Elusive Trope's picture

    Obama, Catholics and The New Old War

    Here we go again.

    As a New York Times blog puts it:

    When President Obama‘s administration last month unveiled rules that would require some religious hospitals, colleges and other institutions to provide free contraception to their employees under the new health care law, it might have seemed to be a political winner.

    The idea of birth control being covered by insurance companies is popular across the political spectrum, even among Catholics. The new policy will exempt churches themselves and will have no effect on doctors who object to prescribing contraception. And the decision means the president’s health care law will help make birth control cheaper for millions of women.

    So life should be good, right? Wrong.

    But Catholic groups, including some friendly to the White House, are loudly objecting. And now Republicans — including Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama’s likely opponent in the presidential election — have seized on the decision as the foundation for a broad new indictment of Mr. Obama’s administration.

    Their accusation is that Mr. Obama is waging a war on religious freedoms. They argue that the president’s decision on contraception can be seen as an expansion of efforts to extend the reach and power of the federal government, even into the affairs of religious groups.

    There was a time when the attacks against Big Government by conservatives was by and large a tax and spending issue.  The problem was the liberal Democrats wanted to take your hard earned money and spend it on such things like those who were too lazy to work. 

    But now it seems that the conservatives are expanding the nature of Big Government.  It isn't that liberal Democrats are just in love with spending the money of hard working Americans.  Instead, they have a more nefarious plan.  Big Government isn't just draining your checking account, it wants to control every facet of your life and dictate to you what to believe and what not to believe. 

    We've heard the arguments before.  The fear of Big Brother can heard from those of every political stripe.  The whole Obama is a socialist thing heard since the 2008 campaign is a variation on a common theme. 

    It is no surprise that the conservative and Republican establishments are trying to shore up support from the libertarian folks in the Tea Party, along with those who would prefer voting for Ron Paul.  

    But as someone who tries to follow the conservative strategy from my side of the river, it appears the "Fear the Socialism (it's really Communism)" strategy is being taken to a new level. 

    The reason for this I believe is that the social and political conservative establishment can read the writing on the cultural wall.  The best example is when gays were allowed to be open in the military and not only was there not rioting in the streets, life went on as it always had. 

    There is this [emphasis mine] from guest writer Victoria Kovari for the Detroit Free Press:

    This week, most of the 1.5 million Catholics in the Detroit Archdiocese will receive letters in their bulletins from the U.S. Catholic Bishops condemning the federal government for ruling that Catholic and other religious institutions, like hospitals and schools (not churches), have to cover Federal Drug Administration-approved contraceptives in their health insurance policies.

    I was very discouraged at the level of outrage that this group of bishops has displayed about this ruling. I am a Catholic, go to Mass every week, serve on the Parish Council and am morally opposed to abortion. But when it comes to contraception, I am in a different camp — and I am not alone. Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women of reproductive age have used birth control, including me. So have my sisters, my nieces and almost every other Catholic woman I know.

    Church leaders say that government is attacking their religious liberty by forcing them to cover contraceptives, but the reality is that thousands of Catholic institutions in most states and around the world have complied with same law, without any harmful repercussions. I am not a theologian, nor a legal expert on religious liberty.  I am a mother who tries to pass on the faith she loves to her children. But I don’t understand why the leaders of our Church have decided to spend their moral and financial resources on a misplaced fight for so called religious liberty, when so much else is at stake.

    One can speculate as to why the Catholic Church in America has decided to go all out against the Obama administration on this matter.  No one has to be reminded of the Church's own PR problems, and it is not far fetched to believe this is largely motivated to have people look the other way from the less-than-Christian events that have unfolded over the decades.  A Roman Catholic lay organization recently ran its own PR campaign

    $3.5 million prime-time television campaign aimed at drawing more people to the faith and to church.

    Catholics Come Home, a national nonprofit led by Catholic business people and theologians in partnership with dioceses around the country, called it the denomination's first-ever "television evangelization initiative."

    Those within the Catholic Church have their own agenda and there is no conspiracy between all of the conservative forces to align their actions toward stopping Obama from having a second term. 

    The religious liberty issue, however, is one which the various conservative forces know they can get a lot of mileage out of, with their base at least.  The cultural wars is well documented and this can be seen as just another skirmish in this long fought clash.  So the Catholic Church gets bent out of shape and Mitt Romney goes on the attack. 

