Churches must have liberty of conscience
By: Robert E. Meyer
A new issue has surfaced in the long rhetorical political battle. A question of religious liberty has been turned into a circus of shameless political innuendo, where the inference has been that certain conservative politicians might want to deter womens’ access to contraception.
The Obama administration first ordered that Roman Catholic sponsored organizations would have to provide birth control to their female employees as part of their health care programs. This was, of course, in contradiction to their policies of conscience on the matter. When the church hierarchy balked at this power play, Obama revised the policy so that the insurance companies themselves would have to pay the freight–a clear distinction without a difference, since the insurance companies obviously would pass on the costs.
The way the issue has been described by the media and political pundits, gives us a perfect example of an “Orwellian reversal”—describing things opposite to what they actually are. This isn’t the church imposing on the government, but the federal government trampling the conscientious objections of the church, making a law respecting the establishment of religion.
This is a flagrant example of violation of church and state separation, unlike nativities at city hall, which don’t even involve the federal government.
The liberal understanding of church and state separation is more ideological than jurisdictional. Under no circumstances can there be a relationship between legislation and religiously informed moral precepts in this paradigm. However, they have no problem evoking Jesus, and biblical passages, when the issue is conflation of wealth redistribution governmental policies, with admonitions to help the needy through voluntary, heart-felt charity. Additionally, there is never a problem with government nullifying church policies of faith, if they are the means to a state imposed “greater good.” This restores the doctrine of Erastianism, a state of affairs where the state is superior to the church, and the ecclesiastical hierarchy is merely an arm of the state. Ironically, this is the very type of church/state configuration that the founders rescued the American experience from, in contrast to the colonial imposition by The Church of England.
What appeared to be a case of religious liberty, has morphed into a bogus national argument over contraception. Many people have voiced concern that they will be forced to subsidize others’ sexual activities. That concern has been turned on its head, being twisted into an accusation that conservatives are trying to take away birth control options from women.
We have heard about the proclivities of the “98%.” Do we suppose policy should be based solely on majority opinion–the democratization of truth and doctrine? If 98% of women dissent and fail to observe a contraceptive edict from their church, that is their prerogative under personal liberty of conscience, but not a reason to force change in the church’s’ moral perspectives. It does demonstrate though, that most women already have easy access to birth control without new insurance provisions, contrary to the popular talking points.
The church serves as a vanguard for culture, not a pawn manipulated by moral libertinism and cultural drift.
The issue has festered all the more, because of the comments talk-show host Rush Limbaugh made about the testimony given by Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, favoring the government’s policy. Limbaugh’s irreverent and unfortunate comments, have made Fluke into a heroin darling of the left, removing focus from the real issue. She even got a call from Obama himself. Fluke points out that law students can’t afford the contraception they “need.” That seems like a reasonable complaint to the “enlightened” among us. One of the many problems with the secular humanist perspective, is that it talks the talk about moral progress, but then functionally balks at personal responsibility, on the basis that people cannot master their impulses. Therefore, the costs of their behaviors must be subsidized. It seems like the objective is to make questionable behavior devoid of consequences. Why should a person who knowingly affiliates with an organization holding particular policies, be allowed to come in and force the organization to change its policy? “Pro-choice” gets chucked right out the window. Hillsdale College is an institution of higher learning that will not accept financial aid, in order to avoid government interference. Suppose some student enrolls, knowing the policy, then tries to get student aid after being accepted. We would consider such a demand crazy.
The late Christian theologian Francis Schaefer suggested that what was unthinkable yesterday might to thinkable today, and normal, if not common-place tomorrow. In a couple generations, we have gone from a practice being taboo–to it being tolerated–to it being a the subject of a benefit right. We clearly have arrived at Schaefer’s tomorrow.