A Strange Notion of “Compromise”

I’ve been following politics my whole life.  I understand the politicians live in a different world than the rest of us.  But is still surprises me when they work from a different dictionary.

We’re talking now about the Administration and their mandate that all employers, including Catholic institutions, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception — free of charge.

Having inadvertently dragged the Church into electoral year politics, the Administration has now started talking about “compromise” to take some of the heat off.  To most normal people, the word “compromise” means that people sit down, talk to each other as equals, and try to work out something that will respect each other’s beliefs and values.  An online dictionary defines it as “a settlement of differences by mutual concessions”.

But the Administration seems to think that the word means “surrender your values, be quiet, and do what we tell you”.

We’ve seen some of these “compromise” laws in other states, and they don’t resemble anything a normal person would consider to be a genuine “settlement of differences by mutual concessions”.  All of them run roughshod over religious liberty, and merely dress up the morally offensive mandate in slightly different clothing, in hopes that people won’t recognize it.  Here’s why:

  • The government cannot be in the business of defining what is a church and what is not.  The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment specifically forbids the government from picking its favorite churches and rewarding them, while penalizing those churches that are in official disfavor.  Yet all of these “compromise” laws would give the government the sole authority to determine who is a “religious employer” and who is not — and impose mandates on the unfavored, with potentials for onerous fines for those who don’t conform.
  • The government has no business investigating religious organizations or the religious beliefs of workers or clients.  In order to enforce these “compromise” laws, the government will have to poke around in the internal operations of churches, asking questions about their “primary purpose”, and even asking about the religious beliefs  of employees or clients.  It’s hard to imagine a more offensive intrusion on religious liberty.
  • The government cannot force people to say and do things that violate their religious and moral beliefs.  One of the “compromise” laws being talked about (Hawaii’s) requires religious employers to provide “written information describing how an enrollee may directly access contraceptive services” — in other words, it requires them to give people a direct referral to the local Planned Parenthood clinic.  Essentially, the government will be forcing words out of our mouths — words we find deeply offensive.
  • We’ve been down this road before.  We know the playbook.   Now that the Administration is facing some political heat, they’ve started talking about “compromise” — without being open to conceding anything real.  Next, we’ll see the release of polls that purport to show that the bishops are “out of touch” with Catholics — as if our constitutional rights are disposable, based on the shifting whims of public opinion.  Dissenting Catholics will be trotted out, to talk about their disagreements with Church teaching.  Then, there will be “gotcha” moments where the advocates will lead the media to agencies that are already complying with similar mandates under protest, and imply that we don’t really mean what we say.  The bishops and their supporters will be labeled “heartless” and “anti-woman”, and will be on the receiving end of protests and heart-rending “human interest” stories.  It will be unpleasant and personal, with sharp elbows thrown in the corners — that’s the way that ideological politics is played by the devotees of the Culture of Death.

    And, they won’t stop with contraceptives and sterilizations.  Forcing insurance plans to cover surgical abortion is clearly next — a bill to that effect is moving forward in Washington State, and one has been introduced in the New York Legislature.  And once they’re finished with gutting our religious liberty, they’ll move on to someone else’s freedoms.

    The best solution to this problem is to eliminate this awful mandate.  There is no compelling need to provide sterilization and hormonal contraceptives, free of charge to users, while all the rest of us — including those of us who consider those services to be dangerous and immoral — pick up the tab in higher insurance premiums.

    There is no compelling reason — outside of anti-life ideology — to throw out the First Amendment, all in the name of a phony “compromise”.

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    10 Responses to “A Strange Notion of “Compromise””

    1. Doug Indeap says:

      Questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith are entirely real, but not new. The courts have confronted such issues and have generally ruled that under the Constitution the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, fraud, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. Were it otherwise and people could opt out of this or that law with the excuse that their religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.

      Largely lost in the fuming over some supposed moral dilemma is that THE HEALTH CARE LAW DOES NOT FORCE EMPLOYERS TO ACT CONTRARY TO THEIR BELIEFS–unless one supposes the employers’ religion forbids even payment of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion). In keeping with the law, those with conscientious objections to providing their employees with qualifying health plans may decline to provide any health plans and pay an assessment instead or, alternatively, provide plans that do not qualify (e.g., without provisions they dislike) and pay lower assessments.

      No moral dilemma, no need for an exemption. That the employers must at least pay an assessment is hardly justification for an exemption. In other contexts, for instance, we have relieved conscientious objectors from required military service, requiring them instead to provide alternative service in noncombatant roles or useful civilian work. In any event, paying assessment does not pose a moral dilemma, but rather a garden-variety gripe common to most taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action of the government. Should each of us feel free to deduct from our taxes the portion that we figure would be spent on those actions (e.g., wars, health care, teaching evolution, subsidizing churches, whatever) each of us opposes? The hue and cry for an exemption is predicated on the false claim–or, more plainly, lie–that employers otherwise are forced to act contrary to their religions.

