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Fool Me Once? Obama Administration Offers Purported Accommodation on HHS Mandate

By Deacon Keith Fournier
February 2nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There is an idiom familiar to most of us, Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. The announcement from the Obama Administration may just give it new meaning.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - There is an idiom familiar to most of us, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

The announcement from the Obama Administration claiming to represent an accommodation to the unconstitutional HHS Mandate which seeks to compel the Church, faith based organizations, and faith informed based businesses to provide sterilization, artificial contraception and abortificacients or face the police power of the State - may just give it new meaning. 

The Catholic Bishops of the United States were prudent in their measured response: "In response to today's release of revised regulations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, provided the following statement on behalf of the USCCB.

"Today, the Administration issued proposed regulations regarding the HHS mandate. We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later."

Priests for Life responded a bit more cautiously. Fr. Frank Pavone issued this statement : "The HHS is giving the public an opportunity to provide its feedback to the proposed rules. I first of all want to urge the public to take advantage of this opportunity. Moreover, we at Priests for Life remind the Administration that religious liberty does not just belong to religious groups and individuals; it belongs to all Americans.

"Objections to contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs aren't based just on dogmas and Bibles, but on adverse health consequences and the fact that human beings, no matter how small, should not be killed. We see only one acceptable change regarding the mandate: rescind it completely."

The indefatigable Bill Donohue of the Catholic League issued a cautious but welcoming response: "Bill Donohue comments on the revised rules, announced today, regarding the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate: The rules proposed today by HHS appear to go a long way toward rectifying the most problematic provisions of the mandate. Essentially, the rules provide insularity for Catholic institutions: they will not be directly involved in providing health insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs."

"Perhaps the most welcome aspect of the new strictures is the elimination of the criteria that define what constitutes a religious institution. Gone altogether is the highly objectionable definition that excludes an exemption for those religious entities that hire and serve mostly people of other religions. As has been pointed out many times, this definition punishes Catholic institutions for not discriminating against Jews, Protestants, Muslims, Mormons, agnostics, and atheists. The new rules now simply revert to the established understanding of a religious employer as defined by the IRS. This makes eminently good sense."

"Still unresolved is the issue of private employers who invoke a religious objection to providing insurance coverage for services they deem morally objectionable. Because the new rules have not been finalized, and there is an opportunity for further public discussion, more progress may yet be made.While many aspects of the new proposal need to be examined before a final conclusion can be rendered, the decision to expand religious exemptions, and to adopt the IRS definition of a religious institution, is a sign of goodwill by the Obama administration toward the Catholic community."

However, the voice which caused the most caution in this Deacon/Editor/Lawyer and Activist came from the Congressional Office one of my long time heroes, Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey:
Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) released the following statement in response to President Obama's announcement today that violates the religious freedoms of people of faith and people of conscience.
 
"The so-called new policy is the discredited old policy, dressed up to look like something else," said Smith. "It remains a serious violation of religious freedom. Only the most na´ve or gullible would accept this as a change in policy.The newest iteration of Obama's coercion rule utterly fails because it still forces religious employers and employees who have moral objections to paying for abortion inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception to pay for these things, because it is still the employers who buy the coverage for their employees.

"Today's announcement is a political manipulation designed to get Obama past his own self-made controversy and past the next election.The White House Fact Sheet is riddled with doublespeak and contradiction. It states, for example, that religious employers "will not" have to pay for abortion pills, sterilization and contraception, but their "insurance companies" will. Who pays for the insurance policy? The religious employer.

"However, Obama has tipped his hand-at the end of the day, he will use force, coercion and ruinous fines that put faith-based charities, hospitals and schools at risk of closure, harming millions of kids, as well as the poor, sick and disabled, that they serve, in order to force obedience to Obama's will."

Stay Tuned. I will be digesting the words of this purported accomodation thoroughly.Then, I will offer my own opinion. I remember the first purported accomodation. It was a shell game. In the meantime, pray.

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