The Catholic Church is one of the largest private employers in the United States. Catholics operate schools, hospitals, universities, and ministries throughout our country. Time and time again, Catholic organizations have chosen medical coverage for their employees that specifically excludes contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs because Catholic doctrine is strongly opposed to all three. However, the Affordable Care Act or ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, requires all employers to take the affirmative step of covering these services.
In a country founded on the principle that government should not dictate the parameters of religious worship, one would think that the unconstitutionality of the “contraception mandate” would not be at issue. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. The ACA says that religious organizations can be granted exemptions to the law, and it provides that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will set up the procedures thorough which the ACA can be administered.
The HHS has defined “religious employer” as follows:
“For purposes of this policy, a religious employer is one that: (1) Has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization.”
Think about that definition for a minute. Do Catholic hospitals have the inculcation (or teaching) of religious values as their primary purpose? Do they primarily serve Catholics? Do they limit themselves to primarily employing Catholics? Of course not. Instead the hospitals were established to serve the sick, the poor, and the dying in conformance with the Church’s overall Christian mission. The mission of Catholic hospitals was best summed up by St. Francis of Assisi, who said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” Catholic hospitals deliberately serve everyone because Christians have a duty to serve others. Period. Mother Theresa didn’t subject the impoverished of Delhi to a theology quiz before she ministered to them, just as Catholic hospitals, schools, and universities provide services to all people, regardless of creed. The ability of religious organizations to minister to all people will disappear once the ACA takes effect.
If we follow the HHS definition of a “religious employer” through to its logical end, we can see the sheer absurdity in the way it affects religious institutions. In order for Catholic hospitals to receive an exemption under the mandate, they must: 1) ask all potential employees about their religious affiliation; 2) discriminate against (by refusing to hire) all potential employees who are not Catholic; 3) ask all incoming patients about their religious affiliation; 4) refuse to treat patients who are not Catholic (ignoring the life threatening status of any illness or injury); and 5) to subject every person receiving care to sermons or other lessons in Catholic theology.
Is this what the government wants? For emergency room doctors to ask patients about their religion before providing treatment? To violate a plethora of existing laws regarding patient care and confidentiality? The underlying agenda of the ACA is clear, and it’s two pronged: 1) To force religious organizations to succumb to outside pressure and operate their institutions in violation of their own religious beliefs; or 2) to shut down. This law also serves to fracture the Body of Christ by forcing religious denominations to keep to themselves, avoiding interfaith cooperation.
This deliberately puts religious organizations in an untenable situation. If the Catholic Church caves in and abandons its sincerely held beliefs, then teachings that the Church, under the banner of Truth, has taught for 2,000 years, appear to never have been True to begin with. If religious institutions hold onto Truth and close rather than succumb to government pressure (as did Catholic Social Services in Boston after the implementation of Massachusetts’ same sex marriage law), then they no longer can act as the “light of the world” ministering to those who do not know Christ.
Either way, the influence of the Church is weakened. Government wins the ultimate power play.
We cannot let this happen. Several legal actions are currently pending in the courts in an attempt to preserve our First Amendment freedoms, but unfortunately, we have learned that we cannot look to the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution. Our best recourse is to repeal Obamacare.
“The true danger is when Liberty is nibbled away, for expedience and by parts…. All that is necessary for Evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” -- Edmond Burke
Stand up for religious freedom. Defeat the mandate. Repeal Obamacare.
Sharee Langenstein of Jackson County, IL serves as Eagle Forum's National Director for Religious Liberties.