We are already feeling the impact of the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The following is a thoughtful article which comments on that impact. RMF
By Nikolas Grosfield
How’s your Latin these days? You probably know some from U.S. currency, if nowhere else. “E Pluribus Unum” is on one-dollar bills and all American coins. It means “Out of many, one,” referring to the 50 sovereign states wrapped into one country. The Great Seal of the United States appears on one-dollar bills and in other government documents and bares the Latin “Annuit Coeptis.” The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing translates this phrase as “He (God) has favored our undertakings.”
It may be fitting that U.S. money proclaims such history – and the national motto in English: “In God We Trust” – to the government that prints and spends it. Similarly, other foreign terms may help U.S. officials safeguard the First Amendment concerning the current dispute over President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
In March 2010, Congress narrowly passed the president’s signature domestic policy, also known as “Obamacare.” The legislation has faced many lawsuits since then, culminating last June when the Supreme Court upheld the law by calling its fees and fines “taxes,” which Congress can levy according to Article I of the Constitution. This, followed by Democratic victories in November’s elections, may have settled the matter.
But the law still faces opposition, especially from organizations, businesses, and individuals who object to having to pay for health insurance that covers contraceptives. But, they argue, this issue goes deeper than the pro-life agenda: It assaults religious freedom, they contend, because Washington would be forcing some people to compromise their religious convictions.
In response, the Department of Health and Human Services has proffered exemptions to the rule to a few groups. Some of these are already excused from contributing to Social Security, such as the Amish (but not Muslims, contrary to Internet gossip). Others include “accommodation” for some religiously-affiliated hospitals and educational institutions, meaning their employees could acquire contraceptive coverage via a third party – the employer would not have to foot the bill. Formal houses of worship would be exempt from the mandate as well.
These directives “would fail to encompass many employers – and certainly all individuals – with moral or religious objections to complying” with them, says the Heritage Foundation. Moreover, Heritage says, businesses such as Tyndale House, the nation’s largest Bible publisher, fall into this category, which may force them to consider other options, such as cutting labor, facing hefty fines, or paying for products that clash with their worldview.
The policy awaits final approval, and more changes may yet be suggested.
Ironically, the Selective Service System offers a different option. A male draftee “conscientious objector” may be exempt from combat duty and training or even military service entirely. People gain this status “as a result of moral, ethical, or religious training and belief,” according to the Service’s own documents.
Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas asks “whether the government has the right to define a church as a building in which people congregate on Sundays, and whether a private company headed by a religious person qualifies for conscience exemptions.” He adds that with the First Amendment, the Founders sought to avoid government “efforts to effectively gerrymander lines between what it considers legitimate religious practice and the secular.”
A little more Latin: “ipso facto” means “by the fact itself,” while “sine qua non” refers to a “key element or condition.” A sine qua non of the American story is broad-based freedom of religion. And religious freedom, ipso facto, can withstand government regulations or narrow descriptions.
In 1775, Patrick Henry declared to the Continental Congress: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”