[Editor’s note: In June, Mark Discher, Professor of Philosophy and Theology at The College of St. Mary Magdalen was asked to give a speech to the Massachusetts Citizens for Life annual convention on the HHS mandate. In his address, Dr. Discher masterfully placed the mandate into the context of the wider problem we are facing, what Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore recently called the “problem of radical secularism that we face in this country.” To understand fully what the Obama administration purposes with regard to religion, it is vital to recognize that the mandate is really a very small piece of a much bigger agenda – an agenda dissected with great precision in this speech, presented in its entirety in this video with the full text of the speech below.]
The HHS Mandate: Its Background and Implications Mark R. Discher The College of St. Mary Magdalen Address to Massachusetts Citizens for Life Annual Convention
June 9th, 2012 (Copyright)
The first thing I want to say to you is that HHS mandate is not a big deal. That’s right, you heard me. The HHS mandate is not such a big deal.
I bet you didn’t expect me to say that.
Now, bear with me, because in a little while I’ll explain what I mean by saying the HHS mandate is not a big deal.
In what follows I shall group my comments under three headings:
First, I shall offer a bit of background to the Mandate.
Second, I shall highlight a few of the ways in which language is being purposely manipulated and distorted in the debate.
Third, I shall place the HHS debate in the context of wider ideological and cultural movements that are at its root.
For now, however, let’s review a bit by offering some background to the HHS mandate phenomenon.
A. The Mandate
The HHS Mandate (as it has come to be called) was unveiled by Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, on Jan.20th, 2012. The HHS Mandate is a product of the Affordable Care Act, or what is more widely known as “Obamacare,” passed in 2010.
At the recommendation of a committee from the Institute of Medicine, the Mandate required that virtually every private health insurance plan provide coverage for contraceptives, surgical sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs–that is to say, drugs that disallow the fertilized ovum to implant in the uterus. This in spite of the urgings of various religious organizations that the Institute of Medicine not include sterilization and contraceptives in its recommendations.
It is not surprising that the requests of the religious organizations were ignored by the IOM, because, according to the website standupforreligiousfreedom.com:
Research conducted by Human Life International has revealed that every member of the IOM committee was heavily biased in favor of legalized abortion—some with direct ties to abortion advocacy groups. Not a single member was pro-life, much less had any qualms about contraception and sterilization.
Thus, what were labeled “preventive services,” contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients, were to be covered in toto by virtually every health care plan for any eligible woman who requested such “preventive services.” This, in spite of the fact that in July of 2008 President Obama promised that anyone who is happy with his health care insurance plan could keep his health care insurance plan.
B. The Exemption
An exemption was, however, made for “religious employers” who might object to the Mandate. The exemption, however, was so restrictive that it would apply only to employers of organizations whose purpose is to inculcate religious doctrine, who both hire and serve only people who share the organization’s religious faith, and who qualify, according to a very narrow definition, as a church or religious order.
Thus, many Catholic schools, universities, hospitals and charitable organizations would not meet the requirements of the exemption; they would have to pay for insurance coverage for contraceptives, surgical sterilizations and abortifacients, such as Ella and Plan B, for employees who requested and were eligible for such “preventive services.”
Of course, rancor ensued. An unusually large and united group of Catholic bishops, along with host of representatives of other religious institutions and traditions, as well as non- faith-based organizations that recognize the assault on the First Amendment, were univocal and outspoken in their opposition to the Mandate, even with the so-called exemption. (By the way, the exemption is so narrowly defined that it is commonly quipped that even Jesus and his disciples would not meet the criteria. Nor would Mother Teresa, with her ministry to the poor in Calcutta.)
C. The “Accommodation”
In response to the univocal hue and cry from the constellation of religious representatives, on Feb. 10th, 2012, the Obama Administration agreed to offer an accommodation. The accommodation consisted in this: the religious institutions would no longer be required to purchase directly the “preventive services”; instead, the insurance companies themselves would be required to pay for them, and they will be offered to women free of charge.
Of course, unlike the government, insurance companies do not print money; they have to collect it from somewhere. Whence do insurance companies collect money? From their clients, those who pay them for their services. Hence, the so-called “accommodation” amounts to little more than a shell game; it is an attempt to disguise the fact that the religious institutions would in fact still be paying for the services, even if an explicit line-item for the “preventive services” did not appear on the ledger. The “accommodation,” in other words, is nothing more than an accounting trick. It goes no way toward providing substantive relief to the religious institutions by way of releasing them from the burden of having to fund services that offend deep and long-held moral and religious convictions. It still, in other words, forces the religious institutions to violate their consciences. (I suppose one can forgive a government so accustomed to spending money that it doesn’t actually have to collect from someone else for forgetting that others can’t just create money ex nihilo the way it does.)
