In the movie Big Jake (1971), John Wayne plays Jacob McCandles, a storied gunman who happens upon a lynching. Unnoticed by the mob, McCandles reaches for his rifle, draws a bead on the action, pauses, then lowers his rifle.

Recalling an earlier event in his checkered past that almost cost his life, Big Jake decides to move on and not get involved. Just then, the leader kicks a young boy and, in our cue there’s gonna be trouble, Jake winces, muttering, “Now what’d he have to go and do that for?”

I had the same reaction months ago when the Obama administration delivered a body blow to the Catholic Church in the form of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) mandate.

When I heard that the rule required employers, regardless of religious convictions, to provide contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and abortion-inducing drugs free of charge to female employees through company insurance plans, I thought, “Now what’d they have to go and do that for?” Politically, altruistically, economically, medically, and constitutionally, it made no sense.

Why, why, why?

Politically, Catholics make up one fourth of the electorate and, by a majority, supported the winning candidate (including Obama) in nine of the past 10 presidential elections. Why risk alienating a significant group in your base, along with others in liberal precincts who oppose the mandate’s encroachment on personal liberty?

Altruistically, the Catholic Church is one of the largest and most effective social service providers in the country. Why risk punishing the poor and needy by forcing it out of business? From past showdowns with the state, the Catholic Church has made its position clear: When faced with obeying God or obeying man, the Church will give Caesar what is due him, but no more. If the state sticks with its position, the predictable outcome (again) will be the unnecessary disruption of services to those who need them most.

Economically, women already have ample access to low-cost and often free contraceptives through community clinics and discount stores like Wal-Mart. Why coerce employers to provide them free of charge? Besides, they won’t really be free, hidden in the cost of increased insurance premiums.

Medically, how is this a women’s health issue as supporters insist? Did I miss the announcement by the AMA that fertility is a disease? If so, what about men? If women need free cervical caps and tubectomies for their health, don’t men need free condoms and vasectomies for theirs?

Then again, if the real concern is health, why not target the biggest health issue in America, obesity, by requiring insurance plans to provide personal trainers and memberships in the YMCA and Weight Watchers to employees of both sexes, free of charge?

Constitutionally, the free exercise of religion enshrined in the U.S. Bill of Rights presupposes the freedom of conscience recognized by the international community in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So why pick a fight, fraught with constitutional difficulties, especially in an election year when jobs and the economy are foremost on the minds of voting Americans?

From every angle I considered, the HHS mandate was a senseless, heavy-handed action that served the interests of no one, including the Administration.

Then again...  Continue reading here.

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