The crux of the matter in the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic order of nuns dedicated to serving the elderly poor, versus the federal government’s Affordable Care Act is at once simple, and confounding.
The simple part? President Barack Obama’s administration is wrong to attempt to enforce the HHS Mandate on the nuns and other groups who oppose violating their religious views.
The confusing part? The legal stuff.
Let’s start with the legal stuff.
The nuns, as Catholics, find contraception and abortifacient drugs to be immoral and they object to providing such coverage under their insurance plans as the ACA requires. As an “accommodation,” the government says the nuns can fill out a form certifying their objection and authorizing a third-party to provide and pay for the immoral coverage.
The nuns say authorizing a third-party to offer immoral services makes them complicit. The government presumably disagrees, and that’s why the situation is in the courts with even the Supreme Court getting involved recently to issue an injunction, buying the Little Sisters time while a lower court considers the case.
While legal issues are often complex, there’s one thing that should never be in question in the United States and that is the freedom of religion. Freedom of religion means more than freedom of worship, a term the president once used. It means the right to live your life in accordance with your deeply-held convictions.
Our freedom of religion, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, means that a Jewish person should be able to wear a yarmulke in a place that might not otherwise allow head coverings. It means that a follower of Islam should be allowed to stop as needed during the workday to pray towards Mecca. It means if a member of a certain Christian sect wants to handle snakes in their spare time, that’s their business.
But more importantly than what the freedom of religion allows, is what it doesn’t allow.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the Constitution reads.
In the case of the HHS Mandate of the ACA, which seeks to force Catholic nuns & others to provide free contraception, I argue that the President of the United States is violating both tenets of that statement.
The president’s actions, though admittedly not his words, appear to establish secularism as the state religion while relegating public faith to houses of worship. Houses of worship, by the way, are exempt from the mandate without a form.
This sets a precedent wherein a person cannot freely practice their religion because of the secular values being imposed on them.
President Obama claims to be a Christian and it is a claim I don’t doubt. There are many varieties of Christian out there and if he says he is one, I’ll take him at his word. He doesn’t, however, seem interested in preserving religious freedom for his fellow Christians.
Secondly, as Catholics object to contraception and many Protestants and others also object to abortifacient drugs, forcing citizens and businesses that oppose such things to provide them, or to authorize them, clearly prohibits the free practice of their faith.
What we have in the Little Sisters of the Poor versus Obamacare situation is a microcosm of a presidency that has time and time again sought to diminish the role of faith in the public sphere.
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