Thursday, February 2, 2012
I am glad for the pressure of the Obama administration...
New U.S. Department of Health and Human Services policy requires all employers, including religious ones, to pay for FDA-approved contraceptives, such as the birth control pill and Plan B, through health insurance plans. Churches are exempt but hospitals and schools with religious affiliations must comply. The new policy goes into effect August 1, 2012, but religious groups who oppose contraception have been given a yearlong extension to enforce the policy.
President Barack Obama and his senior aides were more than a little concerned before he announced his controversial decision requiring Catholic hospitals and universities to provide contraception in employee health plans.
Obama — in recognition of the issue’s sensitivity to the church — picked up the phone to personally break the news to two influential Catholic leaders: New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Sister Carol Keehan, head of the largest Catholic health association in the country and a pivotal supporter of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.The president’s tone was polite but not contrite.
Now to be sure, I do not wish any harm to the Catholic Health Care system (or what might be left of the Lutheran one) but I am very glad that this tension has come to light. It has always been there but has remained largely hidden until the Obama administration, to its credit, has pushed the whole thing into the center stage. There is no deference being given to religious organizations or the doctrinal stances of those groups and their sponsoring agencies in the churches. This is a good thing in that we are now seeing exactly the direction of the future unless this becomes a national debate and a national challenge is raised to this restricted definition of religious freedom and its exemption from liberal public policy.
This is NOT about Obama. This is about the great debate over life issues from contraception to abortion to reproductive technology that was not even envisioned a generation or so ago. We need this public debate. It is not about fine print but about the growing trajectory between public policy in health care that is favored by a very significant minority and the current political part in the White House and the religious freedom which protects religious organizations from regulation that contradicts the stance of the faith.
It is my great frustration that change too often comes in through a back door and the great debate and conversation that these issues deserve does not take place. So I welcome the conflict and the public debate in the hope and prayer that we will find consensus that protects the religious freedom from the intrusion of the government and liberal agenda. All I can say is "wake up, folks" because the conflict is not made up and the tension is not imagined. It is real. The threat is real. The very existence of social services and health care provided by church affiliated agencies is under attack.
HT to the Deacon's Bench