Hours Away From The Religious Liberty Cliff

I'm far less worried about the fiscal cliff than the First Amendment cliff we'll go over tomorrow when the HHS abortion mandate goes into effect. Here's a little update on developments on that front.

If you need a refresher, here's a good summary of Why Catholics Are Still Whining About the HHS Mandate.
I am a Catholic. I belong to a Church that claims to contain within its teachings the revealed truth about how best to love. One of its teachings is that the use of contraception represents a failure of love, in that it treats sex as an act with no purpose, marriage as a covenant separate from the total self-gift of creation, woman as an object to be altered, man as an animal who cannot master his actions (and thus needs the eradication of responsibility), and the child as an unintended consequence. I ask none to believe it. I merely ask one to consider the positively medieval possibility that there are people who do believe the act of contraception is a sin, and thus want no part in it.
It is a failure on the Catholic’s part to willingly practice contraception, knowing it wrong. But far worse than personal sin is for a man to lead others to sin. Jesus Christ is a fountain of mercy, but when he speaks of a man leading little ones astray he says, and I quote, “it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck.”
The federal government is demanding that Catholic institutions pay for their employees’ contraception. They thus demand that we lead others astray. There is simply no way to put money in a person’s hands labeled “for the specific purpose of your upcoming tubal ligation” without it being a sin to do so. It doesn’t matter if we are giving the money to insurance companies who then give the money to employees, any more than hiring a hitman would make us innocent of murder.
This is a strike against the free exercise of religion perhaps worse than simply burning down our churches or jailing us, because it's forbidding us to love persons in the only way we know how.

Though, for the record, the first company and family to take a hit over the HHS mandate is not Catholic, but Protestant-owned Hobby Lobby and the Green family.

Craft chain Hobby Lobby has announced it will defy the mandate, having been denied injunctive relief by Justice Sotomayor. A statement from the Becket Fund, which is representing Hobby Lobby, and links to anything you need to know about the case are here. Brave them! I assumed they'd just drop health care, but they are taking the civil disobedience route. (You can send a note of support to the Green family here and the internet hath decreed January 5th to be Shop at Hobby Lobby day to support them --you can shop online if there's no store near you. Closest local stores are in Laurel or Columbia.) It risks fines of $1.3 million per day for refusing to pay for abortifacients as part of its health care coverage. Think about that. A family starts a business and the government is going to fine it out of business for not paying for employee morning after pills.

That's not only a violation of the first amendment, it's a violation of the supposed right to "choice." Moreover, as Paul Rahe points out in his rambling but excellent The Deepest Source of Our Troubles, it means lack of self control (abortion) now trumps all rights in this country.
For a man and a woman who are married to rear offspring is a chore. It may be fulfilling, but it is demanding and hard. It requires sacrifice and discipline. For a single person to do so and to do it well requires a species of heroism. For a single person to do so at all requires help -- and that is where we are. For we now take it for granted that we are to pay for the mistakes that the single mother (and her sexual partner) made. We now, in fact, presume that she is entitled to our help -- and we now have a political party in power built on that premise.We are to pay for her groceries through WIC (Women, Infants, Children), for her medical care through Medicaid, for the contraceptives that she does not have the discipline to use properly and for the morning-after pill should she slip up and need an abortion. Her right to be promiscuous trumps our right to the fruits of our own labor.
Facing similar troubles are Jane & Cyril Korte, contractors in Illinois (Just in! an appeals court ruled for them after all), and Autocam, a Michigan company. These companies have, like Hobby Lobby, been denied injunctive relief while their cases wend through the courts.

On the bright side, in six of eight cases, companies have been granted reprieves, and here's a seventh it looks like.

The most heartening development comes out of a DC Court, which re-instated Evangelical Wheaton College and Catholic Belmont Abbey College's suit against the mandate. Heartening because the Administration ceded ground in court. The administration has been promising an amended rule, but so far this is just talk. There's no proposed change and the intrusive and abusive rule stands as "final." Finally they're not able to get away with that. As Judge Brian Cogan put it:
There is no, “Trust us, changes are coming” clause in the Constitution. 
Here's a good summary of the importance of that case, during which the Administration promised to re-write the rule in a way that protects religious freedom.
The federal appeals court also ordered the Obama Administration to report back every 60 days—starting in mid-February—until the Administration makes good on its promise to issue a new rule that protects their religious freedom. The Obama administration was ordered to rewrite the mandate by March 2013.
“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who argued the case.  “The court is not going to let the government slide by on non-binding promises to fix the problem down the road.”
So that's something, though the proposed re-write in no way solves the problem.