The National Catholic Review

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a newly released statement, have promised to continue their fight against the Obama administration's HHS mandate, calling it a "violation of personal civil rights." The story on the USCCB website begins: 

The U.S. bishops are strongly united in their ongoing and determined efforts to protect religious freedom, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said in a March 14 statement.

The Administrative Committee, chaired by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the USCCB, is the highest authority of the bishops’ conference outside the semi-annual sessions of the full body of bishops. The Committee’s membership consists of the elected chairmen of all the USCCB permanent committees and an elected bishop representative from each of the geographic regions of the USCCB.

The full statement can be found at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Admin-Religious-Freedom.pdf and www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/march-14-statement-on-religious-freedom-and-hhs-mandate.cfm

James Martin, SJ

Comments

Marie Rehbein | 3/23/2012 - 9:52pm
This will be my last comment on this thread.

Patrick,

Mrs. Molia has Krohn's disease.  She requires medical attention and medical products.  The article says that she intends to give her life in order to defeat the mandate that she have insurance, presumably because some people will be able to get contraception without copays.  This stand does not impress me.  Your exaggerations and distortions of what I might have meant by the very straighforward statements I made do not impress me either. 

Government mandating that we have a means for paying for our healthcare is not an overreach of government.  People who cannot pay for their care are more common than people who have never needed any care, so no one can claim that they should be exempted from this responsibility because they will never use their insurance.  What insurance covers is not even the issue, so far as the courts are concerned. 
Marie Rehbein | 3/16/2012 - 3:42pm
Tim, I read the articles to which you provide links.  A couple of things stand out.  From the first article:  "Defending the decision to publish in a British Medical Journal blog, Prof Savulescu, said that arguments in favour of killing newborns were 'largely not new'....'The goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises'....He said the journal would consider publishing an article positing that, if there was no moral difference between abortion and killing newborns, then abortion too should be illegal."  The second article puts forth an even weaker argument, in my opinion, because it bases its conclusions on premises which are not widely accepted - that one must be "creature-conscious" in order to be considered a person.  It is simply an academic exercise. 

When abortion was unacceptable in society, it was never as unacceptable as killing a born child.  It is easy enough to make a distinction between abortion and infanticide.  From the state's perspective, there are no longer competing interests in determining who deserves legal protection when the infant is no longer physically a part of its mother.  There is an enormous amount of legal precedent protecting children from the whims of their parents.  Clever arguments in favor of prohibiting abortion are more likely to backfire into seeming to support infanticide than they are strong defenses of the position opposing abortion.  It would be wise to stay away from them.

The history of abortion is not one in which abortion suddenly became socially acceptable in the twentieth century.  It includes lots of instances of people taking pity on the woman who wanted an abortion as well as lots of instances of people wanting to erase the evidence of their exploitation of women.  The law did not prevent it.  It rarely even punished those involved in it, unless the already born person - the woman - was somehow injured or killed from it.  Laws were not enforced because law enforcers tried to avoid bringing embarrassment to the families of those who would be charged with crimes. 

It seems to me, and a lot of people, that contraception is a really good way to prevent abortion.  Women who don't want to get pregnant need to be allowed to have the means of avoiding it.  If they are denied this, it is the fault of those who deny them it when these women end up choosing abortion.  Denying people contraception because you don't want them "having fun" is really extraneous to the concern of protecting developing babies.

There is no single meaning that can be given to the claim that a company is self-insured.  To some it means that their workforce is large enough to be its own group at the insurance company.  This, I think, does not qualify for an exemption.  If it is truly the case that a company does not deal directly with an insurer, but handles claims through some in-house operation, it should be exempted.

You misread my comment as to whom Catholic Insurance Company can sell insurance.  I stated that the company would be employing only Catholics, just like my local parish and diocese do.  Presumably, it would sell to whomever would be interested in buying - like all those Taco Bell owners. 
Michael Barberi | 3/23/2012 - 9:04pm
Patrick:

I hope we can also agree that there is suffering, moral dilemma and a conflict of values in many complex ethical cases that call into question whether certain Church teachings are the absolute moral truth. Too often may Catholice do not want to seriously reflect on teachings that are in tension with human experience, the hierarchy of values and reason. It is easy for some of us to simply follow the magisterium without remainder. Unless we address those Gordian knot issues, a consensus of argument will never be achieved among theologians, bishops and the laity. What we have now are two camps: the hierarchy and those minority of theologians that support the magisterium; and the majority of the laity and theologians, and many bishops and priesta, who disagree with many sexual ethical teachings. The Obama mandate raised once again the awareness of the issue of contraception, an issue that divided our Church and caused a Crisis of Truth. Both sides are intransigent. We need an answer, not more of the same.
Patrick Loyola | 3/23/2012 - 6:01pm
Marie #129
The reason your comment is unfair is that Mrs. Molia's never mentioned suicide. In addition to coercing her to act against her conscience you are communicating false statements injurious to her reputation. Your assumption that Mrs. Molia is too emotional to make up her own mind seems condescending to me.


I am hoping that your viewpoint that it is ''both necessary and useful to have a strong Federal government'' does not come from a conviction that people are too emotional to manage their owns lives. Can you consider for a moment how you would feel if a future government decided that you were too emotional to have individual liberties? (Pause for a moment and really think about how Mrs. Molia is now feeling.)


In a civilized society should there not be a limit to what the government can decide is in our best interests?
I know you agree with the goverment today - but no party stays in power forever. Next time round it could be you who is fined or put in jail.
Michael #129 - I am happy to see we share some common ground about civility and that we agree the mandate is seriously flawed.

Gabriel #130 - very good comment!
Michael Barberi | 3/23/2012 - 3:42pm
All of the emotional energy reflected in many of these blog commentaries, may be a moot point.

If the Supreme Court strikes down ObamaCare because of the individual mandate, then ObamaCare will be null and void because without an individual mandate only a portion of US citizens will be participating. This will significantly increase costs due to a variety of reasons. On the other hand, if ObamaCare requires amendment to satisfy the Supreme Court's decision and the amended healthcare plan is still expected to reduce total healthcare costs, then this may required a significant re-desing. If so, Congressional approval may be necessaryl. If this happens, ObamaCare and the contraceptive mandate as we know it will be a dead issue. In any case, many experts believe it will be a 4-3 decision.  
Gabriel Marcella | 3/23/2012 - 1:24pm
Marie,
The Founding Fathers were aware that "politics is a cynical game," so much so that they wanted to prevent government from becoming tyranny. Elections are essential but are not enough. The First Amendment to the Constitution is an additional bulwark against tyranny.

At the same time the generation of 1776 and 1787 wanted an effective, and not a "strong government" that would trample on the rights of citizens. Two plus centuries later we're still debating the appropriate balance between effective government and the rights of Americans. The debate we're having on the HHS mandate is healthy, and our democracy will be better off for it. Unfortunately, the statement that "...if every individual were free to impose their (should be his or her) moral beliefs upon their fellow citizens is anarchy" mischaracterizes the debate on the HHS mandate and the response of Catholics and other religious groups.
Marie Rehbein | 3/23/2012 - 10:23am
Patrick, I don't know why I should have compassion for Mrs. Molia's willingness to commit suicide so that she will not be part of an effort to make sure everyone has the health care they need.  Other people's overly emotional reactions to something they seem to misunderstand are not likely to change my opinion, so I am not sure what it is you expect to have happen when you post examples of people's sincere, emotionally driven (but misinformed, in my opinion) opposition to something that is in their interest. 

Politics is a cynical game, and there are many political operatives whose strategy it is to exploit the emotionality of people to their political ends.  The "mandate" they oppose is the one that requires all citizens to carry health insurance by whatever means, either employer provided, personally purchased, or government provided via the "fine" for not having it.  They oppose this because it came from their political opponent's administration even though it was proposed by one of their advisory organizations when they held power and even though it was implemented by one of their candidates when he was governor of Massachusetts.

