Playing Chicken with Religious Freedoms
From the media coverage you wouldn’t know that nearly a quarter of the U.S. population was just slighted by the Obama Administration. However, since this 22.2% of the population, or 77.7 million, people happen to be a religious group, it may be understandable.
In a January 20, 2012 press release from Health and Human Services, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration ordered non-profit religious organizations, hospitals, charities and the like who offer insurance to their employees to include abortion, contraception and other birth control methods as part of their health plans at no cost, deductible, or co-pay.
With this move the Administration struck a blow to the heart of the Catholic religion’s, and most other religions, long-held belief of the sanctity of life and its opposition to abortion. The Church’s staunch position against abortion and contraception has been a thorn in the back side of liberals for decades. Now, it appears that Obama is ready to “play chicken” with Catholics and other religious groups in the U.S. on how far the government can intruded into the “religious freedom” arena.
Freedom of Religion has been with our country since the colonial days. It was this desire to not be dictated to by a ruler as to what type of religion one could ascribe to that brought early settlers to our shores. In 1649 the colony of Maryland followed the Rhode Island colony’s actions in 1636 concerning freedom of religion when it enacted the Maryland Toleration Act. The Act essentially created the means for Catholics to exercise their faith without prosecution, “No person or persons…shall from henceforth be any waies troubled, molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof.”
As our country formed Freedom of Religion was codified in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. Article VI is the second mention of religion in our Constitution, which prevented the “religious test”; preventing the requirement that you must be from a specific religion in order to hold office. Overtime, these two freedoms have been challenged from those who wish to soften, re-write, or eliminate altogether the tie religious freedoms have in our country’s founding. Until now, religious liberties have held – with some slight bending now and again.
The latest challenge by the Obama Administration to force Catholic charities and other non-profit organizations associated with religion to offer all flavors of birth control up to and including abortion may just have crossed the line. Congregations across the country over the past several weekends have had the unusual call from their Bishops and Priests to speak out against what they believe to be an outright attack on their religious freedoms. They have encouraged their parishioners to oppose the move by the Administration and called on them to notify their Representatives and request that they sign on as co-sponsors to the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179).
As for the Obama Administration, this move will be embraced by a large majority of their liberal base, especially the Pro-Choice movement. So, from one perspective the political optics look good as Obama continues his re-election campaign. It would appear to us that this is a clever play by the Administration to challenge the actions of the Catholic Church while attempting to preserve “religious freedoms” in a watered down version. The Supreme Court has held that “actions” like polygamy and sacrifice, while they may very well be part of a religion, can be regulated by government. So, it may be true too that the government can prevent a religious organization from barring access to certain medical treatments.
Whatever comes of this action by the Administration is yet to be seen. The Obama Administration and liberals are betting on the fact that this move will not mobilize the Catholic base. But if it does mobilize the base, nearly one-quarter of the American population will become a formidable opponent in November.
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