Tom Harkin & the Redefinition of Religious Freedom

Tom Harkin & the Redefinition of Religious Freedom July 31, 2012

It hurts my heart a little to hear Barbara Mikulski introduce my fellow Catholic University graduate Senator Tom Harkin during an Affordable Care Act tribute this morning in the Senate. “Men of quality never are shy about supporting women who seek equality,” Maryland’s Mikulski said in introducing her colleague from Idaho Iowa.

But forcing Americans who oppose abortion and contraception use based on religious teaching to choose between conscience and the law is not about equality — a choice that some will begin to legally (albeit unconstitutionally) face tomorrow. Nor, frankly, is treating fertility as if it is a disease, which is what the HHS Mandate institutionalizes, presented as a “Preventatives Services” regulation.

“They want to take this away from women. Now while we’re here,” Harkin said, instructively to potential voters. We need new numerical realities in Washington to better protect religious liberty, as I wrote on National Review Online yesterday.

It’s impossible to forget that professing Catholics have played instrumental roles in the creation of this law that is fundamentally hostile to conscience rights and liberty. It’s important not to forget. Not to point fingers, but to challenge ourselves to better know what we believe and be who we say we are — and insist that we be free to!

My friends at the Catholic Association are trying to help with that education campaign from a political perspective this election cycle. From a memo they’ve just released on the significance of August 1, 2012, in the history of religious liberty in America:

Beginning on August 1, the religious freedom of employers who qualify for the one-year “safe harbor” is essentially on borrowed time. For the first time in American history, the government is sending the message to Americans that they are “loaning” out religious freedom with an expiration date of August 1, 2013.

The so-called accommodation does not exist. It is, at this time, nothing more than a suggestion/idea on the part of the Obama administration. There was a comment period on the idea, which concluded last month. The Administration has said it will consider those comments by AUGUST 1, 2013 (well past this year’s election). The so-called accommodation is nothing more that a promise at this point, coming from a president who has already violated his own promises on this issue. President Obama’s Executive Order 13535 reads, “longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience will remain intact” and he stated publicly that, “federal conscience laws would remain in place under health reform.”

Women like freedom too, as the Catholic Association’s Maureen Ferguson discussed with me here.

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