Daniel Philpott

Why we can’t just ‘lighten up’ over the HHS mandate

Daniel Philpott
By Daniel Philpott

February 27, 2013 (PublicDiscourse) - Lighten up! This is the riposte that my employer, the University of Notre Dame, and other like-minded organizations have met with in recent months as they have protested the violation of their religious freedom through the Obama administration’s mandate that they pay for healthcare policies covering contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs.

Critics charge that the protest, manifested most saliently by a lawsuit that Notre Dame and some forty-seven other organizations filed against the Department of Health and Human Services, is unduly fretful and even manifests a persecution complex. They aver that the mandate does not require outfits like Notre Dame to cooperate with evil directly, but rather only to fund insurance policies that enable their employees to commit the acts that Notre Dame regards as immoral.

Cooperation with evil: the concept is invoked most often by Christian supporters of the mandate, who share the faith of opponents but regard them as too uptight. It comes from traditional Catholic moral theology, which forbids “formal” cooperation with evil, where one intentionally supports another’s immoral act, but renders more complex the analysis of “material” cooperation with evil, where one in some way causally enables an evil but does not intend for it to occur—the case of the taxpayer who pays her taxes but regrets that they will support an unjust policy or who votes for a candidate in spite of, not because of, the candidate’s support for an injustice. Material cooperation can be permitted on the conditions that cooperation is sufficiently indirect and counterbalanced by good effects that the same act enables.

Just these conditions are met by the mandate, say supporters, especially in the wake of successive “accommodations” through which the Obama administration has sought to make Christian employers’ cooperation ever more remote—and sought as well to diminish and marginalize the coalition against the mandate. The accommodations have met with considerable success. Each round has brought a new batch of erstwhile public opponents to declare themselves satisfied and their concerns met.

Following the Catholic tradition, I regard the criterion of cooperation with evil as a valid one for a wide range of moral dilemmas, including the one at hand. The debate over cooperation with evil, however, obscures what is most at stake for Christian organizations in the HHS mandate, which is much the same as what has been most at stake for the Christian church in its relationship with the state over many centuries, which in turn is what is most at stake for the church in religious freedom: the right to give witness to the truths that they believe.

To witness means to proclaim or to give testimony for a truth that the proclaimer believes is maximally important. To witness is to communicate a message—in the Christian’s case, that of God’s salvation of the world through Jesus Christ. For a Catholic, this salvation is embodied in, and its meaning for the Christian believer is manifested through, the teachings of the Catholic Church, including its teachings about contraception and the sanctity of life.

Many Protestant churches make parallel claims, with due variations, about the role of the church in salvation. For (many) Christians, then, salvation is achieved through corporate entities as well as the faith of individuals. Consonant with this message, churches and their affiliated universities, schools, hospitals, and orphanages share a duty not simply to avoid cooperating with what is false but to proclaim boldly what is true in both their words and their deeds.

To see how witness stands distinct from cooperation against evil, imagine Patrick, a devout Catholic investor, who lends $1 million to Tony to build a small grocery store—and stipulates that Tony not use the loan to sell pornographic magazines or artificial birth control devices. A year later, Patrick visits the completed grocery store and, lo and behold, finds a nook jutting out from the back wall where just these products are being sold: a sin section.

Patrick confronts Tony, who pleads that he was careful to use his own funds to build this section of the store and did not use Patrick’s loan for it: Patrick should lighten up. Patrick remains unconvinced and steamed. He explains to Tony that these products would not be sold in this store were it not for the loan that built the store in the first place. What is more important, though, Patrick explains, is not his enabling of commerce in these products but the fact that everyone who knows about his investment would be unlikely to make the careful distinction that he didn’t pay for the sin section. Rather, they will wonder why a devout Catholic such as he invested in something so contrary to his beliefs. His reputation and his commitment to living his life as a witness, not simply avoiding cooperation with evil so as to keep his hands clean, is what is most important to him.

The right to witness to the truth of salvation is the heart of the right to religious freedom. Religious freedom is the right to be religious, that is, the right of individuals and organizations to live, practice, and express their religious beliefs. It is a right found in the most important international law documents and, of course, in the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Religious freedom is not absolute, of course, and its boundaries and gray areas are continually contested in the courts. American courts, though, have always understood religious freedom to protect something far wider than the right not to materially cooperate with evil, including, quintessentially, the right of religious people and organizations to give witness to their convictions.

