The Mandate War


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ABSTRACTThe Mandate War - George Weigel - National Review Online Get FREE NRO Newsletters   Log In   |   Register Follow Us     May 28 Issue  Subscribe to NR  Renew  May 28 Issue   |   Subscribe   |   Renew Home The Corner The Agenda Campaign Spot The Home Front Right Field Bench Memos The Feed Media Blog Critical Condition The Tyranny Blog Larry Kudlow David Calling Exchequer Phi Beta Cons Planet Gore UK Between the Covers Tweet Tracker NR / Digital Subscribe: NR Subscribe: NR / Digital Give: NR / Digital NR Renewals & Changes Shop! Donate Media Kit Contact Black: G, What a Waste Klein: Romney and the Right Mchangama& Rhodes: The Call for a Global Tax Gledhill: Who Is Barack Obama? Hess: The Chronicle of Double Standards Capretta: The Democrats’ Budget Blame Game Nordlinger: Oslo Journal, Part VII Lowry: Assimilation, Now More Than Ever Prager: The Left’s Misplaced Concern Charen: Transgender Five-Year-Old? Sowell: Medicare, Pensions, and Other False Promises Weigel: The Mandate War O’Sullivan: Own It Like a (Rich) Man! Williamson: The Party of Civil Rights Fund: How to Combat Bias at the BBC? Murdock: Bald Eagles Fall to Green Energy Cooke: Piers Morgan, Feather Duster Nordlinger: Oslo Journal, Part VI Lopez: Women of Barnard -- Cheerleading Squad Sowell: A Racial Revolution? New on NRO . . . Close To: Your Email: Your Name: Subject: May 21, 2012 4:00 P.M. The Mandate War At stake is nothing less than the future of civil society in the United States. By George Weigel Archive Latest RSS Send Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., president of Notre Dame University Print Text   Comments 18 George Weigel  T he battle for religious freedom between the Catholic Church in the United States and the Obama administration just entered the second quarter. The first quarter was bureaucratic and rhetorical. The debate began with the January 20 announcement that the administration’s implementation of Obamacare would require Catholic institutions and individual Catholic employers to provide “preventive health services” (including contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs) that the Church rejects as gravely immoral. It was a clumsy attempt at coercing consciences, and it drew widespread condemnation across the spectrum of Catholic opinion. The debate intensified after the administration announced, on February 10, a future “accommodation” of Catholic concerns; but the proposed “accommodation” was an accounting shell game that would change absolutely nothing in either the moral or the legal structure of the issue. Showing a remarkable degree of unanimity, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops rejected the “accommodation” at its March meeting and insisted that the issue at stake was not birth control, but religious freedom: The federal government was trying to compel the Church and individual Catholic believers to do something the Church’s settled teaching considers immoral. That same point was underscored a month later by the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty in its Easter-week statement, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty.” Advertisement Throughout the first quarter of this deadly serious game, the administration did not move a millimeter, the claims of its flacks and some of its Catholic apologists notwithstanding. The “contraceptive mandate” (which, remember, is also a sterilization and abortifacient mandate) is now law, without any “accommodation.” The administration continues to insist on provision of the services in question; it continues to define a “religious exemption” that is so stringent that it is not clear whether any Catholic entity (or Orthodox Jewish entity, or Mormon entity) would qualify; its narrow definition of “religious ministry” puts the Church in legal and financial peril for serving people who are not Catholics, which is another requirement of the Catholic conscience. But the debate is not only about religious institutions; it is about the rights of conscience of employers (Catholic or otherwise) whose convictions require them not to include contraceptives, abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations in the health-insurance coverage they provide their employees. These men and women, like the numerous Catholic entities (including dioceses and educational institutions) that are self-insuring, are all put in grave legal and moral peril by the administration’s intransigent determination to impose its concept of “reproductive health” on the entirety of American society — and to force those who oppose that concept to provide the very means by which the concept is imposed. Now comes the game’s second quarter, which will be legal, as the battle for religious freedom moves into the fe.......