Recently the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the Hosanna Tabor case that the government cannot interfere in religious communities’ decisions about who will be their teachers, leaders, and ministers. This was rightly seen as a major victory for religious liberty against government intrusion. This battle was won but the war is far from over. The limit of government intrusion on religious institutions and personal convictions is still being attacked from many angles.
What constitutes a religious organization is emerging as the next great battleground and it is important that Christians are paying attention to what is happening. The recent birth control mandate by the President highlights the kinds of issues that will be raised.
This mandate requires that organizations opposed to birth control and sterilization pay for these services as part of their health care plans. Many religious organizations are outraged by this and a number of Catholic Bishops have asserted that they will not comply. One of the supporters of this mandate has been the minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who identifies herself as Catholic. When a reporter tried to get her to address the obvious conflict between her support of the President’s mandate and the Catholic faith she proclaims she tried to muddy the water by mentioning that there were other Catholics who also support the mandate. This is a classic deflection that never worked with my mother but always seems to be effective for politicians… not sure why.
Pelosi may think that the President’s mandate is courageous but regardless of how many other Catholics she can find who agree with her there is no question that this mandate is contrary to a core belief of her Church. I recognize that in the
our political leaders represent a much wider demographic than just Christians and in order to faithfully represent their constituency they may vote in ways that we might not like. Pelosi, however, did not take this angle. Rather she chose to point out that there were others as well who are in practice rejecting a core commitment of their Church. Now I do not expect that people will be in complete agreement with every single position of their pastors, elders, or bishops. There is something dishonest, however, about not simply saying that. The language that she uses in her response seems to imply that this is a debatable issue within the Catholic Church. So far as I am aware the Catholic Church has been rather consistent on this issue despite the protests of some members. U.S.
I am not Catholic and I am not surprised at Pelosi’s position but I do think that we need to stand with these bishops on the issue of government forcing religiously managed organizations to make choices that contradict their convictions. The principal at stake here is even broader than just abortion and birth control (not that those aren’t pressing enough). We need to understand how our representatives vote on these matters because we are at the beginning of a long process where many are trying to redefine the relationship between the
government and our churches and religious organizations. United States