Monday, February 6, 2012

Everyone needs to see this

Shared at the Deacon's Bench, here's the USCCB's Sister Mary Ann Walsh with six important things to know about the HHS mandate:

Six Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate

1. The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or hospitals. These institutions are vital to the mission of the Church, but HHS does not deem them "religious employers" worthy of conscience protection, because they do not "serve primarily persons who share the[ir] religious tenets." HHS denies these organizations religious freedom precisely because their purpose is to serve the common good of society—a purpose that government should encourage, not punish.

2. The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience, to pay for things they consider immoral. Under the mandate, the government forces religious insurers to write policies that violate their beliefs; forces religious employers and schools to sponsor and subsidize coverage that violates their beliefs; and forces religious employees and students to purchase coverage that violates their beliefs.

3. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception. Though commonly called the "contraceptive mandate," HHS's mandate also forces employers to sponsor and subsidize coverage of sterilization. And, by including all drugs approved by the FDA for use as contraceptives, the HHS mandate includes drugs that can induce abortion, such as "Ella," a close cousin of the abortion pill RU-486.

4. Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the mandate. Catholics who have long supported this Administration and its healthcare policies have publicly criticized HHS's decision, including columnists E.J. Dionne, Mark Shields, and Michael Sean Winters; college presidents Father John Jenkins and Arturo Chavez; and Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

5. Many other religious and secular people and groups have spoken out strongly against the mandate. Many recognize this as an assault on the broader principle of religious liberty, even if they disagree with the Church on the underlying moral question. For example, Protestant Christian, Orthodox Christian, and Orthodox Jewish groups--none of which oppose contraception--have issued statements against the decision. The Washington Post, USA Today, N.Y. Daily News, Detroit News, and other secular outlets, columnists, and bloggers have editorialized against it.

6. The federal mandate is much stricter than existing state mandates. HHS chose the narrowest state-level religious exemption as the model for its own. That exemption was drafted by the ACLU and exists in only 3 states (New York, California, Oregon). Even without a religious exemption, religious employers can already avoid the contraceptive mandates in 28 states by self-insuring their prescription drug coverage, dropping that coverage altogether, or opting for regulation under a federal law (ERISA) that pre-empts state law. The HHS mandate closes off all these avenues of relief.

I think that this information needs as much exposure as possible. This is nothing more than a naked power grab by the federal government to reserve to itself the right to decide what is or what isn't a religious activity, and to mandate the imposition of secularism by force upon charities and churches in all but their most narrowly-defined worship activities. Such a notion should be abhorrent to anyone who believes that the Constitution's protection of freedom of religion is not meant to apply only to what happens behind closed church, synagogue, or mosque doors, but includes the freedom of believers to act like believers even in the public square.


Anonymous said...

Erin, thanks for your timely post re the HHS Mandate! I just sent an e-mail to Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) expressing my displeasure on this issue. (And, me, a life-long registered Democrat!!).

If this mandate is not rescinded, then there may be 1 less vote for Barack Obama in November.


Elizabeth said...

I'm not against contraception, but I am FOR religious freedom.

This is deeply disappointing. Also stupid. Now the administration even has liberal Catholics and other religious angry. I cannot fathom the decision, as a liberal. Our constitution is above all laws. Can't imagine this will pass the legal challenges sure to follow.

It could easily have been avoided by setting up inexpensive pools for people to purchase their own contraceptive insurance, if they so desired.


Anonymous said...

Good article.

OTOH, Sebelius' op-ed yesterday almost made my head explode with its stupidity.

I don't think they are going to back down though. Then what happens I wonder.

Ann Marie

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Sister Walsh is blinded by her own revulsion to the fact that she makes out no case at all for why EMPLOYERS should somehow be exempted from a general requirement. She makes no sense at all:

1. The relevant point is not that these institutions serve the common good of society, but that they EMPLOY people in a capacity which is not, per se, one of faith and doctrine (e.g., mopping floors, drawing blood, teaching English grammar, entering medical data into a computer). The institution is not being punished, it is simply being told it must provide these non-religious employees the same options any employer must provide its employees.

2. So what? An employer who is a Jehovah's Witness has to pay for medical coverage that includes blood trasfusions. See any difference in principle? You don't get to impose your religious beliefs on your employees, period.

[Relevant to both (1) and (2), the employees are not serving in a liturgical capacity, nor under church discipline in the sense of a religious vocation.]

3. So what? See (1) and (2). HOW BADLY the employer's religious beliefs are violated by the choices employees may make does not make it any less valid.