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When religious organizations are required to enable behaviors contrary to their beliefs, even when this enabling is somewhat indirect, they are in fact being required to perform a contradiction by associating themselves closely with deeds that undermine what they aim to profess. Consider the case of Notre Dame. The Catholic Church authoritatively prohibits contraception, teaching that an intrinsic purpose of sex is to beget life, an end that a person ought never to impede. The Church holds that abortifacient drugs destroy a person’s life. To force a Catholic university, which by definition commits itself to manifesting the teachings of the Catholic Church, to promote these actions is to force it to compromise its very witness to the character of life lived in fellowship with the resurrected Christ—indeed as this life might be lived by its own employees. Notre Dame and its fellow plaintiffs cannot lighten up.

The skeptic will retort that the witness dimension of religious freedom does not escape from and only pushes back the problem of cooperation with evil. Religious persons of all stripes, after all, might claim that the message of their faith is contradicted when they pay taxes to a government that acts contrary to their religion. Yet, the skeptic will point out, few religious people in fact refuse to pay their taxes and most may pay them justifiably as long as they do not intend to support the policies they believe to be evil. Religious witness is undermined only when cooperation with evil is either formal or of the unjustifiable material sort. If that is the case, says the skeptic, then the problem of evil is again our main concern. The freedom to witness adds nothing to the picture.

I do not deny that assessing cooperation with evil is important. In my view, the revised regulations that the Obama administration issued earlier this month go some way toward alleviating the problem, at least for some religious employers (while still failing to include religious business owners, for instance). I also contend, though, that the HHS mandate continues to compromise the witness dimension of religious freedom. Even if policies separate from those provided by employers are issued to cover contraception and abortifacient drugs, as the new regulations allow, these policies are still tied closely with employees’ plans and thus compromise Notre Dame’s ability to witness against the use of these products. It is as if Tony sought to assuage Patrick by reconstructing his sin section as a tiny hut one foot away from his grocery store.

The mandate’s interference with the freedom of Notre Dame and others to witness to the truths of their faith enhances the case against it far beyond the problem that material cooperation expresses. That is, even if we were to grant for the sake of argument that the algorithms of cooperation with evil yield up an ambiguous moral conclusion, it remains the case that the HHS mandate violates religious freedom in the far more fundamental sense—namely the right of religious organizations to perform what is most important and distinctive about their religious mission. This consideration, I believe, puts the debate about the HHS mandate over the top on the side of Notre Dame and its fellow critics.

Daniel Philpott is Associate Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and a scholar with the Religious Freedom Project of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University. This piece is a revised version of one that was commissioned and originally posted by the Religious Freedom Project and can be found here.

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Kermit Gosnell considers himself a ‘martyr’: Gosnell filmmakers

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By Ben Johnson

HUNGTINGDON, PA, May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Spending life in prison without parole for murdering several newborn babies, Kermit Gosnell spends his days listening to music and thinking of himself as a “martyr,” according to the makers of the forthcoming Kermit Gosnell film.

Producers Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney, and Magdalena Segeida interviewed Gosnell for hours at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania – and they came away saying the doctor is remorseless, self-pitying, and enjoying far more liberty than they thought would be granted to a mass murderer.

The producers visited the central Pennsylvania penitentiary and spoke to the the late-term abortionist up-close – a little too close, they say. McElhinney said Gosnell sat uncomfortably close to her throughout the multihour session.

“We have just come back from Pennsylvania where we were the first journalists to sit down in prison to interview Gosnell,” the producers said in a mass email to their supporters. “The two hours we spent interviewing the former abortion doctor were two of the most disturbing hours of our journalistic careers.”

“The interview was one of the creepiest we have ever conducted,” the mass email continued.

Gosnell, they recounted, “is thought to have murdered hundreds if not thousands of babies in a 30 year killing spree.” Yet he has access to music, a subject he discussed at length. At one point, McElhinney said, Gosnell burst out into song.

Ann McElhinney told The Daily Signal, “I’m amazed at how pleasant his life is, the freedoms he has.”

Far from having repented of his crimes, Gosnell continues to justify his actions, they said.

“In his own version of the story, he’s a martyr – he’s part of a hounded class,” McElhinney said.

