Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
February 19, 2012

About That "Accommodation"
President Obama's support team, that is to say, not just the people working in the White House but close to the entire elitist establishment that shapes the "message" transmitted day by day via the secular media (with the notable exception of Fox Television News, The Wall Street Journal, a few other papers like the Washington Times, sundry radio talk shows, and a couple of magazines like The Weekly Standard and the National Review-such principal exceptions aside, the Obama cheerleaders these past few days have been "spinning" like a manic centrifuge to shape the public's  perception of the president's latest tweaking of his health insurance program as an "accommodation" of the needs of the religious conscience. (And isn't it wonderful, they seem to be implying, with just the suggestion of a smirk, that the president is actually willing to offer an accommodation to those dinosaur Catholic bishops). A shift in the shuffle is all that this "accommodation" represents. Genuine accommodation it is NOT. True, the threat of ruinous fines for non-compliance-shades of Henry VIII and the recusants!-has for the moment been lifted, but there's nothing to prevent such fines being reimposed down the road, or to prevent surgical abortions being added to the list of preventive services covered. What the latest tweaking constitutes is just a shift of the immediate responsibility for the funding of a program that includes provision of abortifacients, a program therefore in which no exponent of a pro-Life creed can in good conscience participate. Immediate responsibility for such payment is now shunted from the religious corporations to the insurance companies, (though religious corporations that self-insure will not evade such responsibility.) But ultimately even religious corporations that are not self-insured will find themselves compelled to subsidize what their creed defines as immoral, for the simple reason that insurance companies will NOT provide contraceptive medications, abortifacients and sterilization procedures "free of charge", as the president is now "requiring" them to do; they will simply pass on the costs to the corporations that they insure in the form of higher premiums. This is a certainty for two reasons. First of all, the president has no constitutional authority to "REQUIRE" private companies to provide a service "free of charge". This is not, after all, the Soviet Union. At least not yet. Secondly business corporations that are successful must cover their costs. Ergo.

This bureaucratic "bullying" of religious corporations into subsidizing what they deem to be immoral is a flagrant violation of our Constitution's First Amendment. And that amendment was prioritized by our Founding Fathers precisely as first because they correctly judged freedom of conscience and freedom of religion to be the foundation and guarantor for all the other freedoms, that Americans would enjoy. Tweaked or untweaked Mr. Obama's health insurance dictate is a direct assault on the very root of American freedom. No wonder, then, that this dictate has evoked a firestorm of opposition from across the whole spectrum of Americans' religious affiliation, from Orthodox Jewish rabbis to Protestant Evangelicals to non-practicing Catholics and even to some of no religious faith at all who are nevertheless alarmed at this effort on the part of government to establish itself as the new magisterium in matters of religious belief. Once such magisterial power is conceded in matters pertaining to God, will anything else be so sacred as to be untouchable? Like the Christians of pagan antiquity who were commanded to offer incense to the empire's gods at the emperor's behest, we respectfully but adamantly decline to obey our Caesar on the Potomac when he would have us, in practice surely if not yet in word, repudiate our faith.
*          *         *         *         *
United We Stand for Religious Freedom
The Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2012
Donald Wuerl, Charles Colson and Meir Y. Soloveichik

Stories involving a Catholic, a Protestant and a Jew typically end with a punch line. We wish that were the case here, but what brings us together is no laughing matter: the threat now posed by government policy to the basic human freedom, religious liberty.

Last month the Federal Department of Health and Human Services announced that the Affordable Care Act [ObamaCare] requires employers to pay for insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations and contraception. What made the announcement especially troubling is that HHS specifically declined to exempt religious institutions that serve those outside of their own faiths, such as hospitals and schools. Coverage of this story has almost invariably been framed as a conflict between the federal government and the Catholic bishops. Zeroing in on the word "contraception," many commentators have taken delight in pointing to surveys about the use of contraceptives among Catholics, the message being that any infringement of religious freedom involves an idiosyncratic position that doesn't affect that many people.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Catholic Church's teaching on contraception (not to mention abortion and surgical sterilization) has been clear, consistent and public. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's decision would force Catholic institutions either to violate the moral teachings of the Catholic Church or ABANDON the health-care, education and social services they provide the needy.  This is intolerable.

And while most Evangelicals take a more permissive view of contraception, they share with Catholics the moral conviction that the taking of human life in utero, whether surgically or be abortifacient drugs, violates the basic human right to life. Evangelical nonprofits such as Prison Fellowship would therefore also have to choose between violating their consciences or paying fines that would ultimately destroy their ability to help the people they are committed to helping.

Even worse than the financial impact is the breach of faith represented by Ms. Sebelius's decision. HER notion of an "APPROPRIATE balance" between religious freedom and "increasing access" to "important preventative services" stands the First Amendment on its head.

In 1790, George Washington exchanged letters with Moses Seixas who praised the newly formed United States for "affording to All liberty of conscience, and immunities of citizenship." People who knew all too well what it meant to be deprived of the "invaluable rights of free Citizens"  held religious liberty and freedom of conscience most dear.

In reply, Washington wrote that U.S. citizens had a "right to applaud themselves" for setting  "an example of an enlarged and liberal policy" that ENSHRINED freedom of conscience. He added that the ability of members of one faith to seek the benefit of all Americans is the foundation of America's civic strength.

We see evidence of that strength all around us: If a working mother's child needs to visit the emergency room, there's a good chance help will come from a Christian ministry like Prison Fellowship.

Yet instead of encouraging the different faith communities to continue their vital work for the good of all, [something that he declared himself in FAVOR of at a recent Prayer Breakfast]-the Obama administration is forcing them to make a choice: serving God and their neighbors ACCORDING to the dictates of their representative respective faiths - OR BENDING THE KNEE to the dictates of the STATE.

For Jews, George Washington's letter has always been cherished. It embodies the promise extended by America not only to them, but to all citizens. That is why many in the Jewish community are alarmed to see the very religious freedom Washington praised centuries ago ENDANGERED by Washington's successor. "May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land," Washington wrote, "continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants."

At this critical moment, Americans of EVERY faith or of NO faith, as guardians of THEIR OWN freedom, must, in the words of the First Amendment, "petition the government for the redress of grievances." That's why over the past two years more than 500,000 people have signed the "Manhattan Declaration" in defense of religious liberty. They believe, as do we, that under no circumstances should people of faith violate their conscience and discard their most cherished religious beliefs in order to comply with A GRAVELY UNJUST LAW.

That's something that this Catholic, this Protestant and this Jew are in perfect agreement about. [Emphasis added].

Cardinal Wuerl is the archbishop of Washington, D.C. Mr. Colson is the founder of Prison Fellowship and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Rabi Soloveichik is the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and associate rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan.
*          *         *         *         *