Obama administration scandals and public opinion polls

Yet another ‘Breaking News!’ alert sounded on one of the several networks that resorts to them too frequently, and this time the breaking news was that ‘the public is losing trust in the Obama administration.’ Really? Really?

That could raise the debatable point about how much currency the administration still held in the public trust at any point you want to name post-election when apparently enough citizens trusted this president with the country to give his administration control of it for another four years. But that’s another discussion and one seriously outdated at the moment. We’ve moved into new territory in recent months, unchartered since the Revolution, as Senator Rand Paul frequently reminds reporters when he recalls that ‘soldiers went house to house for search and seizure’ but this government is scooping up private information about citizens’ lives without their awareness and therefore without their consent.

So about that ‘public trust’ business that broke into the news cycle, different news outlets and polling companies are continually taking the pulse of the public on everything that happens in American public life, and the results seemed to have reached a tipping point.

Most Americans disapprove of NSA phone-record collecting‘ reflected this set of polls. Here’s the CBS one:

Seventy-five percent of Americans approve of federal agencies collecting the phone records of people the government suspects of terrorist activity, but a 58 percent majority disapproves of this type of data collection in the case of ordinary Americans.

Majorities of Republicans and independents oppose the government collecting phone records of ordinary Americans; Democrats are divided.

A day later, polls changed again. If you’re wonkish, read the whole thing. It’s interesting to see how different polls ask questions.

Right — it doesn’t note the mind-boggling scope of the program or emphasize that millions of perfectly innocent Americans are having their data harvested. This question’s just vague enough, in fact, that some people might think it refers to collecting data specifically on terrorist suspects rather than the public at large. That’s why it shows mild approval of the program. Pollsters have to be more careful when asking about this. At a minimum, every question about it should note that the program’s (1) known to Congress and overseen by FISA judges yet also (2) incredibly vast and sophisticated, collecting digital fingerprints from virtually the entire population.

Get that? The entire population. And Obama first told Americans not to worry, it’s foreigners the program is after.

I got all exercised over the government trying to control and regulate property rights on the internet through  SOPA and PIPA. How silly, given the government’s control over that as a minimum.

As for Snowden himself, the picture’s mixed. Reuters finds 31 percent who say he’s a “patriot” and 23 percent who say he’s a “traitor,” with 46 percent following the Rand Paul path of prudence and reserving judgment for the time being. Thirty-five percent say he shouldn’t face charges while 25 percent say he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Gallup has 44 percent saying Snowden did the right thing versus 42 percent who said he did wrong, with ye olde familiar partisan split: The GOP breaks 49/38 in favor of “right,” Democrats break 39/49 in favor of “wrong.” Time magazine’s numbers in favor of Snowden are more robust, but also more complicated: 54 percent say he did a “good thing,” but 53 percent want him prosecuted for leaking anyway.

Sufficiently confused? Yes. This doesn’t follow any lines, any prototype, people aren’t yet sure. But they – we – are certainly uneasy. We haven’t had a healthy trust of government for a long time. Less so now.

In the little that President Obama has said publicly about his administration’s recently exposed domestic surveillance programs he has returned to the overall motif of his presidency: warning against excessive distrust of the federal government.

Of course. Now he’s the government and controls most of it.

While hawks wait anxiously to see if Obama can summon the political courage to defend the programs he has expanded despite his onetime opposition, the president has so far used the occasion to preach against what he seems to believe is a virus of anti-government sentiment in the nation.

It’s not a virus. It’s a healthy immune system.

The end of human confidence in a zone of individual privacy from the government, plus the very real presence of a system that can harm, harass or invade the everyday liberties of Americans. This is a recipe for democratic disaster.

If—again, if—what Snowden says is substantially true, the surveillance state will in time encourage an air of subtle oppression, and encourage too a sense of paranoia that may in time—not next week, but in time, as the years unfold—loosen and disrupt the ties the people of America feel to our country. “They spy on you here and will abuse the information they get from spying on you here. I don’t like ‘here.'”

Trust in government, historically, ebbs and flows, and currently, because of the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department, Benghazi, etc.—and the growing evidence the executive agencies have been reduced to mere political tools—is at an ebb that may not be fully reversible anytime soon. It is a great irony, and history will marvel at it, that the president most committed to expanding the centrality, power, prerogatives and controls of the federal government is also the president who, through lack of care, arrogance, and an absence of any sense of prudential political boundaries, has done the most in our time to damage trust in government.

And don’t forget his promise of the most transparent government Americans have known, which Americans eagerly sought. We’re getting it now. Through serial leaks.

“Obama’s campaign to silence”

That, by the usually Obama friendly Christian Science Monitor, is a pretty apt description of what’s going on lately.

