Last week, I posted on concerns reported by Catholic News Agency/Eternal Word Television Network, along with Catholic Vote, that President Trump had broken a promise that he would drop the government’s defense of the notorious Health and Human Services mandate that was part of Obamacare that required employers to pay for contraception, including abortifacients, for their employees, in spite of religious objections from groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor. According to those news sources, the government planned to continue its defense of the mandate. Catholic Vote gave Trump only a C- on Religious Liberty issues for his first 100 days report card, largely because of that decision, reporting that, “Just this week the Department of Justice extended its defense of the HHS mandate, despite requests to drop the case.”
Some Facebook friends pointed out that it wasn’t quite that simple. Other sources were claiming that the government was preparing its case to not only take away the mandate, but make sure it never came up again under a new administration.
Today, President Trump signed an Executive Order that relaxes enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, which punishes churches for speaking out on political matters and endorsing candidates. The “Wall Street Journal,” in a story that I’m not able to fully read because I don’t subscribe, says that the EO, “removes contraception coverage mandate.” The article linked above says that EO, “gives ‘regulatory relief’ to companies that object to an Obamacare mandate for contraception in health care.”
This is good news! The Johnson Amendment has never been enforced equally. Almost always, it has been used as a bludgeon against churches opposed to abortion in efforts to silence their pulpits. As well, black churches, traditional centers of social and political activity in the African-American community, have continued to hold rallies with political candidates during their Sunday services without a peep from the IRS. While Trump’s EO will discourage the IRS from enforcing the Johnson Amendment, actual repeal requires an act of Congress. As such, a new administration could write an EO that requires the IRS to enforce the Johnson Amendment more aggressively. It needs to be fully repealed.
Hopefully, this will spell the death of the HHS mandate. Two Little Sisters of the Poor were present at the signing of today’s EO. Their resources, and those of the many other organizations and church groups that oppose the mandate, need to be put in to caring for the poor and the others to which these groups minister. The HHS mandate was always a clear violation of the First Amendment, and the government’s case was a losing one. There was no need for the government to waste limited resources defending a losing cause.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.