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Column: Pray for Supreme Court decisions in defense of religious liberty

Archbishop Naumann

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

Sometimes, the real world is stranger than fiction.

That is how I feel about our federal government’s efforts to coerce the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide their employees with health insurance that includes free abortifacient drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations.

It is surreal that our government is wasting taxpayer money attempting to make a case in Court that the skilled nursing facilities run by the Little Sisters of the Poor are not sufficiently religious to qualify for an exemption from the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandates. Please note that the HHS mandates were not approved by Congress but are arbitrary regulations ghostwritten by Planned Parenthood and promulgated by its ideological allies in the Department of Health and Human Services. It is sad that we have come to a point in our culture that those in the highest places of power are asserting that providing drugs to cause
the death of one’s own child would be considered a service that is human or healthy!

I keep thinking that someone in the current administration is going to reconsider the wisdom of this ideological crusade to force practically every employer to provide abortifacient drugs, contraceptives, and sterilizations, no matter how sincere and deep their moral or religious objections. If the Obama administration does not have a change of heart, realizing that fertility and pregnancy are not diseases in need of preventive health care, then perhaps it might reconsider in order to avoid the spectacle of picking a legal fight with the Little Sisters of the Poor. After all, the administration has already presumed it has the authority to change without congressional action timeines and definitions actually written into the Affordable Care Act; certainly, changing the mandates invented by its own bureaucrats can hardly be considered a significant action.

If the Little Sisters of the Poor are the face for those battling the attempts by this administration to shrink our religious liberties, then Hobby Lobby is the poster child for those attempting to defend the conscience rights of private employers who also find the HHS mandates to be morally offensive. I was gratified that one of our own Kansas City corporate leaders, JE Dunn Construction, entered an amicus brief supporting the position of Hobby Lobby.

For this act of courage, JE Dunn has found itself attacked in the local press. Critics of JE Dunn did not attempt to counter the arguments in their amicus brief but, rather, changed the subject by questioning the fidelity of the Dunn family
to other Catholic teachings. Specifically, they cited JE Dunn’s construction of a military facility that is part of our nation’s nuclear defense program.

Incidentally, whether the JE Dunn Corporation conforms its business policies completely to the teaching of the Catholic Church or not is irrelevant to the Hobby Lobby suit. The real question is: Can the federal government coerce an employer to violate his or her conscience without a compelling public welfare interest?

Is the providing of free abortifacient drugs a matter of such grave national interest that it warrants trampling on the conscience rights of employers? Even
the Supreme Court in its 1973 decisions legalizing abortion never asserted that individuals had a right to have tax-payers or anyone else provide free abortions.

Whatever else the Affordable Care Act may accomplish, it is without question the single biggest expansion of abortion funding. The administration has been extraordinarily crafty in accomplishing this longtime objective of abortion zealots. They have embedded abortion coverage into the majority of policies offered by the insurance exchanges. They also have made it difficult for consumers to determine if their preferred policy covers abortion. Finally, they are coercing private employers to provide abortifacient drugs in their employee health programs.

With regard to whether JE Dunn is in accord with Catholic teaching by participating in the construction of a defense facility that is part of our nation’s nuclear weapons program, the moral analysis is complex. Catholic moral teaching does not demand unilateral nuclear disarmament. In fact, a very strong moral case can be made that this would be irresponsible.

With all that is transpiring in the Ukraine, would the world be safer if the United States disposed of its nuclear weapons capability? Though it is an imperfect and temporary strategy, a moral case can be made that, for the time being, our world is safer with the United States maintaining its nuclear weapons capability. Would peace be more secure if Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran possessed nuclear weapons and the United States did not?

While one may legitimately question the deterrent value of creating nuclear weapons that could never be morally used because of their indiscriminate killing of the innocent, how many would consider it a prudent gamble for the United States to embark on unilateral nuclear disarmament? At the same time, the constant proliferation of nuclear weapons makes their eventual use more probable. Thus, we need to pray and work for universal, not unilateral, nuclear disarmament.

Had JE Dunn’s board asked me for my recommendation on the prudence of its involvement with the construction of a military nuclear facility, I would have counseled against it. However,did it violate Catholic moral principles for JE Dunn to participate in building a facility that the leaders of our nation judged to be necessary for national security and helpful for the promotion of world peace? I believe not.

I am grateful to JE Dunn for its courage in submitting an amicus brief in the Hobby Lobby case. During this Lenten season, I ask everyone to pray and offer sacrifices for favorable decisions by the Supreme Court regarding the Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby cases. Our religious liberty and conscience rights hang in the balance.

Pray, pray, and pray some more!

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Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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