Posts Tagged HHS Mandate

Health Care, Religion, Government, and The Left – Part II

Last night, I posted some audio of lawyers at a loss for words at a panel discussion on religion and government.  This morning, I’d like to post another clip from the Q&A, one that I think is particularly revealing about the left’s attitude towards religious liberty.  The commenter is Ed Kahn, the lawyer for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, and he’s discussing to what extent a hospital’s association with a religious body should matter.  Shorter answer: none.  But let him tell you himself.

(The audio quality here is markedly worse than the clip last night from Ms. Hart.  I think it’s a combination of Mr. Kahn’s voice and the fact that he was sitting farther away from the mike, but there’s a persistent hiss.  I ran it through the noise reduction algorithm, and while it got rid of most of the hiss, there’s a residue that makes it sound like he’s talking from the engine room of a starship, if the engine were powered by boilers, but I think it’s easier to hear than the raw sound.)

They can close shop on Saturday, but that doesn’t make them like a church or synagogue in my view.  And if they’re going to hold out their product or their service to the public, then they should not be able to mandate that their religious beliefs to which they subscribe, that the results of that belief should be visited on the people who are entitled to sign up for that service.

If there’s a market where comprehensive health care is available without restriction, and people understand that, then maybe it’s ok for somebody to say that we’re a Catholic health insurer and our hospital is going to be open six days a week, but our emergency room will be open on the Sabbath.  But in general, I think that if you’re providing a public service that is a necessity, especially, that it ought to be provided across the board, and the law ought to require it as a condition of licensing.

Some states do say to Catholic (unintelligible) hospitals, “You cannot restrict (unintelligible) abortion, you cannot restrict contraception services or tubal ligation,” and that, I think, is the better standard.  So I start there.  I think the concept that these organizations are health care, providing what’s a necessity, not simply a good like a candy store, overrides the ability to finesse what services they will or won’t provide, given an economic necessity or need, especially in monopoly situations.

There’s almost too much here to unpack, but let’s give it a try.  It embodies almost all the current liberal assumptions about having a right to other people’s work product, and the inconsequentiality of others’ religious beliefs, to the extent that they differ from your own.

The phrase that really popped out at me was this: “…people who are entitled to sign up for that service.”  Who talks this way, about people “signing up for a service?”  The Left, apparently.  Remember when Michael Moore rolled up to congressmen, asking them if they would be willing “sign their kids up to serve in Iraq,” as though it were a particularly violent venue for sleep-away camp.  Seventh-graders are “entitled to sign up for” band.  Adults purchase products and services with their own money.  Seventh-graders buy things, too, generally with their parents’ money, which leads them to feel entitled.

The statement provides a case study of the inevitable intersection between social issues and economic ones.  The Left feels entitled to sign other people up to do things for them, without realizing that at a minimum, there’s an opportunity cost.  Grant the dubious proposition that All Hospitals Are Created Equal, that you can require anything calling itself a hospital to provide a menu of services at all times, in all places.  They still can’t pay for the staff, facilities, and equipment to be perpetually on-call for every conceivable service or procedure.  They will have to make choices.  And since they are the ones providing the services, their own priorities and values will and ought to guide those choices.

That’s really the only fair way to decide.

If Charles Bronson were still around, he might reprise his scene from The Magnificent Seven where he throws the Mexican child over his knee and whacks him a couple of times for ingratitude, reminding him that his parents don’t do everything for him because they have to.  (Hey, you want to be treated like a child?)  Nobody makes the church or churches run these hospitals in the first place, except themselves from their own religious conviction.  If that same religious conviction prevents them from providing other services, Planned Parenthood should just see that as a market opportunity.

Of course, the same law that enables the HHS Mandate also makes it virtually impossible to open new, specialized, physician-owned hospitals, thus providing further justification for commandeering existing facilities.


