What Obama Should Say at Thursday's Prayer Breakfast

A proposal from our friend, and former U.S. ambassador to Malta, Douglas W. Kmiec:

Last November, I strongly recommended to the White House that President Obama grant the bishops’ request for a broader exemption for Catholic employers from the general obligation placed on most employers to acquire contraceptive coverage for their employees. To emphasize how well the bishops’ request dovetailed with what I understood then, and understand now, to be the president’s own perspective on religious freedom, I drafted some remarks to illustrate that happy convergence.

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The president chose to not grant the exemption, and now the bishops are calling that decision an act of war on the church and religious freedom. With due respect, I believe the leaders of our faith have overstated matters, but were I the president’s political advisor, I would advise him to confess error.

Here is my proposed presidential speech from November now redrafted to do just that. Should the president wish to end the controversy with the bishops, he might think about employing all or part of the revised remarks in his prayer breakfast remarks later this week:

Faith and freedom are inseparable. In 2008, I had great concern about unnecessary divisions in this country, especially those that in any way suggested that a person’s understanding of faith could disqualify that person from public service or benefit. That isn’t in keeping with my beliefs, and it is not in keeping with the traditions of religious freedom observed in our country.

Recently we made a mistake. While the constitution doesn't mandate religious exemptions from general laws, I believe we should accommodate as many beliefs as possible and to the greatest extent possible without jeopardizing the purpose of the law.

With my knowledge, Secretary Sibelius accepted on a temporary and now proposed permanent basis an exemption drawn too narrowly. That caused great concern to some members of the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church in America provides millions in our nation with education at all levels in addition to hospital care and great works of charity. These works benefit everyone, and in the initial draft of our exemption that was not adequately reflected. My recent visit with New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan has reminded me that it is the American tradition to be more accommodating of our neighbor’s religious understanding than maybe the law demands.

Archbishop Dolan reassured me that his concern was anchored in faith and that the Catholic community was not joining with some partisans who are still ideologically at war with the administration over the historic expansion of health care. These partisan types are anxious to pick a fight; the bishops just want to do the most good. I respect that, even as I don’t share their objection in conscience to employer funding of certain reproductive insurance coverage. There is great wisdom in Jefferson's reminder that “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

In this instance that good judgment would be to not select an exemption that is phrased in a fashion that is unduly limited, matching virtually none of the hiring or service practices of Catholic hospitals, universities and other social service organizations upon which millions rely. Yes, utilizing an exemption that does not map reality might coerce a number of Catholic institutions to comply and result in some greater, insured reproductive services, but a good number more would then withdraw their services as a matter of conscience.

People of good faith, many faiths, and no faith disagree on the issue and the Catholic community is not asking for the Catholic view to be enacted into law; they are asking that there be room under law for the Catholic view. Jefferson knew making that allowance was a matter of freedom and it did not jeopardize the common good, since “truth is great and will prevail if left to her; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error....”

I believe that too. As I have pledged before that my service as your president will always be guided by the prayer that “we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all.”

The proposed exemption was too narrow to honor the spirit of my prayer, which I know all Americans join me in. The exemption in the existing law remains the most accommodating of individual conscience so I have directed the Secretary to withdraw her less than satisfactory proposed revision of that exemption.

 

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John Hayes
5 years 8 months ago
 
Here is my proposed presidential speech from November now redrafted to do just that. Should the president wish to end the controversy with the bishops, he might think about employing all or part of the revised remarks in his prayer breakfast remarks later this week

Publishing this now, before the breakfast, makes it much less likely that he will do that in any form resembling this.
JAMES OLEARY MR
5 years 8 months ago
I will vote for Obama but I am very sorry he has given many of my fellow Catholics a reason not to. I am pretty sure something could have been worked out to avoid this confrontation. 
5 years 8 months ago
Kmiec can keep hoping his American Idol will change his mind but it looks like the White House used a different calculus and is living up to the reduced expecations of the conservative Catholic wing.

from the Wall Street Journal ( Feb 2) 

The White House spent months debating whether to expand an exemption to allow religious hospitals, schools or charities to opt out of a requirement that all forms of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration be provided to insurance policyholders without co-payments or deductibles.

Catholic leaders believed Mr. Obama would exempt such institutions and urged him to do so.

Many women on Mr. Obama's team made the case not to, while Vice President Joe Biden, the country's highest-ranking Catholic elected official, argued the perspective of Catholic organizations, according to people familiar with the discussion.
The calculus among Mr. Obama's political advisers, people familiar with their deliberations said, is that support for the decision among women and young voters—including Catholics and Hispanics—outweighs any potential loss. The campaign also is betting the issue won't be decisive for swing voters, whom they say would be more swayed by the economy or positions that restrict access to contraception.