The article is about the Monday revelation that Fox News Washington correspondent James Rosen was targeted in a sinister way, a questionably legal one, for investigation by the Obama Justice Department. The same one that targeted the Associated Press for…what?…following a White House request to hold a scoop for a week before publishing it, only to add more time so the White House could get it out first. After complying with the request for the week’s wait, the AP wisely went with their instincts and published. Then the Justice Department seized their telephone records for a two-month period, in what the AP described as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into news-gathering operations.

The latest revelation about Fox News correspondent Rosen just builds on suspicions that after last week’s outburst of scandals, more would come to light. It has. It is chilling, and I wonder why some headlines put that word in single or double quotes, as if to distance themselves a bit from the statement while still reporting it. Maybe it’s because the Fox News chief called it that. But who in the media can deny that it is that?

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

This time, it’s new details about a 2010 Justice Department investigation into a Fox News correspondent who reported government secrets on North Korea. The twist is that in the Fox News case, the government is suggesting that the reporter broke the law and criminal charges could result.

The news points to how the Obama administration is going to unprecedented lengths to defend secrets – prosecuting more government leakers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all prior administrations combined.

There is significance in that notation. First of all, the government suggested the reporter  is involved in a ‘criminal conspiracy’ in order to gain access to his phone and email records without having to notify him or his employer about the investigation. And second, note that Obama is not going to lengths unprecedented by the administration prior to his, or another particular administration, but “all prior administrations combined.” Consider the scope of that.

Administration operatives have been busy using the same talking points on many media outlets saying things that are finally as transparent as Obama claimed his administration would be in his 2008 campaign. It’s no coincidence that some of the assaults on basic freedoms started in that year, and these investigations go back to at least 2010. But it’s disingenuous at best to resort to claims that other administrations ‘did the same thing,’ or that the IRS chief involved was appointed by former president George W. Bush. I find that only slightly less reprehensible than Catholics who claim that charges about the abuse crisis also apply to clergy in other churches, or other heads of organizations where young people are involved. But still intolerable as a response to such abuse of authority.

I’m glad the outrage is bi-partisan. It should be. This is not American, nor just nor excusable. This is so far beyond the pale that it calls for special investigation. Look at what Nixon did and was impeached for, justly. This goes beyond breaking into the headquarters of the opposing political party to steal secrets. Without the qualifying quotation marks, this is chilling.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the crackdown is having an effect, with AP saying some of its sources are falling silent. But that success could come at the expense of the newsgathering and investigative-reporting process that the Founding Fathers saw as a crucial check on federal power.

The Fox News case, in particular, suggests the “criminalization of investigative journalism,” writes Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian, a British newspaper.

Okay, attribute it to a foreign newspaper if you want distance from the story. But shame on you if you do.

At least the most recent White House press conferences have shown some correspondents willing to, finally, ask tough questions. It only took them four plus years. At least this Yahoo news report doesn’t qualify the term chilling.

The Justice Department spied extensively on Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2010, collecting his telephone records, tracking his movements in and out of the State Department and seizing two days of Rosen’s personal emails, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

In a chilling move sure to rile defenders of civil liberties, an FBI agent also accused Rosen of breaking anti-espionage law with behavior that—as described in the agent’s own affidavit—falls well inside the bounds of traditional news reporting.

It’s a play on words, changing language to form people’s opinions. Only it’s not working this time.

IRS targeting scandal grows, among others

There is bi-partisan outrage over the widening scope of the revelation that the powerful Internal Revenue Service has been targeting groups said to be conservative for the past couple of years. But the IRS target list was much wider than that, and the agency’s treatment of these groups and citizens is both shocking and disturbing.

Even the president said so. That NBC News article asks five very good questions, most of which are as yet unanswered.

The president’s claims of not knowing what the IRS was doing until he heard it in the news was surreal, but so is this whole drama. By the time he addressed it, the president said “if this is true…” when it was actually admitted to by the IRS the previous Friday. He’s got some catching up to do. Like what the IRS was putting these groups through in information gathering, such as records of all direct and indirect communications that group had made.

“‘Direct and indirect communications’ is profoundly chilling of First Amendment rights, ” said David French, senior counsel for American Center for Law & Justice, which has been representing 27 conservative organizations met with IRS inquisitions. “It’s so vague as to be impossible to comply with.”

They wanted to know everything about all members of the organization, present and past employees and their relationships. They wanted documentation of any interaction with the press, any, whether interviews, press releases or letters to the editor, among others. Read the whole post itemizing only some of the unbelievable and harassing demands of the federal agency, with screen shots of their menacing forms.

At first, it was allegedly Tea Party and other conservative groups singled out for this harsh treatment. Then others started coming to light. This pro-life group claimed they were targeted.

Shinn launched Cherish Life Ministries, a separate organization, to offer help to a coalition of churches that supports mothers struggling with unexpected pregnancies, promotes abstinence and advocates for an end to abortion in the community, state and nation.

