A Catholic, a Protestant, and a Jew stand united for religious freedom in today’s WSJ:
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 by 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 preventive services" stands the First Amendment on its head.
Meanwhile, the Nihilist in Golf Pants is more sanguine about the prospects of lay Catholics recognizing the importance of the matter and responding appropriately:
I know you're skeptical of the typical Catholic reaction to the HHS mandate. I've got a few data points to consider:
- My parents attend a fairly conservative Church in Florida; their pastor told the congregation in no uncertain terms last week that they couldn't vote for Obama in good conscience. I'm sure the issue will come up again as November nears (the best part about this is it came one day after my mom accused me of exaggerating the impact of the decision).
- Two liberal Catholic Washington Post columnists, EJ Dionne and Melinda Henneberger have been critical of the decision to the point that they said it must be reversed for them to support Obama in November
- (I hesitate to mention this because it's internet hearsay but) on NDNation's political board, a well known poster who claims an ND BA and a Harvard JD and bragged all 2008 about his high place in the East Coast Obama campaign staff publicly denounced Obama, admitted that he was played for a fool and started that he won't vote for O even if he reverses his decision. Previously, he's espoused the position that a vote for Obama was completely consistent with the Catholic view of morality.
I predict a comfortable Republican victory in November.
I wish I could be so comfortable.