The best option for you will be to wait for the Supreme Court decision as this will dictate whether the proposed approach will work or whether there will be an expansion of Medicare.  Already, at this point, many more people are receiving benefits than would have before health reform was passed.  More young adults are covered on their parent's insurance, more people with preexisting conditions are receiving care they need, and more people on Medicare are receiving coverage for treatments that they used to have to pay for on their own or forego.

People who have a prejudice against government are confused about the role of government.  Contrary to their opinion, it is both necessary and useful to have a strong Federal government.  This is not a dictatorship.  Elections ensure that.  What we would have instead if every individual were free to impose their moral beliefs upon their fellow citizens is anarchy, which is something much worse than government, because anarchy invites dictatorship.
Patrick Loyola | 3/22/2012 - 9:59pm
Marie #126

Marie - It is clear you have no compassion for the concerns Mrs. Molia. In addition what you said about her is unfair and uncharitable. Your silence about conceding to the State the regulation of conscience is disturbing. I hope you can relate to this article. It is from a non Catholic. His writes:
 
 ''I am not a Catholic, nor do I believe in the Church’s opposition to contraception. But I pray that the leadership of the Catholic Church will have the faith and courage to stand for its core beliefs and use all of its moral power and political influence to defeat the President’s edict. I pray they will reach out across the political spectrum to people of all faiths, agnostics and atheists in the name of religious freedom and individual liberty. By so doing, they, and the institution of the Catholic Church, will have my love and respect for the rest of my life.''
 
 
You can read his full article at  http://catholicliberty.com/138
 
Michael Barberi | 3/22/2012 - 9:46pm
Patrick:

I will not speak for Marie, but I did not get the impression that any of her comments implicitly or explicitly lacked compassion for her fellow Catholic, or did any of her comments disrespect the Freedom of Religion or the rights of conscience. She was simply expressing, quite eloquently and insightfully, her views. If I misrepresented your remarks, kindly correct my misunderstanding.

The Pro-Life Organizations would are sponsoring tomorrow's March have a right to speak and demonstrate their faith and moral convictions, including their interpretation of Freedom of Religion, and their profound dissatisfaction with the Obama contraceptive mandate. In the end, Obama's mandate may go down in flames for many reasons, the least of which I mentioned but there are others who made similar arguments.

To love God with all of our heart. mind and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves are the two most important commandments of Christ. This does not mean we cannot disagree. What is important in disagreement is civility, addressing each of other's points directly and not dismissively, and striving to know the subject as best we can.

We all have our points of view, but we are taught we must always be humble and open to further education, especially if we disagree with a Church teaching. There are thousands of well educated theologians who strive to understand the truth. They provide an important role in our Church for the benefit of the magisterium, through their research and scholarly work. Unfortunately, most theologians who respectfully disagree with the Church over sexual ethics have been condemned as dissenters. The laity who argree are members of the culture of life, and those that disagree are members of the culture of death. There is no middle ground and the sensus fidelium, inclusive of theologians, have no voice. This had lead to a dyfunctional Church, a Crisis in Truth and a Church divided, especially on contraception and sexual ethics. 

I am not a supporter of ObamaCare, and find his contraceptive mandate serious flawed. If Freedom of Religion wins the day, the government will have to fashion a definition of a exempt religious institution, or a defiinition of religious freedom that may apply to all employers. It will be an interesting year and I am happy that this issue of contraception has made it to the front page. It is a highly complex issue that must be addressed by the Church, because of the suffering. moral dilemma and conflict that has manifested itself in the application of this doctrine to concrete human experience. I repeat: Every teaching taught for centuries by popes, bishops and theologians and not received, were eventually reformed.

I respect all who think otherwise. We can all disagree and be faithful Catholics.
Marie Rehbein | 3/22/2012 - 8:41pm
I'm sorry Patrick but I don't think those ralliers and others about whom the articles revolve are seeing the big picture.  Anyone who goes without insurance is making a choice to become dependent upon the good graces and finances of others.  We all have a moral responsibility to do as much as we can to avoid becoming burdens to our fellow citizens.  This, of course, does not mean doing away with oneself as Mrs. Molai wants to do.  The government is not forcing her into that position.  That comes from her misunderstanding due to her having had this issue presented to her in a very biased way. 
Patrick Loyola | 3/22/2012 - 6:34pm
Marie #122.
I would ask you to reconsider your statement ''If the issue is religious freedom, then there is barely anything to discuss''. Can you show some solidarity with those who do feel violated?
The following articles may help you to see things from their perspective:
Catholic woman would rather risk life than follow HHS mandate http://catholicliberty.com/319
Where are the women? HERE WE ARE http://catholicliberty.com/322
Women and Religious Liberty http://catholicliberty.com/361
The people who will be participating in religious freedom rallies in over 120 locations tomorrow think there is something to discuss. http://catholicliberty.com/360

Martin Luther King said “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. “
Marie can you please add your voice to those working towards religious freedom for all?  Does a person have to agree with you on everything before you will lift a finger to defend their rights?
If you don't have any compassion for those that disagree with you, then you should do it for yourself. If we concede to the State the regulation of conscience it is not hard to imagine that a different government will one day get into power and you may lose the freedoms you denied to others. I will defend your freedom, but that may not be enough if the country is divided on the right to religious liberty.
Defend the rights of others and in the process you will defend your own rights.
Michael Barberi | 3/21/2012 - 6:29pm
Tim:
The 64% refers to the teaching on birth control, not abortion...a typo.
Michael Barberi | 3/21/2012 - 6:21pm
Tim:

Sorry but the tables did not transfer very well. You can read them by following the order of those numbers (percentage of Catholics) responding to the issue or question posed, as the order also refer to the classifications of Catholics or the cohorts, depending on table 1 or 2. For example, only 10% of Post-Vatican II Catholics believe taking the pill or using a condom is morally wrong AND 64% of Catholics who attend weekly Mass belief that you can be a good Catholic without obeying the Church teaching on abortion. Those that attend weekly Mass include pre-Vatical II Catholic cohorts who are older and past child bearing ages. A better reflection of the beliefs and opinions of Catholics in child bearing years is the cohort table, where only between 8%-11% of them believe taking the pill or using a condom is always morally wrong.
Michael Barberi | 3/21/2012 - 6:05pm
Tim:

Some enlightenment about the beliefs and opinions of "devout Catholics". The reseach below was taken from the excellent work of Dean Hoge, now deceased, from the Catholic University of America. His study of the opinons and beliefs of Catholics, by generational cohort and type of Catholic (e.g, those who attend weekly Mass) is most telling. These opinions support the two references I mentined in my previous blog about US female married Catholics, the percent who practice some form of contraception, and the percent who practice NFP-PC.

Statistics and opinon polls are never used to forulate doctrine. However, they are a source of moral truth, as they reflect the human experience of the sensu fidelium, and the theology of reception. Every Catholic teaching in history, not received, was eventully reformed.


Table 2: Percent saying it is Always Morally Wrong





 


Total Catholics


Post-Vatican II (18-39)


Vatican II (40-62)


Pre-Vatican II (63+)


 




To engage in homosexual acts


44


37


40


69


 




To terminate pregnancy by abortion


39


37


34


55


 




To engage in pre-marital sex


30


22


25


64


 




To use condoms or birth control pills


11


10


8


25


 





 

Table 1: Percent saying You Can Be a Good Catholic





 


Total Catholics


Mass Weekly


Won’t Leave


Church Important


 




Without going to Mass every Sunday


73


55


69


58


 




Without obeying Church teaching on birth control


73


64


71


59


 




Without obeying Church teaching on divorce/remarriage


62


52


59


48


 




Without obeying Church teaching on abortion


56


40


51


36


 




Without a Church marriage


61


55


59


54


 





 

Patrick Loyola | 3/21/2012 - 5:46pm
Maria thank you for your http://youtu.be/fKyljukBE70 link - awe inspiring how beautiful life is.

