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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Practicing “gotcha” journalism and ignoring the Constitution


A viral news item recently is the controversy over the mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services requiring insurance plans operated by Catholic-affiliated institutions, such as universities and hospitals, to offer contraception, sterilization and abortafacients, services which are opposed by the moral foundations of the church. And that is the genesis of a comment that sent people into a tizzy.

Foster Friess is a supporter of Republican presidential nomination seeker Rick Santorum. He’s a political activist and Christian conservative. In an interview on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell Mr. Friess made a comment about the contraception issue that left Ms. Mitchell stunned. Alluding to the costs of providing contraception, he concluded, “You know back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception.  The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

That comment has been roundly criticized as a tasteless condemnation of contraceptive protection for women, for which certain hyper-sensitive folks believe he should be hanged, or at least water boarded.

Two sub-stories arise from this event: First is the gotcha journalism so on display in the current political campaign, evidenced in the attempt to hold Mr. Santorum responsible for the behavior of people who support his candidacy.

Charlie Rose on CBS TV asked Sen. Santorum what he had said to Foster Friess about the offending comment. Implicit in his questions were: Did you, Mr. Santorum, rebuke Mr. Friess enough to satisfy the PC police? Is Mr. Friess contrite? Are you, Mr. Santorum, also suitably contrite, and prepared to take your 20 lashes?

All of this foolishness arises from the supposition by Charlie Rose that candidates are somehow responsible for what all/any of their supporters say at every moment, on any subject, under all circumstances, whether or not they were speaking on the candidate’s behalf.

You may remember that same critical standard was not in effect during the 2008 campaign when the racist and incendiary statements about America by Barack Obama’s preacher, Jeremiah Wright, came to light. Mr. Obama said that even though he had been in preacher Wright’s church for 20 years, he hadn’t heard any of those vile comments. The media did not question that explanation.

And there was the domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers, who was suspected of being Mr. Obama’s friend, or at least a friendly neighbor who held campaign events in his home. But the alleged friendship with Bill Ayers was “tenuous.” It must be true; [begin ital] The Washington Post [end ital] said so.

Since Mr. Obama was not challenged by the media like Mr. Santorum was, about either Mr. Wright or his relationship with Weatherman Ayers, the media apparently believes that anti-American speech and bombing police stations aren’t as serious as opposing free contraceptives for women.

Mr. Santorum pointed out the “gotcha” aspect of the question, and then the discussion turned to the candidate’s position on recreational sex and promiscuity, which really is the essence of the contraception issue. And later on MSNBC Mr. Friess said that his comment was a joke. “Back in my days, they didn’t have the birth control pill, so to suggest that Bayer aspirin could be a birth control pill was considered pretty ridiculous and quite funny.  … [And] it gives an opportunity to really look at what this contraceptive issue is all about.” 

In Mr. Friess’ youthful days, recreational sex was pretty rare, certainly far less common than today. Why? Because the morality of the day placed a stigma on girls who “slept around” and an even greater no-no was a single girl who got pregnant, or a boy who didn’t do the right thing if he got a girl pregnant. However, in the decades since, our culture has stopped teaching and stressing morality, bowing to the “I’m free to do as I please” attitude leftover from the hippie sub-culture that emerged in the mid-60s. The resulting social pathologies of out-of-wedlock births, single-parent families, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions are just the price we have to pay so that people may be comfortably free from societal restrictions and the responsibilities that once accompanied personal behavior.

The HHS mandate is in line with the desires of free-love 60s hippies, but worse than enabling promiscuity and the misery it causes, the mandate violates the U.S. Constitution’s protection of religion by requiring religious employers to provide insurance plans that include coverage for things which run directly counter to the moral precepts of those employers.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says plainly, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” It does not say, “Except where contraceptives, sterilization or abortion are concerned.” Even big-government liberals should understand that.

Therefore, the government cannot force religious organizations to provide any service that is regarded as immoral by that organization. The position of the Catholic Church does not deny women any service that they may desire, it merely refuses to provide those services or pay for them indirectly through an insurance policy, which is both proper and legal.

The Obama administration and the pro-contraceptive, pro-sterilization, pro-abortion faction will simply have to find another way to foster promiscuity without the assistance of the nation’s religious institutions.

