Tag Archives: employer mandate

Does Government have a Compelling Interest in Controlling Population Growth?

The creation story in the Bible includes God’s first commandment to human beings: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28 NIV) The implication of the commandment is that babies are blessings. Loving parents and the patter of many little feet in a family is a good thing, according to this rule, God’s first instruction to Adam and Eve.

After God later tries to destroy by flood the humankind that has chosen evil instead of good, he regrets doing so and decides never to do it again. He wants the earth to be full of people, even if they are headstrong and easily lured into bad choices by Satan. After Noah has come out of the ark with his family and a large assortment of animals, God repeats his first commandment, saying “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1 NIV) God, who loves people, wants lots of them to live in the world he has created for their joy.

The psalmist had a similar inspired thought when he wrote, “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-5 NIV) The Bible is full of stories centered on yearning for children and the joy of filling up a home with them. The most beautiful story in the world is the story of the birth of a child whose arrival was heralded by angels, but a birth story need not be filled with angels, shepherds and wise men in order for it to be filled with joy.

Why, then, the worldwide outcry that the world is overpopulated? The earth is far from being “filled” with people. What is the problem? Why does the UN have annual conferences around the theme of population control by means of contraception and abortion on demand? Why do so many politicians feel that it is politically correct to support abortion on demand? Why are the parents of large families treated as pariahs in some circles simply because they enjoy their children? When did the blessing of children become a curse that needs to be limited if not eliminated?

These questions are important. There is huge social and political pressure to remove any possibility of a woman giving birth to an “unplanned” baby. All this emphasis on “planning” opens the door to planning by someone other than a pregnant woman. It is so important that the US government is prepared to dive even deeper into financial deficits in order to assure that no woman need pay for birth control and that every woman be able to abort an unplanned baby as easily as she might discard last year’s sunglasses. The UN is in complete agreement with this principle. It is busy even now crafting a new statement of human rights that includes the right to avoid having children.

This imperative is having some effect. US population growth is slowing. European population growth is stalled. Apparently the UN wants the same thing to happen in Africa. The Chinese government has been doing its part for decades. Why do citizens permit governments to tell them when they may have children and how many? What makes citizens willing to suppress the birth of babies? How did the choice to have children become entangled with the power and responsibility of government?

These questions are at the root of the case now pending in the Supreme Court. Two companies, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, will have the opportunity in March to address the Supreme Court on this very subject. It comes to a head over the fact that the owners of both companies live by principles that are rooted in their religious convictions. Those principles proscribe the destruction of human beings, even if the human is only one fertilized cell. Because they believe that human life is God’s gift which human beings must protect at all costs, they cannot comply with the government requirement to pay for health insurance coverage that gives free contraceptives and abortifacient drugs to their employees.

A major point in the arguments will be whether the government has a compelling interest that is served most appropriately by forcing these business owners to act against their own consciences. It all really comes down to the ugly question in the early paragraphs of this post: Why do citizens permit governments to tell them when they may have children and how many? What makes citizens willing to suppress the birth of babies? The only compelling interest the government could have in bulldozing people of faith and their principles over contraceptives and abortion is population control.

The government may have some political idea that limiting the population is in its interest, but neither the goal itself nor the objective of achieving a precedent that puts the interests of government ahead of the convictions of people of faith is consistent with the Constitution’s limitations on the power of the federal government.

There are plenty of political spokespersons who will claim that these employers want to take charge of the lives of their employees. That is a ridiculous charge, because the employers do not now attempt to prevent their employees from obtaining whatever contraceptives or abortifacient drugs they want, and the employers do not intend to attempt to interfere with the private choices of their employees in the future. Contraceptives and abortifacient drugs are readily available today to any woman who wants them, and those who cannot afford them can easily find services to help them. The issue here is whether the government has the right to tell an employer that the employer must act against conscience.