Furthermore, many of the religious institutions in question are self-insured. What this means is that the institutions pay insurance claims from in-house money set aside for this purpose. Thus, the so-called “accommodation” does nothing to relieve such self-insured institutions of paying for the “preventive services,” since self-insured institutions are, in effect, their own insurance companies. So if the accommodation is supposed to make it the case that the insurance companies pay for the services, that only means in the case of self-insured religious institutions, who are their own insurance companies, that the religious institutions themselves pay for the objectionable services. So nothing is accomplished by way of offering relief to these religious institutions; they are still compelled to violate their consciences.
On account of this, relief has been sought through the legal system. While an initial round of lawsuits from legal advocacy and religious groups took place in March, on Monday, May 21st of 2012, over 40 Catholic dioceses and institutions filed a dozen lawsuits challenging the Mandate.
Furthermore, several Catholic universities, Ave Maria in FL and Steubenville in OH, have announced that they will not offer health insurance coverage to students.
II. The Orwellian Nature of the Language of the Debate Surrounding the HHS Mandate
That language is abused is nothing new, and that language is abused in heated political debates is so common that it has, unfortunately, come to be expected.
The debate surrounding the HHS Mandate is no exception.
So let’s look at some of the language employed in this debate.
A. Preventive Services
Take, first, the phrase “preventive services.” HealthCare.gov, the official government website containing information about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), defines preventative services with the following description: “Preventative Services…help foster optimal health.” It is the care needed to enable people to “stay healthy, avoid or delay the onset of disease.”
Examples of preventative services include mammograms, cancer screenings, colonoscopies and flu shots.
Curiously, the “preventive services” adopted by the department of Health and Human Services at the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine also include “a fuller range of contraceptive education, counseling, methods and services so that women can better avoid unwanted pregnancies.”
The “fuller range of methods and services” includes “[a]ll Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods [and] sterilization procedures.”
This means that a pregnancy is a “disease” and a child is to be avoided in order that a woman “stay healthy.”
Furthermore, taking a very strong medication with many, serious side-effects in order to halt the normal functioning of healthy female reproductive organs is “health care.” (By the way, if you don’t believe that the pill is a strong and dangerous drug, just look at the accordian-folded list of warnings and disclaimers that accompany a packet of birth control pills.)
To describe oral contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacient drugs as “health care” is Orwellian. To describe pregnancy as a “disease” is perverse. It’s an abuse of language.
B. The Church is Imposing Its Views
A second abuse of language in the HHS discussion is the claim that the Catholic Church is attempting to impose its beliefs on others.
An opinion piece in the NYT published May 27th declares, “the First Amendment is not a license for religious entities to impose their dogma on society.”
Who’s imposing whose dogma on whom? The truth is just the other way round; it is the government that is imposing its moral values on religious institutions.
The Catholic Church is advocating no coercive measures in the HHS Mandate or anywhere else to force people to refrain from using contraception; the government is, on the other hand, using coercive measures to force the Church and other institutions of faith to violate their consciences by requiring religious institutions to pay for employees’ contraception, abortifacients and sterilization procedures. No employee of any religious institution is prohibited from using contraception, if they should choose to do so. The institutions just ask that they not be made to pay for it. The government, on the other hand, is forcing religious institutions to violate their consciences by forcing them to pay for certain forms of “preventive care” for their employees.
So the allegation that the Church and Republicans are forcing or imposing their beliefs on others in violation of the First Amendment is false. What is true is that the government is, in the HHS Mandate, imposing its values—by force of law—upon religious institutions, and this really might constitute a violation of the First Amendment Free Exercise clause.
C. There Is an Effort to Deny Women Access to Contraceptives
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL, said recently, “We will continue to fight on every front to support women’s access to birth control as politicians in Washington, D.C. try to take it away.”
This is sheer demagoguery. The debate is not about whether women should have access to birth control; they already have it. It is available on virtually every corner in America. You would think that those who support the Mandate would know that, since they commonly use as an argument in support of the Mandate the fact that 98% of women in America have at some time in their lives used contraception. Well, if 98% of women are using it, there is not an access problem.
