Notre Dame faculty calls Obama so-called accommodation “grave violation of religious freedom”

posted at 1:20 pm on February 13, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

The Obama White House tried defusing the controversy over its HHS mandate last Friday by revving up their PR machine to claim that shifting the communication responsibility from religious-organization employers to the insurance companies for the mandated no-cost contraception and abortifacient coverage would address the concerns of those whose religions forbid the use of such products and services.  Some of the usual suspects claimed to have been satisfied with the “accommodation,” such as E. J. Dionne, but for the most part, those arguments fell on deaf ears.  The Wall Street Journal reports that 48 hours after the White House announcement — made without any consultation with those objecting to the HHS mandate — Roman Catholic churches across the nation echoed with blasts from the pulpit over the arrogance of Obama’s action:

At masses across the country Sunday, Roman Catholic priests blasted the Obama administration’s compromise on contraceptive insurance coverage, a sign the White House’s backtrack late last week did little to defuse the controversy. …

At St. Brendan Church in San Francisco, the Rev. Michael Quinn compared the church’s opposition to the contraceptive rules to the civil-rights fight waged by 1950s activist Rosa Parks, who refused to give her seat up to a white man on a bus. “I believe this is our Rosa Parks moment,” Father Quinn told more than 200 parishioners on Sunday. “This is our moment to say this is wrong.”

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said that while he appreciated Mr. Obama’s attempt to strike a compromise, it doesn’t go far enough.

“A legislative remedy to this overreaching and unprecedented incursion of state power into the domain of religious freedom and the rights of conscience is still necessary,” he said in a statement.

“By what authority does the President of the United States seek to impose this immoral policy?” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., asked in a statement. “This is the United States, not North Korea.”

Three years ago, Notre Dame University provided Obama a platform to speak to Catholics and awarded him an honorary degree.  Yesterday, the faculty at the Catholic university — which would be subject to the mandate — gave him the third degree instead, excoriating Obama for a “grave violation of religious freedom”:

Twenty-five Notre Dame faculty members–led by the university’s top ethics expert, and including some of the school’s most eminent scholars–have signed a statement declaring that President Barack Obama’s latest version of his administration’s mandate that all health insurance plans in the United States must cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions, is “a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.”

The statement—put out on the letterhead of the University of Notre Dame Law School–is also signed by leading scholars from other major American colleges and universities, including Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown, Brigham Young, Yeshiva and Wheaton College.

Prof. Carter Snead, a professor of law at Notre Dame, was one of the lead organizers of the statement, which was published on his official law school letterhead. Notre Dame’s top ethics expert, Snead serves as director of the university’s Center for Ethics and Culture, a position to which he was appointed by Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame.

In 2009, Father Jenkins awarded President Barack Obama an honorary Notre Dame law degree. …

“This so-called ‘accommodation’ changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy,” they said.  “It is certainly no compromise.  The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.  Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.”

I’d hate to tell Notre Dame I told you so, but in fact a number of Catholics, myself included, did warn Notre Dame in 2009 about inviting Obama to deliver that commencement speech.  My objection was specific to the honorary law degree Notre Dame awarded Obama for that appearance, a jarring decision given Obama’s previous attacks on the Catholic Church’s positions on life, especially in the Illinois Senate.  Now the same law school that awarded Obama a law school degree is shocked, shocked to find that Obama thinks he can arrogate to himself the power to dictate to religious organizations that they have to facilitate actions which are forbidden by their core doctrinal values.

The Live Free or Die State is also considering a statement opposing Obama’s arrogance, too:

New Hampshire’s House Republicans plan to take on the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services Monday by passing a non-binding resolution condemning the department’s new rule mandating religious institutions provide health coverage that includes free birth control.

NH Journal has learned House Speaker William O’Brien, who identifies himself as a constitutionalist, is incensed at the Obama rule because he believes it violates the First Amendment to the Constitution.

House Resolution 29 “calls upon the United States Department of Health and Human Services to cease its unconstitutional course of action, and to rescind this rule immediately; and the House further calls upon the members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation to undertake whatever actions are necessary to ensure that this goal is promptly achieved.”

If the White House thought they had defused the situation on Friday, they were very much mistaken.  The same political problem exists today, only with the extra dollop of arrogance from an administration that calculated an “accommodation” without bothering to consult their erstwhile allies in the Catholic Church and its organizations.


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