As reported by Fox News, I was in federal court yesterday (District Court for Washington, DC), along with Janet Morana, our Executive Director and our attorneys from the American Freedom Law Center, for a hearing regarding the lawsuit of Priests for Life against the HHS mandate. (Our lawsuit was one of the first to be introduced against the mandate, and also includes as a plaintiff Dr. Alveda King, our Director of African-American Outreach and the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.)
The mandate we are opposing requires us, come January 1, to include coverage for contraceptive and other immoral “services” in the health care plan we provide for our employees.
Never mind that the Church teaches that these activities are immoral. Never mind that our organization exists to build a culture of life, based around exactly the opposite mentality. Never mind that we are supposed to have the freedom to practice our religion in this country, not only in Church on Sunday but in the workplace on Monday.
The government says that they care, but their actions say otherwise. As psychiatrists are wont to say, “Believe behavior!” If someone is vigorously drinking from a water fountain and, between gulps, turns quickly to you and says, “I’m not thirsty!“, will you believe his words or his behavior?
And, in fact, the government wants us to be just like them, and make our religion a matter of words while contradicting it with our behavior. What do I mean?
The Obama Administration has indicated that it wants contraceptive “services” more widely and easily available than they already are. Hence arises the requirement — on employers and insurers — to provide coverage for such “services” in health insurance plans.
But this stated goal of the Administration is completely contrary to the goal of the Church and of pro-life organizations like Priests for Life, which are trying to build a culture in which every life is welcomed and protected.
Our religion, and the integrity of our conscience, require us not only to say we disagree with the government’s goal of expanding access to objectionable practices, but in fact to work against that goal, and to avoid doing anything to advance it.
But the government is requiring us to help them advance their goal, because as of January 1, if we offer health insurance to our employees, that insurance policy will cover these objectionable “services.” The government told us in court yesterday that, in fact, our health insurance will cover those practices no matter what we do or don’t do. This, of course, creates the unacceptable situation of having to choose either to drop insurance coverage for our employees, or cooperate in advancing a goal contrary to our religion and our conscience.
Oh but wait — the government said in court that its regulations provide us a way out of this dilemma. Their proposed solution? We sign a document saying that we are a religious, not-for-profit entity which objects to the coverage of contraceptives and other objectionable services in our health insurance.
We were told in court that by doing this, we still “profess” and “stand on” our religious and moral convictions, and that we have to do nothing different than we would have done if the policy did not cover immoral activities. Our behavior, they told us, would not change, because we would simply be providing our insurance company with the names of our employees, and objecting to any immoral practices.
But here’s the problem. We still have to provide the objectionable coverage. The assertion of the government that we are not the ones who pay for it still doesn’t solve the problem. The fact remains that the employees have the coverage precisely through their employment with Priests for Life, which chooses to offer them health insurance.
The government says we have the right to object, and seems to think that’s all the freedom we need. But freedom of conscience does not mean just the right to object; it means the right to refuse to cooperate. It means the right to say “No” to being part of a project, plan, and goal that we oppose.
The government says that, under the HHS mandate, our behavior does not have to change: we do the same thing we would have done before, namely, set up our insurance plan and object to immoral practices. But by making coverage for those immoral practices a necessary part of the insurance plan, the government does in fact require a change in our behavior.
The change is not hard to understand. It’s the difference between providing health insurance that covers immoral practices and providing health insurance that does not cover immoral practices. Before the mandate, we were able to do the latter; now we can’t. That’s a pretty big difference in behavior.
This battle is not over minutiae. And it is not up to the government to decide what is or isn’t important in our religion, or when our conscience is or is not satisfied. This battle is of Biblical proportions, and we at Priests for Life say today — along with millions of other Americans — what the apostles said when they were told not to preach about Jesus anymore: “We will obey God rather than men!”