Tim - your posts are very educational. Thank you for them as I imagine it takes time and sacrifices to so eloquently defend our freedom. In particular I am grateful for your http://catholicliberty.com/363 link quoting Thomas Jefferson - “to compel a man to furnish contributions of his money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.”

Among the hundreds of helpful links at http://www.catholicliberty.com you may find http://catholicliberty.com/128 illuminating as it gets to the heart of the matter - HHS and Soft Totalitarianism.

From reading the posts here I was thinking about a situation where a thief breaks into a house and shouts fire when people notice him. The thief wants to distract people from his real intentions and is happy when people begin to discuss arson laws and arson statistics when it is made clear that there never was a fire to be concerned about. The thief will continue to distract people and hope they never pay attention to the real danger he is to the household. 

I am grateful to the Bishops who wrote ''This is not about the Bishops' somehow ''banning contraception,'' when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops' Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.'' http://catholicliberty.com/11

Can we all agree that ''Freedom of Religion'' is important to us and our children? Can we all agree that to ignore the thief stealing our ''Freedom of Religion'' - we will only have ourselves to blame if our children also lose ''Freedom of Speech'' at some point in the future?

Friends let us put aside our differences for a moment and focus on getting the thief out of our house. We owe that to each other. There will be plenty of time to continue other debates when this present and grave danger to our family is faced with civility, sincerity and courage. 

St. Ignatius of Loyola -  please pray for us. Help to bring out the best within all of us and to be united at this time when our family is under attack.
Gabriel Marcella | 3/20/2012 - 9:09am
Tim #101,
Thank you for a brilliant and eloquent statement. You have captured the sentiments of many of us who accept the Church's teaching on human life and sexual morality and are striving to live by it and convince our families and an increasingly hostile and secular world. Looking forward to reading more of your writing.
Tom Maher | 3/20/2012 - 2:09am
The Supreme Court has scheduled six hours oral arguments on March 26 to 28  next week on the new health care law's constitutionality especially the mandate where  everyone must buy or be given health  care insurance or be fined.  Does the Constitution under the interstate commerce clause give Congress the power for such a broad nationwide mandate?  This hearing will be epic.  

The mandaes that impact Religious Liberty will also likely be brought up as a Constistutional issue since as we now know the HHS will define the features that eery insurance policy will have with no exceptions.   This should be real interesting to hear the Solicitor General explain how  this concentration of power in the hands of the federal government can be leglly justified under the commerce clause of the Constitution.  

A decision is expected sometime in June.
Carlos Orozco | 3/17/2012 - 11:23pm
For full disclosure I want to post the rest of the article in the link I put at comment #61:
"To be clear, the aborted fetal tissue used to make Pepsi’s flavor chemicals does not end up in the final product sold to customers, according to reports — it is used, instead, to evaluate how actual human taste receptors respond to these chemical flavorings. But the fact that Pepsi uses them at all when viable, non-human alternatives are available illustrates the company’s blatant disregard for ethical and moral concerns in the matter.
Back in January, Oklahoma Senator Ralph Shortey proposed legislation to ban the production of aborted fetal cell-derived flavor chemicals in his home state. If passed, S.B. 1418 would also reportedly ban the sale of any products that contain flavor chemicals derived from human fetal tissue, which includes Pepsi products as well as products produced by Kraft and Nestle (http://www.naturalnews.com)."
 
Carlos Orozco | 3/17/2012 - 10:34pm
Marie (#64):
SEC invented by the Obama administration? When did I write that? My point is that the Obama administration and the individuals that work in it have an AWFUL record on human life issues (the Nobel Prize Peace laureate himself has a voting history of support of partial-birth abortion and refusal of assistenace to survivors of the procedure).
The following are quotes from my original post:
"The issue began in 2011 when the non-profit group Children of God for Life (CGL) first broke the news about Pepsi’s alliance with Senomyx, which led to massive outcry and a worldwide boycott of Pepsi products. At that time, it was revealed that Pepsi had many other options at its disposal to produce flavor chemicals, which is what its competitors do, but had instead chosen to continue using aborted fetal cells — or as Senomyx deceptively puts it, “isolated human taste receptors” (http://www.naturalnews.com).
A few months later, Pepsi’ shareholders filed a resolution petitioning the company to “adopt a corporate policy that recognizes human rights and employs ethical standards which do not involve using the remains of aborted human beings in both private and collaborative research and development agreements.” But the Obama Administration shut down this 36-page proposal, deciding instead that Pepsi’s used of aborted babies to flavor its beverage products is just business as usual, and not a significant concern.
“We’re not talking about what kind of pencils PepsiCo wants to use — we are talking about exploiting the remains of an aborted child for profit,” said Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of CGL, concerning the SEC decision. “Using human embryonic kidney (HEK-293) to produce flavor enhancers for their beverages is a far cry from routine operations!”
 
Marie Rehbein | 3/17/2012 - 8:51pm
RE: Carlos #61  The following is from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-44043220/pepsis-bizarro-world-boycotted-over-embryonic-cells-linked-to-lo-cal-soda/

"Is this claim true? Neither Pepsi nor Senomyx returned calls, so we don't know the companies' side of the story. But a perusal of Senomyx's patents suggests that it may well be. All but 7 of the company's 77 patents refer to the use of HEK 293 (human embryonic kidney) cells, which researchers have used for decades as biological workhorses. (For the bio-geeks among you, these cells offer a reliable way to produce new proteins via genetic engineering.)

"The company appears to be engineering HEK cells to function like the taste-receptor cells we have in our mouth. This way, Senomyx can test millions of substances to see if they work as different types of taste enhancers without subjecting human volunteers to endless taste tests.

"To non-scientists this may sound a bit strange, but the reality is that HEK 293 cells are widely used in pharmaceutical research, helping scientists create vaccines as well as drugs like those for rheumatoid arthritis. The difference here is that Senomyx's work for Pepsi is one of the first times the cells have (potentially) been used to create a food or beverage. (And it's important to note that no part of a human kidney cell are ever a part of Senomyx's taste enhancers or any finished food products.)

"Even though HEK 293 cells trace their origin to a single fetal kidney back in the 1970s - everything since has come from cultured cell lines..."


CARLOS, neither was the SEC invented by the Obama administration.  Your information is distorted and thus not credible.
Michael Barberi | 3/17/2012 - 8:04pm
Tom:

I am not a attorney with an expertise in Constitutional Law or in cases of First Amendment rights. However, it is clear from the many blogs on this topic, by others with a better expertise than mine, the Freedom of Religion issue is far from being firmly established and determined in this case.
Gabriel Marcella | 3/17/2012 - 8:02pm
Lost in much of the discussion is the value of pluralism in American society. Back on February 15 Richard Garnett, of the Mirror of Justice blog and Professor at the Notre Dame School of Law, commented in USA Today:

"A crucial thing to remember, both about the mandate and the promised adjustments to come, is that it is deeply un-American in its hostility to diversity and pluralism in civil society. The mandate's religious-employer exemption is limited only to inward-looking institutions that hire and engage only their own. It embodies the view that religious institutions may be distinctive only insofar as they stay in their place-in the pews, in the pulpit, at the altar. It reflects a troubling tendency to impose ideological sameness and conformity in the public speher, to insist that all groups and associations act like the government, in the service of the government's goals."