While being interviewed on Morning Joe, senator Tom Coburn from OK informed the interviewer that the government right now already offers 300 million dollars worth of free contraception a year to those willing simply to stop by their local county health department and pick it up. Neither the Catholic Church nor Republicans are proposing any legislation to stop the government from giving it out, or people from picking it up. All the Catholic Church is asking for is the continued freedom not to have its institutions be forced to pay for contraception for employees. If they want it, they can get it without coercing the religious institutions to violate their consciences by paying for it.
Bottom line: There is no access problem regarding contraception, and no one is preventing anyone from getting it. What’s really at stake is whether the government can force religious institutions, against their consciences, to pay for “preventive services” they find morally objectionable.
The issue here is religious liberty, not contraception or anything else. And that is why Glenn Beck, a Mormon, has started what he calls the “We’re All Catholics Now” project.
Mike Huckabee, a protestant, also said in his CPAC speech that “we’re all Catholics now.” So has columnist James Taranto, an agnostic. He too claims “we’re all Catholics now.” Chuck Colson, another protestant, said something similar and admonished all people of faith to stand with the Catholic Church against the HHS Mandate, because the issue is religious liberty, and not contraception, or women’s rights, or anything else.
If, as the defenders of the administration would have it, contraception were the issue, then why would you have a Lutheran, several Baptists, and a Jewish rabbi all sitting alongside a Catholic archbishop to testify at a Congressional Hearing that the real issue is, in fact, religious liberty in America? Those traditions don’t oppose contraception, so if the issue actually were contraception, they’d have no reason to be alongside the Catholic archbishop testifying before Congress.
The issue here is religious liberty, and that’s why pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback megachurch in CA said, “I’d rather go to jail than cave in to the Mandate.” Rick Warren, you’ll remember, is the one who gave the invocation at Obama’s inauguration.
D. There Is a War on Women
Actually, I think this is true. There is a war on women. But it is a distortion of Orwellian proportion to suggest that the war on women is being waged by the Church or Republicans.
For example, I think maybe it is a real war on women to create a contraceptive culture that expects women to harm themselves by poisoning themselves with powerful drugs. That’s a war on women.
It is a real war on women to create a contraceptive culture that makes virtuous and chaste young women feel pressured to indulge their boyfriends’ entreaties for sex. “What’s the big deal? Just take a pill.”
It’s a real war on women to create a contraceptive culture that places good girls at a disadvantage when competing for husbands, because permissive girls will give young boys what they want, while the good girls sit home waiting for the phone to ring. Contraception punishes virtuous women at the same time it rewards permissive ones.
It’s a real war on women to create a contraceptive culture that enables males to avoid marriage and commitment, because those things are no longer requisite for a sexual relationship with a woman. (Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?)
It’s a war on women to create a contraceptive culture that increases the incidence of divorce, because it makes marriages less child-centered.
It’s a war on women to create a contraceptive culture that increases the number of cuckolded wives, because it makes it easier for men to be unfaithful.
It’s a real war on women to create a contraceptive culture that results in an increase of abortion, because it makes both men and women less child-centered.
It’s a real war on women to create a contraceptive culture that harms children, including little girls, because it leaves tens of millions of them dead before they are born, and it leaves tens of millions more of them with broken homes.
The real war on women is the sexual revolution and the contraceptive culture and the abortive culture that inevitably follow from it.
Women’s rights? The sexual revolution delivered to women a host of wrongs done against them.
And women are not stupid. They know this, or at least they are coming to realize this.
Perhaps that’s why more women are pro-life than pro- abortion.
Perhaps that’s why there are more women than men that oppose abortion.
Perhaps that’s why, since the announcement of the HHS Mandate, support for Obama among women has declined.
Women are not fools; they know what’s good for them and what’s not, and that’s why more and more of them are saying that what the Administration is offering them in the name of women’s rights is something on which they’re quite happy to take a pass.
There may indeed be a war on women. But if there is, it is not being waged by the Catholic Church or social conservatives.
III. Ideological Context of the HHS Mandate
At the outset of my remarks I made the rather shocking claim that the HHS Mandate is not really a big deal. I meant it. The Mandate is not a silo or monolith that stands in isolation from the larger landscape of ideological movements and commitments. In fact, the Mandate is only a relatively small, though, granted, significant, feature on the horizon of a much larger cultural phenonmenon. That phenonmenon is secularization. Secularization is the big deal; the Mandate is just one relatively small manifestation of it.