“Our goal is to assist churches, organize and support a life ministry in defense of life and help function as an outreach to people struggling with unwanted pregnancies in the local community,” the site states.

Education materials are offered.

But Shinn said the IRS contacted him regarding his application for nonprofit status, and was told he didn’t qualify.

“The representative was telling me I had to provide information on all aspects of abortion, I couldn’t just educate the church from the pro-life perspective,” he said. “Every time I pressed her on this issue and asked her to clarify her position, she would state that it wasn’t what she was saying, and then, she would repeat it almost the same way.”

And it went on.

On to a prominent Catholic professor who was afraid to share her experience publicly until now.

In the midst of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scandal, individuals and groups, alike, are continuing to come forward with ever-startling allegations. On Wednesday, Dr. Anne Hendershott, a devout Catholic and a noted sociologist, professor and author, exclusively told TheBlaze that she believes she may have been one of the IRS’s targets.

According to Hendershott, the IRS audited her in 2010 and demanded to know who was paying her. While they did not ask directly it seemed as though the agent wanted to know about the leanings of these particular organizations.

It all started with a phone call she received at her home in May of that year — a call during which Hendershott was told she would be audited. A letter that followed on May 19, 2010 solidified the IRS’s request to meet her in person two months later in July. While IRS investigations are certainly not uncommon occurrences, the professor believes that the situation surrounding hers was more-than-curious.

“The IRS calls my house and says … ‘I just wanted to let you know that we’re going to be auditing your business’ and I said ‘My businesses?’ and he said, ‘You know the expenses you take off for writing,” the academic recalls.

Her story gets more and more bizarre as it goes, but that call should have been a flag. The IRS does not call to notify people of their scrutiny. It comes in a letter. But that’s a small detail in such an onslaught of information coming to light about what that agency has been doing to people for years.

This all came out, by the way, just after the congressional hearing on Benghazi, another growing scandal for this administration. Former senator Fred Thompson is one of many voices calling for a special committee to investigate. Attention on that hasn’t gone away, but it has certainly been diverted by that IRS revelation.

As this breaking news continued getting breaking updates, other breaking news broke in on it to reveal more scandals. Like the Justice Department seizing phone records from the Associated Press, without the AP knowing about it.

The Associated Press on Monday said the U.S. government secretly seized telephone records of AP offices and reporters for a two-month period in 2012, describing the acts as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into news-gathering operations.

AP Chief Executive Gary Pruitt, in a letter posted on the agency’s website, said the AP was informed last Friday that the Justice Department gathered records for more than 20 phone lines assigned to the agency and its reporters.

“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” Pruitt said in the letter, which was addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder.

And this has all continued to grow.

There’s so much to say about this breach of public trust, the breach of federal powers and authority and of constitutional rights. There’s much to say about responsibility and transparency, which the American people were promised in this administration. And about its odd habit of disclaiming any knowledge of these things until they hear it from the press.

But sometimes comedians find a pithier way to say things, like The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart did here.

And citizens who take to the Facebook forum to express their concerns. Like this man, after hearing enough about the abortionist’s ‘house of horrors’ and the government scandals rolling out on the heels of that abortion trial verdict.

I don’t want revenge, I want justice. Justice in the Benghazi case, justice for SEAL Team 6, justice in the IRS scandal, justice in the Gosnell case, justice for all the babies killed in their mother’s womb. I want the truth to prevail. I am so tired of the lying, cheating and stealing. What has happened to our humanity? I know who wins in the end, but how bad does the battle have to become before we get there?

It seems pretty bad right now to a lot of people. But the good news is, it’s coming to light.

‘Graveyard of integrity’ at highest level of leadership

Benghazi is in a few more headlines today, like it or not.

The Daily Beast:

In its seventh week, discussion about what happened in Benghazi has begun to focus on why military teams in the region did not respond to the assault on the U.S. mission and the nearby CIA annex.

This is pretty thorough, and it tries to piece together what happened, when, and who tried to do what.

But military backup may have made a difference at around five the following morning, when a second wave of attackers assaulted the CIA annex where embassy personnel had taken refuge. It was during this second wave of attacks that two ex-SEALs working for the CIA’s security teams—Glenn Dougherty and Tyrone Woods—were killed in a mortar strike.

About those former SEALs, this commentary from The Blaze speaks more clearly than most anything else.

All political drama aside, the piece of this story I choose to hang onto has nothing to do with the finger pointing or political side stepping aimed at preserving the integrity of the current administration long enough to get reelected. Men sacrificed themselves for one another and for their country. What kind of a man, in the face of overwhelming odds, knowingly and freely lays down his life for the man next to him? Glen Doherty and Ty Woods did just that. At that moment it didn’t matter that they had been Navy SEALs or that they were now contractors operating under different laws and rules of engagement. History doesn’t remember “Golgatha Gate” and the political fallout of crucifying Jesus. An entire religion was born from that simple act of suffering and sacrifice, not the reelection of Pontius Pilate…

What I’m saying is that politics and bureaucracy trend towards failure, and that individuals have the capacity to instantaneously realize divine greatness despite being captives of a flawed and broken system led by individuals who do not possess comparable character.

