For the better part of a year, I have personally wanted to start a series on the religious history of Nullification, both in America and worldwide, even before the beginning of America and in some cases before the existence of Christianity. The recent showdown over the US Bishops and the Obama administration over the HHS mandate regarding abortion and contraceptive funding in health insurance plans has opened up that door with a modern day example.

While the Catholic Church has been the most visible player on this issue, Orthodox Christian, Protestant and Jewish leaders have voiced their solidarity with the Catholic Bishops in their opposition to the HHS mandate.  There were also examples in my research of Muslim leaders joining in interfaith protests against the mandate, and brief mentions in the media of Muslim organizations joining in, but I personally found little on Muslims generally supporting or opposing the mandate.

While perhaps not every Tenther is opposed to abortion and contraception, to force religious employers, or even non-religious employers whose personal convictions forbid one from paying for things that conflict with their conscience, is a clear violation of the First Amendment, and unjust in general.

One’s religion is much more than what one does for an hour or two on Sunday, Saturday or any other day of the week. Most religions have rules governing not just how their adherents worship, but also how they carry themselves in day to day life. And in some cases, the violation of some of those rules results in de facto and/or public excommunication from that religion.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states “2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. ‘A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sentential,’ 77 ‘by the very commission of the offense,’ 78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. 79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy.

Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.” In other words, if I, as a Catholic, were to work as an abortionist, pay for an abortion, refer a woman for an abortion, I would be in direct violation of my Catholic faith, and would need to go to Confession and turn away from those actions before being permitted to receive Holy Communion or any of the other Church Sacraments.

By forcing all insurance plans to pay for abortion and contraceptives (which also violate Catholic teaching), the Health and Human Services Department is forcing Catholic hospitals, schools, and even private business owners to incur de facto excommunication from the Church. Even religions that disagree with Catholic Church teaching on abortion and contraception should be uncomfortable with that.

The recent proclamation by the US Bishops (h/t states that it’s an “obligation of faith” to fight the HHS mandate and other unjust laws. While the HHS mandate may be the most highly publicized item on the 12-page document from the bishops, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, it is obviously far from being the only one.

Some issues brought up, while they would rarely, if ever, affect the functioning of the Catholic Church, are still condemned in the document. In that way, the Church is standing up not only for the right of Catholics to enjoy religious freedom, but all religions. I cannot speak for all Tenthers, but I will say that as I discovered the Nullification movement and have continued to learn about it these past few years, I have personally come to believe that whatever the level, the non-violent but peaceful process of nullifying unjust laws is very consistent with my religious beliefs. History has shown that people of many different religions, or no established religion at all, feel the same way.

Benjamin W. Mankowski, Sr.

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