The pushback against the Obama administration's assault on religious liberty continues. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archbishop of New York, recently signed on to a statement explicitly rejecting the new federal mandate that employers make available, either directly or indirectly, healthcare insurance that provides for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and other artificial contraceptives despite the dictates of the church.
In signing, Dolan joins more than 500 leading scholars, university presidents, and other academic administrators, activists, and religious leaders from a multitude of faiths in rejecting not just the mandate but President Barack Obama's so-called accommodation of religious liberty as a mere "accounting trick" that changes nothing of moral substance.
"Not only is this an alliance of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Latter-Day Saints, Jews, Muslims, and others," the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty said in a release, "the list of signers includes people from across the political spectrum—liberals, conservatives, and people fitting into neither category. This is an unprecedented coming together of people to defend religious liberty and the rights of conscience against a deeply misguided and unjust governmental action."
Beckett is one of the groups pushing back using social media, a relatively new form of advocacy for groups concerned with issues related to religious liberty. Its video can be seen here. Another group weighing is Catholic Advocate, producing the video "Consultation" and calling on "people of faith" to support the federal Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which is expected to come up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives some time in the near future.
"Some are trying hard to make this about a different issue. Make no mistake, when those in power try to rip through the fabric of what America stands for, the voices of the people unite," said Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate. "People of faith across the country are joining together in support of our religious liberties."
Among the points that "Consultation," the second video that Catholic Advocate has made on the subject, is that while the Obama administration failed to consult with the Catholic bishops and the leaders of other religious groups before issuing the contraceptive coverage mandate, it did make sure to bring Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, in the loop.
The issue is likely to continue gathering steam, but not perhaps in the way Obama's political handlers in Chicago might hope. Adding fuel to the fire is a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service released Tuesday indicating that, even with the illusive Obama accommodation in place, employers could still face a stiff fine if they fail to offer the required coverage. "A group health plan that fails to comply with the pertinent requirements in the IRC may be subject to a tax of $100 for each day in the noncompliance period with respect to each individual to whom such failure relates," it says.
In plain English that means a self-insuring religious charity, hospital, or Catholic school with 100 employees could be subject to a $3.65 million annual fine as the penalty for exercise it rights to religious conscience. With numbers like that at stake, this is not an issue that is going to go away quickly or quietly.