The left continually tries to reassure us that its demands are reasonable and that those who are alarmed about them are Chicken Littles.
One wonders after a while why anyone on the right or even in the center believes them anymore. The bait and switch is so transparent. Why do they even bother?
In Canada and the EU, this bait and switch has more than once taken the form of phony religious exemptions from morally questionable laws. Even on their face such exemptions aren't really very comforting, because even if they were what they pretended to be, they wouldn't apply to moral traditionalists who have objections that are not specifically based on religion. And such exceptions are not even thought to apply to individual religious businessmen, only to expressly religious organizations.
But it's really worse than that, as we now begin to see here in the U.S. Herewith, two examples of phony religious exemptions even for expressly religious organizations:
In Illinois, a new civil union law has been passed. Just to make it clear to all those stupid right-wing alarmists that no attack on religious freedom was intended, this homosexual-rights law was named the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. And if any of those hesitating Congressmen retained any doubts about the religious protections in the law, we have the following exchange from the floor of the Illinois State Congress:
Haine: "'Nothing in this Act shall interfere or regulate with (sic) the religious practice of any religious body.' Any religious body is free to choose whether or not to solemnize or officiate civil unions. Now, I take it from your comments that the intent of this bill is not to make that one item but two separate intents: the solemnization of civil unions is one sphere; the second sphere is religious practice, which includes a wide variety of things. Is that correct?"
Koehler: "Yes, that is correct."
Haine: "So, we should not read them together as just referring to the act of solemnization of a civil union, right?"
Koehler: "If I understand your question correctly, yes."
Haine: "Therefore, and this is part of the intent, this has been the worry of these institutions of faith of all denominations, Christian and Jewish. Go to their various agencies providing social services...adoption agencies, a wide gamut of things--so that's covered under the first sentence (of the civil union act)?"
Koehler: "Yes. The intent is not to at all impede the rights religious organizations have to carry out their duties and religious activities."
This expressly addresses social services and their potentially "discriminatory" actions and the protection thereof.
Enter the case of Catholic Charities Illinois, a name that should go down in the minds of conservatives along with Catholic Charities in Boston, and for a similar reason. Despite the religious exemption in the law and despite the above floor exchange, this spring the Illinois Attorney General's office issued a statement that the charity does not comply with the law! Why? Because it "discriminates" against homosexual couples in placing children for adoption.
Moving smoothly into action, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services picked right up on this declaration from the Attorney General's office and told Catholic Charities that their contract with the state to place children for adoption is terminated because of their alleged violation of the new law.
Recently a judge has ruled that DCFS can refuse to contract with anyone for any reason, so (apparently) it doesn't really matter that DCFS's rationale for terminating the contract is based on an interpretation of the law that flies in the face of the law's legislative history. Presumably if someone actually tries to bring direct penalties (whatever the law allows for--fines?) against Catholic Charities for its past "discrimination," that issue will have to be addressed. But as long as the punishment merely takes the form of canceling a contract with the state, the state can say anything it pleases about the meaning of the law, and the courts will coyly refuse to comment on the legal merits of their argument. Clever, huh?
Pay no attention to that totalitarian behind the curtain. And pass those "rights" laws quickly, relying on protections for "religious exemptions."
Then there's the case of the HHS. New HHS regulations require insurance plans to pay for both contraception (including "morning-after" pills) and sterilization without co-pays. A phony "religious exemption" allows "religious" employers not to cover these services, but only if they primarily serve only members of their own religion! Obviously, Catholic social services are going to be the hardest-hit by these regulations, and equally obviously, Catholic social services do not primarily serve only members of their own religion. I can't help agreeing with Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, who says, "Health and Human Services must think Catholics and other religious groups are fools." Then again, that depends on who is supposed to be fooled by this "religious exemption." Perhaps only the larger public is its intended audience, not serious Catholics or others concerned about the religious freedom of Catholic organizations.
I note: This is a requirement. In other words, these insurance plans can't legally exist if they don't do what HHS says. This isn't only going to be a matter, as in the case of the Illinois DCFS, of withholding some state contract. Presumably there are penalties for entities that "illegally" continue to supply insurance to their employees while not following the diktats of The Secretary. Welcome to the world of federal takeover of healthcare.
The rest of us are still waiting to see whether Catholic organizations comply with these regulations. I hope they hunker down and fight a legal battle royal instead.
Meanwhile, the point regarding "religious exemptions" is timely. Let's not forget that the New York State Congress, shamefully led by Republicans, recently passed a homosexual "marriage" law. And what pacified some of these Republicans? "Religious exemptions" in the law. As already noted, even if such exemptions were what they purport to be, they would cover neither individual religious people nor non-religious traditionalists. But the bait and switch doesn't stop there.
All over the Western world, people are clinging to religious exemptions as the last refuge of common sense from left-wing totalitarianism. Message to lawmakers in the allegedly more conservative parties: It's all a lie. Don't be taken in. Just say no.
Update: A reader points out (with unsuccessful intent to imply that my entire post is misleading) that the initial letter by the Attorney General referred to an earlier Illinois law, the Illinois Human Rights Act. This appears to be true, and I am glad to correct the record. However, as I note in the comments, according to the story I link above, the DCFS head expressly said that he was withdrawing the contract from Catholic Charities because they did not intend to comply with the new Civil Unions (and "religious freedom") act. Moreover, Catholic Charities states that the older Human Rights act also contains religious exemptions. So both my points stand--namely, the bait and switch of religious exemptions and the relevance of the floor discussion of the Civil Unions Act.