Romney Comes to the Rescue of the First Amendment? Give me a Break!

There was quite a fuss this week over how ObamaCare will trample religious freedom by requiring religious hospitals, colleges and charities to provide insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and the ”morning-after” abortion pill, all of which are opposed by the Catholic Church and the latter opposed by most protestant denominations.

Romney stepped into the brouhaha by denouncing this action as an assault upon the First Amendment which, of course, guarantees the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference. He even heroically said he would overturn such regulations if elected President.

The problem with Romney’s bravado is that when he had the opportunity to defend religious freedom while Governor of Massachusetts, he always sided with the anti-religious bigots. I can think of four instances in which Romney was tested on his commitment to the First Amendment but, like clockwork, he caved every time, thereby allowing the left to continue their relentless assault upon religious institutions and the freedom of conscience for individuals.

First, there was the emergency contraception issue, an issue almost identical to the very issue raised by the ObamaCare controversy. In 2005, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill requiring all hospitals to provide women with the abortion pill. Romney actually vetoed this bill, an action that has become a fixture in pro-Romney propaganda “proving” he fought for pro-lifers while Governor. What the Romney forces don’t mention, however, is that Romney reversed himself just two days later! The legislature, as expected, overrode Romney’s veto, but Romney then publicly claimed the bill didn’t apply to private religious hospitals. This observation was correct since the Massachusetts Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the state had existing religious conscience protection statutes on the books.

Romney’s State Health Commissioner, Paul Cote, Jr., announced, “his department felt strongly that the new emergency contraception law did not compel all hospitals to provide the morning after pill.” However, the pro-abortion crowd started to loudly protest and Mark Nielson, Romney’s pro-abortion legal counsel, suddenly claimed the new law superseded the preexisting conscience protection statute, even though there was nothing in the bill to indicate this. Indeed, wording that expressly removed the conscience protection exemption for religious entities was removed from the bill in committee, so Nielsen was claiming the bill said something the bill’s authors had purposely left out.

Incredibly, Romney, after being opposed to the bill a few days earlier, then announced, ”I think, in my personal view, it’s the right thing for hospitals [referring to private hospitals] to provide information and access to emergency contraception to anyone who is a victim of rape.” Remember, this is not about public hospitals but private Catholic hospitals opposed to abortion except when the mother’s life is in jeopardy.

Romney not only did not fight for Catholic hospitals and religious freedom, he readily switched his position based upon a very weak and illogical legal opinion supplied to him by his pro-abortion counsel. Romney’s agreement with Nielsen’s opinion thus created a horrible precedent allowing government to strip away the religious freedom rights of a private religious institution.

And then there was the Catholic Charities issue. As a result of some media attention regarding an adoption program operated by Catholic Charities, Romney’s Department of Social Services informed Catholic Charities that to be in compliance with the state’s anti-discrimination law, they could not refuse to place children with homosexual couples. However, the law didn’t actually apply to groups like Catholic Charities. Apparently, Romney’s bureaucrats created their own internal regulations which went above and beyond the actual law. Such internal regulations could have easily waived by Romney but he refused to do so.

Even former Governor Michael Dukakis told the press that the State’s anti-discrimination statutes didn’t apply to Catholic Charities, stating that “there’s nothing in there to the best of my knowledge that mandates anything…” Nevertheless, Romney, to this day, blames a mythological law for what happened to Catholic Charities. After forcing Catholic Charities out of the adoption business, Romney had the gall to say in 2006, “there are many, many other agencies that can meet the needs of those gay couples and I recognize that they have a legitimate interest in being able to receive adoptive services.”

And we can’t forget about Romney’s role in implementing same-sex marriage. Contrary to popular mythology, same-sex marriage exists in Massachusetts solely due to the actions of Gov. Romney. When the state supreme court issued the Goodridge decision, Romney unilaterally implemented the decision even though he was NOT a party to the lawsuit. The high court ordered the state legislature to change its marriage statutes and the legislature, even as liberal as it was, refused to do so. They knew the court was over-stepping its jurisdictional boundaries since the state constitution itself makes clear all laws dealing with marriage were the sole prerogative of the legislature. The state constitution’s author, John Adams, apparently knew something about separation of powers!

To this day, the state marriage statutes remain the same. Same-sex marriage was carried out unilaterally and without any legislative authorization by the Romney administration and exists today solely due to his executive actions. Moreover, Romney’s “Office of the Governor’s Legal Counsel” issued an order that stated that all clerks and Justices of the Peace “may not refuse to marry same sex couples based on their sexual orientation, and may face personal liability if they do refuse to….” Romney expressed absolutely no concern over the religious rights of the clerks and in fact, he didn’t hesitate to fire them if they refused to carry out his unconstitutional order. One Justice of the Peace, Linda Gray Kelley, did in fact refuse to compromise her faith and she did lose her job. Again, this was not an order emanating from the court since the court never ordered Romney to do anything; this order was from the Governor’s office.

Lastly, Romney failed to respect the religious rights of parents. During Romney’s term of office there were a number of outrageous incidents in which the first amendment rights of parents were trampled upon as they attempted to protect their children from homosexual propaganda in the schools. This occurred despite parental rights laws on the books that gave parents the right to exempt their children from “human sexuality issues” that may be incompatible with a family’s religious beliefs. When one father, David Parker, discovered his five year old son was reading a book promoting same-sex marriage — called Who’s in a Family — he tried to remove his son from school. Incredibly, Parker was arrested by the police and thrown in jail, an incident that attracted national media attention.

As author Amy Contrada writes in her book, Mitt Romney’s Deception, “Romney had the perfect opportunity in the Parker case to order his DOE to put a halt to such violations of parental rights. But he did nothing.” There were dozens of similar cases but not once did Romney intervene with his education bureaucracy to put a stop to the gross violations of the state’s parental rights law.

As I’ve argued many times, it would be extremely naive to judge Romney or any candidate based on their campaign rhetoric and sound bites. If you want to know how a President Romney will handle attacks on the First Amendment, it would be far more accurate to look at his actual record. And it’s not pretty. But since our media — even our “conservative” media — have failed to report anything substantial about Romney’s horribly liberal record, millions of voters are flocking to support his “conservative” candidacy. God help us.

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