“IRS officials have, of course, confessed that they
inappropriately targeted conservative groups — especially those with
‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their names — for extra scrutiny when they
sought non-profit status. Allegations of abuse or harassment have since
broadened to include groups conducting grassroots projects to ‘make
America a better place to live,’ to promote classes about the U.S.
Constitution or to raise support for Israel.
“However, it now appears the IRS also challenged some individuals
and religious groups that, while defending key elements of their faith
traditions, have criticized projects dear to the current White House,
such as health-care reform, abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”
Terry Mattingly, director, Washington Journalism Center; weekly column, May 22
Let’s begin this week with a simple statement of fact. America’s
Catholic bishops started pressing for adequate health-care coverage for
all of our nation’s people decades before the current administration
took office. In the Christian tradition, basic medical care is a matter
of social justice and human dignity. Even now, even with the financial
and structural flaws that critics believe undermine the 2010 Affordable
Care Act, the bishops continue to share the goal of real health-care
reform and affordable medical care for all Americans.
But health care has now morphed into a religious liberty issue
provoked entirely – and needlessly — by the current White House.
Despite a few small concessions under pressure, the administration
refuses to withdraw or reasonably modify a Health and Human Services
(HHS) contraceptive mandate that violates the moral and religious
convictions of many individuals, private employers and religiously
affiliated and inspired organizations.
Coupled with the White House’s refusal to uphold the 1996 Defense of
Marriage Act, and its astonishing disregard for the unique nature of
religious freedom displayed by its arguments in a 9-0 defeat in the 2012
Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court decision, the HHS mandate can only
be understood as a form of coercion. Access to inexpensive
contraception is a problem nowhere in the United States. The mandate is
thus an ideological statement; the imposition of a preferential option
for infertility. And if millions of Americans disagree with it on
principle – too bad.
The fraud at the heart of our nation’s “reproductive rights”
vocabulary runs very deep and very high. In his April 26 remarks to the
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the president never once used
the word “abortion,” despite the ongoing Kermit Gosnell trial in
Philadelphia and despite Planned Parenthood’s massive role in the
Likewise, as Anthony Esolen recently noted so well,
NARAL Pro-Choice America’s public statement on the conviction of
abortionist Gosnell was a masterpiece of corrupt and misleading
language. Gosnell was found guilty of murdering three infants, but no such mention was made anywhere in the NARAL Pro-Choice America statement.
None of this is finally surprising. Christians concerned for the
rights of unborn children, as well as for their mothers, have dealt with
bias in the media and dishonesty from the nation’s abortion syndicate
for 40 years. But there’s a special lesson in our current situation.
Anyone who thinks that our country’s neuralgic sexuality issues can
somehow be worked out respectfully in the public square in the years
ahead, without a parallel and vigorous defense of religious freedom, had
better think again.
As Mollie Hemingway, Stephen Krason and Wayne Laugesen
have all pointed out, the current IRS scandal – involving IRS targeting
of “conservative” organizations – also has a religious dimension.
Selective IRS pressure on religious individuals and organizations has
drawn very little media attention. Nor should we expect any, any time
soon, for reasons Hemingway
outlines for the Intercollegiate Review. But the latest IRS ugliness is
a hint of the treatment disfavored religious groups may face in the
future, if we sleep through the national discussion of religious liberty
The day when Americans could take the Founders’ understanding of religious freedom as a given is over. We need to wake up.
American Catholics are called to observe a second annual
“Fortnight for Freedom” through July 4. For information, see
the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Hat tip Cathy Craddock