After the Mandate was announced, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops formed an ad hoc committee to address the Mandate and its threat to religious liberty. The chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty is Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. Archbishop Lori recently and very perceptively said the following: “[T]he HHS lawsuits, if successful, would only provide a band-aid solution to the problem of radical secularism that we face in this country.”
He hit the nail right on the head. That’s the issue.
But let’s define our terms. By ‘secularism’ I mean cultural forces that at are odds with and seek to undermine the traditional Judeo-Christian worldview, the traditional Judeo- Christian understanding of reality.
What do I mean by the traditional Judeo-Christian worldview or understanding of reality? I mean this: The nature of reality as given to us in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis.
Although it is often assumed that the major controversy surrounding the opening chapters of the book of Genesis involve questions concerning creation and evolution, the real battle rages around several basic distinctions that are set out in the early part of Genesis. These basic distinctions, or binaries, I will argue, characterize the traditional Judeo- Christian worldview that has underpinned Western civilization. This worldview is now under attack, and the battle that has ensued has come to be called “the culture war.”
Let’s examine these binaries or distinctions that lie at the root of the culture war, the war between a Judeo-Christian understanding of reality and the secularists’ understanding of reality.
1.The Distinction Between God and Everything Else
The first distinction appears in the very first verse of the Hebrew Bible, Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This verse is revolutionary in that it flatly prohibits the worship of the earth, nature, ancestors or anything found in the visible realm. God alone is the proper object of worship, while nature, though it should be stewarded properly (“till the earth and keep it”) is never properly itself an object of worship. There is God, and there is everything else. The very first verse of the bible sets forth this crucial distinction, and this distinction governs everything that follows.
This distinction is presently under assault. The “green” crusade with its exaltation of nature certainly approaches nature worship, if it does not in fact outright champion it. The “Deep Ecology” movement often reverences and adores the created order with a kind of zeal and intensity that rivals, and perhaps in many instances eclipses, that of traditional religious practitioners. “Mother Earth” is once again vying against Father God for supreme status as object of worship. As one recent example, consider that in November, 2010 Christina Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, opened a two- week Climate Change summit in Cancun with a prayer to the ancient, pagan earth goddess, Ixchel. It seems that once the Judeo-Christian worldview is discarded there is an ineluctable tendency to revert to worship of the earth.
On the other hand, the traditional Judeo-Christian understanding of God as the Creator of all things ex nihilo profoundly shapes how the adherents of this tradition understand the relationship between God and the natural, physical world. The supposition that God creates the world from nothing, that God, who is Being itself, gives being to everything that is not God, will not permit a blurring of the distinction, or the binary, between God and all that is not God. The biblical witness indicates unequivocally that material representations, whether graven or molten, of natural beings or objects are not fitted to command worship, for these things are not God, and God alone is the fitting object of worship. It is because the stars are themselves part of creation that later biblical witness will warn, in the face of ancient astrology, against the worship of the stars (e.g., Dt. 4:19). The stars are not divine; therefore, how much less so is the earth, since the earth is merely God’s footstool (Is. 66:1; Mt. 5:34,5; Acts 7:49) because it is God himself who has laid its foundations (Job 38:4)?
So on which side of this binary does the administration that produced the HHS Mandate fall?
The answer is clear. President Obama is the self-styled green energy president. Not only is he a proponent of so- called green energy, but he also seems to be hostile to traditional forms of energy.
For example, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008 Obama stated that he would not allow any new coal mines to function. He said, “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
Later in 2008 Obama was interviewed by John Harwood of CNBC and asked about whether the then recent spike in gasoline prices were a desirable incentive to move the country in the direction of green energy. Obama agreed that the higher gas prices were helpful in this regard but lamented, “I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment. The fact that this is such a shock to American pocketbooks is not a good thing.” So the high price of gasoline is good, the only concern being that gas prices may have risen too rapidly, such that the American people, frogs in the pan of boiling water, might react negatively to them.
The administration’s pursuit of so-called green energy is boundless. It remains undeterred even when confronted with massive failures, such as the tax payer funded 527 million dollar bankruptcy of Solyndra, a CA manufacturer of solar panels.
