As Americans prepare for another historic election, Yes another “historic” having in 2008 elected Barack Obama, the first black African American president. Indeed, the entire America and the world at large were thrown into a wild surprise and amazement. Many celebrated it on the ground that the ‘dreams’ of Martin Luther king (Jnr) has come to fruition. Many came to believe with Obama when he says “if there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dreams of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer”.
And so, this year as the American constitution permits, President Obama is seeking for re-election to occupy the white house for the next four years again. Whether the change the Americans seek has come; the change promised to them or is still to com. It is not the preoccupation of this write-up. It is within the circles of political analysts to decide. I am quite certain that the election will be historic come 6th November for millions of Catholics in America and entire Christendom. The reason is not far fetched because the policies of Obama administration will be a fallback to vote. Therefore, Americans are going to vote with varied interests as it affects the national economy, national security and most importantly as it affect right to religion and conscience. American Catholics will be having an uphill task to vote President Obama. His administration policies pose serious threat to Catholic faith and other Christian denomination.
In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a mandate under the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) that requires all employer health plans to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of any moral or religious objections.
The ministries of institutions like Catholic schools, hospitals and charities educating the young, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry are not considered sufficiently religious to qualify for the Mandate’s narrow “religious exemption.”
Not only will such institutions be forced to provide services that directly contradict the teachings of their faith, but more alarmingly the federal government is claiming the right to decide for religious institutions what constitutes their ministry.
On February 20, 2012, the government sensed intense opposition from religious institutions all over the country. They announced there would be an accommodation for religious institutions opposed to facilitating practices contrary to their moral teachings through their employee health plans. In the so called accommodation, insurance companies not religious employers themselves would be forced to pay for the abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception. However, since any funds the insurance companies would use to make such payments ultimately come from the premium paid by employers, therefore, the accommodation is nothing more than a kind of sheer game trick
Will the Catholic Church accept this HHS mandate? What is her option for her many devoted faithful? The Catholic Church has since down the century remained faithful to her teaching on moral issues like abortion, contraception and sterilization. The church has with dauntless fidelity stick to her doctrines on these teachings. It has not changed and remained unchangeable. The church teaches that human life is sacred and must be respected no matter the stage of existence. Most importantly is the case of the unborn and infants. It is not even within the ambience of human freedom to carry out such as abortion; not within the jurisdiction of any state to legalise it. Pope Johnpaul ll stressing on this stated that abortion is thus crime which no human law can claim to legitimize. Even there is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; but instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. (evangelium vitae n.73)
Furthermore, the church declares and holds that “the human person has right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions in religious matters in private or in public”(Vatican ll dignitatis humanae n.2)
Consequently, the HHS mandate has been met with serious severe opposition, according to Becket fund which is tracking these cases and litigations reveals that there are now 33 lawsuit against the HHS mandate. Still more, many rallies and peaceful demonstration have been organized as a protest to the so called HHS mandate. More than 125,000 people attended the March 23 and June 8 rallies and more still to hold. On June 21 to July 4, American Catholic dioceses under the auspice of U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops participated in a 14 day event termed ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ which included masses, devotions holy hours, educational presentations and rallies to campaign against the HHS mandate’s threat to freedom of religion and conscience.
The whole events of the past months certainly would be a great concern to any well meaning American Christian as they approach the general election. Just like Cardinal Tim Dolan, they would be concerned about a policy that is increasing callous about the radical abortion license, and a legal system that affords more protection to endangered species of plant and animals than unborn babies. They would be concerned about policy that interprets “comprehensive health care in such a way that it may be used to threaten the life of the baby in the womb. They will be worried about a policy that may be reducing religious freedom to a kind of privacy right to recreational activities, reducing the practice of religion to a Sabbath hobby, instead of a force that should guide public actions. They should be worried by attempts to redefine marriage and to label as bigots those who uphold the traditional God given definitions of marriage. Yes, they must be concerned by these issues. It is their choice that will make a difference.
Kevin chukwuka writes from onitsha Anambra state