In an impressively twisted column, even by his own contorted standards, The Kansas City Star’s Yael Abouhalkah recently decried the “hypocrisy” of the J.E. Dunn Construction Co. for its attempt to honor the conscience of its family members, as the Obama administration very recently had pro-
mised it could.
This column followed by two days an article in The Star that singled out J.E. Dunn for its filing of an amicus brief in support of Hobby Lobby, which has a religious-freedom case before
the Supreme Court. Reporter Kevin Collison quoted Chairman Steve Dunn to the effect that the company “has a long history
of supporting religious organizations and has established policies that are consistent with the Dunn family’s Catholic heritage, such as excluding insurance coverage for drugs that act as abortifacients.”
“Balance” being a relative term in newspaper sourcing, Collison turns to the other side of the abortion divide. Right on cue, J.E. Dunn is accused of “discrimination against women.”
Missouri NOW president Jamie Tomek chimed in with a constitutional reading so dizzying it would give James Madison vertigo. “Women’s rights to medical procedures are as important as religious rights. We certainly feel that women are entitled to birth control through their employer’s insurance,” she told The Star, presumably with a straight face. “It’s the 21st century and that’s a way women can protect themselves to be productive members of society.”
A little background is useful to understand how we have reached this impasse. In September 2009, President Obama unveiled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, before both houses of Congress and the American public. “Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place,” the president said piously. Score one here for J.E. Dunn.
The company would seem to be on Obama’s side of history.
Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat, had some misgivings. He and his colleagues resisted the bill that was rushed through the Senate because it did not specifically prevent the funding of abortion or protect the conscience of believers.
To this point, the words in Obama’s September 2009 health care speech—“no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions”—remained just words.
Before he and his allies signed off on Obamacare, Stupak insisted the conscience clause be formalized. The Senate, however, had rushed the bill through before new Republican Sen. Scott Brown could be seated. Brown had ridden the anti-Obamacare wrath of his fellow citizens to a surprise win in the Massachusetts Senate race. Democrats in the Senate no longer had the 60 needed votes. If the bill went back to the Senate, it would never come out.
As a solution, Obama proposed an executive order assuring Stupak the protections he demanded. Score two for J.E. Dunn. Unlike an amendment, however, an executive order could easily be rescinded or ignored. Score one against J.E. Dunn. Although wary, Stupak at the time did not yet recognize just how little a promise from Obama meant. So he took a big bite of the apple, handed it to his colleagues, and they bit as well.
Whatever hopes Stupak may have entertained about canonization were dashed on Jan. 20, 2012. That was the day on which Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ Department of Health and Human Services introduced the “HHS Mandate.” This mandate required that virtually all private health insurance plans include coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices, surgical sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs, all of
which fly in the face of Catholic Church teaching.
“I am perplexed and disappointed, having negotiated the executive order with the president,” Stupak said at a Democrats for Life panel at the convention later that year. “Not only does the HHS mandate violate the executive order, but it also violates statutory law.” Score two against J.E. Dunn.
Stupak was obviously not keeping up with the times—or The Star, for that matter. True, religious freedom may be enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, but making someone else pay for your “reproductive free-dom” had to be in there somewhere too,
Just to be clear about the language, J.E. Dunn is not denying women their “rights to medical procedures.” It is merely asking women to pay for controversial procedures on their own, as they have always done. Given the transparent abuse of both language and the law by the Obama administration, one would think The Star would cut J.E. Dunn and other such family-held companies a little slack.
Not so. Collison dug into the J.E. Dunn portfolio in the hope of finding some previous work that would allow him to accuse the company of hypocrisy. Abouhalkah celebrated his discovery in his column. Eureka! J.E. Dunn had served as the general contractor on the National Nuclear Security Administra-tion’s new building.
This is a plant that, among many other things, makes parts for nuclear wea-pons. Says Abouhalkah, “The Catholic faith that the Dunn has such a
history of following also opposes nuclear weapons and even supports nuclear disarmament.” In other words, said Abouhalkah, “making the almighty dollar trumped religious freedom in this case.”
Where to begin? Yael, everyone opposes nuclear weapons, but the Catholic Church has always accepted the doctrine of the “just war.” The Church even allows for capital punishment under certain circumstances. On the other hand, the Church en-shrined its doctrine on contraception and abor-
tion in an encyclical, Humanae Vitae. This makes it official.
Pope John Paul II vigorously reaffirmed that position. Depriving an innocent human being of life—and life undeniably begins at conception—is “always morally evil.” He added, “This tradition is unchanged and un-changeable.” Weeks after Time Magazine named Pope Francis “Man of the Year,” he denounced abortion as “horrific.” Don’t expect to see him on next year’s cover.
The Star does not have to abide by the position of the Catholic Church or any other church. It obviously doesn’t. A few days before trashing J.E. Dunn, Abou-halkah headlined a column, “Victories for Kansas Bible-thumpers and Missouri gun lovers.” (How long, one wonders, would Abouhalkah have kept his job had he said “Koran-thumpers”?)
But to denounce one of Kansas City’s most respected, most generous, and most philosophically consistent companies as hypocritical for legally chal-
lenging the most unholy botch of a law in recent American history makes me want to rethink my subscription to The Kansas City Star.
Come to think of it, I rethought that about 15 years ago. Thanks, Yael, for reminding me why.