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EDITORIAL: Obamacare slouches into bad taste

Appeals court halts a sordid advertising campaign

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The government is looking for the panic button. The Obamacare administrators are desperate for customers, and they're turning to the squalid and the sordid to sell the government health care scheme nobody wants. The "Thanks, Obamacare" advertising campaign, for example, depicts a woman standing next to a scruffy man who needs a bath, giving him a thumbs up with one hand and offering pills with the other. "OMG, he's hot," she says. "Let's hope he's as easy to get as this birth control."

There's a "brosurance" advert — "insurance for the brother," get it? — featuring an upside-down fraternity brother doing what fraternity brothers do best, guzzling beer. "Keg stands are crazy," the copy reads. Obamacare proves it's an equal-opportunity irresponsible lout.

These ads reveal how President Obama isn't about "reforming" health care so much as reshaping the much abused culture. Nearly everybody has noticed. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday cited Obamacare's intentional destruction of religious freedom as "unsound and extraordinary."

The owners of two family businesses, K&L Contractors and Grote Industries, sued the Department of Health and Human Services to seek relief from an order requiring them to violate their religious beliefs.

The department ordered fines of $36,500 per employee per year until they provide health insurance with birth-control devices, access to sterilization and abortion services. Company owners with a moral opposition to the policy might be tempted to eliminate all coverage of employees, but in that event, the company would be fined $2,000 for every worker every year. Additional sanctions from the Department of Labor could follow.

K&L Contractors employs 90 workers and faces $730,000 in annual fines. Grote Industries, which makes vehicle safety systems, employs 1,148 workers and would be liable for a $17 million penalty every year. But such penalties aren't just for large employers. A two-man travel agency would have to pay $73,000 in annual fines if the small-business insurance policy isn't endorsed by Planned Parenthood.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her lawyers insist that business owners have no choice but to subsidize keg stands and birth control because corporations aren't religious organizations, like a church or a synagogue. The administration argues that for-profit corporations have no rights to present a moral objection.

"A corporation is just a special form of organizational association," Judge Diane S. Sykes wrote for the appeals court majority. "No one doubts that organizational associations can engage in religious practice." The panel observed that the government must have a good reason to require an association to join in what the directors of the association believe to be a grave moral wrong.

After listening to arguments and going over mountains of legal briefs, it became clear to the court that the Obama administration had not articulated a legally justifiable reason for imposing the mandate. The administration could, for instance, have paid for the controversial services with its own subsidy, rather than forcing individuals and companies to become complicit. "The government has no real response to this argument," said Judge Sykes. "It has not made any effort to explain how the contraception mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering its stated goals of promoting public health and gender equality."

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Sebelius have no answer; they seem to be far less interested in public health than in fundamentally transforming the country. Forcing political opponents to compromise deeply held beliefs is an effective way to demoralize those who, as Mr. Obama once described them, "cling to guns or religion."

The 7th Circuit Court issued a preliminary injunction that halts the administration's plan, at least for now. Ultimately, the issue will return to the Supreme Court where Chief Justice John Roberts, who saved Obamacare once, will have a chance to do the right thing, and do what the Constitution requires.

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