- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2000


When George W. Bush spoke at Bob Jones University during the Republican primaries earlier this year, Democrats were quick to criticize him for speaking at an institution that they claim foists "hate-filled, racist and anti-Catholic views upon its students." When House Speaker Dennis Hastert picked a Protestant rather than a Roman Catholic to serve as the chamber's chaplain, (with support from many Democrats by the way) House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt exploited the controversy "to prove the GOP has a strong anti-Catholic streak," Roll Call reported.
So where are all the Democrats, self-appointed guardians of the Roman Catholic faith, now that the Democrat-dominated D.C. City Council is trying to foist anti-Catholic practices on the church itself? Why, doing their best to look the other way.
At issue is the council's unanimous passage of legislation requiring employers in the District whose health insurance plans cover prescription drugs to cover the cost of prescribed contraceptives too. That mandate covers so-called morning-after pills or abortifacients. The church's position on contraception and abortion could not be clearer. It opposes both. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, however, is a major District employer; Providence Hospital, a Catholic institution, alone employs 1,900 people. By law, then, the archdiocese would have to offer coverage for contraceptives in violation of its tenets and its conscience.
Almost certainly, the council's social and religious engineering won't end there. Councilman Jim Graham, a homosexual who brags that he has been fighting "church dogma" for years, backed the contraceptive mandate and promises that he will offer legislation requiring insurance coverage for "domestic," same-sex partners. Given that the church regards homosexuality as a sin, subsidizing such arrangements would render the church guilty too.
"What we are fighting," the Most Rev. William E. Lori, auxiliary bishop of Washington, said in a blunt message to parishes in the diocese last Sunday, is " 'health care totalitarianism' whereby the government makes all health care decisions and forces its will on religious organizations. That's bad for the Church, but it's bad for democracy too."
The usual way of handling problems like this is to provide a "conscience clause" that would allow religiously affiliated institutions an exemption from requirements contrary to church beliefs. The D.C. Council considered several proposed conscience clauses, but declined to approve any of them. So Rep. Ernest Istook, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee for the District, has included in pending legislation a provision requiring the District to include a conscience clause. The measure passed the full Appropriations Committee yesterday, and is scheduled for a vote in the full House as early as next week.
One hopes House Democrats will back inclusion of the conscience clause, lest someone suggest they have a "strong anti-Catholic streak." Democrats, not Republicans, made it a campaign issue. Now they must cope with it.

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