Comments are invited

15 comments:

CK said...

i love the political posturing around these "wedge" issues... I still think the majority of Americans dont really care about this and see the Church's opinion as just another antiquated aspect of their ever decaying social institution.

And I love the "back in my day" reflection about the social stigma associated with out-of-wedlock pregnancy... as if it didnt occur. people have always slept around,committed adultery, abused drugs and alcohol, had children out of wedlock, backroom abortions, etc.

I'm not drinking the "nostalgia flavored koolaid" and buying the argument that America used to be much more "Holy" with everyone minding their P's & Q's ... seems like an unrealistic over-exaggeration to me

The GOP continues to pull themselves further away from the "typical American" and their viewpoints and "Birth Control-Gate" is no exception...

Its only helping the Democrats in the long run as just the standard "cookie-cutter" GOP stance on political issues continue to alienate the majority of Americans...

James Shott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Shott said...

What the public thinks about the issue is irrelevant. The Church rightly sees an attack against its constitutionally protected independence from government control over its tenets.

You must be less than 40-45 years old, or you would remember that things were far different "back then," and in many ways far better. Please reread that section of the column for clarification.

You may be right, but time will tell what people ultimately think about the different views on social issues.

It doesn't take a genius to see that there is a parallel between the loosening of societal strictures over the last 50 years and growth of social problems, like abortion, out-of-wedlock births, divorce, etc.

CK said...

definitely under 40... but in talking to some older folks, they sometimes echo my sentiments... people tended to not spread their business and discuss such things as we do today...and liked to paint the picture of a strong loving family (like the Donna Reed show or Leave it to Beaver)...

and as for the birth control topic, ... what other medications do they not agree with and how far does such a stance go? Couldnt some religious groups just tell everyone to pray for their healing as they are not going to foot the bill for something that goes against God's will ...

James Shott said...

I'm not suggesting that things were perfect back then -- the 50s & 60s -- but casual/recreational sex was far less prevalent, and as a result there were far fewer unwed mothers, single-parent families, abortions and STDs. That's simply the truth. And I believe the farther back you go, the fewer of those things there were.

I'm not Catholic, but I think they believe that sex is primarily for procreation, and therefore, preventing pregnancy was accomplished by abstaining from having sex; no need for contraception; no need for sterilization; no need for abortion.

Thus, to encourage/provide those things to prevent pregnancy or undo the results of sexual activity is a serious wrong, since you shouldn't be indulging in sex unless you want to create a child.

That's their belief, and no one outside the church has anything to say about that.

We can disagree with the church, and Catholics can disobey the church, but we can't change what it believes. And the government cannot force the church to go against its on doctrines.

I don't believe the church has problems with other medical issues, but I'm certainly no authority on that subject.

CK said...

You know, we are really not that much different ...

James Shott said...

Really?

CK said...

so Smokey... which of the GOP Candidates are you supporting right now?

James Shott said...

All of them; none of them.

They all have strong points and they all have weak points, but any one of them will get my vote over Obama, who is the most divisive, destructive and dangerous president in my lifetime.

What about you?

CK said...

I'm voting for Obama again... but Paul is the only GOP who stands a chance at swaying my vote...

I'd guess if the vote were tomorrow, you'd go with Santorum or Newt over Mitt or Paul...

James Shott said...

That's a curious position: I'll vote for Obama again unless Ron Paul does something to change my mind.

There can't be two more different people in terms of political philosophy. And of the Republicans, Paul is far and away the least centrist.

How do you reconcile this?

Also, what has Barack Obama done to justify a second vote from you?

As I said earlier, all of the four have both good points and bad points. I don't know who I would select for the nomination.

CK said...

I'm a non-believer who is pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-gay marriage, and part of the 99% ...

So... I dont really see myself as sitting among the GOP and their beliefs...

Progressive is as Progressive does...

James Shott said...

With the beliefs you listed, no, you do not share the positions of most Republicans or conservatives, at least in the context you probably mean them, although the vast majority Republicans and conservatives are also among the 99%.

Are you interested in discussing those beliefs individually?

CK said...

not sure what there is to discuss...

James Shott said...

Okay.