Individuals and the Obamacare mandate

Discussion about the Obamacare contraception/abortifacient insurance mandate has centered on the religious liberty of church-related institutions.  But what about the religious liberty of pro-life individuals who own businesses?  That, in fact, is the case before the courts that might have a ruling today.  (I’m on the road so I might have trouble monitoring it.  If anyone hears about a ruling, mention it in a comment.)  Here are details about that case, with a rather chilling statement about how the Obama administration sees religious liberty:

Hercules Industries is a Colorado based corporation that makes heating and air conditioning equipment. Hercules is a family-owned business. Its owners, the Newland brothers — William (pictured), Paul and James — and their sister, Christine Ketterhagen, take their Catholic faith seriously. The business provides good jobs for 265 people and Hercules Industries tries hard to be a good member of the community. The siblings who operate the business have always assumed that they had the right to live according to their faith, like other businesses across our nation.

In those parts of New York City that have a high percentage of residents who are Orthodox or Hassidic Jews, businesses close when the sun sets on Friday and stay closed until sunset on Saturday, in observance of the Sabbath. Kosher butchers do not sell pork and Kosher delis do not make pork sandwiches. This sort of religious freedom is not peripheral to religious Americans of all professions. It is central to their idea of the American dream.

This is consistent with what the Newlands believe. The health benefits packages that Hercules Industries provides to its employees is very generous, but it does not include sterilization, artificial contraception or abortifacients. Individuals who work for the company are free, of course, to obtain these at their own expense or to secure insurance coverage outside the company health plan that covers those types of expenses.

The Newlands have brought suit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for regulations she has promulgated that require that any company employing more than 50 people must include those medical procedures and drugs in the health plan. The Hercules Industry lawsuit states:

The Catholic Church teaches that abortifacient drugs, contraception and sterilization are intrinsic evils. Consequently, the Newlands believe that it would be immoral and sinful for them to intentionally participate in, pay for, facilitate or otherwise support abortifacient drugs, contraception, sterilization, and related education and counseling as would be required by the Mandate, through their inclusion in health insurance coverage they offer at Hercules.

The Obama administration has resisted the Hercules lawsuit by claiming that the company is secular, and therefore entitled to no First Amendment protection, with the Department of Justice telling the court:

The First Amendment Complaint does not allege that the company is affiliated with a formally religious entity such as a church, nor does it allege that the company employs persons of a particular faith. In short, Hercules Industries is plainly a for-profit, secular employer. By definition, a secular employer does not engage in any “exercise of religion.” It is well established that a corporation and its owners are wholly separate entities, and the Court should not permit the Newlands to eliminate that legal separation to impose their personal religious beliefs on the corporate entity or its employees.

via Colorado Company Fights to Maintain Catholic Values.

UPDATE:  The court issued an injunction against the government penalizing the company.  Click here for details.

The insurance mandate goes into effect August 1

The Obamacare mandate that requires pro-life institutions and business owners to provide insurance for their employees that gives free contraceptives and abortion drugs goes into effect this Wednesday, August 1.  Perhaps you didn’t realize this was so imminent.

On Friday, a court is scheduled to issue a ruling on the case, which might overturn the mandate or might affirm it.

 

August 1: The Day the U.S. Definition of Religious Freedom Changes – By Kathryn Jean Lopez – The Corner – National Review Online.

The penalty if religious institutions won’t comply

So what will happen if religious and other pro-life institutions refuse to go along with the Obamacare contraceptive and abortifacient mandate?

Under President Obama’s healthcare law, the HHS can levy $100 per employee, per day against institutions that won’t comply with the mandate.

Therefore, religious employers with hundreds of employees could be fined millions of dollars each year. A 50-employee institution, for example, would face a penalty of $1,825,000 each year.

“ObamaCare gives the federal government the tools to tax religiously affiliated schools, hospitals, universities and soup kitchens right out of existence,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), sponsor of the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act.

Using the language that the Supreme Court recently decided covered the penalties in ObamaCare, Sensenbrenner cites a February report by the Congressional Research Service that adds up the noncompliance tax to $36,500 annually per employee. Any group health plan and health insurance issuer subject to insurance market reforms in Title I of the Affordable Care Act that objects to coverage requirements based on religious and moral convictions does not qualify for an exemption.

via PJ Media » ‘ObamaCare Catch-22′: Crushing Fines for Religious Entities in Mandate.

Matthew Harrison’s open letter

Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, has issued an open letter from religious leaders to Americans, stating why they object to the Obamacare insurance mandate requiring coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients.  It’s getting some notable attention.

FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION:
Putting Beliefs into Practice
An Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans

Dear Friends,

Religious institutions are established because of religious beliefs and convictions. Such institutions include not only churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, but also schools and colleges, shelters and community kitchens, adoption agencies and hospitals, organizations that provide care and services during natural disasters, and countless other organizations that exist to put specific religious beliefs into practice. Many such organizations have provided services and care to both members and non-members of their religious communities since before the Revolutionary War, saving and improving the lives of countless American citizens.

