Friday, June 8, 2012

Chilling Effects of Obamacare's HHS Mandate on Religious Freedom

Let’s set aside the lofty constitutional considerations of the HHS mandate for a moment to consider its practical application. Here are just a few facts about the mandate taken from the Becket Fund:

The government mandate is unprecedented in federal law, and broader than any state contraception mandate to date. Never has federal law required private health plans to cover sterilization or contraception.
The … “religious employer” exemption from the mandate … is extremely narrow and will, in practice, cover very few religious employers. Many religious organizations—including hospitals, charitable service organizations, and schools—cannot meet this definition. They would be forced to choose between covering drugs and services contrary to their religious beliefs or cease to offer health plans to their employees and incur substantial fines.
Either pay for abortions under a health care plan or cancel health care and still pay hefty fines. So, a Baptist private school that currently offers health insurance to teachers must continue to pay the insurance fee mandated to cover abortions, sterilizations and other objectionables or cancel its insurance group coverage and pay a fine for doing so. Either way the school must pay unless it closes its doors to all non-Baptists.

As the Becket Fund explains,

Not even Jesus’ ministry would qualify for this exemption, because He fed, healed, served, and taught non-Christians. . . . Under the government’s mandate, religious organizations can follow their beliefs as long as they only serve their own members. But when they start to do the good work of serving the community, the government can restrict them.
Do you see what the Obamacare HHS mandate is doing? The HHS mandate demands religious bigotry and faith-based isolationism as a precondition to serving the greater good of public health.

In essence, to comply with the HHS mandate, churches, synagogues, and mosques must mind their own business within their own walls among their own members and out of society. Catholic hospital could only hire Catholic staff and only cure ailing Catholics. Baptists might only employ Baptists to feed only hungry Baptists. Jews would only hire Jewish teachers to educate only Jewish children.

To preserve the religious exemption against crushing governmental fines, it is hardly a stretch to imagine that every sort of religious institution would require proof of religious identification shown at every Catholic charity, every Protestant hospital, every Islamic madrassa, and at every Jewish soup kitchen.

Just imagine. Any ministry activity outside one’s own particular religious group may void the exemption. Give a man a handout and you may have to pay for a woman’s abortion. Evangelize a newcomer and your church must now fund sterilization and morning-after pills. Imagine a Catholic I.D. card required to enter school. Show your Star of David for medical treatment.

This HHS penalty will freeze private charitable outreach and service, stigmatizing religious orders and driving religious evangelization and ministries underground or out of business.  The mandate could create an underground religious black market, encouraging people to lie about or hide their true faith or their activities.

Or worse: the Obamacare HHS mandate could cause people to believe that religious charity is illegal since the government is taking care of people anyway and there are fines against practicing faith in public. “Besides,” they’ll say,  "with Obamacare, there is no need to take care of others, to care for our brothers. After all, I gave at the office through Obamacare.”

If we do not stand up and unite against this mandate as a nation, if the HHS mandate is left unopposed and intact, it will quietly force each person to accept small increases in insurance premiums passed on through employers who have no choice. What will you do when you have to pay that little bit more? Government incrementalism and public complacency accomplish what no violent revolution ever could.

Today, in America, our own government is threatening churches and religious people with socialized healthcare that demands payment without exception for procedures and drugs that many of us consider immoral and against our religious beliefs. This is not the first time a government has persecuted peoples of faith.

Less than 100 years ago, the ideology of Marxism-Leninism made atheism the official doctrine of the Soviet Union. In 1918 Lenin issued a decree on the separation of church and state, which stripped churches of protective exemptions from government actions. The decree unionized teachers as state workers and banned the teaching of religious doctrines in public and private schools. Sound familiar? Marxism-Leninism advocated the control, suppression, and the elimination of religion in Russia through harassment, ridicule, propaganda, the outright seizure of property, imprisonment, torture and wide scale murder.

Thanks to the new film For Greater Glory, many Americans are just now learning about the 90,000 Mexican Catholics who were savagely hunted, harassed, tortured and murdered by Mexico’s communist regime in the 1920’s.

Most of us know that Adolf Hitler ordered the grotesque annihilation of over 6 million Jews and those who protected them simply for being Jewish. Like Russian counterparts Marx, Lenin and Stalin, and like Mexico’s Plutarco Calles, Hitler was also a socialist, the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party.

Even more recently, in our lifetime, following the communist revolution of 1959, the government of Cuba restricted religious freedoms, persecuting many Catholics at universities and jobs. In three years, eighty percent of the professional Catholic priests and Protestant ministers left Cuba for the United States.

What made the difference between countries like Russia and Cuba and those of Mexico and Europe? The Cubans fled. The Russians cowered. The Cristeros and the WWII Allies organized and resisted the government oppression. That resistance has made all the difference.

It is not enough to rally today and then do nothing tomorrow. Each of us must make our own personal choice now to flee and cower, to accept this mandated control of religious liberty, to pay the fine, or to stand up with courage and with faith to oppose this governmental oppression of religious freedom. Now is the moment to protect our faith and protect our freedom. For if we do not protect religious freedom today, history teaches that we may be called to fight for it in the future.

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