Good news: Obama backs exemptions for religious organizations

posted at 11:35 am on February 15, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Admit it — you thought that the Obama administration had some sort of latent hostility toward religious organizations.  His new HHS mandate refused to exempt such charities, schools, and hospitals from employer mandates to cover contraception and abortifacients, ruling that they were exactly like all other employers in the eyes of the government.  Well, have I got news for you!  Obama does indeed recognize that religious organizations should be treated differently … when it comes time for student-loan forgiveness (via The Anchoress):

Although not known to most people, the federal government maintains a program called Public Service Loan Forgiveness. According to that program, after ten years of public service work, any remaining federal student loans remaining for that worker would be forgiven. But what counts as public service?

Until the end of January, the government definition was clear and inclusive. It read as follows:

“Qualifying employment is any employment with a federal, state, or local government agency, entity, or organization or a non-profit organization that has been designated as tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes. Additionally, the type of services that these public service organizations provide does not matter for PSLF purposes.”

Now though, the rules have changed. At the end of the description of who qualifies for this program, a new paragraph appears and it’s striking not only in that it re-defines things, but that it does so in a way that seems purposefully disingenuous.

“Generally, the type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes. However, if you work for a non-profit organization, your employment will not qualify for PSLF if your job duties are related to religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing.”

So after telling us that pretty much everything qualifies, even going out of its way to highlight that neither the type of work nor nature of the organizations matters, the government slips in the fact that if faith or worship are part of your work, you don’t qualify. What?!

Note too that this change took place at the same time that the White House finalized its ruling on the HHS mandate.  Religious schools and universities — which certainly give religious instruction — are just like any other employer when it comes to dictating values, but not when it comes to accessing a federal loan forgiveness program?  Even aside from the argument over whether such a program should exist at all (it shouldn’t), this is a steaming pile of hypocrisy after the demand that these same religious organizations have no real claim to be exercising their religious beliefs on the basis of them employing people outside of churches and other places of worship.

So which is it?  Do employees of religious schools and other organizations get to make claims on employers that violate the tenets of the organization’s faith, but not on government on the basis of that same faith?

Update: I’ve had a couple of e-mails from readers who sent the link to the statutory language for the PSLF, which doesn’t indicate any changes to the law itself since October 2009 (not 2008, as one of them wrote), although there is no indication what changed at that time.  However, the administration’s PSLF fact page did in fact change on January 31, 2012, with the addition of that restriction on eligibility.  Someone wanted to make sure that people working at religious organizations knew they don’t qualify for PSLF at about the same time the White House announced the HHS mandate, and the message is pretty clear that they intend to enforce that restriction.  Either way, the fact remains that this administration is treating religious exemptions very differently based on their preferred outcomes.


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This is the carrot to accept the stick of the imposition of the federal government as the head of the church.

besser tot als rot on February 15, 2012 at 11:37 AM

Do employees of religious schools and other organizations get to make claims on employers that violate the tenets of the organization’s faith, but not on government on the basis of that same faith?

Ohhhh, behold the impact of a wisely phrased question….

+++

ted c on February 15, 2012 at 11:38 AM

You didn’t really expect him to be consistent, did you?

mathgal60 on February 15, 2012 at 11:38 AM

How can people really dispute that Obama is waging a war against Religion?

Hey Obama, you need to bring back your religious freedom envoy.

http://hotair.com/headlines/archives/2012/02/14/report-chinese-government-blocked-u-s-religious-freedom-envoy-from-visiting-china/

ninjapirate on February 15, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Obama is like a kid poking a stick at an animal in a cage. It’s great fun and all, just hope it doesn’t escape.

Mord on February 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM

I’m pretty sure this is a re-election strategy. The Obama Campaign thinks its best shot is knocking the GOP contenders off of economic and debt issues and dragging them down into the culture wars muck.

LukeinNE on February 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Yep, he’s gunning for the FSM-worshipping votes.

Apologetic California on February 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM

He does it to pi$$ us all off. Enough of this “he’s a good guy in over his head” crap. He’s intentionally doing this crap – and it’s evil.

No person can draw the line saying religous schools are secular employers for birth control purposes, but not for loan forgiveness purposes. It defies any semblance of logic.

Okay – the Libs told us how smart he is. Since this is illogical, then it is intentional.

CycloneCDB on February 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Gratuitous excuses, demurrals and defenses to follow from so-called “practicing” Catholic’s, “thinking” Christians and other qualified people of faith. /snark.

Stay tuned.