Take their past and future out of the convoluted story and focus on the cold hard truths people face when in combat. You either fight or you run. What makes a person stand and fight to the death? Is it an oath to a piece of paper or a paycheck? No. People fight to the death for the respect and love of the individuals next to them. It’s their common lives, shared suffering, and love for one another’s unlimited futures that keeps them in the fight.

The actions of two Americans in battle and the character they displayed in the face of overwhelming odds should be what guilts this administration into letting the truth be told…

Could this have happened under anybody’s watch? Of course. What is telling is how the administration handled the incident. There was a blatant failure in leadership somewhere in the chain and instead of admitting it, identifying it, and taking steps toward fixing it, they instantaneously moved to deflect the entire event. Since that didn’t work , they are attempting to use any and all events as a platform to move past the event.

It is not the failure and the loss of life that bothers me. That’s a cold thing to say, but anyone who has spent time working within our Government bureaucracy understands how poorly it operates and that these events will happen regardless of who is at the helm. What’s extremely troublesome is that the character and valor being displayed at the lowest levels consistantly and without exception outshines the “leaders” at the top of the chain. This is not a recipe for success. Transparency is what we need as a nation right now and we need to face some painful truths. Glen and Ty were just two Americans trying to do the right thing and in the pursuit of what they believed to be right they sacrificed their lives without concern for their own fate. Isn’t that the kind of character we should demand of our elected leaders?

Yes.

Benghazi coverup

The Obama administration and a complicit batch of media have stonewalled on this as long as they could. It’s been over seven weeks now of a handful of journalists and former military and diplomats asking questions about what happened in Benghazi, Libya on September 11. Americans deserve answers now, before the election.

They’ve been trickling out for weeks, and more are coming out now.

WaPo on the recent reports and conflicting reactions to them:

So what did happen on the night of Sept.?11, when Woods, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and two others were killed? The best way to establish the facts would be a detailed, unclassified timeline of events; officials say that they are preparing one and that it may be released this week. That’s a must, even in the campaign’s volatile final week.

The piece goes into claims and counter-claims, facts as they’re known and reactions from different players, Defense and CIA and “administration officials” among them, using info on where drones and gunships were at that time as a partial excuse.

If these rebuttals are accurate, that raises another troubling question: At a time when al-Qaeda was strengthening its presence in Libya and across North Africa, why didn’t the United States have more military hardware nearby?

Looking back, it may indeed have been wise not to bomb targets in Libya that night. Given the uproar in the Arab world, this might have been the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a burning fire. But the anguish of Woods’s father is understandable: His son’s life might have been saved by a more aggressive response, had one been possible. The Obama administration needs to level with the country about why it made its decisions.

Columnist Jonah Goldberg in the Chicago Tribune:

Last week, Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported that sources on the ground in Libya say they pleaded for support during the attack on the Benghazi consulate that led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. They were allegedly told twice to “stand down.” Worse, there are suggestions that there were significant military resources available to counterattack, but requests for help were denied.

If true, the White House’s concerted effort to blame the attack on a video crumbles, as do several other fraudulent claims. Yet, last Friday, the president boasted that “the minute I found out what was happening” in Benghazi, he ordered that everything possible be done to protect our personnel. That is either untrue, or he’s being disobeyed on grave matters.

Important point.

This isn’t an “October surprise” foisted on the media by opposition research; it’s news.

This story raises precisely the sort of “big issues” the media routinely claim elections should be about. For instance, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week that the “basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on, without having some real-time information about what’s taking place.” If real-time video of the attack and communications with Americans on the ground begging for assistance doesn’t constitute “real-time information,” what does?

Real Clear Politics picks it up:

The ride on the Obama bus gets bumpier as more bodies are thrown under it…

The journalists went under the bus because the Foreign Service and career intelligence officers the administration tried to scapegoat refused to go there. They’ve leaked emails that reveal the White House was informed while it was still going on that the attack was the work of terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida.

To put this in the context of the Mother of All Scandals, these emails are the equivalent of a transcript of what was on the 181/2 minutes of the secret White House tapes President Nixon’s secretary erased.

“What did the president know, and when did he know it?” Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn, asked during the Watergate hearings. The answer in the leaked emails is that the president knew everything, all along.

They were sent by the Regional Security Officer in Libya to the State Department in Washington, the White House Situation Room, the Pentagon, the FBI and thedirector of National Intelligence.

The first said the consulate was being attacked by “about 20” armed men.

The third, sent two hours later, reported that Ansar al Sharia, an Islamist militia, was claiming credit for the attack.