4. The breadth of intellectual leadership that joins their voices in the chorus of protest may give them all a sense that "we really are good Catholics after all," but it does not change what the rights of employees, not to be dictated to by the religious beliefs of their employers, may be.

5. Truth against the world, I always say. This is a question of protecting the rights of employees of employers, not a question of religious liberty. The Washington Post are kinda liberal anyway, and I never did trust liberals.

6. If the federal mandate were not stricter than existing state mandates, there would be no point to having one. I'm always willing to stick up for states providing MORE protection for workers than the feds, but never less. The HHS mandate is INTENDED to close off these avenues of "relief." The fact that it does so is not a case that it is invalid.

What would be a good example of government regulation REEALLY breaching the free exercise of religion?

Some years back, the organist at an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in San Francisco sued for employment discrimination, because they fired him after finding out he was gay. The first report was from a man who had gay inclinations who had decided to remain celibate, having come to believe that to act on his inclinations would be sinful. He recognized the organist, and knew he had not made the same decision.

Last I knew, the equal employment enforcement agencies were unable to intervene, because the organist's job was part of the worship service, and therefore the church could make its own unimpeded choices about who could fill such a role, and why.

My sister is of the opinion, "Does the fact that he is gay (and practicing) have any effect on his ability to play the organ?" Of course it does not, but the church doesn't have to restrict itself to that question. Playing the organ is part of the worship service.

Running a hospital, a college, etc. is NOT an act of worship, even if it is motivated by a sense of mission. The employees are not acting out of faith and doctrine, they are working for a paycheck, plus medical benefits. The claim that "freedom of religion" is being infringed borders on the manipulative.

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys, Catholics see the *establishment* of various types of works of mercy as religious in nature (other religious believers have similar views, by the way). In ages gone by wealthy Catholics donated money to build hospitals, schools, etc. because they saw things like healing the sick and instructing the ignorant as part of the spiritual mandate.

Just because you say these things are secular doesn't mean they are. And I wonder what you would think if every single Catholic charity simply shut down? Perhaps you think there are enough secularists to build schools that are just like the Catholic ones, hospitals and charities and so on, and that we Catholics should just stop trying to do any good outside our own parishes. You may get your wish, you know.

Rebecca in ID said...

You know Siarlys, you just keep saying the same thing over and over, and I don't get what you think the punch of your argument is. Like I said, if something truly is a matter of a fundamental human right, then of course conscience has to be set aside to a certain degree; for instance, a man doesn't have a right to withhold water from someone dying of dehydration because he deeply believes that God wants this person to dehydrate to death. I mean, duh. But you keep mentioning the fact that *everyone else* gets the perk of free abortifacients from their employers, so employees of Catholic institutions also should get the perk of free abortifacients from their employers. Is the center of your argument just that "{everyone does it so everyone must do it", and therefore it would apply no matter what the random perk in question, or is it that abortifacients are a fundamental human right? Can you just answer that question directly for me? Please?

L. said...

Rebecca, those of us who use abortifacients consider them part of our standard healthcare, and we expect our insurance to pay for them according to current federal law.

With my beliefs, I would never expect to be employed by the Catholic church in any liturgical capacity and would never seek a job as such, but it is within the realm of possibility that I would, as a secular lay person, be employed in some capacity by a Church-affiliated institution. I would expect no more or no less than any standard health insurance covers.

The Jehovah's Witness/whole blood transfusion example is an apt one. If I were employed by one of their institutions, I would expect my insurance to pay for what the law considers standard healthcare, even if they viewed certain procedures as anathema and grounds for expulsion from their religion.

And the argument, "Just because you say these things are secular doesn't mean they are" can be turned around to say, "Just because you say these things are religious doesn't mean they are." I think the world would be a far better place if every single Catholic institution either shut down or re-established itself as an entirely religious organization, employing only persons of faith.

Red Cardigan said...

L., serious question: if a Catholic hospital took your advice, and employed only Catholics and refused to treat non-Catholics at all, would you support them, or would you howl for federal laws to shut them down for discrimination?

Same for a school, etc.

What people don't realize is that our laws in American don't *allow* a school to refuse to admit any non-Catholic children or a hospital to refuse to treat non-Catholic patients. So we're bound by these laws, and can't function as purely Catholic institutions.

Now, I know plenty of people would rejoice if there were no longer any Catholic schools, hospitals, charitable institutions, etc., and if Catholics were forbidden to make the sign of the Cross in public, to wear crucifixes or wear or carry or display rosaries, etc.--in other words, to be "allowed" to be Catholic only in the church buildings (and even then, not necessarily in the parking lot if that can be seen from the street). But I'm surprised at how many people would nod in agreement that this is what "freedom of religion" really means.

freddy said...

