United We Stand for Religious FreedomHat tip to Abe, thanks.
ObamaCare's contraception mandate stands the First Amendment on its head.
By DONALD WUERL, CHARLES COLSON AND MEIR Y. SOLOVEICHIK
Stories involving a Catholic, a Protestant and a Jew typically end
with a punch line. We wish that were the case here, but what brings us
together is no laughing matter: the threat now posed by government
policy to that basic human freedom, religious liberty.
Last month the federal Department of Health and Human Services
announced that the Affordable Care Act requires employers to pay for
insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations and
contraception. What made the announcement especially troubling is that
HHS specifically declined to exempt religious institutions that serve
those outside their own faiths, such as hospitals and schools.
Coverage of this story has almost invariably been framed as a conflict
between the federal government and the Catholic bishops. Zeroing in on
the word "contraception," many commentators have taken delight in
pointing to surveys about the use of contraceptives among Catholics,
the message being that any infringement of religious freedom involves
an idiosyncratic position that doesn't affect that many people.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Catholic Church's
teaching on contraception (not to mention abortion and surgical
sterilization) has been clear, consistent and public. HHS Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius's decision would force Catholic institutions either
to violate the moral teachings of the Catholic Church or abandon the
health-care, education and social services they provide the needy.
This is intolerable.
And while most evangelicals take a more permissive view of
contraception, they share with Catholics the moral conviction that the
taking of human life in utero, whether surgically or by abortifacient
drugs, violates the basic human right to life. Evangelical nonprofits
such as Prison Fellowship would therefore also have to choose between
violating their consciences or paying fines that would ultimately
destroy their ability to help the people they are committed to
Even worse than the financial impact is the breach of faith
represented by Ms. Sebelius's decision. Her notion of an "appropriate
balance" between religious freedom and "increasing access" to
"important preventive services" stands the First Amendment on its
In 1790, George Washington exchanged letters with Moses Seixas, the
warden of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, R.I. Seixas praised the
newly formed United States for "affording to All liberty of
conscience, and immunities of citizenship." People who knew all too
well what it meant to be deprived of the "invaluable rights of free
Citizens" held religious liberty and freedom of conscience most dear.
In reply, Washington wrote that U.S. citizens had a "right to applaud
themselves" for setting an example of "an enlarged and liberal policy"
that enshrined freedom of conscience. He added that the ability of
members of one faith to seek the benefit of all Americans is the
foundation of America's civic strength.
We see evidence of that strength all around us: If a working mother's
child needs to visit the emergency room, there's a good chance the
hospital is a Catholic one. If an ex-offender needs help readjusting
to life outside of prison, there's a good chance help will come from a
Christian ministry like Prison Fellowship.
Yet instead of encouraging the different faith communities to continue
their vital work for the good of all, the Obama administration is
forcing them to make a choice: serving God and their neighbors
according to the dictates of their respective faiths—or bending the
knee to the dictates of the state.
For Jews, George Washington's letter has always been cherished. It
embodies the promise extended by America not only to them, but to all
citizens. That is why many in the Jewish community are alarmed to see
the very religious freedom Washington praised centuries ago endangered
by Washington's successor. "May the children of the stock of Abraham
who dwell in this land," Washington wrote, "continue to merit and
enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants."
At this critical moment, Americans of every faith, as guardians of
their own freedom, must, in the words of the First Amendment,
"petition the government for the redress of grievances." That's why
over the past two years more than 500,000 people have signed the
"Manhattan Declaration" in defense of religious liberty. They believe,
as do we, that under no circumstances should people of faith violate
their consciences and discard their most cherished religious beliefs
in order to comply with a gravely unjust law.
That's something that this Catholic, this Protestant and this Jew are
in perfect agreement about.
Cardinal Wuerl is the archbishop of Washington, D.C. Mr. Colson is the
founder of Prison Fellowship and the Colson Center for Christian
Worldview. Rabbi Soloveichik is director of the Straus Center for
Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and associate rabbi at
Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan.
The rabbi at the posh KJ synagogue on 85th street has poked his ultra-conservative head into a political fray. Here is the quintessence of how to overstate an opinion, bathing it in the waters of our finding fathers, anointing it with the oils of patriotism. Ahem. Way out of line.