This is the best of times. Many Americans, across disparate political and religious affiliations, have locked arms with the American bishops in protest against the Obama Administration’s contraceptive mandate and its unabashed assault on individual and institutional rights of conscience.
This is the worst of times. In August 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services implemented the “preventive services” portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It ruled that employers across the country must cover contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization within their employee health insurance plans, not to mention that HHS neglected to include conscientious objection exemptions in this controversial regulation. So, in effect, what the Federal government and its mandate did was to ride roughshod over the First Amendment religious liberty interests of the many employers who, based on faith and reason, morally object to these services and their provision.
This is the perfect time to teach. The ensuing national conversation about religious freedom provides the bishops with a teachable moment. Catholic faithful, and all persons of good will, are invited to ponder the salient natural law teaching that propelled the American hierarchy to the front lines in the first place. To fully appreciate the bishops’ passion to secure protections for a well-formed conscience, then, we all need to investigate its theological/philosophical foundation: What is conscience? What are the effects of freely exercising our conscientious judgments? What harms will follow if employers act against their conscience by capitulating to the HHS regulation?
Go to Conscience Matters for the rest of her article. This is one of the most important fights of our time. Freedom of Religion is a primary right, and this Mandate is about much more than just contraception!