As religious leaders from a variety of perspectives and communities, we are compelled to make known our protest against the incursion of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious liberty. HHS has mandated that religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs. We who oppose the application of this mandate to religious institutions include not only the leaders of religious groups morally opposed to contraception, but also leaders of other religious groups that do not share that particular moral conviction.

That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact. Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand. Because of differing understandings of moral and religious author- ity, people of good will can and often do come to different conclusions about moral questions. Yet, even we who hold differing convictions on specific moral issues are united in the conviction that no religious institution should be penalized for refusing to go against its beliefs. The issue is the First Amendment, not specific moral teachings or specific products or services.

The HHS mandate implicitly acknowledged that an incursion into religion is involved in the mandate. However, the narrowness of the proposed exemption is revealing for it applies only to religious organizations that serve or support their own members. In so doing, the government is establishing favored and disfavored religious organizations: a privatized religious organization that serves only itself is exempted from regulation, while one that believes it should also serve the public beyond its membership is denied a religious exemption. The so-called accommodation and the subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (AN- PRM) do little or nothing to alleviate the problem.

No government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice. We indeed hold this to be an unalienable, constitutional right. If freedom of religion is a constitutional value to be protected, then institutions developed by religious groups to implement their core beliefs in education, in care for the sick or suffering, and in other tasks must also be protected. Only by doing so can the free exercise of religion have any meaning. The HHS mandate prevents this free exercise. For the well-being of our country, we oppose the application of the contraceptive mandate to religious institutions and plead for its retraction.

Sincerely yours,

Leith Anderson, President National Association of Evangelicals
Gary M. Benedict, President The Christian and Missionary Alliance U.S.
Bishop John F. Bradosky, North American Lutheran Church
The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church Bishop, Fellowship of International Churches
The Very Rev. Dr. John A. Jillions, Chancellor Orthodox Church in America
Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, l.s.p., Provincial Superior, Baltimore Province Little Sisters of the Poor
The Rev. John A. Moldstad, President Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann, President Concordia Deaconess Conference The Lutheran Church MS
The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York President United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., Superior General of the Sisters of Life
Sister Barbara Anne Gooding, R.S.M. Director, Department of Religion Saint Francis Health System
Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, l.s.p. Provincial Superior, Brooklyn Province Little Sisters of the Poor
The Most Blessed Jonah, Archbishop  Orthodox Church in America
Imam Faizul R. Khan, Founder and Leader Islamic Society of Washington Area
The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of Interchurch Relations Orthodox Church in America
The Most Rev. William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore Chairman USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty
Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p., Provincial Superior, Chicago Province Little Sisters of the Poor
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President NHCLC Hispanic Evangelical Association
Sister Joseph Marie Ruessmann, R.S.M., J.D., J.C.D., M.B.A. Generalate Secretary Religious Sisters of Mercy
The Rev. Mark Schroeder, President Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
L. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America
Sister Constance Carolyn Veit, l.s.p., Communications Director Little Sisters of the Poor
Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent The General Council of the Assemblies of God

Commentary on Harrison’s “Open Letter”

Julia Polese of the Institute for Religion and Democracy on LCMS President Matthew Harrison’s open letter on the Obamacare insurance mandate. (I draw your attention to what pro-infanticide ethicist Peter Singer has to say on the topic.)

The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) recently released a statement on religious freedom expressing solidarity with the Roman Catholic Church in their fight against the HHS mandate requiring religious institutions to provide contraception to employees. In a video statement on the Synod’s website, President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison emphasizes the first amendment guarantee that religious people not only have freedom of assembly, but mentions that “Congress cannot make laws that prevent the free exercise of religion in this country,” which not only means freedom to assemble but freedom to “practice our religion in the public sphere in institutions that we have and run as Christians or other religious people.” The statement was signed by an ecumenical group of clergy and lay people, from Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan to Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and Imam Faizul R. Khan, the founder and leader of the Islamic Society of Washington Area.

The statement comes at the beginning of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom” events. Centered around local dioceses, the events intend to rally Catholic laypeople to the cause of religious liberty with special prayers and marches. The left has shown typical paranoia about these events, questioning their funding (because, as we all know, you scratch a Catholic and find a Koch brother) and motives (Sammie Moshenberg: “It’s a marketing ploy.”). The LCMS’s statement, however, shows that the HHS mandate is not only a Catholic problem, but one for all religious people in the United States.