The mandate may be constitutional, but is it prudent to tamper with the rich tapestry of American civil society, one of the great strengths of our democracy? What will be the weight of this value in future court decisions?
Carlos Orozco | 3/17/2012 - 7:46pm
"Obama agency rules Pepsi's use of aborted fetal cells in soft drinks constitutes 'ordinary business operations'"

http://www.infowars.com/obama-agency-rules-pepsis-use-of-aborted-fetal-cells-in-soft-drinks-constitutes-ordinary-business-operations/
Tom Maher | 3/17/2012 - 7:20pm
Michael J. Barberi  # 44, # 52

You have a very reasonable perespective on lawsuits.  Lawsuits have so many variables, unforseeable judgements and the outcome of a lawsuit is often very unpredictable.   And lawsuits are very expensive which is why even if you have a right to defend one still may not be able to afford the cost of a lawsuit as happened to the Church in Illinois and in many other states all the time.  And finally certain jurissdictions such as Massachusetts shall we say are so politically biased that a fair hearing of the facts would not be likely.  Avoiding a lawsuit often makes sense if you can.

However the new haelthcare law open ended ability to issue expensive and politicized new health care regulations is a never-ending abuse and burden that will impact every religious institution across the nation requires a full effort to stop the monetary and secular abuse of religous insitutions of all denominations. 

What you and most people are missing is the full historic context which the courts have just demonstarted that they fully understand on religious liberty.   Church and state conflicts have been the cause of numerous bloody civil wars and religous strife all over Europe for centuries including Great Britain.  The Constitution created the Religous Liberty clauses with these horrable human condiditons in mind with the intent of avoiding religious strife that raged across Europe and Great Britain for hundreds of years.  

So you are missing the very important facts that Freedom of Religion is strongly establsihed and enforced right in America.  You ask "Where do we draw the line between Freedom of Religion and Non-discriminatory and medical necessary coverage deemed to be beneficial to health and well being?"   That is the wong question to ask.  The line has already been sharply drawn in the Religious Liberty clauses :"Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion or preventing the free exercise of of the same ..."  The First Amendment does not allow the regulation of religion, speech or press,  There is no balancing to be done.  Religion, speech and press are free of governement interference to the greatest  extent possible, a very large extent.  This is not defined by the absurd examples of child sacrifice or false malicisous speech or publishing of state secrets during a was. In 99% of the cases governemnt has no role in First Amemndment rights and these rights are enforceable. So a First Amendment lawsuit unusual to most lawsuits is much more likely to work to secure a Religious Liberty right as happened spectacularly in the Hosanna-Tabor 9 - 0 Supreme Court Decision. 
ed gleason | 3/17/2012 - 6:28pm
Tim O' Leary, in his pursuit of spreading around blame for abuse to pubilic school teachers, must have missed the LA school districts action last month when they found two unconnected teachers in the same school were accused of abuse. Both were arrested and the LA district suspended ALL the teachers in the school. Would the Archdiocese suspend the whole deanery if two clerics were accused from the same parish? Nah... Wait.. wait.. A/D of Philly has two priests from the same parish on the same boy on  trail NOW.. The A/D covered up the crime for years, that's why the Msgr is on trial with them. Wait Wait .. the Archdiocese besides covering up is paying for a slew of lawyers to defend them,. @ $6 or 7 hundred bucks an hour each attorney . Bad news? this trial is to last months>>>>>> = 1/2 million to 1 million.[just trial time and then appeals]   
Marie Rehbein | 3/17/2012 - 5:34pm
Tom (#47),  I can empathize with your having objections to something and having to pay for it.  Isn't that what we all do when we pay our taxes?  For example, Medicare and Medicaid taxes.

In terms of Medicare and Medicaid insurance, we are all mandated to contribute a percentage of our gross earnings.  Some of this money goes to pay for contraception, some of it goes to pay for erectile dysfunction medications for elderly unmarried men, some of it goes to provide for different things that different religions prohibit to their members to an even greater degree than the Catholic Church prohibits contraception to its members.  Presumably these other religions prohibit things they believe violate the will of God and yet there has never been an outcry over participation in Medicare and Medicaid.

The Catholic Church does not object to having individuals pay taxes that are used to pay for contraception for people other than those taxed, so those leaders who propose exempting Taco Bell franchisees have no grounds for their proposal to allow individual employers to decline to include contraceptive coverage based on moral objections. The Church only objects to (1) having money that was once in its possession go directly to a business, without first going to the individual employee who earned it, and to (2) this business having been directed by the Federal government to provide access to a certain product without charging copays.  The issue may not really even be whether the product would be included, but merely whether it would be included without copay, since most policies have included it all along with no objection from the Catholic Church.

The obvious weakness in the Church's position in this controversy leads me to believe that there is some other unstated reason for continuing to object.  Perhaps it is intended as a diversion.  Perhaps, it is intended, as Carolyn states, to establish a stronger position in order to avoid criminal prosecution for child abuse coverups and crimes.  It was, after all, the position of the Church at the beginning of the child abuse revelations that the Church should not be subject to the oversight of secular law enforcement and that it was entitled to handle these matters inhouse. 

Perhaps, the Church's legal advisors have advised it to pursue this "religious liberty" issue to help with the defense against the charges that recently have been and will continue to be brought against it pertaining to child abuse coverups.  Perhaps the Church is only going along with those who want to repeal The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in hopes of gaining a stronger legal standing in the other matters  Whatever the reason, the real reason probably has nothing to do with protecting fertilized eggs from destruction.
John Hayes | 3/17/2012 - 5:33pm
"I rest my case on the fact that there is already a legal precedent in many states. But, then again I could be wrong."

Michael Barbieri, I agree that the Supreme Court is probably not going to find the contraception mandate unconstitutional. The thing that is different between he states and the federal government however is not the Constitution but the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which applies only to actions of the federal government. 

My own feeling is that even under RFRA, the SC is likely to sustain the contraception mandate. 

It will come up in the four cases that the Becket Fund has entered but those have to go hrough the district and appeals courts before they can ask the SC if it will hear them. 
Tim O'Leary | 3/17/2012 - 5:13pm
Ed #50
Since the vast majority of Catholic School Teachers are women, your analogy does not apply. In all studies of child abuse, the perpetrator is overwhelmingly male (the studies point to 2/3rd homosexual pedophilia and 1/3rd heterosexual pedophilia). Also, see the 2010 report before impugning Charol Shakeshaft as some outlier.
Carolyn #49
Great to hear you have a son a priest -you are blessed. You are exactly right that a greater proportional problem in public schools (government numbers, several reports, different authors) and a massively greater absolute problem (much more public schools translates to much more child victims even if the rates were comparable or inverted) does not in any way excuse Catholic priests or bishops, but if someone gives the victims the priority one should be at least as concerned about the numerically much greater problem in the public school, unless one is motivated by an anticlerical animus. Whatever you learn in your studies of clerical abuse cases that works to protect kids should be applied to the public schools as well, for the protection of the greater number of kids.

I see that neither Marie nor Carolyn has taken me up on the religious test case (Tim #47). Maybe, it’s because it's St. Patrick's Day!
Carolyn Disco | 3/17/2012 - 5:02pm
Tom @ #51,

Clergy sexual abuse and religious liberty are very much intertwined, which was why I even brought up the subject here, as explained above to Tim at #42.
 

In fact, it is so courant that yesterday the Archdiocese of St. Louis defended its claim before the Supreme Court that the First Amendment in effect provides bishops exemption from obeying child protection laws. I find that a distorted, self-serving view designed to hide evidence about crimes of child endangerment.
 

In fact, if all state judges had followed that argument, tens of thousands of secret church archives exposing the scandal would be still be hidden. Which is exactly what the bishops want. Who is served by that rationale, and who is endangered?


