A Call To Action-The Supreme Court Rules
06.30.12 | | Comments
6/29/12 - READ THE LATEST ON THE IMPACT OF THE SUPREME COURT RULING AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE
One of the important responsibilities Family Life has been entrusted with through the years is to inform the community of faith on issues that are of critical importance to our Judeo-Christian values and the liberties that allow us to practice them.
As you’ve probably heard reported on Family Life News (www.fln.org/news) and elsewhere, the Obama administration has refused to grant religious institutions an exemption from purchasing health insurance for its employees that covers abortion-inducing drugs, surgical sterilization and contraception. While many evangelicals do not have an issue with contraception/birth control, the other sections of the mandate are clearly troublesome. The penalty for not obeying this provision is a punitive fine of $2,000 per employee. There are many faith-based organizations (including Family Life, the Salvation Army and Christian colleges) that could not morally purchase insurance for its employees to cover abortifacients. Nor could they afford the fines they would incur.
This is not an overstatement – indifference or lack of action on the part of God’s people will have serious, negative implications on issues of our freedom of religion and conscience.
What can you do? First, be informed of the facts. There is some alarmist rhetoric being thrown out in the Christian media that is sensationalistic and factually incorrect. So, learn what is true. Chuck Colson provides a good summary of the issue on his website here:
You can also find updated information on this short video from the Colson Center:
Second, to learn more about what you can do to support the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and religious liberty, read about and consider signing The Manhattan Declaration here:
Third, pray for our leaders. Regardless of your personal political views regarding the current administration we are instructed in scripture to uphold our leaders in prayer. We need to stand firm for the values we believe in but being antagonistic and hostile only raises the noise level while lowering the opportunity for constructive dialogue. Remember, “A soft answer turns away wrath but grievous words stir up anger.”
We urge you to learn more about the importance and timeliness of this issue and prayerfully consider what action to take. As one of our Presidents once said, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.” The time is now.
UPDATE: 2/13/12 On Friday, February 10, the Obama administration announced a 'compromise' proposal regarding its health care mandate requiring religious institutions to provide health care coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs, surgical sterilization and contraceptives. Because of the firestorm of controversy when the proposal was originally announced, the administration crafted this 'compromise' which would still provide coverage to employees of religious institutions but at a cost to the health care/insurance industry. No confirmation that the health care/insurance industry would agree to such a plan; no acknowledgement that the proposal still infringes on religious liberty. Before the 'compromise' was announced the administration sought the approval of various liberal religious groups (mainstream, evangelical and Catholic) in order to say that the concerns expressed by so many were now adequately addressed. Nothing could be further from the truth. From The Christian Post:
UPDATE: 2/15/12 And this, from Focus on the Family President Jim Daly:
It was difficult to click on a website, turn on the TV or venture into the social media space over the weekend without encountering news of President Barack Obama's attempt to blunt criticism that his healthcare plan would force religious groups to violate their deeply held morals and values by paying for contraceptive drugs that could cause abortions.
The administration's self-described "accommodation" has not gone over well with institutions or people of faith. That's because, for us, this is matter of morals, not money. Principles like how we view human life and whether we are truly free to live and practice our religious convictions speak to the very essence of who we are as people and as a society. They are woven through every aspect of our lives. They are not issues for America; they are the ethos of America.
There are many compelling points to be made that the president's revision does not adequately address the concerns of Catholic charities and other religious groups—including evangelical organizations like Focus on the Family.
Under the revised mandate, employers who have "a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan" will not fund these services directly. Instead, the insurance plan will cover these services to all female employees. Still, all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.
Also of concern is that private business owners who provide healthcare services for their employers have no exceptions. A Catholic business owner would have to fund contraception; an evangelical business owner would have to fund possible abortion-inducing drugs. To think you've placated Christian groups by giving them what they want, while denying it to other people, disregards a core tenet of our faith: the needs of others are always to supersede our own.
Then there's the issue that the drugs mandated for coverage by the Obama administration go beyond contraception as most Americans understand it. That is, they don't just prevent the fertilization of a woman's egg. Drugs like Plan B and Ella, which are mandated for coverage, can cause an early abortion by preventing the embryo from attaching to the uterine lining. This is terminating a human life.
That brings up a point that should be pondered by fair-minded Americans who hold even vastly different views on the sanctity of human life: This mandate elevates contraception and abortion-inducing drugs to the level of preventative healthcare. They are not. Plan B should not be considered equivalent to the polio vaccine. Pregnancy is not a disease. Perhaps the most fundamental flaw in the White House's "accommodation" reasoning—no matter, frankly, what in the end that accommodation turns out to be—is that religious liberties are not something any president has the legal authority to recognize or deny. As Christians, we believe these rights come from God; but you don't need to believe in God to recognize such rights are protected for all citizens by the Constitution.
There is a limit to what government can compel us to do—or not do—particularly in matters of faith and conscience. It is in the best interest of all Americans, of every ideological stripe, that this limit, this line, not be crossed.
This is not about politics. It is about more than one government policy. It is about what's proper—and it is never proper for government to force the people who elected it to violate their consciences.
UPDATE: 2/16/12 Over 500,000 people have signed the Manhattan Declaration so far. March 2 will be the last day the petition will be accepting signatures before it is sent to the President. Additionally, the Manhattan Declaration has teamed with the Becket Fund to create a petition—now signed by over 67,000 individuals—that will also be presented to President Obama.
UPDATE: 2/21/12 Earlier today, Florida's Ave Maria University joined the rising tide of lawsuits against the Obama administration's attempt to force contraception, sterilization and abortion drugs into virtually every health insurance policy in America. Jim Towey, Ave Maria's President and former head of the Bush administration's Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives is determined to stop the administration's assult on religious freedom. "It is a sad day when an American citizen or organization has no choice but to sue its own government in order to exercise religious liberty rights guaranteed by our nation's Constitution. Allowing a U.S. President of any political party or religious affiliation to force conformance to his or her religious or secular orthodoxy through executive action is a perilous precedent."