All of this is in the name of ecological sustainability. As a colleague of mine once put it, “We have murdered Father God and married Mother Earth, and thus fulfilled our Oedipal complex.”
I’m suggesting that, while Christians have a moral obligation to care for the environment, this radical environmentalism that takes on a dogmatic religious character in its expression, is a product of secularism. It is an undoing of the traditional Judeo-Christian binary or distinction between God and nature, or creation.
2.The Distinction Between Man and Animals
A second major distinction set out in the opening chapters of Genesis that plays a major role in the contemporary culture wars is the distinction between Man and all other living creatures. The bible indicates a substantial rupture between the nature of non-human creatures and human beings. The human being is, unlike any of the other animals, described as being created in God’s own image.
Here, an ontological differentiation between Man and the animals is clearly taught with the primary marker of the distinction being the very “image of God” itself. Man has this striking feature, and the other animals do not possess it. Indeed, the image of God is the cornerstone of all theological anthropology; it is at the heart of the Judeo-Christian understanding of the nature and significance of the human person.
Contemporary culture wars, not surprisingly, center precisely on questions concerning human value. There are challenges to the claim that human beings have unique status and special worth relative to animals and the natural world.
Consider a few recent examples.
Television and film screenwriter Aaron Sorkin lambasted Sarah Palin, a while back, for hunting and killing a moose for food. He compared this act with “snuff” films, pornographic portrayals of females being killed in order to stimulate sexual arousal. Though Sorkin admits that he himself wears leather and eats meat, he labeled Palin’s moose hunting “murder.”
In 2004 the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) launched a campaign called “Holocaust on Your Plate” which explicitly compared the slaughter of pigs in meat-packing houses to the extermination of Jews in concentration camps. Although PETA declines to take any position against abortion, its website discourages the killing of any animals–including insects and cockroaches during domestic exterminations. When President Obama killed a fly by swatting it during a televised interview in 2009, PETA responded by sending him a device to catch flies for later outdoor release, unharmed.
Princeton University philosopher Peter Singer told a national gathering of animal rights activists in 2002 that Christianity is a hindrance for the animal rights movement and that conservative Christian views which posit a gulf between humans and animals are a form of unjust discrimination akin to racism that he calls “speciesism.” For Singer and other animal rights activists the Christian worldview that posits a binary or distinction between humans and animals is an obstacle that the animal rights movement will have to overcome.
In 2008 Cases were brought before the Austrian Supreme Court, the Spanish Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights seeking to secure rights for chimpanzees and apes.
The Swiss Parliament has recently decreed that goldfish must be treated with “dignity.” This means, among other things, that it is not legal to keep just one goldfish, since goldfish are social creatures by nature. Furthermore, the Swiss Constitution now mandates that respect be exercised in the handling of not only animals, but plants and other organisms. It is now illegal to cause “arbitrary harm” to plants in Switzerland.
Clearly, the distinction established in Genesis between humans and the rest of creation is under attack. A thoroughly secularized Darwinian picture of human value is presently in competition with the traditional Judeo-Christian understanding of the value of human beings, a value which accrues to human persons by virtue of their being made in the image of God, a value that places them in an all together separate realm from that of the animals and the rest of creation.
So where does the administration that brought us the HHS Mandate stand on this traditional distinction?
The answer is perhaps most clearly seen by noting Obama’s appointment of John P. Holdren as his Science Advisor in December of 2008.
To put it simply, Holdren is a neo-Malthusian environmental radical who advocates shockingly anti-human policies. He reveals clearly his ideological commitments in his 1977 book Ecoscience, which he co-authored with radical population control proponents, Anne and Paul Ehrlich.
In it, Holdren and the Ehrlichs confirmed that “[t]he neo- Malthusian view proposes…population limitation and redistribution of wealth.” The authors declare, “On these points, we find ourselves firmly in the neo-Malthusian camp.” Malthus, of course, was the one who wrote the following: “All the children who are born, beyond what would be required to keep up the population to a desired level, must necessarily perish, unless room be made for them by the death of grown persons.” Holdren and the Ehrlichs recommend in the book the rigid government enforcement of a limit of two children per family, and they candidly endorse laws requiring compulsory abortion.
Is it any wonder why Obama and his supporters virtually never bring attention to the slaughter of female babies in China as a result of the one-child policy, where millions of baby girls have been butchered through compulsory abortion for the crime of being female? In fact, according to LifeSite, while the George W. Bush administration ended funding to the UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, after a 2002 federal investigation found that the UNFPA sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Chinese State Family Planning Commission, the agency that implements China’s one-child policy, the Obama administration renewed US funding for the global population control agency. Talk about a war on women!
