Scaring people away from religious freedom

I guess it was only a month or so ago that I had the weird experience of watching a nightly newscast and screaming. What sent me over the edge was an ABC News piece that was so riddled with errors and bias it enraged me.

There was also the concurrent issue of Andrea Mitchell being so in bed with Planned Parenthood that after she unprofessionally monologued and berated a woman she was ostensibly interviewing, Sen. Barbara Boxer actually thanked her for her work on Planned Parenthood’s behalf. I criticized Mitchell’s poor journalism but I wasn’t sure how serious to take it since some of it appeared on MSNBC.

But this piece embedded here is more of the same from the Church of Planned Parenthood. From Andrea Mitchell and NBC Nightly News. Brian Williams introduces the segment on what he calls “a push to limit women’s access to contraceptives and abortion.”

Now, let’s be clear about something. The reason why this topic is news is not because Catholic bishops or anyone else out there “pushed” to “limit” anything. The reason why we’re dealing with this political battle is because an entirely different group of people “pushed” to “limit” something. What they pushed was a mandate by the Health and Human Services administration to limit religious freedom. The status quo right now is that people are not forced to fund abortion drugs, sterilization or contraception. But they will be, because of actions taken by the current administration.

That is not how the media has framed this battle. But that’s who instigated this action. It is a deliberate misrepresentation to state otherwise.

At the very least, one has to note that there are two ways of looking at this issue, two arguments being made in the public square. If the goal is journalism, both of these arguments must be covered and covered accurately.

Meanwhile, the embedded piece is an absolute train wreck. There are audio and visual flashes on “the war on women’s health” and some of the most disingenuous clipping, editing and eliding I’ve seen. State legislature proposals are characterized in the most bizarre and partisan ways possible and Rick Santorum’s views on birth control are more or less lied about, with Mitchell suggesting that Santorum’s fidelity to Catholic doctrine means he’s on the march to force everyone else to become practicing Catholics, too. (This is willful misrepresentation of his stated views.) It’s a hit piece.

There’s a lovely sit-down with Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards where she says that the bad people are motivated by a desire to “shame” women.

Oh, and to counter the brutal attacks on Santorum, Mitchell pumps up her own interview with Eva Longoria (don’t worry, in that interview, she used the most gentle Planned Parenthood-approved kid gloves out there, guys) who also opposes Santorum.

So, yeah, great work there Mitchell. I’m sure Richards and Boxer and Longoria are all high-fiving you in the green room or whatever, but cheerleading for abortion rights is not what your job is supposed to be. At all, really.

What are some other ways that the media are having trouble covering religious freedom?

Well, later today there will be rallies for religious freedom in some 150 cities across the country. This has received almost no mainstream media coverage. I’ll be heading out to the DC one later today with a friend who is a fellow libertarian and a graduate from UC-Berkeley. I found out about this gathering from a woman who is an attorney who specializes in religious liberty. I said I had heard nothing of it. Whenever I mention it to other people, they say they have heard nothing of it. I just find it interesting at how little coverage these rallies have received. Obviously some of that blame might be placed on whoever is doing the public relations for the rally. The atheist rally the next day has done a great job of making it easier for the media to cover it, with press conferences and availabilities for famous participants and the like. The one mention I saw for the local religious freedom rally in the Washington Post was a brief blog item on the Under God blog of the On Faith section there:

The Stand Up For Religious Freedom event will be held Friday in dozens of locations across the country — noon local time for all. It was prompted by the White House’s announcement earlier this year that many faith-based organizations would not be exempt from the new health care law and its mandatory coverage of contraception and other reproductive services. The rally is being organized by pro-life organizations and appears to be mostly Catholics, whose bishops have been the most vocal and visible critics of the mandate.

This is the first protest since the term “religious freedom” has come to be shorthand for problems some religious conservatives have with the Obama-backed health care law.

I’m sure you’re like me and when you hear that this is a rally for the religious right, you imagine Catholic bishops, too. Just like the Post does. And note the euphemism for abortion drugs and sterilization, if you want.

But that second paragraph is just one for the ages, no? I joked a couple of days ago that I think that the one thing you learn in journalism school — which I never attended — must be the proper use of scare quotes. And I have to just sit back and admire how religious freedom was put in scare quotes and then further diminished as “shorthand for problems some religious conservatives have.”

It’s true. Religious freedom is a kind of shorthand for religious liberty concerns. Oy.