Marcus Traianus on February 15, 2012 at 11:43 AM

Ugh, Mr. Morrissey, my Teleprompter is instructing me to tell you to shut up. Shut up and vote Democrat. That goes for the rest of you plebs too.

Obama

Gatsu on February 15, 2012 at 11:43 AM

There’s not a court in the land that would uphold that besides the 9th circus.

HopeHeFails on February 15, 2012 at 11:44 AM

You didn’t really expect him to be consistent, did you?

mathgal60 on February 15, 2012 at 11:38 AM

If by consistent you mean consistently against people with strong religious faith and, you know, morals, then yes, yes, I did expect consistency.

I see I was not disappointed.

Lily on February 15, 2012 at 11:44 AM

It’s called “unjust enrichment” when the government takes actions that benefit only certain people or groups.

HopeHeFails on February 15, 2012 at 11:45 AM

This loan forgiveness nonsense is bullshite.

Nothing but a way to subsidize students who take multicultural majors and then become the bureaucrats-from-hell in some government position with control over policies that significantly effect economic policy.

Repeal it.

BuckeyeSam on February 15, 2012 at 11:46 AM

He has no authority to mandate……period!

lilium479 on February 15, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Unexpectedly!

Mr. Prodigy on February 15, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Even aside from the argument over whether such a program should exist at all (it shouldn’t),

If it didn’t exist, individuals with higher degrees and high debt (like lawyers) would have a very hard time working in public interest.

red_herring on February 15, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Even aside from the argument over whether such a program should exist at all (it shouldn’t), this is a steaming pile of hypocrisy after the demand that these same religious organizations have no real claim to be exercising their religious beliefs on the basis of them employing people outside of churches and other places of worship.

On planet Bizarro, this is known as being fair.

BobMbx on February 15, 2012 at 11:58 AM

or any form of proselytizing.

I guess that rules out college professors.

mankai on February 15, 2012 at 11:59 AM

Barrack Obamma is a very arrogant man.

carbon_footprint on February 15, 2012 at 12:01 PM

THey’ve already updated the student aid website

BobMbx on February 15, 2012 at 12:01 PM

Smoke and Mirrors.
♫♪ Come on, baby, let’s do the twist. Ohhhhhhh baa bee, let’s do the twist ♫♪
SSDD from the Christian-hating Black Narcissus.

I Wonder …
How many of those robotic kiddies singing ♫♪ MMM MMM MMM ♫♪ would NOT even have been around to sing his praises if they all were scraped from the womb?

~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on February 15, 2012 at 12:02 PM

Well at least it solidifies what we’ve been saying the last couple of weeks. There really is an administration war on religion.

Trafalgar on February 15, 2012 at 12:03 PM

Community agitator at work.

The Rogue Tomato on February 15, 2012 at 12:04 PM

Well one good thing Obummer has done is to wake alot of people up. If you give someone like him to much power they will always over play their hand.You don’t come against God and win.

rbtsckdj on February 15, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Of course, since Muslims are exempt from having to participate in Obamacare, I assume that they also are not allowed to take out Federally Guaranteed Student Loans and/or qualify for any Federal Student Aid (such as Pell Grants, etc.). So, this new edict won’t apply to Muslims, Amish, Christian Scientists, etc.

Right?

Right?

Yeah, didn’t think so.
Apparently some pigs are more equal than others……

TeresainFortWorth on February 15, 2012 at 12:12 PM

So, working as a youth minister to at-risk teens in an urban church in a high-crime neighborhood in Philadelphia would not qualify for student loan forgiveness, but working for Planned Parenthood in Washington as a lobbyist would.

Oooooookay.

rockmom on February 15, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Just unf’n believable!
It just doesn’t stop!
It’s not even stupid anymore…it’s abuse!

KOOLAID2 on February 15, 2012 at 12:13 PM

I’m pretty sure this is a re-election strategy. The Obama Campaign thinks its best shot is knocking the GOP contenders off of economic and debt issues and dragging them down into the culture wars muck.

LukeinNE on February 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Well if it is, it’s a pretty poor strategy. You can argue, intelligently or not, about policy that improves employment and the economic environment but you can’t argue about the clear evidence that Obama is trying to re-write the Constitution and impose his socialistic views on us.

Vince on February 15, 2012 at 12:17 PM

So, working as a youth minister to at-risk teens in an urban church in a high-crime neighborhood in Philadelphia would not qualify for student loan forgiveness, but working for Planned Parenthood in Washington as a lobbyist would.

