Behold: when a republic slides into tyranny

Ben Franklin“A republic, if you can keep it,” Ben Franklin famously responded when asked what sort of government they had just set up at the Constitutional convention in 1787.

A republic means the people rule through their elected representatives. Laws are written in the deliberative bodies of Congress. Laws are enforced by the President and the necessary officers of the executive branch. Laws are interpreted by the judiciary.

A republic does not mean unelected bureaucrats get to tinker with laws to see how much liberty they can snatch away before the courts stop them.

And yet, that is exactly what is happening with the HHS mandate. The mandate was written under the authority of Obamacare, which Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid passed with a shocking dearth of actual policy details for what all those new agencies and panels should do. That was by design—they had to keep the details vague lest the law be even more unpopular and even the ugly, underhanded trick they used to jam it through be unavailable. No worries: they left all those details to the HHS to write. Spectacular.

The original mandate, announced last fall and made law in February of this year, dictates that all health insurance plans must cover abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures, and contraceptives. The mandate was met with such a backlash from anyone who cares about religious liberty that the Obama administration came as close as it ever has to admitting a mistake—they issued what they considered a rather good compromise.

Of course, the compromise and later “accommodation” essentially amounted to, in Cardinal Dolan’s excellent phrasing, “giving us a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.” In other words, they delayed the full flowering of the problem without uprooting it.

Lawsuits were filed, including by my employer, Franciscan University of Steubenville. The administration, naturally, does not want this thing to be litigated, so rather than argue the merits of the case they have filed motions to have the cases tossed out of court.

They claim two things primarily: Firstly that the lawsuits do not at present have merit because thus far the mandate has not gone into effect for the plaintiffs, so no actual injury has been incurred. I heard one person describe this argument as the administration basically saying, “hey, sure you’re walking through a minefield, but it isn’t like you’ve gone ‘BOOM!’ yet!” Further, the University of Notre Dame, who filed a lawsuit similar to that filed by Franciscan University and 41 other Catholic institutions on May 21, has claimed immediate harm from the HHS mandate, which, if the judge agrees, puts the lie to this argument by the administration. Secondarily the administration claims that the lawsuits are inappropriate because they have issued and will issue further accommodations.

Indeed, the administration has made a succession of small adjustments to the mandate—adjustments that have caused a couple of the lawsuits to be tossed, in particular those by Belmont Abbey College and Wheaton College.

And that, folks, is the crux of the matter.

A few officials in the White House and the HHS wrote rules in accordance with the hard-left ideology they cherish concerning “women’s reproductive health” (a horrid euphemism for the anti-human practices it encompasses). These officials did not debate the laws in Congress or any other open forum; they did not hold a vote on them available for public scrutiny; and these officials are not subject to voters and reelection. They simply wrote this law which ignores the conscience rights of millions of Americans because they wanted to. But then it gets worse.

Now that the rule is being credibly challenged in court by more than a dozen separate lawsuits filed by some of the most powerful law firms and dedicated defense funds on behalf of 50 or so of the nation’s most recognizable Catholic and other Christian institutions they are simply tweaking the rule on the fringes in various ways to try to appease the plaintiffs, or at least find the magic combination of words that will get the judges to toss the various lawsuits. But since there is more than one lawsuit in more than one court making slightly different arguments, the administration peeps have to continuously make changes to the law based on the different scenarios. A patchwork of tweaks and accommodations.

Folks, this is not the commissioner of your fantasy football league unilaterally changing the way trades are approved during the season—this is the federal government curtailing one of our foundational liberties, severely and brazenly, and then simply rewriting the law by executive fiat more than once to see how much it can get away with.

Executive fiat is not how a republic handles such a foundational liberty as the free exercise of religion. This is the behavior of a tyranny.



  • Charles

    A better sign of tyranny is the arbitrary treatment of public funds and grants. Of course, crony capitalism has been happening for many decades. And it has encouraged this development. However, we’re witnessing a new kind of evil that even dismisses the very needs of the people the public claims to be serving. This new evil dismisses the very idea of service. Instead they see public ‘service’ as an opportunity to install systems to grow and sustain their corrupt power, even to the point of ruining people’s lives to make them dependent upon your ‘services’.

