The outcry in response to the Department of Health and Human Services’ declaration of war against religious civil liberties has been nothing short of enormous. Catholic Bishops in more than 164 locations have publicly denounced the administration’s actions.
In a bipartisan letter to Kathleen Sebelius, 154 Members of Congress voiced their “strong opposition” to the HHS mandate and urged the secretary to reconsider the mandate in light of “constitutionally protected conscience rights.” Senator Rubio has introduced legislation to protect and preserve the religious civil liberties of those charities that would otherwise have to choose to follow their religious conscience or close their doors.
The groundswell in opposition to HHS’ actions has been so massive that both David Axelrod, political advisor to the President, and Press Secretary Jay Carney are now making noises that the administration might be willing to compromise. Axelrod said that it was never the intention of the administration to “abridge anyone’s religious freedom.” Carney stated that the administration is willing to work with religious organizations “to see if the implementation of the policy can be done in a way that allays some of those concerns.”
It is President Obama that declared this war on religious civil liberties, personally calling Archbishop Dolan of New York to tell him that HHS would not budge. It is the administration that took affirmative steps to pick this constitutional fight with religious groups, who have only asked to be left alone. It is HHS that dug in its heels after receiving thousands of comments in opposition to the proposed rule last year. In fact, it was the White House press secretary who publicly stated just last week, “I don’t believe there are any constitutional rights issues here…”.
Axelrod has suggested that we “lower our voices” on this matter. No we shouldn’t, Mr. Axelrod, and no we won’t. When the government abridges the civil liberties of its citizens, citizens should voice their outrage loud and clear. The surest safeguard of civil liberties lies with the people themselves — not the President, not Congress, not even the courts. Once citizens no longer raise their voices in defense of their liberties, our democratic system of government has failed.
Citizens and groups nationwide have made themselves heard. They will not go away; they will not quiet down.
It’s expected that the White House and its agents will continue to float suggestions of compromise and promises of working together. They will try to find ways to satisfy the blind ideology of NARAL and Planned Parenthood on the one hand, and offended voters (Catholic and people of all faiths) on the other. They will pay their respects to religious freedom, while finding ways to thwart it.
Don’t be fooled.
There is only one way to resolve this issue: follow the Constitution. There is only one way for the White House to stop the war it started: pack up and retreat.
LifeNews Note: Geoffrey Surtees is an attorney with the ACLJ and specializes in religious civil liberties. Geoff is a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law and holds a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies (summa cum laude) from the Pontifical Lateran University.