Following the initial reaction to the controversial mandate's announcement, both sides are working to shore up support and solidify their arguments. Several lawsuits (as noted above) have been filed against the administration. For its part, the insurance industry has said relatively little in regard to President Obama's 'accomodation' that insurance companies would have to provide contraception coverage at no cost to the consumer. The trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans has limited its comments to saying it worries about the “precedent” the mandate would set. The concern is that the government could eventually require health plans to cover any number of preventive services – even prescription drugs – without copays or deductibles, under the theory that they save money in the long-term. But nothing is free. So insurance companies will have to build that cost into their prices for other coverage. Meaning that all of us, up to and including the religious organizations that object to the mandated coverage, will be paying for it.
UPDATE: 2/27/12 Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 28, 2012, there will be a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Obama administration mandate, "Executive Overreach: The HHS Mandate vs. Religious Liberty" at 2:30 p.m. Among those testifying before the Committee will be Bishop William Lori, Chairman of the Committee For Religious Liberty (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), Asma Uddin of the Becket Fund For Religious Liberty, Jeanne Monihan, Director for Human Dignity, Family Research Council and Dr. Linda Rosenstock, Dean of the UCLA School of Public Health.
Pray that the Lord will give those testifying the appropriate words to say and that the members of the Committee will seriously consider the weight of the issues at hand. As of this posting (3:35 pm 2/27) C-SPAN has not determined whether they will broadcast the hearing, either live or by tape-delay. We'll update our information here as it becomes available.
On Friday, March 16, the Department of Health and Human Services released additional details regarding its so-called "compromise" on the abortion-drug mandate. The administration stated they would solicit public comment for several options to create a new "insurance mandate" and provide a potential safe harbor rule for certain student health plans. The fact is many religious groups will not qualify for the safe harbor even for their employee health plans so their student health plans will begin to dispense the offending drugs and services beginning this August.
To date, the President has failed to live up to a promise he made in a speech at Notre Dame in 2009 to craft a "sensible conscience clause". This issue remains 'in play'; several lawsuits are pending in federal court. The Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments on March 26. We will provide daily updates on the progress of the case.
The U.S. Supreme Court opened three days of arguments yesterday on the fate of the health care overhaul law. The justices seemed skeptical of the government's contention that they must wait until 2014 to decide on the legality of the law.
Today the focus is on small businesses and the impact the overhaul law would have on them. Is the proposed requirement that most people carry health care insurance or pay a penalty constitutional? The arguments include the issues of religious liberty and rights of conscience as we've discussed previously; can religious institutions be forced to provide health care insurance for employees that may violate their beliefs and the principles upon which their organizations are founded?
The arguments will continue tomorrow. We'll update more information then.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court concluded three days of oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of the administration's health law. Among the questions to be answered are, if one part of the law is judged unconstitutional, should other parts of the law survive? What will be the major impact if the law is thrown out on health-care companies, businesses and non-profit/religious institutions? Many people of faith are concerned about the mandate portion of the law but at this point no one really knows what the ultimate result will be if the law is upheld or if it (or portions of it) are ruled unconstitutional. One thing everyone seems to agree on - it's going to be a mess.
And while the SCOTUS is not a political body per-se, the balance between conservative members, liberal members and 'swing vote' members makes predicting a decision nearly impossible. The conservatives seemed skeptical of the constitutionality of the mandate and inferred they may throw out the entire law if that one part is rejected.
Another factor is the inevitable political impact a decision either way will make. If upheld, the Democratic party and administration will tout the victory as a major legislative accomplishment. If it is not upheld, Republicans and conservatives will use it as another example of government over-reach and indifference toward religious/personal liberties. And of course there are other major issues the country is struggling with as we move closer to the November elections; the economy, jobs, social inequality, our military involvement around the world; all these will factor in when people are exercising their right to vote.
The court is set to announce its opinion sometime in June. So while the issue is not at as inflammatory a point as it was two months ago, it is still a serious concern for followers of Christ and all people of faith (and those of no faith as well). The decision made by these nine men and women has the potential to either affirm or challenge the basic constitutional principles of liberty and conscience which all Americans should seek to protect.
Waiting until the end of June to render its decision, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday on the health care mandate. The central part of the legislation, the individual mandate will stand as constitutional. However it will stand as a tax; as a commerce regulation it failed.
The question remains whether or not the court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, has found a way to balance federal authority while at the same time respecting the separation of powers. Or is the decision wrong in that it validates the mandate by defining it as a tax, something which Congress has the power to regulate. To quote Roberts in his opinion, "The mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition -- not owning health insurance -- that triggers a tax -- the required payment to IRS."
While a short-term loss to conservatives and those who opposed the mandate (27 states sued the federal government and there are still 23 lawsuits filed by conservative and evangelical institutions), the decision is not a complete victory for its advocates. The entire health care package was touted as a commerce issue, not a tax. Since Judge Roberts has declared it a tax, the President and those in favor of the package will have no choice but to promote it as a tax, presumably the largest tax increase in U.S. history.
For now, given the Court's decision, the mandate will stand as law and the lawsuits filed against the federal government will most likely proceed. The implementation of the law will take the states, the insurance and health-care industries, Medicare and Medicaid months to sort out and, no doubt, more lawsuits will be triggered. In that sense, the Court's decision was not definitive; it has merely set the stage for the next set of lawsuits and divisive rhetoric that will continue through the presidential election.
We will continue to update this blog as the situation evolves. For now, we suggest praying for wisdom in how to proceed as we face a divided government and a divided electorate.
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