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Belmont Abbey HHS Mandate Case Dismissed. Resistance and Catholic Action!
By Deacon Keith Fournier
July 25th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Twenty three lawsuits have been filed alleging a violation of the First Amendment. The day before this DC opinion was released, a federal Judge in Nebraska dismissed a case filed by the Attorney General on a similar ground. Both judges held that the "safe harbor" provisions delayed enforcement until August of 2013 and thus removed any immediate threat. It is kind of like saying that the bully in the schoolyard with the clenched fist is not a threat until the fist connects with the face. Catholic Colleges and other institutions which clearly serve the common good have to find "safe harbors" to win more time to fight the unjust actions of the Obama Administration. We will not comply!
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On July 18, 2012, Federal Judge James Boasberg of the DC District Court dismissed the Lawsuit filed by Belmont Abbey College against the Obama Administration. The lawsuit alleged that the HHS Mandate attached to the Affordable care Act was an unconstitutional violation of their Free Exercise of Religion as protected by the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution.
The HHS mandate requires all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to cover sterilization, abortion inducing drugs and contraception in their health care plans. The "exemption" provided for religious employers does not cover hospitals, universities, soup kitchens, outreaches to the poor and many other vital expressions of our Catholic faith and mission.
Following the strong outcry from every single Catholic Bishop in the United States and the massive resistance from the Catholic faithful (joined by many other concerned Christians, other people of faith and many people of good will) as well as the numerous lawsuits filed by Catholic and other Christian institutions, the Obama administration established a "safe harbor" which allows the institutions and outreaches affected to have an extension until Aug. 1, 2013.
Based upon an act of administrative sleight of hand, the Federal Judge found that the Belmont Abbey lawsuit was not ripe. The Federal Judge accepted the Governments argument that the case was premature because the mandate would not cause any immediate injury. In addition it seemed to take judicial notice that an accommodation might be reached. The Judge wrote a 24 page opinion which held in part,
"The court holds that the challenged rule is not 'sufficiently final.The government has done nothing to suggest that it might abandon its efforts to modify the rule - indeed, it has steadily pursued that course - and it is entitled to a presumption that it acts in good faith..At the end of the day, the Court offers no opinion on the merits of the current contraception-coverage regulations or any proposed future ones. If Plaintiff is displeased by the ultimate regulations, it may certainly renew its suit at that time. All the Court holds here is that Belmont has no basis to proceed now,"
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty brought the lawsuit. Their spokesperson properly reminded the Press that the decision is not final and the case can be refiled - if and when the alleged harm can be demonstrated. The Becket Fund lawyers are outstanding advocates. Their analysis is accurate. However, let's face reality. The Catholic Church, other Christians, and people of good will who recognize the egregious overreach of this Administration in this matter are now caught between a rock and a hard place as the saying goes. A new Caesar seems to have the upper hand.
Catholics believe that living the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes beyond the walls of our Church buildings. We are our brother and sister's keeper. We do not reach out to people in need because they are Catholic. We reach out to people in need because we are Catholic. The HHS Edict is a violation of the Free Exercise of Religion which is protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is an unjust law. The Federal Government of the United States is trying to force the Catholic Church to act against its deeply held religious convictions and to violate conscience.
Failure to comply with this new Caesar's mandate will bring punitive measures upon the Church and her institutions. This Judge now insists that we wait until the harm actually occurs! The onerous fines, recently called "taxes' by the Supreme Court, will have the practical result of closing many of the Church's outreaches, ministries and institutions of care and compassion. Certainly this not only injures the Church it injures American society and the common good.
The claim that this HHS mandate is an unjust law is rooted in the western understanding of the nature of law. It is the firm foundation upon which the American founders grounded their insistence that there are inalienable rights, endowed upon us all by a Creator, which cannot be taken away by any civil government. Positive law must reflect the Natural Law or it is unjust.
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, gave a this explanation of how one determines whether a law is unjust, "How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law."
This Edict from Secretary Sebelius came one day after Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of US Bishops during their annual visit. He warned them of the growth of radical secularism in the United States and the accompanying threats to the fundamental Right to Religious Freedom so integral to the American experiment.
Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly warned of the growth of a "Dictatorship of Relativism". Relativism is a philosophy which denies the existence of any objective truths to guide human behavior. This kind of philosophy expresses itself in this way: "your truth" is not the same as "my truth." When there is a denial of the existence of anything objectively true - which can be known by all and form the basis of our common life - there can be no secure foundation for true freedom and solidarity. Instead, we teeter on the brink of social anarchy.
There has been an effort to dismiss the moral positions we hold as Catholics as "religious" and relegate them - and us- to thier expression only behind the walls of our Church buildings. That is not what the American founders meant by the Free Exercise of Religion. The current Administration is acting in a manner which is virulently anti-Christian, in spite of their rhetoric to the contrary. The Christian faith may be personal, at least in the sense that it invites a personal response. However, it is not private - it is profoundly public.
Our our insistence upon protecting the Right to Life and the Right to Religious Freedom, are not just religious" positions. They are rooted in our conviction of the existence of a Natural Law which must inform any truly just positive laws. That Natural Law can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason.
Twenty three lawsuits have been filed alleging a violation of the First Amendment. The day before this DC opinion was released; a federal Judge in Nebraska dismissed a case filed by the Attorney General on a similar ground. U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom of Lincoln, Nebraska held that the "safe harbor" provisions delayed enforcement until August of 2013 and thus removed any immediate threat. It is kind of like saying that the bully in the schoolyard with the clenched fist is not a threat until the fist connects with the face:
"The plaintiffs face no direct and immediate harm, and one can only speculate whether the plaintiffs will ever feel any effects from the rule when the temporary enforcement safe harbor terminates. This case clearly involves 'contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all, and therefore it is not ripe for review."
We are living under an ominous cloud of religious oppression. At its center are the unconstitutional actions of a Federal Administration which is increasingly hostile to the Catholic Church as she seeks to be faithful to her mandate to proclaim and live the fullness of the Gospel in a Nation which she has served so well since its founding. We cannot make light of this. It is serious business and it calls for Catholic Action.
Most of us could not have foreseen this turn of events just a few years ago. We knew the culture was decaying. We have tried to stem the tide and contribute to cultural renewal. We love this Nation. However, we now find Catholic Colleges and other institutions which clearly serve the common good having to find "safe harbors" to win more time to fight the unjust actions of the Obama Administration. According to some federal judges we have to wait until we are harmed before we can even seek redress in the Courts of this Nation!
There is a need for a massive resistance to this unjust law on every front. One of those fronts is the ballot box. It is increasingly apparent that President Obama and his administration do not respect fundamental human rights including the Right to life and the Right to Religious Freedom. The Nation we love is slowly devolving into a secularist State. This Edict calls for a Catholic tide of resistance and a New Catholic Action. We cannot, we will not, comply with the HHS mandate.
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