Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Forthcoming Elimination of Americans' First Amendment Rights

A forthcoming denial of our foremost basic and precious God-given right, as specifically articulated in the first amendment of the United States Constitution, is soon to be eradicated by the same federal government that is sworn to uphold and protect that Constitutional right for all Americans.  President Obama’s administration has called, via the continuing implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), for all health plans to mandatorily cover contraceptives (including two abortifacients) and sterilizations as part of an upcoming expansion of “women’s services”.  The problem is that many people of faith find these “services” to be morally wrong and contrary to the dictates of their faith.
This is particularly the case with the Catholic faith.  In fact, this last Sunday a letter was read at Mass for nearly all of the parishes throughout the United States to explain the Church’s opposition to this law and how it directly contradicts the Church’s moral convictions regarding contraception and the sanctity of life.  Further, the Church called for Catholics to oppose the regulation and to fight to have it rescinded completely.

Within the first amendment to our Constitution lies the phrase, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.  I’ll begrudgingly grant that the federal government has reasonably protected the first part of that right, but they now have absolutely missed any semblance of protecting that right as regards the second part.  If an institution of faith, such as the Catholic Church, is forced to offer a health plan that MUST offer “services” which it finds diametrically opposed to the dictates of its faith, how is the government protecting the free exercise of their religion?  In fact, government becomes the very instrument that would cause the violation of that God-given right.  And indeed, as our founders knew and stated, all of our rights are endowed by our Creator, not by decree of the government.

Now it is true that our federal government has stated that these new regulations include an exemption for all “religious” employers; however, that employer must primarily employ people of its own faith, primarily serve only people of its own faith, and be primarily involved in the inculcation of the tenets of that faith; consequently, such a standard would not exempt Catholic hospitals, charities, and schools from this onerous and evil law.  Indeed, the exemption is so narrow that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that even our Lord Jesus Christ would not qualify for it, as he tended and cared to those outside of the faith also throughout his life and ministry.

President Obama clearly stated during the drafting of the Obamacare legislation that there would be an adequately encompassing exemption within it that would allow people whose conscience or moral convictions were violated by the law to abstain from its requirements.  It would seem that President Obama was less than truthful here.  Indeed, President Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced on January 20th that the administration was proceeding with this new regulation which will take effect on August 1st of this year.  She did grant a one year extension to “religiously affiliated non-profit groups” in order for them to figure out how to “adapt” to the regulation, as she put it.

When asked about this issue yesterday at a White House press briefing, spokesman Jay Carney stated, “I don’t believe there are any constitutional rights issues here.”  He continued, “The administration believes that this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventative services.”

The fact is that a health care provider not providing free access to artificial contraception does not condemn a woman to pregnancy any more than not providing free diet-pills would condemn her to obesity.  Further, the idea that pregnancy is an illness or disease that must be prevented or eradicated further shows the degradation of our culture in its valuing and cherishing of human life, particularly in a nascent form.  But that, again, is not the primary issue involved here.

Now there are many folks, sadly even within the Catholic Church, that disagree with the church’s teachings on contraceptives and even abortion, and thus think this law is good accordingly.  Well no one has asked that people outside of the Catholic faith to believe in this teaching, even though millions of others still do.  It is enough that we Catholics believe this as part of our faith.  What should concern every last single American is NOT whether contraception, sterilizations, and abortions are necessary or good, but rather that the Constitutional right of a group of people to believe contrary to that and wishing to live their faith accordingly are not being permitted to do so by force of law.  A constitutional right is being rescinded for the largest Christian group in America.  That is the issue at hand and one that should frighten every American.  If the government is allowed to curtail the free exercise of religion, what other constitutional right can it some day down the road renege its support and protection thereof that might affect you?

Many folks, myself included, are dumbfounded as to how such an egregious abuse of government power that usurps our most basic freedom is being allowed to happen at all, with nary a peep from the press or the public at large.  Frankly, I suspect the implementation of this pernicious regulation by the Obama administration is done absolutely by design and with full knowledge and intent of the ramifications of it.  President Obama knows, and the Catholic Church has now pretty much confirmed it, that the Church will NOT violate God’s law and their own moral convictions to satisfy man’s law.  The result will be, assuming that the government does not back down, that Catholic hospitals, charities, and schools will no longer offer health insurance to it employees and their families.  That means millions of uninsured people will be directed towards the coming exchanges and government healthcare roles.  THAT has been the design behind this regulation from the beginning.  It is, as Obama stated years ago, the necessary incremental implementation of a state-run and mandated health care system for all, for the common good, of course.

So what is an American of good conscience to do about the necessity of protecting our first amendment right to the free exercise of religion?  Well, the first thing would be to call your congressman, senators, and the White House.  Demand that congress passes HR 1179/S.1467 “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act”.   Further, you can sign a citizen-created petition on the White House web site (lower right hand corner of site at this link) telling President Obama that you do not approve.  Again, this is NOT an issue about contraceptives or abortion; it is about the exercise of one’s religious beliefs as articulated in the Constitution and given by God.

Indeed, Thomas Jefferson said it best in 1809 when he stated, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”  He was right.  Hopefully millions of good folk, Catholic or not, will also be right and stand up against this pernicious constitutional violation against ALL Americans accordingly.