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We Get Mail (UPDATED)

9 Feb
I received the following from the Erie County Republican Party. Apparently, there isn’t a culture war the Republicans don’t like losing. Again and again. (UPDATE: A New York State mandate dating to 2002 already requires the Catholic Church to provide contraception services to their employees. The Church sued to be exempted from that mandate, and lost.)
 
Local Catholic Republicans Call Upon Hochul and Higgins to
Oppose Obama’s Big- Government Policies That Violate Religious Liberties
 

Buffalo, NY – Several Catholic Erie County Republicans Leaders have called upon the local Congressional delegation to oppose the Obama Administrations decision to require all employers, including the Catholic Church, to provide health insurance coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. By choosing not to comply with this decision that interferes with their beliefs, the move would shut off millions of dollars in funding for Catholic charitable organizations that provide help to struggling families, the sick and elderly and other needy Americans who benefit from their good works.

There’s a poignant irony at play when the Republican Party – which has for the last 20+ years aligned itself and promoted in its platform the inclusion of religion in government and civic life – complains that the government is interfering with religion. (Something about having cake & eating it, too.) A requirement that a business and employer – such as the Catholic Church – must provide the same health insurance as any other employer is not infringing on religious freedoms. After all, assuming the Catholic Church is immune from anti-discrimination statutes and only employs members of the Catholic Church (an untrue assumption), the question of whether contraception or abortion services will be used by those employees is completely moot. Right? Because we all know that Catholics don’t use birth control, don’t have abortions, don’t get divorced, and faithfully obey all of the Church’s rules.  
 

Everyone loves to be lectured by Nancy Naples!

While this topic has forced President Obama and his political machine into damage control, several local leaders have noted the silence of Congressman Brian Higgins and Congresswoman Kathy Hochul.  We have already seen Democrats who were defeated because of their government healthcare takeover vote come out and say that they “ Wouldn’t have voted for ObamaCare had I known Obama Administration to force Catholic hospitals and Catholic Colleges and Universities to pay for contraception…”
Interesting, since Hochul wasn’t around to vote for Obamacare.  Certainly the line between civil government and religious faith is a difficult one to walk, especially in a predominately Catholic place like Buffalo. The fundamental question, though, comes down to whether the electorate thinks that women should have access to contraception or not. This is a battle that has long been won on the side of women and I’m tickled to see the Republicans using it as so blatant a political football.
 
Remember that this regulation doesn’t force the Catholic Church, which has a longstanding and principled anti-choice stance on abortion, to do anything with respect to abortion. But if you want to make sure society has more abortions, more often, then start taking away women’s birth control. The government is not, e.g., forcing Catholic Health to perform abortions or give out the pill. It’s not compelling the Church to do anything but provide its female employees with the ability to obtain copay-free contraception, if they so desire
 
I mean, thank God we have prominent Catholic females like Emilio Colaicovo and Dennis Vacco standing up for equal rights, right?  Because this isn’t about whether Obamacare is forcing the church to hand out the pill during Communion, as this GOP release would have you think.  This is about a longstanding Republican war on female sexuality, and on sex itself – one that they lost long ago, and have now found a faith-based ally to help them try and score political points in the era of the reactionary so-called “tea party.”
 
The argument they’re trying to frame is a Constitutional one based in the freedom to practice religion freely, but there’s also a Constitutional provision called the “Equal Protection Clause” within the 14th Amendment, as well a long-established right to personal privacy in matters relating to sexuality.  A rule requiring the Catholic Church to provide health coverage for its female employees that includes contraceptive and other sex-related services doesn’t prohibit the Church from continuing its longstanding prohibition on all non-procreative sex. 
 
The truth, of course, is that Catholic institutions don’t exclusively employ Catholics. Catholic Universities, for instance, hire loads of people from all faiths and backgrounds. Why should, for instance, a Jewish female professor at Canisius be forced by her employer to have no free access to reproductive medical services and medications? Does Canisius have the right to hover over their employees and ensure that they spend their paychecks only on Church-approved items? 
 
The Erie County GOP isn’t concerned about that, though. They’re not interested in a compromise, such as the one the Obama Administration is attempting to reach with these Churches (a simple way out of this would be to give individual employees the right to opt-in for reproductive services on their own initiative – that it would be available to them, but not by default). 
“While Mrs. Hochul and Mr. Higgins can be found often in front of any camera, why haven’t we heard from them on this issue?  Why do they refuse to stand on the side of decency and our faith,” questioned Emilio Colaiacovo, Counsel to the Erie County Republican Committee.  “It would appear that Congressman Higgins and Congresswoman Hochul stand with Nancy Pelosi who favors abortion on demand and other policies that violate the conscience of Catholics across the country,” added Colaiacovo.
Well, yeah. Duh. Higgins and Hochul are pro-choice. They’re also pro-contraception. Hell, Higgins voted to expand stem cell research to cure disease.  This is a surprise requiring a quote from the Republican Party’s local lawyer? What does abortion have to do with this? What does Nancy Pelosi have to do with this (apart from the fact that, as a female Californian with an ethnic name, they misogynistically demonize her even when completely beside any reasonable point.)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, after first promising not to do so, have mislead  American Catholics by requiring the Church, and its institutions, to provide services that violate the conscience and the teachings of the Church.  And this is just the beginning. What’s next? What else didn’t the President and Congress tell us was in this bill?
Did you not read it? Do you need it read to you, like a very long but slightly less boring version of “Goodnight Moon”?
“This is a serious violation of the most fundamental of all rights – the freedom of religious liberty,” said Dennis Vacco, the former New York State Attorney General.  “I urge Kathy and Brian to stand with Church leaders and parishioners who find this to be an unconscionable intrusion on our first Amendment liberties,” concluded Vacco.
Not really, Mr. Vacco. The law doesn’t compel the Church to hand out the pill. It merely requires you to make contraception available to your employees through your health insurance plan.  And 98% of American women have used contraception at least once. Including Catholic women
Congressman Higgins and Congresswoman Hochul are both seeking re-election in districts that are heavily Catholic.
Yes, they are. (Hey, wasn’t the GOP all upset about how, e.g., the #Occupy movement was dividing Americans? Proposing the legislative division of Americans based on their faith would to me seem even more unfair, if not downright unconstitutional). 
“The Catholic Church provides, through its own generosity, food and shelter for the poor, medicine for the sick, education for our children, and other services for the families of our community.  It is unthinkable that Congressman Higgins and Congresswoman Hochul are more interested in party politics instead of standing up for their own faith and what is just and right,”  stated Nancy Naples, former Erie County Comptroller.  “We deserve to hear from our local Congressional delegation whether they stand with our faith community or with President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Washington interests that have ignored Western New York for far too long,” concluded Naples.
What is unconscionable and unthinkable is that Nancy Naples, who as County Comptroller presided over an epic fiscal meltdown of County Finances less than a decade ago isn’t ashamed and embarrassed to poke her head up and bluster about anything at all, but especially to politicize faith and birth control.  This isn’t about Washington interests – this isn’t about whether Nancy Pelosi gets access to the pill. This is about the interests of women
Local Catholic Republicans will continue to raise this issue until Congressman Higgins and Congresswoman Hochul advise local Catholics whether they stand with them or with Washington.
That’s incorrectly written. It should read: 
 
Local Catholic women will continue to raise this issue until Congressman Higgins and Congresswoman Hochul advise local Catholics whether they stand with a Church patriarchy or with women