After the Komen kerfuffle and announcement by Kathleen Sebelius, Jonah Goldberg observes:
Liberals are the aggressors in the culture war (and not always for the worse, as the civil rights movement demonstrates). What they object to isn't so much the government imposing its values on people — heck, they love that. They see nothing wrong with imposing their views about diet, exercise, sex, race and the environment on Americans. What outrages them is resistance, or even non-compliance with their agenda. "Why are you making such a scene?" progressives complain. "Just do what we want and there will be no fuss."
Even though 46% of the populace has serious issues with abortion, how dare a private charitable group elect to abstain from funding a controversial and polarizing and politically tinged organization (a fair perspective here). The irony in this case is that the donor in this less than two-fifths the size of the donee.
And when it comes to forcing religious organizations to provide contraceptives and "morning after" pills, the political calculus has been made, with support from the left-wing amen chorus. What's more, it looks like Barry will double down. Goldberg:
It [Komen] just wants to spend its finite resources on the race for a cure. But that's not good enough. The real motive behind this backlash is to make it very clear: You must choose a side — ours. And once you choose our side, you can never change your mind without severe consequences. And what is true of liberal politics is also true of liberal public policy. As the Obama administration has made clear to the Catholic Church, there is no neutrality, no safe harbor from liberalism's moral vision. You're either with us, or against us — which means we shall be against you.
The other irony is that, for all the complaints from the Left about the Right wanting to impose its values on America, the Left has no hesitation in trying to impose its values on America. The religion of liberal orthodoxy must be enforced.
UPDATE: Ross Douthat:
The idea that the state should only “tread carefully” on issues of liberty, conscience and freedom of religion in areas where polling data shows significant support for the position or community in question is a recipe for majoritarian tyranny and government overreach. The logic that he’s applying to orthodox Catholics could be applied just as easily to the Amish, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox Jews, and a host of other groups that don’t have the kind of institutional resources that Roman Catholicism can muster in its own defense. Yes, sometimes state interests are compelling enough to trump religious liberties, and defenders of this mandate have every right to make that case. But the argument that the state’s interests can trump religious liberties so long as the group of people being asked to violate their consciences is small enough is not an argument at all. It’s just a raw appeal to power.
Not that many years ago, then-Senator Obama gave a speech in which he said, “Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square.” President Obama has done the secularists one better. He’s asking believers to leave their religion at the door before entering religious hospitals, charities, and universities. Believers across the land are rising up to say to Obama, in the most respectful way possible, “Get lost.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Jake Tapper has a piece on the inner workings of how the Obama administration came to its decision on forcing religious organizations to cover birth control, etc. Noteworthy is that the head of Planned Parenthood had a seat at Obama's table when it came to the deliberations. Clearly, the ideologues prevailed over the pragmatists, and Obama sided with the ideologues.
Amy Sullivan frames the issue quite accurately.
The White House also bears its own large share of the blame for how it has mishandled the issue. Last August, the administration put forward the narrow exemption for religious employers as its starting point, giving it nowhere to go. Abortion rights groups didn't want a conscience exemption -- for anyone -- and Catholics balked at accepting such a limited definition, which covered only organizations that primarily employ and primarily serve individuals who share their religious tenets. This definition excludes most Catholic universities and hospitals, and many social service organizations, although it does include houses of worship. Then in November, Obama met in the Oval Office with Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholics Bishops (USCCB), and reportedly assured the powerful prelate that he would "be pleased" with the administration's final resolution of the issue. But Dolan is most assuredly not pleased. He had requested the meeting to make clear his objections to the narrow exemption, and said earlier this week that he felt personally betrayed by the outcome.
But the most tone-deaf move -- the one guaranteed to turn the behind-the-scenes debate into a public controversy -- was made by whoever decided the administration should announce the final rule in connection with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. The rule is not about abortion, so the signal the White House meant to send was unmistakable: this is a gift for our pro-choice supporters. The symbolism alone undercut the feeble attempts of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Obama advisers to insist that they had struck "the right balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing women's access to critical preventive health services."
Until David Axelrod and others began to indicate this week that the president was open to reconsidering the religious employer exemption, White House spinners had doggedly ignored the fact that the relevant issue that troubles Catholics about the rule is religious freedom, not contraception. Religious liberty concerns are why Catholic journalists like E.J. Dionne, Melinda Henneberger, and Mark Shields -- none of whom argue that contraception morally wrong -- have criticized the White House decision. Similarly, religious organizations like the Baptist Joint Committee, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, National Association of Evangelicals, and the Orthodox Union all support the use of contraception but have expressed their opposition to the rule as well. More than 90 percent of U.S. bishops, not all of whom are conservative, have spoken out against the rule, and many have sent letters to be read from pulpits in their dioceses urging Catholics to engage in civil disobedience. Meanwhile, while the White House touts lists of doctors and scientists who support the rule, no major religious group has stepped forward to defend the White House's decision.
The question for Sister Keehan and Father Jenkins, for Senator Casey and Sister Campbell, is not whether lay Catholics disagree with the Church's teaching on birth control (a majority do) or whether nearly all Catholic women use birth control at some point in their lives (they do). It is not even whether some Catholic institutions already pay for employee health plans that include coverage for contraception (some do). The question is whether the federal government should be able to require a religious institution to use its own funds to pay for something it finds morally objectionable.
