Refusing to Render Unto Caesar That Which is God’s

“Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  Acts 4:18-20 (NIV)

Conservatives who’ve warned for years of President Obama’s ideological extremism are often dismissed as melodramatic conspiracy theorists.  Obama apologists argue that the President is not an ideologue, but an intellectual whose grasp of America’s true needs is so nuanced and sophisticated that the average Joe in flyover country is simply incapable of understanding it.  The Administration’s new birth control mandate, for example, is necessary in order to ensure that the Sandra Flukes of America are free to enjoy a consequence-free sex life while simultaneously realizing their dreams of a government-subsidized college and career.  Opponents of this policy are either misogynistic relics of a bygone era or misinformed simpletons who fail to appreciate the needs of the modern American woman.  

As a recent article by the Ethics and Public Policy Center illustrates however, the President’s birth control mandate represents an assault upon one of America’s most fundamental constitutional principles. 
In short, what’s at stake is nothing less than religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment.  Whether one agrees with the Catholic position on birth control and abortion or not, the Church’s opposition to both is rooted in religious principle, and its right to conduct its programs in accordance with this principle is protected by the First Amendment.  The Church’s resistance to the mandate, therefore, is to be applauded.  In an artful display of political manipulation, the Administration characterizes its position as coming to the defense of women who are the victims of a “war” being waged by Republicans and old white men on the Religious Right.  This war on women however, is but a rhetorical fiction, a straw man intended to distract from a war on religion in which government seeks to dethrone God and install itself in His place.  

As the folks at EPPC point out, “the administration is arguably violating the intent of the ‘no establishment’ provision of the First Amendment, which (among other things) means that the federal government is incompetent in theological matters.  Yet that is precisely the turf onto which the Administration is intruding with its attempts to define religious institutions, ministries, and employers so narrowly that Jesus and the Twelve would almost certainly not qualify . . .”

In other words, the Obama administration is misusing its authority to place the burden of proof on religious institutions rather than according them the wide latitude that is their constitutional due.  While the legal avenue the Catholic Church is pursuing to obtain relief from the mandate is within the bounds of the law, it may not prevail before the bar of justice.  If not, the church must be prepared to answer God’s call of resistance.  The Scriptures teach that whenever the authorities compel that which God forbids or forbid that which God compels, Christians have a duty to resist.  Religious conscience is not the province of Caesar.

It is critical that entities like EPPC and others like them continue countering the Obama administration’s distorted characterization of this issue.  Regardless of what side of the birth control debate one finds oneself on, the existential threat to liberty represented by Obama mandate is something that should alarm all Americans.  And it is important to remember that it is not the Church that is the aggressor in this fight.  Again, from the article:

While Obama supporters (including some Catholics) will contend that this is partisan politics, it isn’t – except insofar as the administration has made it so.  It was the administration that refused to countenance Catholic concerns before and after the mandate was issued.  It was the administration whose apologists (including Secretary Sebelius) bent every effort to turn what was clearly a religious-freedom issue into a “War on Women.”  It has been the administration and its Senate allies, like Majority Leader Harry Reid, who have refused to enter into any sort of serious discussion aimed at mitigating Catholic concerns.  It is the administration that seems willing to drive the Catholic Church out of health care, education, and social services if that is what is required to enforce the administration’s notions of “reproductive health” and “reproductive choice.”  If the administration pays a price for this in November, it will have no one to blame except itself.

If hamstringing the admirable work of the Catholic Church and other religious institutions in America in the name of free birth control doesn’t reek of ideological extremism, I don’t know what does.  If the shoe fits, President Obama . . .

Kenneth L. Connor is the Chairman of the Center for a Just Society, 1220 L St. NW, Suite 100-371, Washington, DC 20005. Email: info@centerforajustsociety.org and website: http://www.centerforajustsociety.org.