The scare quoting of religious liberty and religious freedom is not limited to the Post, although I see they did it last week, too.

Catholic bishops: Birth control debate about ‘religious freedom,’ not access to contraceptives

It almost seems like since no one in the debate is trying to limit “access to contraceptives” (see what I wrote above) that maybe that’s the phrase that should be put in scare quotes if you’re going to pick one, you know?

Here’s Religion News Service upping the scare quote ante in their recent report on Bishop Lori:

Bishops’ point man on ‘religious liberty’ gets a promotion

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (RNS) If there is any Catholic bishop in the U.S. who probably didn’t need a bigger platform, it would be William E. Lori, who was named Tuesday (March 20) by Pope Benedict XVI as the next archbishop of Baltimore.

For the past decade, Lori has led the Diocese of Bridgeport in Connecticut’s Fairfield County, but in recent months he’s become the public face of the hierarchy’s new signature issue: the fight for “religious freedom.”

Or maybe since the media are so openly derisive of religious liberty in general, that lede could be reversed and be more accurate.

In a way it’s helpful to know that in the battle for religious freedom, er, “religious” “freedom” (did I do that right?), the media announce up front that they don’t think it’s legitimate. It explains why the issue has been covered so terribly, if at all, and in such a partisan manner.

That religious freedom is ignored in nightly news reports that use the phrases “war on women” and “limit access to contraception” as if they’re reporting facts or that the concept is put in quotes even when dealing with, say, the Catholic Church’s point man on the issue is telling. And not in a good way.

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  • Martha

    “(T)he term “religious freedom” has come to be shorthand for problems some religious conservatives have with the Obama-backed health care law.”

    But they never told me do those conservatives twirl their moustaches while they say it, in between evicting widows from their hovels and forcing orphans up chimneys!

  • sari

    I’d like to see coverage on how belief tracks for women in different age groups and how familiar younger women are with the history of the women’s movement and the history of contraceptive use in the U.S. This may not sound like a religion thing, but it is, since youth often maintain very different levels of observance than their parents -and- tend to be unaware of the immediate history lived by their parents and grandparents.

    The other question that comes to mind is how much latitude should be given to the religious: institutions and individuals. What came to mind was not contraception, but blood. If the owner of a business is a Jehovah’s witness, can s/he stipulate that blood products be excluded from her or his insurance policy? Can an Orthodox Jew insist that his or her employees be denied any medication containing gelatin or other treif materials? Why should one group be given latitude and the others not?

    If the Catholic Church achieves its goal, who will monitor its doctors and hospitals to ensure that other women don’t endure what I and others have–the blanket ban on certain procedures and medications, even when they are medically necessary, despite the Church’s stated position that they be made available for non-contraceptive purposes. Should Catholic hospitals continue to receive federal funding if they refuse to provide the full range of services to their clients?

    Most of the coverage focuses on the intractable stances of all parties. One group is for and the other against. Surely it’s possible to achieve more nuanced coverage of both sides.

  • Melody

    Many people assume that federal money is involved and that is why this is coming up. Would it make a difference to you if that was not the case? Because very often it is not the case but that does not matter to this administration. Everyone is ordered to do what they say regardless of their religious belief and regardless that they stand separate from the government in every way.

  • Martha

    To make a serious point, you noted that there would be demonstrations in 150 cities. The “On Faith” blog converted that into “dozens of locations”, which is not untrue – there are 12 dozens in 150 – but certainly makes it sound like “around thirty or maybe forty at most” as opposed to “over one hundred”.

    Whether this was deliberate or just an unconscious rephrasing would be fascinating to find out.

  • Jeff

    “At the very least, one has to note that there are two ways of looking at this issue, two arguments being made in the public square. If the goal is journalism, both of these arguments must be covered and covered accurately.”

    One has to note that there are two (or more) ways of looking at things IF the goal is journalism.

    But journalism is NOT the MSM’s goal — at least where sex and religion are concerned.

    The goal, instead, is culture war — or maybe kulturmapf is connotatively the more appropriate term.

    Bill Keller has made this fact explicit in some of his meta-commentary on how sex and religion are viewed and covered at The New York Times.

    But it is just as implicit in everything Andrea Mitchell and NBC are doing on behalf of that Magisterium in rivalry with The Catholic Church and all of orthodox Christianity (and Judaism and Islam): The Church of Planned Parenthood, The Church of Abortion, and — coming soon to an Obama mandate near you — The Church of Homosexuality.

