Obama’s war on religious liberty: It’s not just the contraception mandate
posted at 1:44 pm on August 1, 2012 by Tina Korbe
On Jan. 19, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI urged the Catholic community in the United States to recognize “the grave threats” to religious liberty posed by “radical secularism.”
The very next day – almost as if on cue – the Obama administration announced its so-called contraception mandate, the requirement that even religiously-affiliated employers offer health insurance that covers contraception. Today, of course, that infamous mandate takes effect.
It’s important to note, though, that Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the “increasing expression” of “radical secularism” before news of the mandate broke. The pope wasn’t prescient; he’d just been paying attention. Long before the Department of Health and Human Services announced its appalling contraception coverage requirement, the Obama administration had already provided convincing proofs of an anti-religion agenda.
In the indispensable new book No Higher Power, conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly and accomplished writer George Neumayr chronicle the lesser-known offensives of “Obama’s war on religious freedom,” in addition to the overt attack of the mandate. It’s precisely in this cataloguing of overlooked assaults that the book makes its greatest contribution to the suddenly chic discussion of religious liberty in America.
Schlafly and Neumayr are bold in the claims they make about the president’s ultimate intention – nothing more nor less than the “death of Judeo-Christianity by a thousand cuts” and (somehow even more ominous than that) the substitution of “the state as parent.” Even the most conservative of readers might be tempted to be skeptical. By book’s end, though, No Higher Power removes most – if not all – doubt that the president is, in fact, waging an anti-Christianity crusade – even as he claims Christianity for himself (what Schlafly and Neumayr unabashedly call “the great con,” Obama’s attempt to “cloak [his secularist aims] in the guise of faith”).
The consideration of even a partial list of the examples Schlafly and Neumayr have compiled begins to convert the skeptic:
- In January 2009, Obama issued an executive order to allow taxpayer dollars to go to non-governmental organizations that perform abortions abroad.
- In February 2009, Obama announced he intended to eliminate conscience protections for pro-life nurses and doctors working at federally funded hospitals.
- In April 2009, Obama delivered a speech at Georgetown University – and curiously requested that the school conceal a monogram symbolizing the name of Jesus Christ.
- In May 2009, Obama eliminated all funding for abstinence-only sex education.
- That same month, Obama nominated Kevin Jennings to head up the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. At least 53 members of Congress called on Obama to fire the so-called “Safe Schools Czar” after it came out that he had once offered glib counsel to a student who reported to him having had sex with an adult. “I hope you used a condom,” Jennings reportedly said, completely ignoring the sexual abuse of the child. Here’s another winning quote from the man charged with keeping public schools safe: “We have to quit being afraid of the religious right. … I’m trying not to say, [F—] ’em!’ which is what I want to say because I don’t care what they think! Drop dead!”
- By October 2010, reporters had begun to notice that Obama cut the phrase “their Creator” when he quoted the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence.
- In September 2011, the Army revised guidelines for Walter Reed Medical Center to read: “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading materials and/or facts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” This policy stirred such outrage on the floor of Congress that the hospital ultimately rescinded it.
As Schlafly and Neumayr write, “The list could be expanded.” In No Higher Power, it is – and is still not exhaustive.
A war on religion is nothing new: It’s as old as Lucifer, to whom Saul Alinsky notoriously dedicated his “Rules for Radicals.” At the very least, it’s as old as Karl Marx and Alinsky himself, echoes of whose ideas Schlafly and Neumayr detect in Obama’s rhetoric and actions.
“Like Marx,” the authors write, “Obama views traditional religion as a temporary opiate for the poor, confused and jobless – a drug that will dissipate, he hopes, as the federal government assumes more God-like powers, and his new morality of abortion, subsidized contraception and gay marriage gains adherents.”
Like Alinsky, they claim, “Obama’s interest in religion is in direct proportion to his ability to manipulate it.”
Prehistoric though the war on religion might be, it is nevertheless newly troubling. After all, the United States was founded in part on the idea of religious liberty. Modern jurisprudence might have confused the original meaning of the establishment clause of the Constitution – which was less to prevent the general support of religion than to prevent the particular support of a specific religious sect – but most Americans still value the right to free exercise (which is more than the holding of a private opinion or Obama’s preferred “right to worship”).
That still-common high valuation of religion among many Americans raises the prospect of civil disobedience in an Obama second term, Schlafly and Neumayr suggest. Indeed, even as the contraception mandate takes effect, moral theologians grapple with the question of to what extent citizens who comply with the law will be culpable for its enabling of the use of abortifacients. It might not just be religious employers who decide they cannot comply with the mandate to provide contraception-covering insurance; religious employees might ultimately decide they cannot comply with the mandate to purchase contraception-covering insurance.
The prospects raised by No Higher Power left me feeling a little numb. The Obama administration appears in it to be monolithic, the sort of force against which the openly religious can only be broken. In some ways, No Higher Power tests the very religious faith it seeks to protect. Would civil disobedience be worth it? Might this not all be an unnecessary call to arms?
Maybe – but maybe not. Put it this way: St. Paul didn’t think it was unnecessary to urge the Ephesians to “put on the full armor of God.”
“Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.”
Tina Korbe is Policy Impact Director at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. Formerly, she was associate editor at HotAir.com and a staff writer at The Heritage Foundation.