Human Events Blog

Catholic groups launch massive lawsuit against ObamaCare

LifeNews reports on a powerful new legal challenge to ObamaCare, launched by groups that have been given ample reason to take up arms against it:

Notre Dame, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and dozens of Catholic hospitals and organizations have filed a total of 12 lawsuits today against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration over the controversial HHS mandate.

The lawsuit challenges the Obama administration’s unprecedented mandate that attacks the freedom to practice religion without government interference. Under the HHS mandate, employers must provide insurance coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs, as well as contraceptives and sterilization procedures.

Franciscan University maintains that the requirement to fund and facilitate such activities violates its core religious and moral convictions as a Catholic university.

“Franciscan University’s mission is and always has been to teach from the heart of the Church,” said University President Father Terence Henry, TOR. “The Obama administration’s mandate is a grave threat to our ability to carry out that mission. It makes it impossible for us to operate freely as a Catholic institution without overbearing and invasive governmental interference.”

Father Henry touches upon a point commonly obscured by the fashionable leftist tendency to paint religious organizations as budding theocracies, forever fiddling with the laces on their jackboots.  They never seem to slip those jackboots on and stomp anyone, do they?  No American religious organization of the modern era has ever been able to impose its will upon nonbelievers in a manner approaching the way Barack Obama imposed his will upon them.

Even the most commonly cited “sinister” item on the Religious Right’s agenda, repeal of Roe v. Wade, would throw the question of abortion back to the states… precisely the way President Obama now claims we should deal with the question of marriage.  Would some elements of the pro-life coalition like to go further, and pass national laws outlawing abortion?  Sure, but success in that effort would be fantastically difficult.  It’s so remote from anything occurring in our current political discourse that any analysis of the effort would be purely speculative.  Social conservatives are always getting castigated for what they might do someday.

Meanwhile, ObamaCare’s assault on economic and religious liberty is happening right now.  The expansion of government necessarily involves the loss of individual liberty; the State consumes everything else as it grows.  Every new book of regulations is a list of things we are no longer allowed to do… or, perhaps even more troubling, a list of things we must do.

Far from serving as incubators of domination and control, American religious institutions have always found themselves on the front lines in the battle for liberty – from the Revolution and Civil War, through the civil rights movement.  They are exemplars of a concept crucial to our Constitutional understanding of freedom, and entirely poisonous to central planners: the existence of a power higher than the State, which is the source of rights the State cannot take away.  No particular religious belief is necessary to embrace humility, the crucial virtue that separates a prosperous and lawful Republic from a socialist basket case.

The absolute rights of individuals are not, by definition, subject to review and suspension by the State.  It doesn’t matter if the State has really good intentions.  It makes no difference if a vocal minority, or even an absolute majority, of the people offer their support for suspension of a core liberty.  It doesn’t matter if respect for that liberty proves inconvenient.  No pile of expert “studies” should be heavy enough to crush one of our Constitutional rights.  There is a point at which compulsion must end, and locating it cannot be a matter of political expediency.  Liberty is incompatible with the notion of a government that can draw its own boundaries, and redraw them whenever popular resistance against its appetite for power flags a little.

It’s not surprising that religious institutions sound early warnings against encroachments upon liberty.  Not only do they expound upon the existence of powers higher than the government, but they assert prerogatives that can seem irrational to those outside the faith… and therefore easily trampled.  Why are those Catholic fuddy-duddies refusing to pay for other people’s birth control?  That stuff’s expensive, and “everybody knows” it’s essential to public health! 

Besides, didn’t our betters already carve out a generous exemption for churches?  The LifeNews report addresses this topic:

When first proposed in August 2011 by the Department of Health and Human Services, the mandate was met by strong objections from numerous Catholic bishops, hospitals, and institutions. Although a small exemption for some religious institutions was written into the original proposal, it was too narrow to cover the vast majority of them, particularly those, like Catholic universities, which both employ and serve people of other faiths or no faith at all. The mandate effectively puts the federal government in the position of deciding which organizations are “religious enough,” the lawsuits claim.

(Emphasis mine.)  True liberty is not a dispensation, to be handed out at the government’s pleasure.  Power is not limited when the powerful get to decide when their “limits” are valid.  Perhaps these new lawsuits will emphasize a point that should have been crystal clear all along: no one, of either political party, should have been willing to sign a law that would proactively force American citizens to do something that violates their conscience. 

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