Obama administration objects to religious freedom amendment

Rep John Fleming has proposed a religious freedom amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, and the Obama administration states that it “strongly objects” to the amendment.  

The amendment would have

…required the Armed Forces to accommodate ‘actions and speech’ reflecting the conscience, moral, principles or religious beliefs of the member.

Many in the military say that the armed forces are increasingly hostile to open expressions of faith, even by chaplains. The environment has worsened with acceptance of openly gay service members.  Military personnel are expected to tolerate and affirm open homosexual lifestyles, even when the military member hold the view, informed by faith, that homosexual acts are gravely evil.  

I know the military environment well, after 26 years of service.  The Department of Defense has undertaken to “re-educate” all military members and civilian employees, and will force compliance with Department policy.  We’ve seen this many times in the past, concerning other issues.  The DoD seeks not tolerance of a policy, but acceptance and affirmation.  Anyone who doesn’t accept and affirm will be ruthlessly culled.  


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Your favorite agency will enforce the HHS mandate

You might want to ensure that your taxes are up to date and you are ready for an audit before commenting on this type of blog posting!

Remember who will be enforcing Obamacare?  Yes, it’s everybody’s favorite Star Trek impersonators, the friendly folks from the IRS.  The IRS will be determining which organizations qualify as “religious,” and which must submit to the HHS mandate.  The IRS will be determining which organizations are in violation of the mandate.  This will include those religious organizations who were “grandfathered,” or given a year extension, which runs out on the 1st of August.

This is the same IRS who targeted pro-life and religious organizations, along with conservative groups, in the recent scandal.  The same IRS who asked pro-life organizations what their prayers said.  This is the same IRS who insisted that a pro-life group certify that it would not protest in front of Planned Parenthood, or risk refusal of tax-exempt status.  The IRS clearly cannot be trusted to be politically or religiously neutral in their enforcement of the law–and they are about to be the enforcers of an unjust law that already targets people of faith.


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August 1st deadline for the HHS mandate

On August 1st, the HHS mandate will go into effect for those religious organizations who don’t qualify as “religious” under the HHS rules, but were given a “safe harbor” for a year past the implementation date of August 1st, 2012 for for-profit companies.  

Who will this effect?  One organization is the Little Sisters of the Poor.  This group of Catholic women religious sisters care for the elderly poor in the United States and around the world.  They don’t qualify as “religious” under the HHS mandate, because they serve the elderly poor of all faiths, or no faith–and because they exist for reasons other than teaching the faith.  They also employ people who aren’t Catholic.  They don’t qualify for the HHS’s false “accommodation,” because of the way they organize and manage their homes. Each home is separate corporate entity with its own health plan for employees.  On August 1st, the HHS will require the Little Sisters of the Poor–remember, these are nuns–to provide contraception, abortion drugs, and sterilization to their nuns and employees.

The Little Sisters of the Poor will not comply with the HHS mandate.  It is quite possible that they will be forced to leave the United States.  Other countries will allow them to care for the elderly poor without trampling on their religious freedom.  The Obama administration will force these sisters to choose between violating the law, or violating their faiths, in order to provide contraceptives which are already ubiquitous.  

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Can religious schools set religious standards for employees?

Not in Cincinnati, they cannot.  At least according to a jury in U.S. District court.  The Archdiocese of Cincinnati fired a teacher for violation of her contract.  The contract, which she apparently freely signed, required teachers to live in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Christa Dias was fired for using artificial insemination to conceive a child.  The jury awarded Dias $171,000; the Archdiocese will likely appeal.

The Supreme Court, in the Hosanna-Tabor case, found that religious organizations could hire and fire their own ministerial employees based upon their own religious standards, and that the government could not force a religious organization to hire or retain any ministerial employee.  Dias held that she was not a ministerial employee.  This case, if appealed, will require higher courts to better define “ministerial employee.”

We should remember that Dias voluntarily sought employment with a Catholic school, and Catholic schools generally require all teachers to sign contracts which include morals clauses.  We might wonder why she freely signed such a contract, and later chose to quite blatantly violate the contract, and then claim to be a victim of the same employer.  We might also wonder, what right to religious freedom to the parents of the Catholic schoolchildren have?  They are paying many tens of thousands of dollars for a Catholic school education, and it would seem that they have the right to expect that a Catholic school will teach and uphold Catholic Church teachings.  

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Is religious freedom a “given” in America today?

Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia thinks no.  In a recent article for his archdiocesan newspaper, he calls for everyone to wake up to the threat we face.  As the archbishop describes the brazen and aggressive attacks on religious freedom by the Obama administration: 

Coupled with the White House’s refusal to uphold the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and its astonishing disregard for the unique nature of religious freedom displayed by its arguments in a 9-0 defeat in the 2012 Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court decision, the HHS mandate can only be understood as a form of coercion.  Access to inexpensive contraception is a problem nowhere in the United States.  The mandate is thus an ideological statement; the imposition of a preferential option for infertility.  And if millions of Americans disagree with it on principle – too bad.

How much have you read, heard, or seen in the mainstream media about these issues?  Many people have heard about the IRS harassment of conservative groups; how many know that the IRS also targeted pro-life groups, and specifically targeted the religious aspect of their organizations?  

We live in an increasingly secularized society, where any public expression of faith is seen as odd, if not downright threatening.  The ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and other such groups have changed the very basis of discussion.  When a prayer is offered at a high school graduation, a tiny number of students proclaim themselves offended, the ACLU sues, and judges agree that any such prayer is a sign that the public school supports religion.  In Steubenville, Ohio, the town council updated the city’s seal, maintaining a cross on the symbolic skyline.  The major employer in Steubenville is Franciscan University, and the cross represents the school’s chapel.  Atheists from Wisconsin, who apparently are offended at great distance, pressured the town council into removing the cross.  The city can’t afford to defend a lawsuit.  Religious people meekly submit, fearing that they will be labeled as “intolerant” and “fanatical.”  Our society has moved from restricting public prayer to forcing people of faith into violation of that faith.  And the American people yawn, or focus on the latest reality TV show.  

We have moved away from a society with robust religious freedom–the freedom to live your faith in the public square.  We maintain (for a little while) a more anemic freedom of worship–you can go to church on Sunday, but don’t you dare discuss anything religious with anyone, lest you offend them.  Fairly soon, that will also apply to your children.  


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IRS attack on religious freedom

One very troubling aspect of the IRS harassment and intimidation of conservative groups has not received much publicity.  Of the many organizations who applied 501(c)(4) status were pro-life and pro-traditional marriage groups.  The IRS asked questions of these groups that show a total disregard for the First Amendment protection of religious freedom.  Terry Mattingly at Patheos blog has provided a cogent summary of the issue

The IRS asked pro-life groups to justify their prayer in front of abortion mills, and to provide the content of the prayers.  The IRS asked one pro-life group to sign a sworn declaration that they would not protest or pray in front of Planned Parenthood facilities.  The IRS asked pro-life groups to furnish the percentage of their time spent in prayer.  Some of the IRS harassment is detailed in a Thomas More Society news release; the Society is representing some of these organizations.

Remarkably, these IRS workers and their supervisors still have their jobs.  And most Americans are unaware or unconcerned that government bureaucrats are intimidating fellow citizens for expressing their religious beliefs.

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Catholic Stand: Nevada Preservation of Religious Freedom Act

Howard Duncan has written an interesting article about the life and death of this legislation.

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