Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning, President Obama said that “freedom of religion is under threat … around the world.” That’s true, and we have spent considerable time in writing about the persecution of Christians here at Hot Air while most of the media and the Obama administration do their best to avoid the topic. But the freedom of religious expression as defined by Barack Obama in this clip is under attack here too … by Barack Obama (via Deacon Greg):

Today, we profess the principles we know to be true. We believe that each of us is “wonderfully made” in the image of God. We, therefore, believe in the inherent dignity of every human being — dignity that no earthly power can take away. And central to that dignity is freedom of religion — the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith if they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do this free from persecution and fear.

Millions of Christians in the US believe that participation in birth control and abortion is sinful and evil, and goes against their religious beliefs.  Religious-oriented organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor, schools, and clinics are nonetheless mandated by Obama’s HHS to facilitate the provision of contraception and abortifacients if they employ and/or serve anyone else other than members of their own faith — essentially consigning “freedom of religion” and religious expression to the four walls of churches, chapels, synagogues, and temples. That’s hardly “free from persecution and fear,” especially when HHS and the White House threaten ruinous fines for organizations (and private companies owned and run by faithful Christians) who refuse to comply.

Even more ridiculously, Obama said this … apparently with a straight face:

Extremists succumb to an ignorant nihilism that shows they don’t understand the faiths they claim to profess — for the killing of the innocent is never fulfilling God’s will; in fact, it’s the ultimate betrayal of God’s will.

Put aside the issue of drone attacks for a moment, which may be necessary but certainly produce the “killing of the innocent.” How about the killing of 55 million innocents since Roe v Wade, and the industrial killing of these innocent children by businesses like Planned Parenthood, whom Obama lauds and who once declared “God bless you” to Planned Parenthood?

The marginalization of faith has a long history of coinciding with the growth of government power, as my colleague at The Week Damon Linker notes. He wonders if progressives haven’t begun to overplay their hand and started down the Jacobin path:

When liberals act that way, they run the risk of turning themselves into latter-day Jacobins, the anti-religious zealots who dominated the French Revolution during its most radical phase. In its most violent form, this monistic, comprehensive version of secularism outlawed religion, ransacked and desecrated churches, and decreed that priests were to be murdered on sight — all in the name of freedom. In contemporary France, the ideological descendants of the Jacobins uphold the French “republican” ideal of secular government by banning head scarves and other overt religious displays in public.

The United States has typically been friendlier to faith. The form of liberalism embodied in its Constitution is pluralistic, not monistic. It tolerates broad differences among citizens about the highest good, and assumes that claims to metaphysical truth will proliferate under conditions of political freedom. The last thing a pluralistic liberal would do is seek to stamp out these religious and moral differences in the name of homogenous adherence to a single vision of the good. …

In case there’s any doubt: I support gay marriage, and I have no objection to birth control. But I also believe that a free society should permit its members to disagree on these issues. And that when liberals use the government’s coercive powers to force believers to change their views or act against their most deeply held spiritual convictions, liberals (paradoxically) commit an act of illiberalism.

In such cases, the government stamps out differences in the name of respecting differences. After all, a traditionalist Christian, Jew, or Muslim ceases to be a traditionalist the moment he or she is made to endorse behavior or beliefs that traditionalist Christians, Jews, or Muslims hold to be wrong. That is something that no genuine liberal should be comfortable doing.

It’s not paradoxical, and it’s not uncommon. Damon could look at what happened in Mexico a century ago with its anti-clerical pursuit in the name of socialist “liberalism,” which resulted in the Cristiada war and still restricts religious expression to the confines of a church. The problem results when government extends its authority into the jurisdiction of the private lives of its citizens and imposes mandates for their choices. That will always run up against religious liberty — and usually, that’s by design. The entire point is to reduce religion to a social club, because those who want to keep expanding government to dictate outcomes want no competition from God as an authority on how life should be lived.

Update: Added the “God bless you” to Planned Parenthood, after commenters reminded me of that moment.