Hobby Lobby reveals how public and private spheres have changed in the last few decades

Church rejects Obama as GodBack in the 1980s, when I was a good ol” liberal Democrat (sort of in the Kennedy mold), I kept hearing those Bible Thumpers in the Moral Majority bandy about a word: “Secularist.”

What the heck was that? Nobody I knew (and everyone I knew was a person of the sort-of Left) called him or herself a “secularist.”

What in the world did those zealots mean by labeling me that way and pretending that I’m doing something damaging to them? I understood what was really going on:  Very religious people were abnormal, and then there were the rest of us who were non-religious, or slightly religious in a genteel, non-obtrusive fashion.  The fact that our “religion”  closely paralleled the Democrat Party platform, meaning that laws were informed by our “religious” values was just a coincidence.

We were not foisting anything on them.  If anything, they were the foisters, especially with their stupid pro-Life values.

I’ve obviously come a long way from then, haven’t I?

One of the things that helped me on my journey to rationality was Stephen Carter’s The Culture of Disbelief. It was he who explained to me that to hold values in opposition to traditional Christianity is itself a value system.

Bingo! Light bulb moment. As of 1994, I finally understood what the Moral Majority was complaining about. I didn’t yet agree with the values they advanced, but I instantly became much more sympathetic to their complaints about Leftist, secular culture encroaching upon them.

The societal change Carter noted — that the absence of religious values (as opposed to religious doctrine) was taking over the public forum — has only accelerated in recent years. I actually hadn’t thought about it in any specific way until I read Megan McArdle’s very thoughtful post about the Left’s hysteria in response to the Supreme Court’s extremely narrow, common-sensical Hobby Lobby ruling.

For conservatives, even non-religious ones, the ruling’s correctness was a no-brainer:  The holding that government cannot compel people to purchase a product inconsistent with core doctrinal beliefs is true both to the Constitution and to the traditional American ethos of keeping the state out of people’s religion.

But what if the state itself is the people’s religion? McArdle believes that this trend, which sees public space co-opted by non-religious beliefs that have been themselves elevated to absolute “values” explains much of the hysteria, not among the professional Left, but among ordinary DemProgs.  The change in attitude McArdle notes explains both why Leftists cannot appreciate the seriousness of the issue for religious people and why they do not view the Obama administration’s actions as coercive.

I’m quoting McArdle at some length here, because the logic underlying her theory is so tightly constructed, it’s difficult for me to quote her without doing damage to her reasoning.  I urge you, though, to read the whole thing:

I think a few things are going on here. The first is that while the religious right views religion as a fundamental, and indeed essential, part of the human experience, the secular left views it as something more like a hobby, so for them it’s as if a major administrative rule was struck down because it unduly burdened model-train enthusiasts. That emotional disconnect makes it hard for the two sides to even debate; the emotional tenor quickly spirals into hysteria as one side says “Sacred!” and the other side says, essentially, “Seriously? Model trains?” That shows in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, where it seems to me that she takes a very narrow view of what role religious groups play in the lives of believers and society as a whole.

The second, and probably more important, problem is that the long compromise worked out between the state and religious groups — do what you want within very broad limits, but don’t expect the state to promote it — is breaking down in the face of a shift in the way we view rights and the role of the government in public life.

To see what I mean, consider an argument I have now heard hundreds of times — on Facebook, in my e-mail, in comment threads here and elsewhere: “Hobby Lobby’s owners have a right to their own religious views, but they don’t have a right to impose them on others.”As I wrote the day the decision came out, the statement itself is laudable, yet it rings strange when it’s applied to this particular circumstance. How is not buying you something equivalent to “imposing” on you?

I think you can understand this, however, as the clash of principles designed for a world of negative rights, in a society that has come to embrace substantial positive rights — as well as a clash between old and new concepts of what is private and what is public.

All of us learned some version of “You have the right to your beliefs, but not to impose them on others” in civics class. It’s a classic negative right. And negative rights are easy to make reciprocal: You have a right to practice your religion without interference, and I have a right not to have your beliefs imposed on me.

This works very well in situations in which most of the other rights granted by society are negative rights, because negative rights don’t clash very often. Oh, sure, you’re going to get arguments about noise ordinances and other nuisance abatements, but unless your religious practices are extreme indeed, the odds that they will substantively violate someone else’s negative rights are pretty slim.

