Today on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace did his part to promote the religious right’s assault on ObamaCare under the cloak of religious liberty – albeit with far more legitimate balance and subtlety than Megyn Kelly’s blatant shilling Friday night. Fortunately for those of us on the other side, there was a good advocate in NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Ilyse Hogue.
The case involves a stay of the Affordable Care Act’s (“ObamaCare”) contraception mandate for an organization of Catholic nuns called Little Sisters of the Poor. It’s a non-profit group affiliated but not owned or controlled by a religious organization. The ACA allows for the Little Sisters to sign a form certifying they are entitled to a religious exemption. But according to their outside lawyer, Mark Rienzi of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (also prosecuting the case of Hobby Lobby against the mandate), that’s against God’s will. Why? Because it could theoretically allow a third-party insurer to provide contraception coverage for employees of the Little Sisters. Even though Rienzi acknowledged this was not at all likely given that the Little Sisters’ insurer is another Catholic organization that is exempt from the mandate.
The Christian Science Monitor reported:
Rienzi countered that the suit isn’t about compliance with certain government procedures, it is about protecting religious faith and matters of conscience.
“The government demands that the Little Sisters of the Poor sign a permission slip for abortion drugs and contraceptives, or pay millions in fines,” he said. “The Sisters believe that doing that violates their faith, and that they shouldn’t be forced to divert funds from the elderly poor they serve to the IRS.”
That’s right, signing a certification hypothetically allowing others to have access to contraception coverage is, according to Rienzi, a forced violation of the Sisters Catholic faith.
But while host Wallace asked why it isn’t “good enough” for the nuns to sign the certification and whether they weren’t imposing their religious beliefs on others by refusing to do so, he never challenged any of Rienzi’s responses. Wallace did, however, repeatedly challenge Hogue's.
For example, Hogue explained why it matters to the rest of us that the nuns do sign the certification and why that should not be a problem for anyone:
Let’s take a step back and think about what this law was intended to do. This law was intended to uphold religious liberty and yet make sure no one else was making my health care decisions based on their beliefs.
So, for example, if I work for not a church, but a religiously affiliated non-profit run by someone whose personal beliefs deem they should not give their children vaccines, they should not have to pay for me to give my children a vaccine.
But my children need vaccines because that keeps them healthy and that keeps everyone else’s kids healthy. So in this case, it’s beyond me, actually, why Mr. Rienzi doesn’t just instruct his clients to sign the form because no one’s gonna get contraception and they can get back to doing the great work that they do to care for the elderly.
Instead of picking up on that important point, Wallace allowed Rienzi to interrupt and then picked up on his point:
RIENZI: …(T)he sisters’ religious view is that they are not permitted to sign the form.
So if, ultimately, the answer is that the form doesn’t matter, which is the administration’s view at the Supreme Court, it makes no sense at all that the president is sending his lawyers to the Supreme Court to say, make the nuns sign the form or let me crush them with fines. But that’s exactly where the Little Sisters of the Poor are.
WALLACE: I mean, it’s a good question, why not the government just say, don’t sign the form?
Wallace never indicated any concern about the repercussions of others foisting their religious views on their employees’ health care.
Nor did he question Rienzi’s jaw-dropping contention that signing the certification would be against their view of God’s will.
Signing this form is not akin to you signing a contract for your house. It’s something that the Little Sisters of the Poor, who are obviously deeply religious people, say their God tells them not to do.
Instead, Wallace changed the subject by trying to trap Hogue with a gotcha question that he plucked from Facebook:
Ms. Hogue, we got this question on Facebook from Ilona Hilger (sp ?). “How can this administration enforce mandates that violate established religious convictions and moral principles with majority opposition to ObamaCare?”
How do you answer Ilona?
Still, I think Hogue did a fine job of arguing her point: that it’s about balancing the nuns’ religious beliefs with those of other people not to have those beliefs imposed upon them. Once again, it's good to see strong progressive voices going on Fox and I hope it's a trend that continues.