And, of course, in the wake of the recent Live Action sting on Planned Parenthood where a PP employee counsels a young woman on how to go about procuring a sex-selected abortion, a PP spokeswoman told the Huffington Post, “[N]o Planned Parenthood clinic will deny a woman an abortion based on her reasons for wanting one, except in those states that explicitly prohibit sex-selective abortions.”
PETA won’t kill a roach or a fly for any reason, but Obama Science Advisor John P. Holdren and PP will, in the name of women’s rights, kill a child for any reason, even, ironically, for being female. Thus, it is not surprising that John Holdren is the administration’s Science Advisor, since Obama himself when running for office was given a 100% approval rating by PP.
So much for the unique value of human beings as being infinitely precious bearers of God’s own image. Human life is cheap and people are expendable, because environmental sustainability supposedly demands it. Attitudes such as these, I submit, are the deliverances of the radical secularization of our culture.
(For more information on John P. Holdren, Obama’s Science Advisor, go on line and see the article Obama’s Biggest Radical, by Ben Johnson.)
3. The Distinction Between Female and Male
In chapter one of Genesis, God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And so God made man in his image; male and female he made them.
Perhaps no other distinction is as vehemently attacked at present as that between male and female, the distinction between the sexes.
Many of you, I’m sure, are well aware of the attack on the distinction of male and female in our culture, and perhaps many of you are even aware of, or involved with, the work done here in your state by MassResistance, a Massachusetts organization dedicated to opposing the homosexual and transgender lobbies.
Here are some examples of the war on the male/female binary.
Take first, for instance, that universities are beginning to place a third category, “other” alongside of “male” and “female” on applications.
In virtually any university where gender courses are taught students read “gender theorists” (read: homosexual and feminist activists) who posit that there are now at least five genders, and not simply two. Some say it’s a sliding scale, so there are an infinite number of genders.
There is also a lobby now across the country, as well as in Canada and Europe, to allow cross-dressing men access to women’s locker rooms and rest rooms, and laws are being passed that make it illegal to fire an employee if he shows up to work in dress and high heels.
But here are a couple major examples.
In 2006 a set of principles was drawn up at a meeting in Java by human rights experts from around the world. The set of Principles came to be known as the Yogyakarta Principles.
The Yogyakarta Principles are a set of recommendations to “governments, regional intergovernmental institutions, civil society and the UN itself” regarding the rights of homosexuals and transgenders. The purpose of the Principles is to outline a scheme to protect from discrimination people’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity. The strategy is to apply human rights laws to homosexuals and transgenders.
The policies outlined in this document have been adopted by “human rights experts from around the world, and included judges, academics, a former UN high commissioner for Human Rights, NGOs and others.”
They are available on online, and I encourage you to take a look at them. It is alarming how oppressive and restrictive such legislation would be, including to free speech, if these principles are widely placed into law. People who object to homosexuality or transgenderism would be subject to legal prosecution, whether their objection were on the basis of reasoned argument, empirical evidence, or religious convictions.
Or how about this one.
A detailed “tool kit” designed to walk students through the steps of how to litigate successfully on behalf of cross- dressers and transgenders was published in 2004 by the Gay-Straight Alliance Network in collaboration with the Tides Center.
The title of this transgender student instructions manual: Beyond the Binary.
This a manual for student activism, at virtually every level within the educational system.
But the biggest assault upon the male/female binary is the same-sex marriage push, because marriage is about, among other things, sex; and if gender doesn’t matter in sex, it doesn’t matter anywhere else, either.
The assault on the distinction between male and female is so prevalent in our society that no one needs to be convinced that it exists. And it is perhaps so prevalent that it is easy to forget how utterly outlandish would have been the suggestion thirty years ago that it might be immoral not to marry two men or two women.
Where is the Obama admistration, the administration that is giving us the HHS Mandate, on this issue?
Well, Obama started out saying that he thought marriage should remain between a man and a woman. (Curiously, when he made this announcement during the campaign, no one on the left called him a hater, as they are wont to do to any conservative who makes the same claim.)
Nonetheless, it was clear by December of 2010 that Obama was interested in courting homosexuals (courting them politically, I mean.) He did this initially by repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That was the first move in the direction of revealing his support for the homosexualist agenda.
