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Sebelius says she sought religious 'balance,' but ignored key precedents


BENJAMIN MANN

Source:
CNA
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
4/27/2012

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ABSTRACTSebelius says she sought religious 'balance,' but ignored key precedents :: Catholic News Agency (CNA) Editors Service About us Donate Spanish Portuguese Follow us: Loading News Headlines Vatican Americas Asia - Pacific US Europe Middle East - Africa Most Read Most Commented Archive Mandate Resources Abortion Advent Apologetics Benedict XVI Bible Cardinals Catechism Catholic Womanhood Church Fathers Life & Family Liturgical Calendar Liturgy Mary Politics Prayers Sacraments Sacred Arts Saints Virtue Tools Catholic Podcast RSS Feeds CNA TV CNA Audio Columns A Life Worth Living Answering the Tough Questions Bishops' Corner Book Reviews Both Oars In Catholic & Single Catholic Men Guest Columnist Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II In Good Company Indispensable Economics Inside the Church during WWII Led Into the Truth Movie Reviews Preparing the way for the Roman Missal – 3rd Edition The New (& the Old) Evangelization The Spirit of the New Translation The Way of Beauty With Good Reason Your Moment in the Mass Documents Pope Benedict XVI Pope John Paul II Pope Paul VI Pope John XXIII Pope Pius XII Pope Pius XI Pope Pius X Pope Leo XIII Vatican II Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith Pontifical Council for the Family United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Cardinal James Francis Stafford Archbishop Charles J. Chaput Bishop Samuel J. Aquila Catholic Womanhood Home » News » US Sebelius says she sought religious 'balance,' but ignored key precedents By Benjamin Mann Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before the Senate Finance Committee. Credit: HHS/Chris Smith. Washington D.C., Apr 27, 2012 / 06:03 pm ( CNA/EWTN News ) .- HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she was unaware of legal precedents confirming religious freedom, even as she sought a “balance” between believers' rights and the contraception mandate. “I'm not a lawyer, and I don't pretend to understand the nuances of the constitutional balancing tests,” Sebelius told Representative Trey Gowdy (R–SC) during an April 26 hearing. In her responses to subsequent questions, the secretary admitted she was unaware of Supreme Court cases stretching back several decades, in which religious believers' rights against government intrusion were upheld by the court. Gowdy had asked Sebelius to explain the legal basis for what the secretary called an “appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.” “There are only three 'balancing' tests that I am aware of, when it comes to matters of constitutional significance,” Gowdy told Sebelius. The HHS secretary was questioned about the contraception rule during a House Education and Workforce Committee hearing on her department's 2013 budget. Gowdy cited the “rational basis” test – which involves the legitimacy of a state's interest in legislation – as well as the criteria of “intermediate scrutiny” and “strict scrutiny,” which judges apply in order to gauge a law's relevance to fundamental state concerns. When Sebelius responded that she did not understand the “nuances” of these tests, she was pressed by Gowdy to explain why she regarded the contraception mandate as constitutionally valid. The rule has been criticized for requiring religious groups to cooperate in providing sterilization and abortifacients. “This mandate is going to wind up in the Supreme Court,” the South Carolina representative declared. “We can talk about the politics all we want to. I want to talk about the law,” he told Sebelius. “I want to talk about balancing religious liberty with whatever else you think it's appropriate to balance it with – because you used the word 'balance.'” “Which of those three tests is the appropriate test to use when considering religious liberty?” “I am not going to wade into constitutional law,” Sebelius responded. “We are implementing the (health care reform) law that was passed by the Congress, signed by the president, which directed our department to develop a package of preventive health services for women.” Sebelius said she agreed with the statement that government could not “force certain religious beliefs on its citizens.” When asked why this could not happen, she cited “the separation of church and state,” a phrase not found in the U.S. Constitution. “It's the Constitution,” Gowdy replied, citing the First Amendment which guarantees the “free exercise of religion.” Sebelius also agreed with Gowdy's statement that government could not “decide which religious beliefs are acceptable and not acceptable.” This, she acknowledged, is “part of our Constitution.” “So, before this rule was promulgated,” Gowdy continued, referring to the federal contraception mandate, “did you read any of the Supreme Court cases on religious liberty?” “I did not,” Sebelius responded. The representative proceeded to ask the Health and Human Services secretary whether she was familiar with the outcomes of several cases pitting state interests ag.......