By Peter Hodges- Catholic Coalition Coordinator for the Oklahoma Republican Party
President Obama has violated the conscious rights and civil rights of Catholics, all Christians and all people of good will. He did this with his new Department of Health and Human Services rule on insurance plans paying for contraception, sterilization and abortion drugs. This announcement was made through an HHS press release on Friday January 20, 2012 and it violates the 1st amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”
Many people and groups are now wide awake and are on their feet. But first, the mandate.
Below are four excerpts of note from the HHS mandate you should know:1. most new insurance plans will be required to follow this rule effective August 1, 2012:
“Today the department is announcing that the final rule on preventive health services will ensure that women with health insurance coverage will have access to the full range of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended preventive services, including all FDA - approved forms of contraception. Women will not have to forego these services because of expensive co-pays or deductibles, or because an insurance plan doesn’t include contraceptive services. This rule is consistent with the laws in a majority of states which already require contraception coverage in health plans, and includes the exemption in the interim final rule allowing certain religious organizations not to provide contraception coverage. Beginning August 1, 2012, most new and renewed health plans will be required to cover these services without cost sharing for women across the country.”
2. President Obama demonstrates false generosity in giving us an additional year to get over our conscientious objection:
“After evaluating comments, we have decided to add an additional element to the final rule. Nonprofit employers who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, will be provided an additional year, until August 1, 2013, to comply with the new law. Employers wishing to take advantage of the additional year must certify that they qualify for the delayed implementation. This additional year will allow these organizations more time and flexibility to adapt to this new rule.”
3. President Obama plans to force employers, who meet the narrow conscience clause criteria to tell their employees where to find contraception:
“We intend to require employers that do not offer coverage of contraceptive services to provide notice to employees, which will also state that contraceptive services are available at sites such as community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income- based support. We will continue to work closely with religious groups during this transitional period to discuss their concerns.”
4. This last excerpt shows the false use of the term “common good” taken from Catholic social teaching (CST.) The use of this term is President Obama’s attempt to manipulate Catholics by speaking our language.
“The administration remains fully committed to its partnerships with faith-based organizations, which promote healthy communities and serve the common good.”
See the full press release from the HHS website .
The response to this mandate has been forceful. Like a giant startled from his sleep by an intruder. Pope Benedict XVI, American Catholic bishops, Catholic laity, Baptists, Republicans and even some liberal Catholics have taken action. Below are examples of what they have done:Pope Benedict XVI
Seemingly in anticipation of this mandate, Pope Benedict XVI addressed American Catholic bishops. The following are excerpts from this January 19, 2012 address. The day before the illegal HHS rule was announced:“…it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a RADICAL SECULARISM which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at EVERY LEVEL OF ECCLESIAL LIFE.”
“Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.”
“...concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in INTRINSICALLY EVIL PRACTICES.”
“Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed CATHOLIC LAITY endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the FUTURE OF AMERICAN SOCIETY.”
See Pope Benedict's full address here
Nearly all Catholic bishops in the United States have made powerful public statements that were read from the pulpits of their parish churches.Here is one statement from a letter written by Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul S. Coakley: "We cannot-we will not-comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less."
National organizations (like the ones below) made up of lay Catholics have been informing, educating and calling to action the public about the HHS mandate.
National Association of American Laity, “Lay Catholics,” www.LayCatholics.org
Catholic Advocate, www.catholicadvocate.com
Catholic Vote, www.catholicvote.org
Baptist General Conventions and pastors have asked their congregations to contact Catholic bishops and offer their support and protection of Christian principles.
- Pastor Dan Fisher of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon, Oklahoma read Archbishop Coakley’s letter to his congregation twice! They erupted in applause. He also asked his congregation to support Archbishop Coakley with calls and letters.
- Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s executive director Dr. Anthony Jordan wrote a statement thanking Archbishop Coakley of Oklahoma City and Catholics for taking a bold stance to protect religious liberty and further said they will join Catholics with action and prayer.
Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma publicly thanked Archbishop Coakley and the Catholic Church for its stand against the HHS mandate. She did so from the well of the Oklahoma House of Representatives on February 8, 2012 during the Pro-life event Rose Day. Archbishop Coakley was present and the floor and gallery were packed with people of good will who responded with appreciation.
Several liberal Catholics have abandoned President Obama over this mandate. Notably, Michael Sean Winters (the author of Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics and How the Catholics Can Save the Democrats 2008) has declared his refusal to vote for Obama in the November elections. He writes for the liberal National Catholic Reporter.
- Winters stated in a January 21, 2012 article, “President Barack Obama lost my vote yesterday when he declined to expand the exceedingly narrow conscience exemptions proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The issue of conscience protections is so foundational, I do not see how I ever could, in good conscience, vote for this man again.” Winters full article is here; http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/jaccuse
The Catholic Giant is shaking the ground beneath President Obama and it won't stop until he loses the election and serves his last day in office. We cannot let him walk this mandate back without consequences. Lose the Catholic vote and lose the presidency.
It doesn't stop with the Catholic Giant. More giants are on their feet. The Baptist Giant has come to his older brother’s defense. We are all actively defending each other’s religious liberty now. The lay faithful will defend their Church and pastors. Though many were awake, President Obama waked the rest of us. Now, we will beat him as bad as we want to beat him.
Peter L. Hodges Sr. is the Catholic Coalition Coordinator for the Oklahoma Republican Party and Founder of the National Association of American Laity an association of Lay Catholics