At CPAC, Senator Cruz (who is, I should note, a friend) said that Democrats had told the Catholic Church, “Change your religious beliefs or we’ll use our power in the federal government to shut down your charities and your hospitals.” PolitiFact Texas is on the case, and it finds that in fact Democrats never used those exact words to describe the import of their policies. Its ruling: Cruz’s statement is “incorrect and ridiculous” and therefore merits a “Pants on Fire” rating.
Here’s how PolitiFact summarizes — accurately! — its own argument:
The Catholic bishops have said that potential accumulated fines resulting from refusals to carry out the contraception mandate will cause some institutions to shut down.
Perhaps. However, such prospects do not reflect a direct threat from Democrats or the government. To the contrary, the administration has moved to widen the mandate’s exemption for religious employers and provide a workaround for those who act as their own insurance providers — with the goal of allowing affected parties to continue their work without violating or changing their beliefs.
First of all, how does PolitiFact know what the “goal” of the administration’s “workaround” was? Its sole evidence on this point consists of a statement by President Obama that it takes at face value rather than subjects to any fact-checking. Maybe the administration’s actual goal was to come up with a way of saying it was taking religious-freedom concerns seriously without actually changing anything of substance, the better to snow credulous organizations like PolitiFact Texas.
The religious institutions that object to the policy, post-”workaround,” say that they cannot comply with it while staying true to their religious beliefs. (Most courts so far have agreed that the policy places an illegal burden on the practice of the faith not only by religious institutions but by companies owned by people with religious objections to abortion drugs, sterilization, and contraception.) The administration’s policy gives these institutions — that is, tells them they have — two choices. They can comply, even if they think doing so violates their consciences (and they are, presumably, the right judges of that question). Or they can refuse to comply and be driven out of operation.
Cruz was right, and PolitiFact Texas seems to be doing a fine job of holding up its brand’s standards.