  • Jeff

    Make that “kulturkampf.”

    The perils of typing German words very fast …

    ; )

  • Bill


    I think the proper Mitchell Stylebook form is so-called “religious freedom”.

  • Jerry

    Two points:

    If Catholics or anyone is allowed to claim a religious exemption for certain coverage like health care, then Muslims are allowed to claim the same kind of exemption based on Sharia law. Or certain companies might only be willing to pay for faith healers. So be careful what you ask for, you might not like the consequences.

    The second point is that this issue needs a larger frame of reference then you’ve given it. Because it’s not just this issue, but one of the laws that are being passed including laws that lead to women being jailed for having a miscarriage such as is happening in Mexico. And it involves insurance companies paying for men’s contraception, vasectomies, not to mention viagra, but refusing to pay for women’s contraception so there’s an equal treatment issue as well.

  • Jeff

    “Some us have never and will never belong to a Church or any institution that requires us to march in intellectual lockstep. The quote above suggests something very close to the same accusations leveled at the MSM: one problem, one side, one solution—mine.”

    I don’t know whether you’re trying to make me a straw-man, Sari, or just a projection of your own psychology — but please don’t make me either one.

    I believe that journalism should BE journalism — i.e. that it should present all sides of public debates in an accurate and even-handed way.

    And I believe that the First Amendment right of freedom of religious conscience STILL stands — at least until such time as the Constitution is amended to repeal that right, which it seems that many on the cultural left would like to see.

    If believing that more than one point of view has a right to fair representation in the public square and if believing that people have a right not to be forced by the state to violate their consciences on fundamental questions of morality means “marching in lockstep” with others who hold to the same classical principles of liberty and civil rights, then that’s something I’m happy to do, however much it might be displeasing to people like you.

    All the best.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    It is times and issues like the above that puts in a glaring spotlight the warping and rending of accurate coverage of news by the fact so very few media people are practicing members of any religion (according to many surveys done of MSM personnel over the years).
    It is as if the tone deaf were the the only ones to be hired by the MSM to be their music critics or the color blind to be their art critics.

  • AuthenticBioethics

    @Jerry, the position of the Church regarding not being forced to pay for elective, lifestyle choices that are contrary its doctrines includes the male side of these products and procedures. Thanks for bringing it up. A lot of people misunderstand this dimension of it and it is not very well covered in the media, who do after all tend to make this a Men Vs Women issue and of course the Catholic hierarchy is all male. (Viagra might actually help people live a full married life, so it actually conforms pretty well to Catholic teachings, although it is subject to abuse.)

    @Sari, I don’t understand. A Catholic should be forced to go against his religion in order to provide services that are not against someone else’s religion? So, Catholic healthcare providers should be forced to euthanize and assist in suicides where that is permitted? Marry same sex-couples of other or no religions? Ordain women? If that is the principle at work, in you being denied what your religion considers permissible, then where does it end? And in any case, is the media being fair in all this? That is the essential question, regardless of one’s views. It seems to me that the media tend to have a particular agenda and it is not objectivity and fairness.

  • Bill

    The first settlers, the Pilgrims, came here to be able to practice their religion freely. It meant more than going to a church on Sunday. It meant being able to live their lives according to the demands of faith and conscience. It took a while to figure out that this meant Catholics, Jews and, yes, even Muslims. If we reduce religious liberty to mere freedom of worship, we’re left with hair and hide, but not flesh and bones.

    The media rejoices at the thought of government expanding its power over the Church. Will they be so pleased when the state decrees that freedom of the press means the freedom to print what the government wants printed?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    sari–Noone today can afford to run a hospital without some federal funding that gives a HUGE amount of very dangerous bureaucratic and dictatorial power to the state.
    Yet the media refuses, for the most part, to look at that problem and come up with some solutions that respect the consciences of health care providers (and other religious entities under the government “gun.”)
    Instead, the media goes in whatever direction the White House wants it to go and comes up with a bogus, fraudulent, non-existent “War on Women.”

  • sari

    Authentic Bio–At issue here is media coverage and, because it’s related to coverage, spin–not what I do or don’t believe. Both sides are trying to spin the issue a certain way; there’s nothing to suggest that either sees any room for compromise or evidences a willingness to acknowledge the other’s position. All or nothing, black and white.

