With Contraception Mandate, Obama Ignores First Amendment and Separation of Church and State
I must confess, at first this was a tough post for me to write. For, when we really don’t like someone or something, it’s easy to ignore or accept an injustice against that person or thing. If a child-molesting priest gets raped behind bars, is anyone really going to shed a tear for him? Never mind that the priest’s prison sentence did not include a rape sentence, or that rape is always wrong. Those rational observations get relegated to some hidden corner in the back of our minds. We may even take primal satisfaction in the priest’s suffering. We all know karma’s a bitch…
But what ought to separate progressives from our brothers and sisters on the reactionary right is the immutable principle best expressed by Martin Luther King, Jr., who I consider to be the greatest American who ever lived (despite the fact that he was a man of “god,” who I consider to be a figment of mankind’s imagination):
“An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
As you may have guessed from my comments so far, I positively abhor religion. At their worst, I consider the three main Western religions– Judaism, Christianity and Islam– to be the province of the weak and the ignorant, the last refuge for bigotry, backwardness and all sorts of other nastiness that has no place in the 21st century. Don’t get me wrong; some of the smartest folks I know are people of faith (a word which Mark Twain so aptly defined as “believing what you know ain’t so”), but on the whole, I suspect (and studies back me up on this) that the more education one has, the less likely they are to believe in supernatural nonsense.
I am no fan of religion. But I am a fan of the constitution and the principles enshrined therein. And the very first of these is freedom of religion. That’s why I must condemn President Obama’s recent mandate that forces religious employers to offer free birth control to women. Sure, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius included an exemption for actual churches and their direct employees. But church-run organizations such as hospitals, schools and charities, many of which provide invaluable services to the most vulnerable segments of our society, will be forced to provide contraception in direct and blatant violation of cherished religious principles.
How anyone can defend this is beyond me; imagine the uproar if the government forced a Muslim charity that served meals to the poor to hand out free ham sandwiches, or an orthodox Jewish school to hold classes on Saturdays.
This odious mandate pisses all over the First Amendment, which guarantees religious freedom. It also blatantly violates that cherished principle, separation of church and state. That separation is a two-way street; all too often progressives enthusiastically invoke this principle to justify the exclusion of religion and religious imagery, symbolism or ritual from the public square, but separation of church and state is also intended to protect the religious from government meddling in their affairs.
Additionally, Obama’s mandate marks yet another broken promise to America. It also exposes the president’s dirty side: Sister Carol Keehan, CEO of the Catholic Health Association, was persuaded to support Obama’s health care reforms largely based on assurances that Catholics’ rights of conscience would be protected. “She has now met the crowded underside of Obama’s bus,” writes Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post.
Worse, under Obama’s new rules, those religious and religious-run organizations that fail to comply with the new birth control rules will face exorbitant fines. That’s food taken from the mouths of the millions of poor who rely upon religious charities for their survival.
The Obama administration has now signalled that it is willing to work with religious groups as it implements the new policy. But it has not been able to say what form this cooperation will take, and there is no sign that the president will back down from his decision despite a tidal wave of opposition. Sure, the majority of Catholics actually support Obama’s contraception mandate. But that doesn’t really matter. The majority of Catholics also supported Proposition 8, the measure which stripped California’s gays and lesbians of their marriage rights. But that doesn’t mean that what Alexis de Tocqueville called the “tyranny of the majority” should reign supreme.
And sure, plenty of Catholic women use birth control. But as Kathleen Parker points out, “Catholics commit adultery and lie, too, but they don’t want or expect the church to condone those actions.”
Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was right when he declared that forcing Americans to “choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their health care is literally unconscionable.” Even a rabidly anti-religion progressive like myself can clearly see that. The true test for people like myself is whether or not they can set aside their personal feelings and rally behind the constitution, which this President has violated or ignored so many times, whether by waging war without congressional declaration, by authorizing the indefinite military detention of American citizens without charge or trial or by pissing all over the First Amendment and the fundamental principle of separation of church and state.
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