And the war on women's reproductive rights continues over at Fox. As our friends at News Hounds noted-- apparently undeterred by being made a mockery of by Jon Stewart-- Fox News brought back Father Jonathan Morris to double down on his suggestion that clergy should be “ready to die” to fight President Obama’s mandate that health insurers cover birth control.
Despite being ridiculed by Jon Stewart for making the jaw-dropping suggestion that clergy should be “ready to die” to fight President Obama’s mandate that health insurers cover birth control, Father Jonathan Morris doubled down on his “pledge” last night on Hannity. “Of course I’m willing to die, of course I’m willing to go to jail, of course I’m willing to pay a fine. That is the most normal, non-radical thing I can think of,” Morris said fervently. I don’t know how the other guest, a rabbi in support of the mandate, didn’t burst out laughing at such ridiculous theatrics. A priest threatening to die in the name of pro-life opposition to contraception coverage in health insurance? Come on! In reality, the mandate wouldn’t even affect Morris’ own church. [...]
But Morris wasn’t done with his over-the-top rhetoric. He compared President Obama’s accommodation - having health insurers pay for the coverage - to murder. “We recognize it goes against my conscience to kill. The president is saying, 'You know what? Don’t worry about it. You don’t have to kill that person any more. We’re going to just make sure you pay somebody else to do the bidding for you, to kill that person for you.' That’s an analogy but that’s exactly what it is.”
Full transcript below the fold.
CHENEY: The White House was hoping to silence critics over its controversial contraception mandate by offering a weak so-called accommodation. But the United States conference of Catholic bishops is vowing to fight on.
Last week on this program, one of my next guests told Sean just how far he is willing to go for this cause. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FATHER JONATHAN MORRIS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: People have died for those things that are absolutely essential to their faith. It's not a question, are you willing to go to jail? Is if I'm asked to do something goes against my conscience, I better be willing to die for that. If I'm not willing to die for that, what am I standing up for?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: Joining me now with reaction are FOX News contributor Father Jonathan Morris and the president of the Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Eric Yoffie. Thank you both very much for being here.
Father Morris, you know, given what you said last week and given that this is very clearly a question of church doctrine, obviously the accommodation is not acceptable from your perspective, so where do we go from here?
MORRIS: Well, you know, first of all, let me say that, what I'm saying is not radical. What I'm saying is not controversial. What I'm saying is not something out of the ordinary in terms of the big picture of history. If the federal government or any government is to tell somebody you are required to violate your conscience on an essential element of your faith, the question is not, OK, I'm willing, well, pay a fine, but I'm not willing to go to jail. I'm willing to go to jail but I'm not willing to die. No, just the opposite. The conscience is invaluable and if the federal government is asking any group or individual to violate their conscience, I'm sure the rabbi here will we agree with me, whether we agree on this issue or not, the conscience is invaluable, of course I'm willing to die, of course, I'm willing to go to jail. Of course I'm willing to pay a fine in order to not go against something that is essential to my faith. That is the most normal, non-radical thing that I can think of.
CHENEY: And it means that government position that just seek simply to minimize the interference of religion would be unacceptable. Rabbi Yoffie, you have talked about this in terms of this new accommodation that the administration announced most recently saying that it minimizes government's interference in religious practice. But how can that be sufficient?
RABBI EIRC YOFFIE, UNION FOR REFORM JUDAISM: Well, first of all, I agreed with the policy to begin with. So, I was starting from a very different points.
CHENEY: So, you are very radical.
YOFFIE: Sure. Radical at all.
MORRIS: Well said. Well said.
YOFFIE: And what the President was trying to do in this case was to minimize direct involvement or even indirect involvement of religious groups. I think it was appropriate for him to make that accommodation, but nonetheless I agree with the policy and I stand behind it.
CHENEY: But how rabbi is it possible for us to be in a situation where the government of the United States can mandate the Catholic Church or any religious organization to take action that is fundamentally in violation of basic church doctrine. How is that not only is it a violation of our constitution and the first amendment but, you know, a very fundamental moral violation of the church doctrine?
YOFFIE: Well, I don't agree it's a violation of the constitution. We live in the most diverse religious country in the world. The notion that everybody is entitled to do what their conscience tells them to do would create a situation that would make impossible for us to have government at all. Now, in this particular situation, there is a first amendment violation when very specific conditions exist. I mean, if you have a law that has general ability and that's neutral, that it applies to everybody and doesn't target any particular religious group, then there is no first amendment violation. I want to suggest to you that those conditions exist here. And while this violates the father's conscience, they don't violate my conscience and the conscience of many Americans I would suggest, most Americans.
CHENEY: Father, I would imagine that your interpretation.
MORRIS: Oh, my gosh. Absolutely different. If we suggest that the government is the one who decides who can violate their conscience, my goodness, what have we come to? It comes down to this. Do we believe in the individual's ability to decide what they believe in? And whether or not the government is going to step in and say, you are not allowed to believe in that. We have a long tradition and that's the very purpose of the first amendment, a long tradition, the government saying, you know what? We are not able to judge what you decide is right or wrong, but we're going to respect it. That is the very essential part of our government. And, you know, this suggestion in accommodation list?
MORRIS: You know, it's like this. We recognize that it goes against my conscience to kill someone. The President is saying, you know what, don't worry about it. You don't have to kill that person anymore. We're going to just make sure you pay somebody else to do the beating for you, to kill that person for you. That is an analogy. And that's exactly what is it.
CHENEY: And wouldn't it be the same Rabbi if the government came to you and said, all right, look, you know, your synagogue must take this action which fundamentally violates the tenets of Judaism. And if doesn't, your faith ruin these fines. How is what they're doing in -- different?
YOFFIE: We have people who as a sincere matter of religious conviction say, they do not want to pay taxes for any military action abroad. They believe it. It's based on their view of scripture. Do we permit those people to do that? And the answer is, we do not.
CHENEY: Yes, but that's not the question. The question is, if the government said to you, your synagogue must take these actions which fundamentally violates your faith, the tenants of your faith, or faith ruin these fees, ruin this fines, wouldn't that violate.
YOFFIE: Would I personally, therefore, perhaps take the stand of Father Morris. And the answer is yes, as a manner of public policy, does a church or synagogue or a mosque have a right to do whatever it wishes to do.
CHENEY: Yes. But they have an exemption. They have an exemption from this particular element of the law.
YOFFIE: But we're not talking about a church.
YOFFIE: A church does have an exemption. A religious institution that hires people from the general population outside of that church.
CHENEY: That's right but the money must still come from the church.
YOFFIE: Much of the money does not come from the church.
CHENEY: I'm going to give the money the last word.
MORRIS: Rabbi, this is hopefully find a common ground.
MORRIS: Remember the great story of the Maccabees, of the seven children and their mother who decided that they were going to go to death in order not to eat pork. Right? It was being mandated by the king against their religion. And the whole story in the Old Testament is precisely that I will not do it. In the end, you say, well, pork is not - it violated their conscience.
It violated their faith and they did not do it precisely because they said the federal government, the king has no right to tell me I have to do what is against my conscience.
CHENEY: I think we clearly haven't heard the end of this. But I thank you very so much both of you for being here this evening.