In 2008, candidate Barack Obama ran on a campaign platform of “Hope and Change.” Since he was elected president, many have lost faith in the promise of hope they were expecting. But there is no doubt that he has brought change.
What has changed radically is the government’s respect for religious liberty. Senator Obama gave a speech in 2006 called “Building a Covenant for a New America.” In it he urged Christian activists and Democratic voters to reconsider the relationship between church and state. He said,
“I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people’s lives. And I think it’s time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.”
Many people hearing that speech might have thought he was concerned about preserving religious liberty. But his actions since becoming president seem to show he was more concerned about religious beliefs impeding the progress of his progressive political agenda. It seems the “serious debate” he wants to have is only intended to reconcile democracy with faith, rather than faith with democracy.
One such “serious debate” occurred recently as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, which concerns whether or not there is a right to same-sex marriage. Justice Samuel Alito asked Solicitor General Donald Verilli whether the creation of such a nationwide right might force religious organizations to make an impossible choice: either acquiesce in same-sex marriage or risk the philanthropic death sentence of losing their tax-exempt status. This is the obvious question you would expect the White House to consider. Yet, Verilli replied with little more than a shrug: “It’s certainly going to be an issue. I – I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is – it is going to be an issue.”
Since his presidency began in 2009, Obama has challenged our religious liberty repeatedly with new laws, and interpretations of laws, intended to make us more compliant with government programs and less free to conduct our lives as our religion teaches. There are numerous case examples.
The most famous of these cases was Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, which the Supreme Court determined in June, 2014, violated the religious freedom of the Green family. The Obama administration tried to force them to pay for abortifacients (drugs that terminate life), which is contrary to their religious beliefs.
Numerous other case examples reflect the Obama administration’s attempts to force this same issue on others. These include Wheaton College v. Burwell, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, Priests for Life v. Department of Health and Human Services, East Texas Baptist and Houston Baptist Universities v. Burwell, and others.
It is the conceit of progressives in general, and the Obama administration in particular, that they know what’s best for the country so they should impose their beliefs on everyone, regardless of how these views impact the religious liberty of others. They believe everyone should use contraceptives, including abortifacients, therefore everyone should pay for them in their insurance policies.
The currently pending decision of the Court on Obergefell v. Hodges is another example. The issue will decide if the Fourteenth Amendment protects same-sex couples’ right to marry, or not. The government believes everyone should agree such a right is protected in the Constitution, therefore anyone whose religious convictions disagree must subjugate their beliefs “for the good of the country.”
Adam J. White, adjunct fellow at The Manhattan Institute, discusses the attitude of liberals in a recent article in The Weekly Standard. White relates the conversation of Martha Minow, dean of the Harvard Law School, at a conference called “Law, Religion, and Health in America.” This conference was occasioned by the SCOTUS decision in Hobby Lobby.
Dean Minow warned that when “people of faith” are forced to choose sides in a conflict between their religious beliefs and national policies to the contrary, the faithful will sometimes choose God over country, and leave. “That would be sad,” she said, “since this country actually has been a haven for religious freedom really since even before its founding.”
Perhaps Dean Minow was recalling that the institution that employs her, Harvard University, was founded by Christians in 1636 to teach Christianity. But her true colors were revealed when she went on to say, “On the other hand, there will be some issues where the values of this country will run into conflict with some people’s religious views, and if they can’t live with it, they should leave.”
In other words, country first, religion second. But whose “values” is she talking about? Are these “values” only to be determined by people of her position who “know what’s best for the country”? Are these to be the values of the last 239 years, the values upon which this country was founded, or some new ones that progressives have chosen instead?
(Next post: Part II – The new tactics being used by President Obama to achieve his goals.)