The next move in the direction of coming out of the closet in support of same-sex marriage was the administration’s announcement in February of 2011 that it would not defend a duely passed federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. DOMA was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996.
Although there is precedent for a president to state that he will not enforce a bona fide law, it is extremely rare and has been practiced only a few times in our nation’s history. That President Obama would make such a bold and brash move certainly does, in the words of Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, a homosexual interest group, send “a strong signal [that] he sees the country is willing to accept gays and lesbians as full citizens in every respect, including the right to marry.
It is, however, doubtful that Obama really does see the country that way, because virtually every poll shows that the majority of Americans are against same-sex marriage. What Obama’s statement does show, in fact, is that Obama is willing to accept that gays and lesbians have the “right” to marry. As for the rest of the country, it is quite clear that the majority of us do not think there is, or ought to be, such a right.
President Obama’s third and final step to acknowledging his full acceptance of the homosexualist agenda was made clear only last month when he came out openly with the statement that he supports same-sex marriage.
In an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, the president said something very interesting with respect to what motivated this self-revelation of his. He said:
The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule—you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids, and that’s what motivates me as president.
And no one in the mainstream media bats an eye. I do wonder, however, if there might have been some ballyhoo if George Bush, let us say, had quoted the bible to the exact opposite effect in support of traditional marriage?
Anyway, this solidifies Obama’s unrestrained support of the homosexualist agenda. This assures for him the untiring support of the homosexualist lobbyists, a group described as “powerful” by Pope Benedict VI just a few months ago.
Interestingly, just last month a former presidential contender noted that, “The fact is the gay caucus, the gay millionaires, gay activists are at the heart of the Obama system.” They gay activists are also some of the most aggressive and sometimes ruthless, not to mention well-organized and well- heeled, activists on the current scene.
Well, now they will be campaigning for Obama zealously.
It ought not come as a surprise that this support is forthcoming, for it fits well into the secularist agenda of dismantling the Judeo-Christian distinction between male and female, and it serves to weaken the influence of that tradition while thereby strengthening what I have called the secularist agenda. After all, since homosexual unions cannot produce offspring, the environment is safe from just that many more persons’ carbon footprints.
So why is this purposeful blurring of the male/femal distinction important? It is important because, once the meaning of marriage is changed to include male-male and female-female unions, civil rights protections will be afforded to such unions and redefined marriages.
Why is this important? Well, because now public schools will freely and openly teach as virtuous homosexual relationships, marriages and lifestyles since these things are now enshrined in law and there can be no discrimination against them. Moreover, employers, including churches, temples and the like, will have to consider or hire openly homosexual job candidates, even if they oppose the teachings and values of the hiring institution.
IV. The Distinction Between Good and Evil
Obviously, the entire narrative in Genesis chaps. 1-3 centers on good and evil, the Fall, if you will. Furthermore, the flood narrative and the story of Cain and Abel further elucidate the deep moral concern of the text. Of course, the distinction between good and evil is under attack in myriad ways, and Pope Benedict himself has repeatedly decried the “dictatorship of relativism.” The dictatorship of relativism, of course, reduces to little more than the erasure of the distinction between good and evil. Where there is no distinction between good and evil, there is only local customs and tastes, which is to say, there is only moral relativism.
There are myriad ways that relativism is sold in our culture, but I’ll address just one—multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism is essentially moral, cultural and religious relativism wrapped in the paper of tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness. The ethos of multiculturalism permeates our schools, colleges and universities.
However, although it is all the rage in academe today, multiculturalism, as it is typically presented, is incoherent (contradictory).
As typically presented, multiculturalism means that all cultures are good; indeed, all cultures are equally good, and so no claim that any one of them is superior (especially if it is a Western culture) to any other is licit. Furthermore, a culture is better by virtue of its recognition that it is not better than any other culture.
This is incoherent. To put it simply, if one of the tenets of multiculturalism is that no culture is any better than any other culture, and if accepting the tenets of multiculturalism makes a culture better than it would be if it did not accept the tenets of multiculturalism, then the inescapable conclusion is that a culture that accepts the tenets of multiculturalism is at the same time both better and not any better than some other culture that does not accept the tenets of multiculturalism. It’s a contradiction. It’s nonsense. It’s a bit like singing, “I am not singing.”