A fourth, sent at 11:57 p.m. EDT, described a mortar attack on the consulate annex, where the Americans were killed.

About 300 watch officers at the NSC, State, Defense, the FBI and other agencies would have read these emails as soon as they were received, and informed their superiors right away. This was a crisis. Men armed with mortars, machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades were attacking a U.S. consulate. The ambassador was missing. The secretary of state, the DNI and the president would have been briefed within hours.

When the “three a.m. phone call” came (at 6:07 p.m. EDT), the president ignored it. The day after learning Ambassador Stevens had been murdered and sensitive intelligence documents were missing, he jetted off to a fundraiser in Las Vegas.

And for nearly two weeks afterward, Mr. Obama and his senior aides blamed the attack on the Youtube video — even though they knew that wasn’t true.

His interview with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, taped the day after the attack, indicates that Mr. Obama has been lying from the get-go.

“My suspicion is, is that there are folks involved in [the attack on the consulate] who were looking to target Americans from the start,” the president told Mr. Kroft.

The fact that CBS cut this from the broadcast — airing instead Mr. Obama’s attack on Mitt Romney for criticizing his Middle East policy — indicates why the White House remains confident the “mainstream” media will continue to downplay the scandal.

This cover-up, like that in Watergate, goes right to the top. What’s being covered up is much worse than a “third rate burglary.” Why was security so lax? Why were the ambassador’s pleas for more turned down? Why did the president lie? Americans have a right to know. Few in the media have tried to find out.

 

Obama mandate’s resistance coalition

The president may have been surprised by the unusual and overwhelming unity among Catholic Americans after he issued an unprecedented threat to religious liberty most directly aimed at Catholic institutions. But he probably didn’t expect a whole movement across America to rise in solidarity with the common cause of resisting his unchecked tyranny.

Call it what it is: The Audacity of Power.

In one of the boldest, most audacious moves ever made by a President of the United States, President Barack Obama is on the brink of successfully rendering moot the very first clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (emphasis added). If he forces the Catholic Church to comply with the Health and Human Services ruling to provide its employees with insurance that covers activities the Church has long held sinful — abortion via the morning after pill, sterilization and contraceptives — then the precedent is clear: when religious beliefs conflict with government decrees, religion must yield.

The story line that President Obama miscalculated in picking this fight with the Catholic Church vastly underestimates the man’s political skill and ambition. His initial approval of the ruling requiring the Church pay for abortion drugs and sterilization was but the first step in a calculated strategy to further his goal of transforming America.

President Obama chose to pick this fight with the Catholic Church by choosing to release the regulations first, and then, as he explained in last Friday’s statement to the press, spend “the next year (before the new regulations take effect) to find an equitable solution that would protect religious liberty and insure that every woman has access to the care that she needs.” The alternative would have been to find the “equitable solution” before announcing the regulations. In other words, this entire political fire storm is a set-up by the Administration.

This is an excellent article. Consider what he posed as ‘choices.’

Option A: The Church complies with the law and violates its own teachings and principles of faith. Such a choice would strip the Church of its legitimacy and make it a de facto vassal of the state. In this case, the ability of the Church to challenge the government’s political power is vastly reduced, if not completely destroyed. Faith, charity and civil society are marginalized. Government wins.

Option B: The Church as a matter of conscience refuses to obey the law, and stops offering health insurance to its employees. In this case, the Church gets crushed by hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. As a consequence, its ability to fulfill its religious mission by funding hospitals, schools and charities is sharply reduced if not destroyed. As the Church is forced to withdraw from its active role in civil society, those who believe in government will rush to fill the void. Faith, charity and civil society are marginalized. Government wins.

The risk to President Obama was the Church would create “Option C” and engage in a broad political battle to force the full repeal of the ruling or, if that fails, the defeat of President Obama in the November election followed by the repeal of ObamaCare. Under Option C, government’s power is reduced. Faith, charity and civil society win.

However…

President Obama’s political skill is demonstrated by his anticipation and preparation for just this outcome. First, he has used the issue to energize his political base by positioning his Administration as the defender of “women’s health” and attacking his opponents for taking him up on his implicit dare to make it an issue in the Presidential campaign.

Okay, stop right there. Ultimately, read the entire article, it’s so well done and incisive.

But let’s look at that claim, heard from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and President Obama, to be the defender of “women’s health”. That’s Orwellian.

Let’s be honest.

Advocates of President Obama’s contraception mandate should admit that its main purpose is sexual liberation and not “women’s health,” according to a feminist author who supports the mandate.

“The phrase ‘women’s health’ in the birth control dispute is the latest nimble euphemism,” author and blogger Pamela Haag wrote in a Feb. 17 essay published on the “Marriage 3.0” blog.

Access to contraception, she said, “isn’t really about my ‘health.’ It’s not principally about the management of ovarian cysts or the regulation of periods.”