[snip]

Alongside this development, as Yuval Levin has pointed out, we have seen an ongoing shift, particularly on the left, in the balance between what constitutes the private and the public spheres, and who has powers in which sphere. There’s a reductive tendency in modern political discourse to view public versus private as the state versus the individual.

In the 19th century, the line between the individual and the government was just as firm as it is now, but there was a large public space in between that was nonetheless seen as private in the sense of being mostly outside of government control — which is why we still refer to “public” companies as being part of the “private” sector. Again, in the context of largely negative rights, this makes sense. You have individuals on one end and a small state on the other, and in the middle you have a large variety of private voluntary institutions that exert various forms of social and financial coercion, but not governmental coercion — which, unlike other forms of coercion, is ultimately enforced by the government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

[snip]

[O]utside of our most intimate relationships, almost everything else is now viewed as public, which is why Brendan Eich’s donation to an anti-gay-marriage group became, in the eyes of many, grounds for firing.

For many people, this massive public territory is all the legitimate province of the state. Institutions within that sphere are subject to close regulation by the government, including regulations that turn those institutions into agents of state goals — for example, by making them buy birth control for anyone they choose to employ. It is not a totalitarian view of government, but it is a totalizing view of government; almost everything we do ends up being shaped by the law and the bureaucrats appointed to enforce it. We resolve the conflict between negative and positive rights by restricting many negative rights to a shrunken private sphere where they cannot get much purchase.

Put another way, once upon time, things not directly within the government purview were neutral territory in which I didn’t impose upon or demand from you, and you didn’t impose upon and demand from me.  We might have thought the other excessively moral or immoral, but we danced together in uneasy harmony.

Beginning in the 1980s, though, the Left co-opted the public space, declaring that it was not neutral territory but was, instead, government territory.  Further, because Leftists deny that their belief in non-Christian values is itself a value, they insist that by doing so they’re not infringing on First Amendment rights.  They insist upon this denial even as they promote and guard their own secular faith with all the vehemence of a true religious zealot.

The Obama healthcare mandate reflects the fact that, for the Left, the distinction between your private religious space and all the other public government faith space has morphed again.  Now, as a person of faith, the only space you have that’s yours is within the four walls of your home.  Everything else is within the public purview, meaning that it’s under government control and government values (which are, by definition, statist, hostile to matters of faith, and identical to the Democrat platform).  With this rejiggered view of public and private, the government is not infringing upon your religion if it imposes obligations on you (even obligations that directly contradict your faith) as long as it is not constraining you within your own home.

Put another way, the DemProg interpretation of the First Amendment’s promise that the government cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion boils down to this:  I can’t force you to pay for or perform an abortion on your own daughter (provided she lives in your house), but I am not impinging on your faith if I force you to pay for or perform an abortion on your neighbor’s daughter.   Under this definition, your objection to paying for or performing that abortion on the neighbor’s child constitutes an unreasonable attempt to enforce religious values in the public arena.

Four links about abortion and government coercion *UPDATED*

Newborn baby seconds after deliveryI’m running late, but I had to share these four things with you:

First,  a New York Times opinion piece saying that it would be a gross travesty if the Supreme Court were to deny Hobby Lobby employees their absolute right to have a religious company pay for their birth control and abortifacient pills.

Second, an opinion piece by Pastor Rick Warren explaining why it would be a gross constitutional travesty if the Supreme Court were to hold that the First Amendment is limited to allowing people to attend a House of Worship, rather than to live their lives according to their faith.

I leave it to you to determine which of the two articles makes more constitutional, practical, and moral sense.

And to round things out:

Third, a news story from England about the fact that, not only did hospital’s incinerate fetus corpses (from both miscarriages and abortions) in a regular incinerator, two of them used the corpses to help heat the buildings.  I don’t think even the Nazis used the crematoria as heaters.

Fourth, a news story from England saying that the head of England’s largest abortion provider (and, presumably, a feminist) said that it’s perfectly fine to abort infants simply because they’re girls.  That is the reductio ad absurdum of abortion and feminism.

