Contraception Mandate & Religion Liberty Pt. II; The State, The Church, and The Citizen

“A law targeting religious beliefs as such is never permissible.”

Religious freedom is as much an integral ingredient in American law and society as sand is an integral ingredient in glass. This country was founded upon the freedom of conscience and the principle that the government would never dictate the exercise of conscience. During the eras the Pilgrims emigrated from England and the Constitution’s ratification, it was commonplace for governments to dictate a church’s beliefs and governance. It was equally commonplace for governments to compel their citizenries’ adherence to that particular church’s beliefs. In some instances, the roles were reversed: a church dictated a government’s positions and actions. Because of this relationship, the state, either as an instrument of the church or as the church’s ultimate secular authority, dictated specific, non-optional religious beliefs to its citizenry. It was against this backdrop that our founding fathers drafted the First Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing that the government would neither dictate what a church or citizen would believe nor interfere with the free exercise of religion.

I witnessed a particularly troubling exchange on a local public television program between a conservative and a liberal. At the heart of this exchange was the proposition that the conservative should not interpose upon the liberal the conservative’s religious belief as to when life begins. The liberal stated that certain rabbis, contrary to the conservative within her faith believe that life does not begin until 30 days after birth. While we could quibble about whether the liberal accurately represented Jewish sources or whether her position is contrary to the Scriptures to which those rabbis adhere, these points are tertiary to the whole Contraception Mandate debate. First, no conservative or Catholic I know wishes to interpose his or her religion on society. Rather, it is the Obama Administration seeking to abrogate the protected sphere of a church’s influence upon its own, voluntary members. Second, whether the definition of life is a religious belief depends on the definition of religion. Our Founding Fathers believed that a religious belief is “the duty which [we believe] we owe to the Creator, and the manner of discharging it.” With this definition, the time at which life begins is not a religious issue. It would be more likely a matter of empirical or scientific debate than a religious issue.

The liberal’s propositions are in line with the rest of the progressive, leftist movement in this country. The leftist movement, with its roots in Marxism abhors religion. Religion, to quote Marx, “ist das Opium des Volkes;” only those poor, oppressed minds who have no compassion for others cling to their religious beliefs. And to cling to a religious belief, in the eyes of the left, is to interpose it upon others. Since religion is the duty which we owe to our Creator, religion is nothing more (and certainly nothing less) than how we approach the world. If religion is how we approach the world, there is no neutral ground. If there is no neutral ground, then the proposition put forth by the left is equally a religious view. In such a case, we must accept one “religious view” or the other.

Regardless of your religious persuasion, that which is in a pregnant woman’s womb, if allowed to develop through to birth, will become a living person outside of the womb. It is perfectly logical to presume, from the ultimate result, that what is inside the pregnant woman’s womb represents either a life or potential life. If you believe in the truths espoused in our founding documents, whether we are talking about a life or a potential life, it deserves the protection of the government. After all, our country was founded upon the principle that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these, the right to life…”

This aside, the Contraception Mandate, as promulgated, is not religiously neutral. Its impact falls only upon those with religious objections to providing contraception coverage, and on no others. If you doubt this proposition, read Judge Ronald Leighton’s Opinion in Stormans Incorporated v. Mary Selecky—and specifically the sections leading up to the legal discussion. The facts are quit interesting and recount how Planned Parenthood and the State of Washington specifically intended to eliminate pharmacists’ religious objections to dispensing contraceptives, Plan-B, and other abortifacients. Particularly troubling is the statement that Planned Parenthood is “pushing for national or state legislation” to eliminate religious objections to contraception, Plan-B, and other abortifacients. Knowing the current administration’s adherence to Planned Parenthood’s tenants, is the Contraception Mandate any surprise?

Just as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is intended to change the relationship of the citizen to the government, so also the Contraception Mandate is intended to change the relationship between the state, the church, and the citizen. Before the Contraception Mandate, the citizen could look to the church for guidance on what is right and wrong without state interference. After Contraception Mandate, the state interjected itself between the church and the citizen as the final arbiter of right and wrong. Using the threat of regulatory penalties as a heavy sword, the state has now told the citizen, and the church, that the church’s validly held religious belief—that one should not destroy life or encourage promiscuity—is wrong and must be changed. Further, the state has informed the church that the church will literally pay for the state’s opinion of correct behavior.

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