With his recent decree that all employer-provided health care plans must cover contraception at no cost, Barack Obama may have finally made an enemy of a group that up until now has generally leaned Democratic: Catholics, and large chunks of the Catholic hierarchy.
Among the vast array of new governmental powers contained in the Obamacare law is the ability for the government to decide what medical services are so important that all health insurers must include them in every plan. In accordance with this power, the Department of Health and Human Services ruled contraceptives to be an Essential Service to be provided totally free of charge.
From the strictly rational standpoint, this makes sense. Virtually all American women use contraceptives at various points in their lives, and we all know the overwhelming costs of raising children, not least to the insurance company who has to pay for delivery and anything that goes wrong. The Pill is way cheaper than an obstetrician to say nothing of a neonatal care unit.
What's more, even most religious folks would agree that it's better to avoid a pregnancy than to terminate one with an abortion. An egg not fertilized never is a human being at all.
Yet the bishops scream that, because many Catholic entities like schools and hospitals provide health insurance to their employees, they're being forced to pay for something that goes against their religious beliefs, as illogical as some may consider those beliefs to be. Thus, they argue, Obama and Obamacare are destroying their religious liberty.
They're right, but they're missing the point. This contraception ruling provides a perfect, real-world example of how Obamacare, and big government in general, inherently destroys the very concept of liberty at all - religious or otherwise.
Let's step aside from the specific issue of contraception for a moment and consider Barack Obama's recent appointment of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ms. Feldblum is renowned as a homosexual rights activist, campaigning for laws banning discrimination against homosexuals in all aspects of life. By putting her in a post at the EEOC, Obama makes plain his intention to put the full force of government on the side of activist homosexuals.
Of course, the Catholic Church finds homosexuality as morally atrocious as contraception and abortion, a view it shares with conservative Protestants, most Muslims, and many other sects. Except for the Muslims, none of these religious people would ever advocate or support actual violence against homosexuals; even the infamous Fred Phelps and his Westboro kooks have never committed any acts of violence. On the rare occasion when an anti-abortion activist murders an abortionist, national religious leaders are first in line to call for his capture and imprisonment.
That's not good enough. Religious people who find homosexuality morally abhorrent would prefer not to have to employ homosexuals, not least in their own religious institutions; that's simple common sense. Yet when Ms. Feldblum was interviewed on this point, her response was pretty clear-cut:
To Feldblum the emerging conflicts between free exercise of religion and sexual liberty are real: "When we pass a law that says you may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, we are burdening those who have an alternative moral assessment of gay men and lesbians." Most of the time, the need to protect the dignity of gay people will justify burdening religious belief, she argues...
When push comes to shove, when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict, she admits, "I'm having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win." [emphasis added]
In other words: it does not matter what your religious beliefs say about homosexuality, the sexual liberty of homosexuals is more important and of greater value than what you thought was your right to practice and live by your religious beliefs.
Has Ms. Feldblum ever so much as read the Bill of Rights, in which "the free exercise of religion" is specifically found in the very First Amendment but where any mention whatsoever of sex is conspicuous by its absence? Has, for that matter, Barack Obama, the noted "professor of constitutional law"?
The Catholic church believes and preaches that it is morally wrong to participate in the provision of contraception or abortions; Mr. Obama thinks otherwise, so Catholics' supposed "religious liberty" is a mere scrap of paper to be eliminated at the stroke of his pen. Devotees of many religions consider homosexuality an abomination; too bad, they're increasingly banned from avoiding or even criticizing homosexuals. Your humble correspondent would prefer the liberty to buy a stripped-down health insurance plan that doesn't cover everything from acupuncture on down; oh well, that's illegal.
For that matter, I and many other Americans were quite content with the humble 100-watt light bulb, but our betters have decided that we ought not have them.
Our government has decided that it knows best; that it, not the free individual citizens, gets to decide what Shall Be and we simply need to shut up and obey. It doesn't matter what we'd rather do with our money; our personal preferences are irrelevant; even our deeply-held religious beliefs are no longer of any concern.
When an unelected bureaucrat can with the stroke of a pen entirely negate the liberties our forefathers fought and died for, we can no longer say that we live in a free country - because we don't, and it isn't. The Catholic bishops are merely the most recent to discover this sad fact.
Let's hope that their parishioners and all Americans come to realize the truth in time for the next election, while it still may be possible to beat back what has up until now been a mostly-successful War on Liberty.