That assessment corroborates the views of others who interviewed the onetime proprietor of the “house of horrors,” where newborn babies had their spines severed, untrained staff administered fatal doses of drugs to poor women, and aborted fetal remains were found stuffed into every available crevice.

In September 2013, Steve Volk interviewed Gosnell for Philadelphia Magazine. Gosnell, he wrote, “sees himself as having performed a noble function in society.”

"It's not as if he feels guilty about what he did,” Volk said. "He believes he was a soldier at war with poverty.”

By plying his trade in poverty-stricken West Philadelphia, in a majority minority neighborhood, Gosnell believed he helped reduce the city's low income population.

“In this larger spiritual sense, he believes he was performing a service for people,” Volk said.

After his conviction, Gosnell sought to work with Hillary Clinton's embattled charity, the Clinton Global Initiative or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on issues of "prison and justice reform.”

"He believes that he gained insight into what it's like to be pushed into the system, without the capacity to explain himself," Volk said.

Gosnell's self-confidence has seldom been questioned, from the dismissive way he treated police who searched his home – playing Chopin on the piano as they searched his flea-ridden basement – to the way he carried himself in court. Defense attorney Jack McMahon had also told reporters after the guilty verdict that the mass murderer “truly believes in himself.”

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The filmmakers, who have produced several right-of-center documentaries, plan to make a big budget, big screen film about Gosnell's life. They continue to raise funds for their efforts at GosnellMovie.com.

But they may need a breather after encountering Gosnell himself.

“I’m still recovering, actually,” McElhinney told the Signal.

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Josh Duggar apologizes, admits ‘wrongdoing’ as young teen amid molestation accusations; resigns from FRC

By John-Henry Westen

Editor's Note: This is a developing story.

Update (May 22 9:54 a.m.): The Family Research Council's statement has been added below.

May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In response to allegations in the media that he molested minor girls when he was in his early teens, Josh Duggar has admitted in a public statement that he acted "inexcusably" at the time, and has resigned from his position at the Family Research Council.

A 2006 police report leaked to the media states that Josh was investigated for sex offenses, including "forcible fondling" against five minors.

According to the report, the first allegations surfaced in March 2002, the same month he turned 14. At the time the family dealt with the allegations internally. A year later, however, when further allegations were made, the family sent Josh to work with a family friend for three months, after which his father took Josh to see a state trooper.

According to the report, the trooper gave Josh a "stern talk" about what would happen if he "continued such behavior," but no formal action was taken at the time.

The issue emerged again in 2006, after a family friend had written details about the allegations in letter and placed it in a book, which was subsequently loaned out. This resulted in a call being placed to a child abuse hotline, which in turn led to a formal investigation being opened. By this point, however, the statute of limitations had expired, and as there had been no new allegations or evidence that the abuse was ongoing, the case was dropped.

Although Josh was never charged, his now-wife, Anna, says that he confessed his actions to her and her parents two years before he asked her to marry him.

"I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions," he said in a statement today. "In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption."

Anna said she was "surprised" when Josh had voluntarily admitted what he had done to her and her parents two years before proposing to her. "I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it," she wrote today. "For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes."

"I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis," she added. "If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right."

LifeSiteNews is continuing to investigate this developing story. Following are the Duggar family’s statements responding to media reports about the incidents.

From Jim Bob and Michelle:

Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.

Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday.

It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.

From Josh:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. 

We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life.

I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.

From Anna:

I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock. It was not at the point of engagement, or after we were married - it was two years before Josh asked me to marry him.

When my family and I first visited the Duggar Home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it. For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes.

At that point and over the next two years, Josh shared how the counseling he received changed his life as he continued to do what he was taught. And when you, our sweet fans, first met me when Josh asked me to marry him... I was able to say, "Yes" knowing who Josh really is - someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended. Someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right.

I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis. Your investment changed his life from going down the wrong path to doing what is right. If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right. Thank you to all of you who tirelessly work with children in crisis, you are changing lives and I am forever grateful for all of you.

Family Research Council statement:

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement regarding the resignation of Josh Duggar:

"Today Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years.

"Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work.  We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time.  We will be praying for everyone involved," concluded Perkins.

