Monday, February 06, 2012

War, Hardly

Bypassing the War Powers Resolution and Article 8 of the United States Constitution, President Obama has declared war.

The Administration has decided that institutions such as Roman Catholic hospitals and universities, whose employees of varying religions are assisted by tax money as they serve individuals of various religions, are not exempt from the requirement under the Affordable Care Act to provide contraceptive care.    

"The war on religion is now formally declared," claims conservative columnist Michael Gerson, who charges

Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama's decision- an edict delivered with a sneer.   It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875- a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal.   Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19-century Republican nativists.

Gerson needn't have reached back to the 19th century to identify a Republican nativist, given the party's second leading presidential candidate, who accused the first black President of an "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview.        "Delivered with a sneer" is, however, a nice touch, pleasantly departing from the standard accusations that the President is "elitist" or "arrogant."

Summoning a heap of righteous indignation, Gerson argues

Consider Catholicism’s most prominent academic leader, the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. Jenkins took a serious risk in sponsoring Obama’s 2009 honorary degree and commencement address — which promised a “sensible” approach to the conscience clause. Jenkins now complains, “This is not the kind of ‘sensible’ approach the president had in mind when he spoke here.” Obama has made Jenkins — and other progressive Catholic allies — look easily duped. 

Yes, do consider the commencement address given by Barack Obama at Notre Dame University, which had to undergo in May of 2009 the humility, the shame, and the embarrassment of having to host the President of the United States and leader of the Free World.    

Gerson's definition of "duped" is extraordinarily liberal- uh, er, expansive, inasmuch as Obama had acknowledged that his views and those of the pro-life camp are somewhat "irreconcilable."      Michael Shear of Gerson's own newspaper, The Washington Post, reported

Obama appeared energized by the controversy over his appearance, and he addressed the debate over abortion with relish. He pleaded for courtesy in the dialogue even as he acknowledged that "at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable."

It doesn't appear that the President directly addressed at Notre Dame the issue of birth control, perhaps because he believed that it was largely a settled issue when nearly 70% of Catholic women use sterilization, the birth control pill, or an IUD.        Obama did address the conscience clause, stating "let's...draft a sensible conscience clause."      But he did so in the context of abortion, urging  "Let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. Let's reduce unintended pregnancies. Let's make adoption more available. . . ."

A compromise has been reached, one far from "a power grab" and "view of religious liberty so narrow and privatized..."         The requirement to provide contraceptive services still exempts a religious employer, defined as one which has "the inculcation of religious values as  their purpose," employing "primarily" individuals who "share its religious tenets" and which "primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets."      The Roman Catholic Church qualifies.     Roman Catholic-affiliated institutions, with employees of all backgrounds serving members of the public without regard to their religious beliefs, do not.    

Failing to distinguish between beliefs and behavior, Gerson alleges this forces administrators "to forfeit their most fundamental beliefs."       The regulation does not force individuals to believe anything, only not to be privileged with an exemption from guidelines applicable to all other institutions.  And it advances the goal Obama noted- which he naively thought the anti-abortion protesters at Notre Dame supported- of reducing unintended pregnancies and the number of women seeking abortions.

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