    When the HHS that denies the second best provider, while two failing organizations were funded (human trafficking). When abortion clinics were given grants for providing non-abortion services (referrals for mammograms, blood tests, etc.) over comprehensive clinics where more substantive care can be offered. When various states’ best adoption providers had their licenses threatened to be revoked if they did not cater to the interests of members and key funders of a certain a political party. When states legalized and taxed marijuana, gambling and other vices to profit off people’s addictions.

  • Serena Rainey

    Anyone capable of calling sterility ‘reproductive health” would be capable of calling unilateral tyranny “compromise.” No surprises there. But a people who allow themselves to be steamrolled by such an administration have no sand left in which to draw lines. That is why we can’t back down. There is nowhere left to back to.
    We’ve tried fifty years of proving how easy we are to negotiate with, by giving ground, giving ground and giving ground; it’s consistently made our adversaries more aggressive. I’m relieved that we’re finally trying a different strategy.

  • Rich

    Tom – I doubt that you are the one to call anyone else’s information dubious.
    Your “facts” are hardly that, and you seem to be the worst of the Political hacks on CVA – (a wholly owned subsidiary of Romney, Inc.)
    You seem to think that you have a clever wit, but come across embarrassing mean, and, dare I say, stupid.
    Maybe if you tried writing about something that you actually researched, instead of poorly imitating some of the other CVA bloggers. At least they come across as having the convictions to return to the 15th Century, while you seem to be a little too much in adoration of yourself.
    It really matters little that you are the Web Keeper for Franciscan University, that set of tasks hardly makes you an expert on anything Catholic or the CVA offshoot of Political.
    Maybe you are just having a serious of Bad Days, but you may want to add a little fiber to your diet, as the bloating of ego and gaseous emission of your “facts” seem to be a bit of a pain to you.

    • Tom Crowe

      I can add nothing to Rich’s comment and do not wish to interfere with its sheer awesomeness. Behold…

      • GREG SMITH

        Dear Tom – Vererly again I say to thee that people who post comments which have no purpose other than insulting someone and contribute no information or analysis just take up space. I don’t believe you would be violating any standard of Christian charity if you just didn’t publish them. Pax tecum, Greg

        • rich

          Greg – Greeting and Peace from the Church Rebellious. If Tom held to the standard you advocate, than he could not write on here not make his snide remarks that he is “famous” for. I am sure that may be the attraction for you as well.
          Besides, what contribution of information of analysis did you offer here, other than to hint that I was not being a Charitable Christian.
          When the Catholic Faith is being insulted on the Website by people making all sorts of claims that have nothing to do with things Christian, there is no grace in treating the lies with respect. If you want to pretend that the GOP is the Catholic Answer, then do so, but do not defend this WebSite as anything of any importance. It is just a bunch of bloggers ranting and writing. I hope that you are smart enough to see through the deceit.
          Besides, comments he does not like receive the 100 dislikes in the publishing. It is as close to making sure their ideas are not challenged by fact or bothered by transparency.
          So, Greg, as this is a publicly accessed Website, using the name Catholic, I don’t think that you or anyone else should be in a position to dictate what should be censored.
          For you Penance, look up the Freedom of Speech and meditate on the fact that God gives you a brain to not have to believe all the crap through at you. The say a prayer that you can learn to LOVE your own enemies as you remove the splinters from their eyes.
          Peace and All Good.

          • GREG SMITH

            Dear Rich: To begin with, since the Church consists of all the baptized Catholics, I guess the “Church rebellious” is rebelling against itself. We, of course, should point out the errors of the hierarchy (i.e. Appointing Bishop Cordelone Archbishop of San Francisco,) but we need to remember that WE are the Church. Regarding your other points; 1) if you’d like to see what information and analysis I’ve tried to contribute, please run your cursor to the “search Catholic Vote” bar and enter my name. You’ll see that I’ve usually disagreed with the columnists here and, if I don’t have the record for most dislikes, I’m a strong contender. 2) Websites are “owned” by those who set them up. They are not subject to FCC Fairness Rules. Note that the “posting rules” prohibit “personally inflammatory” comments. This is pretty much standard of web sites. 3) As for the First Amendment, since I have an MA in Judicial Process and have lectured on it to Russian police officers, I know it pretty well. It simply doesn’t apply here. Pax tecum, Greg~~~~~~~~~~~

            PS TO TOM CROWE: A number of us a have concluded that someone out there has figured out how to manipulate the system i.e. over 100 dislikes over 15 minutes. Could I ask you to confer with Joshua and the others and consider disabling it? – Thanks.