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Albert Heringa's sense of duty ‘justly’ carried more weight than the legal prohibition of the act, the Dutch appeals court said. VARA video screenshot
Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

Dutch court acquits man who euthanized his mother after doctor refused

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits

May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- A Dutch appeals court acquitted a 74-year-old man earlier this month of the murder of his mother in 2008, because he acted in an “emergency situation”: the woman wanted euthanasia and had not obtained it from her family doctor.

The decision is a surprising one, even in the Netherlands, and will probably be followed by an appeal from the public prosecutor, who has already published a communiqué reminding the public that euthanasia and assisted suicide “are and remain, in the eyes of the prosecutor, exclusively to be performed by a doctor.”

As it stands, the decision marks a new step down the slippery slope of euthanasia. The decision justifies an act of euthanasia contrary to the letter of the law on the grounds that the accused, Albert Heringa, was careful to act in compliance with the law’s provisions.

Albert Heringa acted in accordance with his conscience of his own duty and he was right to do so, ruled the Arnhem-Leeuwarden appeals court, because his sense of duty “justly” carried more weight than the legal prohibition of the act, which in theory can only be decriminalized when performed by a medical doctor under strict conditions.

The accused said he was “very happy” about the decision. The Netherlands Right to Die Society (NVVE) hailed it as “a step in the direction we want to follow.” “Many people who consider their life complete wish to be helped by loved ones,” said its spokeswoman, Fiona Zonneveld.

The judges did not take into account the fact that Albert Heringa’s mother, “Moek,” was deemed ineligible for euthanasia by her doctor.

In 2008, Moek was 99. She had no grave illness; she was just old and blind and did not feel like living any longer, calling her suffering “unbearable” and “without hope of improvement.” When her doctor refused euthanasia on those grounds, she turned to her son who decided to help his mother die.

He was later to explain that his mother started hoarding her medication in order to kill herself through an overdose. The pills she was taking would not have been able to bring about her death, he argued, but would have made her health much worse. This was confirmed during the subsequent judicial enquiry.

Heringa decided to go to work “transparently,” filming his every gesture in view of the killing of his mother. He used an overdose of his own malaria pills together with sleeping pills and anti-emetics to poison her. The films were later used to illustrate a documentary on “Moek’s last wish,” which was aired in 2010 on Dutch TV. The appeals court judges took this “transparency” into account in their decision to acquit him.

The public prosecution was not so lax. Despite the “rectitude” of Heringa’s intention, it accused the man of not having acted in compliance with the law. In 2013, he was judged guilty but exempted from punishment. The prosecution appealed that decision, demanding a three months suspended prison sentence in order to underscore the illegality of his actions. But the Arnhem-Leeuwarden appeals court went even further than the first judges in exonerating him completely.

They invoked the euthanasia law, which decriminalizes euthanasia when no other “reasonable solution” is available to alleviate a patient’s suffering and thus avoid euthanasia, but in this case they equated the potential “reasonable solution” with the ability to find a doctor who would be willing to perform the act, as if euthanasia were a patient right. Heringa could not find one, therefore he was justified in taking the law in his own hands, the judgment says in substance.

This marks a double revolution. Firstly, the court overlooked the legal requirement that a doctor should perform euthanasia, and no one else. Secondly, it justified euthanasia on a woman who was simply “tired of living,” a situation for which the euthanasia law definitely does not provide.

But this is just another element of the Pandora’s box that was opened when the Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002. Increasingly, regional control commissions, which verify all declared acts of euthanasia retrospectively, have cleared “mercy-killings” of elderly people who had multiple complaints but no single life-threatening disease. “Intolerable suffering” is being interpreted more and more widely. In Heringa’s case, it is simply his mother’s plea for euthanasia that justified the act in the eyes of the court.

The court even went so far as to say that Heringa would have had to live with a “sense of guilt until the end of his life” had he not taken measures to end his mother’s life.

In 2011, the Dutch medical association KNMG changed its position on “intolerable suffering,” declaring that “unbearable and hopeless” suffering can result from other causes than physical illness. Also, the End of Life Clinic founded in 2012 caters to euthanasia requests that have been refused by patients’ family doctors on conscientious or medical grounds. Would Heringa have found a doctor willing to perform euthanasia on his mother in this new situation?

Whatever the answer to that question – and no one will ever know – the fact of his acquittal is a definite sign that euthanasia is being treated more and more as a right and an acceptable option in the Netherlands. It is also good news for unscrupulous family members who might find it expedient to push their relatives towards the grave.

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