“Birth control isn’t about my health unless by ‘health’ you mean, my capacity to get it on, to have a happy, joyous sex life that involves an actual male partner,” wrote Haag, criticizing White House supporters for discussing contraceptives mainly as “preventive services” for women’s health.

“The point of birth control is to have sex that’s recreational and non-procreative,” wrote Haag approvingly. “It’s to permit women to exercise their desires without the ‘sword of Damocles’ of unwanted pregnancy hanging gloomily over their heads.”

Just to be brutally clear.

Women are speaking up alright, and many of them against the mandate.

Despite claims that only male clergy and politicians oppose the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, Catholic women across the nation are objecting strongly to the federal rule.

In recent posts on CNA’s Catholic Womanhood page, columnists attacked the mandate from various angles – some addressed the issue of religious freedom while others questioned the validity of abortifacients, sterilization and contraception being labeled as “basic medical care” for women.

But the main remains religious liberty.

Religious freedom is a fundamental right of all. This right does not depend on any government’s decision to grant it: it is God-given, and just societies recognize and respect its free exercise. The free exercise of religion extends well beyond the freedom of worship. It also forbids government from forcing people or groups to violate their most deeply held religious convictions, and from interfering in the internal affairs of religious organizations.

Recent actions by the Administration have attempted to reduce this free exercise to a “privilege” arbitrarily granted by the government as a mere exemption from an allencompassing, extreme form of secularism…

In the United States, religious liberty does not depend on the benevolence of who is regulating us. It is our “first freedom” and respect for it must be broad and inclusive–not narrow and exclusive. Catholics and other people of faith and good will are not second class citizens. And it is not for the government to decide which of our ministries is “religious enough” to warrant religious freedom protection.

This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization–although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all. If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end?

And that’s precisely the central question drawing religious leaders and organizations into this maelstrom. It has become a coalition of the concerned, and it is growing.

The Evangelicals.

We evangelicals must stand unequivocally with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Because when the government violates the religious liberty of one group, it threatens the religious liberty of all.

Many bishops have already declared that they will not obey this unjust law. The penalty for such a move would be severe. Catholic hospitals, universities, and other organizations would be forced to pay punitive fines ($2,000 per employee) for refusing to purchase insurance that violates the teaching of their church….

But Catholic institutions aren’t the only ones affected by this mandate. Prison Fellowship, for example, which employs 180 people, could not purchase insurance for its employees that covers abortifacients. Nor could the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners and their families afford the fines we would incur.

 Three years ago, when we co-authored the Manhattan Declaration, we predicted that the time would come when Christians would have to face the very real prospect of civil disobedience—that we would have to choose sides: God or Caesar.

Certainly for the Catholics and for many of us evangelicals, that time is already upon us.

Lutherans have sounded the alert.

Lutherans generally have some differences with Catholics. That was the point of the Reformation. Lutherans believe that the Bible alone has the ability to determine doctrine, for instance, while the Catholic Church invests doctrinal authority in its bishops and tradition.

But on Thursday afternoon in Washington, the Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, told a panel of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives that the St. Louis-based denomination “stand(s) with our friends in the Catholic Church” in opposition to a recent government ruling on contraception.

The Missouri Synod has not traditionally embraced the notion of pluralism, at least when it comes to what the church calls “altar and pulpit fellowship.” But in an interview Friday, Harrison, who lives in Ballwin with his family, made it clear that the Missouri Synod has “large consensus with the Roman Catholic Church on moral issues.”

“The Christian church is a billion times beyond the Missouri Synod,” Harrison said. “Without the Roman Catholic Church in this country, our way would be infinitely more difficult.”

So earlier this week, when Harrison received an invitation to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he reluctantly agreed. He sat on a panel with other religious leaders and scholars, including Roman Catholic Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University in New York.

“I was minding my business three days ago,” he said, “and then I got pulled into the monkey cage.”

By the time Harrison left the cage, he would deliver a fiery indictment before lawmakers, venturing past the issue of contraception and deep into broad issues of intolerance and righteousness.

Evangelical leaders Chuck colson and Dr. Timothy George struck a nerve with their call to action.

We do not exaggerate when we say that this is the greatest threat to religious freedom in our lifetime. We cannot help but think of the words attributed to German pastor Martin Niemoeller, reflecting on the Nazi terror:

First they came for the Socialists, and I
did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did
not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was
no one left to speak for me.

HHS mandate ‘for the women’

Some audacious claims have been made in Washington lately on behalf of women. They clearly speak for Planned Parenthood and women in league with their cause. Where are all the women for whom they do not speak?

Here.

Like countless other women, we’ve been closely following the Obama administration’s attempt to compel religious institutions to provide contraceptive coverage in violation of their beliefs. And like countless other women, over the past several days we’ve heard House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and others repeatedly ask those who oppose the contraceptive mandate, “Where are the women?”

Here we are.

