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3/1/2012 - March 2012 SLI Educational Update - Obama's Attack on Religious Freedom - What It Means For Abortion Rights



 To:                  SLI Supporters                                  

 Date:               March 2012  

From:              A. Eric Johnston

Re:                  Obama’s Attack on Religious Freedom – What It Means For Abortion Rights

When President Barack Obama last month ordered religious institutions to provide and pay for birth control for employees, there was a public outcry.  It was first by Roman Catholics and then Protestants.  While Protestants normally find no objection to birth control, Catholics do.  So why were Protestants concerned? 

Birth control is not the only issue.  Government violation of the Free Exercise Clause is the initial issue.  Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February the week of Obama’s proclamation, former Governor of Arkansas and former Baptist minister, Mike Huckabee, said we are all Catholics today.  Tongue in cheek he said, during his preaching days back in Arkansas, he would never have foreseen standing before several thousand people and saying he is a “Catholic.”  But he did and that reveals the real significance of the problem.

As President, Barack Obama is increasingly criticized and found overreaching in his disregard of the United States Constitution.  The theme of CPAC 2012 was “We still hold these truths to be self evident.”  From appointing “czars” for virtually every function of government, to telling us what we must do even in disregard of our religious values, Obama has reached further into our lives than the law allows.  While we may worry about the effects of Islam on our peace and order, we find a more immediate threat to our religious freedom.

Though the Obama Administration immediately attempted to quell the religious uprising, it did nothing more than show it was serious about its order and attempted to circumvent the objections and still accomplish its goals.  Rather than admit its constitutional mistake and reverse its birth control requirements, the Administration changed it to say that religious institutions did not have to provide the birth control, but that their insurers would at no charge.  That was not a correction of its error, but rather a further declaration of its goal of secular government control of reproductive rights issues and a frank statement that religious values of the majority of Americans are not important, much less, fundamental.

Obama’s notion of abortion and reproductive rights is totally in line with abortion rights advocates.  When he was running for President, he promised abortion rights advocates that he would pass the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).  FOCA would federalize all abortion rights, taking away states’ rights to regulate and making abortion on demand permanent and without prospect of restriction or regulation.  While he has not gotten FOCA passed, he has worked continuously to advance abortion and related reproductive rights.

Abortion and birth control are tightly wound issues.  If you help one, you help the other.  Birth control is easier to regulate.  If you begin there, it is easier to move to protecting abortion rights.  To demonstrate how intertwined and important this is, we need look no further than the Alabama Legislature where there is pending a “Personhood Bill.”  The dilemma is the wording of the bill – conception versus implantation.  The pro-life community has consistently since 1973 stated life begins “at conception.”  This is when the process of the formation of a human being begins.  However, with advances in medical science, issues of birth control and in vitro fertilization have complicated the issue.  Generally speaking, some birth control removes the implanted egg, while in vitro fertilization involves fertilizing eggs in the petri dish and then implanting them in the womb.  Consequently, if you declare by law that life begins “at conception,” you outlaw some methods of birth control and in vitro fertilization. 

So, we really have two issues:  religious freedom and abortion rights.  The threshold issue is religious freedom.  If government can direct a “healthcare” requirement of a religious entity, it can require more and other regulation of religious activity.  Religious freedom must constantly and consistently be protected.  That is why the pilgrims and others came here and why we have the First Amendment religion clauses and the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment.  When government pushes the boundaries, we must respond. 

Also, the sanctity of life and all related to it becomes an issue.  If the Obama Administration can achieve the goals of FOCA by executive orders, without regard to the Constitution or the Congress, then FOCA’s goals are accomplished.  That may sound like an extravagant statement.  However, if one can begin small and seemingly insignificant, one can move on to greater things without causing alarm.

 James Madison said, “We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties.”  To direct the Catholic Church on birth control is major, not slight.  Defenders of Obama’s actions say many Catholics do not follow birth control rights, so it is not a big issue.  What the “faithful” do within the Roman Catholic Church is a church matter.  It is the government’s order to a church that violates the Constitution that is the real issue.  And, in so doing, the abortion rights agenda is advanced.  However, we are all still Americans and we have responded to the encroachment.  It is not over and never will be.  But, that is why we have our constitution and why Alabama’s motto is, “We dare defend our rights.” 

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