Rock Enroll: Drumming up Business for O'Care
It may be the start of a busy shopping season -- but not for ObamaCare. A year after the technical meltdown of the first launch, HHS took a second crack at opening enrollment for 2015. And while it’s impossible to have a worse rollout than the nationwide health care collapse of 2014, the sequel isn’t exactly drawing big crowds. Thirteen states launched their insurance portals Saturday, along with the federal exchange that serves the other 37.
For HHS, it was an anxious few hours, as officials waited to see if their revamped system would hold up. Although the snags were nothing compared to last October, there were plenty of bumps in the ObamaCare road. Within hours of going live, Washington State had to take down its entire site after the system started kicking out incorrect subsidy numbers. Elsewhere, users were still getting error messages that web pages hadn’t been updated or that the enrollment period (which just started) was closed.
But these were all minor problems compared to the epic failure of ObamaCare’s debut. So far, the biggest glitch of the exchange might be the lack of customers. Only 23,000 signed up for coverage in the first full day, hardly a ringing endorsement of the controversial program, which barely scraped together seven million enrollees last year.
And while functionality may be better the second time around, favorability isn’t. Public approval of ObamaCare is hitting rock bottom, with new polls tracking the lowest support in the law’s short existence. In a new Gallup poll, only 37% of Americans approve of the system that’s killing jobs, spiking costs, ballooning debt, funding abortion, and destroying freedom. Thanks to ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber, who credited “the stupidity of the American voter” with the bill’s passage, those numbers have nowhere to go but down.
Of course, religious organizations didn’t need to be persuaded about the law’s shortcomings, since dozens of them are living through the worst attack of their First Amendment rights ever under the President’s policy. One of those groups, Priests for Life, ran into a liberal wall known as the D.C. Court of Appeals, which -- with the help of some radical appointees -- insisted that an organization of priests provide birth control and other drugs that can prevent or end a pregnancy. “As we have said from the beginning,” Father Frank Pavone told reporters, “Priests for Life will not obey the HHS mandate. To ask a group of priests to cooperate in the government’s plan to expand access to birth control and abortion-inducing drugs is about as contrary to religious freedom as you can get.”
Unfortunately, the D.C. Circuit Court didn’t seem to think so and unanimously ordered Pavone to comply. In her first big splash, new judge Cornelia Pillard made her mark on the Court -- one of the many extreme liberals forced through the Senate under the revised filibuster rules. FRC fought Pillard’s confirmation -- and now, Americans will see why. In her opinion, she insists that the administration’s flimsy “accommodation,” which still forces faith-based groups to pay for these pills, is a perfectly acceptable compromise for pro-life groups.
Forcing Christians to violate their beliefs is just par for the ObamaCare course, Pillard argued. She wrote that nonprofits like Priests for Life “remain free to condemn contraception in the clearest terms” -- just not with their hard-earned money. It’s yet another reason why the new conservative majority should strike back at ObamaCare -- and fast.
Chicago Bares: City Moves Goal Posts on Sex Ed
People in the Windy City are getting blown away all right -- but not by the weather. Parents at a local school say they are “shocked” and “horrified” at what their fifth-graders are learning as part of a new sex education curriculum. Moms and dads had the opportunity to flip through a binder of lessons at Andrew Jackson Language Academy during a special workshop, and some were too disgusted to even repeat what they’d read.
Angela Bryant, the chair of the local school council, said that the handouts were counterproductive because they were created “in a manner that actually is piquing curiosity about sexual pleasure.” Although Academy officials insisted that some of the more objectionable material was accidentally included, the same content appears on other schools’ websites as part of the class. Among other things, these 10-year-olds were learning alternative sex acts, how to use female condoms, lubricant, and what kids can do to prolong the sexual experience. Until the issue is ironed out, angry parents are demanding another school board meeting. One mom said she considers herself a liberal, but even she was “appalled” at what Chicago teachers considered appropriate for elementary students.
Maryland parents can sympathize. There, middle schoolers were asked to report on their sexual activity for the first time as part of an anonymous online survey. Questions about how old they were, how many times, condom use were just some of the invasive topics put before kids. One angry dad wrote a scathing op-ed in the Baltimore Sun asking what’s on most of our minds: “On what authority does the state of Maryland act when they question our middle school children, still babies all of them, about such outrageous and distasteful subject matter?” David Bittle fumes.
“…To subject everyday middle school students to this very troubling inquisition, weighed down with oodles and oodles of inappropriate themes, demonstrates professional ineptitude found only in elected official and civil-servant circles. Furthermore, it is a disservice to the 99.9 percent of students who, thankfully, needn’t worry or wrestle with such mature subject matter.” Don’t get me wrong. Sex education is important -- from parents, in their own time, and in accordance with their own values.
In Ancient Rome, Pope Affirms Ancient Truths
Pope Francis began the gathering of international religious leaders this morning with a clear message that marriage and family are in trouble in large part because some are yielding the truth to trends. “In our day,” he said to the gathering of international religious and cultural leaders, “marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment.”
The Pope explained that it is important to challenge young people to not to build upon the temporal, but rather the transcendent. “It is important that these young people do not give themselves over to the poisonous mentality of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern: this must be done.”
The theological and doctrinal differences present among the 200 or so attendees is significant, making the common understanding of the complementarity of man and woman in marriage all the more revealing. Marriage is not a creation of government or of man. Marriage is in the created order of God. The societal impact on the decline of marriage was clearly present in the comments made today.
As Pope Francis said, “This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. Evidence is mounting that the decline of the marriage culture is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills…”
In addition to Pope Francis, there were several other outstanding presentations, among them Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Primate of the Church of Nigeria in the Anglican Communion, who said, “The Church must be God’s prophetic voice in the world supporting the family. He went on to say, “Where the culture and the gospel clash, the culture must bow to the gospel.”
The message is that, as Christians, we cannot shrink back from conflict, it not the power of the sword, but the Spirit that will prevail. As Paul wrote in Romans nearly 2000 years ago, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.