The root argument of this case has nothing to do with abortion or contraceptives. The root argument is whether a government has the right to force anyone to act against conscience. The ancient Roman government had the same mindset as many members of the current federal administration. In the Roman Empire of the first century AD (I still like AD more than CE) the emperor expected people to worship him as an act of citizenship. A good citizen worshiped the emperor. Only a traitor refused. This same attitude is being displayed by the US government. Worship is not the word the present government uses; it simply demands submission.

In the first century AD Christians suffered arrest, imprisonment, torture and execution rather than worship the emperor. The book of Revelation was written for those Christians. That book is replete with reminders of the rewards God has in store for Christians who hold on to their testimony and refuse to disobey God in order to serve the government. Christians who believe that the Bible is their guide for faith and life understand that the message of Revelation applies every time any government tries to stand in the place of God, every time a government asks any citizen to choose whether he will serve God or human government. Christians in Nazi Germany chose to obey God rather than government to protect Jews. Christians in Iran today choose to obey God rather than their government, which says that being a Christian is a threat to Iran’s national security. The same sort of choice is facing some Christians in the USA.

The title of this post asks about a compelling need for government control of population growth, but the real point of this post is that God asks every human being to put him first. The government may have all kinds of agendas, and Christians who want to be good citizens always also want good government. Nevertheless, as the founders of the USA knew very well, it is possible for government to overstep the bounds God has placed on its role in society. When that happens, Christians cannot and will not comply with government mandates.

Do we need the government to control population growth? The answer is no. Some Christians may dispute the theological interpretation which puts other Christians at odds with the government, but every Christian holds dear the principle that God has made him a priest to understand and obey God’s teaching as well as he understands it. Each believer is responsible before God for the choices of his own conscience. Every believer knows that he cannot justify disobeying God on any point by accusing the government of forcing the disobedience. The authors of the US Constitution wanted the US government to respect each person’s conscience before God, and that is why the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The real question: is there any time when the government has a right to demand that someone act against his conscience to serve the government? The Bible and the US Constitution alike say emphatically NO.

It’s True–Christians Don’t Fit In

Among the many complaints secular thinkers express about Christians, there is a common thread: Christians refuse to try to fit in. Secular thinking involves a great deal of consensus, and consensus requires that at some point, people who began the process differing in one or several points from the majority must sacrifice their differences to the common good.  The theory and practice of building consensus sound more loving than that, but that is the bottom line that makes consensus work.

                Christians cannot sacrifice their differences when the difference is founded on a principle of Christian teaching. For example:

  • God’s most precious gift is life. Abortion is death by order of the woman carrying an unborn baby in her womb. Christians know that God creates life, and that God has not given any human being the right to kill another human being whose existence is deemed inconvenient. Secular thinkers believe Christians should stop complaining and just “fit in” and agree that abortion is the best way to deal with a family planning failure.
  • God’s most precious gift is life. Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is God’s gift of power and blessing to create new life, and the power of this relationship and its gifts is contained and controlled in marriage the way exploding rocket fuel is contained and controlled in rocket nozzles. If the explosion were uncontained, it would be destructive. Because it is contained, rockets can go to the moon, Mars, or beyond the solar system. Sexual energy contained within the relationship of marriage is a powerful force for good and passes its power on to succeeding generations. Secular thinkers believe Christians are being hateful and offensive when they reject the momentum created by activism to change the definitions of marriage and family and simply refuse to “fit in.”
  • Human marriage, the union of a man and a woman, is the model God has provided for us to understand the relationship of God with his people. The most poignant example of that teaching is the story of Hosea who obediently married a prostitute and loved her despite her flagrant infidelity, just as God loves his people despite their scorn for his teachings and rebellion against his authority. Secular thinkers believe Christians become Christians entirely due to the “carrot” of heaven in the afterlife. Christians know that our relationship with the eternal and infinite God begins right now, and his gift of life eternal is ours right now. Secular thinkers want Christians to stop quoting that “silly book,” the Bible. Christians stand firm in their commitment to God’s revealed truth and refuse to change it or abandon it in order to “fit in.”

