Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan charged the Barack Obama administration with selectively adhering to the freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, respecting the rights of abortionists over religious institutions that object to treating "pregnancy as a disease."
In a commentary for The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President Dolan said the Obama administration is only willing to defend churches' right to conscience as long as those sensibilities do not challenge the abortion and family planning industries.
"The Amish do not carry health insurance. The government respects their principles. Christian Scientists want to heal by prayer alone, and the new health care reform law respects that. Quakers and others object to killing even in wartime, and the government respects that principle for conscientious objectors. By its decision, the Obama administration has failed to show the same respect for the consciences of Catholics and others who object to treating pregnancy as a disease," he wrote.
The fiery op-ed was written in response to the contraception mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued an interim final rule that will require most health insurance plans to cover contraceptive services such as contraception, abortion drugs such as Ella and sterilization. Sebelius also denied requests to expand the religious exemption to include employers of such institutions as schools, hospitals, and social services groups.
Instead, Sebelius gave those faith-based nonprofits a year to comply with the contraception and sterilization insurance mandate in an effort to possibly lessen its impact before the 2012 election. However, the USCCB has refused to go quietly into the dark.
Faith-based hospitals, schools and agencies, Dolan insisted, will not "suddenly be more willing to violate our consciences 12 months from now."
He made it clear that those ministries will be advocating for the fair application of the religious liberties guaranteed in the Constitution.
"The Founding Fathers fiercely defended the right of conscience," Dolan wrote. "George Washington himself declared, 'The conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness; and it is my wish and desire, that the laws may always be extensively accommodated to them.' James Madison, a key defender of religious freedom and author of the First Amendment, said, 'Conscience is the most sacred of all property.'"
The Supreme Court also reaffirmed the constitutionality of religious freedom two weeks ago when justices unanimously stood by the church in the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case.
"Coercing religious ministries and citizens to pay directly for actions that violate their teaching is an unprecedented incursion into freedom of conscience," he asserted.
Democrats for Life of America defended the Obama administration, noting that there is a religious employer exception.
However, Dolan said of that exception, "This was so narrow that it would apply only to religious organizations engaged primarily in serving people of the same religion. As Catholic Charities USA's president, the Rev. Larry Snyder, notes, even Jesus and His disciples would not qualify for the exemption in that case, because they were committed to serve those of other faiths."
Democrats for Life Executive Director Kristen Day criticized outspoken Catholic leaders, saying, "The Obama administration is already unfairly under attack by Catholic conservatives who are using the proposed final rule to spread anti-Obama sentiment to lay Catholics."
Dolan expressed that his motivation is not politics, but the hard choice the mandate will cause many ministries to make.
If the final rule is not changed in 12 months, he said many faith-based ministries opposed to contraception and abortion-causing medication will be forced to choose between either closing their doors or dropping insurance benefits for employees in order to serve their conscience.