Friday, July 6, 2012

The Justification: Noncompliance to Obamacare

The power of the State, coming from God, may be bestowed by the people, but when thus bestowed, it does not and cannot include what is not within the competency of the State to accept.

Had God ordained the rule of the State over the soul and conscience, He would have given the State the means to direct conscience and control the operations of the soul, since He gives means to the end. The sanctuary of the soul and of conscience the State cannot invade.

-U.S. Bishops 1926 Pastoral Letter on the Persecution of the Church in Mexico

Fox News reported that Florida governor, Rick Scott, will not comply with the Supreme Court opinion on the Obama health care law. Scott maintains that the burden of financial compliance with Obamacare would exceed any cost or penalty Florida would incur for its noncompliance. “He calls the law the ‘biggest job killer ever’ and says Floridians cannot afford the $1.9 billion dollar increase he believes the law will cost.” To be sure, noncompliance is an option that is being talked about with increasing frequency. In fact, other governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Perry of Texas and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana are considering doing the same.

Interestingly, religiously motivated noncompliance to the implantation of Obamacare just may have paved the way for its political noncompliance. When the U.S. Catholic Bishops vowed to disobey an unjust federal mandate- one that compels the Catholic Church to distribute contraception through its healthcare insurances –they were arguably setting a precedent; a precedent that may prove beneficial to, not only religious liberty, but to liberty itself. For instance, Bishop Richard Lennon of the Cleveland said, “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.”

It is important to note that such civil disobedience is rooted in a well-developed tradition of Catholic moral theology. Inspired by this tradition, St. Thomas Aquinas taught that human law, in so far as it deviates from divine law, is an unjust law. As such, it is no law at all but rather it is a "species of violence." Pope Leo XIII takes it a step further. In his encyclical, Christians as Citizens (1890), he wrote the following: “[I]f the laws of the State are manifestly at variance with the divine law, containing enactments hurtful to the Church, or conveying injunctions adverse to the duties imposed by religion, or if they violate in the person of the supreme Pontiff the authority of Jesus Christ, then, truly, to resist becomes a positive duty, to obey, a crime…”

The religious justification for noncompliance to HHS mandate and the political resistance to the implementation of the new healthcare law by the abovementioned governors is important. It is important for public to know the justification for noncompliance for the very reason that such noncompliance, religiously or politically motivated, has everything to do with why liberty has been the hallmark of Christian civilization. Lord Acton, a Catholic historian in the early 20th century, gives, in a nutshell, the grounds upon which liberty flourished. He said, Jesus Christ “gave to the civil power, under the protection of conscience, a sacredness it had never enjoyed, and bounds it had never acknowledged…”

Indeed, the authority of the State comes from God and therefore its just decrees are binding on the conscience. Nevertheless, such authority and power is not absolute; rather, because Christ redeemed the dignity of the human person through the shedding of his blood- showing that the immortal soul is created by God, created for God and created in the likeness of God -the State ceased to be all-powerful as it once was in the unbaptized world. Its jurisdiction, over time, became limited. The duty to obey its laws was binding on the conscience only because its power was believed to come from God. As coming from God, the State was converted from an oppressive master into a servant-leader that benefited the people.

But when the will of rulers exceeded its proper limits during the Christian era, the Church was quick remind them that their unjust laws were not binding and for that reason their citizens had every right to resist them. As pope Leo XIII said in The Origin of Civil Government (1881): “[I]f the will of rulers is opposed to the will and the laws of God, they themselves exceed the bounds of their own power and pervert justice; nor can their authority then be valid, which, when there is no justice, is null.”

A valiant noncompliance to the new healthcare law- with all of its incursions –just may be what America needs. In educating the American public why the Catholic Church will not comply with the HHS mandate and why State governors are justified in resisting the implementation of the new healthcare law, the truth can also be communicated why liberty can only endure in a Christian society.