Thursday, September 1, 2011

Assault on the First Amendment

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – The Bill of Rights – reads,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

Rather than excluding Christianity from the public sphere, this Amendment was intended to insure that our faith would not be subject to governmental interference. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story III commented in 1883 in section 1871 of his Commentaries on the U.S. Constitution,

• The real object of the amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government. It thus cut off the means of religious persecution (the vice and pest of former ages) and of the subversion of the rights of conscience in matters of religion…

Among the Founding Fathers – many of whom weren’t Christian – Christianity was clearly privileged. Vanderbilt professor of political science and law, Carol M. Swain, wrote,

• Scholars like Hatch and Noll argue that the founders understood from the very beginning that the new country was to be a Christian nation. Christianity, in its various denominational forms, became the unofficial religion of the nation. (Be the People, 32)

While the Bill of Rights “cut off the means of religious persecution…and of the subversion of the rights of conscience in matters of religion,” our government is racing to rescind these rights. Here’s the most recent example. According to

• The general counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to rescind its mandate forcing private insurance plans to cover contraception—including abortifacients—and sterilization, calling the mandate “unprecedented in federal law and more radical than any state contraceptive mandate.” The USCCB also criticized the narrow “religious employer” exception to the mandate, explaining that it provides “no protection at all for individuals or insurers with a moral or religious objection to contraceptives or sterilization,” instead covering only “a very small subset of religious employers.”

This represents a violation the “free exercise” of religion and of conscience protected by the First Amendment. For now, only churches and seminaries are exempt from this mandate. Meanwhile, all para-church organizations like The Catholic Charities must provide insurance plans to their employees that cover procedures that violate their very faith. Is this something new?

• As to the exemption, Picarello and Moses detail how it “is narrower than any conscience clause ever enacted in federal law, and narrower than the vast majority of religious exemptions from state contraceptive mandates.”

• “Until now, no federal law has prevented private insurers from accommodating purchasers and plan sponsors with moral or religious objections to certain services,” they wrote. “Plans were free under federal law to accommodate those objections by allowing purchasers to choose not to buy coverage for gender change surgery, contraceptives, in vitro fertilization, or other procedures that the purchaser or sponsor found religiously or morally problematic. Likewise, federal law did not forbid any insurer, such as a religiously-affiliated insurer, to exclude from its plans any services to which the insurer itself had a moral or religious objection. Indeed, the freedom to exclude morally objectionable services has sometimes been stated affirmatively in federal law.”

• Under the mandate, they wrote, this will end. “Individuals with a moral or religious objection to these items and procedures will now be affirmatively barred by the HHS mandate from purchasing a plan that excludes [contraception and sterilization]. Religiously-affiliated insurers with a moral or religious objection likewise will be affirmatively barred from offering a plan that excludes them to the public, even to members of their own religion. Secular organizations (insurers, employers, and other plan sponsors) with a moral or religious objection to coverage of contraceptives or sterilization will be ineligible for the exemption.”

What will happen if religious organizations and insurance providers fail to adhere to HHS’s mandate in order to live according to the dictates of their conscience? Ultimately, they will go to jail and continue to go there until they adhere to the mandate and violate their conscience.

This will drive many Christian organizations into extinction, but perhaps even worse, many will decide that their faith can be compromised for the sake of survival. However, once this begins, there is no defensible line to be drawn to halt the compromise: “A little leaven [compromise], leavens [compromises] the whole loaf” (Galatians 5:9).

No comments:

Post a Comment