My experience with people who buy into multiculturalism is that they are either of fairly modest intellectual ability and therefore do not see its internal logical problem, or they are sharp enough to see the incoherence but are not bothered by it so long as multiculturalism serves as a useful tool for them to promote their political agenda. Either way, multiculturalism as it is presented to us in academic circles today is a complete intellectual sham, because it is incoherent.
Yet, it is a shibboleth, if not a dogma, in educational circles. And why shouldn’t it be, since it fosters a secular agenda by erasing the binary or distinction between good and evil, one of the distinctions so clearly established in the opening chapters of Genesis?
Where does the administration that gave us the HHS Mandate stand on multiculturalism?
The answer is immediately clear from President Obama’s own words. When asked at a press conference in Strasbourg, France in 2009 whether he subscribed, as many previous presidents have, to the idea that America is exceptional, president Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
There you have it—prizes all around. Everybody wins.
At the same time, however, no one stands out as truly exceptional. All are exceptional–which, of course, means none is exceptional. This is a classic example of multiculturalism.
All the rage in elitist and academic circles, it’s the idea that all cultures are good, and no culture is really any better than any other culture. What it is is moral, cultural and religious relativism, a relativism that doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, but at the expense of not allowing anyone to speak the truth.
In this essay I hope to have solidified our grasp on the background of the HHS Mandate and to have helped elucidate some of the ways that language is abused in the debate surrounding it.
Furthermore, in this essay I have attempted to locate the Mandate within the wider context of a pervasive phenomenon, described by Archbishop Lori as “radical secularism.”
While the background to the Mandate or even how language is being misused in the debates and discussions that surround it might be useful, I hope that I have enriched our understanding of the Mandate by attempting to locate it in the current sea of secularism that threatens to drown our civilization.
I hope also I have provided a good tool for spotting secularizers and secularist policies and agendas. Just think about the distinctions in Genesis above and ask yourself if the idea or policy at hand serves to dismantle or blur one of these seminal distinctions that form the basis of a Judeo- Christian worldview. If the policy or idea in question blurs the distinction between God and nature, Man and the animals, male and female, or good and evil, chances are terrific that it is a secular policy or idea and is hostile to Christian faith.
The HHS Mandate is hostile to Christian faith; and it is being foisted upon us, the American people, as a way of diminishing the cultural significance of the Catholic Church by forcing its adherents to violate their consciences, thus alienating them from the Church and her Magisterium. A hollowed out Catholic Church makes it easier to hollow out other faiths that might stand in the way of the march of secularism, and once the religious institutions are gone, the government (read: the secularists) will have unmitigated sway and will have succeeded in amassing enormous power to themselves.
It is important to recognize that the HHS mandate paves the way for Catholic institutions to offer other services, such as abortion, that violate Catholic conscience.
If secularists are to achieve the goal of getting Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, and if they are to get Catholic schools uniformly to underwrite and teach the homosexualist agenda, then it is essential to weaken the Church’s cultural standing as well as to weaken the convictions of Catholics. This has to be done by coercive force of law, because, with respect to abortion, pro-lifers are winning the arguments. Pro-lifers are a majority of the population, and their numbers are increasing. That means for secularists to win, religious institutions and religion itself have to be hollowed out, or else Roe v. Wade is in peril. The HHS Mandate is major first-step to weakening and hollowing out religious institutions and the convictions of their adherents.
The churches must be overcome if the antihuman, contraception/abortion/homosexual/sexual revolution ideology is to win.
The administration is betting that you’re going to let this happen. Why shouldn’t it, after all, look how far adrift we’ve
allowed so many of our hospitals, schools and universities to stray from any adherence to Catholic orthodoxy.
But we’re not going to let this hijacking of our faith, country and Constitutional liberties happen. Now it is time to act.
What should you do? I recommend four things.
First, become a saint. This is what changes the world, and this is what we are all called to be. Pray and fast, and diligently pursue a life of virtue.
Second, we need to understand the problem—the nature of secularism—in order to oppose it skillfully and intelligently. Understanding what is at stake will help us do that. What is at stake is the basic distinctions set out in Genesis that lie at the heart of the Judeo-Christian understanding of reality.
Third, go to stophhs.com and sign the petition. Then pass it on to everyone you know.
Fourth, write your politicos and let them know you care, that you are watching, and that you are engaged.
We’re in a war—a culture war. But we are on the side of victory, even if we or our children must suffer persecution in the meanwhile.