Obama Admin vs Religious Conscience UPDATES

One of the stupidest political remarks I ever heard came from Ben Affleck, who — campaigning for Hillary Clinton during her 2000 senate run — declared that a vote for her opponent, Rick Lazio, would amount to a vote (I am paraphrasing) “to bring back Irish Need Not Apply signs in the workplace.”

It does appear, though, that the Obama administration has decided that a Catholics Need Not Apply sign might be in order.

Today Michael Gerson spells out why that may be so:

Shortly before Obama spoke at Notre Dame, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts brought suit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), seeking to eliminate a grant to programs that aid victims of human trafficking. Because Catholic programs don’t refer for abortions, the ACLU alleged that public support amounts to the establishment of religion.

The Obama Justice Department defended the grant in court. But last month, HHS abruptly ended the funding. It did not matter that an independent review board had rated the bishops’ program more effective than those of its competitors — or that career HHS employees objected to the politicized handling of the grant. HHS announced it was giving preference to grantees that offer “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.” This was described by one official as “standard procedure.” So it is now standard procedure in the Obama administration to deny funding to some Catholic programs based solely on their pro-life beliefs.

Broadly applied, the HHS policy would amount to systemic anti-Catholic bias in government programs. And the provocation is one in a series. HHS has drawn conscience protections so narrowly that Catholic colleges, universities and hospitals — any Catholic institution that employs and serves non-Catholics — will be required to offer health coverage that includes contraception and drugs that cause abortion. In global health grants, new language is appearing that requires the integration of family planning and “reproductive health” services, effectively barring the participation of Catholic institutions. [. . .]

The main victims of this assault are not bishops but the poor and vulnerable. USCCB-sponsored human trafficking programs, for example, provide employment assistance, legal services, child care and medical screening. But because case managers won’t refer for abortions, HHS would rather see these programs shut down in favor of less effective alternatives. This form of anti-religious extremism counts casualties.

It’s not just HHS, by the way: recently Obama’s EEOC argued against hiring practices in the Lutheran Church, and their argument would impacted other churches, as well:

The justices then rejected the argument of Leondra Kruger, Obama’s lawyer for the EEOC, who argued that there’s no ministerial exception in the Constitution, only the same rights that secular organizations possess to choose their own affiliations.

At this, Scalia exploded. “That’s extraordinary! There, black on white in the text of the Constitution, are special protections for religion. And you say it makes no difference?”

Kagan agreed with Scalia’s rejection of the argument that the First Amendment doesn’t protect churches from government ordering who they should hire as pastor or priest.

Justice Samuel Alito (a Catholic) made a critical point, asking if a Catholic priest married and the church removed him from ministry for violating Catholic doctrine, could the EEOC order him reinstated.

When Kruger answered no, Alito replied that EEOC was making a judgment that certain teachings — such as the Catholic belief that priests must be celibate — are more important than the Lutheran doctrine that ministers cannot sue the church.

A while back at First Things,, noting the number of ways this administration seems determined to push religion out of the public arena, I wrote:

The government’s position is that their notion of “women’s health” must trump moral or religious concerns. It seems that one of the most fundamental freedoms provided for by our Constitution and the Bill of Rights ends at the beginning of a double-X chromosome. [. . .] Look, if the government desires to provide women with free contraception and sterilization, it is quite free to codify that dubious benefit under existing medical programs, without mandating participation by any entity at all. Likewise, any legislation concerning any “entitlement” can be written with built-in protections and exemptions for religious service-providers. That so many politicians choose not to include such stated protections—or to write them so narrowly that they are easily unraveled—says a great deal about their commitment to the Bill of Rights, and it portends poorly for our constitutional future.

Apparently 27 Senators are looking for more information. It’s nice to think that perhaps some legislators are at least aware of the fact that the faith communities — and not just Catholics — are being maneuvered out of the public square.

As I also wrote in that piece:

If our politicians are able to erode rights simply by writing policy, and if they can declare “outside the law” those who had previously worked under the protections of the constitution, then the nation is in grave danger of losing its heart, mind and soul.

We are watching the government initiate an erosion of religious freedom, by narrowing the scope of that freedom until the churches are excluded from the public arena, entirely. Freedom of Religion will soon enough become a right that is protected — but only as long as one keeps it to oneself.

UPDATE I: Archbishop Chaput: Catholics and the Next America

UPDATE II: Over at Return to Rome, Prof. Francis Beckwith has “Progressive Politics and Diminishing Religious Liberty”

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  • Greta

    Great job of putting this all together. The open attack on Catholics who support Catholic teaching is worse than at any time in my 77 years on this planet under Obama. It makes me wonder if there is not a lot more of the early Islamic training in Obama early years that took hold making him not to fond of the Catholic Church. I wonder how long the apologist catholics supporting Obama will cling to a vessel that is so much opposed to their religion.

    Guess we will hear it was W. Bush that caused all the problems or maybe even some will bring back Nixon to pile on to cover for Obama.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    Gerson does an excellent job of delineating why this administration has been the most anti Catholic (and probably the most anti religious in general) of my life time. I cannot understand how religious people support this administration. Set aside Conservative and Liberal. What has this administration done to support religious issues? We have at a minimum Gerson’s side of the ledger; what’s on the other side?