BTW the Jehovah's Witnesses analogy is not apt at all.

1. Jehovah's Witnesses are allowed to accept or reject blood transfusions as a matter of individual conscience.

2. JW's don't *have* schools, hospitals or other charitable institutions; preferring to work with people on an individual basis.

3. Individual JW employers have to follow the same rules as individual (not Church related) employers. This HHS ruling specifically targets Church institutions. (example: my husband's company is run by a Catholic, but our insurance does partly cover immoral drugs/procedures. It was, I'm told the best plan available regarding state regulations for the small company.)

4. It is possible for a blood transfusion to save a life imminently in danger of death. It is impossible for a contraceptive pill or procedure to save a life imminently in danger of death.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Like Elizabeth, I'm not against contraception, but I am against this. I am Episcopalian but I'm starting to believe there is a concerted agaiinst the Roman Catholic Church and it's teachings. I'm not shocked, but definitely disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm a little more concerned that Plan B has been available in vending machine on a Pennsylvania college campus for two years.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

Rebecca, we are ALL saying the same thing over and over. I suppose every time I see someone repeating something as if it is unrefuted and unrefutable, I feel I have to mention that in the eyes of many, it is both refuted and untenable.

If Catholic institutions hire only Catholics and provide services only to Catholics, they should not get any public money (which all hospitals currently get). In fact the laws WOULD allow that. The requirements to admit all are a condition of receiving federal funding. The balance would sort itself out. When Catholic hospitals were really missions of the church, rather than "mission plus margin," they were staffed by monks and nuns.

The Jehovah's Witness analogy is in-apt ONLY to the extent that Jehovah's Witnesses do not TRY to pull the rank demands for special privilege that Roman Catholic institutions do.

I believe, contrary to Alisha, that this whole hullaballoo is merely one more expression of the Vatican's inability to come to terms with the fact that the whole world isn't, and isn't going to be, under the dominion of the Roman Pontiff. Urban may be spinning in his grave, but that's his problem.

L. said...

Erin, our laws in America DO allow schools to refuse non-Catholic children. Private schools of all kinds are free to discriminate as they see fit, and reject (or expel) any student for any reason, or favor one student in admission over another (alumnae children, etc.). I remember a Catholic school in southern California rejected the adopted son of a same-sex couple, and I remember thinking, why ever would they WANT their kid to go there?

Would a Catholic hospital be possible -- run by Catholics to serve only Catholics or lay people who agreed to live by Catholic principles? As a private institution, I imagine this would be possible, the way some pro-life doctors now limit their patients to those who share their beliefs.

And if Catholics were ever were ever forbidden to make the sign of the Cross in public, to wear crucifixes or wear or carry or display rosaries, etc., the ACLU would be on their side:

L. said...

Freddy, I'm not JW, but according to a friend of mine who is, transfusions of WHOLE blood products are grounds for dismissal from the religion, but they do allow discretion on some blood/plasma products.

eulogos said...

And if there were JW hospitals, in my opinion, they would have a perfect right to refuse to pay for whole blood transfusions in any health inusrance they offered. Employees would know that when they choose to work there.

Susan Peterson

freddy said...

Well, L., I was told by a practicing JW that the teaching was a matter of individual conscience; that she herself would not choose to have a transfusion, but would not judge another JW who did.

Additionally, according to the Secretary to the European Commission of Human Rights, "Information Note No. 148 on the 276th Session of the European Commission of Human Rights" (Strasbourg: European Commission of Human Rights, March 2-Friday 13, 1998): "Blood transfusions are a matter of free choice for Witnesses in Bulgaria. --Witness Leadership in Bulgaria"

I don't want to turn this into an argument about JW practices! My point is that the Watchtower -- the JW hierarchy -- is not monolithic on this point. What they call a "doctrine" the Catholic Church would define as a "discipline;" something possible to change. Catholic opposition to contraception is neither liable to change or be abandoned based on what country in which you live!

Again, the analogy is not apt.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Rebecca, we are all saying the same things over and over. That is because we have different premises, and therefore don't have much common foundation to argue on. However, government decisions have to be made on what the law and the constitution are, not on what you or I might wish it to be.

Eulogos, it is your closing line that I truly abhor. In an economy where 90 percent of us depend on "getting a job," in order to be self-supporting, we have wisely adopted labor protection laws which deny employers the right to discriminate in that manner. Employers can evaluate employee performance and productivity, but may not condition employment on "I expect you to be in church on Sunday," or on "Nobody who works here gets blood transfusions in your medical coverage," or "I prefer to have employees with medium coffee-colored skin, no lighter, no darker," nor "if you work here you will send your children to X private school," nor any number of details that are none of the employer's business to dictate.

eulogos said...

