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Public Comments on Obama Mandate Overwhelmingly Negative

by | May 8, 2012

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

 

By Dave Andrusko

Hat’s off to Lachlan Markay, writing at the Heritage Foundation’s blog. Last week they looked at the first round of public comments on Obama’s infamous mandate requiring religious institutions and individuals of conscience to pay for health insurance plans that cover medical procedures and drugs contrary to their religious beliefs and consciences and found overwhelming opposition (http://blog.heritage.org/2012/05/03/public-comments-overwhelmingly-oppose-hhs-anti-conscience-mandate/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter).

At that juncture, 211 comments had been submitted. Only 6—less than 3%–offered support for the mandate.

“The vast majority of the comments submitted focus on the mandate’s violation of Americans’ right of conscience,” Markay writes, “while a few discuss the health hazards of the medical procedures the mandate covers, and some call for full Obamacare repeal.” (The ongoing results can be found at Regulations.gov.)

You might ask why such paltry support for the mandate, which Heritage calls the “anti-conscience mandate”?

For starters, opposition to this requirement was packaged as evidence of a “war on women.” There is simply a shelf life for lies, and, as the shrinking gender gap reveals, the initial burst of mindless acceptance of this narrative is beginning to shrink.

Lots of people and many, many sites such as National Right to Life News Today have written about the HHS mandate at great length to tear away at this incredibly dishonest statement. (And that, of course, doesn’t even get to the terrific work done by the Catholic Church in exposing the mandate’s full-throated attempt to stifle religious liberties.)

Collectively, this counter-offensive on behalf of the truth has convinced increasing numbers of people that this mandate has nothing to do with contraception and everything to do with the power of the government to define what is “acceptable” religious expressions by faith communities and what is not.

Worth remembering is that the other half of proponents’ strategy to marginalize opponents was to insist that the mandate was the outcome of rigorous thinking and a willingness to “balance” competing interests. Everybody knew this was poppycock, but it became obvious when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before  the House Education and Workforce Committee  on President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal.

We wrote about this a while back, but it very much worth revisiting because in a little over five minutes the dialogue between Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told us a great deal about how cavalierly the Obama Administration treats religious liberties. (See www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnO7qa7fMRc&feature=plcp.)

Having Sebelius in front of them afforded committee members a chance to inquire about a litany of issues, including ObamaCare, and the HHS mandate.

The video picks up with Gowdy quoting from Sebelius’s testimony where she says that the mandate “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.” From there Gowdy walks her through the reasoning (or lack thereof) for the mandate and what they were “balancing” religious liberty against.

He says there are “only three balancing tests that I am aware of when it come to matters of constitutional significance.” After laying them out Gowdy explains that  “Strict scrutiny” is to be employed when fundamental rights are involved and, he added helpfully, “I am sure you can see that religious liberty is a fundamental right.”

Gowdy then asks Sebelius “which of these three constitutional balancing tests were you making reference to when you said you balanced things?”  Sebelius’s primary response here, as elsewhere, was, “this is above my pay grade.”

Gowdy clarified that his inquiries were not about “politics” but the law, because this mandate is going to wind up in the Supreme Court. He then asked her a series of uncomfortable (for her) questions.

“Which of these three tests is the appropriate test to use when considering religious liberty?” Just doing my job

“Do you agree with me that government cannot force certain religious beliefs on its citizens?” “Yes, sir. “ Why? “The separation of church and state,” Sebelius replies, when the proper answer is, of course, the Constitution—in this case the First Amendment.

“Can the government decide which religious beliefs are acceptable and not acceptable.” Her response, “No, sir.”

Gowdy asks her about a series of cases in which the Supreme Court gave a wide berth to religious liberties. Sebelius didn’t know what the cases were, or their outcomes (the religious group won them all)  before he told her.

He asks “if before this rule was promulgated did you read any of the Supreme Court cases on religious liberty?” “I did not.” She said she relied on her lawyers

“Was there a legal memo you relied on?” No. Sebelius said she relied on “discussions.”

Unfortunately, at that point Gowdy’s time to ask questions ended. But what he had done brilliantly was to outline many of the principal criticisms of the HHS mandate to which Sebelius could do little more than filibuster until Gowdy’s time ran out.

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