WSJ: Why The Lawsuits Against the HHS Mandate Matter
This is a big moment. A moment of enormous consequence to our country, according to the Wall Street Journal editorial writers. With regard to the federal lawsuits being filed by 43 Catholic institutions, including four institutions of higher learning (among them the University of Notre Dame and The Catholic University of America), the Journal is saying that the outcome of this struggle will determine “whether the entitlement state can pound everything, including religious belief, to its political will.”
Those are big stakes.
It is, in the words of the Journal, a “big political and Constitutional moment.”
The Journal can’t help pointing out that for decades many of the nation’s most prominent Catholic institutions have viewed the growth of the federal government as an ally for their fight for social justice. But now that same federal government has turned on them as a threat to their religious liberty.
This can’t have been an easy decision, especially because the plaintiffs are hardly founding members of the tea party. They include the Archdioceses of New York and Washington but also Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and even the University of Notre Dame.
The famously liberal Notre Dame gave President Obama an honorary degree in 2009 despite his support for abortion rights. At the time, Notre Dame President John Jenkins applauded Mr. Obama’s “willingness to engage with those who disagree with him and encourage people of faith to bring their beliefs to the public debate.”
So much for that. The lawsuit signals that far from engaging with “those who disagree,” Mr. Obama has rebuffed Catholic leaders in their attempt to work out a compromise over the Administration’s mandate that all insurance plans offer contraception and sterilization services, including abortifacients. “If the government wants to provide such services,” Father Jenkins said in a statement Monday, “means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents.”
But the Administration deliberately rejected any such means…
As the Notre Dame suit argues: “If the Government can force religious institutions to violate their beliefs in such a manner there is no apparent limit to the Government’s power.”
And it is that issue, as the Journal points out, that is the crux of this debate. No matter how hard the administration tries to make this debate about the Church denying contraception, it is about religious freedom. The Journal editors write that they “trust the courts will instruct the Administration that the Constitution still puts religious liberty first. “
The other two Catholic universities suing HHS are Franciscan University of Steubenville and St. Francis University in Indiana.