President Barack Obama and Pope Francis stuck to mostly safe, common ground — primarily concern for the poor — when the two met last week.
But the president did not escape the Vatican without being challenged about his Affordable Car Act’s affront to faith.
In a meeting with the president, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, raised concerns about “making sure that conscience and religious freedom was observed in the context of applying the law,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
Obama said he explained “that most religious organizations are entirely exempt.”
What he did not explain is why the law still forces individuals to violate their conscience and faith.
Indeed, arguments were heard before the U.S. Supreme Court last week about the constitutionality of the law’s birth-control mandate, which compromises Americans’ religious freedom.
The law, as Obama says, does exempt religious organizations. But it does not exempt individuals who have religious objections to the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.
Indeed, the administration has interpreted the law in a way that seems designed to create religious conflict.
It demands that all for-profit employers provide health care plans that cover birth control — not only contraception, but morning-after pills that some religions view as akin to abortion.
The Supreme Court is considering two combined cases — Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialities vs. Sebelius — that claim the provision violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law, passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton, allows the government to restrict an individual’s exercise of religion only if there is a “compelling government interest” and it is done in the “least restrictive” way.
That’s hardly the case with the Affordable Care Act.
Individuals who believe terminating life at any stage to be a mortal sin are being forced by their government to provide employees morning-after pills.
The administration has held that corporations, not individuals, are required to comply with the law, so the religious freedom act does not apply.
The stance blatantly ignores the reality that individuals make corporate decisions.
As we’ve written before, Judge Janice Rogers Brown astutely framed the issue when the D.C. Court of Appeals found Obamacare violated the religious freedom of two Catholic store owners.
She wrote of the plaintiffs, “They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million, and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong.”
But the administration, which could have easily avoided this conflict by exempting those with religious objections, appears unwilling to concede that there are individuals who are serious about their faith and who refuse to meekly go along with what they consider immoral acts.
In statements after the president’s visit, the Vatican understandably handled the matter diplomatically, but it did not give Obama a pass, noting the need to protect Americans’ “rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection.”
We hope the Supreme Court is even more blunt in halting this administration’s slap at people of faith.