Sharpton: Obama needs to dictate to the Catholic Church to maintain separation of church and state, or something

posted at 11:10 am on February 6, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Someone has a very confused idea about the separation of church and state, and surprisingly, it’s the Reverend in this Morning Joe panel today. Working off of Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column from Saturday, Al Sharpton argues that Barack Obama had to dictate to the Catholic Church to violate its religious tenets in order to … preserve the separation of church and state?

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Rev. Al Sharpton: No, I think you have to have the reverse argument, and that is if I want to seek employment and have employment in a church but that I disagree with the dogma and theology of the church, do I have the right to be protected by law? And I think that what the Obama administration is saying that you do not have to follow the tenets of a church organization to be an employee of a church.

Scarborough: Do you think this is a good decision?

Sharpton: If we are going to have a separation of church and state, we’re going to have a separation of church and state. Whether I would personally agree with the decision or not, the question is do I have a right to make that law?

This is an absurd perversion of the concept of separation of church and state.  When Thomas Jefferson wrote that (it’s not found in American law), he meant that the church should not dictate to the State on law — and that the state should not dictate to the church on doctrine. Jefferson wanted to avoid establishing a state religion run by Parliament that had the power to manipulate the spiritual for the sake of the secular. That is exactly what Obama proposes to do in this case: dictate to the Catholic Church and its organizations that its doctrine on contraception, abortion, and sterilization are incorrect and force them to fund those practices that violate their most deeply held beliefs on the sanctity of life, all to satisfy Obama’s political needs.

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski aren’t buying Sharpton’s spin:

Mika Brzezinski: Obviously they’re getting money from the government. Having said that, the Catholic religion believes certain things; they believe it to be fact. And so you’re asking them not to be Catholic if you impose these regulations on them.

Scarborough: You have a lot of Catholics who are pro-choice who were offended by this decision…The very idea that a centralized government, a centralized state can reach out and tell the church…Kathleen Parker put it this way “You have to forfeit your most fundamental beliefs or face prohibitive penalties or close hospitals, schools, charities, etc…” I must say it’s a staggering, staggering decision by HHS…[to Mika] You’re a Catholic. What are your thoughts?

Brzezinski: I think it’s wrong; I agree with you. And I think it was an overstep.

The Catholic Church’s hospitals get money from the government, but only for caring for the otherwise indigent.  If that’s the basis of the intervention, then Catholic hospitals will likely close their doors.  The bishops will not allow for abortions and sterilizations that violate the very mission on which those hospitals are based — the protection and promotion of sacred human life.  That will only make matters worse for the poor, and also for the government that would have to fill the very large gap left by the closing of hundreds of hospitals and clinics.

If one disagrees with the Catholic Church’s doctrine on the sanctity of human life, then they don’t need to work for their institutions, as Scarborough says later in the segment.  Otherwise, they can buy their own abortions, contraception, and sterilization.  Catholics who see these as deep sins should not be forced to underwrite them through their own church (it’s bad enough that we’re doing so through the government), and especially not based on an elitist diktat from a government that is supposed to stay out of church business.


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