ObamaCare Mandate Solely the President’s Decision

The decision of the Obama Administration to force Catholic institutions to provide health care plans for their employees covering contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilizations, according to an anonymous White House official, was solely the President’s. The source said that Mr. Obama believed the issue of public health access outweighed the concerns of the religious institutions.

This argument for not providing a religious exception based on a compelling government interest, however, is not sustainable. The fact is that the majority of the people who work for Catholic affiliated institutions throughout the country (about 70,000 people, or roughly 0.022% percent of the population) have no need for this type of “preventative care” due to age, gender or religious commitments. The President’s diktat has rightly caused an uproar among many religious people, especially Catholics who deem these “health services” to be immoral. It threatens the loss of Freedom of Religion, a basic human right recognized in America prior even to our becoming a nation.

There was a time when school children learned about the Pilgrims and the Puritans who left England to escape religious persecution at the hands of Kings James Ι and Charles I. Although they were only seeking freedom to practice their own faith, one of their members, Roger Williams, greatly expanded the right of religious freedom to other groups in Rhode Island. His convictions have provided a template for America’s Church-State relations ever since.

As a protégé of the great English jurist Sir Edward Coke, Williams learned that God and the law are above the king. Williams was impressed by Coke’s high regard for the inviolability of natural rights. Thomas Jefferson incorporated natural rights in the Declaration of Independence and into the Virginia Statue for Religious freedom (1779). James Madison included this right as the “First Freedom” in the Bill of Rights (1791). Americans have always jealously guarded this right.

Numerous Supreme Court cases have tested the boundaries between Church and State. For the most part, the Court has favored the autonomy of Church and State, and consequently accommodations for conscience and religious practice. In a case involving the Amish, for example, the Supreme Court has allowed for an exception to state laws that require education up to a child’s sixteenth year. Also, it must be recalled that although the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution forbade the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol, an exception was provided for churches that used wine for sacramental purposes. President Obama’s edict to the bishops, therefore, flies in the face of American jurisprudence.

Unfortunately, most American’s are not familiar with the history of their religious freedom. This is undoubtedly because true American history and civics are not being taught in our schools. The natural rights guaranteed in our founding documents which inform our heritage have been supplanted by entitlements manufactured by the government. And, as Ronald Regan said, “What the government can give, it can also take away.”

When people do not know their basic rights, or come to believe that their entitlements are more desirable than their liberty, they are sacrificing their natural birthright for a cheap palliative which will only lead to enslavement. For religious and non-religious people alike this affront to human dignity cannot be tolerated.

The fundamental wrongness and illegality of President Obama’s decision will lead to undermining other freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Before it is too late schools, churches and other civic organizations must begin to educate Americans about their natural rights, the most obvious of which are embedded in the First Amendment. Not to do so jeopardizes both our heritage and our freedom (a right God Himself will not violate).

Fr. Michael P. Orsi


Chaplain and Research Fellow at Ave Maria Law. Father Michael P. Orsi was ordained for the Diocese of Camden in 1976 and has a broad background in teaching and educational administration. Fr. Orsi has authored or co-authored four books and over 300 articles in more than 45 journals, magazines and newspapers. He has served as Assistant Chancellor, Assistant Vicar for Pastoral Services, Director of Family Life Bureau, and Coordinator of Pope John Paul II’s visit to New Jersey for the Diocese of Camden. He has also served as a member of The Institute for Genomic Research at the University of Pennsylvania and as a member of New Jersey’s Advisory Council on AIDS. Fr. Orsi holds a Doctorate in Education from Fordham University, two Master degrees in Theology from Saint Charles Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts from Cathedral College. He is presently serving as Chaplain and Research Fellow in Law and Religion at Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, Florida. He is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. In 2005 Fr. Orsi was appointed as a Senior Research Associate to the Linacre Center for Bioethics, London, England. Fr. Orsi co-hosts a weekly radio program The Advocate which discusses law and culture on WDEO-AM 990, WMAX-AM 1440 in metro Detroit and WDEO-FM 98.5 in southwest Florida [also linked at www.avemarialaw.edu].

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  • ST. Markeymark

    “Religious liberty has been granted to churches and to individuals not by the State but by the hand of God,” Bishop Lori pointed out. “It is the first of our freedoms in the Bill of Rights and at the heart of all the other freedoms.”

    And since when did pregnancy become a disease? or abortion a right (rite)?

  • chaco

    Parts of God’s Church / Truth  are integral components of our Constitution. To that extent, “The Gates of Hell will not prevail against it” (Mt. 16.18). The best way to impress the need for acknowledging this is to stress; FREINDSHIP CAN’T BE FORCED.  No one can argue the fact ;  If there is a God, we must be free to get close to Him/Her. This is the best argument against a Theocracy (forced faith).

  • Peter Nyikos

    Fathe Orsi praises Roger Williams for expanding religious freedom rights, but when I was in Catholic elementary school, our textbook said that he did not extend them to either Catholics or Jews.

  • Jmeyer83

    But our opposition to abortion and contraception IS a moral, not just religious, stance. You can believe in the innocence of a young girl without necessarily believing in God. Pro-choice people are wrong in saying we want to impose our religion on them. We may explain our beliefs to ourselves how we want to, but we are obliged to make and effort to explain what we believe to the world, why we oppose it, in its own language. PBS commentator today, obviously in favor of gov’t funded contraception, was saying Obama’s recent concession was just a subterfuge “respecting” the Church’s beliefs even though Catholic organization would still be funding contraception, the costs being somehow passed along indirectly. He’s right. Just not trying hard enough or well enough implicates us. We could use an intellectual hero like John Henry Newman right now.

  • Mitch Lane82

    You make very good arguments here, so I’ll post my comment as a reply to you to kind of help and expand on what you’re saying.Nobody is forcing anyone to live by any
    religious dogma, it is the Obama administration and the Federal
    government forcing their agenda and beliefs on others.   When talking about
    pro-lifers and people against abortion, contraception, etc., you are not talking about any
    religious dogma, but you are addressing a moral and ethical issue. Even
    Atheists are pro-life. Planned Parenthood leaders themselves
    have admitted that abortion is killing a human life (http://www.abort73.com/abortion/medical_testimony/
    Therefore we have this issue of whether or not this killing is ethical
    or moral. Whether or not any church or religious organization is in
    support of this has nothing to do with the fact that this issue (pro-life or pro-‘choice’) is truly
    a moral debate.As for this Mandate, it is not merely a question of the morality of what they are forcing us to pay for, but the fact that they are infringing upon the rights of every American, whether or not they belong to a church or faith or belief, by forcing them to pay for, support, etc., something that they cannot in good conscience support.In case no one has heard of it, there are several lawsuits against this unconstitutional mandate, one of which is being head up by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life out in New York. My support stands with him!http://www.priestsforlife.org/freedom-of-conscience/