UPDATE:  AJ Strata has a lot of excellent thoughts about England’s newest energy source.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, the Civil Rights Act cannot trump the First Amendment *UPDATED*

Gay-flowerI find irritating gay marriage supporters’ reliance on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to justify their contention that religious individuals cannot opt out of actively participating in gay marriage ceremonies.  They contend that the Act mandates that (1) a Christian baker, who welcomes gays seeking all other baked goods, must bake a gay-themed wedding cake; (2) a Christian photographer, who would happily take pictures of a gay birthday party, must photograph a gay wedding; (3) a Muslim florist, who would be delighted to sell bouquets to a gay couple, must bedeck a church with flower arrangements for a gay wedding; and (4) an orthodox Jew who owns a small hotel, and who doesn’t quibble at all when same-sex couples check into a room where they have privacy, must host a gay wedding in his reception hall.

I contend that these activists are dead wrong about the scope of the Civil Rights Act.  While, the Civil Rights Act s a virtuous law, it cannot trump the First Amendment.  I’ve made a handy-dandy chart outlining why I believe this to be the case (click on image to enlarge):

Bill of Rights versus Civil Rights Act 1

My usual disclaimer about my views regarding same-sex unions:  It is not semantic quibbling to say that I support civil unions but do not support same-sex marriage. While a religious organization can perform a marriage, it cannot perform a civil union. Civil unions are solely the state’s provenance. Leaving civil unions to the state and marriage to religion perfectly preserves the separation of church and state. (And as always, irony abounds here, because it is the Left that routinely sets up a hullabaloo about even the most minute intersection between church and state.)

If I had my way, I would remove marriage from the government’s vocabulary and make all unions — whether they are heterosexual or same-sex relationships — “civil unions.” States can then promote whatever unions they deem most beneficial for individuals, for children, and for society as a whole, while religious individuals and institutions need not worry that they will be targeted because they hew to the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman (or women).

People running the entire gamut of the gender-orientation spectrum — as recently defined by Facebook — manifestly believe that it’s important to get the state’s imprimatur on their relationships.  (This makes sense, since most of them are Left-leaning statists, who worship at the Big Government shrine.)  Civil unions joining together various sexual identity configurations (opposite sex, same sex, etc.) would give every American equal access to the benefits and burdens (economic, legal, and social) of a state-sanctioned relationship.  What civil unions would not do is force a direct confrontation between church and state.

The recent Obamacare abortion kerfuffle should warn people that a Progressive government won’t have second thoughts about forcing such a confrontation.  In 2008, when California had its Prop. 8 gay marriage referendum, I first raised my concern that gay marriage would result in a head-on collision between church and state.  A Progressive scoffed at this, telling me that, even though abortions are legal, the government has never gone toe-to-toe with the Catholic Church.  He was taken aback, and had no response, when I pointed out that the Catholic Church doesn’t provide, or withhold, abortions; it simply speaks against them doctrinally.  The Church does, however, marry people, and that leaves open the possibility that a gay couple will sue the church for refusing to perform a marriage service.

Mine was a good argument then, and it’s a better argument now.  With Obamacare, our Progressive-run federal government is forcing religious institutions and organizations be actively complicit in abortion by mandating that they fund abortifacients (and birth control) through “health” insurance.  (It’s “health” insurance, of course, only if the very act of becoming pregnant is a disease — which is funny when you think about it, because feminists in the 1960s and 1970s were outraged at a male patriarchy that treated pregnant women as if they were fragile and sick.)

I welcome your comments regarding this post.

UPDATE:  A lawyer I know commented that the Commerce Clause gives the federal government the power to legislate any type of commerce related activities.  (Sounds like a familiar argument, right?)  My response was a simple one:  The Commerce Clause represents a power that the People granted to the federal government.  The First Amendment represents an right inherent in each individual that the federal government (in theory) may not touch.  It seems to me that, especially when a law is narrowly drawn, the First Amendment, which states the People’s inherent rights, must trump the Commerce Clause, which merely reflects a power the People granted the government under contract.

