WH:‘No Constitutional Rights Issue’ in Forcing Catholics to Act Against Their Faith

January 31, 2012 - 4:26 PM

(CNSNews.com) – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says there are no “constitutional rights issues” involved in a regulation issued by the administration that requires all health-care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that induce abortions.

Because the Catholic Church holds that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong and Catholic cannot be involved in them, the regulation in combination with the Obamacare mandate that all Americans buy health insurance will force American Catholics to choose between following the federal regulation or following the teachings of their church.

“I don’t believe there are any constitutional rights issues here,” Carney said when asked at today’s White House briefing about the regulation.

“The administration believes that this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventative services,” Carney told reporters.

Last September, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the then-proposed regulation an “unprecedented attack on religious liberty.” At that time, the bishops submitted comments on the regulation to the Department of Health and Human Services arguing that the regulation violated the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion and urged the administration to rescind it.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced on Jan. 20, that the administration was moving ahead with the regulation which will take effect on Aug. 1. She granted a one-year extension to religiously affiliated non-profit groups so, as she put it, they could “adapt” to the regulation.

On Sunday, in Catholic churches around the country, priests read letters from their local bishops declaring the law an unconstitutional attack on the religious liberty of Catholics and calling on Catholics to oppose the regulation and fight to have it rescinded.

“In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty,” wrote Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in a letter representative of those sent by many other bishops last week. “As a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so).  The Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

“We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law,” said Bishop Olmsted.

“People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens,” said Olmsted. “We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom.  Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights.”

At one point in Tuesday’s press briefing, Carney said: “I would also just note that our robust partnerships with the Catholic Church and other communities of faith will continue.”

Last week, Bishop David Zubick, of Pittsburgh declared in a column published on his diocesan website that in following through on this regulation the Obama administration was telling Catholics “to Hell with you.”

The regulation includes an exemption for “religious” employers, but to qualify for the exemption an employer must primarily employ people of its own faith, primarily serve people of its own faith, and primarily be involved in inculcating the tenets of the faith. In their comments to HHS on the regulation, the Catholic bishops said this “religious” exemption was so narrow Jesus Himself would not qualify for it.