In effect, the Catholics who supported Obamacare got shat on for their efforts.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Joe Biden is a practicing Catholic and he wants to work out a deal that Catholics and other religious organizations can live with. Democratic and liberal Catholics have problems with the Obama decision. Hispanics, too. Even Eleanor Clift is questioning Barry's motives.
These folks should realize that among the neanderthal Catholic voices crying out against this ruling are so-called “progressive” Catholics with sterling credentials as Obama supporters, including Michael Sean Winters, former Ambassador Doug Kmiec, Bob Casey, Sister Carol Keehan, former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper, Timothy Kaine and many others. These are the Catholics who helped deliver 54% of the Catholic vote to Obama and one can hardly lump them in with your ordinary despised reactionary.
And in “doubling down” on his decision, Obama has managed to do what no bishops or popes could: it has united the Catholic “left” and “right” (how I hate these labels) in opposition to the mandate. He’s even brought in the Protestants, and the Orthodox, both Christians and Jews!
Well, he did tell us he would be a uniter of a president — “that all shall be well.”
So, to be clear, as of right now if church-related entities (hospitals, schools and charities — many of which were serving the poor in their community before local or state governments had anything in place or had even thought to do so) do not comply, their choices are to either offer NO insurance at all, which violates Catholic social teaching, or to close up shop, altogether, which goes against the mission of the church since the time of the Apostles.
This is the government telling the church to knuckle under or cease to be who and what she has been for 2,000 years, as mandated by Christ himself.
A few people have said, either in conversation or via cyberchat that they feel the language of war — “Obama declares war on religion” — is too extreme.
You bet it’s war, and the reason you know it’s war is because this HHS mandate and this fight was entirely unnecessary.
Yep. The political season is here. It's on.
JUST ONE MORE UPDATE: Charles Krauthammer outlines the illogic of Obama-Sebelius doctrine when it comes the health care mandate.
But this Gospel according to Obama has a rival — the newly revealed Gospel according to Sebelius, over which has erupted quite a contretemps. By some peculiar logic, it falls to the health-and-human-services secretary to promulgate the definition of “religious” — for the purposes, for example, of exempting religious institutions from certain regulatory dictates.
Such exemptions are granted in grudging recognition that, whereas the rest of civil society may be broken to the will of the state’s regulators, our quaint Constitution grants special autonomy to religious institutions.
Accordingly, it would be a mockery of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment if, for example, the Catholic Church were required by law to freely provide such “health-care services” (in secularist parlance) as contraception, sterilization, and pharmacological abortion — to which Catholicism is doctrinally opposed as a grave contravention of its teachings about the sanctity of life.
Ah. But there would be no such Free Exercise violation if the institutions so mandated are deemed, by regulatory fiat, not religious.
And thus, the word came forth from Sebelius decreeing the exact criteria required (a) to meet her definition of “religious” and thus (b) to qualify for a modicum of independence from newly enacted state control of American health care, under which the aforementioned Sebelius and her phalanx of experts determine everything — from who is to be covered, to which treatments are to be guaranteed free-of-charge.
Criterion 1: A “religious institution” must have “the inculcation of religious values as its purpose.” But that’s not the purpose of Catholic charities; it’s to give succor to the poor. That’s not the purpose of Catholic hospitals; it’s to give succor to the sick. Therefore, they don’t qualify as “religious” — and therefore can be required, among other things, to provide free morning-after abortifacients.
Criterion 2: Any exempt institution must be one that “primarily employs” and “primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.” Catholic soup kitchens do not demand religious IDs from either the hungry they feed or the custodians they employ. Catholic charities and hospitals — even Catholic schools — do not turn away Hindu or Jew.
Their vocation is universal, precisely the kind of universal love-thy-neighbor vocation that is the very definition of religiosity as celebrated by the Gospel of Obama. Yet according to the Gospel of Sebelius, these very same Catholic institutions are not religious at all — under the secularist assumption that religion is what happens on Sunday under some Gothic spire, while good works are “social services” that are properly rendered up unto Caesar.
This all would be merely the story of contradictory theologies, except for this: Sebelius is Obama’s appointee. She works for him. These regulations were his call. Obama authored both gospels.
Therefore: To flatter his faith-breakfast guests and justify his tax policies, Obama declares good works to be the essence of religiosity. Yet he turns around and, through Sebelius, tells the faithful who engage in good works that what they’re doing is not religion at all. You want to do religion? Get thee to a nunnery. You want shelter from the power of the state? Get out of your soup kitchen and back to your pews. Outside, Leviathan rules.
And so rules the liberal orthodoxy.
OK. ONE MORE UPDATE: Even loyal Democrat and tingling-feeling Chris Matthews doesn't buy the Obama-generated spin on the "28 states" mantra.
Even loyal Democrat John Kerry and others on the Left are publicly announcing that they want a compromise. This morning, Jake Tapper reported that the White House will seek an "accommodation". Judging by how the last "accommodation" worked out, I won't hold my breath.
GRAND FINALE UPDATE: Ed Whelan makes the case that the HHS mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act here, from a conserative standpoint of course.
POST GRAND FINALE UPDATE: The Catholic bishops say "no" to the proposal, but right now they're on the wrong side of the politics. Democratic pols wanted some sort of fig leaf from Obama, and Obama granted it to them, so now they would rather close the door on the matter, proclaim that Obama is a great president for being so understanding, and move on.