Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced sweeping changes to the school lunch program. As a part of the First Lady's push to have more nutritious lunches served to students, schools will be mandated to serve more white meat in their meals. The new regulations call for all schools across the country to serve grilled pork on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while grilled chicken will be served to students on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The new mandate is expected to be a major boon to the pork and poultry industries while the beef industry is expected to fight the change.
Let us start by pointing out that the above press release item is fake. There is no mandate to serve only white meat in elementary, middle and high schools across the United States. We created the article only to help prove a point.
But first, what is the initial reaction to the fake press release. Childhood obesity is on the rise in America so serving healthier foods to students is a good idea. On a slightly larger scale, Ohio has a larger stake in poultry and swine production than in beef so the change would most likely be an asset to the state economy.
Now let's step back to the big picture. How would this move affect schools around Putnam County? Probably not much. But how would it affect schools with a large Jewish population. By religious tenet, Jews do not eat pork so the government has just decreed that schools must abide by rules that go against students' religious belief systems. What about during Lent? Catholics and other faiths do not eat meat on Fridays and substitute fish in its place. This mandate makes no allowance for those religious beliefs, either.
This is exactly what has happened in the case of the Obama administration's mandate in the healthcare law over providing contraception as a part of their health insurance policies. When Catholic schools and universities complained about the regulation several weeks ago, President Obama declared the schools would not be responsible for providing the contraceptive insurance but that the insurers must provide it for free as a part of the policy.
First, no company stays in business for long by giving away part of what used to be sold and paid for to customers. While insurance companies may never have put "contraceptive policy costs" on an invoice again, those costs would have appeared in the bill at some point.
Second, President Obama never understood that the real argument was not about the contraceptives themselves. They were just the subject of the issue. The issue was about the separation of church and state and religious freedom. Just as we would never stand by and watch Jewish children be forced to eat pork, we should not stand by and watch Catholics or other religious organizations be forced to provide something - in this case contraceptives - that goes against a religious tenet.
This week more than 40 colleges and universities banded together in 12 different suits to sue the Obama administration over the health care law and the contraceptive mandate. Unfortunately, some larger media institutions have chosen to report on this as a battle over contraceptives.
We hope the institutions win in their challenge to the federal government. We hope they win because this could prove to be a slippery slope for future federal mandates. If freedom of religion goes, what is next? Freedom of the press? Freedom of speech? The right to bear arms?