While the bishops of the United States and their allies combat this mandate as an unconstitutional violation of religious liberty, it is worth recalling another constitutional issue early in Obama's term.
In May 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya attempted to alter Honduran law and manipulate the parameters of term limits. The matter escalated in the Honduran government in the following weeks. The attorney general ordered Zelaya's arrest on June 28 on grounds of violating Honduran law.
The Honduran Congress voted to remove Zelaya from office by a tally of 122-6 for attempting to alter term limits. The Honduran Supreme Court voted to remove Zelaya from office by a vote of 15-0. This decision was not a coup, even though various media outlets will only describe Zelaya's actual removal by military personnel as such. It was a democratic vote, overwhelmingly in favor of removing Zelaya.
The following day, U.S. President Obama remarked on Zelaya's arrest: "We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the President of Honduras, the democratically elected President there. In that we have joined all the countries in the region, including Colombia and the Organization of American States." Zelaya is well-known as a political leftist and ally of Venezuelan socialist Hugo Chavez.
Washington Lawyer Miguel Estrada shed light on the legal dimension of altering term limits under the Honduran Constitution. In a July 10 Los Angeles Times article, Estrada wrote: "Article 239 [of the Honduran Constitution] specifically states that any president who so much as proposes the permissibility of reelection 'shall cease forthwith' in his duties, and Article 4 provides that any 'infraction' of the succession rules constitutes treason."
On July 8, the Obama Administration protested the removal of Zelaya by cutting $16.5 million in military aid to Honduras. Soon after, the Administration revoked four diplomatic visas for four members of the acting Honduran president's administration.
Over the next months, negotiations persisted as Zelaya fought to be reinstated with the full support of the Obama Administration. On August 25, the Administration remained dissatisfied with the progress and imposed additional sanctions on Honduras by denying all non-emergency visas to Honduran citizens desiring to enter the United States.
Pope John XXIII wrote in his encyclical Pacem in Terris, "Relations between nations are to be further regulated by justice. This implies, over and above recognition of their mutual rights, the fulfillment of their respective duties." That the American government did not give due respect for the rights and judicial providence of the Honduran congressional and supreme court votes is worth fair consideration.
Why was there such an aggressive response in this incident from the Obama administration? Is it possible Obama has an affinity for those who seek to end term limits? Chavez removed term limits in February 2009. The Nicaraguan president Ortega, to whom Zelaya fled after his ousting, also governs in the absence of term limits. Colombia, who Obama specifically mentioned as his ally in his above quote, also sought in 2009 to get rid of term limits. Could we see Obama seek to alter term limits if he is re-elected? Are these recent term limit incidents in Central and South America indicative of a global pattern?
Violence has since ensued between Zelaya supporters and the incumbent government. But what is the real moral of the story? The Obama Administration supported an unconstitutional position. For those who did not submit to their position, penalties were inflicted.
Sound familiar? See the beginning of this article if it doesn't.