Frankly, I'm glad Mustang Bobby beat me to the punch on this one.
There has been a steady drum-beat of good economic news, so what is emerging as big news as we head into the weekend? Social issues, "culture wars," "god, gays, and sacred sperm," whatever you like to call it. This deal started by the Catholic bishops will be front and center. From the Associated Press:
Catholic bishops began sparring with the White House over a new requirement that Catholic-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and schools must provide insurance coverage for birth control for their employees even though the church opposes artificial contraception.
I might quickly remind you that at this point, GOP front-runner (yes, front-runner) Rick Santorum is Catholic, as is Romney-spoiler Newt Gingrich.
Which leads me to one of the most offensive things I've ever read, by Michael Sean Winters over at the Daily Beast.
When President Obama announced two weeks ago that he wouldn’t expand the narrow conscience exemption regarding contraceptives and abortifacients from the new health-care law’s mandates, I knew instantly that this meant I could not vote for him again. I’m not a one-issue voter, but some decisions reveal a great deal about a politician. And this revealed that there was no longer room in the Democratic Party for people like me, who had hoped Obama would make the party more friendly to those of us with religious concerns.
I'm not a one-issue voter... but this one issue is deciding my vote.
It's interesting (and by "interesting" I mean "sad") that he cloaks his apparent pro-life stance behind his religion: "those of us with religious concerns." Why can't he just call it what it is? What cowardice.
The new Health and Human Services rule requires Catholic hospitals, universities, and social-service providers to pay for insurance coverage of the pills and procedures that the church considers morally objectionable. No exceptions. While many states have required contraceptive coverage, most allowed religious institutions to opt out if the requirements violate their religious beliefs. To be clear, the issue is not contraception. The issue is the conscience rights of religious organizations.
This is called having it both ways. You can't say "this isn't about contraception," when it's all about contraception. What else is it about, besides birth control and abortion? I challenge Michael Sean Winters to name the objectionable pill or procedure that so offends the "health care providers," such as they are, at Catholic hospitals that is not related to women's reproductive health.
I find it particularly insulting that Mr. Winters goes on to lecture us on a Brief, Recent History of Catholic Do-Good-ery, then uses the good example of Catholic hospitals as a cudgel to whack the president.
Needless to say, many Catholic schools and hospitals and charities pre-date the development of the tax code with its designation of 501 (c) 3 status for nonprofits. I don’t care if the IRS considers Notre Dame as a 501 (c) 3, but I do care that Notre Dame continues to function as a Catholic university.
Part of my anger, then, might be called tribal. Chris Matthews on MSNBC recalled the other night that we Catholics grew up watching A Man for All Seasons, in which Thomas More refuses to violate his conscience and is beheaded for it by Henry VIII. Obama has struck a deep chord in our culture, one he may not have recognized, which is damning in itself. But, the protection of conscience used to be something that liberals cared about also. When did liberals stop reading John Locke?
Mr. Winters may not care if Catholic organizations enjoy a tax-exempt status, but the IRS -- and the taxpayers, most of whom are not Catholic -- do. And since this is about Catholic hospitals utilizing public dollars, the first consideration ought to be the governmental rules of how those dollars are spent. If there's a conscientious objection from church members, like Mr. Winter, or church leaders, like Bishop Lynch of St. Petersburg, then they shouldn't take public dollars to operate their church-run hospitals (and other organizations), and they ought to operate as a private organization and decline tax-exempt status.
Winter saved the worst for last, of course:
While writing this, I received an email from the Center for American Progress that begins, “Dear Michael, It’s a core American value: Every woman deserves access to affordable birth control.” Whatever one thinks about contraception, and most Catholics agree with most Americans that it is a good thing, it is not a “core American value.”
Respect for religious liberty is a core American value. Respect for the diversity of our institutions, religious and secular, is a core American value. By trampling on those values to pursue a policy, no matter how good that policy may be, the president has lost my vote and my respect. I can only vote for a president who grasps first principles and sticks to them. And, I can only respect President Obama again if he recognizes the way this decision violates the promises he made to religiously motivated Democratic Catholics and backs down.
Pretty obvious where Michael Sean Winter comes down on women having access to care.
Two things in closing: one, Obama has backed off, so maybe he's gotten Winter's vote back. Who knows. The other is this: Mr. Winters and I do have one thing in common. And this video makes that point quite well:
On that note, I'll shut up now.