Obama Agency Assaults Catholics, Washington Post Columnist Gerson Writes

Tuesday, 15 Nov 2011 10:02 AM

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Despite President Barack Obama’s promises that he would respect the pro-life views of Catholics, his Health and Human Services Department has embarked on an assault on Catholic institutions, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes in an Op-Ed.

Gerson, the former head speech writer for President George W. Bush, notes that, in 2009, Obama “extended a ‘presumption of good faith’ to his pro-life opponents” during his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame. He vowed that his administration would respect the pro-life views of Catholics.

“Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health-care policies are grounded not only in sound science but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women,” Gerson quotes the president as saying.

However, the conscience protections Obama referred to are now under assault from the Health and Human Services Department, which is led by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a pro-choice Catholic. The agency recently ended funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for programs that aid victims of human trafficking.

The ACLU had challenged the programs, alleging they violate the Constitution’s ban on the establishment of religion because they do not provide referrals for abortion, Gerson writes.

Despite the fact that the Obama administration defended the grants in court, Health and Human Services pulled the plug on them.

“It did not matter that an independent review board had rated the bishops’ program more effective than those of its competitors — or that career HHS employees objected to the politicized handling of the grant,” Gerson wrote. “HHS announced it was giving preference to grantees that offer ‘the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.’ This was described by one official as ‘standard procedure.’ So it is now standard procedure in the Obama administration to deny funding to some Catholic programs based solely on their pro-life beliefs.”

Gerson adds that applying the agency’s policy widely would “amount to systemic anti-Catholic bias in government programs.”

“And the provocation is one in a series. HHS has drawn conscience protections so narrowly that Catholic colleges, universities and hospitals — any Catholic institution that employs and serves non-Catholics — will be required to offer health coverage that includes contraception and drugs that cause abortion. In global health grants, new language is appearing that requires the integration of family planning and ‘reproductive health’ services, effectively barring the participation of Catholic institutions.”

The victims of the policy are the “poor and vulnerable” who receive employment help, legal services, medical screening, and child care from the Catholic-sponsored human trafficking programs.

“Sebelius is becoming a political embarrassment at an inconvenient time. It will be significantly harder for Obama to repeat his appeal to Catholic voters while a part of his administration is at war with Catholic leaders and Catholic belief,” Gerson concluded.

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