Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Six bad arguments against religious liberty from the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby hearing

From the Federalist. (H/T Jay Richards)

Here are the 6 arguments:

  1. A Government Surtax On Religious Exercise Is Totally Acceptable
  2. The Mandate Isn’t Really A Mandate
  3. This Is Just A Sneaky Way To Undo The Civil Rights Act
  4. Corporations Can Have A Racial Identity, Just Not A Religious One
  5. Don’t Start A Business If You Want The Government To Respect Your Religious Rights
  6. Abortifacients Aren’t Really Abortifacients

I want to highlight two of these.

First, number 1 makes clear that the Obama administration thinks that you should have to pay a tax in order to follow your conscience. Obama explained that very well in his campaign speeches. If you have a business, you didn’t build that. The government made that happen, and so they have a right to tell you how to run your business.

Here’s #1:

During her questioning of Hobby Lobby’s lead attorney, Justice Sonia Sotomayor appeared to endorse the concept of a religion surtax. Sotomayor’s rationale was that rather than providing health coverage that included abortifacient coverage, companies could refuse outright to provide any health insurance at all, thereby getting around the mandate.

But isn’t there another choice nobody talks about, which is paying the tax, which is a lot less than a penalty and a lot less than — than the cost of health insurance at all? These employers could choose not to give health insurance and pay not that high a penalty ­­– not that high a tax.

Given that the American Revolution started in large part due to a tax on stamps, it seems odd that the Founders would have agreed that citizens should be forced to pay a tax for the privilege of not doing things that might lead to the eternal damnation of their souls. At any rate, Chief Justice John Roberts interjected, and noted that Hobby Lobby’s owners believed they had a religious duty to provide health coverage to their employees. As a result, they would be forced to violate their beliefs no matter what: providing abortifacient coverage would be a violation, as would a failure to provide any health insurance coverage at all.

Number 4 is also interesting. The Democrats basically argued that although companies can be regarded by the law as Black-owned or Hispanic-owned, they cannot be regarded as Christian-owned. A Black-owned company can complain about racial discrimination, but a Christian-owned company can’t complain about religious discrimination. So corporations can have a race, but not a religion.

Here’s #4:

Corporations are people, my friend, just as long as they’re not religious people. That’s the essence of one argument offered by Verrilli. A major issue in the case is whether a for-profit company or corporation even has standing to sue under RFRA, or whether that right is granted only to individuals or non-profits. The Obama administration has argued that for-profit companies do not have standing. That argument led Roberts to ask the following:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, that’s a question of State corporate law. It’s not a question of who can bring an action under RFRA.

Could I just raise — eight courts of appeals, every court of appeal to have looked at the situation have held that Corporations can bring racial discrimination claims as corporations.

Now, does the government have a position on whether corporations have a race?

GENERAL VERRILLI: Yes. We think those are correct and that this situation is different.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: So that — so that a corporation does have a race for purposes of discrimination laws.

“So the person — the corporation can bring as a person a claim of racial discrimination[?]” Roberts asked.

“That’s correct, but not exercise of religion,” Verrilli replied.

My opinion of this Hobby Lobby case is that the government’s real aim is to force Christian churches, groups and businesses to offer abortion as another service in a health insurance plan. They have no respect for religious liberty or conscience. They just want to make sure that no Christian can judge because we would all be complicit in the mass murder of millions of unborn children. There would be no one on the outside who could claim to stand in judgment over the pro-abortion people. That’s why it’s so important to make evil taxpayer-funded. That normalizes it and removes the stigma from the people who take advantage of it. “The whole society paid for this, so I don’t need to feel guilty about it – it’s normal”.

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Michigan House and Senate Republicans pass Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act

Good news from Michigan, delivered by Live Action.

Excerpt:

[On Wednesday,] Michigan won an important pro-life victory.

It started this summer when over 315,000 registered voters, representing every county in Michigan, signed the NO Taxes for Abortion Insurance Petition, making it clear that the people of Michigan do not believe abortion is health care and we do not want to pay for it.

On December 11th, both the Michigan House and Senate passed this petition as the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act, with the House voting 62-47 and the Senate voting 27-11. According to this act, elective abortion will no longer be a standard benefit in health plans. Abortion coverage will only be available by purchasing a separate rider. This act also ensures that our tax dollars and insurance premiums will not go toward funding abortions.

Because the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act was initiated by citizens, as allowed by the Michigan Constitution, it does not require the governor’s signature to become law.

[...]The Affordable Care Act requires all the states to have health care exchanges (also called marketplaces) available by 2014. The ACA allows states to exclude abortion as a covered benefit in these insurance exchanges through legislation like the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act. Michigan is the 24th state to exclude abortion coverage from its insurance plans through this provision.

But not everyone was pleased. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was not pleased. And when questioned by Republicans about whether they could see the list of plans that do not support abortion, she declined to provide that list.’

CNS News reports.

Excerpt:

Although Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Oct. 30 that she would provide Congress with a list of the Obamacare plans in the federal health exchange that do not cover abortion, she has yet to do so and, testifying on Dec. 11, backed away from that pledge and urged consumers to just look at the plan benefits on the exchange website.

