Archive for February 2nd, 2012

It is not that Christians can make this a Christian nation.  Or a Christian culture.  We may not be able to prevent laws, such as nationalized health care which appears to mandate many practices a Christian doesn’t and can’t Biblically support.  But, Christians can choose to not do wrong things and, thus, affect their family,  neighbors, and community — one person at a time.  History records that it is possible for small groups of people to make wrong things unthinkable and even, eventually, illegal.

In Rome, it was culturally acceptable to take an unwanted, newborn baby outside the city gates and abandon the child to the elements.  It was, basically, legal.  But, Christians helped to make that behavior unthinkable by rescuing the newborns.  They took them home, adopted them, and founded orphanages.

William Wilberforce and a small group of Biblical men and women in England determined to obey God and help their country stop the practice of slavery.  It took 30 years of Wilberforce’s life.  Slavery did become illegal but, first,  it had to become unthinkable.  Christians who knew slavery was wrong helped others see the practice as economically and morally unthinkable.

What can we learn from this as we Christians in America face legalized abortion?  Legalized euthanasia?  Legalized embryonic stem cell research?  Legalized national health care?  We can choose not to engage in the procreative act of sex outside the faithfulness of marriage.  We can choose to see every human life as God sees it: so valuable that Jesus Christ would die for him or her.  We can choose to live in ways that honor the Creator of life so that even non-believers are encouraged to make choices that build a moral society.

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Pliny the Younger was a provincial governor in the Roman Empire.  He asked Emperor Trajan if he should execute Christians who refused to burn incense in worship of the emperor.  “Pliny, in keeping with the customs of the empire,” writes Wesley J. Smith, “didn’t care about forcing Christians to believe that the emperor was a god.  But, in public, they had to behave as if they did.”  It wasn’t that Christians were targeted for their faith, but over their refusal to declare themselves part of the reigning social order. 

Smith, in writing his article “Free Birth Control vs. Freedom of Religion,” said he thought of Pliny when reading about the specific rules being created to implement nationalized health care.  Some of these rules seriously conflict with Christian faith and conscience.  Under nationalized health care, religious organizations will be required to provide insurance coverage for practices they believe to be morally wrong.  The “free-birth-control” rule will require all employers (with a very narrow exception) to offer their employees health insurance that provides FDA-approved contraception, female sterilization, and other “reproductive” services – free of charge.  It will not matter if the employer is a religious organization and will violate its doctrine by providing the insurance.  With such a rule, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is imposing a legal duty on faith organizations.  What is that duty?  To comply with the values of the state whenever engaging in public action or charitable enterprise among the general society.

But, what about “freedom of religion?”  More and more, U.S. officials refer to “freedom of worship” rather than “freedom of religion.”  They are not the same thing.  The former means an individual is free to believe whatever he wants and worship privately without interference.  The latter means an individual is free to express their core faith out in society even if not endorsed by the state.  Freedom of religion, as defined by the Founding Fathers, allows Christians to maintain a Christian school, hospital, or inner-city mission – true to Biblical teaching and practice — where the general public is served.   Freedom of worship would not allow that.

The specific rules of nationalized health care, as directed by HHS, knowingly force religious organizations to pay for medical services to which they are theologically opposed.  These rules represent a frontal assault on freedom of religion at an institutional level.  This is not a trivial matter.  “To date,” writes Wesley J. Smith, “public controversies over ‘conscience’ in health care have mostly involved individuals – e.g. doctors, nurses, pharmacists – whose personal morality or religious conviction conflicted with the provision of certain medical procedures or substances.”

But, explains Smith, “the free-birth-control rule goes much further than creating a potential conflict between the general law and individual religious beliefs.  Rather, the rule targets the right of religious organizations to conduct their public activities consistently with their religious dogma and moral values – except within the narrow confines of an actual church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or monastery.”  How narrow might this be?  “The group health insurance covering nuns in a Catholic religious order,” writes Smith, “would probably not have to cover contraception.  But insurance provided by the same order’s elementary school probably would.  Ditto a hospital established by the nuns.”

“Despite much screaming from opponents,” Smith explains, HHS “has refused to broaden the religious exemption in the final rule — forcing religiously founded organizations to violate their parent church’s teachings, a frontal assault on the freedom of faiths to operate institutional outreach organizations consistent with their beliefs.  If this rule stands, it won’t end there.  If Catholic organizations can be compelled by federal diktat to violate their religious tenets, so can other religious organizations in different contexts.”  According to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, even if a religious employer does not cover contraceptive services, they are to tell where such services can be obtained.  “Thus,” observes Smith, “the Obama administration is attacking even freedom of worship by forcing exempt organizations to tell their employees where and how they can violate church teachings.”

“This birth-control rule,” concludes Smith, “is the latest and most egregious example of government forcing religious organizations to conform their operations to reigning secular moral values.  In this sense, faith organizations are being compelled to participate in a metaphorical Caesar worship.  As in the Roman Empire, the government will allow religious organizations general freedom of worship, but, increasingly, not freedom of religion.  Pliny would approve.”

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow
at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism
and a consultant
for the Patient Rights Council and the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

To read Wesley J. Smith’s article, please visit National Review.  

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On behalf of women and children, I thank the Susan G. Komen Foundation for stopping all grants to Planned Parenthood.  Those grants were in excess of a half million dollars annually.  Why did Susan G. Komen pull their funds away from Planned Parenthood?  Because Komen will no longer fund organizations that refer clients elsewhere for mammograms.  Planned Parenthood claims they do mammograms, but they don’t.

Please send a “thank you” to Susan G. Komen (news@komen.org)

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