Will John Boehner Fund Obama's Attack on Catholics?
Will House Speaker John Boehner give President Barack Obama the money he needs to implement a regulation that Boehner himself described as an unconstitutional attack on religious freedom that forces Catholics to cooperate in immoral acts?
The Constitution gives the House of Representatives, which now has a Republican majority, the power to deny funding for any act by the executive branch.
But does Boehner have the courage to stand up against the president and use this lawful authority to protect religious liberty?
On Feb. 8, 2012, Boehner went to the well of the House and laid down a marker.
"My colleagues," he said, "in recent days, Americans of every faith and political persuasion have mobilized in objection to a rule put forward by the Obama administration that constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country.
"This rule," Boehner told the House, "would require faith-based employers, including Catholic charities, schools, universities and hospitals, to provide services they believe are immoral. Those services include sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and contraception. "In imposing this requirement, the federal government has drifted dangerously beyond its constitutional boundaries, encroaching on religious freedom in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation's most vital institutions," said Boehner.
"If the president does not reverse the department's attack on religious freedom," said Boehner, "then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution that we are sworn to uphold and defend, must."
"This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand and will not stand," said Boehner.
Wow! Boehner said: It must not and will not stand. The speaker made only one error here — one of omission. Obama's regulation not only requires faith-based employers and Catholic institutions to act against their consciences, it also requires lay Catholic business owners and individuals to act against their consciences.
In fact, it requires all individual Americans who morally object to taking innocent human life, through what Boehner calls "abortion-inducing drugs," to act against their consciences by paying for the use of those drugs.
As long as Republicans control the House and Democrats control the Senate and the White House, the only way the Republicans can stop Obama's regulatory attack on the constitutionally protected religious liberty of Catholics (and those who share the moral views of Catholics on these matters) is to include language in must-pass funding bills prohibiting the administration from spending money to implement the regulation.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution states: "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law." No law can be enacted unless a majority of the House votes for it. If a majority of the House refuses to vote for a law funding implementation of a regulation, the administration cannot implement the regulation.
This is not an unprecedented procedure. As I wrote in this column almost a year ago, the $914.8 billion continuing resolution Congress enacted last December to keep the government funded through September included a provision protecting stockyard owners from Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law," said the provision, "none of the funds made available in this or any other Act may be used to implement any provision in a rule if that provision requires mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems."
As I wrote then, that CR did not say: None of the funds made available in this or any other Act may be used to implement any rule or regulation under Obamacare that requires health care plans to cover sterilizations and contraceptives, including abortifacients, or that requires any individual, organization, institution or business to purchase a health care plan that covers sterilizations and contraceptives, including abortifacients.
Congress protected the right of manure makers to emit gasses but not the right of Catholics to practice their religion.
But that was before Boehner vowed, "This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand and will not stand."
So, now Boehner has a choice: He can let Obama attack religious freedom, or he can deny Obama the funding to attack religious freedom — just as Congress denied Obama the funding to regulate gas emissions by manure makers.
If Boehner leads the House in approving must-pass spending legislation that defunds Obama's attack on the religious liberty of Catholics, Obama and Senate Democrats will have a choice: Shut down the government or give up their attack on the religious liberty of Catholics.
Yes, it is quite likely that President Obama and Senate Democrats are so intent on forcing Catholics to cooperate in evil acts that they will shut down the government to preserve their power to do so.
The question is whether Boehner will make them shut down the government in their quest to diminish American freedom — or, as he vowed earlier this year, make sure that attack does not stand.
There is no middle ground for Boehner on this, just as there is no middle ground for Obama. Either Boehner — and the House Republicans who follow him — stand with Catholics in defense of religious liberty or they stand against Catholics in funding Obama's attack on our must fundamental freedom of all.