Passing a Bill By It’s Cover — The State of American Politics

Yep, I’m getting political.  But please keep reading!  This does related to rosary prayer and meditation.  I know many people like to visit my blog to read little, witty observations and my analogies of rosary meditation to exercise, military mottos, movies, etc.  But we also have to remember that we practice our faith in the real world which produces real challenges.  I don’t want my articles to just become useless platitudes that don’t have any connection to the real world.  God calls us to live our faith publicly even in the face of hostility.  Fortunately, He gave us the rosary through his sacred vessel, our Mother Mary, to help us overcome the legions that stand against truth and love.

English: President Barack Obama shakes hands w...What has gotten my dander up recently is the response certain politicians had to the Supreme Court’sHobby Lobby” decision.  The high court ruled that the government cannot compel a private company to provide services that run counter to the owners’ religious beliefs.  It was a classic upholding of the Bill of Rights although it narrowly passed on a 5-4 ruling.  But this ruling set many politicians into a conniption fit especially Senator Patty Murray who introduced a bill named the Women’s Health Protection Act.”  However, a more apt name would have been the “Let’s Dynamite the Constitution and the Judicial Branch of Government Act.”  This bill aimed to not only reverse the Supreme Court’s decision but also eliminate the states’ right to legislate on matters regarding abortion.  Fortunately, the bill came up four votes short in the senate to move forward. Matthew Archbold at Creative Minority Report correctly called out this bill for what it was:

This push for the Women’s Health Protection Act is a p.r. stunt. It’s a meme push. The War on Women is coming to get you!!!!! Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the Obama administration have been such absolute failures that they believe their only hope is to scare women into believing that the GOP intends to drag women back to the stone age or worse yet, the 1950’s. This legislation has zero chance of even being introduced in the House of Representatives. So the Democrats will attempt to argue that Republicans voted against something as benign as the “Women’s Health Protection Act.”

This is my scary observation about the current American political climate — our politicians and the general voting public base discussion on very serious topics on the title of bills and evening news sound bites.  You no longer hear our politicians discuss the actual contents of a bill or whether it has a sound Constitutional foundation.  Instead, they do everything they can to push bills into laws regardless of their constitutionality because they know how hard it is to repeal it once it becomes law.  And so we see bills like the “Affordable Care Act“, “Women’s Health Protection Act”, “Patriot Act“, “Dream Act“, “No Child Left Behind”, “Security and Freedom Protection Act”, and so on.  George Orwell would have been pleased (maybe even a little shocked) how you can create a law to do almost anything as long as it has a catchy title that tugs at the heart strings.  After all, the media and political opponents can have a field day if they can label you as the person who stood against affordable health care, women’s health, or our nation’s security and freedom.  The fact that you may have very just and sound opposition matters not in the war of catch phrases.

A prayer please...

I said in my previous post that we need to continue to pray because so much of the freedom we enjoy often remains in place because of a few votes.  One justice made a difference in the Hobby Lobby decision.  If one of the five had swung and ruled against Hobby Lobby — puff!  Your freedom of religion would have been diminished that much more and it would set precedent for other cases to diminish it even further.  Think about what could have happened to your first amendment rights if one of the five judges who voted in favor of Hobby Lobby retired and replaced with someone who swung the other direction?

And remember Patty Murray’s bill that didn’t move forward because it was four votes short?  Do you know how easy it is to bribe four politicians?  They will keep trying to push something like that bill through in the future.  And that’s the problem — politicians only need to find that one opportune moment, one good sounding bill title, or that perfect soundbite (but never mind about the actual content of the bill) to put into place laws that will be nearly impossible to reverse.  Think about how long Roe vs. Wade has been law despite the growing scientific evidence that a fetus is a human being.  A politician or special interest only needs to get lucky once and political inertia takes hold.  Like a watchman in the night, we must continue to pray to prevent damaging bills from becoming law and never fall into hopelessness that our prayers don’t matter.

I have more to say on this topic, but I need to continue in a future article because this one is already growing long.  Please like and share this article with others.  Think of this article as a bill titled “The apple pie, fresh baked cookies, and grandma protection act.”  If you don’t “like” it then I will say that you stand against apple pie, cookies, and you grandmas.

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Obama’s Failed Poker Bluff

It has been a big two weeks for both the pro-life and religious freedom causes.  We saw the Supreme Court rule unanimously that the 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in Massachusetts violated the pro-life advocates and sidewalk counselors right to free speech.  And this week we saw the Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 “Hobby Lobby” decision, rule that the government cannot force private employers to provide health plans that include coverage for operations, procedures, and medications that run counter to their personal religious beliefs.

U.S. Supreme Court building.
U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I really liked what Creative Minority Report wrote about the unintentional consequences of Obama‘s efforts to limit the role religion plays in the public square.  It’s a short article that reads:

The great irony of Obama’s unrelenting assault on religious freedom may have had the unintended effect of strengthening religious freedom.

When the Obama administration went to the mattresses on arguments such as declaring that religious schools do not have the right to hire and fire for mission they got unanimously smacked down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now, the Administration is red-faced again with the high court ruling that it doesn’t have the power to force “closely held companies” to provide contraceptive coverage. That’s a big deal.

It would be ironic if the overall effect of the Obama administration on religious liberty is a strengthening rather than a deleterious one.

