Did Michelle Obama just make the Catholic Church argument against the HHS contraception mandate?
posted at 1:21 pm on June 29, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
Yes she did, although I doubt she intended to do so. In a speech today to a conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the First Lady explained her concept of citizenship by likening it to the ministry of Jesus. Her explanation corroborates the same point that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have been making for months about the intrusive nature of the HHS contraception mandate, emphasis mine:
“It’s kind of like church,” Obama said. “Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well, especially in those quiet moments, when the spotlight’s not on us, and we’re making those daily choices about how to live our lives.
“We see that in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t limit his ministry to the four walls of the church,” she said. “He was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day. He was out there spreading a message of grace and redemption to the least, the last, and the lost. And our charge is to find Him everywhere, every day by how we live our lives.”
Obama, who is not a regular churchgoer, said citizenship like the practice of faith is “not a once-a-week kind of deal.”
“Democracy is also an everyday activity,” she said. “And being an engaged citizen should once again be a daily part of our lives.”
Yes, indeed He was. So do churches to this day, ministering to the sick and the poor, “the least, the last and the lost” that Mrs. Obama references here. Furthermore, Jesus did not limit His ministry to just those disciples who followed Him, but ministered to many, including Romans, in the course of His evangelization.
However, her husband and Kathleen Sebelius don’t see it that way. They only allow for activities within “the four walls of the church” to be classified as religious expression exempt from government regulation, and only that activity which excludes those other than believers as participants or recipients, too. The USCCB and its allies in the Fortnight for Freedom campaign have repeatedly argued exactly as the First Lady does — that the provision of charity, education, and health care to the greater community is an integral component of religious expression, for Catholics and those of other denominations, just as was Jesus’ ministry of healing, evangelization, and assistance to the poor. In fact, Mrs. Obama makes that case as eloquently as I’ve seen it made during this debate.
Now that the First Lady has acknowledged that ministry is not limited to the four walls of the church and that it necessarily involves spreading the message of grace and redemption to more than just the choir, can we expect her husband and the Secretary of HHS reach the same conclusion?