WASHINGTON, D.C., February 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Obama administration has created a little-known “toolkit” encouraging and guiding pastors to promote ObamaCare to their parishioners, complete with bulletin inserts and talking points to be used from the pulpit.
The toolkit, discovered by The Weekly Standard's Jeryl Bier, is part of the Obama administration's efforts to partner with parishes and their communities as the the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is fully implemented.
The toolkit includes sample bulletin inserts, talking points, and sample preacher scripts. The full title is the “Second Sunday & Faith Weekend of Action Toolkit.”
The items explain how to help people take advantage of a host of federal government-provided health programs. Specifically listed in the introduction of the toolkit are Medicaid, children's health programs, and ACA marketplace enrollment.
Fr. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, told LifeSiteNews that the toolkits “put the church in the position of promoting government programs that are morally, highly problematic.”
Many denominational leaders, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, oppose the law's requirement to provide abortifacient drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization. Although the ACA is supposed to be walled off from subsidizing elective abortions, critics deride the measure as little more than an accounting gimmick, and even that has been breached in some areas.
Parishioners will be “attentive” to whether priests partner with the Obama administration, given that “so much of this administration has been seen as hostile to traditional religious values,” Father Sirico said. “To then be asked to promote — from the pulpit, no less, or in our bulletins — this kind of program, would not only violate people's consciences, but create dissension within churches.”
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley told LifeSiteNews that the toolkits show hypocrisy on the part of the Obama administration. “The federal government only wants churches to have free speech rights if the church agrees to speak about things it thinks are acceptable,” Stanley told LifeSiteNews. “While it’s not illegal for [the Department of Health and Human Services] to ask churches to talk about ObamaCare, it is ironic considering that the federal government, through the tax code, prohibits pastors from speaking freely from the pulpit on other issues.”
Due to the federal holiday, two calls and an email about the toolkit to Health & Human Services went unanswered on Monday.
Despite opposition on the Left to anything that might be construed as a violation of the separation of church and state, other liberals such as Jim Wallis have encouraged pastors to “link our pulpits with the bully pulpit” by repeating the president's talking points on social spending programs.
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“A church and its pastor have the free speech right to talk about issues from the pulpit. But nowhere in the constitution is that only limited to talking about the president’s agenda,” said Stanley, whose organization opposes tax laws that require entities legally defined as churches to trade certain elements of free speech for tax-exempt status. “We urge the Obama Administration to be consistent and oppose the IRS’ power to censor churches” through the tax code, Stanley said.