The political news of the week has certainly been the Obama Administration's mandate (in particular, the department of Health and Human Services) of the use for contraceptives, the morning after pill, and many other sundry reproductive technologies by health providers for patients desiring them. Naturally, since reproductive technologies are the definition of a controversial issue in America, attaching a mandate to it's conveyance is especially contentious for health providers that are opposed to such measures. And guess who those health providers are that are opposed to this mandate? Religious health providers.
HHS essentially declared that "religious institutions" are those who guide the worship and prayer of adherants, and not quintessentially a hospital or health-provider. Not only is that a regretful overreach of government power-by-definition (since when does the government get to decide what constitutes someone's free exercise of the practice of one's own religion?), it's a classic evasion of history. Hospitals emerged as powerful institutions in the Middle Ages because of the Christian conviction that body and soul both mattered. Caring for the poor and infirmed, that shibboleth of how deep the gospel roots itself in the human heart, brought about the innovations of bodily restoration known as hospitals. Religion and health service is not so inseparable as the Obama Administration would have us believe.
And so, in a period of only a few weeks, we have the second assault on religious freedom (see last week's post) from the Obama administration. The irony of this affront to religious freedom is that, as Obama touts and as I'm wont to agree with, Obama is a deeply religious person. He does use his faith- probably most akin to a liberation theology version of the social gospel and definitely not run-of-the-mill Christian orthodoxy- to inform his view of politics. He admitted to such this week in his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.
So, what's the deal with this seeming contradiction? Though one can only conjecture, it seems Obama's views of the social good are informed by his religious views, but carried out by his view of the most appropriate vehicle: the state. So, if other's religious views contradict his own, he desires the coercion- yes, force- of the state to make sure people have access to free "justice" (read: abortion) even if the provider of such a service does not wish to do so. Obama's view of the state subordinates others' views of the free exercise of their religion. This view provides not just an assault on religious freedom but individual freedom of conscience.
In a column I wish that I had written, Charles Krauthammer writes:
Let’s stipulate that Obama’s prayer-breakfast invocation of religion as vindicating his politics was not, God forbid, crass, hypocritical, self-serving electioneering, but a sincere expression of a social-gospel Christianity that sees good works as central to the very concept of religiosity.
Fine. But this Gospel according to Obama has a rival — the newly revealed Gospel according to Sebelius, over which has erupted quite a contretemps. By some peculiar logic, it falls to the health and human services secretary to promulgate the definition of “religious” — for the purposes, for example, of exempting religious institutions from certain regulatory dictates...
Therefore: To flatter his faith-breakfast guests and justify his tax policies, Obama declares good works to be the essence of religiosity. Yet he turns around and, through Sebelius, tells the faithful who engage in good works that what they’re doing is not religion at all. You want to do religion? Get thee to a nunnery. You want shelter from the power of the state? Get out of your soup kitchen and back to your pews. Outside, Leviathan rules.