It is not discrimination for the employer not to provide certain items in a health insurance policy. Employers, at least until now, didn't have to offer health insurance at all. If they do offer it, they offered what they could afford or what they chose to offer, and employees accepted it or didn't. Many many people work full time at jobs which offer no health insurance. A large part of the time I was raising my children, my husband worked full time at such jobs. So if an employer is offering a good insurance policy which doesn't happen to cover items which are purely voluntary and not necessary medical care such as contraception, abortifacient medications, and sterilization, well, this is not discrimination. It just means that if you want to use those, you pay for them yourself. Most places which offer insurance also offer medical set aside plans where you can put part of your money away pretax and then use it for unreimbursed medical expenses such as more expensive glasses frames than your plan coveres, or more dental cleanings than it covers, or white fillings when it only covers metal amalgm fillings. People can easily use this for birth control pills.

It is discrimination not to HIRE people because of certain characteristics. It is not discrimination not to offer one item or another in a health care plan. I would have liked to have implants and bridges instead of an upper denture, but I couldn't afford it, so I have the denture. This was not discrimination against people with natually soft teeth, or against people who can't stand the feeling of a denture in their mouthes. It just isn't in the plan.

Well, if you work for a Catholic hospital, your birth control pills or your sterilization, just isn't in the plan, and you know that when you are hired. It is a purely voluntary association, to work for a certain place or not, and you accept the conditions of employment or you don't. No one is discriminating against you because you want something and they won't pay for it.

Susan Peterson

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Susan, I restrain myself from calling you viciously anti-labor, because I don't think you know much about labor and management.

Medical coverage is not a gift freely given by an employer. It is compensation for labor performed, hard-won through decades of strikes and persistent action of a less acutely confrontational nature. Coal miners have it as a fruit of going on strike in 1943, and old-timers still call both their pension and their medical benefits the "John L. Lewis check." Auto workers won it by sitting down at the assembly line and denying General Motors access to their plants.

Even eighty years ago, union leaders candidly agreed that this put employers who did NOT sign a contract to provide medical benefits at a competitive advantage. They expected that the solution would be some sort of nationally standarized health coverage for ALL workers, not just those with the most militant unions and most strategic leverage. Another factor is, employers who wanted to keep unions out started offering benefits so that their employees wouldn't think they needed a union to get one.

We are now beginning, in a rather clumsy and fumbling manner, to transition from some have it and some don't to extending coverage to just about everyone. That's good, because I have only had medical coverage for three of my 37 adult years -- the only years I worked under union contract. I'm in good health, but if my appendix suddenly goes, or I'm in a serious auto accident with an uninsured driver, it could be catastrophic for me.

The current law mandates employer participation in funding medical coverage. To quibble about "which procedures and medications I want my employees to be covered for" is, if not discrimination, coercive dictation, making choices for employees that each employee should make for themselves.

Again, I look to history. In the absence of labor protective laws, employment under the common law was entirely "at will." Either employer or employee could terminate employment for any reason or now reason. Employers could dictate "anyone employed at my business is expected to be at the Lord's house on the Sabbath," or "If you want to keep your job, you will be going out with my this Friday young lady," or "If Andrew Jackson carries the ward you all live in on the other side of the tracks, you need not report for work next day." There are a million variations.

I know you won't see this, because your priority is that employers who are Catholic not have to pay for anything your church teaches would be sinful. But this is not a legitimate condition of employment. The bishops have every right to command faithful Catholics in the name of the Church, but the employers to whom they issue such commands have no authority to make this decision for their employees.

Once again, if we move away from employer-funded health care to a single-payer multiple-provider system with lots of choices, this question might well go away.

eulogos said...


Suppose you were an employer. Is there any practice you would object to being mandated by law to pay for?

Suppose a time came when people were allowed to "put to sleep" (as we say of pets) their disabled children up to age three? Suppose
people could do the same with their elderly parents who could no longer live independently. Suppose all of this had been declared to be legal and constitutional. You would have no moral problem with paying for it?

I am trying to think of some non-lethal hypotheticals. Suppose it had become common for people to so identify with their dogs or their cats that they wanted to become as much like them as possible, and wanted to have hair follicles implanted all over, and their ears shaped pointy, and this became accepted medically as necessary to their mental well being; would you object morally to paying for that?

Suppose deaf people had won the right to make their children deaf also, so they would stay in the deaf culture? Would you object to paying for that?

Do you accept that one has some responsiblity for another person's choice, if one materially assists him in carrying out that choice?