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The Sound of Silence

This evening, I attended a panel discussion at one of the local synagogues on the topic of religion and government.  It was sponsored by the very liberal National Council of Jewish Women, and featured four attorneys: Melissa Hart, Assoc. Prof. of Law and Director of the Byron White Center for the Study of Constitutional Law at CU, Ed Kahn, Special Counsel for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Dan F. Lynch, Attorney, Teacher and Author, and Rebecca T. Wallace, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Colorado.  (In case you’re wondering whether Mr. Lynch was there for balance, I can assure you he was not; his primary concern seemed to be the imminent threat of Christian Zionists manipulating our government into starting WWIII to hasten the Apocalypse, or something like that.)

The panel was somewhat interesting, as these things go.  The audience was mostly liberal, and the panelists were never really challenged.  Most of what they said would be pretty unremarkable to anyone familiar with the leftist cant about religion in the public schools, public square, and private hospitals.

Until the last question, submitted by yours truly.  It’s a question that was inspired by a Spengler column a couple of months back, at the height of the HHS Mandate controversy, and let me hasten to assure you that except for cropping out Mr Kahn’s basically non-responsive answer at the end, and bumping up the volume, I have not edited this clip at all:

The silence – finally ended by Mr. Kahn wishing aloud that someone else would take the question – is 9 seconds long. 

Nine seconds long.

That’s roughly an eternity, when you have four lawyers on a panel.  There is no charitable interpretation of this silence, the only explanation being that they simply hadn’t considered the question before.  (Ms. Hart’s answer, that kosher slaughter is central to the Jewish religion, at least relieves us of the fear that they don’t really care about kashrut; like most Conservative or Reform Jews, they’re happy to have it around, even if they don’t practice.)

Ms. Hart’s response, that she has “faith” that the legal system would never do such a thing will be of slight comfort to conservatives who’ve seen the courts do many previously unthinkable things in the last half-century, but I will admit that I was only partially successful in hiding a wry smirk.

Like so many who inhabit the lefty echo chamber for a living, the panelists simply fail to consider that the results of their activism might one day be turned against something they care about, and have no good answers when their assumptions are challenged in a constructive, rather than confrontational, way.

Maybe they should have just stayed silent.

UPDATE: I’ve filtered out some of the noise from the sound clip, and attached the following transcript:

Moderator:  OK, I have maybe a technical question.  Assuming the HHS Mandate – and if you answer this question you can tell us what that is – is allowed to stand, suppose that a government office were to decide that kosher slaughter violated the relevant animal cruelty statues.  How would you persuade them, or persuade the judge, to continue to permit kosher slaughter?

[9 seconds of silence]

Mr. Kahn: I hope someone else will take this.

Moderator: Now we see which of them has studied the Talmud.

Ms. Hart: So, one of the things that gets harder when politics gets stranger, as it is right now, but one of the things that I say to all of my first-year Civil Procedure students is that I have a very deep faith in law.  I believe that to practice law and to love law, as I do – civil law – you have to have a great deal of faith in law and in the (unintelligible) practice in law, including the courts.

HHS is Health and Human Services, and I assume the question is referring to the provision – to the question about the abortion and contraception provision.

I – (2 second pause)  have faith that no court would find that a state could outlaw rules of kosher under animal cruelty provisions, that the centrality of the kosher rules to the Jewish faith, and the lack of any kind of question of that is so clear, that even a law that seemed to be neutral, and animal cruelty law, would not pass (unintelligible) as a way of forbidding the laws of kosher.  I don’t believe that because of any precedent that tells me that that’s definitely true.  I believe that because I have faith in the courts not to go to that extreme.

If if you’re looking for precedent and the arguments you would make from precedent, I would go back to the law that I talked about briefly in the beginning, the Lukumi Babalu Aye case, that actually was the state’s, the community’s ban on animal sacrifice was an animal cruelty provision.  And the courts were willing to look behind it and say there are other ways to prevent cruelty to animals than this kind of prohibition.  So I think that courts have addressed animal cruelty provisions in the context of religious laws before – this is a quite different kind of religious law – and have found that they’re able to separate these things out and should separate these things out and I believe that they will continue to do that.


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