 

The Left is wrong about AZ’s proposed law, but religious freedom supporters might have to boycott the Super Bowl to make that point

Gay marriage wedding cake photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 26-1-2008.I’ve mentioned gay marriage once already today as the latest non-issue to roil the left even as the world around us crumbles (a la the 1930s), the American military is reduced (a la the 1930s), and tyrannies are rattling their sabres (a la the 1930s).  Overnight, the same liberal who have been remarkably quiet about the Obamacare debacle, uprisings in Ukraine and Venezuela, the flat economy, etc., have found a new cause:  Arizona, they scream, is poised to enact the next generation of Jim Crow laws, in the form of Senate Bill 1062, an amendment to Arizona’s existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This Jim Crow claim, which gained instant traction amongst America’s Progressive class, is flat-out wrong as a matter of law and fact.  Nevertheless, presumably in the foolish hope that it can appease the Left into backing off from its ongoing effort to destroy football, the Super Bowl committee is using economic blackmail against Gov. Jan Brewer, promising to pull the upcoming Super Bowl from Arizona if she signs the bill.  To the extent that the Left is using the Super Bowl as a cudgel against religious freedom, it may be time for supporters of traditional marriage to use their own economic pressure against the Super Bowl.

Better people than I have examined the proposed law, so I won’t rehash it.  Without addressing the proposed law’s specifics, though, it’s still possible to show the falsity of the Jim Crow comparison.

First, no mainstream American religion has ever had racial discrimination as a core religious doctrine.  All traditional religions, however, have heterosexual marriage as a central tenet of the faith.  To the extent Southern racists claimed Christianity as their justification for separating the races, all that they could point to was their own twisted interpretations of the Bible, a document that never concerned itself with racial discrimination.

Heterosexual marriage, however, is something quite different.  The Catholic Church elevates it to one of the seven sacraments, and all other traditional religions enshrine marriage between a man and a woman (or several women).  What this means is that the Southerners in times past who asserted their right to Jim Crow laws had no protected First Amendment right.  The contrary is true today:  Those people who will benefit from the proposed Arizona law have a strong First Amendment right that cannot simply be thrown aside.

Second, the Jim Crow laws were actual laws, relying on the state’s coercive power.  In other words, they represented government action discriminating against American citizens.  The Arizona law, however, does  not advocate any type of segregation or discrimination.  It simply says that Arizona’s government cannot use economic coercion, not to mention the threat of imprisonment, to force Arizona citizens to engage in religiously offensive activity.  There are also safeguards is the act:  The protesting citizen must show that he is acting consistently with his faith and that he has a track record of being faithful.

Jim Crow laws meant that the government was discriminatory and coercive in a matter that did not implicate religion.  By contrast, the proposed Arizona law narrows the range of situations in which the government can be discriminatory and coercive against people of faith.

Third, the Jim Crow laws mandated that Southern citizens refrain from providing goods, services, or jobs to blacks, or they mandated that those goods, services, or jobs, if provided, must be provided in the most limited, demeaning way possible.  The proposed Arizona law not only does not mandate any conduct, it’s also extremely narrow in scope.  It says only that genuinely religious people cannot be forced to participate actively in a specific event that clashes with their faith.  It’s worth keeping in mind here, as Eidolon so beautifully explained, that up until just a few years ago, every mainstream Democrat politician in America (including Obama and the Clintons) rejected gay marriage, a position consistent with all known human history.

Super Bowl ArizonaI have no doubt that Gov. Brewer is going to cave to Leftist pressure because of the economic risk that the Super Bowl will pull out of Arizona.  That seems to be the ultimate leverage, right?  But supporters of traditional marriage — or supporters of a religious individual’s right not to participate in a ceremony that mocks his beliefs — actually have an even bigger stick than the Super Bowl.  Just as the Super Bowl can boycott Arizona, believers in religious freedom can boycott the Super Bowl.  I mean, it’s a great game, but sometimes we have to subordinate pleasure to principle.

This is not how you get religious people to change their minds

Little Sisters of the PoorMona Charen has written an excellent article about the Obama administration’s use of Obamacare as a vehicle for attacking religion and religious people.  I urge you to read it.

I was particularly struck by one point Charen made, regarding Sebelius’s previously stated view about religious accommodation — to wit, that the religion, not the state, has to adapt:

Two years ago, announcing that non-profits like the Little Sisters would be required to go along with providing all contraceptives and abortifacients even if it violated their religious convictions, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sniffed that the religious would “have to adapt.”

