PolitiFact Texas Says Sen. Cruz Is Wrong On HHS Mandate Because Obama Said Otherwise

On March 16, Politifact Texas took umbrage to Sen. Ted Cruz’s closing remarks at CPAC.  In fact, there’s a multitude of liberal media outlets that are irked by the senator from Texas. Gail Collins’ The Dread That Is Ted encapsulates that animosity.  Yet, what the gentleman from Texas was eloquently detailing during his keynote address was this administration’s problem with freedom of religion.

Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter rated this statement.

Democrats are “fighting a war on religious liberty,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz told the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 16, 2013.

In his keynote speech at the event (commonly known as CPAC) held annually by the American Conservative Union, the Texas Republican equated current events to Democrats telling the Catholic Church, “Change your religious beliefs or we’ll use our power in the federal government to shut down your charities and your hospitals.”

They ruled it a “pants on fire” statement because:

the Catholic bishops have said that potential accumulated fines resulting from refusals to carry out the contraception mandate will cause some institutions to shut down.

Perhaps. However, such prospects do not reflect a direct threat from Democrats or the government. To the contrary, the administration has moved to widen the mandate’s exemption for religious employers and provide a workaround for those who act as their own insurance providers — with the goal of allowing affected parties to continue their work without violating or changing their beliefs.

As National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru wrote last month:

First of all, how does PolitiFact know what the “goal” of the administration’s “workaround” was? Its sole evidence on this point consists of a statement by President Obama that it takes at face value rather than subjects to any fact-checking. Maybe the administration’s actual goal was to come up with a way of saying it was taking religious-freedom concerns seriously without actually changing anything of substance, the better to snow credulous organizations like PolitiFact Texas.

The religious institutions that object to the policy, post-”workaround,” say that they cannot comply with it while staying true to their religious beliefs. (Most courts so far have agreed that the policy places an illegal burden on the practice of the faith not only by religious institutions but by companies owned by people with religious objections to abortion drugs, sterilization, and contraception.) The administration’s policy gives these institutions — that is, tells them they have — two choices. They can comply, even if they think doing so violates their consciences (and they are, presumably, the right judges of that question). Or they can refuse to comply and be driven out of operation.

Ashley McGuire of The Catholic Association released this statement saying:

“Thank you, Ted Cruz, for your courage in standing up for religious believers, including religious women like myself. Senator Cruz is absolutely correct that Catholic hospitals and charities face the unconscionable position of having to pay for things like abortion drugs or shut down. Courts all across the country are agreeing with Senator Cruz that the HHS mandate is a violation of religious liberty, plain and simple. And it doesn’t end with hospitals and charities. Private employers with religious beliefs face the same dilemma. The recent decision by the 10th Circuit to grant a very rare en banc hearing to Hobby Lobby’s owners is evidence that the HHS mandate is being taken seriously as a threat to the religious liberty of people of faith, regardless of where they work.”

One such private employer is Hobby Lobby – which was recently granted a full hearing by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the HHS mandate on contraception.  While this is a positive sign, the war between Obama and the religious community will continue to fester.  The Catholic Associations’s Maureen Ferguson and her interview with National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez goes into further detail on this subject, but one thing is clear.  PolitiFact saying that Sen. Cruz is wrong because Obama said otherwise is tragically comical, and illustrates the problem of journalists becoming fact-checkers as well.