As Charles Krauthammer notes in the above video, the Obama Administration is experiencing a tremendous backlash against its decision to mandate that Catholic institutions pay for health insurance covering contraception and Plan-B abortion, or in the alternative, pay fines or dissolve. Virtually the entire Catholic Church hierarchy is up in arms, as are not just liberal Catholics, but also countless people from other religions who see this as unconstitutional government overreach. And now, the far left is itself on the attack, making the most disingenuous and intellectually dishonest arguments imaginable in support of Obama's mandate.
The ACLU came out today arguing that Catholics institutions, by refusing to fund contraception and Plan-B abortion, are trying to "impose their will on their employees." The ACLU further argues that this mandate is not a violation of religious liberty, concluding that "religious liberty" does not give Catholic institutions the right to "impose those views on others, including ignoring civil rights laws or denying critical health care."
Let's address the first of theses arguments, that Catholics are "trying to impose their will on their employees." In the Thinker's Guide To Fallacies: The Art Of Mental Trickery & Manipulation, a great publication on critical thinking, this is listed as "Dirty Trick No. 1 - Accuse Your Opponent Of Doing What He Is Accusing You Of." That is precisely what the ACLU is doing here. The Catholic Church has since its inception two millennia ago stood for the sanctity of life and, as the issues arose, they have uniformly stood in opposition to contraception and abortion. The U.S. government has just decided now to force the Catholic Church to change its position, pay a fine or face dissolution. Yet the ACLU is trying to turn the argument on its head in order to put the Catholics on the defensive. The left uses this trick all of the time. Scurrilous bastards.
As to the ACLU's "religous liberty" argument, it is equally meritless. Religious liberty lies at the foundation of our nation. Indeed, it is what drove many of the first refugees to make the dangerous trip to American shores, in order that they could freely practice their religion. And the whole concept of "religious liberty" is found in the very first Amendment to our Constituion, it provides that "Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise" of religion. Given that sanctity of life is at the very core of the Catholic Church doctrine, and given that the new Obama policy would require either that the Catholic Church act against its core doctrine, pay a penalty, or cease its existence, that by definition impinges on the free exercise of religion. Furthermore, as Ed Morrisey points out:
The rights in the Constitution are not granted to American citizens because the government decided to offer them beneficently at their discretion. They exist in the document as a testament to our natural rights, part of our innate humanness, and are detailed in the Constitution as a bar to government’s overreach in trampling them.
The ACLU is not alone in their arguments today. The trio of far left politicians, Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray, and Jeanne Shaheen, have authored piece for the Wall Street Journal that is truly outrageous. They shamelessly assert that the Obamacare mandate furthers "religious liberty" based on a full scale redefinition of that term:
Those now attacking the new health-coverage requirement claim it is an assault on religious liberty, but the opposite is true. Religious freedom means that Catholic women who want to follow their church’s doctrine can do so, avoiding the use of contraception in any form. But the millions of American women who choose to use contraception should not be forced to follow religious doctrine, whether Catholic or non-Catholic.
Wow. That paragraph is nothing but non-sequiturs. First, these women are rewriting the Constitution, making it seem as if the Catholic Church itself has no rights. First Amendment protections flow not merely to individuals, but also to institutions. Indeed, if the Westboro Baptist Church has First Amendment Rights, then clearly so too does the Catholic Church.
Boxer asserts that the new mandate furthers "religious freedom." Yet to make this argument, Boxer redefines religious freedom to mean solely the right of an individual to ignore the doctrine of a religion. That is a unique and tenditious redefinition if there ever was one - which is another tried and true leftie trick of argument by fallacy.
And of course, no person in the U.S., including Catholic women, are being kept by the Catholic Church from accessing contraception or abortion as elective procedures. That has never been true and, indeed, it misstates the whole issue at hand. To claim that the Obama mandate furthers actual religious freedom is as about a shameless lie as I can imagine.
Boxer, further argues:
Catholic hospitals and charities are woven into the fabric of our broader society. They serve the public, receive government funds, and get special tax benefits. We have a long history of asking these institutions to play by the same rules as all our other public institutions.
As a threshold matter, the "rule" which Obama would impose differs fundamentally from all prior rules. None of the prior rules require Church affiliated institutions to act contrary to the core value of the Church. Further, I wait to see any case law - and I do mean any - showing that receipt of government funds and tax benefits constitutes a voluntary waiver of Constitutional rights. And lastly, Boxer ignores contrary "history" that some rules of general applicability, such as discrimination laws, cannot legally be applied in whole to religious institutions. Indeed, that was the subject of the recent Supreme Court Case, where the Court ruled unanimously for the Lutheran Church as regards the ministerial exception to employment laws.
And lastly, Boxer makes a series of pragmatic arguments that nationalizing the funding of contraception and plan-B is a panacea for American healthcare, that virtually all women use contraception at some point, and that, in the absence of funding some women working for Catholic institutions might not be able to afford the out of pocket costs. As Bookworm points out, Boxer is conflating arguments:
This is the big lie at the heart of the Obama administration's attack on traditional religious institutions. These harpies constantly conflate the availability of birth control with funding for birth control. They are not the same. Women in America can get birth control. The government can fund organizations -- indeed, it already does with the monies that go to Planned Parenthood -- that provide all these birth control options. Forcing religious organizations to pay for birth control, sterilization and abortifacients, however, both exceeds the government's power and contravenes the limitations the Bill of Rights imposes on government. This is not about whether women should have birth control; it's about with the government can force churches to pay for it.
I would add that I find Obama's decision to nationalize funding for contraception and abortion to border on the obscene. For one, this is yet another advance down the secular road, where the radical feminists want the act of sex to be wholly devoid of any moral, ethical or physical consequences. Moreover, it further the feminist left argument that abortions should be unconditionally available. This law essentially institutes radical feminist goals as the public policy of our country. Two, why should I or any other American have to fund elective costs that are rightfully at issue between consenting adults? Three, why are woman entitled to this special treatment and not men for specifically male issues? What about the dreaded EDS you hear about in ads every day for Viagra? Again the answer is because this is part of the radical secular agenda being pushed by the feminists.
So, in sum, there is good and bad in all of this. That portion of the Obamacare mandate requiring all Americans to fund the costs of birth control and abortions is likely to get through (though I wonder if individuals of deeply religious beliefs could not make the same argument as the Catholic Church, using the Courts rulings in the area conscientious objector status as a springboard for a colorable argument). The good news is that Obama has grossly overreached on this issue, as Krauthammer points out in the above video. I actually find it comforting that Obama and the far left are drawing a line in the sand on this issue. I hope they keep it up through November, because this issue is easily one that could cost Obama reelection and cost the left Congressional seats.