    But since you asked, I think you compare fruits and veggies, when you lump contraception and women’s health care, same-sex unions, and euthanasia/suicide (though this last is probably closest). The problem here is that many Catholic hospitals routinely deny life-saving procedures to women on the grounds of religious law. It happened to me, for a procedure that the Bishops have repeatedly said would be performed under certain circumstances (which I met). That was almost twenty years ago, yet we hear the same stories today, that women are refused hormonal treatments or therapeutic abortions by Catholic institutions, and are, in the process, subjected to harm.

    Same-sex marriage may jeopardize the soul, but it doesn’t jeopardize life (and, if the partners are totally monogamous, may prolong life). Likewise, the definition of euthanasia is pretty broad. Did my husband and I euthanize our child when it was determined that he was brain-dead but extreme medical support could keep the rest of him functioning? Some would say yes. Others would say no. The hospital which provided care supported our decision and has, on several occasions, taken parents to court in order to terminate life-support for patients in similar circumstances. The hospital is, btw, a Seton-hospital, where one still occasionally sees the Sisters in the halls (though the CEO is now a man, not a nun).

    Bill, you said:

    The media rejoices at the thought of government expanding its power over the Church.

    Some of us would prefer that no religious institution expand its power over us. Things did not work out so well for us in Europe and we’d prefer not to repeat the experience here. As with all things, there must be some limits imposed for the common good.

    Deacon John: The War on Women meme has been around for a long, long time and predates this discussion.

  • Rockerbabe

    Since the writer is so concerned about “religious freedom” then she shouldn’t do what her religion wants her to not do; but she doesn’t get to tell me or my insurance policy what to do.

    Discrimination against women maybe a religious freedom issue in religious circles, but it is a very serious issue when it comes to the constitution and the laws of this country. To allow discrimination against women because of “religion” is to relegate women to second class status, even women who are not of the religion doing the discrimination. That is not right, not ethicial, not moral, not legal, not constitutional and I’m most certain, not all that godly.

    I, however object to the following: I think these things are immoral and I shouldn’t be asked to pay for them.
    -I shouldn’t have to pay for smoking cessation and tx for lung cancer because someone smoked – but we all know I do pay.
    -I shouldn’t have to pay for hospitalization for diabetics who refuse to follow their doctor’s advice on treating their diabetes, but we all know I do pay.
    - I shouldn’t have to pay for the damage a drunk driver does to himself and others because he chose to drink and drive, but we all know I do pay.
    -Contraction is a preventative treatment for unwanted fertility and it is no one’s business how I or anyone else handles their reproductive capability or lack thereof. If I can pay for all of this other self-inflicted crap, them the insurance pool I belong to can help with preventative care that prevents pregnancy and abortion.

    Maybe the writer needs to investigate and learn something about how large insurance pools work. That is, instead of confusing denying women their due with the notion of “religious freedom”.

  • tmatt


    Most of you are arguing with EACH OTHER over issues, rather than press-coverage issues in the post.

    There are TWO SIDES TO COVER.

    Think about it.

    Two sides in the debate that SHOULD be covered accurately.

  • sari

    tmatt, the coverage here is just as biased and inaccurate as the MSM coverage.

  • Jeff


    We are arguing with each other over whether or not there really are “TWO SIDES TO COVER.”

    Some of us (myself included) think ALL SIDES should be covered by the media in EVERY debate, whereas others think ONLY THEIR OWN SIDE (i.e. the MSM side, the side of the cultural left, The Church of Planned Parenthood, et al) should EVER be covered in ANY debate pertainingn to religion and sex.

    We’re NOT ignoring the press questions, rather we’re arguing the FIRST PRINCIPLES on which the answers to those press questions MUST be based.

    The cultural left that dominates the MSM apparently feels that liberal pluralism does not apply to matters of religion and sex.

    Everyone else disagrees, and has a right to disagree, and a right to object to press coverage that ISN’T journalistic in the classical sense, in that it rejects an open public discourse and civil sphere in which ALL SIDES in EVERY debate have a RIGHT — a MORAL right — to have their views reported in an accurate and even-handed way.

  • Mollie


    What “coverage here”? I’ve literally done zero coverage. This is not a media coverage site. It’s a media *criticism* site. It’s not designed to cover the news but, rather, to criticize where that news coverage has faltered.

  • Jeff


    The only bias here is a bias toward journalistic standards, toward professional ethics, toward honesty, civility, and decency, toward freedom of speech, and toward religious liberty.

    Neither you or any one else here should let the you-know-whats grind you down.

