A Blunt Instrument

February 15, 2012, 2:36 pm | Posted by

Later this month, the Senate will vote on the Blunt Amendment – legislation that repeals not only the requirement that employers offer health insurance plans that cover contraception without  a copay, but also allows employers to refuse to offer coverage of any medical service they object to on moral grounds. It’s completely open-ended. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he supports the legislation.

In other words, the folks who warned that “Obamacare” would put a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor have no problem putting Donald Trump in charge of which specific medical treatments his employees may and may not have. Unfortunately, prominent faith leaders are supporting this radical amendment:

Leaving coverage decisions up to each employers’ conscience might create chaos in the marketplace, “but chaos is sometimes the price you pay for freedom,” said Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who is backing the bishops whole-heartedly.

Land’s statement reflects an extremely privileged notion of “freedom.” Arguing that a private employer should be able to impose his moral values on employees to the extent that he controls the specifics of their health care shows a greater concern for the individual preferences of the powerful than for the welfare of everyday people.

Someone with libertarian leanings might say “well, if employees are dissatisfied with their coverage, they are free to get a job elsewhere.” But when jobseekers outnumber job openings 4-to-1 nationwide and almost half of Americans are one economic shock away from poverty, that’s cold comfort.

This isn’t about the consciences of religious institutions, this is about giving every employer – from the most virtuous to the most unscrupulous — power to impose their “morals” on their employees, medical consequences be damned. Given that our society is already rife with examples of business owners abusing their employees, the Blunt Amendment puts families in danger by subjecting their healthcare to the whims of employers who have an economic incentive to make up moral reasons to offer inadequate insurance.

add a comment »

Faith Leaders, Theologians Celebrate Common-Ground Solution on Contraception, Religious Liberty

February 10, 2012, 2:57 pm | Posted by

In addition to the leaders mentioned in my previous post about religious groups commending the Obama administration’s common-ground solution on conscience exemptions and contraceptive coverage, numerous prominent faith leaders and theologians released a statement lauding the decision this afternoon. The press release and list of signatories are below and available here:

Today, national faith leaders and organizations are celebrating the White House’s announcement of a common-sense, common-ground solution to religious liberty concerns around contraception coverage that protects women’s access to important preventive health care. The regulation expands religious exemptions within the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that contraceptive services be covered without copayment in health insurance plans, while guaranteeing that employees of religious institutions can obtain family planning and other preventive health services directly from their insurance providers. Below is a statement from Catholic and Protestant leaders celebrating the decision as “major victory for religious liberty and women’s health.”

Today the Obama administration announced an important regulation that will protect the conscience rights of religious organizations and ensure that all women have access to contraception without a co-payment. We applaud the White House for listening carefully to the concerns raised by religious leaders on an issue that has provoked heated and often misinformed debate. This ruling is a major victory for religious liberty and women’s health. President Obama has demonstrated that these core values do not have to be in conflict.

Specifically, this new regulation guarantees that no religiously affiliated institution will have to pay for services that violate its moral beliefs or even refer employees for this coverage. Instead, if a woman’s employer is an objecting university, hospital or other religious institution, her insurer will be required to offer her coverage at no cost. This is a sensible, common-ground solution.

In recent days, sound bites and divisive rhetoric have too often pitted the faith community against sound science and public health. The previous regulations caused an unnecessary conflict between the administration, the Catholic Church and other religious institutions. We are encouraged that the Obama administration has developed a substantive solution that addresses the concerns of the many constituencies involved. We look forward to bringing the same level of passion displayed in this debate to other pressing moral issues that face our nation.

Sister Simone Campbell
Executive Director
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Terrence W. Tilley
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology Chair, Theology Department
Fordham University

Rev. Paul Crowley SJ
Jesuit Community Professor of Theology
Santa Clara University

Nicholas P. Cafardi
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law
Duquesne University School of Law

Vincent J. Miller
Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture
University of Dayton

Douglas W Kmiec
United States Amb. (ret)
Professor of Constitutional Law and Caruso Family Chair in Constitutional Law
Pepperdine University

Kristin Heyer
Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Santa Clara University

Gerald J. Beyer
Associate Professor of Theology
Saint Joseph’s University

Stephen Schneck
Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies
Catholic University of America

Francis Schüssler Fiorenza
Stillman Professor of Roman Catholic Theological Studies Harvard Divinity School
Cambridge, MA

John Inglis
Chair and Professor of Philosophy
Cross-appointed to Religious Studies
University of Dayton

Bradford E. Hinze
Professor of Theology
Fordham University
Bronx, NY

David DeCosse
Director of Campus Ethics Programs
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
Santa Clara UniversitY

