On Friday the Obama administration released another “compromise” on the HHS mandate. Unlike the previous so-called compromise this time there is actually some minor change.
The new proposal eliminated three of the four prongs of the old rule: inculcate values, and primarily hire and serve co-religionists. But it kept the fourth prong from the exact IRS code section. The change therefore does not expand who is covered to schools or hospitals: it simply makes it clear to churches that they are covered even if they serve non-co-religionists. (Source)
So the new HHS mandate is slightly less evil than the previous one. No doubt many progressive Catholics who objected somewhat to the HHS mandate will be totally fine with it now.
As it is now it means that Catholic schools, hospitals, some charities, etc still have their rights taken away. EWTN still would be forced to comply. Private employers also would have zero rights in this regard.
The HHS mandate has an understanding of rights that is totally nonsensical. Rights are something that individuals have and those individual rights are the basis for what we see as an institutional right. Houses of worship receive their rights not because they have innate rights, but are projected via the rights of individuals regarding freedom of religion. The Bill of Rights detailed personal freedoms and it is the individual that receives them and not some corporate body. No doubt I am putting this forth badly, but still the point is that individuals are the proper object of rights.
To say that an individual has free exercise of religion and then say that it doesn’t apply if they run a for profit business order is nonsense. To say that same for a non-profit company whose sole purpose is to spread the Gospel is even more non-sensical. If you can’t act on your conscience you are not free. Although the HHS mandate goes beyond just questions of religious liberty. Objections to contraception, abortion, and sterilization can be based on natural law arguments. The HHS mandate takes a battering ram to the freedom of conscience. The Obama administration has a policy view that they would ram down the throats of everybody with typical social engineering and elitist thinking. Typical of enlightened thinkers is that there is usually a reign of terror to go with it. We are suppose to be pleased that instead of “off with your heads”, it is currently only “off with your consciences.”
It will be interesting to see the USCCB’s response. Archbishop Chaput certainly is not buying it.
The scholar Yuval Levin has stressed that the new HHS mandate proposal, “like the versions that have preceded it, betrays a complete lack of understanding of both religious liberty and religious conscience.” In reality, despite the appearance of compromise, “the government has forced a needless and completely avoidable confrontation and has knowingly put many religious believers in an impossible situation.”
One of the issues America’s bishops now face is how best to respond to an HHS mandate that remains unnecessary, coercive and gravely flawed. In the weeks ahead the bishops of our country, myself included, will need both prudence and courage – the kind of courage that gives prudence spine and results in right action, whatever the cost. Please pray that God guides our discussions.
Whatever the cost is exactly right. The Obama administration would like to wear us out in time and money. They know this attack on religious freedom will not get the attention it deserves.