Twice last month I agreed with the Catholic Church that their right to free exercise of religion is violated by the Obama administration mandate which would force their church affiliated institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception products and services. I’ve not changed my mind.
But there’s another side to this argument.
If organized religions and churches in the United States of America want to get involved in politics and government; if they want to get into the business of providing public accommodations and doing things which have nothing whatever to do with religion; then they had better damn well realize that they will be subject to the laws which govern everyone.
Newly anointed Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York called upon his sizable flock of Roman Catholic worshippers last week to become more involved in politics in what he called a "freedom of religion battle," regarding the controversy involving contraceptive coverage.
Speaking to a group of Catholic High School students, he said that the U.S. government is engaged in "an unwarranted, unprecedented radical intrusion." [T]hey "live in an era that seems to discover new rights every day." "We're not trying to impose our teachings on anybody, we’re simply saying, don't impose your teaching upon us and make us do as a church what we find unconscionable to do."
Perhaps the good Cardinal forgot that the government has exempted his church from the insurance requirement. Thus, his church is not mandated under the law to provide insurance coverage for contraception products and services to its employees. It’s the Catholic universities, hospitals, charitable associations and the like which remain under the law. They are all businesses open to the public. They are not churches.
Suppose the Catholic Church took the position that it would not treat homosexuals at its affiliated hospitals, which are public accommodations, because homosexuality is against the teachings of the Church, and the civil rights laws may be damned. How far do you think they would get with that argument? They either have to treat everyone or get out of the public hospital business.
Student registered organizations at Vanderbilt University are subject to a non-discrimination policy which bans them from requiring their leaders to hold specific beliefs. Christian groups complain that this policy violates their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion.
“There are people on campus who are very threatened by the idea of religious freedom and they would like to create an environment where no one hurts anyone else’s feelings – unless it’s Christians,” whined Carol Swain, a Vanderbilt law professor and the advisor to the Christian Legal Society. Swain said what is happening to Christian students at Vanderbilt is scary, accusing the university of bullying people of faith.
The Christian Legal Society is one of four campus groups – including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Beta Upsilon Chi and Graduate Student Fellowship – that are currently in violation of the policy. “This political correctness is running amuck on campus and its constraining one group – and that group tends to be conservatives,” says Swain. “They will be forced to either accept the university’s policy or leave campus by the end of the academic year. They are in limbo.”
They will either accept the policy or become an unregistered student group that can still meet on campus without the special privileges afforded to registered students groups which don’t discriminate.
But the Christians want it both ways. They want the privileges which go with public accommodation status and they want to discriminate too.
Vanderbilt officials say their nondiscrimination policy ensures that campus groups are open to all students. The school reviewed the charters and constitutions of all student organizations last year after a complaint was filed against a Christian fraternity that had discriminated against a student based on sexual orientation, said Beth Fortune, vice chancellor of public affairs
Fortune denies the university is going after Christians. “Our nondiscrimination policy applies equally to all registered student organizations,” she said. “We’re simply saying if you are going to be a registered student organization and use the Vanderbilt name and university funding, and have the privileges afforded a registered student organization, then you need to comply with our nondiscrimination policy.”
Unregistered student groups will not be banned from campus. “They are allowed to exist and freely assemble,” Fortune added. “But they would not be a registered student organization.” Can you imagine the Klu Klux Klan as a registered student group at Vanderbilt?
Meanwhile, in Hixson, Tennessee, presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, Mr. Biblical himself, brought a crowd to its feet when he told them "true happiness comes from doing God's will in your life" "True happiness comes from doing what you ought to do," he continued. "Real happiness is not doing whatever you want. In many ways it's self-sacrificial."
Then he criticized President Obama for not seeing things the way people in Chattanooga do, and because he wants government to be a neutral player when it comes to supporting marriage and families, thus dictating Americans' rights.
"Not rights given to you by God; no. President Obama isn't selling you those rights. He's telling you what rights he can create. And when government creates a right, they can take it away." "I carry a copy of the Constitution with me," [and] a copy of the Declaration of Independence said Mr. Biblical, because one without other is "like peanut butter without jelly, it doesn't work."
Well, maybe he does carry around copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence with him. Bully for him, and I hope he does. But my concern as an American citizen is whether he has read and whether he understands them. If he’s going to seek the public office of President of the United States, he had better realize that the job description does not include the doing of God’s will.
His Catholic Christian God never granted anyone the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. None of those rights are found anywhere in His Bible. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are both silent on the matter of what constitutes happiness, leaving it to the individual to decide – not the president – not the majority – not government.
So happiness is not officially doing God’s will or what one “ought to do” by the standards of Mr. Biblical, unless that is what an individual wants. Happiness is most definitely not self sacrifice as much as Mr. Biblical would like that to be so, and as much as he would love to force that concept upon us all.
When President Obama remains a neutral player in matters of supporting marriage, families, and religion, he’s doing exactly what the Constitution requires of him. He’s certainly not dictating anyone’s rights.