God’s people have always faced the resistance of those who reject God and the temptation to go along to get along. This sort of problem goes back to the earliest human beings. Think how people scoffed at Noah building his ark in obedience to God. The three Hebrews in ancient Babylon risked being burned in a hot furnace, because they simply would not sell out their relationship with God. The pressure of the US federal government on people to finance behavior that God calls sin is no different than the requirement of King Nebuchadnezzar to worship the great golden idol. It is exactly the same problem: do what the government says or suffer the consequences.  It is the same problem the disciples encountered in Jerusalem when the Sanhedrin commanded them to shut up about Jesus; they answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” The entire marriage controversy now being discussed in the Supreme Court and throughout American culture often includes language that says in many different words, “You Christians are either silly or else you are completely hate-filled. Otherwise, you would get on the right side of history and shut up.”

Christians do not decide what is right or wrong based on what history is saying. The notion that there is a “right side” and a “wrong side” of history grows out a secular belief that human beings are evolving into wiser and better beings than they used to be. The Bible shows clearly that such an idea is a lie, because the Bible shows that people have not changed for the better since the most ancient of times. In fact, nobody needs a Bible to know that truth. The evidence is clear in documents accepted academically as recorded history. The evidence is clear in all the texts revered by other religions, too. History is not a force that shapes human individuals and human society for the better. History is simply a record that shows that human beings and cultures have only changed technologically. The moral and ethical questions of today are identical to those of past generations.

Christians do not choose between right and wrong by taking a poll of the culture to determine what everybody else thinks. Christians take instruction from their guide for faith and life – the Bible, the revelation of God. That guide does not change as history unfolds, because God does not change. God is the First and the Last, the unchanging God of all points in history. Christians take comfort in Christ’s birth, death and resurrection as evidence of God’s love and plan to redeem all people, yet they know that God never forces himself on anyone. History is littered with examples of people who have broken themselves on God’s unchanging laws, because they rejected God’s unchanging love. Christians know that God’s laws for human conduct are no different in that respect from God’s laws for the physical world. Someone who rejects the validity of God’s law of gravity and steps off a five-story building will fall five stories, no matter how many people agreed with him in his rejection of the law of gravity. Someone who rejects the validity of God’s law of honor for parents and family and proceeds with some noxious alternative idea will suffer the degradation of life that is the natural consequence of unnatural definitions of marriage and family, no matter how many people agreed with him in his rejection of God’s law of honor for parents and family. Sadly, people who rebel against God’s laws, whether physics or family, often take other people with them into the suffering, misery and destruction that are the natural consequences of their choices.

There can be cultural consequence when Christians refuse to fit in, and there can even be legal consequences when Christians refuse to fit in, but around the world, Christians stand firm in their commitments to God and suffer the consequences. Saeed Abedini suffers the consequence of refusing to fit in with Iran’s demand that no Muslim convert away from Islam, because Saeed Abedini believes that his life of faith in Christ in both time and eternity is more important than any amount of pain or punishment in the realm of time and space. Asia Bibi is condemned to death in Pakistan for her faith in Christ, but she counts her life with Christ as priceless and by comparison counts her life in time and space as nothing to strive for. Just as the three Hebrews refused the order to worship the golden statue, these contemporary prisoners for Christ say, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods.” Saeed Abedini and Asia Bibi refuse to participate in the behavior required by their governments, choosing Christ instead. Christians in the USA will continue to refuse the behavior required by US culture and US government, choosing Christ instead. Compared with Christ, the value of cultural or government approval is as rubbish. Christians will not accept rubbish as the reward for being willing to “fit in.”

Conscience, Conscience, Who’s Got Conscience?

“They say freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. I … do not know what conscience is. … I could not figure out the full meaning of the words ‘freedom of conscience.’” This statement expressed the viewpoint of Allahshukyr Pashazada, the head of Caucasus Muslims Office in Azerbaijan at Baku, Azerbaijan on November 14, 2012.

The speaker was attending a conference titled “Freedom of religion and belief: Legal, political and public aspects.” After reading these words, anyone might be entitled to wonder if Mr. Pashazada can legitimately participate in such a conference. Yet this man has held his current position in the government of Azerbaijan since before the fall of the USSR.