          • Rich

            Thank you Greg for your response, and I will apologize for any offense you may have felt. But this site is so disgusting to hold the name Catholic and pretend that it has anything to do with Faith. It is pure political trash, and this Blogger has the craziest blogs. If there were a viable way to file a complaint that would have be heard my anyone with rational thought I would do so. Instead I provoke the dragon. Having already convinces one blogger to leave the sight because he chose to talk about his faith rather than continue in the company of the political hacks. When they make believe that what they say has anything to do with the Church, yes I will rebel and call them out. Now we both know that Blogging has not real journalist standards, and manipulation of facts is quite common in many Blogs, I just expect a higher degree of truth when one states quite openly that they are a part of the Church founded by the One who is the Truth. Ownership of the website may give anyone certain legal abilities, but the distance between what one can do and what they should has more to do with ethics. There was no need to try to impress me with your Masters Degree, or your lecturing to Russian Police. Congratulations on the work and I hope it makes you fulfilled. However, since there are not many Russian police reading this Blog, I was left a little confused. I will write it off as a need to assert yourself, but the need was never anything that I saw. Instead what is more impressive to me is your signing off with the true wish of Peace for me. I appreciate that and return it back. This member of the Church Rebellious will continue to fight the heresy of the Political “Church” of Thank you dear brother for your thoughtful words. I can see that you are also a member of the Church Rebellious. Keep strong.
            Blessings, Peace and All Good.

          • Tom Crowe

            See, Rich, there you go again: tossing out invective that says more about you than it does about this blog. And yet you wonder why I respond a little irascibly. You should start your own blog, call it something with your made-up “Church rebellious” moniker, and start producing and promoting your own ideas.

          • Tom Crowe

            P.S. — Should you start your blog, I promise not to stop by and argue with you.

          • Tom Crowe

            Wait, Rich, *you* wrote that inane comment and *I’m* the bad guy here for merely calling attention to it? How does that work out? You might note that my comments are, I would estimate, 85% substantive, with pointed critiques to make sure the weaknesses of my interlocutors’ arguments are noticed. My snideness, which is calculated and not malicious, is the result of many years of engaging with people who really only want to snipe and are not actually open to engagement and can’t stand being tweaked. So I tweak them to bring ’em down a peg and get them to possibly reexamine their lack of clear thinking on a given topic. Your original comment was so ridiculous that it didn’t deserve anything but a point and laugh. I think anyone who read and was able to comprehend what I had written would see that. Greg is a good guy and a pleasure to have around these parts (sorry, Greg, if my endorsement makes you persona non grata in some quarters!). I disagree with some of the things he says, but I admit that I have learned some things from him too. If you don’t like the content of this site you are free not to return. And since this is a privately owned site, yes, the site owners and duly charged moderators are within their/our rights to choose not to publish comments. As for the comments likes/dislikes, I have absolutely no control over that since it is a feature of the site template and I am just one of the writers.

          • Rich

            Tom – I thank you for taking the time and energy to continue the conversation. I like that my irritation has caused you to reflect at least a little, but I would caution you to reread what you have written here, and examine if you appear to be more malicious than you intend. I find the thesis of your writings to be so far fetched that it appears to lack any purpose other than an attempted partisan message, but lacking any substantial research and reflection. But most disturbing is your tone to anyone who disagrees. Even your explanation seems to want to justify belittling others. I cannot understand how a site seemingly dedicated to educating Catholics in the exercise of their voting rights ends up being so overly unbalanced, and how any balancing is met with hostility. There seems to be a real lack of understanding of the fact that we are all members of one Body, all one in the Lord. Yes I realize that I, too, crossed the line, and I apologize for anything hurtful to you or your reputation. In this case in particular I found myself too much championing the attack you seem to have made on on another poster. Anyway, I will let you be for now, and wish you all blessings from a loving God.
            Peace and All Good