  • http://www.FiveFeetOfFury.com Kathy Shaidle

    Oh, and about those “No Irish… ” signs…


    [Very interesting, Kathy! When I was looking for artwork I saw what appeared to be old classified ads with the "No Irish" bits highlighted, but I have no idea if they are authentic -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I know, Greta, I know—when all else fails, blame Bush—or Reagan—or Nixon.

    The blame game has been overused.

    Thank you, Anchoress, for reporting on this subject. Myself, I fear the end game will be to make Catholics choose between their livlihood, and their faith. And, of course, the ones who will suffer most are the ones, such as the victims of human trafficking, who will no longer be helped by these charities.

  • Jon Altman

    So, you want the “freedom” to take government money, but not follow government policy. Maybe the Obama Administration made the rational political judgement that allying with the 98% of Roman Catholic women who ignore “church teaching” on birth control made more sense than kowtowing to the criminal conspiracy doing business as the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    [You want the "freedom" to take tax money from Catholics and then tell them to shut up about how it's spent. -admin]

  • william

    Um, if you want government money, which comes out of the pockets of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, then you need a better basis for a stance than “Oh, we BELIEVE it.” If you want to run something based solely on your beliefs, do it on your own without government intervention. I don’t feel like it’s right for me to have to pay for crap I don’t believe in.

    [Um, I wonder, if abortion and contraception were taxpayer funded, would you defend Catholics making that same argument or would you take another tack? Defense money comes out of the pockets of hawks and doves alike; corporate subsidies come from the pockets of capitalists and marxists alike; as you say, the money for THIS program comes from the pockets of Catholics and non-Catholics. Using your argument, why should CATHOLICS have to shut up while their tax monies are driven toward interests that WILL provide abortions or contraception (because they BELIEVE it's the right thing to do, btw) -- given the fact that the tax monies of CATHOLICS (and often CATHOLIC facilities) are used to assist in these programs, why should their concerns be excluded? Sorry. You can't have it both ways. You can't argue that "Catholics and non-Catholics pay into this," and therefore non-Catholics should not have to participate in a matter of Catholic conscience, while tacitly admitting that Catholics have to participate in a matter of pro-choice conscience. To ask your question of you, why should "I" have to pay for programs that assist with contraception and abortion? And you ignore the administration's intrusion into Church hiring practices. admin]

  • friscoeddie

    If you GOP Catholics feel persecuted I suggest you call on ACLU for help.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    You know what? It’s not just Obama. Over 90% of the Democrats are pro-abortion. And all you have to do is hear the names Andrew Cuomo and Gov Pat Quinn of Illinois to know which side is pushing through an anti religion agenda. I have said we are gravitating to a party that supports religion and one that doesn’t.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    friscoeddie, you are joking—yes?

  • Brian English

    “If you want to run something based solely on your beliefs, do it on your own without government intervention. I don’t feel like it’s right for me to have to pay for crap I don’t believe in.”

    When the Church is providing a public service, it has every right to receive public funds for providing those services.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Also, voters who don’t believe in abortion, or birth control, are forced by taxes to support government programs that provide these things. (As well as other government programs they might not agree with, such as foreign aid to countries hostile to America, whatever war we’re fighting at the moment, etc. But they still have to support these things by paying taxes, or going to jail. So people are forced to pay for things they don’t believe in all the time.)

  • friscoeddie

    @ Rhinestone.. yes I was joking …but on second thought they defended the KKK and neo nazi right to parade.. as we Catholics are nicer so why not try and make your case.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Cuz, let’s face it, friscoeddie—they’re too busy taking crosses out of military cemeteries and state seals, and going after nativity displays, and Christmas pageants, to bother about this; they’ve got their priorities, after all! /Sarc.

  • SKay

    I recently saw the President of Alliance Defense Fund on EWTN talking about their constant battle with the ACLU in court concerning religious freedom. He pointed out that – for a while – we Christians just stood on the sidelines and did not fight what this group was doing. Finally – we realized that we would have to stand up to them in court. Thankfully – the ADF has won 3 out of 4 of their court cases but this is a continuing battle we must win.
    Mr Sears and a ADF colleague have a book out -The ACLU vs America. I am adding this to my book list.


  • Brian English

    “yes I was joking …but on second thought they defended the KKK and neo nazi right to parade.. as we Catholics are nicer so why not try and make your case.”

    The ACLU doesn’t think so.

  • Rhinestone Suderman


    ACLU no likey Catholics, no likey Conservatives.

  • daisy

    I think the INNA signs were an urban legend. Why don’t we have one in the Smithsonia?

  • Greta

    Going to the ACLU for assistance protecting religious freedom would be like going to the Democratic Party terror group the KKK to stop lynching in the south.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Heh, you’re right about that, Greta. . .

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    Didn’t seem we had all this fuss about limiting religious freedom when conservative were forming and passing legislation that impinged on religious believers. I smell a fundraising effort, and the USCCB is being played like the violin section of an orchestra. Man, is every US bishop as naive as Bishop Finn?

  • http://www.rosaryvictory.blogspot.com Mary De Voe

    The abomination of abominations, abortion murders the human being, destroying his existence. This whole issue is about taking taxes to fund abortion, for prolifers-taxation without representation. The worry is over who is going to get tax dollars to continue their work for the common good or the annihilation of the people, and HOW they are going to take our tax dollars and tell us it is all legal, that being enslaved through taxation is freedom of religion. God employs priest, bishops, popes and ministers. Is the Person of God in the courtroom? Having banned the Person of God from the Public Square, will Justice be done?