Never mind.
Carlos Orozco | 3/17/2012 - 4:46pm
Why some Catholics on this issue back a President and his Secretary of Health Services whom both have a grotesque history on life issues (partial-birth abortion voting) is beyond me. Obama Emperor and his cronies must be stoped in their effort to butt into liberty of conscience.
Tom Maher | 3/17/2012 - 4:22pm
Tim O'Leary # 47  continuation

Very fortunantely the U.S. Constitution was not created or defended only by Catholics.  Religious Liberties have very strong nationwide support by all religious groups and most of the strongest and active defenders of Religous Liberties are not Catholic.

The recent Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court case was brought by Lutherans who had extensive legal help from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.  The Catholic Church presnted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court  supporting the Hosanna-Tabor Religious Liberty challenge to the EEOC. This time around the Becket Fund is support the Religous Liberty challendge to the HHS maindate by several Catholics religous insitutions and a  Protestant religious insitution.

So the "fuss" that Mike Appleton says is all political is actully a very broad based and well organized religious reponse of most major religious groups in defense of Religious Liberties that is headed for court with the proven legal help of the Becket Fund for Religous Libertiy.
Michael Barberi | 3/17/2012 - 4:19pm
Thank you Mike @ 40, Marie @41, Carolyn @ 42 and Tim. I learned much from your insightful comments.

I have spent 30+ years in the health insurance-benefits industry both as a Senior Partner of a world-wide healthcare consulting firm and as a SVP of one of the largest healthcare companies in the US.

For the longest time, the realm of insurance and benefits regulation were/are a function of state's rights. The federal government has also entered into the legislating of health benefits through a variety of means such as ERISA, non-discrimination laws, the EEOC, etc. Now it called ObamaCare. Currently, many states require contraceptive coverage and that applies to religious-affiliated educational institutions (universities) and hospitals.

While we all agree that the Obama contraceptive mandate will be settled in the Courts, especially the "free price" provision (not so much the coverage mandate), so will ObamaCare as the states attorney generals have challenged it on other grounds. The major flaw in the free coverage mandate is that a government cannot dictate to an insurance company who administers many self-insured plans, how much profit they can make or what expenses they can charge for their services. Ironically, almost every large plan sponsor self-insures their healthcare benefits, with the insurance company hired as the administrator. For most large plan sponsors, any savings that contraceptive coverage generates accures to the plan sponsor, not the administrator (the insurance company). If an insurance company is "mandated" not to charge for contraceptive coverage (to employees or plan sponsors) under the premise that such coverages reduces total healthcare costs, then the insurance company will be forced to take a "loss" on the cost of providing contraceptive coverage, but the so-called savings will accure to the plan sponsor. The insurance company will win in Court for a number of reasons that should be obvious. If so, Obama will likely back to his original legislation, without the compromise. He could drop the free coverage portion of the contraceptive coverage mandate.

The "coverage" mandate portion of the contraceptive mandate is similar to the contraceptive coverage mandate of most states. I agree with Mike that the Catholic Church will not win in Court based on Freedom of Religion. The government is not forcing the Church to change their religious beliefs or are Catholic employees being forced to purchase or use contraceptives. Contraceptive coverage has been demonstrated to be necessary for healthcare well-being and a preventative service. Individuals and religious institutions can believe otherwise, but the definition of a beneficial and necessary healthcare product or service is decided by the Institues of Health, among other healthcare and research organizations. Granted anything can be challenged in a Court of law, but a moral argument, unsupported by scientific evidence, where the preponderance of evidence has determined that contraceptive coverage is necessary and beneifical for the public good, will be not prevail. Nor will the claim of that this legislataion violates the Chruch's  Freedom of Religion. Of course, anything is possible, but I rest my case on the fact that there is already a legal precedent in many states. But, then again I could be wrong.



Tom Maher | 3/17/2012 - 3:23pm
Tim O'Leary # 47

I have to agree with your observation of the obsessive use of child abuse crimes in every agrument against the Church's Religious Liberty claims.  This association of child abuse with Religious Liberty is a very strange and unnatural combination and illogical.  Child abuse has nothing to do with Religious Liberties. 

The Church does have Constitutional First Amendment legal rights which it is free to assert.  Religious Liberty rights are not conditional on politics of the nation or within the church itself.   What is entreing into these discussions are national politics and the church's internal politcs.  These politcal considerations badly obscure the validity of the Church's Religous Liberties Consistutional claims.
ed gleason | 3/17/2012 - 12:55pm
While as Carolyn points out that there are 50 times more public school teachers than priests there is also 3 times as many Catholic School teachers than priests.
So where is the John Jay report about the 16,000 child sex abusing Catholic School teachers? There is none.. because the numbers are not even close by tens of thousands. The Shakeshaft supporters will need to come up the a study showing that Catholic school teachers are about a 35 times more moral than public school teachers. Get busy before posting about Shakeshaft again.
Carolyn Disco | 3/17/2012 - 4:32am
Mike @ #40 explains constitutional law very clearly, but it doesn't fit Tim's or Tom's narrative.

''I find that many of the First Amendment arguments advanced in support of the position taken by the USCCB rely upon a deeply flawed understanding of constitutional law. Particularly disturbing is the wholly false notion incessantly repeated by posters and politicians alike that the First Amendment exempts an institution or an individual from compliance with any law which contradicts religious beliefs held by that institution or individual.  That is not, and never has been, the law in this country, and for good reason....'' Examples follow.


I give up providing the facts about Hosanna. When even the church's own brief disagrees with their narrative, they ignore and dismiss the reality. Deflection indeed.


I readily accept that sexual abuse exists in public schools and needs vigorous action. What I recoil from, after working closely with clergy abuse survivors for ten years, is the implied rationalization/deflection that the church isn't so bad after all, because other segments of society have the problem too. 


''See! See!'' I am so weary of what comes across as denial and minimization, and thank Fr. Donald Cozzens for calling it out in his book ''Sacred Silence.'' Imagine going to confession and saying, but Father, all these other are guilty too. It's been like a self-excusing drumbeat and I am just sick of it.


I've also been a school board member who received cases, and I can say clearly, the resources for accountability in a publicly elected body where budgets and leaders are voted is far superior to the secrecy, corruption and exemptions prelates claim. I feel my advocacy has been one of the most Catholic actions I've pursued.


