The Progressive War against the First Amendment

Just this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R., Calif.) told the press corps “But we have to pass the bill so that we can see what’s in it.”  Aside from the alarming, and most likely true, fact that no one really knows what is in the health reform bill, Pelosi, at the request of the President, as agreed to use an arcane parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation and intended only for budgetary matters, to pass a bill whose support only declines as Obama revamps efforts to build support for it.  Both houses of Congress have passed a health care bill, though the two bills differ radically in their substance. 

Two weeks ago, Obama unveiled his own plan for reform, which closely mirrors legislation passed by the Senate.  The President’s plan would make half a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicaid, not to shore  up Medicaid’s  insolvency, but to fund an expansion of the entitlement state by means of heavy insurance subsidies.  Like the Senate bill, Obama’s plan also places massive tax increases on the American people, mandates “preventive care” free of charge-in other words, patient co-payments for regular check ups or preventive tests would be prohibited- and leaves out language prohibiting taxpayer funded abortions.

The House leadership is determined to pass a bill roundly criticized and opposed by a majority of voters.  The plan is to vote on Obama’s version, after which the Senate will then “fix” using reconciliation, which requires a simple 51-vote majority for passage, rather than the standard 60 votes needed under normal Senate rules.  The problem is, Obama’s proposal isn’t even in bill form yet.  To add insult to injury, members who voted “yes” in November have now switched to “no” votes, one member has died and a handful have resigned.  This makes reform extremely difficult to pass through the House.  In a quiet admission of the fact that Pelosi lacks the votes to pass the President’s signature initiative, she has directed Rules Committee Chair Rep. Louis Slaughter (D., N.Y.) to manipulate House rules so that the bill proposed by the president will be considered “passed” without ever having voted on it.  How this is constitutional is anyone’s guess.

Pro-life leader Rep. Bart Stupak, architect of language in the House bill that prohibits any direct or indirect taxpayer funding of abortion, has vowed to stop reform if the Senate does not adopt more restrictive language in regards to abortion funding.  In an effort to con centrist Democrats into voting for the Senate bill as proposed by Obama, Senate leaders have assured Stupak and his allies that the abortion language would be “fixed” during the reconciliation process.  However, as of Saturday, the House leadership has suspended negotiations with Stupak and his cadre of pro-life Democrats.

To further complicate matters, constitutional law and parliamentary experts say that the Senate cannot use the reconciliation process until the President signs the House-passed Senate bill into law.  Assuming these experts are correct, for anyone who believes that the Senate is going to add an amendment restricting funding to abortion to an existing law, I’ve got swamp land to sell you.

Alas, it is no accident that the Obama/Senate proposal does not expressly prohibit publicly-funded abortions, nor does it protect the religious conscience rights of health care providers.  This is telling inasmuch as the President and Henry Waxman have spoken in favor of publicly funded abortions.  In fact, last summer Obama delivered a weekly radio address in which he declared that “any health reform bill must cover basic care, including reproductive services…”  If this is clearly the will of those calling the shots, including the President and Rep. Waxman, who told Rep. Stupak this week that the Democrats’ aim was to end federal prohibition on abortion funding, which has been in place since 1976.  This follows a quiet negligence by the Democratic leadership to attach the Hyde Amendment to last year’s budget. 

Furthermore,  this dose of intellectual honesty from Waxman is consistent with quiet maneuvers such as ending the Mexico City policy and attempting to overturn federal conscience clause protections for health care workers.  Always wanting to have their cake and eat it too, these are often the same people that vehemently oppose laws that require women to view an ultrasound image of their child before aborting it.  Go figure.

The progressive movement has its heart set on ramming their agenda down the nation’s throat, no matter what the objections of the people they claim to represent.  Their efforts to eliminate conscience clause protections for health workers, publicly fund abortions, and dictate the views and mores of the public know no bounds.  On March 1, the District of Columbia started granting same-sex couples the right to marry.  Aside from the merits in favor or against allowing same-sex couples to wed, the law passed by the DC City Council provided no exemptions for religious organizations, requiring all employers, churches included, to abide by “non-discrimination rules” and recognize same-sex couples in providing benefits, etc.

While the DC law was being debated, the Archdiocese of Washington came under fire for saying that this law, barring the addition of a conscience clause, would hinder the Catholic Church’s ability to provide services to the underprivileged community in Washington while remaining faithful to the Catholic faith.  The Archdiocese and Catholic Charities, who provide a large proportion of services to the DC community, including soup kitchens, shelters, schools and adoption services, came under fire for throwing the poor under the bus in order to continue their “anti-gay bigotry,” with the supporters of the law saying that the Archdiocese would not be required to perform gay marriages.

 The argument has nothing to do with being “anti-gay” or sanctifying same-sex marriages, and everything to do with the ability to fulfill their social mission without compromising core religious beliefs, namely that marriage is between a man and a woman, a tenet central to Roman Catholicism.   The bill may not require the Archdiocese to perform same-sex marriages, but it does require the Archdiocese to recognize these marriages by prohibiting them from declining to provide health benefits to same-sex couples, thus constituting a forced, de-facto recognition and approval of same-sex marriage by the Catholic Church.  Archbishop Donald Wuerl has asked Congress to intervene and amend the DC law, but he has not been successful.  As a result of this flawed law, the Archdiocese of Diocese has ceased providing adoption services and benefits to all spouses.

These incidences are indicative of a clear bias against religion by the progressive movement and an effort to silence opposition to their social agenda.  More objectively, the negligence of the Congress to include conscience clause protections in the health bill, coupled with DC’s refusal to provide conscience clause protections to religious individuals and institutions mark a dangerous trend of running roughshod over the first amendment, which explicitly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”


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