The ACLU, the HHS Mandate, and Religious Freedom

For decades, the American Civil Liberties Union has been the self-appointed defender of civil liberties in this country.

When they stood up for prisoner’s rights, I cheered. When they sued to allow members of the KKK to demonstrate peacefully, I was uncomfortable, but I knew it was consistent with the ACLU’s mandate and I respected this consistency. It spoke to me of integrity.

But when the ACLU began to twist the Bill of Rights to promote an agenda that furthered one side of the culture wars, I decided that it was no longer consistent. I’ve watched as this once great organization has abandoned its mandate and squandered the respect it once had to promote one viewpoint over another in the public debate we call the culture wars time and again.

The ACLU has worked assiduously to drive religion in general and Christianity in particular from the public square. In case after case, they have filed suit against city parks, state governments and courthouses all over the country in order to force them to remove statues, plaques and ban celebrations that smacked in any way of a Christian viewpoint. You would think that the mere sight of the Ten Commandments on a plaque was a violation of the Bill of Rights equal to using torture to obtain a confession in a criminal case.

I’ve long considered this orchestrated attack on religious expression as part of a well-thought-out and deliberate plan to drive religious people and religious thought entirely out of the marketplace of ideas in this country. It has gone so far that people today honestly think it’s a violation of separation of church and state if an elected official says the name “Jesus” in a public debate, as if freedom of speech just dries up and goes away where Christians are concerned.

But then the ACLU took the ridiculous position that the HHS Mandate requiring the Catholic Church to violate its teachings on contraception and abortion or face fines and sanctions was not a violation of religious freedom.

The HHS Mandate is in fact a monstrous violation of the guarantee in the First Amendment from government intrusion into religion. The ACLU used plenty of verbal razzle-dazzle to justify their position. (They are, after all attorneys with the verbal skills that go with the profession.) But their arguments were bizarre, factually inaccurate and self-refuting. I read the reports and I felt as if I was standing beside the grave of the American Civil Liberties Union and all it has stood for.

It’s very difficult, abandoning everything you believe while trying to maintain a public perception that you still believe it. Politicians try to do it all the time. That is why they are so distrusted. The ACLU’s arguments in support of the obvious attack on religious freedom that this mandate represents put the them in the same league, and for the same reasons.

  • Noel Williams (prhayz) www.prhayz.com

    I find it very strange that it is only a quarter of the Catholic Church that is ridiculously upset over a mandate that’s no longer exist. It is time we move on to another issue. There are plenty of them.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Noel, I believe you are right when you say there are plenty of other issues that need attention, but I disagree when you say that the issue of the HHS mandate no longer exists. I also disagree with what I think is your implication that the HHS mandate is just another issue of equal gravity with all the others.

      If you want to move on to another issue, that is certainly your call, but I think that the basic tenets of religious liberty which allow every American to live out their faith without government interference is not just another issue, it is a basic freedom without which America would no longer be America.

      Also, I’m neither challenging nor supporting your statement that only a quarter of American Catholics support the bishops in their call to oppose the mandate, since I don’t know of any reliable numbers in this regard. However, even if what you say is accurate, that would be millions of Americans who see and understand the serious nature of this challenge to religious liberty.
      Rebecca

  • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

    Well said, Rebecca, if I may so address you, and welcome to the battle.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you! I am afraid we’re in for a long fight, not just on this mandate, but on the whole question of whether or not Christianity will be pushed to the margins of life in America.
      Rebecca

      • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

        It will be but, we’ve been fighting it for nearly two millenia, we just got distracted and have some ground to make up, but the modern world is largely our creation. America really is a Christian nation but when things are too good we tend to forget.

        Cheers.

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  • http://vdcoleman.wordpress.com A Woman and Her Pen!

    Overall I do support the ACLU, I used to be a proud card carrying member…HOWEVER, some things that they “rally for” just does not sit well with my spirit AS WELL as my flesh.

    Nonetheless, I really did enjoy reading this specific blog, God has the very final say in everything so I try my best not to stress out over too many things.

    God Bless

  • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

    “God has the very final say in everything so I try my best not to stress out over too many things.”

    That’s good advice. I’m not so good at following it. I try to tell myself that Jesus is the victor, even when it doesn’t seem that way. It helps me, but doesn’t entirely allay my stresses.

  • http://unbornwordalliance.com unbornwordoftheday

    From the beginning I was afraid that the Affordable Health Care Act was a power grab for the administration because it had over 700 places in which it allowed the HHS to determine policy. Even so when the contraception mandate was announced – I was dumbfounded because it was so unconstitutional and yet so many Americans seemed to think it perfectly sensible.

    I felt violated on 2 levels – as a Catholic and as an American.

    I have read a number of your posts and am really impressed!

  • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

    I was like you; dumbfounded by the sheer hubris of this mandate. I resolved the moment I heard about it to oppose it absolutely.

  • Linda C.

    Can’t help but feel that the goal of the excessive fines is just as much to put believers out of business as it is to force compliance…

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Linda, I absolutely believe that is what it is. The HHS Mandate is an act of government intrusion into the free exercise of religion. It is warrantless except as an attempt to bend religion to the government’s will.

  • Arkenaten

    “….but I think that the basic tenets of religious liberty which allow every American to live out their faith without government interference is not just another issue, it is a basic freedom without which America would no longer be America.”
    Hmm, I seriously doubt this. I would be prepared to put down a wager that a fair amount of Southerners said a similar thing about keeping slaves.
    And please, Rebecca, be open-minded to concede we are talking about faith not the Absolute Truth here.
    And this faith is faith in the Church/s and hoping they are telling the truth about all these claims, of salvation etc. not so?
    I will venture that even yourself , a serious Catholic, have hardly delved at all into the history of what you believe in?
    So, as for religious freedom, well, I believe the world has been hoodwinked – and I am NOT being facetious either – and the Church has pulled off (is still pulling) the biggest con mankind has ever experienced.

    • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

      The Free Exercise of Religion is a fundamental freedom just like freedom of speech. And you (as an atheist I presume?) ought to see this as an encroachment on your freedom as well, particularly with the strength of fundamentalist types in various parts of the country. If the government can mandate that one group violate their consciences in the name of healthcare, they can do it to any group, including atheist.

      Forget the arguments about whether or not what the Church teaches is Truth or not, that’s not really relevant to this issue. The issue is whether the government, at the point of a gun, can force you to actively violate your own conscience by completing some action contrary to your beliefs (in this case, purchasing abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilizations).

      • Arkenaten

        The Government often forces individuals to violate their conscience – they are just aware of it, that’s all.

        • Arkenaten

          Sorry, I meant UNaware of it, of course. :)

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          That’s true. Pacifists who indirectly pay for wars through their tax dollars would be an example.

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