Good luck Douglas...but only when the ''cost'' to White House of support reigers will we see any cahnge.

 


Tom Maher
5 years 8 months ago
The imposition of mandatory new health care regulations known to be contrary to Cathoilc moral ethics on all Catholic instituitons by the Obama admisnistration has of course created an epic political conflict.  These regulations shouts out government violation of the principle of separation of church and state and government violation of the of the free exercise of religion, a First Amendment Constitutional rigth that all American expect their government to honor and obey as the supreme law of the land.  

And, oh yes, these viiolations of the Consttution and citizens expectations were done in an election year.

So it should come as no surprise the Obama admisistration's regulations have created a political firestorm in its demostarted bad faith and untrustworthiness in failing to honor the Firtst Amendment freedom of religion rights so cherished by all Americans. As on ewould expect these violations are being strongly and continuously denounce as par tof th ePresidential campaign as they will be endlessly.   Republican candidates in their primary speeches last night denounced the Obama administration's impostion of these regualtions as an unacceptable violation of First Amendment freedom of religion principles.

So let's not kid ourselves here.  This conflict can not be trivialized as Catholic Bishops' overreacting to minor matters.  This is a matter of epic proportions.  Government regulations are impacting basic First Amerndment rights and  these regulations are not being corrected by the Obama administration. 

And ple?a?s?e? ?d?o?n?'???? ????????????t blame the Cath??olic Bishops for i?sisting Catholic instituions should be Catholic. ?
Amy Ho-Ohn
5 years 8 months ago
Obama probably can't give a speech like that, not because it's impolitic, but because he's completely unaware that any controversy exists. This is a huge issue in the small, pure Catholic blogobubble. But Obama gets a briefing book every morning with the twenty most important issues in the world, and, (surprise!) the Catholic bishops' fury over regulations about contraception in employer-provided health insurance policies isn't one of them.

Face it, folks, he doesn't hate us and he's not persecuting us; he just doesn't remember we exist. Some funny, fat guy in an odd costume visited a few months ago, do you think he remembers a thing like that? Half the faculty at Notre Dame is non-Catholic, half of the Catholic half never goes to mass; why would he remember it's a Catholic university? Catholic hospitals are in the process of selling their assets to secular corporations; why would he care about the few who are left for the few years they'll be left?

Really we should be congratulating ourselves. After all these years we've been bragging that we're becoming a smaller, purer Church, it seems we've finally achieved it. You can't be all that small and pure if the President of the USA is paying attention to you. There are a lot of small, pure churches, and none of them register on his radar.

Now all we need is to revise the liturgy again. Get rid of that ridiculous pro multis and substitute pro paucissimis purissimis.

John Hayes
5 years 8 months ago
The White Hose has published a response to what it describes as ''some confusion about how this policy affects religious institutions.''

 http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/02/01/health-reform-preventive-services-and-religious-institutions

Their point that ''drugs that cause abortions are not included'' ignores the difference between the FDA and the Church views on whether preventing implantation is abortion. 

Their final point that paying for contraception will reduce employer's costs rather than increasing them is unlikely to be well-received by the bishops since the savings are the result of reducing births. 
Tom Maher
5 years 8 months ago
Amy Ho-Ohn,

Everyone can easily be confused on where Catholics stand on these new health care regulations and support for the religious freedoms of the Catholic Church.  After all, Kathleen Sebelius is as a Catholic, a radical pro-choice actiivist and  Secretary of Health and Humans Services and adviser to the the President issued these new regulation after months of review in disregard Catholic Church objections.  One can not underestimate the influence, power and determination of the radical and dominant pro-choice wing of the Democrat party many ow whom are Catholic. 

And as you know Massachusetts Catholic liberal Democrat politicians such as Ted Kennedy, John Kerry , are Martha Coakley are in the forefront of oppossition to the Church on many of the Church's moral stands that are in conflict with the political interests of the Democratic party.  

Martha Coakley in her campaign against Scott Brown in 2010 actually said Catholic nurses should not work in the emergncy room of hospitals if they were not prepared to render immeadiate abortion services.  Her sentiment was no exemptions, no acommodation for religious conscience.  Her radical pro-choice advocacy of course got her the Democratoic U.S. Senate nomination by huge margins over her opponents.  She advocated in the primarcy the health care legislation being worked on in 2009 should include mandantory provisons for abortion coverage.  Radical pro-choice elements in Massachusetts loved it.   However taxpayers and others did not.  This of course would greatly incease the cost of health  care insurance and that is especially annoying when you do not beleive in abortion in the first place or even if you do you do not want to pay for somenone else's abortion.  Most people do not want health care re-defined to patronize the radical pro-choice interest of the Democratic party even in ultra liberal Massachusetts.  Martha Coakley and her pro-chocie politics lost the Senate election which was a referenduam on health care by a large margins even in lieberal Massachussetts.   

