The president may have been surprised by the unusual and overwhelming unity among Catholic Americans after he issued an unprecedented threat to religious liberty most directly aimed at Catholic institutions. But he probably didn’t expect a whole movement across America to rise in solidarity with the common cause of resisting his unchecked tyranny.
Call it what it is: The Audacity of Power.
In one of the boldest, most audacious moves ever made by a President of the United States, President Barack Obama is on the brink of successfully rendering moot the very first clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (emphasis added). If he forces the Catholic Church to comply with the Health and Human Services ruling to provide its employees with insurance that covers activities the Church has long held sinful — abortion via the morning after pill, sterilization and contraceptives — then the precedent is clear: when religious beliefs conflict with government decrees, religion must yield.
The story line that President Obama miscalculated in picking this fight with the Catholic Church vastly underestimates the man’s political skill and ambition. His initial approval of the ruling requiring the Church pay for abortion drugs and sterilization was but the first step in a calculated strategy to further his goal of transforming America.
President Obama chose to pick this fight with the Catholic Church by choosing to release the regulations first, and then, as he explained in last Friday’s statement to the press, spend “the next year (before the new regulations take effect) to find an equitable solution that would protect religious liberty and insure that every woman has access to the care that she needs.” The alternative would have been to find the “equitable solution” before announcing the regulations. In other words, this entire political fire storm is a set-up by the Administration.
This is an excellent article. Consider what he posed as ‘choices.’
Option A: The Church complies with the law and violates its own teachings and principles of faith. Such a choice would strip the Church of its legitimacy and make it a de facto vassal of the state. In this case, the ability of the Church to challenge the government’s political power is vastly reduced, if not completely destroyed. Faith, charity and civil society are marginalized. Government wins.
Option B: The Church as a matter of conscience refuses to obey the law, and stops offering health insurance to its employees. In this case, the Church gets crushed by hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. As a consequence, its ability to fulfill its religious mission by funding hospitals, schools and charities is sharply reduced if not destroyed. As the Church is forced to withdraw from its active role in civil society, those who believe in government will rush to fill the void. Faith, charity and civil society are marginalized. Government wins.
The risk to President Obama was the Church would create “Option C” and engage in a broad political battle to force the full repeal of the ruling or, if that fails, the defeat of President Obama in the November election followed by the repeal of ObamaCare. Under Option C, government’s power is reduced. Faith, charity and civil society win.
President Obama’s political skill is demonstrated by his anticipation and preparation for just this outcome. First, he has used the issue to energize his political base by positioning his Administration as the defender of “women’s health” and attacking his opponents for taking him up on his implicit dare to make it an issue in the Presidential campaign.
Okay, stop right there. Ultimately, read the entire article, it’s so well done and incisive.
But let’s look at that claim, heard from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and President Obama, to be the defender of “women’s health”. That’s Orwellian.
Let’s be honest.
Advocates of President Obama’s contraception mandate should admit that its main purpose is sexual liberation and not “women’s health,” according to a feminist author who supports the mandate.
“The phrase ‘women’s health’ in the birth control dispute is the latest nimble euphemism,” author and blogger Pamela Haag wrote in a Feb. 17 essay published on the “Marriage 3.0” blog.
Access to contraception, she said, “isn’t really about my ‘health.’ It’s not principally about the management of ovarian cysts or the regulation of periods.”
“Birth control isn’t about my health unless by ‘health’ you mean, my capacity to get it on, to have a happy, joyous sex life that involves an actual male partner,” wrote Haag, criticizing White House supporters for discussing contraceptives mainly as “preventive services” for women’s health.
“The point of birth control is to have sex that’s recreational and non-procreative,” wrote Haag approvingly. “It’s to permit women to exercise their desires without the ‘sword of Damocles’ of unwanted pregnancy hanging gloomily over their heads.”
Just to be brutally clear.
Women are speaking up alright, and many of them against the mandate.
Despite claims that only male clergy and politicians oppose the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, Catholic women across the nation are objecting strongly to the federal rule.
In recent posts on CNA’s Catholic Womanhood page, columnists attacked the mandate from various angles – some addressed the issue of religious freedom while others questioned the validity of abortifacients, sterilization and contraception being labeled as “basic medical care” for women.
But the main remains religious liberty.
Religious freedom is a fundamental right of all. This right does not depend on any government’s decision to grant it: it is God-given, and just societies recognize and respect its free exercise. The free exercise of religion extends well beyond the freedom of worship. It also forbids government from forcing people or groups to violate their most deeply held religious convictions, and from interfering in the internal affairs of religious organizations.
Recent actions by the Administration have attempted to reduce this free exercise to a “privilege” arbitrarily granted by the government as a mere exemption from an allencompassing, extreme form of secularism…
In the United States, religious liberty does not depend on the benevolence of who is regulating us. It is our “first freedom” and respect for it must be broad and inclusive–not narrow and exclusive. Catholics and other people of faith and good will are not second class citizens. And it is not for the government to decide which of our ministries is “religious enough” to warrant religious freedom protection.
This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization–although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all. If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end?
And that’s precisely the central question drawing religious leaders and organizations into this maelstrom. It has become a coalition of the concerned, and it is growing.
We evangelicals must stand unequivocally with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Because when the government violates the religious liberty of one group, it threatens the religious liberty of all.
Many bishops have already declared that they will not obey this unjust law. The penalty for such a move would be severe. Catholic hospitals, universities, and other organizations would be forced to pay punitive fines ($2,000 per employee) for refusing to purchase insurance that violates the teaching of their church….
But Catholic institutions aren’t the only ones affected by this mandate. Prison Fellowship, for example, which employs 180 people, could not purchase insurance for its employees that covers abortifacients. Nor could the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners and their families afford the fines we would incur.
Three years ago, when we co-authored the Manhattan Declaration, we predicted that the time would come when Christians would have to face the very real prospect of civil disobedience—that we would have to choose sides: God or Caesar.
Certainly for the Catholics and for many of us evangelicals, that time is already upon us.
Lutherans have sounded the alert.
Lutherans generally have some differences with Catholics. That was the point of the Reformation. Lutherans believe that the Bible alone has the ability to determine doctrine, for instance, while the Catholic Church invests doctrinal authority in its bishops and tradition.
But on Thursday afternoon in Washington, the Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, told a panel of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives that the St. Louis-based denomination “stand(s) with our friends in the Catholic Church” in opposition to a recent government ruling on contraception.
The Missouri Synod has not traditionally embraced the notion of pluralism, at least when it comes to what the church calls “altar and pulpit fellowship.” But in an interview Friday, Harrison, who lives in Ballwin with his family, made it clear that the Missouri Synod has “large consensus with the Roman Catholic Church on moral issues.”
“The Christian church is a billion times beyond the Missouri Synod,” Harrison said. “Without the Roman Catholic Church in this country, our way would be infinitely more difficult.”
So earlier this week, when Harrison received an invitation to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he reluctantly agreed. He sat on a panel with other religious leaders and scholars, including Roman Catholic Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University in New York.
“I was minding my business three days ago,” he said, “and then I got pulled into the monkey cage.”
By the time Harrison left the cage, he would deliver a fiery indictment before lawmakers, venturing past the issue of contraception and deep into broad issues of intolerance and righteousness.
Evangelical leaders Chuck colson and Dr. Timothy George struck a nerve with their call to action.
We do not exaggerate when we say that this is the greatest threat to religious freedom in our lifetime. We cannot help but think of the words attributed to German pastor Martin Niemoeller, reflecting on the Nazi terror:
First they came for the Socialists, and I
did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did
not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was
no one left to speak for me.
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