    Keep up the good work and keep your chin up, too.

  • AuthenticBioethics

    Geesh. Does anyone think the media are doing a good job on this topic? They are being fair and honest and objective? They are doing their homework? And so on?

    Sari, do you? REALLY? Look, I don’t go to some conservative “news” outlets precisely because of the spin. And frankly as a Catholic I’m really reluctant to be pigeonholed into a U.S. political framework. On the other hand, I find that the political left drifts further and further from my ability to support them, and I resent it. Because when I was a kid, being a liberal meant something far different than it does today, and now I find myself gravitating to the other side of the political aisle, but not without my eyes open.

    But I do not like being lied to and being ridiculed for not following along. That is, to be castigated for waging a war on women, for making women be barefoot and pregnant (the senator from my state said that of my position), for opposing health care for women, and all kinds of things.

    If the media are not reliable for objectivity and, let’s say the word, TRUTH, then they deserve to criticized.

    So, are they being reliably objective and truthful? That’s is the question.

  • R9

    “There are TWO SIDES TO COVER.”

    Yep. And I have no doubt the press could do better. It’s kind of wearying tho trying to take what they say Press says, what Mollie says (RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RELIGOUS FREEDOM111!!one) and try and figure out where between them the truth is.

  • sari

    Authentic Bio,

    I think the MSM press does a lousy job covering just about everything, though it’s less clear to me than it is to you that it’s due to liberal leanings. Mainly, very few reporters are erudite enough to write about anything intelligently. That’s as true for politics and science as it is for religion or anything else. Ask the math and science folks here what they think of coverage in their disciplines.

    My local paper pulls most of its national and international news off the wire and edits the articles down for space. What’s left is often a truncated, disjointed version of the original which has lost much of the original meaning. The paper puts most of its resources into local investigative reporting: multi-faceted, nuanced, and quite good. The Op-Ed page runs daily conservative and liberal pieces by national columnists side by side. So, coverage of the abysmal conditions at the local State Hospital for the mentally impaired is reliable and in-depth. What’s going on in Washington or overseas, not so much. Their last religion reporter wrote beautifully but knew almost nothing about religion. A+ for prose; D- for content.

    Coverage at the national level tends to sidestep the bigger questions and to avoid looking at the ramifications of any given policy. And that’s just as true in conservative papers, secular and religious, as it is in liberal papers.

    Balanced journalism on the net? Bangs head on desk

    As an observant Jew, I feel pretty much the way you do about being pigeonholed. No candidate represents me at the moment and no paper writes to the level I’d like to see.

  • Martha

    Can I just get a few facts straight here?

    So the HHS mandate was introducing something that had never been compulsory in any insurance policy before – neither for non-religious organisations and employers or religious ones, correct or not?

    Before, it was totally up to the individual insurance plan whether or not contraception, sterilisation and emergency contraception was covered?

    And then the mandate said every policy has to cover this and that includes religious organisations, and their definition of “religious employer” basically boiled down to “if you’re the priest, organist or chapel woman in a church”?

    So please tell me how come it’s only now that this is a “war on women” and “attempt to ban contraception” once churches ask for their legal and constitutional rights? Where were all these senators and women’s groups and advisers when secular employers were not covering these items?

  • Jeff

    “So please tell me how come it’s only now that this is a ‘war on women’ and ‘attempt to ban contraception’ once churches ask for their legal and constitutional rights?”

    It’s a “war on women” and an “attempt to ban contraception” because a bunch of cynical, amoral bullies who have wrapped themselves up tight in the flag of the cultural left — even more of a refuge for scoundrels than patriotism or old-time religion — are daring anybody to say otherwise, on “threat” of calling them “social conservatives” or “Christianists” or “The Religious Right” if they do.

    Most people are either too ignorant to disagree or too cowed by the “threat” to admit that they do.

    But that’s starting to change, in part thanks to the stalwart work of Mollie and others here.

    You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time — as someone said.

    And there are still a few journalists doing their jobs …

  • patrick samson

    I’m a Catholic and after President Obama corrected the issue with Catholic institutions and birth control coverage, the real issue for those still blasting him is one of politics not religious freedom. They are the very conservative bishops and lay people who didn’t criticize President Bush when he could have outlawed abortion in 2004 with large majorities but didn’t because what he called political reasons nor did they criticize his anti-life and unjust war in Iraq or his elimination of regulations that protected the middle class from financial predators and on and on. They think of themselves as the true Cathiolics yet they pick and choose what teachings they like!