Rev. Dr. Harrison identifies the crucial difference in the invocation of the First Amendment in this debate. For many supporters of the HHS mandate, freedom to assemble is reinterpreted to mean freedom from public engagement from a religious worldview. Professor Peter Singer, the notorious utilitarian who has argued for infanticide in the past, articulates this angle in his latest piece. He asserts “the Obama administration’s requirement to provide health insurance that covers contraception does not prevent Catholics from practicing their religion. Catholicism does not oblige its adherents to run hospitals and universities.”

This limitation is not true freedom of expression, but instead an implicit command for bifurcation of the religious person’s life. Freedom of conscience is great until it butts heads with the conscience shaped by thinkers like Rousseau and Bacon. At its root, it is moving any religious mindset to a private sphere. Leave your beliefs in church where they belong. In a blog on the Washington Post website this morning, Bishop Lori articulated what is wrong with this conception of religious liberty. He wrote: “As we often say, we serve people because we are Catholic, not because they are. It is why so many Catholic schools enroll so many non-Catholics; Catholic hospitals don’t ask for baptismal certificates upon admission; and Catholic soup kitchens don’t quiz the hungry on the Catechism.” As a Reformed Southern Baptist whose alma mater stands both on the Potomac and the opposite side of the Tiber, I am thankful for this impulse to service and I must say that my education was best when unapologetically Catholic. A shared worldview can form partnerships in the public square between the sons of Martin Luther and those loyal to the Pope.

The HHS mandate is only a symptom of a grander impulse to demand religious people to abandon their views that do not overlap with modern liberalism in the public square. It is not just about contraception, but a clash of worldviews. For this reason, the ecumenical statement from the LCMS in support of the Catholic Church is encouraging in its explicit recognition of this problem and the Mainline Left’s response (or lack thereof) reveals where its true intellectual heritage lies.

via Lutherans and Catholics Together « Juicy Ecumenism.

President Harrison makes a very useful distinction:  Religious liberty is not just  “freedom of assembly,” as in “the right to worship” behind four walls, which is how some officials are construing it.  The Constitution specifically protects the “free exercise” of religion, which takes it out of just the place of worship into the public arena.

Maccabees and the insurance mandate

Good stuff from the Book of Maccabees, as applied by John Garvey, president of Catholic University on why he is suing the federal government over the Obamacare contraceptive/abortifacient mandate:

A wonderful story in the second book of Maccabees describes the martyrdom of the old scribe Eleazar. It occurred during the Hellenizing campaign of Antiochus Epiphanes. He forced the Jews “to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God.” Eleazar was ordered on pain of death to eat pork. He refused.

The men in charge of the sacrifice, who had known him for a long time, took him aside and offered to spare him if he would just eat something that looked like pork. “Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life,” he said, “lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his 90th year has gone over to an alien religion[.]” And so they killed him.

This is a story about religious freedom, and it has two points. The first is that we should put our duty to obey God’s laws above our obligation to the state. (And it is cruel on the state’s part to force people to commit sinful acts.) The second is that, quite apart from our own failure in forsaking God’s laws, we do an additional wrong in leading the young to believe that this is acceptable.

I have found myself thinking a lot about Eleazar in the past few months, as we have looked for a way to escape the dilemma the Department of Health and Human Services has posed for The Catholic University of America with its mandated-services regulation. The regulation orders the university, in its student and employee health-insurance plans, to cover surgical sterilization, prescription contraceptives, and drugs that cause early-stage abortions at no added cost to the subscribers. If we fail to do this, we will have to pay a fine of $2,000 per full-time employee, or roughly $2.6-million per year.

The Catholic Church believes that married couples should be open to the possibility of new life, and that artificial interventions to prevent or terminate pregnancy are wrong. News coverage of the dispute has observed that many members of the church dissent from this teaching. Many of the Hellenized Jews in Judea went along with Antiochus’s decrees, too. That division of opinion did not make the treatment of Eleazar any more liberal.

Like Eleazar, our university has been ordered by the government to do something it views as morally wrong. America, unlike the Seleucid Empire, has traditionally taken a tolerant view toward folks in that predicament. When West Virginia ordered the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses to salute the flag (an act they viewed as sinful), the Supreme Court said, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official … can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Like Eleazar, we are not concerned only about the uprightness of our own behavior. We are worried that we will do an additional wrong by leading our students to believe that the actions the Department of Health and Human Services seeks to promote are acceptable. Our mission, as a Catholic university, is to see that our students grow in wisdom, age, and grace during their time here. We teach that virtues like chastity, fidelity, and respect for life are not just ideas worth debating in philosophy class, but also ideals worth living. Compliance with the government’s mandated-services regulation would make that a lesson in hypocrisy.

via A Matter of Faith and Freedom – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

By the way, though most Protestants don’t consider the Apocrypha, those histories of the Jews between the Testaments written in Greek, to be canonical (Catholics do), all of the old theologians say they are profitable to read.  Luther included them with his translation and the Confessions sometimes quote them.  So you might be interested in The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition With Notes, a new offering from Concordia Publishing House.

 


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