Oooooookay.

rockmom on February 15, 2012 at 12:13 PM

That’s right. The GOVERNMENT should be in there helping out that high-crime neighborhood – not you Bible thumpin’ do-gooders! What are you, some sort of religous zealot?

CycloneCDB on February 15, 2012 at 12:19 PM

“Generally, the type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes. However, if you work for a non-profit organization, your employment will not qualify for PSLF if your job duties are related to religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing.

if this was allowed, wouldn’t it be to help establishing religion? and be against first amendment?

nathor on February 15, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Muslim organizatons are exempt from Obamacare.

Bevan on February 15, 2012 at 12:22 PM

The government is your god, you shall not put the true God before it.

GeorgieGirl9 on February 15, 2012 at 12:24 PM

You didn’t really expect him to be consistent, did you?

mathgal60 on February 15, 2012 at 11:38 AM

I find this to be very consistent. This is also an assault on religion.

NotCoach on February 15, 2012 at 12:26 PM

So…ten years at Media Matters wipes out your student loans…

but ten years as a nun teaching at a catholic School do not?

Absurd.

Typhoon on February 15, 2012 at 12:27 PM

What’s the difference between Obama and God? God doesn’t think He’s Obama.

ZK on February 15, 2012 at 12:28 PM

Well if it is, it’s a pretty poor strategy.

Vince on February 15, 2012 at 12:17 PM

Agreed. Doofus in Chief is successfully pissing everyone off.

NotCoach on February 15, 2012 at 12:28 PM

Hey Ed, take a look at your old blog, compare & contrast:

Obama’s Prayer For The DemocratsEJ Dionne takes note of the controversy created by former left-wing hero Barack Obama, who alienated a number of pundits when he scolded Democrats for eschewing religion in their politics. Dionne, whose writings often touch on matters of faith, schools Democrats to pay attention to Obama when he counsels an outreach to the faithful:

[T]here is often a terrible awkwardness among Democratic politicians when their talk turns to God, partly because they also know how important secular voters are to their coalition. When it comes to God, it’s hard to triangulate.
So, when a religious Democrat speaks seriously about the relationship of faith to politics, the understandable temptation is to see him as counting not his blessings but his votes. Thus did the Associated Press headline its early stories about Barack Obama’s speech to religious progressives on Wednesday: “Obama: Democrats Must Court Evangelicals.”

Well, yes, Obama, the senator from Illinois who causes all kinds of Democrats to swoon, did indeed criticize “liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant.” But a purely electoral reading of Obama’s speech to the Call to Renewal conference here misses the point of what may be the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy’s Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican.

We value the power granted to the people in crafting legislation, based on shared values and limited by the Constitution. What we do not appreciate is the systematic exclusion of the voices of the faithful in these debates. The secular underpinnings of the modern Democratic Party has done their level best to make religious belief a disqualifier for public service. All we need remember are Charles Schumer’s thinly veiled attacks on “deeply held personal beliefs” of Catholics such as the reason why he would not vote for their confirmation to understand the hostility felt by Democratic leadership to people of faith.
http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/007354.php

So is he triangulating or was it his long term stratery of rope-a-dope-ing the Evangelicals and by extension, the Catholics?

AH_C on February 15, 2012 at 12:29 PM

LukeinNE on February 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM

I agree. However, our congress has abdicated their role in the process with the passing of o-care. They are not willing to do the hard work to actually legistlate. That is why we have the DoA, DoE, EPA, etc…nameless, faceless, UNELECTED bureaucrats who give the pols top-cover so they can maintain their high offices. Disgusting.

But this move – just buying more votes. At least that part is consistent. Shameless, but consistent.

Hueydriver on February 15, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Nathor,

Most religious universities are given federal financial aid for college tuition, which may go to some religious instruction in the form or required or elective credit. This policy treats religious charities differently from secular charities.

spudmom on February 15, 2012 at 12:35 PM

This reminds me of the old Penal laws of Ireland, where Catholics couldn’t own businesses, or adopt children, or be judges, or teach children… unless they they swore allegiance to the King and denounced the Church. Or maybe I was thinking of here and now.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2012/02/13/obamas-hhs-bring-on-the-penal-laws/

theCork on February 15, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Now that the feds have taken over student loans, there’s no private financial institution which gives student loans anymore, is there?

theCork on February 15, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Call/Fax your senators to support the Blunt Conscience Protection Amendment. Burn up the lines. We are all Catholics now.

petefrt on February 15, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Note to Ed: I checked this out a little deeper, and it appears to me that the regulations have been in place and unchanged since mid-2008.

