Barbara Bradley Hagerty for NPR:
Religious conservatives see an escalating war with the Obama White House. One Catholic bishop called it “the most secularist administration in history.” Another bishop says it is an “a-theocracy.”
As far as I can tell, the Obama administration may very well be the most secularist administration in the history of the United States. And yes, it better damn well be an “a-theocracy.” Anything but is a direct violation of the United States Constitution — specifically, Amendment 1 (emphasis on the relivant portion):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That means the United States government cannot establish an official religion for the nation, be it any sect of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Scientology, or anything else. A Theocracy not only establishes an official religion, it’s governance is wholly dictated by the chosen religion. Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Somalia are examples of Islamic theocracies today.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty:
Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ new Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, believes the First Amendment is clear: The government cannot make people choose between obeying the law and following their faith.
This is clearly an exaggeration of what the first amendment says. Yes, the government cannot prevent the free exercise of your religion, but there are limitations. The biblical scriptures that call for the execution of homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13) and stoning to death of women who are not virgins on their wedding day (Deuteronomy 22:20-21), for instance, violate US law. These parts of the Christian religion cannot be freely practiced in the United States.
These points aren’t the real issues here, though. The actual situation is that the theocrats here don’t want religious based entities to have to cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion in their benefits packages. They also don’t want religious entities to have to provide their services to people in homosexual relationships. Many of them also want to continue to receive federal dollars to help fund their organizations.
I personally don’t have a problem not forcing religious organizations to provide services that go against their teachings, provided they also do not accept public dollars to run their organizations. To my understanding, this is exactly what the current deal is.
We secular folks find many fundimental religious beliefs to be as horrifyingly immoral as religious folks find our beliefs to be, but we have a secular constitution. If you don’t like it, maybe the United States isn’t for you.