Daily Beast Writer Twists Scripture to Say Jesus Would Oppose Nuns Challenging Contraceptive Mandate In Court

March 23rd, 2016 5:01 PM

It's always galling when the liberal media rip Scripture out of context to rebuke conservative orthodox Christians for their beliefs and actions, but there's arguably added insult when it happens during Holy Week and the group in question are mostly elderly nuns.

According to the Daily Beast's Jay Michaelson, not only is the lawsuit by the Little Sisters of the Poor against the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate based on "tortured logic," it's sinful. Writing in his March 23 piece, "Christian Right Says No Means Yes In Obamacare Fight At Supreme Court," Michaelson explains (emphases mine): 

This, incidentally, is the new normal for conservative activism: raise tens of millions of dollars from right-wing 1 percenters and then file so many lawsuits that one is bound to make it to the Supreme Court.  In fact, Zubik is actually seven cases consolidated into one with hundreds of briefs from activist groups on all sides.

Meanwhile, the government—funded not by the 1 percent but by all of us—has to spend millions of our money to defend all these suits.  The net result, other than a biblical waste of taxpayer money, is both to get to the Supreme Court and to intimidate the government into giving the Christian Right what it wants.  What would Jesus do, indeed.

(Answer: “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have already been defeated.” 1 Corinthians 6:7)

Nice try, but St. Paul in this portion of the first epistle to the Corinthians was condemning Christians taking each other to court over their disputes rather than resolving them by fair arbitration within the church itself. Paul was not categorically barring Christians from filing lawsuits nor for standing up for their rights against government abuse in the civil courts. Paul, after all, famously stood on his rights as a Roman citizen on a few occasions (Acts 16:37-40; 22:22-29; 25:11-12).

As to Michaelson's charge of twisted logic, he also gets it wrong:

In the 2009 battle to pass the Affordable Care Act in Congress, religious organizations won the right to opt out of providing coverage for contraception to their employees.  (In Hobby Lobby, some for-profit corporations won that right too).  This week, a cluster of religious organizations (Zubik himself is the Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh) is trying to opt out of the opt out.

Their argument is that saying “no” means saying “yes.”  By checking the “Exempt” box, or by writing a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, these organizations say they’re enabling the government to pay for the coverage, and that they are thus complicit in providing it.  True, they’re actually opting out, but by opting out, they’re enabling the government to opt in, which is the same as opting in themselves.

Sound like tortured logic?  It is, which is why of the dozens of challenges filed by the right-wing activist group The Becket Fund, all but one has lost.  That one, however, now means there’s a split among the federal circuits, and so the Supreme Court must weigh in.

But as Matt Bowman explained at National Review, the issue is that the government form in question is essentially making the Sisters tell their insurance carrier that it has a contractual obligation to provide them with contraceptive coverage. In other words, it's like saying, hey, we have a religious objection to this sort of coverage, but you have an obligation under the terms of our insurance contract with us to provide the very thing we morally object to (emphases mine below):

The government actually misrepresents the facts before the Supreme Court. It asserts that all the Little Sisters have to do is file a form saying “they are non-profit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services.”

That’s untrue. The government deliberately added more language to the Little Sisters’ form. Because their plan is “self-insured,” in addition to stating their religious objection, the government requires their form to also specifically tell their insurance administrator that he has “obligations” to provide the abortifacient and contraceptive coverage himself. The government added this language on purpose because it wanted to force self-insured entities to create a binding contractual duty for someone else to provide abortion pills – through the religious group’s own health plan – when the religious group doesn’t want to do that itself. Thus the government’s “compromise” for self-insured groups is akin to telling them: Don’t worry, you don’t have to assassinate that guy, you just have to contract a hit man to do it. 

At this point the administration’s position went from the absurd to the surreal. The government now says that the Little Sisters must still submit their form. The form still requires the Sisters to explicitly tell someone else they have “obligations” to provide abortion pills and contraception. But the government says it overlooked the fact that the Little Sisters’ plan fits into a legal loophole where, if that third party abortion-pill guy doesn’t follow his “obligations,” there’s no penalty on him.

In other words, the Obama administration refuses to grant an injunction that would protect the Sisters from hiring someone else to do offensive things, and its refusal is based on the theory that the government’s coerced speech probably won’t work anyway. The government admits that its offensive coerced speech might not actually achieve the government’s goals, but the Little Sisters must speak it anyway.