The President on his own ought better sense of the downside of forcing pro-choice policy on the public but especailly on forcing religions with different religious views the radcial pro-choice policies of the Democratic party politics.  

However outside the eastern  Route 2 corridor and parts of Boston  Martha Coakley  decisively lost.  Health care refrom was controversial enough without extra heaps of radical pro-choice ideology.  With Massachusetts being at least 50 percent Catholic there had to be some Catholics voting against her.  The trick is to win general elections with the support of the general electorate not just support from Democratoc party power blocks.
John Hayes
5 years 8 months ago
Here is the text of the speech the president did deliver at the Prayer Breakfast this morning.

 http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/02/02/remarks-president-national-prayer-breakfast

No mention of the HHS regulation. 
Helena Loflin
5 years 8 months ago
Maybe Obama knows what everyone else knows: in the U.S., virtually all women, and 98% of Catholic women, have used birth control at some time in their lives, and 71% of American voters, including 77% of Catholic women voters, support his policy.

The vast majority of Catholics have been using artificial contraception for decades, ban or no ban.  So how are their First Amendment rights being dishonored?
Jim McCrea
5 years 8 months ago
Let the bishops set up their own super pac via Citizens' United and get oodles of bux to pay for non-tax deductible insurance premiums.  Theny they can discriminate any way they want - a practice with which they are eminently familiar.
Winifred Holloway
5 years 8 months ago
Re Amy's comment:  you are correct.  A smaller, purer church is in the near future.  It's called a cult.

Re tom's comment:  abortions are not done in the emergency room.
Christian Browne
5 years 8 months ago
Mr. Kmiec and his fellow liberals are desperate to rehabiliate this most illiberal of presidents. He should recognize that the president and his allies have no more regard from the Church than had Robspierre.

How about this speech for the president:

While Sec. Seblius' rule was well-intentioned from her point of view, no such intention can be allowed to contravene the right of free persons and private organizations to arrange their own affairs according to their religious, moral or economic interests.

In carrying out its ministry, the Catholic Church has a right to set the terms of employment for those who choose to work for it and with it in furtherance of its mission. An elementary understanding of natural rights, as well as the legal protections of our Constitution, require that the government refrain from interferring with the way in which the Church carries out its religious expression and ministry.

Moreover, the government has no business insisting that any employer provide any certain kind of pay or benefits. Employment relations are private matters in which free persons voluntarily give their labor in exchange for agreed-upon compensation. The state has no more right to order that every employee receive a particular health plan than it has to mandate that every hospital pay all nurses $500,000 a piece or that every supermarket cashier earn as much as her manager.

I believe in individual freedom and government limited by the Constitution, natural rights and prudential judgments that recognize the inherent inability of the state to successfully micromanage a vast and complex society of free persons. As such, I order the secretary to rescind the rule. I welcome the contributions of the Catholic Church to charity and the civil society. And I shall no longer seek to manage and regulate the private affairs of persons and institutions.


Tom Maher
5 years 8 months ago
Winifred Holloway (# 12)

Martha Coakely a Catholic politician in the 2010 specaial election for the U.S. Seante seat repeatedly  criticizsed her opponent Scott Brown in debates, interviedws and attack ads for sponsoring legislation in the Massachusetts legilature that would give "preferencial exemptions' to health care workers and hospitals from abortive services that viloated the individual or instituiton religious conviction. 

When asked affirnitively what she would do about a persons religious conviction in a interview she stated she would require the health care worker and the institutionto perfom even abortive services sucha s distribute emergency contraceptives that are abortive.  She further claimed that a person had a constitution right to expect these service be performed.  So like the Obama admisistration she would provide no exemption and no accomadation and would compel hospital employee to perform procedures agasit their conscience. 

Martha Coakley is was then and now the Massachusetts Attorney General.  So on the question of Constitutional rights she see abortion rights as legal mandates with no exemptions for people or institution's religious convicitons.  Religious freedom issues were not contemptuously disregarded by Attorney General Coakley.  As Brown siad of her she is a social crusader for absolute abortion rights including abortion on demand.  This is an example of Catholic politicians extreme anti-religious stands in favor of  abortion provisions in health care laws and regulations. 

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