An American Catholic's Rebuttal to Supporters of the Mandate

This is likely to be the first of many commentaries on this matter, but I feel compelled to address specific points that have been made to support President Obama’s unconstitutional mandate upon Catholic affiliated institutions.

Firstly, supporters of the mandate defend the proposition because as they say most Catholics do not agree with the Church on the matter of artificial birth control. Jehmu Green, on Fox News no less cited polling that 98% of Catholics oppose the Church and have used contraception. Juan Williams, also on FOX, cited a FOX NEWS poll that showed 61% of all Americans agreed with the Presidents’ mandate.The Green and Williams position is that if a majority of the faithful do not adhere to the precepts of their faith, then the government is justly empowered to enforce that majority opinion upon the entire faith.

Let us suppose that these polling numbers are accurate and not skewed by faulty inquiry. If it really is 98% that oppose the Church and a mere 2% that abide by its teaching I am compelled to ask: SO WHAT? This argument in defense of the mandate is pathetic precisely because it seeks to delegitimize faith if it does not conform to majority will. If I am part of the 98% am I justified in marginalizing the 2%? Are those 2% who comply with the Church’s teachings to be denied protection under the First Amendment? Are we now to extend the protections of that First Amendment exclusively to those whose lives are in contravention to the tenets of their faith? That is the logical conclusion to draw by those who cite polls to justify intruding upon religious liberty. It is however the citation of the outcome of public polling to defend this unconscionable act that is more profoundly disturbing because it undermines the heart of the First Amendment. Freedom to Worship and by extension the conscience of one’s faith as outlined in the First Amendment does not exist to serve the will or conscience of a 98% majority, it is there expressly to serve and protect the minority from the will of the majority. This historic reality is absent among those who recite polls to defend the President and is therefore wholly invalid in its construction. Catholics and only Catholics are free to debate and seek to alter the precepts of their faith. Many liberal Catholics have pleaded with the Church to change its policy. It is an example of Dialogue among the faithful and in the United States of America the government is not justly empowered to take up the cause of a faction in an internal debate amongst the flock. Catholics make the rules for Catholicism and no one else. It is true of all faiths and the faithful in America.

The second defense of the mandate goes like this: Because Catholic affiliated schools and hospitals hire non Catholics, those non Catholics are not bound to the teachings of the Catholic Church and therefore any affiliated institutions depriving them of health care plans without contraception are effectively coercing them to compromise their health and principles. It is therefore held by this defense that government is justified in compelling those institutions to compromise its faith and provide such services. This is absurd.

First of all if you are a person of one or no faith working at an institution run by a contrary faith it then stands as common sense that your faith as the employee does not dictate itself to your employer. If your values are so offended by the tenets of the Catholic Institution that employs you then you are free to pursue employment with any alternative enterprise that meets your values. For that matter, as an American Catholic if you are so profoundly dissented with the faith, you are free to find peace amidst a new flock that matches your values. Simply put: The Door is open and you are free to leave.

As to the issue of coercion of non Catholic employees. Let us imagine for the moment that I am the President of the University of Notre Dame, the most prestigious Catholic University in America. In that capacity I publicly declare that we will only consider Catholic applicants for employment and furthermore be discharging all present non Catholic employees and shall only take applications from Catholics and thereby exclude non Catholics from employment in this new hiring practice. If such an action were taken the Justice Department would seek to prosecute the University for violation of federal anti discrimination laws. I use this example to illustrate how this defense is a “Catch-22”. On the one hand Catholic institutions like Notre Dame are obligated by law to consider all qualified applicants and cannot prohibit by practice the employment of non Catholics. This legal reality undoes the “coercion” defense. Because the Church abides the law regarding employment, they are now compelled to violate its conscience as a result of its compliance? On the one hand the institution cannot discriminate and because it cannot by law discriminate, they are now compelled by the mandate as the employer to conform to the values of the non Catholic employee as defined by Kathleen Sebellius, that Quisling residing at Health and Human Services. What a fine legal mechanism that erodes religious liberty.

The third defense is worthless but needs mentioning. They argue “it’s about women’s health,not religious liberty”. This is just plain dishonest. First of all, health care as a whole, women’s needs or otherwise is not a right as defined by the Constitution. Freedom of Worship is. How can something that is not a right, trump the very first amendment ratified by the thirteen original states? This defense is merely a facade, given the abundance of evidence however anecdotal that Rick Perry was right when he said there was a “war on religion”. There is a clear and definable segment of American society represented in this crisis of faith that are intent upon subordinating all people of faith to what they deem to be the greater moral authority, that of course being an all knowing, all powerful, wiser and beneficent federal government. They seek as evidenced in this matter, however subtle and incremental to compel people of ancient faiths to worship their newly constructed Golden Calf, an altar to honor their secular God as they seek to consign the Faith of Our Fathers with an eye towards oblivion.

I am by temperament inclined to believe that people are well intentioned in their dissent on issues of substance. On this matter I cannot bear as the evidence mounts to extend such a presumption. The assault on religious liberty in this mandate is unprecedented. It is just the beginning and the most notable chapter in a litany of lesser known efforts to diminish individual fidelity to faith. Whatever one’s faith or values, this mandate is a direct assault on faith, but indirectly its greatest victim is the “Spirit of America” itself, a spirit that cherishes individuality and the freedom to define our lives on our terms as dictated by our conscience whether inspired by the divine or a choice to ignore his voice in the conducting of our life.