BTW, I well understand the concerns of priests as my son is a priest in campus ministry. I usually leave him completely out of it, but I am so damn proud of his working his heart out for those kids, I'm having a mama moment.
Tim O'Leary | 3/17/2012 - 1:41am
@ Carolyn #46
Ok (if you insist). You don’t like Charol  Shakeshaft’s report in 2004. But it was on behalf of the US government. There was another report in 2010 (the current government) by different authors (Andrea J. Sedlak Jane Mettenburg, Monica Basena et al) – direct link here
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/abuse_neglect/natl_incid/reports/natl_incid/nis4_report_congress_full_pdf_jan2010.pdf) that is summarized here http://www.mercatornet.com/justb16/view/6899 -  states that “only about a fifth of the child maltreatment cases recognized at schools were reported to civil authorities and investigated. 20% of the “school sentinels” who contributed to the study indicated that their schools, as a matter of policy, do not even permit them to report to child protection services. The authors lament that desipite similar findings of analogous studies in 1980, 1986, 1988 and 1993, no real progress has been made in gettings schools to stop protecting perpetrators and start protecting victims.” Also, yesterday, 8 staffers were removed from from jobs in NYC public schools for alleged sexual abuse. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/staffers-yanked-jobs-nyc-public-schools-article-1.1039768?localLinksEnabled=false. I think you grossly underestimate the problem in non-Catholic schools. This is because it fits the anti-Catholic narrative.
Tim O'Leary | 3/17/2012 - 1:00am
@ Carolyn #42
The ''argumentum ad pedophilium'' is a shorthand way of criticizing the obsessive use of the child abuse crimes in every discussion, deflecting from the issue at hand. I understand that you believe contraception is morally unobjectionable. But maybe you can understand that others do not. It is not the greatest moral concern of the day, and it is widely available and cheap (if not free - http://www.hhs.gov/opa/title-x-family-planning/). But it is a serious moral issue. And it is not just a clergy issue. It affects us all. However, religious liberty is a vital issue to the Republic, to our Bill of Rights.
Maybe, you can see my point by substituting something you find morally objectionable and seeing if you would object to being coerced to cooperate in it. Maybe, you find partial-birth abortion to be morally wrong - or euthanasia, or something else. And you run a business. The government tells you that you must pay for an insurance policy that covers these things. You don’t have to give your elderly parents the poisons but you have to make sure your insurance plan covers them, or you will face fines, large enough to put you out of business. Also, because of your beliefs you will be excluded from setting up charities that hire anyone outside your faith, or caring for anyone outside your faith. Don’t you see that this is creeping fascism? We have a Bill of Rights to protect us from an over-reaching government. However narrowly you consider the Hosanna-Tabor decision (I agree with Tom Maher on its precedent setting importance), the current Executive power argued against it and lost, 9 – 0. Does that not give you a hint that this regime cannot be trusted to come up with an “accommodation” that will be satisfactory?
@ Marie #41, you are right. The arguments for infanticide are weak, and have always been. However, infanticide of girls still occurs in some cultures today, and sex-selection abortions occur even in America, while Planned Parenthood turns a blind eye to it (their ''choice'' mantra prevents them from denying abortion for any reason, no matter how anti-female the reason). The purpose of showing you the articles is to demonstrate that it is being contemplated and considered among so-called academics (just as eugenics against non-white races was advocated by Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, in the 1920-30s). Again, I would like to ask you to consider the same test I describe above for Carolyn. Name something that could be called “healthcare” that you find very unethical and tell me you would have no problem having to negotiate an insurance agreement to pay for it.
Carolyn Disco | 3/17/2012 - 12:18am
Tim @ #35
 
Here’s a careful analysis of Shakeshaft’s failed methodology and the way it defines sexual abuse and misconduct. She ends up quoting herself, basing her conclusions on one study alone that includes sexual abuse by “anyone” and “other students” instead of public school teachers as a comparison to priests.
 
“One of the primary sources in the report is a study by the Association of American University Women. The AAUW study found the prevalence of abuse to be 9.6 percent—or, rounded off, 10 percent. Thus, the 10 percent figure cited in this latest report seems to be based exclusively on one study and not on “the existing literature” as the title of the report suggests.
 
The precise title of the AAUW study as used in the new report is “AAUW data (2000) and Shakeshaft secondary analysis (2003).” “Secondary analysis” presumably means that Shakeshaft re-interpreted AAUW’s original data—thus making the 10 percent figure derive partially from her own prior work. In short, she is quoting herself.
 
Yet, Shakeshaft concludes that “because of its carefully drawn sample and survey methodology,” the Association of American University Women report is the “most accurate data available.”
Among the questions asked of students by the one AAUW study was, “during your whole school life, how often, if at all, has anyone (this includes students, teachers, other school employees, or anyone else) done the following things to you when you did not want them to? Made sexual comments, jokes, gestures or looks.” A list of 13 other behaviors follows.
 
The question seems to be the nexus at which sexual abuse in school is established. Thus, the 10 percent figure properly includes “sexual abuse” by fellow students and other non-school employees. That fact alone invalidates the AAUW study for Shakeshaft’s purposes. It also invalidates her conclusions.
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1331
 
If I have the patience, I’ll get to your gross misuse of the stats on bishop-accountability.org. 
Carolyn Disco | 3/17/2012 - 12:17am
Tim @ #35
You use Carol Shakeshaft’s research, which has been discredited as seriously flawed, despite it wide usage by Bill Donohue and countless others who support his conclusions.
 
But let’s start by taking apart Cardinal Dolan’s misuse of Shakeshaft: ““You obviously never heard the stats on public school teachers…In my home town of New York City alone, experts say the rate of sexual abuse among public school teachers is ten times higher than that of priests, and these abusers just get transferred around.”
 
Wrong.
 
Prof. Mark Silk at Trinity College, Hartford, does the math: That’s a striking statistical rebuttal, but let’s just say that it doesn’t bear up well under scrutiny. According to the archdiocese, it’s based on a report that found 78 substantiated abuse cases by New York teachers in 2009, and 73 such cases last year. Did Dolan mean that there have only been seven or eight substantiated abuse cases by priests over the past couple of years?
 
There are almost 50 times as many public school teachers in New York City as there are priests in the New York archdiocese. If “cases” refers to abusers, then on a pro rata basis 75 public school cases would be the equivalent of 1.5 priest abuse cases; one-tenth the rate would be .15 per year–i.e. almost none. Is Dolan saying that there have been no substantiated cases of priest abuse over the past two years? If there were seven or eight per year, that would in fact be five times the rate of sexual abuse among school teachers.”
http://b27.cc.trincoll.edu/mt/mt-search.cgi?search=New+York+City&IncludeBlogs=13&limit=20
 
A lawyer on dotCommonweal added a valuable note: Doing the math from the other direction as well, if there are 50 times as many teachers as priests, then 10 times as many cases of abuse means the PS system actually has a much better record than the Church does.
Michael Barberi | 3/16/2012 - 6:47pm
If the Catholic Church, and other employers, are to be exempt from providing certain healthcare benefits, such as contraceptives, because it violates their religious beliefs, then would it not be true that the Church of Scientology, and institutions they own or operate, could deny certain medical benefits to their religious and non-religious employees? Where do we draw the line between Freedom of Religion and Non-discriminatory and medical necessary coverage deemed to be beneficial to health and well being? Today, many states mandate contraceptive and other types of coverage to be included in the health plans by plan sponsors, including Catholic hospitals and universities.

Carolyn Disco | 3/16/2012 - 5:19pm
Tom @ #36,
Once again, Hosanna was very narrowly argued and applies only to the circumstances of that case, despite bishops like Dolan trying to unilaterally extend the exemption beyond what the ruling provides.


The circumstances:  “employees who meet a denomination’s own definition of “ministerial employee” may not sue for wrongful termination under employment discrimination laws.” That’s all!

Even the church’s own brief in the case claimed no more. Have to run. Hosanna does NOT govern here. “The church’s own brief to the Court urged that the application of a ministerial exception to a suit by or on behalf of a minister would “not in any way bar criminal prosecutions for interfering with law enforcement investigations or other proceedings.”  See above.
Carolyn Disco | 3/16/2012 - 5:03pm
Oh my, Tim @ #39: ''drive-by assaults'' and ''argumentum ad pedophilium'' and  

What a twisting of my comment. 

Religious liberty is the connecting tissue between the HHS mandate and how bishops consider themselves above child protection laws. I am trying to show that bishops' interpretations of the First Amendment have some very slippery slopes. Their opinions admit to clever distortions that I disagree with. Finding them unreliable in one vital area (never mind in a ''small thing'') does not inspire confidence in their analysis in another.


''I very much agree that every single person who is found guilty of child abuse should get the book thrown at him/her. And one should certainly not try to use a religious liberty argument to avoid due process.''



Agreed. Perhaps then you accept that bishops should not use the FA to avoid complying with child protection laws, to be exempt from legal accountability for violating them, and thereby enable abuse. My NH diocese was investigated by the AG’s office, who found grounds for criminal indictment for endangering minors, with perjury as part of the charge. To avoid trial, the diocese agreed there were sufficient grounds for a guilty verdict and released secret archives to the public. What a revelation in those. (Imagine, bishops and perjury in the same breath.)