Put aside the fact that the Constitution, by making freedom of worship religion one of the paramount rights vested in the individual, means that the state, not the individual (or corporate collections of individuals), must adapt.  After all, we’re now used to hearing this combination of ignorance and disdain when the Obama crowd talks about the Constitution and constitutional rights.  That Sebelius erred there is a no-brainer.

The thing is that Sebelius didn’t just err about the Constitution.  She also erred about the way assimilation has always worked in America.  It hasn’t worked by persecuting religions (which is what the administration is doing now).  Instead, if you want to get rid of religion in America, you make the secular popular culture so attractive that religious people voluntarily abandon their doctrinal and procedural commitments to God.  Coercion begets resistance.  Enticement is what gets results.

Perhaps I should be grateful that, when it comes to Obamacare, the administration is clueless about this fact.

Does the Obama administration really want to get involved in a fight with the elderly nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor?

Although Ted Cruz didn’t mention this during his magnificent 21 hour marathon attempt to reach past the media and speak directly to the American people, one of the things he’s fighting for is religious freedom.  Case in point:  Mother Theresa’s The Little Sisters of the Poor, which is made-up of mostly elderly, and definitely celibate, nuns has been forced to file suit in order to avoid the Obamacare mandate that it must provide all of its employees with insurance that includes birth control and abortifacients.

I can’t wait to see the wits in the internet come up with poster memes for that one.  Anyway, if you’d like to know more about this one and understand just how tyrannical Obamacare is, please check out the Anchoress’s post.

Should people who oppose war be obligated to pay for it via taxes?

Don Quixote and I were talking today about the Commerce Clause.  We weren’t saying anything original.  We were simply wondering whether the Supreme Court, in ruling on ObamaCare, will address the vast reach of the Commerce Clause and whether it will (a) reaffirm that reach; (b) reverse that reach entirely (which requires reversing the 1942 decision Wickard v. Filburn); or (c) chip away at Wickard because destroying it in one fell swoop would create a constitutional crisis.

Right now, the pro-ObamaCare people are actually correct when they argue that there’s no real difference between Wickard and ObamaCare.  In the former Congress forced a farmer to grow wheat, and the Supreme Court gave that coercion a judicial nod.  Under ObamaCare, Congress is forcing Americans to buy insurance, so why shouldn’t that get the nod too?.  We can parse the difference by saying that the real issue is whether the federal government benefits from the forced activity (which is essentially a tax) or whether third party companies profit (making the coercion a form of something else).

The real issue, though, isn’t where the money goes.  It is, instead, determining how far Congress can go in dictating American activity.  After all, to the extent our money supply is federal, every decision we make, including the pennies we toss into a Salvation Army pot, implicates federal monetary policies.

That talk led DQ and me to the intersection between taxes and religion.  The Constitution guarantees that the Federal government will not establish a religion and then force Americans to yield to that government church’s doctrines.  That right has been understood to mean that citizen’s religious beliefs are excluded from Congressional oversight.

The Constitution, however, also authorizes Congress to extract taxes from American citizens and nowhere does it say that citizens can withhold those funds based upon their religious beliefs.  To the extent that the Quakers were already a pacifist organization at the time the Constitution was first ratified, it cannot have escaped the Founders’ notice that, by specifically authorizing War powers in the Constitution, they were requiring pacifists to fund any war started under that constitutional power.

Beginning with the Vietnam War protests, peace activists of all religious and non-religious stripes have objected to having their tax dollars spent on War.  Two constitutional principles — the federal government’s authorization to wage war and the individual’s absolute right to freedom of worship — are in permanent opposition.

What do you think?  Does the natural right of the individual to freedom of worship trump the government’s power to tax and wage war?  Or is taxation and war such an inextricable aspect of government that civilization functions only when people cannot opt out?

My feeling is that, to the extent we have a republican democracy, those who don’t like war have the option of voting into power others who share their feelings.  If a sufficient majority of anti-war activists enter Congress, Congress can refuse to fund wars (as it did when a Democrat congress abandoned the South Vietnamese); or it can enact laws allowing people to deduct a certain percentage from their taxes, equal to the percentage cost of war in the federal budget; or, if the anti-war crowd has sufficient numbers, it can amend the Constitution to turn America into a pacifist nation or one that sees only pro-war people pay for war.