Here’s the link to a transcript of the “Final Rule”.
http://tinyurl.com/7g9kk6e

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
34 CFR Parts 674, 682, and 685
RIN 1840-AC94
[Docket ID ED-2008-OPE-0009]

Federal Perkins Loan Program, Federal Family Education Loan
Program, and William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program

AGENCY: Office of Postsecondary Education, Department of Education.
ACTION: Final regulations.

connertown on February 15, 2012 at 12:42 PM

It’s just like with the Muslims, public service by Christian institutions is good as long as they are not proselytizing, worshiping or offering religious instruction.

Jvette on February 15, 2012 at 12:44 PM

Notes on Saul Alinsky and Neo-Marxism:
    

Alinsky’s tactics were based, not on Stalin’s revolutionary violence, but on the Neo-Marxist strategies of  Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Communist. Relying on gradualism, infiltration and the dialectic process rather than a bloody revolution, Gramsci’s transformational Marxism was so subtle that few even noticed the deliberate changes.
     Like Alinsky, Mikhail Gorbachev followed Gramsci, not Lenin. In fact, Gramsci aroused Stalins’s wrath by suggesting that Lenin’s revolutionary plan wouldn’t work in the West. Instead the primary assault would be on Biblical absolutes and Christian values, which must be crushed as a social force before the new face of Communism could rise and flourish. Malachi Martin gave us a progress report:
“By 1985, the influence of traditional Christian philosophy in the West was weak and negligible…. Gramsci’s master strategy was now feasible. Humanly speaking, it was no longer too tall an order to strip large majorities of men and women in the West of those last vestiges that remained to them of Christianity’s transcendent God.”

Snip

“One of the factors that changes what you can and can’t communicate is relationships. There are sensitive areas that one does not touch until there is a strong personal relationship based on common involvements. Otherwise the other party turns off and literally does not hear….
     “Conversely, if you have a good relationship, he is very receptive…. For example, I have always believed that birth control and abortion are personal rights to be exercised by the individual. If, in my early days when I organized… neighborhood in Chicago, which was 95 per cent Roman Catholic, I had tried to communicate this, even through the experience of the residents, whose economic plight was aggravated by large families, that would have been the end of my relationship with the community. That instant I would have been stamped as an enemy of the church and all communication would have ceased.
     “Some years later, after establishing solid relationships, I was free to talk about anything…. By then the argument was no longer limited to such questions as, ‘How much longer do you think the Catholic Church can hang on to this archaic notion and still survive?’ …the subject and nature of the discussion would have been unthinkable without that solid relationship.” pp.93-94

http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/communism/alinsky.htm

FLconservative on February 15, 2012 at 12:51 PM

He does it to pi$$ us all off. Enough of this “he’s a good guy in over his head” crap. He’s intentionally doing this crap – and it’s evil.

Obama + Soros=The Evil Twins.

chai on February 15, 2012 at 1:10 PM

Quotes from Obama-

“I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion.”

“I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment – asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong.”

I would like to see him asked, preferably on live TV, how he squares his “Christian faith” with his actions- particularly his vote against providing care for babies born alive in the course of late-term abortions, let alone his recent anti-church decisions.

Jay Mac on February 15, 2012 at 1:14 PM

if this was allowed, wouldn’t it be to help establishing religion? and be against first amendment?

nathor on February 15, 2012 at 12:21 PM

If so, then isn’t it likewise prohibiting the free exercise thereof to direct those types of organizations on how they must run their business?

How can you have it both ways?

Esthier on February 15, 2012 at 1:37 PM

Media Matters is a 501(c)(3).

So Obama says you can be a paid political shill and get $60,000 of education for free working for MMFA but not for serving in a church soup kitchen in downtown Detroit.

Mr Snuggle Bunny on February 15, 2012 at 1:39 PM

Media Matters is a 501(c)(3).

So Obama says you can be a paid political shill and get $60,000 of education for free working for MMFA but not for serving in a church soup kitchen in downtown Detroit.

It excludes partisan political organizations.

red_herring on February 15, 2012 at 1:47 PM

So Obama says you can be a paid political shill and get $60,000 of education for free working for MMFA but not for serving in a church soup kitchen in downtown Detroit.

