Monday, February 13, 2012

Academics & The Church Respond To Obama's "Accommodation" On The HHS Mandate

On Friday, the President made a smoke and mirrors "accommodation" to the Catholics providing that some institutions associated with the Catholic Church would not have to fund contraception, sterilization and plan-B abortion pills to their employees as part of their health care plan, but the institution's insurer would atill have to cover the cost of paying for it free of charge to all female employees.  In other words, Obama proposed a pure accounting gimmick.  He did so without consultation with the Catholic Church's - or any denomination's - religious leaders.  Some on the left - generally, people too lost in the fog to see that religion and socialism of the left exist in irreconcilable conflict or people who seem only to bear the mantle of religion in order to advance other of their interests - have seized on to this as a reasonable accommodation.  To their credit, the Bishops and the rank and file clergy of the Catholic Church remain up in arms.

And in another development, a large group of very high profile academics from numerous different disciplines, religions and universities - including 25 members of Notre Dame's facutly - have drafted a letter to President Obama excoriating him for the HHS mandate and his utterly cynical "accommodation."   Symbolically, the letter is drafted on University of Notre Dame letterhead.  You will recall that it was at a Notre Dame commencement speech that Obama made his pitch to Catholics that he would respect the conscience of the religious.  The contents of the letter are below, with a list of all of the signatories:

February 10, 2012


The Obama administration has offered what it has styled as an “accommodation” for religious institutions in the dispute over the HHS mandate for coverage (without cost sharing) of abortion inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover (“cost free”) these same products and services.  Once a religiously affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things.

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.  It is certainly no compromise.  The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust. Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage.  For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers.  More importantly, abortion drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual.  They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer.  It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer.  What matters is what services the policy covers.

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.  This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.

It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick. Finally, it bears noting that by sustaining the original narrow exemptions for churches, auxiliaries, and religious orders, the administration has effectively admitted that the new policy (like the old one) amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty.  The administration still fails to understand that institutions that employ and serve others of different or no faith are still engaged in a religious mission and, as such, enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.


John Garvey
President, The Catholic University of America

Mary Ann Glendon
Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

O. Carter Snead
Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

Yuval Levin
Hertog Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

University and College Professors

Jean Bethke Elshtain
Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School,
Department of Political Science and the Committee on International Relations,
The University of Chicago

Michael W. McConnell
Richard and Frances Mallery Professor of Law & Director, Stanford Constitutional Law Center,
Stanford University

Donald Landry, Samuel Bard Professor of Medicine & Chair, Department of Medicine & Physician-in-Chief, Columbia University

Thomas F. Farr
Director of the Religious Freedom Project, Georgetown University

Richard W. Garnett
Associate Dean and Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

John B. Londregan
Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Princeton University

Patrick MacKinley Brennan
John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies and Professor of Law, Villanova University

Mark C. Murphy
McDevitt Professor of Religious Philosophy, Georgetown University

Patrick Griffin
Department Chair and Madden-Hennebry Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

John Cavadini
Director, Institute for Church Life and Associate Professor of Theology,

University of Notre Dame
Gary Anderson

Hesburgh Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
Christian Smith

William R. Kenan Professor of Sociology & Director, Center for the Study of Religion and
Society, University of Notre Dame

Harindra Joseph F. Fernando
Wayne and Diana Murdy Endowed Professor of Engineering and Geosciences,
University of Notre Dame

William N. Evans
Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame

Steven Smith
Class of 1975 Endowed Professor of Law, University of San Diego

Larry Alexander
Warren Distinguished Professor of Law, University of San Diego

W. Cole Durham, Jr.
Susa Young Gates University Professor of Law and

Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies
J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University

Lynn D. Wardle
Bruce C. Hafen Professor of Law, Brigham Young University Law School

Prof. Alan Mittleman
Professor of Modern Jewish Thought
The Jewish Theological Seminary

Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik
Director, Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, Yeshiva University

Gilbert Meilaender
Duesenberg Professor in Christian Ethics, Valparaiso University

Russell D. Moore, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics,
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Thomas Kelly
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University

Michael Stokes Paulsen
Distinguished University Chair & Professor of Law, The University of St. Thomas

David Lyle Jeffrey
Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities, Baylor University

Edward R. Dougherty
Robert M. Kennedy '26 Chair
Director, Genomic Signal Processing Laboratory
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Texas A&M University
Director, Computational Biology Division
Translational Genomics Research Institute, Phoenix, AZ

Paolo Carozza
Professor of Law and Director, Center for Civil and Human Rights, University of Notre Dame

Philip Bess
Director of Graduate Studies and Professor of Architecture, University of Notre Dame

Timothy S. Fuerst
Professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame

Gerard V. Bradley
Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

Amy Barrett
Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

Sean Kelsey
Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame

Gabriel Said Reynolds
Tisch Family Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and Theology and Director of
Undergraduate Studies, University of Notre Dame

David O’Connor
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Concurrent Associate Professor of Classics,
University of Notre Dame

Joseph Kaboski
David F. and Erin M. Seng Associate Professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame

Patrick Deneen
Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Associate Professor
Director, The Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy
Department of Government, Georgetown University