At the Oct. 30 hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce , Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) asked Seblius, “Can you provide for the committee the list of insurers in the federal exchange who do not offer, as part of their package, abortion coverage?”

During a somewhat heated back-and-forth, Sebelis said, “I think we can do that, sir,” and added, “I know that is the plan, I will get that information to you.”

Yet during a Dec. 11 House subcommittee hearing, Sebelius declined to say whether she would provide the list requested and instead urged lawmakers and consumers to just look at the benefits package for each plan on the Obamacare exchange websites.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. Shimkus said,  “Madam Secretary, you promised last time you were here that you would provide me a national list of those who cover and those who do not cover abortion and abortion services. We have yet to receive that list.”

[...]In an earlier, fractious exchange with Sebelius, Rep. Shimkus expressed frustration, saying, “This is why we’re frustrated, because we just don’t get the truth out of you.”

Oh those Democrats. Always trying to make us pay for abortions even if we are pro-life.

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Supreme Court will rule on Obama administration persecution of Hobby Lobby

Life News reports.

Excerpt:

Hobby Lobby’s battle against the HHS mandate is headed to the Supreme Court, as the high court today agreed to hear its lawsuit against the controversial provision in Obamacare. The Obama administration is attempting to make it comply with the HHS mandate that compels religious companies to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs for their employees.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark case addressing the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions. This is good news to the Green family, who own the store.

“This is a major step for the Greens and their family businesses in an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify once and for all that religious freedom in our country should be protected for family business owners like the Greens.”

The Obama administration says it is confident it will prevail, saying, “We believe this requirement is lawful…and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.”

“My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case,” said Mr. Green, Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO.  “This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”

The Supreme Court is also taking the case of the Mennonite cabinet makers forced to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.

I think many people throw around the word “fascism” without really understanding what the word means. But this HHS mandate is a textbook case of fascism.

Here is the Merriam-Webster definition:

: a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government

: very harsh control or authority

Now, right away, it should be obvious that there is no such thing as right-wing fascism. If right-wing stands for anything, it stands for free-market capitalism, free trade, private property and individual rights (e.g. – free speech, right to life, etc.). Right-wing politics means the freedom to spend what you earn on what you choose to spend it on. Because it’s your money – you earned it. Fascism requires the government to control your basic liberties, including what you earn, and how you spend what you earn. That’s why fascism is solely a phenomenon of the political left. Only the political left wants to tell you how much of your earnings you can keep, and how much of your earnings must be spent on things you don’t need. They have all kinds of reasons why they are justified in taking your money, but all their reasons amount to the same things: their values are higher than your values. Even if you worked for the money, they know better than you do what to spend it on. And if it violates your conscience to spend it on abortion drugs, then you can either pay or go to jail. Fascism.

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White House and HHS were warned about Obamacare web site problems in April

NBC News reports.

Excerpt:

The Obama administration, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, was warned in April that there was insufficient time to complete testing before launching Healthcare.gov, according to a document released by a House committee investigating the website’s botched rollout.

The document, a 15-page slide show obtained by the Energy and Commerce Committee from the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., compares an ideal situation when rolling out a website such as Healthcare.gov with what developers were facing.

According to the committee, the presentation was given April 4 to a group including Sebelius and Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the HHS agency responsible for the rollout.

The document states that an ideal situation would be “end-to-end integrated operations and IT testing,” but that the situation at the time was one with “insufficient time and scope of end-to-end testing.” The document also says that a “limited initial launch” would be ideal, but that a “launch at full volume” was instead the plan.

Republicans are questioning testimony Sebelius gave to the committee during a hearing two weeks after she got the briefing, when she said development of the site was “on track and on time.”

“At this point, our energy and resources are focused on getting it up and running, and we are on track and the contracts have been led and we are monitoring it every step along the way,” Sebelius told the committee April 18. “I can tell you we are on track.”

In a statement, the chairman of the committee, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said that Sebelius had “appeared before our committee, looked us in the eye, and repeatedly testified everything was ‘on track and on time.’”

“We now know that was not the case and the secretary was aware implementation was in trouble,” he said.

So you can put this latest Obamacare lie by HSS head Kathleen Sebelius on the pile along with the Benghazi lies and the IRS prosecution of the Tea Party lies and the gunrunning to Mexican drug cartels Fast and Furious lies. Lies, lies, lies.

In fact, CNBC is now reporting that the Obamacare web site is still not complete – it is lacking about a third of its functionality, including payment capabilities.

Excerpt:

Another day, another big, bad black eye for HealthCare.gov.

A crucial system for making payments to insurers from people who enroll in that federal Obamacare marketplace has yet to be built, a senior government IT official admitted Tuesday.

The official, Henry Chao, visibly stunned Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) when he said under questioning before a House subcommittee that a significant fraction of HealthCare.gov—30 to 40 percent of it—has yet to be constructed.

“We still need to build the payments system to make the payments [to insurance companies] in January,” testified Chao, deputy chief information officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that operates HealthCare.gov.

