IRS Scandal and HHS Mandate: Wrong for the Same Reasons

The Obama Administration has a thorn in its side: An organization that doesn’t just disagree with the President, but builds a moral case against his policies. The White House wants to neutralize the organization’s effectiveness. They know how to get it done.

That organization hears a scary knock at the door (or its equivalent in a notice from a government agency) and discovers they are going to have to pay.

Obama’s campaign was already preaching against the organization. Now Obama’s agency moves to weaken and quiet the group. To make its members think again about their beliefs and actions. To make the group disburse and then disperse.

IRS HHS ThumbThe organization is the Catholic Church and the knock on the door is the HHS mandate, which would fine organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars a year unless they are willing to violate their consciences.

The IRS scandal, in which the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party and patriot groups critical of Obama’s policies (and probably pro-life groups,the National Organization for Marriage and a professor) has a lot in common with the administration’s HHS mandate targeting of Catholics and others critical of Obama’s policies.


  • The HHS mandate isn’t about health care:  Contraception neither treats nor prevents any disease.
  • The HHS mandate isn’t about making contraceptives available: They are already widely available at low cost; 85% of corporations cover them, nearly all government jobs do, and Planned Parenthood and HHS clinics offer them free or practically free to fill the gaps.
  • The HHS mandate isn’t about fairness: Under it, if you want a birth control pill you don’t have to worry about co-pays. If you need to take a drug to keep you alive, you have to come up with money for the privilege.

So, what is the HHS mandate about?

  • Weakening the First Amendment. The HHS mandate reshapes constitutional rights. It makes a new “right to free contraception” a more fundamental right than the right than to free exercise of religion.
  • Neutralizing Opponents. As Cardinal Francis George put it, the HHS mandate “attempts to weaken the unity between the bishops and the faithful.” As George Weigel and Ross Douthat put it, it is a political “divide and conquer” strategy.
  • Expanding Executive Power. The HHS Mandate was a giant power grab. Cardinal George, as early as 2009 was warning that it was Obama’s opposition to health care conscience rules (despite his promise to the contrary at Notre Dame) that “could be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism.”

Look at the IRS scandal and you find the same contours.

  • Weakening the First Amendment. The IRS scandal violates both the “freedom of speech” clause of the First Amendment, demanding Tea Party groups tell it the content of their speeches, and the “freedom of religion” clause, and demanding pro-life groups tell it the content of their prayers.
  • Neutralizing opponents.  Salon magazine reminds us of four political foes that may have been targeted when George W. Bush was president. The Wall Street Journal  objected at the time. So did the NAACP, one of the targets, and congressional Democrats, who called it political “intimidation.” Their words are well-taken. Apply them to Obama’s IRS and the outrage should be exponentially higher with nearly 500 organizations targeted.
  • Expanding Government Power.  Ironically, the IRS scandal targeted groups whose very purpose is to warn Americans that the government is grabbing too much power through taxes: King George’s taxation without representation. The IRS’s “taxation as vexation” goes one step further.

So does the HHS Mandate.

Government Oversight Committee Democrat Congressman Elijah Cummings calls the IRS scandal  “one of the most alarming things that I have ever seen.” Catholics should remind lawmakers that the HHS mandate is equally alarming. As even many many Democrats agree, the demand by the Obama administration that Catholic organizations violate their consciences or pay crippling fines is unconscionable. The HHS mandate is wrong for all the reasons the IRS scandal is wrong, only worse.

It is political intimidation at its worst. While the Obama campaign was using overheated rhetoric to call Catholic positions a “war on women,” the Obama administration was demanding Catholics violate their consciences on precisely those issues.

Fair is fair: If we are outraged about the IRS targeting political opponents on the left or right, and we should be, we should be outraged about the HHS targeting the Catholic Church.

11 thoughts on “IRS Scandal and HHS Mandate: Wrong for the Same Reasons

  1. Jenny says:

    Agree overall but with regards to contraception treating disease, what about cases such as PCOS?

  2. Erick C says:

    While it is true that now everyone in the media has at least mentioned the IRS targeting opponents of Obama it is a disappointment that many have overlooked the HHS mandate as if the violation of religious liberty is only a Catholic or Christian issue. Religious liberty is crucial to all Amercans and all nations.

  3. May says:

    What a great article and great comment by CAROL M ALESIA!

    This is an evil administration but do not look for Obama to resign or get impeached. Sad to say, but the press still will defend him and the Congress is too gutless to impeach him.

  4. JackB says:

    Tom, Russell Shaw writes that many US Catholics are of the cafeteria persuasion. Much of this “schism” relates to contraception. I never questioned that issue until my first wife became very ill and could not get pregnant for the third time. What was a very naive catholic to do. I tried to confide in my priest. I could not gain confidence in “natural family planning”. It was too risky. In my church there was no alternative. For many that is today’s church. Most have the opinion “stay out of my bedroom”.

    Cardinal Martini of Milan offered on his death bed :the church is hundreds of years behind. And, NY pastor Sloan Coffin said when asked how he saw Catholicism today and he said “the bishops are steering the church based on what they see in the rearview mirror.

  5. CAROL M ALESIA says:

    It is a common misconception that only the Catholic Church and practicing Catholics abhor the idea of abortion or dispensing the contraceptive “morning after” pill. Many other Christians, Jews and Muslims hold the same belief. No doubt, even an atheist could be opposed to the idea of abortion. Yet, it is the Catholic Church which has been in the foreground in this fight and also the main target of its enemies. Someday, perhaps, the majority of our population will come to believe in the sanctity of life as much as others do now. But, until such time, kudos to the Catholic Church and others who are consistent in their opposition to ending human life. Perhaps, even the PETA organization will see fit some day to be as sympathetic to unborn human life as they are to animal life and welfare.

  6. Tom says:

    Check the first sentence for grammar!

    1. Tom Hoopes says:

      Fixed it!

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