June 18th, 2012 by Peter
We don’t blame the editors of America’s oldest continuously published newspaper for being continuously confused. The Hartford Courant could not bother to send a reporter to FIC’s March 23rd Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally, even though there were 615 of us just a few blocks from the Courant’s office at noon on a weekday. The paper has lost columnist Susan Campbell, who did the heavy lifting in the let’s-pretend-social-conservatives-don’t-exist-in-Connecticut-by-misrepresenting-them-or-changing-the-subject department. And at 12 noon the Courant still has not even posted online the mishmash of misinformation that is their editorial in today’s paper about the HHS Mandate.
(We would like to think it is because the editors have had second thoughts and out of a proper sense of embarrassment, asked the paper’s webmasters to skip this one. But we know them too well. Embarrassment? The mandarins of Broad Street? Never! They are always right. After all, the state government takes their advice and look how great Connecticut is doing!)
So Connecticut’s paper of record is short-staffed and uninformed. And the charitable assumption is that this explains “Birth Control Battle” the Courant editorial whose very title gets the whole HHS Mandate War wrong.
Contra the Courant this is not about “Roman Catholics” and “birth control.” Just last week 150 Protestant leaders, holding a diversity of views on birth control, sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius petitioning for a broader religious liberty exemption. And despite the Courant’s attempt to paint FIC’s Second Stand Up rally in New Haven as a Catholic affair, it was attended by hundreds of people from several denominations and included a diverse group of speakers, such as Bishop Terry Wiles, the Protestant pastor of Crossroads Cathedral in East Hartford.
The Courant’s editors say that Catholics “step out of a purely religious setting” when running colleges and hospitals and therefore must, for instance, adhere to laws forbidding sex discrimination in hiring the employees of those institutions, even though the Church itself does not ordain women to the priesthood. First, in the entire history of our nation prior to 2012 it has never been the case that because a religious entity runs a school or hospital the government can force it to buy things that violate its religion. Citing sex discrimination laws is a non sequitur. Those laws would only violate religious beliefs if it did try to force the Catholic Church to ordain women. And secondly, just for the record, the Obama Administration actually did think it had the right to force the Catholic Church to ordain women. Fortunately, it suffered a 9-0 defeat at the Supreme Court when it made that argument.
The Courant asks why non-Catholic employees of Catholic institutions should be denied contraceptives in their health insurance. But no one is forced to work for a Catholic institution. If a woman finds the omission cumbersome, she can work for another employer that provides contraceptive coverage. Whether she decides to work for the non-Catholic employer in order to have contraceptive coverage or the Catholic employer because the other benefits outweigh the lack of contraceptive coverage is her–wait for it–choice. Remember when the Courant’s editors used to care about choice?
And that is all the Catholic Church, Family Institute of Connecticut and everyone else who cares about religious liberty is fighting for in the Mandate War. No one is trying to ban contraception. No one is even trying to limit access to contraception. All we are asking for are the First Amendment rights we have had all though U.S. history up until six months ago: that we not be forced in violation of our conscience to provide and pay for things that violate our beliefs. It’s about religious liberty, not contraceptives.
Oh, but it is! insists the Courant and the editors try to prove it in a parting shot by claiming that “various groups” have “muddied” the argument with “claims that abortion is somehow involved.” Harumph the editors: “It isn’t. Birth control, and only birth control, is the issue.”
No, dear continuously confused editors, abortion-inducing drugs are also at issue because of “Ella,” the five-day-after pill which goes beyond the Plan B morning-after pill and is a close cousin of RU 486. From Cardinal DiNardo’s public statement to HHS last August:
Catholics are not alone in conscientiously objecting to this mandate.The drugs that Americans would be forced to subsidize under the new rule include Ella, which was approved by the FDA as an ‘emergency contraceptive’ but can act like the abortion drug RU-486. It can abort an established pregnancy weeks after conception. The pro-life majority of Americans – Catholics and others – would be outraged to learn that their premiums must be used for this purpose.
And it is worth asking the continuously confused editors: Assuming for argument’s sake that the HHS Mandate does not cover abortion, why not? If the federal government can determine that contraceptives are “health care” that we must all be forced to pay for, what is stopping the government from determining that surgical abortions are also “heath care” that we must pay for? The beginnings of such a determination seems to have already happened in Connecticut state government.
You can hear the podcast of WSDK’s interview with me on these issues here. The podcast mentions my upcoming Manchester speech on the HHS Mandate. It will be tomorrow (Tuesday, June 19) at St. Bartholomew’s Church at 7:30 pm.
[Update: The Courant's editorial is now up.]