Vice President Joe Biden stepped into a confessional and knelt.
“Hey, Father, how you doing?” he said to the priest.
“Well, Joseph, not so well of late. There is great concern among the religious community about actions the Obama administration has taken as part of ObamaCare.”
“What are you talking about, Father?”
“Joseph, earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation, directed by ObamaCare, that requires all non-church religious institutions, such as hospitals and schools, to provide employee health insurance that includes contraception, sterilization and abortifacients.”
“But we fixed that one, Father. Rather than make religious employers pay for these things directly, we told the insurance companies they had to provide these things free!”
“And you really think insurers are able to provide these things free, Joseph? They will not. The costs of contraception, sterilization and abortifacients will ultimately be rolled into the insurance premiums that religious organizations will pay — which is tantamount to providing financial support for things such as abortion — and religious institutions cannot morally accept your ‘fix.’”
“Ah, c’mon, Father. You act like there is an assault on the Catholic church. I made it absolutely clear during my debate when I said that ‘no religious institution — Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital — has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.’”
“But you have your ‘facts’ wrong, Joseph. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a letter that rebukes your statements completely. The letter says, ‘The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to ‘Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital or any hospital,’ or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.”
“That’s a bunch of malarkey, Father. The bishops have no problem with us!”
“You aren’t paying attention, Joseph, so let me be clear: The Catholic church cannot and will not pay for a government-mandated insurance policy that funds and enables actions that violate our religious beliefs — yet that is exactly what the government is now forcing us to do. And that is why there are more than 40 lawsuits, brought on behalf of Catholic bishops and other religious organizations, to stop you.”
“Lawsuits, Father? Well, that’s news to me.”
“Perhaps this is also news to you, Joseph: This matter is about much more than the right of a female student at a Catholic university to have contraception covered by her university-provided health insurance policy. It is about simple freedom, Joseph.”
“I’m not following, Father.”
“This country was founded on the concept of freedom, including religious freedom. Religious freedom was the reason the Pilgrims came to America from England. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees such freedom: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
“So what is your point, Father?”
“Joseph, by using the might of the federal government to tell religious organizations what insurance products they must purchase for their employees, hasn’t the government created a law that is prohibiting their free exercise of religion?”
“Ah, heck, father, all we’re trying to do is make insurers cover the cost of birth control.”
“It is a winning position for a politician to take, Joseph, but surely you understand that this issue as not as simple as you make it out to be. The truth of the matter is that you either misspoke or deliberately misled people during your debate. I assume you entered this confessional to confess?”
“Not at all, Father. I had to go to the bathroom and thought this was the john.”
Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood,” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Email Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.