Boehner Plans to Permit and Fund Obama's Attack on Religious Freedom

March 6, 2013 - 4:06 AM

When the Obama administration finalized its regulation requiring health care plans to provide cost-free coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, House Speaker John Boehner — as this column noted last year — was one of those who correctly argued that the regulation was an attack on religious freedom and that Congress must not let it stand.

On Wednesday, in craven contradiction to that position, Boehner plans to lead the Republican-controlled House in enacting a continuing resolution that will fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2013 and that will provide the administration with the money to carry out its attack on religious liberty while leaving Barack Obama's claimed authority to do so unchallenged.

Boehner is doing this after turning aside a plea from some members of his caucus to include language in the CR to thwart Obama's unjust regulation.

Boehner had a choice: He could appease Obama and the liberal media he manifestly fears. Or he could have waged political battle in defense of the religious freedom of Roman Catholics and other Christians and people of faith who share — in whole or in part — the Catholic view that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong.

In 16th century England, facing a tyrannical Henry VIII, Thomas More went to his death rather than submit to a decree commanding him to act against his faith. In 21st century America, facing Obama and the liberal media, Boehner briefly blustered about religious freedom and then took deliberate action to provide Obama with the resources needed to attack that freedom.

"My colleagues," Boehner said on the House floor back on Feb. 8, 2012, "in recent days, Americans of every faith and political persuasion have mobilized in objection to a rule put forward by the Obama administration that constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country.

"This rule," Boehner said, "would require faith-based employers, including Catholic charities, schools, universities and hospitals, to provide services they believe are immoral. Those services include sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and contraception. In imposing this requirement, the federal government has drifted dangerously beyond its constitutional boundaries, encroaching on religious freedom in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation's most vital institutions.

"If the president does not reverse the department's attack on religious freedom," said Boehner, "then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution that we are sworn to uphold and defend, must."

To punctuate his purported conviction in this matter, Boehner concluded: "This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand and will not stand."

But that was a year ago.

Last week, led by Rep. John Fleming, R-La., who is a medical doctor, and Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who is a registered nurse, 14 House members wrote to Boehner and other Republican leaders asking them to include language in the CR that would reverse Obama's sterilization-contraception-abortifacient regulation and also protect health care providers and institutions from being forced to provide, train or refer for abortions.

This week, 50 House members — led by Fleming, Black, and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb. — introduced legislation that would do these two things. This legislation would reverse the Obamacare regulation not only as it applies to religious nonprofits and private businesses, but also as it applies to individuals.

Boehner and the House Republican leadership could have included the language of this bill, or language achieving the same result, in their CR. They decided not to do so.

The CR they did produce, which will be voted on Wednesday, does take stands on policy issues — taking a hard line, for example, against foreign-made ball bearings.

The bill states: "None of the funds appropriated by this Act may be used for the procurement of ball and roller bearings other than those produced by a domestic source and of domestic origin."

At a minimum, the bill could have used similar language to stop Obama's attack on religious liberty. Such language would have redeemed Boehner's declaration a year ago that Congress must act to stop that attack. It also would have sparked an intense and much-needed national debate over religious freedom.

On one side of that debate would have stood the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby and Tyndale House Publishers, who have sued the government over Obama's regulation, and all the Catholic bishop of the United States, who have unanimously declared Obama's regulation an "unjust and illegal mandate" that violates the "personal civil rights" of individual Americans.

On the other side would have stood Obama, the liberal media and others who are ready to use the force of government to violate a right that over the centuries countless martyrs have witnessed is a gift more precious than life itself.

There is no middle ground here. The CR to fund the government for the rest of the year — that must pass Congress and must be signed by the president — could either (1) permit and pay for Obama's attack on religious freedom or (2) prohibit and defund that attack. Boehner and the House Republican leaders decided to pre-emptively permit and pay for it. They would not even put up a fight.

Every member of the House who joins Boehner and the Republican leaders in backing this CR will share their culpability for it.