November 15, 2017

Issues of Life and Religious Liberty

The Supreme Court takes up a California law, while Notre Dame flip-flops on Catholic doctrine.

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” —Thomas Jefferson, 1785, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

This week the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Xavier Becerra, which challenges a California law compelling pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, usually run and staffed by people of religious faith, to post information about state-funded abortions or face fines of up to $1,000 per “incident.” Clearly, this law deliberately forces pro-life organizations to promote the wholesale slaughter of the unborn, violating conscience and religious liberty.

The Second and Fourth Circuit Courts struck down similar laws in New York and Maryland, but the Ninth Circuit upheld California’s law, arguing the state has a compelling interest in protecting the health of its citizens (except, of course, the citizens dismembered in the womb).

It’s hard to overstate what a vile and despicable violation of the freedom of conscience and speech such a mandate represents. The entire mission of these pro-life pregnancy centers is to encourage pregnant women in distress to save the lives of their unborn children, either by parenting them or placing them for adoption.

Such a law is actually more evil than censorship — it goes beyond silencing voices that dissent from the official position of the state and instead uses the threat of state-sponsored violence to compel someone to utter speech that is in direct opposition to their sincerely held moral and religious beliefs. In doing so, the law stokes greater levels of public anger and hostility because there is no longer room for disagreement, but victory for one side and defeat for the other.

As J.T. Young notes, “The power of the right is principle, and the principle of the left is power.”

The pro-abortion Left has repeatedly shown that it will fight relentlessly for abortion on demand, while using state power to suppress dissent and compel adherence to leftist orthodoxy, as evidenced by seeing congressional Democrats threaten a government shutdown rather than give up federal funding for Planned Parenthood, despite overwhelming evidence that the nation’s largest abortion provider helps cover up child rape and sells the body parts of aborted babies.

The Obama administration was clearly on a crusade (pardon the pun) to destroy freedom of religion, speech and conscience. Barack Obama infamously referred to Americans in “flyover country” as people who “bitterly cling to guns or religion,” and he tried to force religious people, including nuns, to fund contraception and abortion, while banning conscience objections for medical professionals in performing abortion, among a host of other religiously hostile acts.

The results of these battles in the culture war have been mixed at best.

In recent years, religious freedom has seen some victories, as with Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (prohibiting discrimination against religious schools in receiving federal funding), Zubick v. Burwell and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (struck down contraception mandate for religious organizations and faith-based businesses), McCullen v. Coakley (protecting free speech rights of pro-lifers), and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC (struck down Obama’s policy prohibiting faith organizations from requiring employees to share their faith).

However, religious freedom and traditional values have also been dealt some stinging defeats, as with Obergefell v. Hodges (striking down marriage laws of three dozen states while legalizing same-sex “marriage”), and Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt (struck down a Texas law requiring safety protocols for abortion clinics).

The battle continues, with the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which the state of Colorado ruled a baker could be forced to bake a cake for a same-sex “wedding” against his sincerely held religious convictions. Not only did the state subject the owner to massive fines, it mandated he and his employees undergo sensitivity training until their religious convictions give way to politically correct orthodoxy (in communist countries they call such state-compelled indoctrination “re-education camps”).

Sadly, even in victory, religious liberty sometimes chases defeat.

The University of Notre Dame was arguably the most prominent plaintiff in the lawsuits seeking to invalidate Obama’s contraception mandate. Notre Dame argued that it should not be compelled to provide contraceptives and abortifacients (which, according to the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, are “intrinsically evil”) through its health insurance, and the administration’s compromise accommodation — filling out a form authorizing a third party to provide such coverage — still made the Catholic university complicit in the procurement of abortion and contraceptives. Its own lawsuit argued the compromise was still “contrary to its faith” to “facilitate practices that Catholic doctrine considers morally wrong.”

Notre Dame and religious organizations across the country claimed victory when President Donald Trump last month expanded exemptions to the mandate.

However, no sooner was that victory won than Notre Dame embraced defeat, announcing it would continue to allow Meritain Health (its insurance provider) to continue offering contraceptive and abortifacient coverage, making a mockery of its own previously claimed religious principles.

Sadly, Notre Dame’s abandonment of Catholic doctrine has been going on for years, relegating the school more and more to the worldly throngs described in John 12:43, of whom was said, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

Hopefully others of the faith will raise the standard that Notre Dame has abandoned, and continue the fight for religious liberty and the sanctity of life.

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