University of Notre Dame Law School Professor Carter Snead debunked the notion that the Obama administration had offered a genuine compromise on the HHS contraception mandate yesterday on a legal panel at the Catholic Media Conference in Indianapolis.
“This is one of the great myths of this debate. There is no accommodation,” Snead said
. Snead said that instead of offering a real compromise President Obama has “promise to try to find some form of accommodation for faith-based employers by August 2013.”
[Snead] summed up the administration's message to concerned Catholics: “Don't worry about this very serious problem that you're concerned about; I'll deal with it after the election's over, in a way that I'm sure you'll find satisfying.”
The Notre Dame professor described the mandate as a “radical form of coercion” against religious groups. He also rejected the notion that Catholics were seeking to restrict access to contraception, an objection raised by some activists who have sought to shift the debate away from religious freedom.
"The very definition of 'coercion' has been perverted in this debate,” Snead objected. “People are saying that it's 'coercion' on the part of the religious institutions, to not pay for something that is available through other means.”
“It's not coercion for me not to pay for something for you that violates my religious tradition.”
The University of Notre Dame is one of the Catholic employers that has filed a lawsuit challenging the HHS mandate.
Convened on the same day that the bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom kicked off, the panel on which Snead spoke also featured Canon Law Society of America President Rita Joyce and University of Oklahoma law professor Michael Scaperlanda. Joyce is also general counsel for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which is also suing to prevent the mandate from taking effect.
She stressed that the Church had been forced to defend itself by the Obama administration's denial of conscience rights. While the Church's own internal laws normally require compliance with civil law, the contraception mandate forces the Church to choose between obedience to God, or to the state.
“Canon law defers to civil law in those matters where it doesn't conflict with 'Divine law' – or God's law,” Joyce said. “Civil law, here, is conflicting with our law. It's conflicting with God's law, with the Church's law.”
Perhaps the most chilling words were uttered by Scaperlanda, who charged that with the HHS mandate the federal government is setting itself up as a “rival” to God:
“We are told today that our nation is too diverse to be influenced by religious moral principles. But history reveals a deeper and darker reason for marginalizing religion,” Scaperlanda said. “Simply put, the state is jealous of the rival source of authority.”
Scarperlanda is a member of the St. Gregory’s University Board of Directors, which is recommended in The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College
You can read a full report on the panel here
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