The ACLU, the HHS Mandate, and Religious Freedom

The ACLU, the HHS Mandate, and Religious Freedom September 15, 2012

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.

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One response to “The ACLU, the HHS Mandate, and Religious Freedom”

  1. I think it is important to distinguish between “in public” and “public sector.”

    Everyone is free to exercise their religion in public. One can pray in public, wear religious clothing, put religious bumper stickers on cars, and place signs and monuments on their property. There is nothing wrong with religion in public.

    Where the problem comes in is when a person or a group wants to use “public resources” – the government – to promote religious views. When someone uses the authority, the property or the resources of the government to promote one religious viewpoint over others, the Constitution is violated.

    The laws against prayer in public schools came about when catholic children were required to say protestant prayers and read from the protestant bible in public school. An atheist school principal cannot use the authority of his taxpayer funded position to make school children listen to a critique of religion at an assembly.

    Government property -public property – should not be used to display a religious monument telling all citizens which god to worship. If they do, then government property must be made available to all religious views. However, any group has the freedom to display such a monument in public on their own property.