March 1, 2012
By Al Kresta
The fight continues in the House, courts and in November at the polls
By a vote of 51-48 today, Senate Democrats killed an amendment that would have allowed employers and insurers to find creative alternatives to purchasing types of insurance that violate their conscience and the teachings of their Church. As it stands the president’s health care law has set aside the conscience exemptions that have been in place for a generation.
This is sad but not unexpected. Since the president misled the American people on February 10, the press has not done the kind of follow-up investigations we should expect from a free press. The mainstream press has repeatedly adopted the framework of the Obama administration in its reporting.
1.The press maintains that this is, first of all, a women’s health issue.
2.It has not seriously asked why contraception is a health rather than a lifestyle matter. It has even used statistics that have now been shown to be highly misleading.
3.It largely ignores the ominous implications for religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Never before has the Federal government forced religious institutions to engage in behavior or to spend its money on policies that are considered “sinful” and scandalous. This coercion of conscience IS the distinct feature of this debate. We’ve never seen it before.
4.It gives a disproportionate amount of time to supporters of the President’s policies and a mere fraction of that time to the leaders of the Church institutions that are most violated by this law. This is a strange reversal of roles. The press normally likes to idealize itself as a prod for justice and, to that end, highlight the complaints of those who have been victimized by the powerful. In this case, the press has sided with the powerful against those individuals and institutions that are being coerced against their will.
That this vote was almost entirely along partisan lines is symptomatic of what is wrong in our public deliberations. Issues of conscience normally allow men and women to cross the aisle since matters of faith and conscience are thought to transcend political party. Apparently, not this time. Only three Democrats joined the Republicans on this.
You will hear people say that we just don’t exempt people from insurance programs for reasons of conscience because to do so would be chaotic. This is false. Right now the Archdiocese of New York is self insured, EWTN is self insured, and scores of other Catholic institutions are self insured to avoid this very problem. The mandate will force them to abandon this creative solution in exchange for a one-size fits all straightjacket approach.
You will hear people say that this is about birth control. Only secondarily. This is about the Federal government forcing religious institutions that are now exempt to make a choice between following the teaching of their Church or obeying the law. This is not a choice anyone needs to make in America.
Our work must continue. Contact your senators and tell them what you think and better yet, what you will do in response to their courage or their capitulation. Three Democrats, Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) voted with Republicans in favor of the amendment, and only one Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), voted against it. We need to continue to contact our Congressional Reps. In support of the partner legislation in the House – HR1179 sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry.
WE CANNOT LET THIS ISSUE GO AWAY. If we do, it is only a matter of years before both religion and liberty will be redefined in American law…and not in a way that encourages either religion or liberty.
Al Kresta is President and CEO of Ave Maria Communications.
His afternoon radio program is heard on over 200 stations as well as Sirius satellite radio.