Tuesday, February 7, 2012


The Obama administration and HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius have come under severe criticism from both the Catholic church and some civil libertarians for their decision to compel Catholic organizations to cover birth control and abortifacients in the insurance they provide their employees. The other day Joan Vennochi, writing for the Boston Globe (subscription required), sought to defend the administration, but in my view she only managed to show how weak the administration's position is. The crux of her case is this graph:
Not all employees of Catholic institutions are Catholics. Why should their employers impose their religious beliefs on them and deny coverage for birth control and other medical care (the other medical care was abortions)? As long as those Catholic institutions are getting taxpayer money, they should follow secular rules. That's the Obama administration's argument and it makes sense.
Well, maybe to some people it makes sense, but not to me. In the first place, birth control and the morning after pill are not health care, or at least not primarily so. They're primary use addresses no physiological malady. Although they may be prescribed for certain health conditions like depression or irregular menstruation, that's not why most women buy them.

Secondly, Catholic employers are not imposing their religious beliefs on anyone. On the contrary, they're trying to live by those beliefs themselves. President Obama is saying, in essence, that Catholics can no longer be Catholic. The government will dictate to which of their beliefs they can adhere and which they can't.

Nor do Catholic employers tell their non-Catholic employees that they can't use birth control or have abortions. They're simply telling them that they, Catholic employers, aren't going to pay for them. If anyone is forcing their beliefs on others in this episode it's Kathleen Sebelius and her boss Barack Obama forcing their beliefs on the Catholic church, telling the church that its employers must ignore whatever religious convictions they have about the morality of birth control and abortion and subsidize them. They're telling Catholics, essentially, that they can no longer be Catholics.

I don't know whether the affected organizations receive taxpayer support or not, but why does that matter? If they do receive it it's because they perform a valuable service to society which we want them to continue. If the government forces them to choose between violating their conscience or shutting down everyone will suffer. One in six hospital patients in this country are currently cared for by Catholic hospitals. Close every Catholic hospital, school, adoption agency and other charitable institution run by the Catholic church and their public counterparts would be swamped. Maybe Ms. Vennochio thinks it makes sense to force all those patients into public hospitals, but it's not at all clear to me what's sensible about it.

She closes with this:
Obama isn't trying to regulate religion or undermine Catholicism. He's telling Catholic leaders they can't regulate the beliefs of other faiths. That's fitting in a country that treasures religious freedom, but also values separation of church and state.
Exactly how is it regulating the beliefs of people of other faiths to decline to compensate one's employees for doing things that one believes on religious grounds to be morally wrong? The employee knows when she applies for and accepts employment what her insurance will cover and what it won't. She doesn't have to seek the job, she doesn't have to accept it, nor does she have to remain at the job if she doesn't like the coverage she receives. By taking the job and keeping it she has tacitly consented to the employer's provisions for her and she shouldn't now have the right to demand that the employer start paying for what he considers to be moral vices.

Mandating coverage of morally problematic products and procedures is not the same as the government passing laws about working conditions or minimum wage. Compelling employers to provide work breaks or to pay a certain wage does nothing to violate their conscience or their religion. By treating matters of conscience as if they were the same sort of thing as matters of pay equity or work safety the administration has put us on a slippery slope to eventually dictating to religious organizations how they will be able to practice all their religious beliefs.

Perhaps next the government will require churches, whatever they may believe about gay marriage, to marry gays or lose their tax exemption. Mr. Obama's mandate brings us closer to the day when the Church is entirely in thrall to the state and the statists.

Anyone who values separation of church and state, as Ms. Vennochio implies she does, should be appalled at this unprecedented move by the Obama administration to extend the aegis of government over matters of conscience and the contempt it shows for the principles that undergird the First Amendment to our Constitution.