  • Jeff

    patrick samson,

    Don’t you *dare* tell people what their “real issue” is in opposing the HHS mandate.

    You don’t have *any* idea, so you shouldn’t claim you do.

    I am not a Roman Catholic nor a Republican nor a political “conservative.”

    I *am* however someone who believes in the First Amendment and in religious liberty and who doesn’t like to see anybody get bullied by petty-fascist creeps like the ones behind the HHS mandate.

    I am *also* somebody who thinks journalists should do their jobs — i.e. be journalists and not propagandists for the Democratic Party and/or Planned Parenthood.

    I’m sure other people have their own reasons for opposing the mandate and for being dissatisfied with MSM coverage thereof, besides the ones you cynically claim.

    PS: It’s also worth noting that neither Mollie nor tmatt is Roman Catholic or a political “conservative.” Mollie is a Lutheran and a libertarian and tmatt is Orthodox and a self-described “pro-life Democrat.”

  • Alejo

    I’m not sure what the hoopla is. All the Church is asking is to leave this issue as it was this past December and before. And to those who make silly comparisons with Jehovah’s Witnesses and their prohibition on blood transfusions: You can die from not getting a blood transfusion but you most probably won’t die from not having free contraceptives. In the case of abortion the Catholic position is quite reasonable. An attempt will be made to save BOTH lives. The courts have made it clear that they will err on the side of religious freedom unless there is a very compelling state interest that cannot be achieved in ANY other reasonable way. Thus if a hospital does not allow blood transfusions for religious reasons this would interfere with a compelling state interest: protecting the life of its citizens. The government would then have a reasonable objection to the religious freedom of said hospital. This is not the case here. Abortions, sterilizations, and contraceptives are quite available elsewhere. There is no compelling state reason to interfere in this case.

  • John Pack Lambert

    I am outraged that a journalist would try to claim “religious freedom” is a euphamism.

    I am not a Catholic and I was at the rally in Ann Arbor.

    The Post’s coverage is disengenous in another respect. Amish have totally and complete exemption from every provision in the law. I have yet on this specific issue only heard about issues with not giving exemptions for sterilizations, abortificants and contraceptions.

    This is not to say this is the only religious freedom issue we are up in arms about. I am with Mr. Romney in being outraged at what the Obama administration tried to do in the Hosana-Tabor case. True, the Supreme Court put a stop to that argument, but the fact that the Justice Department made the claims it did in that case against the ministerial exemption existing at all is extremely disturbing.

    To me there is one possible good about the position taken by the media. The clear and consistent anti-Catholic meme that has run through the coverage will make finding that the contraception mandate violates the principals set forth in Church of the Babalu Aye much easier. The actions of the Obama Administration and their enablers in the media have made it clear this is not about expanding contraceptive use but instead is about destroying religious actions of the Catholic Church due to a very strong animus against those actions.

  • John Pack Lambert

    What the Washington Post people forget is that the test of religious liberty is not allowing people to do in the name of religion things you like, but permitting them to do in the name of religion things that you dislike.

  • Emily


    Though I have not walked in your shoes, I do know what it is like to fight for the life of a child (my son) and to see him depart to heaven. I am for religious freedom, I am very sorry to hear about your beautiful son. My he rest in peace, and you and your husband find peace, faith and love to sustain you on this earth, until you see him again face to face, In Jesus sweet name, I pray.


  • Martha

    Are we going to see stories about the separation of church and state, and unwarranted religious interference in politics, and attempts to impose theocratic values on the wider society, with the prayer rally about the budget?

    Being a squishy European centrist (and as we all know, European nations are riddled with socialism), not to mention living in priest-ridden, church-dominated Ireland, I am well accustomed to, for instance, the Conference of Religious of Ireland issuing statements after our own budgets and making social justice recommendations, and I’d be (very) broadly sympathetic to many of the requests made by this group, but surely “The officials were scheduled to meet with staff from the offices of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid following the press conference, to which they planned to present their proposed budget” is unwarranted meddling by sectarian groups in the national government! Have any hard-nosed investigative reporters pointed out this attempt by church groups to influence the way taxpayers’ money and the public finances are disposed?

  • Dave

    Today the Cleveland Plain Dealer covered a rally for religious liberty downtown, focused on the HHS mandate, reporting over 1,000 attending.