For me, this is an idle (albeit enjoyable) mental exercise, but in the larger scheme of things it’s not.  It is, instead, the real deal in determining whether, when it comes to core religious or moral beliefs, the government or the individual prevails.

In the context of the ObamaCare debate, it ties back into the mandate requiring religious institutions and organizations to pay for insurance that will provide birth control and abortifacients, even if those practices are antithetical to the payors’ core doctrinal beliefs.  I can understand how there could be a battle royale when it comes to asking pacifists to pay for war, since there are two conflicting constitutional rights involved.  I do not understand, though, how the government can force people to abandon an explicit constitutional right (freedom of worship) in favor of a right there is nowhere mentioned in the constitution — women’s alleged right to free birth control and abortions.

All of which leaves me very curious as to the ultimate outcome of the ObamaCare decisions.

As always, I love hearing your opinions, especially since so many of you are better informed or more analytical than I am.

I’m shocked! Shocked! The Obama administration has been lying again.

Conservatives of all religious stripes have been attacking the ObamaCare mandate regarding birth control and abortifacients on religious grounds.  The Obama administration’s response was to introduce an “accommodation” under which the insurance companies will henceforth offer these medicines and services for “free.”

Anybody past the age of five understands that, in this life, nothing is free.  The same opponents immediately pointed out that religious institutions and people of conscience will still be funding an insurance package that includes morally reprehensible products.  After all, someone has to pay, right?

Wrong! says the administration.  No one has to pay because all “health care” products have a negative cost effect on the insurance companies.  By forcing the companies to provide preventive services for free, the Obama administration is actually saving the company’s money.  Never mind the fact that, in the real world, if there really was a cost savings, the insurance companies would already be offering these products and services for free — and then, in order to compete in the insurance market, they would be passing these savings along to their customers.

Aside from ignoring marketplace realities, the Obama administration is apparently lying as well:

[T]here is no evidence that a mandate on insurance companies to provide contraception is cost-neutral. A search of PubMedturns up nothing.

Tory Bunce, policy director at the conservative Council for Affordable Health Insurance, told IBD, “In our research, we’ve looked at the cost of mandates on the state level. We’ve asked our members to price these mandates in their actual policies. What we’ve been told from the actuaries is that the contraceptive mandate costs 1%-3% of premiums.”

Read more here about yet another administration lie, one that a complicit MSM cheerfully passes along to a credulous public.

Kathleen Sebelius’ defense of the new ObamaCare mandate is pathetic

Pathetic is a very strong derogatory word, but I think it’s apt when looking at Kathleen Sebelius’ defense for the Obama administration’s recent mandate that all employers must purchase insurance that provides their employees with birth control, sterilization and morning-after pills.  A fisking is in order (all hyperlinks in original omitted):

One of the key benefits of the 2010 health care law is that many preventive services are now free for most Americans with insurance. Vaccinations for children, cancer screenings for adults and wellness visits for seniors are all now covered in most plans with no expensive co-pays or deductibles. So is the full range of preventive health services recommended for women by the highly respected Institute of Medicine, including contraception.

[Don't you love that concept of "free"?  In fact, nothing's free.  It's simply that the plan shifts the cost from employee to employer -- so that the employer has less money for salaries, other benefits, new job creation, facility maintenance, etc.  But it's all good in Obama-land.  I also like the way that the only one of the "full range of preventive health services recommended for women" that Sebelius names is the fairly non-controversial "contraception."  To those who haven't been paying attention to the details, the message is clear:  all those conservatives are getting their knickers into a twist for nothing.]

Today, virtually all American women use contraception at some point in their lives. And we have a large body of medical evidence showing it has significant benefits for their health, as well as the health of their children. But birth control can also be quite expensive, costing an average of $600 a year, which puts it out of reach for many women whose health plans don’t cover it.

[Again, in a marvel of sleight of hand, Sebelius is pretending that this whole uproar is about nothing more than contraception.  As a matter of law, deceit includes misrepresentation through omission.  This is deceitful.  Also, note that careful language, to the effect that "birth control can also be quite expensive."  Aside from the fact that those are wiggle words, she's doing the same thing that Babs Boxer did, which is to try to cast this as an economic issue, when it is, in fact, a much deeper one:  the morality and Constitutionality of forcing religious institutions to subsidize a doctrinally offensive practice.]

