On Obama’s Unwinnable Battle Against Religious Liberty

What a crazy week it has been, between the Obamacare/HHS mandate, over 150 bishops speaking out against it, and the battle between Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood.

A great many people are visiting this site today because of my comments on the Komen situation — my most recent thoughts on that can be found here (ongoing updates can be found at my twitter page @AmericanPapist — the story is very fast moving and complex).

But I don’t want to lose track of the “bigger” story – Obama’s war against religious liberty in this country and the Catholic effort to win this war definitively.

Peggy Noonan calls this a “battle the President can’t win” in her syndicated column today for the Wall Street Journal and says “President Obama just may have lost the election” because, in going after the religious liberty of Catholics, he has “awakened a sleeping giant”:

If [Catholics] stay strong and fight, they will win. This is in fact a potentially unifying moment for American Catholics, long split left, right and center. Catholic conservatives will immediately and fully oppose the administration’s decision. But Catholic liberals, who feel embarrassed and undercut, have also come out in opposition.

The church is split on many things. But do Catholics in the pews want the government telling their church to contravene its beliefs? A president affronting the leadership of the church, and blithely threatening its great institutions? No, they don’t want that. They will unite against that.

I hope and pray she is exactly right.

Stephen White (a valued CV contributor) writes in National Review about the brazen politics behind Obama’s decision — exploding the myth that this was about helping women. It wasn’t. It was about asserting the raw power of the state over people and institutions of faith:

Perhaps the most telling moment in the [White House briefing] call came when one official conceded that the administration has no idea how many people this exemption is expected to “help.” In other words, in all HHS’s “careful considerations,” there was no comparison of the “benefit” (however marginal) of this exemption versus possible alternatives.

It mattered not at all whether this narrow exemption, when compared to a more robust exemption, expanded coverage to one more woman or one million more women. Coverage simply had to be expanded as a matter of principle. Whoever meets the requirements of the narrow exemption, and decides to take advantage of it, should be grateful they are allowed even that.

… Overall, the administration’s defense of the HHS mandate has been an exercise in condescension. In their eyes, the “religious exemption” wasn’t carved out so the government could protect constitutional rights while it addressed what it saw as a compelling interest — those rights, we are told, are not even at issue. In the eyes of this administration, the “exemption” is a benevolent, even gratuitous, concession. HHS even allows a whole year for certain cultural laggards (read: Catholics) to bring their “religious beliefs” up to speed. Is that not generous?

No kidding.

Luckily, a rising chorus of voices (in addition to all those I have already cited over this past week) are speaking out. Radio pundit Hugh Hewitt writes a “memo” to the U.S. Bishops:

It may have taken a few days to sink in, but by now you should all have realized that President Obama has opened a massive assault on the Roman Catholic Church in America the likes of which none of you have ever experienced and for which few of you have prepared.

He goes on to interview Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who says he has condemned the Obama/HHS decision “in every speech I’ve given today.” And that Catholics should respond to the law with “civil disobedience.”

GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has published an op-ed in the Washington Times on the subject of standing up for Catholics and religious liberty:

I stand with the Catholic Bishops and all religious organizations in their strenuous objection to this liberty- and conscience-stifling regulation.  I am committed to overturning Obamacare root and branch. If I am elected President, on day one of my administration I will issue an executive order directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a waiver from its requirements to all 50 states. And on day one I will eliminate the Obama administration rule that compels religious institutions to violate the tenets of their own faith.

Imagine that: we have the possibility of electing in November a President who will respect the constitutional right of American citizens to be, to live, Catholic.

That’s a battle worth winning. Let’s not forget it.

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16 thoughts on “On Obama’s Unwinnable Battle Against Religious Liberty

  1. Gregory C. Krog, Jr. says:

    Regarding the comment “do Catholics in the pews want the government telling their church to contravene its beliefs? A president affronting the leadership of the church, and blithely threatening its great institutions? No, they don’t want that. They will unite against that.” Let’s pray we will unite. But recall just one historical precedent.
    Could any English Catholic in, say, 1530, have imagined that in just eight years, (1538), that the twelve hundred year universal devotion to Catholicism of the English common people, not to mention the monasteries and Church lands so frequently devoted to the care of those same commoners, could be legislated from the scene, with the condemntation to barbarous execution of faithful adherents who refused to relinquish their devotion? (Keep in mind that the 1538 execution of St. Thomas More and Bishop St. John Fisher, by beheading, resulted an act of “compassion” by Henry VIIIth–a royal commutation pronounced for St. Thomas only on the very day of execution to forego the normal punishment for treason: hanging, drawing, and quartering. The innumerable ordinary priests, lay persons, and nuns who persisted in the faith received not such commutation. These sentences were imposed and carried out by fellow Englishmen, former members of the Faith. Does anyone sincerely think Nancy Pelosi will act differently from Thomas Cromwell or Bishop Cranmer when his own Bishop is tried for refusing to acknowledge this regulation? The traitorous apostates of the English reformation were motivated specifically by the desire to seize the great Catholic institutions for their own profit. Human nature has not changed between 1538 and 2012.

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