That so-called financial management tool was originally supposed to be part of HealthCare.gov when it launched Oct. 1, but officials later suspended its launch as part of their effort to get the consumer interface part of the site ready. The tool will, when it works, transmit the subsidies that the government is kicking in for many enrollees to offset the costs of their monthly premiums.

This is not a defect in existing functionality, this is missing functionality. This project should never have been released to Production.

As someone who has worked on electronic payments extensively, let me just tell you that this is not a simple part of a web application. Billing and payment systems are some of the most difficult parts of an insurance application, requiring in depth knowledge of the business as well as technical knowledge. So don’t expect this all to be fixed with a wave of a magic want.

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How the ADF kept nurses who wouldn’t perform abortions from being fired

In 2011, a story came out about New Jersey nurses being forced to perform abortions (or be fired). I blogged about it, but we didn’t really know the details. Well, now the details have emerged and the case has finally been decided. Here’s a press release from the heroic Alliance Defending Freedom, which protected the nurses involved from violating their consciences.

Excerpt:

Promoted from that team to a supervisory position over all the nurses, the new assistant manager announced that – since she and others had to help with abortions – she saw no reason why every nurse shouldn’t help. Hospital officials agreed, and passed a new, mandatory policy to make it so. The assistant manager quickly set up a training program that would give each nurse on the unit hands-on experience in how to assist with and clean up after abortions.

“As long as you work here,” she told the 12 nurses who openly protested, “you’re going to have to do it. If you don’t, you’re going to be fired or transferred out.”

“We were all shocked,” Fe says. “All these years I’ve been a nurse, I was never told to help kill children.”

But the managers remained adamant. Hospital administrators supported them.

[...]“Our jobs were hanging by a string,” Beryl says. “We were like, ‘All right. If they’re going to fire all 12 of us, fine. But this is against what we believe God wants us to do.’ We didn’t come into this profession to do [abortions]. We told them we weren’t comfortable with it and didn’t feel they should force us. And if that meant our jobs, well… God was going to provide.”

When even their own union declined to help them, Fe wrote a letter to hospital officials saying that she and her coworkers would not participate in abortions. She passed it around for the other nurses; 15 signed it. She gave the letter to her manager, who took it to the director of nursing.. Response was swift. A meeting was called for the next day, with each of the signing nurses, the labor board, a union official, the managers, and “an expert on ethics” scheduled to be on hand.

I think so often in this world today, Christians are on the defensive when it comes to acting on their convictions. My expectation is that we will never win when we do the right thing. The other side is so strong, and we have so few conservative Christians who are intentional about studying well, earning well, and reaching positions of influence. But sometimes we do win, because there are still some Christians left who have paid the price to get the education and training that allows them to do something when the freedoms of Christians are threatened.

This time, it was the Alliance Defending Freedom lawyers who saved the day:

The day of that announcement, Pastor Terry Smith, of Life Christian Church in West Orange, New Jersey, returned from a trip. A staff member told him that one of his parishioners – Fe – had called, shared what was happening at the hospital, and asked for advice. The pastor immediately phoned Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council.

“I’ll be all over this,” said Deo, who hung up and called Alliance Defending Freedom. Shortly afterward, staff attorney Matt Bowman was on the phone with a local allied attorney, Demetrios Stratis, enlisting him to help defend the nurses. The two immediately called Fe.

[...]Amid all the tension, threats, and growing media coverage, the judge in the case stunned everyone by suddenly announcing, in a preliminary hearing, that a settlement had been reached.

“We had gotten everything [the 12 nurses] requested,” Stratis says. “We’d gotten the hospital to agree not to force them to perform these abortions. There would be no retaliatory measures against them, and they could feel free and sleep at night, knowing that the next day they would not have to be trained on the abortion process or help a woman kill an innocent child.”

“I was crying – really crying,” says Lorna, who heard the news from one of the other nurses. “And very thankful. The next day, I went to work, and all of us were hugging and very happy.”

“Before, I used to think that some prayers won’t be answered,” Fe says. “Sometimes, I’d feel very hopeless. But with this case, I saw how the Lord moves… providing the resources, the people who would help us out. It just strengthened my faith. I really thank God for Alliance Defending Freedom.”

Where does this desire to force people to commit murder come from? Well, it comes from the political left. In fact, the Obama administration actively opposes conscience protections for medical workers, and actively opposes conscience protections for military chaplains. This is to say nothing about the HHS mandate, which forces entire organizations and businesses to subsidize abortion-causing drugs.

I think that Christians need to be thoughtful, calculating and realistic about how we are going to deal with threats like this. Although some of us may prefer to study things that are easier, and do jobs that are comfortable, there is a real need for more of us to study hard things and do hard jobs. We need people with the right degrees in the right fields, and we need people who are good at earning and saving money. The truth is that this is the way the world works, and wisdom requires that we do what we have to do (not what we like to do) in order to be ready for the the challenges we are likely to face. The other side is certainly doing their job of getting the degrees and the money that they will use against us.

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