The public health case for making sure insurance covers contraception is clear. But we also recognize that many religious organizations have deeply held beliefs opposing the use of birth control.

[Is that all she's got?  The fact that for some people birth control can cost $600 per year is her entire "public health case for making sure insurance covers contraception" is her justification for a vast cost-shifting program that requires practically every employer in America to subsidize insurance that covers women in the workforce between age 16 and menopause?  Remember, this "clear" case will cost employers a bundle, a cost that will inevitably be shared out to old people, infertile people, gay people, celibate people, etc.  How nice of Sebelius, secure in her own lack of logic, to recognize that her little economic scenario might offend core religious beliefs.  Fear not, though.  She's got an answer for those offended people.]

That’s why in the rule we put forward, we specifically carved out from the policy religious organizations that primarily employ people of their own faith. This exemption includes churches and other houses of worship, and could also include other church-affiliated organizations.

[We covered this often, so I won't go on at length.  The exemption is so narrow that it pretty much covers only the smallest of churches, the one staffed by two nuns and a priest, all three of whom do the janitorial and grounds maintenance work too.]

In choosing this exemption, we looked first at state laws already in place across the country. Of the 28 states that currently require contraception to be covered by insurance, eight have no religious exemption at all.

[This one really steamed me.  Someone in the Obama administration forgot to read the Constitution.  You see, states have broader rights vis a vis individuals than does the Federal government.  This makes sense because (a) the feds have more coercive power than the states and (b) it's easier to relocate from a state you don't like, than to be forced to emigrate from a country that's oppressing you.  If Alabama is too rough, go to California.  If the Obama government is coming after you, though, it's a lot harder to find a safe haven.]

The religious exemption in the administration’s rule is the same as the exemption in Oregon, New York and California.

[See comments above.]

It’s important to note that our rule has no effect on the longstanding conscience clause protections for providers, which allow a Catholic doctor, for example, to refuse to write a prescription for contraception. Nor does it affect an individual woman’s freedom to decide not to use birth control. And the president and this administration continue to support existing conscience protections.

[Again, sleight of hand.  What doctors can or cannot do is not the issue.  The issue is that faith-based organizations are being forced by the federal government to subsidize a product that offends core doctrinal beliefs.  If that isn't a violation of the First Amendment, I don't know what is.]

This is not an easy issue. But by carving out an exemption for religious organizations based on policies already in place, we are working to strike the right balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing women’s access to critical preventive health services.

[To which I have a last word:  Feh!]

To its credit, USA Today, which hosted Sebelius’ advocacy piece, openly disagrees with her — and provides a link to its opposition right in the body of her dishonest little essay.

Barbara Boxer’s Orwellian defense of the way in which the new healthcare mandate advances religious freedom *UPDATED*

Barbara Boxer has taken to the pages of the Huffington Post to explain why the administration’s mandate that all insurers provide birth control, including drugs that induce abortion, advances rather than restricts, religious freedom.  If you like Orwell’s Newspeak, Boxer’s writing is a thing of beauty and will certainly be a joy forever as a model of obfuscation and deceit.  I think it deserves a nice fisking, I really do:

When President Obama announced that because of health care reform, birth control would soon be available for free in new insurance plans, you would have expected universal approval.

[Why in the world would there be universal approval for a policy that requires people to underwrite birth control for everyone, including the 1%?  It's not as if birth control was unavailable before ObamaCare.  Nor is birth control expensive.  Condoms will not break anyone's bank and the pill is one of the cheapest products around.  So remind me again why I'm celebrating being forced to pay for other people's personal birth control choices?]

After all, virtually all women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used birth control at some point in their lives and 71 percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support this policy.

[See above.  It's not about who uses birth control, Catholic women included.  It's about who pays for birth control.  Welcome to Boxer's first piece of Orwellian sleight of hand.]

That is why I was stunned to read E.J. Dionne’s column in the Washington Post today denouncing a decision that should instead be lauded, especially by those of us who care about religious freedom, women’s health, and economic fairness.

[Now we get to it:  the policy advances "religious freedom . . . and economic fairness."  I'm completely unclear what's economically fair about a working class Mom or a small business having to fund a policy that will help Paris Hilton get her birth control for free.  But let's get to the real meat.  Let's find out how, in Obama/Orwell land, forcing everyone to pay for birth control and abortion pills advancing religious freedom.]

