The Court’s Ruling: ACA Upheld Under Tax Clause (So, the Battle Will Remain)

It’s interesting being at New Staff Training when a ruling like this is announced. When CNN announced that the Affordable Care Act was declared unconstitutional, the entire cafeteria cheered, and promptly prayed a Glory Be. Then, all were confused to find out, the court had actually, in fact upheld the mandate under the tax clause.

The next question almost every missionary is asking: “What does that mean?” Which in this atmosphere really means, “How does this affect the freedom of conscience that is under attack?”

Well, not a whole lot. The battle is still going on. They are just using more constitutionally pleasing weapons. Or, at least more linguistically pleasing terms.

A good summary of what the court really decided this morning: (from http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/06/28/health-insurance-mandate-upheld/)

Reports are out that the individual mandate has been upheld by a 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the four liberal members of the court in upholding the mandate under Congress’ power to tax. I’m not shocked by this. The law was written that way on purpose, enforcing the mandate through the tax code because the Constitution explicitly grants the power to tax to Congress. No link to the ruling yet.

Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog offers this key quote from the ruling:

Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.

The ruling is now available on the Supreme Court website. Get it before the server crashes. Here’s the key section from the syllabus:

Such an analysis suggests that the shared responsibilitypayment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax. The payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy healthinsurance; the payment is not limited to willful violations, as penalties for unlawful acts often are; and the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation. None of this is to say that payment is not intended to induce the purchase of health insurance. But the mandate need not be read to declare that failing to do so is unlawful. Neither the Affordable Care Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS. And Congress’s choice of language—stating that individuals “shall” obtain insurance or pay a “penalty”—does not require reading §5000A as punishing unlawful conduct. It may also be read as imposing a tax on those who go without insurance.

The most frustrating part about all of this is that lowering the cost of healthcare, and making it available to all people is a really, really good goal. However, because of a few details, this particular means has really, really twisted the whole idea.

A CNN blog this morning offered a great clip from the Conference of Bishops explaining why, while we desire more affordable and available healthcare, we cannot support this particular mandate.

[Updated at 11:49 a.m. ET] The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said it is for comprehensive healthcare reform, especially for the poor, but it opposes the Supreme Court decision for three reasons.

“First, ACA allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, contradicting longstanding federal policy. The risk we identified in this area has already materialized, particularly in the initial approval by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of “high risk” insurance pools that would have covered abortion.

Second, the Act fails to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protection, both within and beyond the abortion context. We have provided extensive analyses of ACA’s defects with respect to both abortion and conscience. The lack of statutory conscience protections applicable to ACA’s new mandates has been illustrated in dramatic fashion by HHS’s “preventive services” mandate, which forces religious and other employers to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs.

Third, ACA fails to treat immigrant workers and their families fairly. ACA leaves them worse off by not allowing them to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges created under the law, even if they use their own money. This undermines the Act’s stated goal of promoting access to basic life-affirming health care for everyone, especially for those most in need.”

We shouldn’t oppose the end goal, but we shouldn’t support the mandate that’s being used to achieve it.

Like a Duck in Water

We took Georgie swimming today. He loved the water. Mostly, he just loved watching the other swimmers, and hitting the water over and over and over again. It was so much fun to watch him be a kid.

Now, we’re home and he’s crawling around in a clean oversized t shirt after a warm, post swim shower. I feel really blessed right now, and I think he does too. Josh definitely does (since I’m letting him nap for a while).

(My phone camera doesn’t work, so we didn’t get good pictures from the pool. Bummer! Here’s a few from when we got to the car.)

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These are sweet

I’ve been trying to cut sugar out of my diet for many reasons I can explain later. Doing this has been tough at Training since I can’t make my own alternative meals, snacks and desserts. So, I’ve had my eyes out for sweet snacks that fulfill my desire for chocolate. Thanks to Josh’s aunt, I found one exciting alternative. And, I can’t believe how excited I was about these. Though Julie, my friend who’s attempting this reduction of sugar as well, might have been even more excited than I was. My husband thought the whole freak out over these little things was a little odd.

So here’s my new favorite sweet snack:

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This is Meaningful: Dorm Living (with a baby)

We have been living in a dorm for 5 weeks with a baby.

I wonder what all the reactions to that statement were.

FOCUS has their training at the University of Illinois in Champaign. There is a big and beautiful Catholic Newman Center that hosts us with housing, food, a chapel and some classrooms. It’s pretty incredible.

Besides the building, the atmosphere is also incredible. The first week we were here, around 300 missionaries and their families joined together for an all staff retreat. After that, around 250 remained. I think training must be at least a little bit like a soldier rejoining his fellow comrades after a battle. We have all been through experiences only other missionaries can really understand: battling exhaustion, learning humility, raising our support, growing in prayer, rejoicing in conversion. The list goes on and on. We share our battle wounds and triumphs over a drink at the pub right down Sixth Street.

Training always reaffirms how much I love working as a missionary with FOCUS.

(below is a picture from a daily mass at training)

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Now, however, it’s the last week, and it’s time to go.

A dorm is nice in college. However, not having a kitchen of my own and a carpeted floor for Georgie is not ideal. The schedule is rigorous too. By now, I just want to go swimming all Sunday and end my day on my own living room floor with my son and my husband.

I don’t say these things to complain. Only to paint a picture of what this mission means to me. As a mom and a missionary, I have to sacrifice a lot of comfort at times. It really stinks some days. BUT those are the days when I forget what the sacrifices are for. Those are the days when having to eat cafeteria food seems like a meaningless and unpleasant experience. I think most of what we are doing with evangelization can be like this when I forget what we’re doing it for.

When I remember, when I spend time in prayer, these experiences are transformed. I feel privileged to place Georgie’s food on top of the microwave instead of a pantry…for the kingdom, for our students, for our culture. And, knowing I’m paler than my friends, since I haven’t laid out yet this summer, well, I’m offering that up for the women I worked with last year. Even my vanity has allowed some meaningful sacrifices here and there.

I know this applies to any mom working for the good of her family too. I’m learning to make sure I eliminate meaningless from my inward vocabulary to prepare for my silent days at home with G Man.

Pray for me that I won’t let Week 6 in a dorm be a meaningless case of missionary senioritis.