Bishops disliked the truth being exposed, and Lori for example went all the way to the Supreme Court to keep documents sealed. He lost, but then unilaterally decided to hold back about 12,000 documents and fight another legal battle over them. Today the Supreme Court hears arguments that bishops do not have the right to claim religious liberty to hide crimes, their own included. May the Archdiocese of St. Louis lose decisively.

More on the rest when I have time. BTW, because bishops lobbied successfully against statute of limitation reform or being named mandatory reporters, they were able to keep the secrets past the expiration date for trial. The strategy worked.
Michael Appleton | 3/16/2012 - 3:11pm
I have been following this and similar threads since the HHS controversy began.  I find that many of the First Amendment arguments advanced in support of the position taken by the USCCB rely upon a deeply flawed understanding of constitutional law. Particularly disturbing is the wholly false notion incessantly repeated by posters and politicians alike that the First Amendment exempts an institution or an individual from compliance with any law which contradicts religious beliefs held by that institution or individual.  That is not, and never has been, the law in this country, and for good reason. Does no one any longer recall the "selective objection" debate during the Vietnam War?

First, it must be agreed that the First Amendment does not shield religion from civil authority.  Unfortunately, the continuing struggle for justice for victims of clerical abuse suggests that the USCCB has yet to absorb that truth.  The First Amendment "embraces two concepts-freedom to believe and freedom to act.  The first is absolute but, in the nature of things, the second cannot be. Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 303-304 (1940).  Public policy demands have been found to trump religious doctrine in numerous contexts. The Mormon practice of polygamy was long ago held to be subordinate to prohibitory criminal statutes. Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879).  Jehovah Witnesses have been compelled to comply with child labor laws forbidding the distribution of printed materials on public streets by minors. Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944). Bob Jones University was unable to prevent the loss of its tax exempt status despite its religious convictions opposing interracial dating and marriage. Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983). And courts have routinely ordered the provision of emergency medical care to children over the religious objections of their parents.

The new regulation implements portions of the Affordable Care Act intended to expand the availability of preventive health services for women by requiring insurance companies to include coverage for those services. Meeting the health needs of millions of women pursuant to a grant of legislative authority surely fits any reasonable definition of a compelling governmental interest. And the impact on religious expression? None. Religious institutions are not required to change their moral views on contraception. No woman will be compelled to practice birth control.

But if the regulation does not raise constitutional issues, why all the fuss? The answer is that the controversy is a contrived and cynical political attack for election year consumption by Catholics and conservative evangelicals. It is also part of a continuing effort to weaken the wall of separation between government and religion. Indeed, the position of the Catholic bishops reinforces my opposition to the entire faith-based initiatives program. How is it that a religious body can defend the propriety of accepting public tax dollars to support what it represents to be a public function, such as operating a general hospital, and simultaneously insist that the operation of that same hospital is protected religious expression for all other purposes? The answer, of course, is that it cannot.

The comments of Marie Rehbein and Carolyn Disco have been roundly criticized on this thread, but they are the most legally accurate. The government is obligated to respect the free exercise of religion. Religious bodies engaged in the operation of public facilities are obligated to respect the rights of all employees, including those having incompatible religious beliefs, and to comply with applicable laws.

This is a pluralistic society. The view of religious freedom espoused by many of the posters here is simply a recipe for anarchy. The bishops are attempting to re-ignite a battle which they lost over fifty years ago. Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 So.2d 479 (1965). And the accommodation made by the President and rejected by the bishops was not even constitutionally mandated. If the Catholic hierarchy wishes to rebuild respect for its moral authority, it might begin by informing its reactions with reason.
Tim O'Leary | 3/16/2012 - 2:29pm
@ Marie #38.
For most of US history, the unborn were protected by law until they lost that in 1973 (Row v. Wade). And eugenics was strongly argued for in the 1930s before Hitler embarrassed its proponents. Euthanasia is an active isue. Here are two articles of academics who are still in good standing (i.e. not fired) arguing for a period of post-birth killing http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9113394/Killing-babies-no-different-from-abortion-experts-say.html and http://www.hss.cmu.edu/philosophy/hassoun/Papers/Paper_MoralPermissibility_japp_392.pdf.
And partial-birth abortion is the killing of a viable fetus. So the issue I raise is not highly speculative. There is every reason to believe that if America becomes less Christian, the vulnerable will targeted for budgetary arguments.
Many schools and hospitals and charitable organizations are self-insured, so we already in effect have Catholic insurance agencies. The Obama administration has talked about some "accommodation" for them but nothing is likely without continued pressure (and probably after the election, if he wins).
I strongly disagree with your idea that Catholics should only be allowed to insure other Catholics. It is directly opposed to the Christian mission. Imagine a Catholic emergency room doctor who has to ask not "where does it hurt" but "where is your baptismal cert"?
Tim O'Leary | 3/16/2012 - 1:50pm
Carolyn @#35
While I would prefer to stick to the issue at hand in these comments (religious liberty vs. sexual liberty and who pays for what), I really have to object to the drive-by assaults on the priests, not only by you but others who default in every article to the single issue of priest abuse crisis (argumentum ad pedophilium). But since you raised the issue and threw out the 2% number, I want to respond to that. Thanks for the links as I found them useful for composing my reply. While some of the data is well sourced, the headlines and summaries in each section are very biased and designed to come up with the most inflated number. But the worst abuse of the data seems to be on the falsely accused number. The writers have the following numbers:
4,570 allegations were substantiated (80%)
1,028 allegations were unsubstantiated (18%)
83 allegations were deemed false (1.5%)
Then they take the 83 allegation proven false and divide by the total, coming up with only 2% falsely accused!. This means that any priest who fails to prove his innocence is assumed to be guilty. What a reversal of our legal system of "innocent until proven guilty."
Based on their own numbers, the % should include those unsubstantiated and false, which is 20% - a pretty high number of priests whose lives have been destroyed. But it gets worse. Right after the 3 lines above, they say that the total number of priests who have been accused according to the John Jay report is 10,677. That would mean the number of substantiated claims would be only 42%. Then, if you go to the number of priests who have actually had some action taken on them after due process (325 laicized, 37 gone to trial, financial settlements, etc.), one has to go a long way to turn the “substantiated” number to “guilty” number. I think it unlikely the Church would pay out millions of money received from Catholics in the pews and not at least laicize the priest involved. Of course, some priests have died and never got a chance to any due process or to defend their honor.
I very much agree that every single person who is found guilty of child abuse should get the book thrown at him/her. And one should certainly not try to use a religious liberty argument to avoid due process. It is a terrible crime and way too common. (187,862 children were sexually abused in 2011 in America, 2/3rds boys - National Children’s Alliance stats). So, we are agreed that the guilty (priest or laity) should be harshly dealt with and the innocent should have their reputations and good name restored (if that is ever possible). By the way, the problem of child sexual abuse is much greater outside the Church but gets far less media attention. Charol Shakeshaft of the Hofstra University scholar (nationally renowned for her research into child sexual abuse) compared the priest abuse data with data collected in a national survey for the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation in 2000. Her research led her to conclude that "the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests." (http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/4/5/01552.shtml). A US government study also found a very high rate of abuse in public schools. Then there are also 1.3 million abortions each year (300,000 by Planned Parenthood alone) – the ultimate child abuse.
 
 
Marie Rehbein | 3/16/2012 - 11:55am
Tim wrote, "...you want to impose your religious beliefs on Catholics, or certainly on insurance providers, Catholic hospitals, doctors, etc. What if you believed in partial-birth abortion or believed that ensoulment occurred days after birth? (some do). Would you then want to force Catholic hospitals to provide its workers with infanticide insurance? Your principle is flawed."

