it does in the Old World, where the suffocating supranationalism of the European Union marches on, with the EU heading toward ever-greater political and economic centralization. The European nightmare can be avoided here, however, only if America’s leaders, at both a national and state level, are willing to stand up for economic freedom and reject the destructive ideology of big government. Washington is already on the path to Brussels, Paris and Athens, but it still has an opportunity to reverse course and avoid the road to economic ruin.
Read Nile Gardiner’s full review of Becoming Europe in the Washington Times.
Currently, there are forty cases against the Obamacare HHS mandate. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires employers to provide, as employee health care, “preventative services” such as abortion and sterilization.
John Daniel Davidson, in First Things, says that the president and his administration have grossly misjudged this entire situation. In Davidson’s view, the administration “in their conceit” seemed to think that millions of Americans would simply put aside their deeply held religious and moral convictions and play along with the government. But that’s not all.
…perhaps most shocking was the administration’s hubris in assuming that religious organizations, business owners, and individuals with deeply held beliefs about contraception and abortion would agree to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs such as the morning-after pill. Were federal officials surprised when the Catholic Church objected to mandated contraceptive coverage? Did they really think Catholic-owned hospitals and universities would accept such a rule? Did they think conservative Christian schools like Wheaton College—which forbids alcohol, tobacco, and even unsanctioned dancing on its campus—would somehow be willing to provide its employees with morning-after pills and other abortifacients?
Davidson specifically mentions the case brought by the owners of Hobby Lobby (read more here and here) as an example of a non-religious organization – a for-profit business – whose owners are not willing to simply set aside their religious beliefs for what they believe to be an unconstitutional law.
Read “Obamacare’s Crisis of Conscience” at First Things.
On Friday the cause of religious liberty was advanced when a federal court stopped enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against Tyndale House Publishers, the world’s largest privately held Christian publisher of Bibles.
But yesterday freedom faced another setback when a federal court rejected Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.’s request to be issued a similar injunction against the conscience-violating mandate: