President Obama’s Legacy on Religious Liberty

Jan. 20 2017

Assessing the outgoing president’s policies over the past eight years, Andrew T. Walker and Josh Wester see a consistently “callous” attitude toward religious freedom, especially when it came to legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Regarding the latter, they write:

During the implementation of the ACA, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a mandate . . . requiring most employer health plans to provide “all FDA-approved forms of contraception,” including some that act as abortifacients. Despite being aware of the conscience issues created by such a rule, HHS allowed only the narrowest of exemptions for certain types of religious employers. The protests of business owners, religious leaders of various faiths, and advocates of freedom fell on deaf ears. The administration’s unyielding commitment to this HHS mandate revealed its animus toward religious freedom and ultimately resulted in two very consequential and public defeats for the president’s agenda [at the Supreme Court]. . . .

Among those seeking relief from the oppressive mandate were the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic religious order dedicated to caring for the elderly poor. After years of bureaucratic and legal strife—to say nothing of the threat of million-dollar fines for conscientious dissent—the administration ultimately acknowledged that this mandate was not the least restrictive means of furthering a government interest in providing contraceptives—an unnecessary outcome.

From the start, the administration should have established compromise measures to ensure health coverage for contraceptives without needlessly burdening religious exercise. But such intransigence only proved the larger point. For the Obama administration, whatever the value of religious freedom might be, it could easily be subjugated to a higher, more progressive, ideal.

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Read more at National Review

More about: Abortion, Barack Obama, Freedom of Religion, Gay marriage, Obamacare, Politics & Current Affairs

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism