George Weigel comments on the HHS mandate war

George Weigel has written another incisive analysis of the HHS mandate and today’s lawsuits brought by 43 Catholic organizations against the Obama Administration.

Weigel reviews the recent history of the controversy, and brings us up to date:

Throughout the first quarter of this deadly serious game, the administration did not move a millimeter, the claims of its flacks and some of its Catholic apologists notwithstanding. The “contraceptive mandate” (which, remember, is also a sterilization and abortifacient mandate) is now law, without any “accommodation.” 

We would do well to remember that, despite talk of the administration’s “generous accommodation” and negotiations, there has been no accommodation and no meaningful negotiations.  The mandate is law.  Any “accommodation” is political posturing.

Weigel highlights those who don’t have a “safe harbor” for a year–those who will be forced to decide to obey the law or pay crippling fines–this August:

But the debate is not only about religious institutions; it is about the rights of conscience of employers (Catholic or otherwise) whose convictions require them not to include contraceptives, abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations in the health-insurance coverage they provide their employees.

Weigel further notes that these lawsuits confirm that the controversy is not solely between the bishops and the administration:

That one of the litigants is the University of Notre Dame, which in 2009 gave President Obama an honorary doctorate of laws and invited him to address its commencement ceremony, ought to underscore the point that the mandate is regarded as a threat to religious freedom far beyond the boundaries of the bishops’ conference.

Why is it so important that we win this fight for religious freedom?

A victory in the lawsuits filed against the administration’s mandate will be more than a victory for religious freedom, important as that will be. It will be a victory in defense of the social architecture of American democracy. Government is not the only custodian of the common good. The institutions of civil society bear a significant and irreducible responsibility for the common good, a responsibility they must be able to fulfill freely, without unwarranted interference from an overweening state that is ignorant of the limits of its legitimate reach. That is the truth for which today’s Catholic litigants are contesting — and they are doing so on behalf of all Americans.

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