Todd Whitmore
Associate Professor of Theology
University of Notre Dame

Sr. Paulette Skiba
Professor of Religious Studies
Clarke University

Michael E. Lee
Associate Professor of Theology
Fordham University

Tobias Winright
Associate Professor of Theological Ethics
Saint Louis University

Richard R. Gaillardetz
McCarthy Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology
Boston College

Christopher Pramuk
Assistant Professor of Theology
Xavier University

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Professor of Theology
Chicago Theological Seminary

The Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin
Immediate Past President
National Council of Churches

Rev. Anne Howard
Executive Director
The Beatitudes Society

Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
United Church of Christ
Justice and Witness Ministries

Rev. Richard Cizik
President
New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Dr. David Gushee
Board Chair and Co-Founder
New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Rev. Alexander Sharp
Executive Director
Protestants for the Common Good

Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Director
Disciples Justice Action Network (DJAN)

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
President
Skinner Leadership Institute

Linda Bales Todd
Director of Women’s Advocacy
General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church

Jim Winkler
General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church

Rev. Randolph Bracy, Jr.
Senior Pastor, New Covenant Baptist Church
Orlando, FL

Lisa Sharon Harper
Director of Mobilizing
Sojourners

add a comment »

Prominent National Faith Leaders Celebrate White House’s Common-Ground Solution on Contraception Coverage

February 10, 2012, 2:49 pm | Posted by

Today, national faith leaders and organizations are celebrating the White House’s announcement of a common-sense, common-ground solution to religious liberty concerns around contraception coverage that protects women’s access to important preventive health care. The regulation expands religious exemptions within the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that contraceptive services be covered without copayment in health insurance plans, while guaranteeing that employees of religious institutions can obtain family planning and other preventive health services directly from their insurance providers. Below is a statement from Catholic and Protestant leaders celebrating the decision as “major victory for religious liberty and women’s health.”

Today the Obama administration announced an important regulation that will protect the conscience rights of religious organizations and ensure that all women have access to contraception without a co-payment. We applaud the White House for listening carefully to the concerns raised by religious leaders on an issue that has provoked heated and often misinformed debate. This ruling is a major victory for religious liberty and women’s health. President Obama has demonstrated that these core values do not have to be in conflict.

Specifically, this new regulation guarantees that no religiously affiliated institution will have to pay for services that violate its moral beliefs or even refer employees for this coverage. Instead, if a woman’s employer is an objecting university, hospital or other religious institution, her insurer will be required to offer her coverage at no cost. This is a sensible, common-ground solution.

In recent days, sound bites and divisive rhetoric have too often pitted the faith community against sound science and public health.The previous regulations caused an unnecessary conflict between the administration, the Catholic Church and other religious institutions. We are encouraged that the Obama administration has developed a substantive solution that addresses the concerns of the many constituencies involved. We look forward to bringing the same level of passion displayed in this debate to other pressing moral issues that face our nation.

Sister Simone Campbell
Executive Director
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Douglas W. Kmiec
United States Amb. (ret)
Chair, Constitutional and Human Rights Law, Pepperdine University

Terrence W. Tilley
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology Chair, Theology Department
Fordham University

Nicholas P. Cafardi
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law
Duquesne University School of Law

Vincent J. Miller
Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture
University of Dayton

Kristin Heyer
Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Santa Clara University

Gerald J. Beyer
Associate Professor of Theology
Saint Joseph’s University

Stephen Schneck
Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies
Catholic University of America

Francis Schüssler Fiorenza
Stillman Professor of Roman Catholic Theological Studies Harvard Divinity School
Cambridge, MA

John Inglis
Chair and Professor of Philosophy
Cross-appointed to Religious Studies
University of Dayton

Bradford E. Hinze
Professor of Theology
Fordham University
Bronx, NY

David DeCosse
Director of Campus Ethics Programs
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
Santa Clara UniversitY

Todd Whitmore
Associate Professor of Theology
University of Notre Dame

Sr. Paulette Skiba
Professor of Religious Studies
Clarke University

Michael E. Lee
Associate Professor of Theology
Fordham University

Tobias Winright
Associate Professor of Theological Ethics
Saint Louis University

Richard R. Gaillardetz
McCarthy Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology
Boston College

Christopher Pramuk
Assistant Professor of Theology
Xavier University

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Professor of Theology
Chicago Theological Seminary

The Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin
Immediate Past President
National Council of Churches

 

Lisa Sharon Harper
Director of Mobilizing
Sojourners

Rev. Anne Howard
Executive Director
The Beatitudes Society

Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
United Church of Christ
Justice and Witness Ministries

Rev. Richard Cizik
President
New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Dr. David Gushee
Board Chair and Co-Founder
New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Rev. Alexander Sharp
Executive Director
Protestants for the Common Good

Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Director
Disciples Justice Action Network (DJAN)

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
President
Skinner Leadership Institute

Linda Bales Todd
Director of Women’s Advocacy
General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church

Jim Winkler
General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church

*Organizations listed for identification purposes only

###

add a comment »

Faith leaders, women’s health groups support Obama’s contraception solution

February 10, 2012, 2:12 pm | Posted by

This morning the Obama administration announced an important solution to the intense controversy regarding religious exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that contraceptive services be covered without copayment in health insurance plans. The policy will ensures that religious institutions won’t have to provide coverage of or referrals for contraception, but also guarantees that women employed by these institutions will have access to contraception without a co-pay. If a woman’s employer is an objecting university, hospital or other religious institution, her insurer will be required to initiate contact and offer her coverage at no cost.

