Friday, January 20, 2012

Attacking the First Amendment

Just last week Obama's justice department experienced a 9-0 drubbing at the Supreme Court in which the administration tried to dramatically increase government control over religion. This wasn't just a decision that went against Obama's justice department on a technicality. The idea they were proferring (that the government can interfere in who religions appoint to teach their faith) was roundly criticized by even Obama's own appointees as "extreme," "remarkable" and "untenable."

And so, a couple days later, the Obama Administration issued a proclamation honoring religious freedom. One might be forgiven for thinking that they had heard the rebuke and the first amendment would be safe. Alas, such thinking would be naive.

Instead the Obama Administration turned around 9 days after the 9-0 defeat at the Supreme Court and 7 days after issuing the proclamation on religious freedom and finalized the next point of attack in their war on religious freedom in the US. This time they are targeting religious organizations that believe that either contraception is wrong or that life begins at conception and killing early embryos is immoral. Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services is requiring that all employers, including religious employers, cover all HHS defined contraceptives including Plan B (the morning after pill) and Ella (the week after pill that is "chemically similar to RU-486" and according to the FDA clearly caused abortions in rats and rabbits.

Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, had this to say. “Kathleen Sebelius says her decision to require Catholic colleges, hospitals and charitable associations to provide contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs respects religious freedom. How so? They have a year to get in line, or get out of business.”

What does the Obama Administration have to gain by attacking the First Amendment once more right on the heels of a 9-0 defeat for the same thing? I don't see it myself.

Hosanna Tabor vs. EEOC
*as a note, the Pew Forum got it wrong in their prebrief analysis when they said that the Obama Justice Dept. supported the ministerial exemption. That was the assumption based on the 6th circuit decision, but the Justice Dept. went off the rails in a later briefing and rejected the ministerial exemption outright. This is not covered in the Pew Forum's Sept. analysis of the case.
Colorado Christian College vs. Sebelius
Belmont Abbey College vs. Sebelius


Scott said...

I think that if this goes to the Supreme Court, it will be much closer than Hosanna-Tabor. The more liberal justices may not have the same concern about forcing an employer to cover people as they did about the ministerial exception, which is too bad. So the administration may think that there's a better chance to win on this one. It also fits with their thought that employers should be forced to provide health coverage and, if accomplished, will provide a talking point about increasing access to health care.

Douglas said...

We'll see what happens. The Obama administration may think they have a shot at winning this in the courts. I honestly can't imagine them getting more than 2 votes on this issue, and that would be a stretch. If this gets to the courts, it will undergo some very serious scrutiny that just doesn't happen when the most liberal 2% of America argues over policy.

The administration may also have been thinking that they could divide and conquer the Christian community and use this as a wedge to peel off liberal, pro-abortion/contraception Catholics from orthodox Catholics. Even that is hard for me to buy, though, because they were warned by liberal, pro-Obama, pro-health care reform supporters that this was a bad move. I don't know about what's going on in the Protestant world, but even many liberal Catholics who have supported Obama through thick and thin are very, very concerned about this, recinding that support and calling for civil disobedience. Many view it as a tyrannical move akin to what King Henry II pulled in England and which ultimately cost St. Thomas Becket his life.

There is serious debate at universities like Notre Dame about whether to take this as far as civil disobedience and force the administration to either confiscate university property, shut them down completely or cave. My bet is that they will be willing to take it that far. That said, when universities run by Obama supporters are even considering risking everything their insitutions have built in an act of civil disobedience, I can't imagine the Obama administration actually winning that war or escaping unscathed at the ballot box. The Notre Dame administration has been very vocal about supporting Obama and health care reform legislation. They prominently thumbed their nose at over 80 bishops who warned them not to publicly award Obama after his support for abortion and infanticide. Attacking the first amendment and cutting off your own supporters at the knees strikes me as horrendous politics. Are there really so many anti-religious bigots and pro-abortion zealots in this administration that they can't see that? If Obama pushes this through, he could unite the Catholic vote in a way that hasn't been seen in over 50 years.