Why sue over the mandate?

With three days to go until the Supreme Court announces its decision in the Hobby Lobby & Conestoga Wood Products cases, time for a review: why even bother to sue the federal government over Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate at all? Why not just go along?

CAM00569Because religious liberty matters. It’s not simply a matter of worship, taking place in a building once a week. The mandate forces the question of how Americans may exercise their beliefs in everyday life. If an American holds the religiously-based belief that contraception and abortion are immoral, can that American be forced to pay for them? How about a business owner who wants to provide employees with health insurance, but on religious grounds wants no part of helping fund contraception and abortion as “preventive care”?

Two years ago, the Catholic bishops of the United States filed twelve lawsuits challenging the mandate. Mary Ann Glendon in 2012 wrote Why the Bishops are Suing the Government, published in the Wall Street Journal. The issues she described then are still unsettled today.

The main goal of the mandate is not, as HHS claimed, to protect women’s health. It is rather a move to conscript religious organizations into a political agenda, forcing them to facilitate and fund services that violate their beliefs, within their own institutions. The media have implied all along that the dispute is mainly of concern to a Catholic minority with peculiar views about human sexuality. But religious leaders of all faiths have been quick to see that what is involved is a flagrant violation of religious freedom. That’s why former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, declared, ‘We’re all Catholics now.'”

How about people with religious beliefs who don’t work for a religious organization? That’s where Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products come in. Those are two companies that don’t qualify in any way for the Obama Administration’s “accommodations” on the mandate. They’re secular businesses. The owners reluctantly filed suit against the mandate, because there seems to be no room under Obamacare for them to provide health insurance for their employees while having their own religious beliefs respected.

Religious liberty, or mere freedom to worship? The First Amendment’s free speech guarantee got a very qualified endorsement by the Supreme Court in the recent buffer zone case. Let’s see how narrowly another aspect of the Amendment is viewed by the Court on Monday.

“Women Speak for Themselves” on the Mandate

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“Those currently invoking ‘women’s health’ in an attempt to shout down anyone who disagrees with forcing religious institutions or individuals to violate deeply held beliefs are more than a little mistaken, and more than a little dishonest. Even setting aside their simplistic equation of ‘costless’ birth control with ‘equality,’ note that they have never responded to the large body of scholarly research indicating that many forms of contraception have serious side effects, or that some forms act at some times to destroy embryos, or that government contraceptive programs inevitably change the sex, dating and marriage markets in ways that lead to more empty sex, more non-marital births and more abortions. It is women who suffer disproportionately when these things happen.” (by Helen Alvare and Kim Daniels of Women Speak for Themselves)

Add this to the toolkit for rolling back the Obamacare/HHS contraceptive mandate: Women Speak for Themselves. The project was started by law professor Helen Alvare, as a method of constructive resistance to claims that the mandate is a good thing for women – and resistance to the corollary, that anyone opposed to the mandate is waging “war on women.”

Check out the WSFT blog and Facebook page. The WSFT web site also offers an opportunity to sign an open letter to President Obama. (from which I took the quotation at the head of this blog post). Over 40,000 people have signed so far. Look at the fact sheets on the WSFT site as well, which make an excellent primer for anyone new to the debate over the mandate.

Here’s an excerpt from a WSFT fact sheet, to give you an idea why I love their style and message. This goes beyond a web site and a Facebook page, by the way; WSFT filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga case.

“By forcing religious employers – groups of people employed to carry out a religious mission of service to persons in need – to ‘get with the government’s program/message’ (the message that birth control and abortifacients are no different from health care, which cures diseases … or that women’s freedom and women’s fertility are ‘natural enemies’) the government destroys the unique WITNESS that these religious institutions offer not only to their employees and clients, but to the world. Again, religious employers are among the last few witnesses in the world today to the truth of the ‘weight’ of sex, to its link with the very existence of human life, and the circumstances into which that new life will be born and nurtured. Women’s health, happiness and freedom are also genuinely compromised when sex is reduced to just another pastime.”

Good message there: being opposed to the mandate is not a matter of disliking the President or his policies, but rather being FOR religious liberty, FOR authentic health care, FOR the value of life. Worth reading and sharing, don’t you think?