Equal rights. Now pay equal attention to these voices. Because word spread like wildfire that they were being represented in a public statement.

We listened to prominent women purport to speak for us. We watched them duck the fundamental religious-liberty issues at stake. And we saw them assume that all women view cheaper contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs as unqualified goods.

In response, we circulated an open letter to a few dozen of our female friends in support of the competing voice offered by Catholic institutions on matters of sex, marriage, and family life. The letter spread, and in 72 hours we received some 750 signatures from a diverse group of women across the country, including women serving overseas. Signatures are still flooding in. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, mothers, business owners, community volunteers, scholars — women from all walks of life are proud to stand together with the Catholic Church and its invaluable witness.

I am one. My signature went on the statement in the early going, but they were so inundated with responses they could only work so fast, and decided to post it now and add on daily.

Most of us are Catholic, but some are not. We are Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Many work or have worked for a Catholic institution. We are proud to have been associated not only with the work that Catholic institutions perform in the community — particularly for the most vulnerable — but also with the shared sense of purpose found among colleagues who chose their job because, in a religious institution, a job is also a vocation.

To a woman, we are deeply troubled by the mandate’s violation of fundamental religious-liberty protections…

Those who invoke “women’s health” against those of us who disagree with forcing religious institutions or individuals to violate deeply held beliefs are more than a little mistaken — and more than a little dishonest. Even setting aside their simplistic equation of “costless” birth control with “equality” and “women’s health,” note that they have never responded to the large body of scholarly research indicating that many forms of contraception have serious side effects; or that some contraceptives destroy embryos; or that government contraceptive programs inevitably change the sex, dating, and marriage markets in ways that lead to more empty sex, more non-marital births, and more abortions. It is women who suffer disproportionately when these things happen.

No one speaks for all women on these issues. Those who purport to do so are simply attempting to deflect attention from the serious religious-liberty issues at stake. We are proud to stand with the Catholic Church and its rich, life-affirming teachings on sex, marriage, and family life. We call on President Obama, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and our representatives in Congress to respect religious voices, to respect religious liberty, and to allow religious institutions and individuals to continue to provide witness to their faiths in all their fullness.

Women speak for themselves. And many, many more are speaking up in league with them by the hour.

Obama shuts out the church, again

When he closed down the ‘faith-based initiatives’ office in the beginning of his presidency, it was an early warning.

Whoever missed it then, can’t help but see it now. It’s getting worse, fast.

The Washington Post is reporting this morning about a “contentious battle” emerging between Catholic groups and the Obama administration over a multitude of issues ranging from Obamacare, abortion, contraception, and even human trafficking.

What brought the fracas tumbling out into the street was apparently a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services three weeks ago not to renew a grant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to aid victims of sex trafficking. A five-year, $19 million grant, which expired in March, was first awarded to the USCCB in 2006 via President Bush’s faith based initiatives program.

The decision to deny funding to the USCCB by HHS, which is headed by pro-abortion Catholic Kathleen Sebelius, appears to have been based purely on political and ideological hostility.

One of the ideas that stuck with me from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink is intuitive repulsion. That came to mind reading this report. Came to mind again, that is. There have been many occasions.

A bone of contention with the Obama administration, which it admitted, was the bishops’ refusal to refer sex trafficking victims for contraception or abortion. HHS went on to split a new $4.5 million grant between three organizations that all scored “significantly below the Catholic bishops’ application by the review panel,” according to WashPo. Their threads of similarity were support for contraception and abortion.

To be sure, the bishops haven’t declared war on the administration. It’s the other way around.

Religious freedom threat level raised

Policies of the federal government under the Obama administration have ignited a blaze of concerns about fundamental religious liberties in America.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the US bishops conference, wrote a letter to the president recently.

The Administration’s assault on DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act], Archbishop Dolan said, will “precipitate a national conflict between Church and State of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions.”

“Will”…?

Archbishop Dolan especially objected to the Justice Department’s legal arguments that equate those in favor of DOMA to racists. It is “particularly upsetting,” he said, when the Administration attributes to those who support DOMA “a motivation rooted in prejudice and bias.It is especially wrong and unfair to equate opposition to redefining marriage with either intentional or willfully ignorant racial discrimination, as your Administration insists on doing,” he said.

He underscored the Church’s position recognizing “the immeasurable personal dignity and equal worth of all individuals, including those with same-sex attraction” and said “we reject all hatred and unjust treatment against any person.”

“Our profound regard for marriage as the complementary and fruitful union of a man and a woman does not negate our concern for the well-being of all people but reinforces it,” he said. “While all persons merit our full respect, no other relationships provide for the common good what marriage between husband and wife provides.The law should reflect this reality.”

Archbishop Dolan advised President Obama: “push the reset button on your Administration’s approach to DOMA.”

