In response to today’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, Faith in Public Life executive director Rev. Jennifer Butler issued the following statement:
The Supreme Court did the right thing for American families by upholding the Affordable Care Act. Faith leaders worked tirelessly to pass this legislation because ensuring that all Americans have quality, affordable healthcare is a moral responsibility. The religious right needs to halt their misguided campaign to repeal this law. Human life is too sacred to be jeopardized by partisan crusades.
This week, several Supreme Court decisions will have profound effects on our nation’s future, and people of faith are speaking up.
Yesterday the court overturned key sections of Arizona’s SB 1070, the anti-immigrant law faith leaders fought because it subjects Latinos to harassment, discrimination and profiling. Unfortunately, the court didn’t strike down one of the most dangerous parts of the law – the “show me your papers” provision requiring law enforcement officers verify the immigration status of people they stop. Religious leaders responded by expressing disappointment that the ruling still allows racial profiling, but also commended the justices for striking down the other provisions.
Thursday, the justices will announce their verdict on the Affordable Care Act. The outlook isn’t good. In a survey of 21 top legal scholars last week, 19 said the law’s individual coverage mandate was constitutional based on legal precedent, but only eight thought the justices will uphold the law in its entirety. The potential consequences are grave. Access to health insurance for tens of millions of people, the stability of our healthcare system, and the fate of people with pre-existing conditions and serious illnesses hang in the balance. If the law is overturned or weakened, Republicans who fought for repeal of “Obamacare” face an immediate moral responsibility to pass policies that ensure no one is harmed because of their partisan agenda.
During the healthcare debate of 2009 and 2010, Faith in Public Life and key religious partners mounted a multifaceted campaign to provide quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Within hours of the public launch of our effort, the conservative Family Research Council called it an “anti-faith, anti-family, anti-freedom agenda.” Throughout the debate Republican leaders and the Religious Right relentlessly distorted the legislation, calling it a “government takeover,” claiming that it included “death panels” and alleging that it provided taxpayer funding of abortion.
By the time the law finally passed, pro-health reform faith leaders had generated scores of vigils, hundreds of visits to Congress, thousands of media hits, millions of prayers, and crucial rebuttals to the Right’s dishonest rhetoric. It wasn’t in service of a partisan agenda, it was in accordance with our belief that all people, created in the image of God, deserve medical treatment for the illnesses and injuries we all face over the course of life. This conviction leads us to pray that the Supreme Court does the right thing on Thursday, and spurs us to action if they don’t.
As the US Catholic bishops launch their “Fortnight for Freedom” to protest the HHS contraception regulation, dioceses around the country are holding various events to join the campaign. One of the most enthusiastic dioceses is Oklahoma City, which held a rally at the city’s downtown convention center today organized by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and a group of lay Catholics called St. Peter’s Fellowship.
This same picture was the center of a similar controversy earlier this month when The Daily Advertiser, a Gannett-owned Lousiana paper, ran it in an advertisement from a far-right group comparing the Obama administration’s activities to the execution.
St. Peter’s Fellowship says they’re operating with the blessing of Oklahoma City Archbishop Coakley. If the Archbishop doesn’t want to be seen as co-opted by right-wing extremists, he would be wise to exercise some more oversight with whom he partners.
Last week we highlighted a question from Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz at the Catholic Bishops’ General Assembly in Atlanta repeating a right-wing smear that the Affordable Care Act contains a broad exemption for Muslims.
But just as shocking as the question itself was the response — or rather, non-response — he got from the session speakers, Baltimore Bishop William Lori and Catholic University of America President John Garvey. Lori joked that Bruskewitz “must have got a lot further in that act than I did” and Garvey said they should consult the lawyers.
Here are the two men at the forefront of the bishops’ efforts to convey competence and compassion to the Catholic community and the broader public. They regularly trumpet the notion that the bishops’ efforts are for the common good of all Americans. And yet in the face of a question advancing the supposition that an entire religious group is receiving the exemptions the Catholic community is supposedly being denied, they have nothing more to say than “we don’t know”? This is beyond absurd, it is scandalous. Bishop Lori–you really don’t know if the document you have spent the better part of the last 18 months criticizing does or does not allow for an entire religious group to exempt itself from its reach? Then why should we trust your judgments about the President’s actions on religious freedom? Why should we trust your stated commitment to represent religious freedom for all, when you are ignorant of even the most basic facts related to a major religious group and its standing before the very law that you have made your reputation upon criticizing?
Thankfully, as Mollie Wilson O’Reilly notes at dotCommonweal, Bishop Pates set the record straight with the answer to the question before his remarks in the next session.
As O’Reilly also notes, however, there’s a further question that needs to be asked. Given that the Bishops’ professed standard is that any entity that objects to federal mandates on moral grounds should be exempt, why would a Muslim exemption be objectionable?:
A straightforward answer to Bruskewitz’s question might force the bishops into an uncomfortable position. After all, based on their reasoning about the HHS contraception mandate, if Muslims did object on moral and religious grounds to buying health insurance, shouldn’t they be allowed to refuse? Wouldn’t that make this an unjust law, and therefore no law at all, where they are concerned?
Yesterday, the U.S. Catholic Bishops began their summer general assembly which prominently featured a long afternoon session on religious liberty. Following presentations from Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty Chair Bishop William Lori and Catholic University of America President John Garvey, the floor was opened for questions and comments from fellow bishops.
One of the bishops who took the mic was Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska. Prefacing his question with the caveat that he hasn’t actually read the Affordable Care Act, he asked about a rumor he had heard:
I haven’t had a chance to read the Obamacare Protection Act, but somebody told me that there’s a total exemption for Muslims in the back of that act, that all Muslims are exempt because insurance for Muslims is a type of gambling which is contrary to the Koran and therefore Muslims are not obliged in any way to observe the insurance mandate which derives from the act. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, I just want to know if any of you know anything about it.
The allegation that the Obama administration is giving broad exemptions to Muslim Americans is a self-evidently ridiculous right-wing myth meant to further shameful smears of the President as un-Christian and un-American.
It’s shocking to think that Bishop Bruskewitz not only believed there was a chance this smear was true, but also that he was willing to repeat it in a publicly-broadcast forum. When concerned Catholics warn of the dangerous influence of Republican politics among Church leadership lately, this kind of revelation only bolsters their point.