Vincent Phillip Muñoz
Tocqueville Associate Professor of Political Science
Concurrent Associate Professor of Law
Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame

John O’Callaghan
Director, Jacques Maritain Center & Associate Professor of Philosophy,
University of Notre Dame

Daniel Philpott
Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame

Eric Sims
Associate Professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame

Mike Pries
Associate Professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame

John F. Gaski
Associate Professor of Marketing, University of Notre Dame

Duncan G. Stroik
Associate Professor of Architecture, University of Notre Dame

Rev. Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C.
Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

Bryan T. McGraw
Assistant Professor of Politics and International Relations, Wheaton College

Timothy Samuel Shah
Associate Director & Scholar in Residence, Religious Freedom Project,

Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, and
Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Government, Georgetown University

Jacqueline M. Nolan-Haley
Professor of Law and Director, ADR & Conflict Resolution Program, Fordham University

Rev. Thomas V. Berg
Professor of Moral Theology, St. Joseph’s Seminary-Dunwoodie

William S. Brewbaker III
Associate Dean and William Alfred Rose Professor of Law, University of Alabama

William B. Hurlbut, M.D.
Physician and Consulting Professor, Neuroscience Institute, Stanford University

Micah J. Watson
Director, Center for Politics and Religion and Assistant Professor of Political Science,
Union University

Helen Alvaré
Associate Professor of Law, George Mason University

Michael Moreland,
Associate Professor of Law, Villanova University

V. Bradley Lewis
Associate Professor of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America

Mark Rienzi
Senior Counsel, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Assistant Professor of Law, the Catholic University of America

Patrick Lee
Professor of Philosophy, Franciscan University of Steubenville

Francis J. Beckwith
Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University

William Imboden
Assistant Professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas

Christopher Tollefsen
Professor of Philosophy, University of South Carolina

Thomas A. Cavanaugh
Professor of Philosophy, University of San Francisco

C. Ben Mitchell, PhD
Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University

Gerald R. McDermott
Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion, Roanoke College

Robert D. Benne
Director of the Center for Religion and Society, Roanoke College

Douglas Henry
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Baylor University

Richard Stith
Professor of Law, Valparaiso University

Thomas S. Kidd
Associate Professor of History and Senior Fellow, Institute of Religion, Baylor University

Joseph Knippenberg
Professor of Politics, Oglethorpe University

John D. Woodbridge
Research Professor of Church History and Christian Thought,
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Rev Prof D. A. Carson
Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
President, The Gospel Coalition
University/College/Seminary Presidents, Deans, and Board Members

Stephen D. Minnis
President, Benedictine College

Robert Bryan Sloan Jr
President, Houston Baptist University

Sister Mary Sarah Galbraith, O.P.
President, Aquinas College (TN)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Daniel Akin
President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Timothy O’Donnell
President, Christendom College

David Dockery
President, Union University

Dr. William K. Thierfelder
President, Belmont Abbey College

Carl E. Zylstra
President, Dordt College

Michael F. McLean

President, Thomas Aquinas College (CA)

Samuel W. "Dub" Oliver, Ph.D.
President, East Texas Baptist University

H. James Towey
President, Ave Maria University

Bernard F. O’Connor
President, DeSales Unviersity

Father Terence Henry, TOR
President, Franciscan University of Steubenville

William Edmund Fahey
President, The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (NH)

Marianne Evans Mount
President, Catholic Distance University

Brian Kelly
Dean, Thomas Aquinas College (CA)

Thomas Hibbs
Honors College Dean and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture, Baylor University

Donna Bethell
Chairman of the Board, Christendom College


R.R. Reno
Editor, First Things

Ryan Anderson
Editor, Public Discourse

Kathryn Jean Lopez
Editor at Large, National Review Online

Ramesh Ponnuru
Senior Editor, National Review

Matt Schmitz
Deputy Editor, First Things

Justin Taylor
Blogger, "Between Two Worlds," The Gospel Coalition

Independent Scholars and Activists

Nancy Matthews
Former Chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport

George Weigel
Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies,
Ethics and Public Policy Center

Chuck Colson
Founder, Prison Fellowship Ministries

Edward Whelan
President, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Michael Novak
George Frederick Jewett Scholar Emeritus in Religion, Philosophy and Public Policy,
American Enterprise Institute
Board member, Ave Maria University

Michael Cromartie
Evangelicals and Civic Life Program
Ethics and Public Policy Center

Brian W. Walsh,
Executive Director, American Religious Freedom Program
Ethics and Public Policy Center

Patrick Fagan
Senior Fellow and Director, Marriage & Religion Research Institute

Austin Ruse
President, C-FAM

Father Jonathan Morris
Author, Televison Analyst
Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, NYC

Maggie Gallagher
Institute for Marriage and Public Policy

Robert C. Odle, Jr.
Partner, Weil Gotshal and Manges

William Saunders
Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel
Americans United for Life

Charmaine Yoest
President, Americans United for Life

Nikolas T. Nikas
President and General Counsel
Bioethics Defense Fund

Dorinda C. Bordlee
VP, Chief Counsel
Bioethics Defense Fund

Elizabeth Kirk
University of Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life

Matthew J. Franck
Director, William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution,
The Witherspoon Institute

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

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