If someone were to believe that ensoulment occurred days after birth and therefore wanted to advocate for infanticide insurance, that person would be trying to overturn the law that recognizes all born people as equally deserving of protection.  It is, always has been, and will continue to be the law that killing born people is illegal.  People come along from time to time to bring up this idea that infanticide is the same as abortion, but there is nothing in the position I am taking that would advocate establishing a new class of people who are to be given a different legal standing than the rest of us.  Whenever someone presents such an argument, it appears that they have run out of reasonable arguments.

We can also discuss the matter of ensoulment.  I believe that the Catholic Church has every right to take the position that ensoulment occurs at fertlization.  The standards that it must meet to make this a valid belief are theological and philosophical, not scientific.  I fully support the Church's right to teach this as a strongly held belief that is essential to identifying oneself as Catholic, should it choose to do so.  However, I do not agree that the Church's establishment of hospitals and universities was the outgrowth of that belief. 

As I understand it, the Church reaches out to spread the "good news" of Christ - "preach the gospel always, if necessary, use words", St. Francis of Assisi.  It is not clear to me that provision of insurance according the mandates of the governing authority of the nation in which the Catholic Church operates impinges upon the Catholic Church's freedom to teach.  Providing insurance does not make the Catholic Church look hypocritcal, no matter the contents of the policies, but not insisting that all its members conform to its teaching while simultaneously advocating that all its employees be treated by the government as Catholic believers who are offended by birth control does make the Church look hypocritical.

It would be an interesting test case if the Catholic Church chose to open a Catholic health insurance company.  It might want to consider that approach.  I believe the government would exempt it from having to meet the standards of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act so long as it employs Catholics exclusively and states openly that its intent is to offer insurance consistent with Catholic teaching.  It seems the thing that is forgotten in this is that no Catholic is required to use birth control because of the government.  The government is not teaching anything, and the Catholic Church is as free as ever to persuade people to avoid contraception.
Tom Maher | 3/16/2012 - 9:52am
The January 11, 2012 Hosanna-Tabor decision is already a classic Freedom of Religion case.  This 9 - 0 decision by itself is rare and signals to everyone something important principless have been agreed to by all the Justices.  This decison affirms  again the fundementals of the relationship between the church v state under the U. S. Constitution which should be understood by all citizens since it is the law of the land and is rich in histroic and legal explaination of what and why the U.S> Constitution insists on Religous Liberties.    
 
The legal principles in the Hosanna-Tabor decision are at play in other church v state conflicts such as current one being with the Catholic Church and the new HHS regulation.

One of the biggest take-aways form this decision was that yes the Religious Liberties clauses of the U.S. Constitution may apply to religious insitutions.  The Justice Department  and the EEOC argument that the Religious Liberties clauses do not apply to religious institutions was strongly rejected by all Supreme Court Justices.  Religious insitutions may have a valid Religous Liberties exemption claim and can not automatically be assumed to be just another secular institution whcih do not have religous exemptions.  This recent unanimous determination by the court supports the Catholic Bishop's claim for a religious exemption from the new HHS mandate.  

The Hosanna-Tabor decision also explains numerous other applicable Religious Liberties Consistutional principles that favor the Catholic Bishops claim for a religous exemption from the HHS mandate.
Carolyn Disco | 3/16/2012 - 2:05am
Tim @ #32

 I am at a loss to understand how you get from my desire to see that relevant evidence about abuse is made available to investigators to some lack of concern on my part about false allegations. I hope you do not want bishops to use religious liberty as an excuse to hide the truth about criminal conduct, including their own violations of generally applicable child protection laws.
 
As one judge wrote, “neither sexual abuse of children nor providing relief to victims was remotely related to ecclesiastical rules or religion itself.”
 
False allegations are horrific, but let’s not leave the impression they are common or widespread. The facts are available at http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/data.htm#falseallegations
 
“Kathleen McChesney, who was the first executive director of the Office for Child and Youth Protection of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has summarized the John Jay findings on false allegations: ''False reporting of sexual abuse by children is very rare.''
 
“Fewer than 2 percent of sexual abuse allegations against the Catholic church appear to be false.”
 
“The assessments cited above were made during the period 1985-2006 by experts employed by the U.S. bishops.”
 
BTW, the USCCB audits use sloppy methods by failing to separate false from unsubstantiated allegations. The two are not the same. Their audits do not count abuse by religious brothers on the technicality that they are not clergy; same for abuse by seminarians (not ordained yet). It was only 20 months ago that bishops agreed to finally include mentally handicapped victims whose abuse began after their 18th birthdays. Such transparency!
 
Of course there are religious liberty issues that are genuine and bishops have every right to protect them. This is not one of them. I pray the Supreme Court tomorrow stops bishops from distorting the First Amendment as explained in http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/15/opinion/clerical-abusers-and-the-first-amendment.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss
Carolyn Disco | 3/15/2012 - 11:47pm
Tom,

It is not comforting to think that under your interpretation of the First Amendment bishops can criminally endanger children and be above the law because they are bishops. Actually you misinterpret Hosanna-Tabor. 11-840-John-Doe-AP-Reply-Brief.pdf
 
The First Amendment protects religious belief, not illegal conduct.
 
1.Employment Division v. Smith, 1990, Scalia wrote the majority opinion.
 
Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities.”
 
the (Supreme) court stated (in Smith) that the clause does not permit reliance on religious motivation as an excuse for violating generally applicable laws
RI supreme court ruling Young v. Gelineau. 

 

2.Reynolds v. United States

 

“Laws,” we said, “are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.

 

3.Gillette v United States

 
“Our cases do not at their farthest reach support the proposition that a stance of conscientious opposition relieves an objector from any colliding duty fixed by a democratic government.”
 

4. John Doe v. Archdiocese of St. Louis being argued now

This Court’s recent decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,556 U.S. ___,132 S. Ct. 694 (2012),
does not govern this case.

 
 

The church’s own briefto the Court urged that the application of a ministerial exception to a suit by or on behalf of a minister would “not in any way bar criminal prosecutions for interfering with law enforcement investigations or other proceedings”  

Tom Maher | 3/15/2012 - 9:05pm
The January 11, 2012 Supreme Court decision in Hosanna Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School  v EEOC, a 9 - 0 decision  written by Chief Justice Roberts, demonstrates is just the very latest of numerous Supreme Court cases going back to 1788 that demonstrates the robustness and vitality of Religious Liberty clauses of the U.S. Constitution in exempting religious institutions from federal laws that intrude on a church's Freedom of Religion rights. In the Hosanna Tabor case the court rejected all arguments by the Justice Department and EEOC that the Freedom of Religion clauses did not apply to a religious school and that religious schools were just another employer subject to federal anti-discrimination laws without religious exemption.  The court unanimously found the Hosanna Tabor religious school has a ministerial exemption in its employment decisions to fire a teacher without government review whom the Church not the government considered to be a "minister"..  This shows that the court does regard religious institutions very differently than other institutions and does exempt religious institutions from federal and state laws without penalty based on the religious  liberty clauses in the Constitution.
 
The Catholic Bishops are well within their rights to assert a religious exemption for religious institutions from federal laws that attempt to limit the free expression of religion or control or define  what a religion must do or otherwise attempt to interfere with religious beliefs.   The church not society or the government solely determines what a religion's missions and beliefs are. or are not.
 
 Religious liberties are indeed very powerful legal rights derived from the First Amendment of the U..S..Constitution with well established and enforced Supreme Court precedents cherished by all citizens for more than two centuries who value and understand the importance of Freedom of Religion.

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