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Gazette Premium Content EDITORIAL: Religious liberty must trump Obamacare

The Gazette editorial Updated: January 7, 2014 at 4:32 pm

President Obama, leave the selfless, charitable Catholic nuns alone. Grant Little Sisters of the Poor the same relief you've given big business and special interests that weren't ready to accept the mandates of your signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The nuns do not merely believe. They live their beliefs. Their religion guides what they eat, what they sing, how long they pray and who they associate with financially.

To live their faith means to reject an Affordable Care Act mandate they believe ties them, even by extension, to a federally controlled insurance policy that pays for abortions and contraceptives—each of which is strictly prohibited by their church. For the moment, they've been spared the Obamacare mandate by a temporary stay issued Dec. 31 by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, also a Catholic.

The Great Divider's new health care law surely ranks among history's most embarrassing policy debacles. Day after day we hear how it makes health insurance less affordable and accessible, even among those who were previously well insured. It can be viewed as a veritable tax-war on young adults, who are demanded to pay exorbitant amounts for policies with deductibles so high the premiums mostly subsidize an older generation that has already buried young people with debt.

The health care law was sold as government benevolence. It would make health insurance affordable and accessible to all. Despite good intentions, the law hasn't been charitable in the least to a majority of Americans.

Little Sister of the Poor, which came to America from France, epitomizes good charity. The Denver chapter has run the Mullen Home for the Aged for 95 years. The sisters give thanks for their "privilege" of serving some of the neediest elderly individuals among us.

The mission of the nuns: "To offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family, and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself."

If any organization knows how to provide affordable care, it's Little Sisters of the Poor. They are an asset to the country and we are fortunate to have one of their care facilities in Colorado.

Advocates of federalized health care often talk about other countries. France, England, Canada, and more. Most of the developed world has some form of socialized medicine, they explain, so we should do the same.

But this country wasn't founded to replicate policies of others. It hasn't flourished trying to be more like England and France. Quite the contrary, this country was founded to protect liberties that cannot exist in conjunction with excessive federal intrusion into our daily lives. For most of 237 years, the United States has been a place in which individuals and their families have been free to fail or succeed. The best health care has gone to those with the most ability to pay. Above-average health care, by world standards, has gone to those with no ability to pay. In part, that's because of charities such as Little Sisters of the Poor.

Mostly, this country was founded to defend a free market of religious beliefs. Religious convictions, protected by countless Americans who have died in battles, are the reason so many nuns take vows of poverty and devote their lives to enjoying the privilege of serving others. Our country is full of similar charities, which have migrated here from countries less tolerant and supportive of their lifestyles. We don't need a health care law suppressing religious liberty, even a little.

"I understand that legal issues in these cases will ultimately be settled by the Supreme Court," wrote Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Joseph E. Kurze in a Dec. 31 letter to President Obama on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "In the meantime, however, many religious employers have not obtained the temporary relief they need in time to avoid being subjected to the HHS mandate beginning January 1. I urge you, therefore, to consider offering temporary relief from this mandate, as you have for so many other individuals and groups facing other requirements under the ACA."

It's good advice, Mr. President. Respect religious liberties, which are more important than overpriced health insurance, and prevent more embarrassing fallout from a law that looks worse by the day.

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