What Does the Benghazi Scandal Have To Do With Religious Liberty?

What Does the Benghazi Scandal Have To Do With Religious Liberty? May 17, 2013

Not the enemy of freedom

Or the IRS and AP scandals? Well, just like the claims that people of conscience make against the HHS Mandate, all of these scandals revolve around the suppression of the First Amendment rights that Americans hold sacrosanct.

At least we did hold them sacred, until something called the War on Terror upped and made lots of folks decide that being safe is more important than being free. Call me crazy, but I believe we can still be both safe and free. I just don’t have much faith in us remaining that way giving the way those in power treat us, as the recent scandals have come to the surface.

Mollie Hemingway, a writer and blogger at Get Religion at the neighboring Patheos News & Politics channel, has a piece up over at Richocet describing how she spent last night at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s annual Canterbury Medal Dinner, and sharing a few thoughts like my own.

Last night’s dinner was festive, but the overall climate is difficult. A highlight for me was meeting members of the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby stores. At great cost to themselves, they’re refusing to abide by HHS regulations that violate their religious liberty. The Becket Fund has taken on their case, for which oral arguments are next week before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

This is a long way of introducing what I remain worried about this morning. Of the many poor responses to the Benghazi tragedy, one of the worst was how some of our political leaders deliberately led people to believe Benghazi occurred because of someone exercising his rights of speech and religion. Further, they suggested, this should lead to voluntary or forced limits on religious expression. From Reason magazine’s “Hall of Shame” on this point:

Fourteen days after Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered by Islamists, President Barack Obama stood up in front of the United Nations and declared that the “message” of a movie virtually no one will ever see “must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity,” that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” and that we all should “condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims.”

Stephen F. Hayes’ piece in The Weekly Standard this morning is a must-read. He briefly and clearly explains what remains troubling about the latest version of the talking points story, including concerns about how our country came to blame a YouTube video maker.

Religious liberty is the canary in the coal mine of civil liberties. And I suppose it should be no surprise that even presidents fail to appreciate its importance. But kudos to the Becket Fund for defending our rights to religious liberty, no matter our religion, against threats by local, state and federal governments.

Read the whole thing and the piece in the Weekly Standard too.

It wasn’t that long ago when I shared thoughts on why the Constitution means a lot to me. Remember this quote from Francis Cardinal George?

We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens because of their religious beliefs. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. All that has been built up over so many years in our Catholic institutions should not be taken away by the stroke of an administrator’s pen.

The administrator’s pens in the Executive Branch have been very busy since Cardinal George made that statement. Seriously, after what has come to light regarding the activities of the White House, the IRS, the Justice Department, the CIA and the State Department, is it really that big a leap to understand that the Health and Human Services Department isn’t benignly looking out for the best interests of women’s health? Especially when you consider how many folks (190 million) are exempt from the HHS Mandate, while the Catholic Church’s ministries, hospitals, and schools, are still being targeted, as are businesses owned and operated by Catholics and other like-minded folks who know their religious liberties are being infringed upon.

The garden of our liberties is worth defending. This current episode is akin to something I read that Tolkien wrote,

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

The Fortnight for Freedom has stretched into a Season for Freedom, if not a year of living dangerously. It’s like the bard sings of here,

What will people do?
After the garden is gone?
What will people say?
After the garden…

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