Notre Dame v. Obama and the Compulsion of the Morally Unwilling
By Douglas W. Kmiec -
Second, there were, and remain, innumerable ways for the President to orchestrate the distribution of free contraceptives, so the chances of a court accepting the compulsion of the morally unwilling as the least restrictive means to accomplish public policy is virtually refuted by statement.
Third, whether or not a similar, even identically worded, religious exemption exists in other states means very little when resolving whether the exemption is constitutional.
An exemption that exempts religion only where it is liturgically inculcating the faith is not the Barack Obama of 2006 who told the sojourners of a far broader and far more important understanding of faith, both in his own life and in the harnessing of government for good. The Barack Obama of 2006 would not have accepted the crabbed understanding of religion that dwells in the HHS mandate. Here, it is best to recall his splendid words directly:
You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away — because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.
It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to … affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. …
In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway.
Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting “preachy” may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.
What explains Obama, then, v. Obama, now?
all in need. Why exactly does the President find it appropriate to defend the standard given to him by His HHS Secretary which stands his favorite passage from Matthew 25 on its head? In 2008, candidate Obama told Rick Warren that the greatest moral failing of the nation was not abiding by “that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me, and that notion of — that basic principle applies to poverty. It applies to racism and sexism. It applies to, you know, not having — not thinking about providing ladders of opportunity for people to get into the middle class. There’s a pervasive sense, I think, that this country, as wealthy and powerful as we are, still don’t spend enough time thinking about the least of us.”
Finally, while the President may or may not be ashamed to have been sued by Notre Dame after being honored by the flagship of Catholic Universities in the United States, he should be. In his commencement address, Obama promised dialogue not directives; he reaffirmed rights of conscience, not coercion. That is not what his final regulations do in this instance. Both in the general burden the law represents, and in the particular burdens placed on his honorary alma mater. The President ought to rethink matters, withdraw the error, and redraft the exemption to reflect that made available to the entities that are deemed charitable under the general laws.