  • Heather

    I haven’t seen serious coverage of the financial aspects of the HHS mandate, which look to be extremely large and far-reaching.
    Has anyone else?
    “Follow the money”….

  • Mollie


    I did read a story about how pharmaceutical companies were pushing the mandate and how much they stood to benefit from it but can’t remember where now. I think it was in Forbes.

    Here’s something about it in The Atlantic.

  • Julia

    Several aspects of this debate are being overlooked.

    Before the new law nobody was required by law to have health insurance or pay a penalty; and no employer was required by law to provide it for their employees or pay a penalty.

    Up to now, differing state laws required specific items to be included in all insurance policies offered in that state. The increasing state mandates are a main reason for the cost of health insurance to sky-rocket. Today it is more accurate that we now have health care plans, not health insurance. The Federal government is now going to control what must be in these health care plans instead of the individual states’ insurance commissions.
    That’s a big change.

    There are not many public hospitals; and those that do exist are in major metropolitan areas or are veterans’ hospitals. The vast majority of hospitals are private and mostly religious-connected. In my home town the Catholic hospital has been there for over a hundred years – long, long before health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid existed. Sometime in the mid 20th century, Protestant groups built a hospital that would provide the services that the Catholic hospital would not provide. Then the pressure on the Catholic hospital to do tubal ligations and abortions resulted in the Catholic hospital closing its maternity and gynecology services altogether. This is the same pattern that occurred in the town I now live in – a Catholic hospital 150+ years old that no longer has a maternity ward and the 1950′s-era Protestant Hospital Builders Ass’n hospital complex. Is the new law going to require the Catholic hospitals that no longer have maternity wards to re-open them and add abortion services?

  • dalea

    What the coverage lacks is context. Julia asks about re-opening Catholic hospital’s maternity wards. The press has consistently ignored a policiy put in place in the 70′s that requires hospitals to select specialities that each hospital will specialize in. This is to avoid duplication of facilities and so to save capital costs. Thus in a small city, only one hospital will have advanced cardiac or cancer or maternity wards. This has been Federal policy for 40 years, without much coverage.

    Also missing is any account of the origins of the policy recomendations. The National Institute of Science surveyed professionals in health care and from the responses put together a program of preventive medicine which included the birth control program. The administration simply adopted the NIH program wholesale.

    I would like to see more coverage of the scientific roots of the program. And to hear from medical professionals on both sides of the controversy. From what I have seen, reporting immediately took up the culture war and political battle view, totally ignoring the important medical issues at stake here.

  • http://!)! Passing By


    Rather than “scare quotes”, it’s entirely possible that the usage is more aptly called “sneer quotes”.

    There are not many public hospitals

    That was not always true and remains largely irrelevant, since the bulk of the population (even in rural areas, where a friend of mine lived with his sick mother for several years). Even in Texas, people can get healthcare, although not necessarily in their home town. But then, I know towns without many services, including a grocery store or drug store. People who live there drive 30 or more miles for food, pharmaceuticals and other basic home supplies.

    About the only thing you can get anywhere locally is the U.S. mail and marijuana.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    Pardon me: the bulk of the population is covered in the urban areas and by county services in at least some (most?) of the rural areas.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “I guess it was only a month or so ago that I had the weird experience of watching a nightly newscast and screaming. What sent me over the edge was an ABC News piece that was so riddled with errors and bias it enraged me.”

    Mollie, I’m glad that you’re still able to be enraged at liberal media bias. I thought you would be so used to it by now that you were numb to it.

  • other Chris

    I am sure most in the media ignore or ridicule the “religious freedom” aspect of this issue out of loyalty to the cause.

    Perhaps some really see it as a ridiculous non-argument. Maybe they are tacitly acknowledging that “religious freedom” has always been a matter of “believe whatever you like, but toe the line.” Religious freedom has largely been a cypher in practice. It is a relativists ideal, which neither reactionary revanchists nor totalitarian progressives have ever taken seriously.

    Paradoxically, it is so-called conservative, traditionalists who now use the pluralist’s liberty of conscience to defend themselves.

    Maybe, just maybe, some in the media think that since even the Church won’t speak up against contraception on objective, universal moral grounds they can’t be taken seriously. (In case you missed it, I find the notion of religious freedom as a universal moral imperative to be incoherent.)

    I am against contraception, but I sure don’t find appeals to religious liberty very compelling.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Here’s a link to the article that Dave mentioned in #33.