"Once upon a time," Bishop William E. Lori said last week, "a new law is proposed..." For the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, this is how one of the more striking testimonies on the contraception mandate began. The Connecticut leader tried to explain the absurdity of the rule in an extended parable of a country where a new law requires all businesses, including kosher delicatessens, to serve pork. When the Jewish community in his story complains, the government shoos them away, arguing, "But pork is good for you." "So many Jews eat pork, and those who don't should just get on with the times." And, "Those orthodox are just trying to impose their beliefs on everyone else."
Fortunately, Bishop Lori's parable had a happy ending, and people recognized that it's ridiculous for someone to visit a kosher deli and demand a "ham sandwich." Unlike this administration, they understood that it's beyond unreasonable "for that private demand to be backed with the coercive power of the state." The question, he said gravely, is whether the story of America's faith-based groups, who are threatened by this mandate, "will end happily too." In hours of testimony, men and women of all denominations pleaded with the administration to right this wrong. "This is not only a Catholic issue," Dr. Ben Mitchell told the members. "All people of faith--and even those who claim no faith--have a stake in whether or not the government can violate the consciences of its citizenry. Religious liberty and the freedom to obey one's conscience is also not just a Baptist issue. It is an American issue that is enshrined in our founding documents."
Others like Dr. Craig Mitchell explained that the church was the one responsible for creating hospitals and developing much of health care. "With this kind of history, it is ironic that the religious organizations should have their rights crushed in the name of health care. If this is allowed to stand, then there is nothing that the U.S. government cannot compel its citizens to do. Explain to me how all of this is consistent with the American ideal." At least 10 witnesses, from all faiths and walks of life, took to the stand yesterday to intercede in this pivotal moment of our nation's history.
The passionate appeals of the panel were a stark contrast to the Senate Finance Committee hearing a day earlier. Republican Senators, who had the perfect opportunity to open fire on Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's policy in her hearing Wednesday, "barely took a shot." Reporters for Politico were as stunned as the rest of us, when, apart from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), not a single conservative spoke out on her breathtaking attack of American freedom. Fortunately, the states aren't in such a forgiving mood. More have moved to strike at the mandate with resolutions of outrage, including two more in Arizona and Missouri. Earlier this week, a dozen state attorneys general linked arms in a scathing letter to Obama Cabinet officials. "We believe [the mandate] represents an impermissible violation of the Constitution's First Amendment virtually unparalleled in American history," they fume.
Of course, rabid liberals like Sen. Barbara Boxer don't see it that way. She told MSNBC that the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment should take a backseat to the "right" of insurance (which isn't found once in the whole Constitution--I checked.) But that's just one tactic the Left is using to distract the public from the real issue. Planned Parenthood is trying the same stunt against Sen. Hatch. Planned Parenthood's Utah offices are beating up the Senator for numbers he used on our recent webcast. The organization is throwing a fit over Sen. Hatch's suggestion that the majority of services that Planned Parenthood provides are abortions.
What he meant to say is that Planned Parenthood performed 329,445 abortions in 2010, which made up 91% of its services to pregnant women. In other words, they only do 31,098 prenatal services (or 8.6%) and 841 (or .2%) adoption referrals for pregnant women. So it's not 90% of all services, but it is 90% of all services to pregnant women. Either way, it's a frightening illustration of the Left's "health care" for expectant moms. Speaking of destroying innocent life, Sen. Hatch and I talk about how the mandate could do exactly that through drugs like Plan B. To read more about those casualties--and the casualty of religious freedom--don't miss our joint column in Politico.
Tony Perkins leads the Family Research Council.