Politics is a lot like a giant poker game.  I enjoy playing poker.  Sometimes I win, but more often I lose.  I lose when I try to force every hand into a big win.  Even when I don’t have a good hand I think to myself that I can bluff my way into winning.  I essentially get impatient and just want to take every pot which is not a smart way to play.  When I take that impatient, “go big all the time” strategy I will usually be the first one to bust out.  I win (or at least stay in the game longer) when I play strategically and take small losses when I’m in an unfavorable situation and moderate gains when I  can.

Like a game of poker, the pro-choice and big government crowds have been playing a very strategic game the last few decades.  It wasn’t overnight that a majority of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion rather than birth.  It wasn’t overnight that Planned Parenthood started receiving millions of dollars in federal funding and built massive clinics in every city in the US.  The pro-abortion crowd has built up their “winnings” by taking small wins here and there and never trying to force a win under unfavorable conditions.  It also helped them by staying away from imposing large, sweeping changes all at once.  That would be like broadcasting to the poker table that you have a straight flush by putting in too much money too quickly.

Poker Night
Poker Night (Photo credit: IanMurphy)

But in recent years, the pro-choice crowd flipped and started playing more of the “go big or go home” strategy to their disadvantage.  Maybe they felt emboldened by their earlier victories that they felt like they could make some big plays to really solidify their position in US law.  Maybe they thought that their opposition was so weak that they could continue to push their agenda even further without anyone putting up fight.  Fortunately for the pro-life cause, Obama went “all in” with the HHS contraception mandate and lost.  He looked at his two pair and thought that would be enough to win the hand.  Unfortunately for him, the US Constitution was sitting at the table with a full house and didn’t fold.

But this isn’t the beginning of the end of the debates over abortion, life, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.  Rather, it’s the end of the beginning.  Although the pro-life battle has been going on for decades, the millions of lives lost to abortion have really hinged on a few court cases and laws.  And our basic freedoms of speech and religion have only been tested a few dozen times in the high courts.  And while sometimes the legal precedent generates a unanimous 9-0 decision like in the Massachusetts case, other times it really comes down to a single justice’s interpretation of the law.

Given just how fragile and how quickly the pro-life cause and our freedoms can change, it is doubly important to maintain those prayers.  Much like how the Hobby Lobby decision came down to a single justice (I have no idea why it wasn’t a 9-0 decision), these cases may also come down to a single prayer.  We should never think that our prayers don’t matter or influence our world.  Our mother Mary has repeatedly said that prayer is the greatest tool we have to further God’s kingdom and bring His grace to others.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s your rosary prayer and intentions for our government officials that might tip the scale in the next important policy decision.  It may be our prayers that plant a seed in a judge’s heart to look at a case one more time and possibly have a change of heart.

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We’re All in the Garden Now

As you probably know, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of ObamaCare.  I’ll leave it to political websites to debate, praise, and criticize the ruling.  My concern now turns toward the Health and Human Services Mandate which will require businesses and organizations to cover contraception expenses regardless of their religious beliefs.  What are we, as people of faith, going to do about this assault on our freedom of religion?  How can the rosary help us find God‘s path and the strength to follow Him?

An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in...
An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the Supreme Court had ruled ObamaCare and the individual mandate unconstitutional, then the HHS mandate would have become a moot point.  The only way the government could require people to provide contraception coverage in a health care plan was through the authority granted somewhere in the 2,700+ pages of the ObamaCare law.  This “silver bullet” approach to striking down the HHS mandate reminds me of the First Sorrowful Mystery — The Agony in the Garden.  Jesus prayed to God to spare Him the agony of the Passion and Crucifixion.  Jesus said in Matthew 26:39, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.”  And that is exactly what people of faith asked the Supreme Court.  We asked, “if possible, please strike down ObamaCare so we won’t have to fight the HHS mandate.”  But Jesus did have to suffer through the Passion and Crucifixion much like we will have to suffer through many fights ahead regarding ObamaCare , the HHS mandate, and other violations of our religious liberty.

But don’t give up all hope.  God’s plan for Jesus involved suffering through the Passion as we see in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of Jesus taking up His cross.  But God was with Jesus through it all.  God gave Jesus the strength to get up every time He fell under the cross’ heavy burden.  And so find ourselves, under the heavy burden of the HHS mandate as one of our crosses.  But similarly to how God gave Jesus the strength to continue despite His suffering, God gives us the strength to fight the good fight.

Now is the time to pray much like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane.  But we need to follow up that prayer with action.  When your priest preaches about the HHS mandate and how it threatens our religious liberty in a homily, tell him after Mass that you agree and support him.  People who are on the front lines of this battle, like priests and bishops, need to know they have our support and they aren’t just fighting this alone.  We need to educate ourselves and then educate others on the implications of the HHS mandate (see the video below for a quick primer).  We need to let our politicians know that we will not vote for or support those who think the government can arbitrarily give and take away our inalienable rights such as our freedom of religion.

Jesus suffered, but ultimately redeemed us all through His Resurrection.  The sorrows and suffering in His Passion and Crucifixion only made God’s ultimate triumph that much more spectacular and meaningful.  Who knows?  Maybe this whole HHS mandate battle will ultimately convert and save many more souls than if the Supreme Court had simply ruled against ObamaCare.  God sometimes works in mysterious ways like that.

Here are some more resources on how you can contribute to our defence of religious liberty:

  • The Colson Center has developed a page with regular updates on the religious liberty questions still in play.
  • The Becket Fund is another create resources for learning about the legal battles that lay ahead.
  • And one of my personal favorites is the stophhs.com lead by radio host Al Kresta
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