Michael Ramirez expresses his judgment on the matter in this finely detailed piece of artistry:

Calling for Armageddon

If this report is accurate (it's from World Net Daily, after all, which is not always a sober news source) the Iranians have just made it impossible for the Israelis to refrain from launching an attack on the Iranian nuclear and military facilities. By calling for the complete annihilation of Israel and all Israelis in a massive pre-emptive missile strike against Israel's cities they have pretty much forced Israel to launch their own massive strike against Iran before the Iranians can carry out their plan.

The call for a pre-emption and annihilation seems to have come from surrogates of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, and although it could just be bluster and bluff, how can Israeli leaders afford to take the chance that they're not serious?

If there's any chance that this threat accurately reflects the thinking of Iran's leadership, Israel surely will not wait until Iran's missiles are in the air. It would take less than ten minutes for Israel to be laid waste. Let Reza Kahlili, a former CIA operative in the Iranian Republican Guards, tell the story:
The Iranian government, through a website proxy, has laid out the legal and religious justification for the destruction of Israel and the slaughter of its people. The doctrine includes wiping out Israeli assets and Jewish people worldwide.

Calling Israel a danger to Islam, the conservative website Alef, with ties to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the opportunity must not be lost to remove “this corrupting material. It is a ‘jurisprudential justification” to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and in that, the Islamic government of Iran must take the helm.”

The article, written by Alireza Forghani, a conservative analyst and a strategy specialist in Khamenei’s camp, now is being run on most state-owned conservative sites, including the Revolutionary Guards’ Fars News Agency, showing that the regime endorses this doctrine.

Because Israel is going to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran is justified in launching a pre-emptive, cataclysmic attack against the Jewish state, the doctrine argues.

On Friday, in a major speech at prayers, Khamenei announced that Iran will support any nation or group that attacks the “cancerous tumor” of Israel.

Iran’s Defense Ministry announced this weekend that it test-fired an advanced two-stage, solid-fuel ballistic missile and boasted about successfully putting a new satellite into orbit, reminding the West that its engineers have mastered the technology for intercontinental ballistic missiles even as the Islamic state pushes its nuclear weapons program.

The article then quotes the Quran (Albaghara 2:191-193): “And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution [of Muslims] is worse than slaughter [of non-believers]... and fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.”

It is the duty for all Muslims to participate in this defensive jihad, Forghani says. A fatwa by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini made it clear that any political domination by infidels over Muslims authorizes Muslims to defend Islam by all means. Iran now has the ICBM means to deliver destruction on Israel and soon will have nuclear warheads for those missiles.

In order to attack Iran, the article says, Israel needs the approval and assistance of America, and under the current passive climate in the United States, the opportunity must not be lost to wipe out Israel before it attacks Iran.

Under this pre-emptive defensive doctrine, several Ground Zero points of Israel must be destroyed and its people annihilated. Forghani cites the last census by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics that shows Israel has a population of 7.5 million citizens of which a majority of 5.7 million are Jewish. Then it breaks down the districts with the highest concentration of Jewish people, indicating that three cities, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, contain over 60 percent of the Jewish population that Iran could target with its Shahab 3 ballistic missiles, killing all its inhabitants.

The radicals ruling Iran today not only posses over 1,000 ballistic missiles but are on the verge of ICBM delivery and have sufficient enriched uranium for six nuclear bombs even as they continue to highly enrich uranium despite four sets of U.N. sanctions.

The Iranian secret documentary “The Coming Is Upon Us” clearly indicates that these radicals believe the destruction of Israel will trigger the coming of the last Islamic Messiah and that even Jesus Christ, who will convert to Islam, will act as Mahdi’s deputy, praying to Allah as he stands behind the 12th Imam.
There's more at the link. The Iranians also threaten to destroy the United States in the piece. It's talk like this that makes war a matter of when rather than if. The Israelis must be thinking that they simply cannot afford to ignore it. An attack on Iran, the Israeli planners must reason, may have disastrous consequences for the world but the consequences of not attacking would be far worse. One way or another the fanatics in Tehran seem determined to precipitate Armageddon.