The truth is, the president’s decision respects the diverse religious views of the American people, who deserve the right to follow their own conscience and choose whether to obtain contraceptives, regardless of where they work. [Uh, Babs -- nobody is banning them from getting contraceptives now.  Last I looked, I could walk into any pharmacy and, for a very affordable price, get myriad over-the-counter contraceptives.  And I can go to my doctor and get a prescription for other affordable contraceptives.  This isn't about access; it's about funding.]  And that is what this policy guarantees — with one carefully drawn exception. This decision respects the deeply-held views of religious institutions. If their mission is primarily religious and the majority of their employees and clients share that faith, religious institutions do not have to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees.  [Here's where the real double-speak lies, since it overlooks the fact that the only entirely religious institutions are convents and monasteries.  Whether we're talking a vast Catholic educational institution, a soup kitchen, or the local parish, outside of ministering positions, the Catholic Church is required by law to hire people of different religions.  In any event, my understanding is that, again outside of the core religious functionaries, the Church freely hires those who are willing to accommodate its vision and goals.  In other words, the so-called "exception" probably covers six convents and a monastery.]

So, despite what his critics claim, the president’s policy does in fact respect religious freedom. [No, it doesn't, because it aims to prevent any Catholic institutions from competing in the employment marketplace, by intentionally creating a situation in which Catholic institutions can no longer give their employees insurance coverage.]  In addition, opponents of this policy shockingly ignore the facts: that it will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in our country — a goal I thought we all shared.  [Non sequitur.  We're not talking about reducing unintended pregnancies.  We're talking about a government policy that forces a religious organization to fund a practice that is doctrinally abhorrent.]

The president followed the advice of the Institute of Medicine and other independent medical experts who recommended that health plans cover preventive services that women cannot afford to miss, including annual exams, HIV screening and, yes, contraception. These experts know the truth: The best way to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the number of abortions is to make birth control more accessible to women and men. Period. Without birth control, a couple has an 85 percent chance of having an unintended pregnancy within a year.

[See my last comment, above.  This is mixing Marxist apples with religious oranges.  We have a free country in which women already have access to birth control, sterilization, and abortion.  It's just that, until today, the government hasn't forced religious organizations to sponsor these practices.  It also ignores the fact that the Church believes that the best way to protect women is to teach them to treat sex as a sacred obligation within the bounds of marriage.  In other words, the Church's birth control is to take a stand against a promiscuous, hook-up culture.]

Finally, this decision will help working families by giving them access to free birth control. The cost of birth control can be prohibitive for many women, particularly in these difficult economic times. In fact, 34 percent of women voters report having struggled with the cost of prescription birth control. Surprisingly, Dionne glosses over the crucial issue of cost by recommending that the President simply require plans that won’t cover birth control to tell their employees where else they can buy it. He dismisses it as a “modest cost.” Well, tell that to the woman making minimum wage and struggling to buy groceries for her children — paying an extra $600 a year for birth control pills is a major expense for her, not a “modest cost.”

[Another red herring.  I have a suggestion, Babs.  Rather than making the Church pay for this "modest cost," why don't you tell the President to authorize the Keystone Pipeline?  That will create thousands of jobs and substantially drop the cost of oil.  This latter cost drives up the price of everything.  But it's clear that the President would rather attack the Catholic's core doctrines, than the Gaia worshippers' core doctrines.]

Improving access to affordable birth control is not a controversial issue for the American people, the vast majority of whom support family planning. The president’s decision should bring all sides together because it will help millions of women and their families. Certainly, that is a policy worthy of our praise.

[Doublespeak, doublespeak, doublespeak.  We have complete access in this country to birth control.  We have women who might be struggling to meet the cost because Obama's policies, including the stimulus and the refusal to exploit our energy resources, have made many things more expensive for many people.  Forcing religious institutions to fund practices that are morally abhorrent is not the way to balance out Obama's economic failings.]

Okay, enough with wandering around the cesspool that is Boxer’s brain and moral decency. If you really want to know what’s going on, I recommend Elizabeth Scalia’s article on the opening salvo in Obama’s war against the Catholic Church (and, of course, other religious organizations).

UPDATE:  Welcome, David Hogberg readers!