Since the USCCB issued it’s recent call to action, the controversy over the HHS Mandate is back in the news. Several public protests against the mandate by Catholic groups that will include priests and religious are expected throughout the nation for two weeks, from June 21 to July 4.
Meanwhile, the secular press keep will keep repeating the same old lines aimed at repudiating conscientious objectors. I would like to respond to some of their misleading allegations here.
First, the claim that Catholics ought to be satisfied with the mandate since the president already made some accommodations to the original mandate in order to compromise with Church leaders is false. The changes that the president announced on February 15 did not change anything. They only raised the following objections:
- There was no new religious exemption clause added to the mandate, since religious exemption was never clearly defined in the first place. For instance, individuals who run Catholic (or non-Catholic) charitable organizations would still have to pay for insurance plans that would cover abortifacient contraceptives for their employees.
- Religious organizations, such as Catholic charities, Universities, and Hospitals would have to pay coverage through higher premiums for to contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs if their insurance provider did not offer these services for free.
- Self-insured religious organizations and Catholic business owners would be forced to pay for these services directly, since, in effect, they are the insurance provider.
Second, the argument that the Church really has no authority or influence in this area, since the majority of Catholic women disagree with the Church’s stance on birth control is also false. If that were so, one has to wonder a recent Pew research poll shows a 14-point swing against Obama among Catholic voters within just one month. It appears the president is losing the Catholic vote, not winning them over by turning them against the Church by placating to their whims on birth control. Instead, the point has been clearly made to many would be Obama supporters, both Catholic and Protestant, that the president’s move is a clear violation of religious freedom, which many American voters will not tollerate.
Hopefully the protests against the mandate in late June and early July will send the White House a clear message as to where the majority of Catholic voters really stand on this issue.