And as long as you’re not proselytizing while serving the soup, you’re covered.

red_herring on February 15, 2012 at 1:48 PM

And as long as you’re not proselytizing while serving the soup, you’re covered.

red_herring on February 15, 2012 at 1:48 PM

No. Let’s say you don’t proselytize at the soup kitchen and that’s 90% of your work, but in the evening you run a Bible study for a nearby youth group. You don’t qualify. And that’s because people of faith are second-class citizens under the Obama administration.

theCork on February 15, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Ed,

Your update isn’t very clear. It should read: The religious exception was written into law in 2008 (you can check the Federal register for the 2009 amendments, which do not change the religious portion).

red_herring on February 15, 2012 at 2:00 PM

No. Let’s say you don’t proselytize at the soup kitchen and that’s 90% of your work, but in the evening you run a Bible study for a nearby youth group. You don’t qualify. And that’s because people of faith are second-class citizens under the Obama administration.

theCork on February 15, 2012 at 1:59 PM

If your soup kitchen time counts for 30 hours a week (considered full time), then yes, you would qualify.

Also, just FYI, this regulation was written in 2008 under Bush.

red_herring on February 15, 2012 at 2:02 PM

NOTE: Your employment at a non-profit organization does not qualify if your job duties are related to religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing.

In other words, they might as well remove “public education” from the list.

The Rogue Tomato on February 15, 2012 at 2:18 PM

It excludes partisan political organizations.

red_herring on February 15, 2012 at 1:47 PM

Dear Fishy Communist,

MMFA is definitely a political partisan organization and should not be eligible for 501(c)(3). Yet, it is in fact listed as a 501(c)(3). A number of GOP lawmakers are seeing about having that status revoked.

It’s the same old story: the faithful party apparatchiks have always enjoyed the privileges for their ceaseless labors on behalf of the benighted proliteriat.

Mr Snuggle Bunny on February 15, 2012 at 2:18 PM

Dear Fishy Communist,

What’s a “fishy communist?”

red_herring on February 15, 2012 at 2:28 PM

“I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion.”

“I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment – asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong.”

I would like to see him asked, preferably on live TV, how he squares his “Christian faith” with his actions- particularly his vote against providing care for babies born alive in the course of late-term abortions, let alone his recent anti-church decisions.

Jay Mac on February 15, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Does anyone with a shred of intelligence believe his BS? Seriously, if he is a Christian (and, of course, he is not) then I am a pine tree (and, of course, I am not).

chai on February 15, 2012 at 2:40 PM

He just can’t leave religion alone.

Wade on February 15, 2012 at 4:01 PM

No longer class warfare, now the meme is religious warfare. Both are equally tiresome and manipulative. It’s called whipping up the base and both sides are guilty and should stop.

jeanie on February 15, 2012 at 4:21 PM

red_herring on February 15, 2012 at 2:02 PM

I’m with you. I’m disappointed in Hot Air and Ed making something out of this, when the legislation was passed by congress under Bush in 2008. Now it would be fair to lay this on the Democrat-controlled congress, but it is absolutely incorrect to lay this on Obama.

Ed cites that something was changed in the “fact sheet”. But the fact is that it was simply updated to include the specific wording from the law that had been in place for over 3 years.

It defies logic to claim that this was done for the express purpose of picking a fight with the religious right.

This story is misleading. I’m disappointed in Hot Air for running and then defending it.

connertown on February 15, 2012 at 5:13 PM

You didn’t really expect him to be consistent, did you?

mathgal60 on February 15, 2012 at 11:38 AM

Honestly, Obama is starting to flip-flop….just like Romney.
Is it a typical Democratic trait to flip-flop?

timberline on February 15, 2012 at 5:14 PM

If so, then isn’t it likewise prohibiting the free exercise thereof to direct those types of organizations on how they must run their business?

How can you have it both ways?

Esthier on February 15, 2012 at 1:37 PM

I am confused, is the first amendment self contradictory? ;)

nathor on February 15, 2012 at 5:28 PM

No longer class warfare, now the meme is religious warfare. Both are equally tiresome and manipulative. It’s called whipping up the base and both sides are guilty and should stop.

jeanie on February 15, 2012 at 4:21 PM

naa, religious warfare is fun!i just watched the uber secular warriors, colbert and stewart and, as expected, the church just painted themselfs a target for their jokes… this is not going to end well, for the church… and for santorum as well.

nathor on February 15, 2012 at 5:35 PM

But the administration announced the compromise plan before it had figured out how to address one conspicuous point: Like most large employers, many religiously affiliated organizations choose to insure themselves rather than hire an outside company to assume the risk.

Now, the organizations are trying to determine how to reconcile their objections to offering birth control on religious grounds with their role as insurers — or whether there can be any reconciliation at all. And the administration still cannot put the thorny issue to rest.

J_Crater on February 16, 2012 at 12:30 PM