Do you think all choices which have become socially acceptable and legal in any society are acceptable and valid?

If not, do you want the right to be free not to assist others in executing choices which you believe are not moral, even if they are legal?

Susan Peterson

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Susan, if I were an employer, I would first look at my legally mandated obligations to my employees. I would meet those obligations in full. I would then look at what else I might want to offer my employees -- which would be more or less at my discretion, EXCEPT, that I would try to run the enterprise in a manner similar to the Mondragon plant in Spain, that distributists are fond of pointing to as a model, or, the chemical plant in Poland that liberals complained continued to run as a "typical socialist enterprise" after the last communist government was ditched by its coalition partners. (It found there was still a market for its product, paid its own way, continued to provide all kinds of housing, recreation, child care, medical care, etc. benefits to the workers who made it run).

So, I would discuss with ALL the employees what they could use or would like. Over and above a basic rate of pay, this would of course depend on revenues available. If I had a free hand to redesign labor relations, I would set a basic wage scale that (varying with skill and experience) workers were entitled to even if the enterprise ran into the red to meet it. Then, I would set a transparent, honest, and reliable process for a substantial share of net revenue, in profitable years to be distributed among the workers, instead of all being retained by investors. The former would cover essentials of life, the latter, optional benefits. Medical coverage would be among the essentials. Unless mandated by law, plastic surgery would be among the optionals.

The only way that paying for euthenasia of three year olds would be a legal obligation is if there was sufficient political support for a law mandating that ALL EMPLOYERS pay for euthenasia of three year olds. That, I submit, is a far stretch. As a voter, I would oppose it.

In any case, if this is supposed to be analogous to current HHS regs about contraception, I wouldn't be writing checks to the euthenasia center. I would be paying premiums on a policy that included, among the options the covered individual could make use of, services of a designated medical center to perform euthenasia on the children of the covered individual up to age 3. The insurance company would make the payment to the euthenasia center.

Like I said, I do not anticipate a political majority, let alone a consensus, supporting an employer mandate to cover euthenasia of three year olds.

What really has the bishops and the southern baptist lord high pooh=bahs riled up is that there IS broad public support for covering contraception, therefore it IS an employer mandate, and therefore they have to to a song and dance of rage to have a hope of stopping it.

Red Cardigan said...

The fact that you could even talk about a legal obligation, however hypothetical, to cover the euthanasia of children up to 3 without saying that you'd take up arms to oppose such a thing tells me just about everything I need to know about you, Siarlys. How sad such a dessicated amorality really is.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Erin, I accepted Eulogos contrived scenario as she presented it. Then I separated the strands of her interweaving. Your comment reminds me of the way congress members are pilloried in media bytes for voting down a perfectly good bill because it contained a perfectly unacceptable amendment, or because the voted down a bad bill that contained a perfectly good amendment.

Now, you want to talk distinctly about my thoughts on euthenasia?

In a perfect world, in which there was recourse to an arbiter with perfect judgement, there might be occasions when I would consider euthenasia justified, particularly in matters of extreme incapacity to either function or to make a decision.

The fact is, we have no such perfection this side of eternity. Therefore, I am opposed to euthenasia, categorically, but have some sympathy for those who choose to end their OWN lives due to extreme pain and suffering. I still have reservations about making that explicitly legal, because, as you among others have pointed out, the next step would be to apply social and economic pressure that a person who MAY make this decision SHOULD do so. I generally would not prosecute someone who assisted such a suicide, short of being really up in everyone's face, e.g., Dr. Kervorkian asked for it.

If someone seriously proposed a law authorizing parents to euthenize their children up to the age of three, I would speak against it, I would vote against it, I would personally refuse to assist anyone in carrying it out.

It is a far stretch to say that employers might be mandated to pay the costs of euthenasia. (I already said that, but you chose to overlook it, because you wanted to go for a contrived jugular). As you know, I believe that after the 20th week of gestation, a woman should not even be permitted to destroy what, by that time, is a baby, even though it is still inside her womb, much less one that is already born.

I question the pro-life principles of all those who try to make a case for pushing that line further back, by offering hypothetical apologia for killing three year olds, newborns, or five year olds. I'm against that. Aren't you?

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys, I'm against the direct and intentional killing all innocent human beings, from conception to natural death. To me, brutally ripping apart a 12-week-old human female in utero is as horrible as killing a twenty-year-old woman. I know you don't agree.

But I also think that you don't bother to understand the mindset of those who don't want to be forced to pay for killings, sterilizations, and other immoral things. You seem to think that if a pluralistic society wants those things, or the euthanasia of five-year-olds, or whatever, it should be allowed.