Monday, April 23, 2012

Catholics Being Inconsistent In Opposing HHS Birth Control Mandate & Not Arizona Immigration Laws ? - Response to Michael Winters

Michael Winters has a post on the Immigration laws in Arizona that is heading to the Supreme Court.  See AZ Anti-Immigrant Law Heads to SCOTUS .

Winters makes a HHS Mandate connection.

...It will be curious to see if those conservative Catholic commentators who have spilt plenty of ink writing about the importance of human dignity on other issues will defend that principle on immigration. The bishops have done so. They cannot be charged with inconsistency here. But, I am waiting to hear what our friends at, and the American Principles Project have to say on the Arizona law.

It is especially incumbent upon our friends on the right to vocally oppose the Arizona law, and even more so its Alabama stepchild because, as the USCCB brief makes clear, there are issues of religious liberty at stake here. If there is a “war on religion” in this country, it is wise to recognize that the assaults come from all sides and that both parties should be called to task when they brush aside the practices of the Catholic community in pursuit of their policy objectives. It is as insidious, actually I think more insidious, to demand that the Catholic Church cease helping immigrants, as it is to require our insurance policies to become vehicles for the provision of contraception, is it not? ..

Prof Rick Garnett who I believe has some connection to Catholicvote .and who is a fighter for religious liberty responds at
Thoughts on the Court, Arizona's immigration law, and consistency .

I suspect that Prof Garnett and I are largely on the same page here about immigration reform , and perhaps the policy here is not great. But I think he wisely points out these issues can be a tad different:

......I probably agree with Winters that, as a policy matter, laws like Arizona's (and Alabama's, which was criticized in the Bishops' recent religious-freedom statement -- you know, the one that is so "partisan"?) are bad policy (though the current regime and its enforcement are a disgrace).  Immigration reform is a tough issue, and the left demagogues it with no less vigor than does the right (no, it's not "racist" or "nativist" to worry about the costs of unlawful immigration or to support voter ID laws; no, it's not un-American to note that immigration has many benefits and that our current system makes lawful immigration, in most cases, too difficult).  It is not the "Catholic" view that a political community is not entitled to police its boundaries, nor is it the "Catholic" view that a wealthy community can exploit the cheap labor and sales-tax revenues provided by unlawful immigrants while simultaneously demonizing and arbitrarily deporting and / or incarcerating them.  For more, see this First Things piece, "Principled Immigration," by Mary Ann Glendon, or this essay by our own Michael Scaperlanda.

Winters is right that immigration is, as a constitutional matter, a "federal issue." However, the question whether a law like Arizona's is inconsistent with immigration's being a federal issue is trickier than Winters's post suggests. It is not the case that all state laws whose operation and enforcement affects unlawful immigrants, or shapes their decision-making, unconstitutionally interfere with the national government's prerogatives in this area. It depends, and the answer to the question whether or not it does is not supplied by Catholic teaching.

In my view, "conservative Catholic commentators" who care (as we all should) about "the importance of human dignity" and religious freedom are not required, on pain of being charged with inconsistency (or worse), to think that the Arizona law and others like it crosses the constitutional line (I have not studied the matter closely enough to have a firm view), even if do they think, as I think I do, that what is urgently needed is not piecemeal, and largely symbolic, state legislation, but meaningful enforcement, fair sharing of the burdens and benefits associated with unlawful immigration, and comprehensive reform...

I agree with that. Also as these things go some state immigration laws are much more problematic than others from a Catholic Social Teaching standpoint. I am thinking of some aspects of the laws in Alabama.

But as a supporter of immigration reform I recognize that the Bishops are when combatting these laws on much less 1st Amendment protection footing compared to other cases where religious liberty is at risk.

I was trying to make this exact point at my post Illegal Aliens and Church Sanctuary Versus The HHS Birth Control Mandate . That post talked about about a recent meeting of Baptists with the White House where the issue of Federal immigration  Law enforcement and Churches came up.

I said in part :
..Currently in the States we have seen some reluctance to impose this anti immigration laws on the Church. For instance Catholics schools in Alabama do not have the same reporting requirement as Alabama public schools. I would contend this is because currently there is a respect for Accommodation and some quasi sovereignty to the Church.

What happens if the HHS Mandate is allowed to succeed? I would suggest it sets in part a new tone and a new precedent. Other political currents , even those opposed to the mandate, might use that in the future. I would suggest this issue of immigration is but just one where that ax might fall..

So Winters is right to see a link perhaps. But I am not sure he has connected all the dots from where I am coming from at least.

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