In an effort to sign up as many consumers as possible for insurance under the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), the Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to partner with churches and other faith-based groups, even publishing sample church bulletin inserts, flyers, and scripts for announcements, as well as "talking points." These materials are part of the "Second Sunday & Faith Weekend of Action Toolkit," which is available on the website of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)....Of course, as the Standard notes, this isn't exactly news:
Non-profits such as Community Health Connectors have also brought togeather churches and faith-based organizations with government officials for information regarding the ACA, recently even hosting an "off the record" conference call with First Lady Michelle Obama "to discuss how the Affordable Care Act is impacting the lives of your congregation members."
HHS also offers to make officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) available to speak at church events....
From the beginning, HHS has sought to develop partnerships with faith-based organizations to promote the Obamacare. This "toolkit" has been available since 2013. However, the details of these partnerships have largely escaped the attention of the national media.Which would presumably include The Weekly Standard. Oh, and it's not really shocking: As we learn from the "Religion & Public Life" section of the Pew Research Center's website, there's nothing illegal about this. Churches risk their tax-exempt status when a candidate or party is endorsed from the pulpit, or when a substantial portion of church activity in a given year includes lobbying to pass laws or ballot initiatives. But Obamacare isn't a candidate. It isn't on the ballot. There aren't referenda involved here. Obamacare is the law. It's an existing government program. There are no church-state separation issues here.
The folks at the Standard know this -- so they leave it to readers to fill in the blanks. Fox News has done the same thing: This morning on Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy, in a discussion with a right-wing Texas minister who opposes Obamacare, tiptoed right up to the line of saying that this outreach effort violates church-state separation without actually saying as much:
Doocy said that the “political left” often charged that conservative policies “were a violation of the separation of church and state.”
“So, now the state is asking the church, ‘Hey, we need to boost these numbers, you got to help us,’” the Fox News host quipped.
A prominent righty blog took the bait:
WHAT HAPPENED TO SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE ... HHS Pushes Church Talking Points For Bulletin Announcement to Promote ObamacareWell, yes. The Ten Commandments at a courthouse is the government unconstitutionally favoring one religion over another. Separation of church and state is about preventing the establishment of an overt or de facto state religion. That's not what's taking place in this outreach effort.
IT WOULD APPEAR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE DOES NOT APPLY TO FEDERALLY MANDATED OBAMACARE.
... When it is about 10 Commandments in a Court House ... that is Seperation of Church and State. But of course it is perfectly okay to promote a federal government mandated law in Church, complete with talking points.
At Fox and the Standard, they know this. They just hope their audiences don't.