A broad range of leaders and stakeholders have welcomed the new exemption policy, showing that it’s a true common-ground solution.

The Catholic Health Association, which runs hundreds of hospitals across  the country, supported the Affordable Care Act, and strongly criticized of the administration’s originally crafted religious exemption, lauded the decision:

We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished. The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance.

Read the whole statement here.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America commended the administration for preserving women’s access to preventive health services:

In the face of a misleading and outrageous assault on women’s health, the Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work.

We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman’s ability to access these critical birth control benefits.

Read the whole statement here.

Religious liberty expert Melissa Rogers, former chair of President Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, who criticized the original religious exemption as too narrow, said:

Given the White House description of the revised rule, it both resolves the religious liberty concerns and respects the interests of Americans who would like to have these important health benefits. President Obama and his administration deserve great credit for implementing a solution that honors free exercise rights and fairness. I deeply appreciate the fact that the White House has taken the religious community’s concerns so seriously.

Read the whole statement here.

Catholic United executive director James Salt said:

Catholics United has been calling on both sides of this heated debate to work towards today’s win-win solution. President Obama has shown us that he is willing to rise above the partisan fray to deliver an actual policy solution that both meets the health care needs of all employees and respects the religious liberty of Catholic institutions.

I am eager to see the response of the Catholic bishops, and I hope and pray in their wisdom they see the value of finding a solution. If the bishops are unwilling to recognize the value of compromise, I suspect their opposition is more about playing politics than serving the needs of the people.

Read the whole statement here.

Such a broad range of support demonstrates real common ground, shows that preventive health care and religious liberty are reconcilable priorities, and shows just how ridiculous are the accusations that President Obama is waging a “war on religion.”

add a comment »

Pro-Life Hypocrisy from Rep. Bill Johnson

January 25, 2012, 1:35 pm | Posted by

Earlier this week, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) spoke at the March for Life rally on the National Mall saying among other things “as a father of four and a grandfather of 5, I know how precious life is.”  Then later that day, he blasted new Environmental Protection Agency regulations that for the first time require coal-fired plants to limit toxic mercury pollutants directly linked to fetal disease, death and serious illness in children.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops touted the new mercury and air toxic standards as “an important step forward to protect the health of all people, especially unborn babies and young children.” Bishop Stephen Blaire, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, noted that it’s just “good sense to want to have clean air for our children and families to breath and for future generations.”

Along with Catholic bishops, a diverse range of faith leaders – including more than 100 evangelical pastors and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals – pushed for reasonable controls on these deadly toxins.

But Rep. Johnson’s pro-life commitment apparently stops at the coal lobbyists’door. Here’s what he said on the floor of Congress:

Mr. Speaker, here’s the simple truth. The Obama administration is driven by a far-left liberal ideology rather than the facts. This administration says it wants to put America back to work, but through its policies is doing right the opposite.

For example, because of the EPA’s new train wreck of regulation, up to 160 direct jobs will be lost with the accelerated closure of Beverly, Ohio’s Muskingham coal-fired power plant. This train wreck of regulation is the most expensive regulation that the EPA has ever mandated. These costs will ultimately be passed on to hard-working families in the form of higher utility rates. This new disastrous regulation will also cost southern Ohio many indirect jobs related to the coal industry. No matter how you look at it, the president has declared war on the coal industry and the jobs that go with it.

The truth, of course, is that the new toxics rules save lives without threatening job growth and that making our air and water cleaner and safer has been a bipartisan priority of numerous administrations before this one. Mandated 21 years ago by Congress, the Congressional Research Service reminds that “most of the major rules” the Obama administration is working on “began development under the Bush administration.”

It’s cynical politics and a false choice to ask Americans to choose between jobs and public health. Is our nation really incapable of growing our economy without harming pregnant women, infants and children? Rep. Johnson (who counts the mining and electric utilities industries as two of his top five campaign contributors) and other self-identified pro-life members of Congress should get off the soap box and ask what they are really doing to protect children and families. Soaring rhetoric at a rally isn’t enough.

H/T Political Correction

add a comment »