Posted by: mulrickillion | February 11, 2012

Obama’s Accomodations to Religious Institutions – The Quiet Resolution of an ‘Ab Initio’ Non-Issue

By M. Ulric Killion


President Obama offered “accommodations” to religious institutions on the new health insurance rule Friday, with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, left. Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.

As subjectivity, politics of the moment, and non-legal ramblings ruled the day, the so-called “contraception mandate” (i.e., the rule requiring religious-affiliated organizations to pay for insurance plans that offer free birth control) was actually a non-issue from the start, though now fully resolved by the Obama administration.

What many were perceiving as a building movement led by Roman Catholic bishops lacked a critical legal foundation in terms of both state and federal law.

It is perhaps for this reason that Roman Catholic bishops were urging Republications to initiate legislative action in response.

It is also for this reason that Speaker John A. Boehner’s spokesperson promised Catholic bishops that House Republicans “will continue to work toward a legislative solution” (See Helene Cooper and Laurie Goodstein, Rule Shift on Birth Control Is Concession to Obama Allies, New York Times, February 10, 2012; presenting a fuller discussion of the role of Sister Carol Keehan and why the Obama administration modified the rule).

Otherwise, the move or adjustment was a wise decision by the Obama administration.

Although, strictly speaking in a legal sense, the so-called “contraception mandate” itself suffered from neither being illegal under state and federal law, nor in violation of constitutional rights (i.e., U.S. Constitutional Rights).

Additionally, as concerns issues of the legality of the rule, the record on the actions of Catholic bishops is actually one of somewhat conflicting positions on their part.

Moreover, the influence of subjectivity, politics of the moment, and non-legal ramblings notwithstanding, Rachel Maddow’s take on the issue provides an excellent summary of why this is so, and why this issue was a really a non-issue from the start.

When writing about Republicans, the new allegiance of Republican forerunners to “Personhood USA” (i.e., Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul,  and Mitt Romney have pledged to pursue “personhood” at the federal level), and the so-called “contraception mandate”, as Maddow rightly observed,

There is no constitutional infirmity in requiring religious institutions to follow the same insurance and labor regulations as other employers. Twenty-eight states already require that health insurance plans cover contraception; eight states do not even exempt churches from that requirement, as the Obama administration’s rules would, even before the president announced an expanded religious exemption on Friday. New York, whose Catholic archbishop has railed so vehemently against the administration on this issue, already lives under the rule he decries — it’s state law. The rule is also partially enshrined in federal law thanks to a December 2000 ruling of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. More than a dozen congressional Republicans proposed that this same rule become federal law in 2001, to a furious outcry from precisely no one (Rachel Maddow, War on birth control, Washington Post, February 10, 2012).

According to Maddow, “The right has picked a fight on this issue because religiosity is a convenient partisan cudgel to use against Democrats in an election year.”

For now, however, the non-issue is a dead issue, and GOP forerunners will have to explore other domestic agendas for issues on which to pursue their political campaigns.

This is because the issue that gathered so much press coverage and so much attention by GOP forerunners was always an “ab initio” (i.e., Latin: from the beginning) non-issue.

Copyright © Protected – All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2012.


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