    2. ROB says:

      And whither the assessments Doug? To pay for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients. Either way the Churches are paying for what they have morally opposed and that opposition is of such long standing that it is risible to suggest it is the equivalent of you and I quailing about paying our taxes.

    3. Pharmamom says:

      Where were you on the overall mandate? You know, some of us find the idea that our neighbors (the government is, after all, just all of us) think they should be able to tell me what kind of insurance I should buy or what kind of coverage I must offer if I sell insurance. That is offensive and illegitimate, not just this particular mandate.

      Perhaps the Roman church shouldn’t have been so quick to hop into bed with Obama and back Obamacare. You can’t claim you’ve been raped when you took off your clothes and threw yourself at the man.

    4. Ed Mechmann says:

      Doug —

      The rule of law is a good thing. In our American tradition, however, the emphasis is on the “law”, and much less on the “rule”. That’s the problem with this mandate, and indeed with the whole health care law.

      You seem to think that freedom is something that we are permitted to enjoy by sufferance of the state. No. Religious freedom means that I may do certain things, or not do certain things, according to my conscience. The state has no right to demand otherwise, I have no duty to obey an unjust law that infringes on that freedom, and I am not liable for penalties for doing so. This freedom is the natural state of the human person, and governments are established to protect it from usurpation — not to dispense with it and rule us according to the ideology of the day.

      Here’s how the Declaration puts it:

      all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

      How magnanimous of you to judge that we have no legitimate moral problems here, and no religious liberty rights that need to be troubled with. Some day, when your own constitutional rights are threatened, I imagine you would hope for a different response from your fellow citizens.

    5. Ed Mechmann says:

      Pharmamom —

      The bishops of the Catholic Church (along with many other faiths) opposed the final version of the health care law, although they supported the concept of extending health insurance availability. They cautioned against the dangers of the bill, particularly because they believed — presciently — that it would lead to this.

      Nice touch with the “blame the victim” line, and the dismissive reference to the “Roman” church (ever hear of Eastern Catholics?). How to win friends and influence people.

    6. Doug Indeap says:


      Don’t mistake your wishful thinking for the law. As reiterated in the Supreme Court’s most recent First Amendment decision, under the Constitution the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, fraud, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0494_0872_ZS.html

    7. Thomas says:


      As you set out the options, Catholic institutions can provide health care plans that offend their beliefs, or they can pay an assessment. As it happens, the assessment is expected to function as a fine. So, their choice will be, they can comply or they can pay a fine. Do you think the exercise of religious liberty can be conditioned on the payment of a fine?

      You also say that laws that are generally applicable to everyone can require even those who have religious objections to comply. But the new requirement isn’t applicable to everyone. Tens of millions of Americans won’t be covered. Why is it essential to cover those working for Catholic institutions or other believers while tens of millions won’t be covered by the requirement? It looks like animus.

    8. Ed Mechmann says:

      Doug —

      I am very well aware of the Smith decision. It represents a crabbed, narrow view of religious liberty and was specifically rejected by Congress (see the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act), as well as by many state legislatures and courts. Supreme Court First Amendment jurisprudence is a mess, as many commentators and Justices (most recently Justice Thomas) have pointed out.

      Yet even in Smith, and certainly in the more recent Hosanna Tabor case, the Supreme Court recognized that some kinds of religious conduct and decisions are beyond the reach of government to control — the choice of ministers, internal governance, and presumably matters of belief. In other cases the Court has recognized (Dale, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade cases, for instance) the freedom of groups — including religions — to association and speech, free of government control.

      So, the law is not as clear-cut as you suggest — the government does not have the unlimited authority to enact laws that apply to all and that can compel obedience from religious people against their consciences. That’s a good thing, no?

    9. Alex and Felicia says:

      How sad … when Doug has to go through so much mincing of words and justification means that there is something deeply wrong with this ruling. Clearly the Healthcare law of 2000+ pages and the tens of thousands of pages of regulations and rules are intended to confuse and control, not liberate. The simple and clear foundation of our democracy which is based on guaranteeing ‘ Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness’ and the First Amendment are clear enough and don’t need any reinterpretation, that’s what is at stake. The Catholic Church just happens to be one of the few remaining bastions that still speak out against this new tyranny! Thank God for people like Ed and Thomas … some common sense and less government intrusion is what is needed.