    But they know this can't be just about contraception.  If it became a battle over this, the conservatives would come across as being out of touch.  And it can't even be just about religious liberty when it comes to contraception.  No one is being forced to use it.  In a sense it is about the freedom for women who want access to be able to get access to this kind of medical service.  As Ms. Kovari points out, increasing this access has a large majority of support.

    So there has to be another angle.  Enter the tyranny of the liberals.  Today they forced others to ensure contraception is made available, tomorrow they will be taking their private property from you. The intrusion into peoples lives knows no limits.

    I am reminded of the time in 2011 when the Iranian reform movement was gaining speed.  The Bush made his Axis of Evil speech, and the Iranian people rallied around their government in a show of solidarity, allowing for the government to squash the reformists.

    So this subtle shift in emphasis going on in the rhetorical strategy seems to be coming from an acceptance that they're not going to win over many more to their ideas - see the outcome of the 2008 election.  Instead they are going for politics makes for strange bedfellows approach, saying in effect, "we don't agree on the specifics, but we can agree we are both under attack by this new tyranny of Big Government (who by the way wants to increase your taxes)."


    First, a brief review is necessary.

    Secular (adj) - of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred.

    - officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion.

    - refers to the declining influence of religion and religious values within a given culture.

    Non-secular  - a society is one where religion is experienced in many everyday events of civic life, and where it is part of the government.

    There's very few definitions for the term non-secular per Google's imprint of my preferences on the subject. I'm quite sure someone else would get a plethora of definitions to my paltry few hits.

    The Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights pretty much indicate  the US is a secular nation.  The 1st Amendment goes so far as to make a distinct line of separation between the religious activity and government declaring one is free to practice their religion in whatever manner they see fit without fear the government would intrude. It's the cornerstone of our freedoms.

    However, there is a droning claim of government interference in people practicing their religious beliefs by the government.

    Really !?!?!?!?!

    I believe the 1st Amendment isn't being breached by the government ... they're not stepping into the Church and dictating how one should or should not worship the deity of their choice. They are honoring their commitment and steering their policies away from conflict with respect to the religious clause in the 1st Amendment.

    The issue is where non-secular entities, such as religious groups, have set-up shop outside the confines of the 1st Amendment and staked claims on secular grounds where government policies do come in conflict with religion and their beliefs. Hospitals are the prime example.

    Religion is free to practice their beliefs without fearing the government will step in and dictate what they can or cannot profess ... so long as they stay within the confines of the Church. Once they step outside the doors of their spiritual sanctuary, all bets are off. The 1st Amendment only protects their freedom to practice their religious beliefs within the confines of their Holies of Holies ... not on the public street. Because out on the street there are others of different faiths who have a different set of morale ethics. And if one is allowed to move into the public square, all the rest would demand the same for their beliefs too. So the government has a responsibility to all religions not the promote one over the other.

    What I beg to differ with the religious zealots claiming the government is pushing their political agenda on them disrespecting their faith and trampling on their 1st Amendment rights is when did a hospital become a religious sanctuary protected by the 1st Amendment? Just because a specific religious entity provides financial support to an institution doesn't mean the mantle of the 1st Amendment covers it as well.

    I believe that once a religion steps beyond the doors of their sanctuary and enters into a secular activity, they have no choice but to follow the policies the government has set forth for such an activity. If such policies are against their religious beliefs, then it should be a no-brainer it's an activity they should not participate in. And if the activity they've been engaged in comes under policies changes in conflict with their beliefs, they have no choice but to withdraw their presence from the activity.

    It would be wrong to expect the government to give religious participation in secular activities a free pass because of the 1st Amendment ... the amendment is very specific about one's right to practice one's faith - it's silent about other life activities related to the practice of one's religion.


    I believe that once a religion steps beyond the doors of their sanctuary and enters into a secular activity, they have no choice but to follow the policies the government has set forth for such an activity.

    Yeah. I hereby render unto Beetlejuice the Dayly Legal Analytic Line of the Day Award for this here Dagblog Site, given to all of him from all of me!

    Now email this line to every Catholic in this nation!

    Concur and acknowledge the award is well deserved.

    Well put, BJ.  Yes, once they're outside the church confines they can no longer dictate to the rest of the world.  They hate that. 

    The argument loses steam when it comes out that their policies do, in fact, cover contraceptives.  The difference is there will no longer be a co-pay.  So what's the big fuss about?  Big government?  Obamacare?  Uppity women?

    None of the above.  It's all about power and pandering in order to give the Right a win in November. 

    The First Amendment is just one more weapon in their battle to overturn Gay marriage and Roe v Wade.

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