Declaring war on religion

Michael Gerson on the Obama administration’s mandate that Roman Catholic institutions, as well as those of other churches and pro-life organizations, must provide employees health insurance that will give them free birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients:

The religious exemption granted by Obamacare is narrower than anywhere else in federal law — essentially covering the delivery of homilies and the distribution of sacraments. Serving the poor and healing the sick are regarded as secular pursuits — a determination that would have surprised Christianity’s founder.

Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama’s decision — an edict delivered with a sneer. It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal. Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19th-century Republican nativists. . . .

The implications of Obama’s power grab go further than contraception and will provoke opposition beyond Catholicism. Christian colleges and universities of various denominations will resist providing insurance coverage for abortifacients. And the astounding ambition of this federal precedent will soon be apparent to every religious institution. Obama is claiming the executive authority to determine which missions of believers are religious and which are not — and then to aggressively regulate institutions the government declares to be secular. It is a view of religious liberty so narrow and privatized that it barely covers the space between a believer’s ears.

Obama’s decision also reflects a certain view of liberalism. Classical liberalism was concerned with the freedom to hold and practice beliefs at odds with a public consensus. Modern liberalism uses the power of the state to impose liberal values on institutions it regards as backward. It is the difference between pluralism and anti-­clericalism.

The administration’s ultimate motivation is uncertain. Has it adopted a radical secularism out of conviction, or is it cynically appealing to radical secularists? In either case, the war on religion is now formally declared.

via Obama’s radical power grab on health care – The Washington Post.

How Catholic Charities is dealing with gay marriage

On Wednesday, gay marriage will be legal in Washington, D.C.   To avoid having to pay benefits to employees who enter into gay marriages, Catholic Charities will halt health benefits for ALL spouses of new hires.

One day before same-sex marriage becomes legal in the District, Catholic Charities will modify its health coverage for employees so that all spouses of newlyweds and new hires will not be covered.

A memo notified staff members Monday of the imminent change.

Spouses of current employes will continue to have health coverage, the memo said. But by making the policy effective Tuesday, the charity will not have to extend benefits to anyone who legally weds one of its gay employees.

Wednesday is the first day when same-sex couples can take out marriage licenses in the city.

via Catholic Charities to drop health coverage of spouses of newlyweds, new hires – washingtonpost.com.

Is this right? In jurisdictions with gay marriage, given also anti-discrimination laws, what other challenges might churches face, and how should they deal with them?


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