          • Tom Crowe

            Rich— I would respond here by first pointedly disagreeing that my writing lacked research. My writing was about the *actions* of politicians and bureaucrats; nowhere did I say “this is what you get when you vote for THAT party.” This site is full of Catholic writers who are politically right-of-center who are presenting a manner in which Catholics can think about the issues, which means not every post is going to be chock-full of Catholic social justice reasoning. I’m glad you acknowledge that your initial comment fell short of being a reasonable first part of a reasonable discussion. The cure to extremism is not extremism in the other direction, but moderation: if you view my comments as extreme the way to humble me is to be humble yourself and use reasoned arguments based in facts. I always respond to those if I see them (admittedly, I eventually stop paying attention to the comments on a given post, but that’s the nature of blogging). Trust me: I did not appear more malicious than I intended. My response was exactly what I wanted it to be. I can be irascible (St. Jerome, pray for me!) but that is not the same as malice. My tone to those who disagree reflects the manner of their disagreement, and (as in this case) can change based on the continued conversation. I strive not to be personal but to respond to the comment rather than the person because I do not know the person, simply how they commented. Some people cannot make that distinction and take it personally. I cannot control that. I’m glad you pursued the conversation. Cheers.

          • Mara

            Tom, 3 comments in a row! Wow! It appears that Rich “tweaked” you pretty good. It appears that some buttons were pushed that needed to be pushed. Sure hope it helps. Often times, your posts get nullified because of the way in which you present them. Don’t play God. Just be you. I think you’ll find that to be a much more enjoyable experience.

        • Tom Crowe

          Greg— You have a point (on not publishing such comments). My understanding of the site’s rules are that unless the comment is offensive in the offensive personal attacks and unprintable words sense then it is to be approved. So I approve them. With deserved (IMHO) commentary or response.

  • Ken

    Explicitly campaigning to bring about health care reform, President Obama was elected by a considerable majority of voters. . . health care reform, very similar to what was previously instituted in Mass. by then-Gov Romney, gained passage by both houses of Congress after all sorts of compromises were made after much debate. . . then the recently the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Obamacare. And now a few dozen groups are suing to reverse the mandate. And their concerns will be determined by the courts. “That’s tyranny!” say the hard core right wingers who maybe should all move to Stuebenville and secede from the union. That’ll be ok with me and no cause for US intervention. Live and let live.

    • Tom Crowe

      Ken— Your history is dubious, at best, and your argumentation is far less than that. First “53%” is not a “considerable majority”? Please send to me evidence that *Obamacare* was explicitly pushed on the campaign trail in 2008. “Health care reform” is not what’s objectionable: Republicans agree that our health care system has needed reform. They offered many alternatives. But you are exactly wrong that any debate led to compromises that included any significant hearing of Republican ideas. The Dems simply ignored them. Also, Romneycare, as passed, was significantly different from Obamacare. For one, it was within a single state, not nationwide—not an insignificant difference. Also it had nothing like the Independent Payment Advisory Board—the “death panel.” What is called “Romneycare” these days is not what Mitt pushed after it has been, erm, “augmented” by the succeeding Democrat administrations and legislatures. Also, characterizing the backhanded reconciliation maneuver used to pass Obamacare with the benign phrase “gained passage by both houses of Congress” doesn’t pass the laugh test—not to mention that it only passed after they managed to browbeat enough fellow Dems back into line, still losing 34 Dems and not gaining a single Republican vote. I though Obama was supposed to unite Washington. The Supreme Court’s ruling was only on a few provisions. On the individual mandate Roberts’ opinion made clear that the individual mandate is a tax, and must be a tax if it is to pass Constitutional muster (which is hardly as benign as “ruled in its favor”), while also striking down provisions concerning federal government control of Medicare in states. So the “ruling in its favor” also wasn’t as benign as you suggest. Then you wholly mischaracterize my argument for why this is the behavior of a tyranny. And then, in the last laugh line of your insipid post you say “live and let live” after expressing support for a law that does everything but. But I should end on a high note: no, can’t. You even misspelled “Steubenville.”

      • Westiron

        Imagine, somebody mispelling Stebbenvile. Send him to the gulag! Or better yet. . . . It’s time for the Spanish Inquisition! Torture him with pillows until he gets the spelling write! (Some sics in there).

        • Tom Crowe

          Sheesh, Westiron— It’s “soft cushions” not “pillows.” … At least know your Monty Python. 😉



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