“Our federal government should not be presuming ill intent or moral blindness on the part of the overwhelming majority of its citizens, millions of whom have gone to the polls to directly support DOMAs in their states and have thereby endorsed marriage as the union of man and woman.Nor should a policy disagreement over the meaning of marriage be treated by federal officials as a federal offense—but this will happen if the Justice Department’s latest constitutional theory prevails in court.”

Archbishop Dolan asked President Obama to “end its campaign against DOMA, the institution of marriage it protects, and religious freedom.”

“Please know that I am always ready to discuss with you the concerns raised here and to address any questions that you may have.” he added. “I am convinced that the door to a dialogue that is strong enough to endure even serious and fundamental disagreements can and must remain open, and I believe that you desire the same.”

Archbishop Dolan was offering a statesman-like presumption of goodwill in warning that if this course is continued, it “will” result in a national conflict. Because it actually has.

Just days ago, the bishops assembled a new ‘task force’ to tackle this new and historic threat to religious liberties.

Saying they are increasingly distressed over government policies that promote contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage and amount to an assault on religious freedom, the U.S. bishops have established a committee to shape public policy and coordinate the church’s response on the issue.

The Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty was announced Sept. 30 by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., was named chairman of the new committee.

“There is a common and factually grounded perception that religious liberty is increasingly under assault at the state and federal level in the United States, whether through unfriendly legislation or through rules and regulations that impede or tend to impede the work of the church,”…

He says the government is playing God.

Emerging threats to religious freedom have inspired the U.S. bishops to establish a new committee for its protection. Its chairman sees government taking God’s place as the source of the “first freedom.”

Bridgeport Bishop William E. Lori told CNA on Sept. 30 that a “principal and overarching error,” connecting several different threats to the free exercise of faith, is “the view that it is the state that grants religious liberty, and not God.”

“Even though religious liberty is enshrined at the head of the Bill of Rights, in the First Amendment, there is an increasing tendency to make it a lesser right – and to make it quite relative to other, ‘newly-discovered’ rights in our law and in our culture,” said the Connecticut bishop, whose 2010 pastoral letter “Let Freedom Ring” addressed the subject of state intrusion against believers.

The chair of the new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty said respect for “religion as a merely private affair” remains largely intact.

But he warned that the “institutional conscience” of religious hospitals and similar establishments is being threatened at high levels – as are the conscience rights of individuals in “clutch situations” like filling prescriptions or issuing marriage licenses.

“Their rights are being trampled upon,” said Bishop Lori.

In his letter announcing the new committee’s formation, Archbishop Dolan said that the “basic right” to religious freedom “is now increasingly and in unprecedented ways under assault in America,” especially from an “an increasing number of federal government programs or policies that would infringe upon the right of conscience of people of faith.”

The ‘national conflict of enormous proportions’ is not coming. It is here.

Obama administration mandates contraceptive coverage

The Department of Health and Human Services, which is taking on an Orwellian context come to think of it, has just added a new twist to healthcare law.

In the form of more mandates.

Following recommendations by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the Obama administration announced this morning that insurance plans will be required to cover contraceptives, which include abortion-inducing drugs such as Plan B and Ella, as well as elective sterilizations.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a news release included the drugs as part of an essential “preventive care” package. “Historic new guidelines that will ensure women receive preventive health services at no additional cost were announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” she said.

The HHS release notes that “contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” are to be covered, while CNN notes that the preventive mandate will include sterilizations.

The mandate comes after a massive, months-long push by abortion giant Planned Parenthood to establish free birth control for American women, a campaign strongly opposed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pregnancy is not a disease, they said, and this is not “preventive health”, which Congressman Jeff Fortenberry said on my radio show Friday evening just after the House voted on the debt deal. He’s co-author of the Rights of Conscience Act, even more under threat Monday than it was on Friday.

The spin has been interesting. Early on Monday, the Associated Press carried the story at this link with the headline “Insurers must cover birth control with no copays.” I printed it at the time to use in my show prep materials, so I have the original version. It opened with this:

Health insurance plans must cover birth control as preventive care for women, with no copays, the Obama administration said Monday in a decision with far-reaching implications for health care as well as social mores.

The requirement is part of a broad expansion of coverage for women’s preventive care under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Etc., etc.

Then that same link took you to a story that morphed into this, headlined “Coverage with no copay extended to health care”. Here’s how it opened:

A half-century after the advent of the pill, the Obama administration on Monday ushered in a change in women’s health care potentially as transformative: coverage of birth control as prevention, with no copays.

Services ranging from breast pumps for new mothers to counseling on domestic violence were also included in the broad expansion of women’s preventive care under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Since birth control is the most common drug prescribed to women, health plans should make sure it’s readily available, said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Not doing it would be like not covering flu shots,” she said.

Yes, she really said that. It’s tortured logic (apply critical thinking skills to that one). Or it’s  Orwellian. Whichever is worse.