Since Mr. Pashazada serves in the government of a nation that is officially secular, one might forgive him for not recognizing the concept of conscience, but his role as head of Muslims makes one ask if he can possibly be serious. Azerbaijan falls at number 25 of the 50 nations with the worst records of religious persecution, making it important to probe a bit deeper into the meaning of Mr. Pashazada’s words. Could his words explain why this nation is on a list of such nations? What might his real meaning be?

These words, “I … do not know what conscience is,” reminds us of a corollary situation in the USA. Recently Tyndale House publishers sued Kathleen Sebelius for exemption from the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act on grounds of conscience. In the USA, we all think we know what a conscience exemption is. We think it means that government will respect people’s convictions when they say that they cannot obey a law because their religion defines the behavior required by obedience as sin. Quakers, who believe that all violence is sin against God, have been given non-violent work to do in the military, exempted because of conscience, from bearing arms. Most reasonable people thought that the Affordable Care Act would make that same sort of accommodation.

However, the conscience exemption defined in the regulations implementing the ACA limit the conscience exemption to houses of worship that qualify for the IRS 501 ( c ) 3 classification whose business is defined as follows:           (1)   Has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.
See the Federal Register August 3, 2011, 45 CFR Part 147

This definition is extremely tight, and this definition would never have allowed Quakers to be conscientious objectors as individuals during wartime. Many individuals and businesses have considered this definition to be far too narrow, given the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment for the free expression of religion. However, the administration’s response to the suit by Tyndale House was that Tyndale House was not “religious enough” to qualify for a conscience exemption.

Many people would say that the current administration, in the person of Kathleen Sebelius, does not understand what conscience is any better than the head of Caucasus Muslims Office in Azerbaijan, Mr. Allahshukyr Pashazada. Many people would say that in this instance, the USA no more protects religious liberty than one of the fifty worst countries in the world for religious freedom, Azerbaijan.

Interestingly, in Azerbaijan, all religious groups must register, but since January 1, 2010, no church has been allowed to register. They are required to register, but when they submit registration forms, those forms languish in some office somewhere, and the registration never is certified by the government. An attentive reader parsing the language of the regulation for conscience exemption relative to the Affordable Care Act might see in that language the likelihood that in the future, all the churches that wanted to qualify for the exemption would be required to register and be certified before the exemption could be granted. Somehow or other, the government must actually recognize those churches that qualify for exemptions. How better than to simply have a database somewhere where all the churches that meet the legal definition are registered? If that becomes the rule, what happens when the government tires of dealing with it? What happens when churches apply for exemption with all their forms filled out, and the official who must do the certification never actually does it?

Further, Azerbaijan is officially a secular state with no state religion. In theory, the government of Azerbaijan does not prefer one religion over another. In fact, in theory, the government of Azerbaijan is completely neutral with regard to religion, and this stance is the only one that makes real sense of Mr. Pashazada’s statement. Someone who considers religion a mildly comical aberration in the human psyche might very well consider a conscience to be a mythical concept invented for the purpose of avoiding legal obligations. This very attitude permeates the recorded statements of the administration in the court records of three suits filed to date seeking exemption from the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act. The government appears not to recognize that a Christian is obligated by his faith to live according to the teachings of the faith at work, at home, in a laundromat, in the grocery store, while driving to work, and anywhere else he may be. The tenets of Christian faith do not lose their effect in a person’s life as soon as he exits the church building, yet the government feels justified in saying that nothing religious happens in a for-profit business.

What is conscience but the outworking of faith in the life of an individual? What happens when government tries to compel people to act against conscience, to ignore conscience?

I have found no record of the intentions of the people who founded Azerbaijan, but there is a well-documented record of the intentions of the people who founded the USA. The people who wrote the Constitution of the United States of America never intended for the government to compel anyone to act against conscience. Are we who claim the name of Christ ready to go to jail and/or pay huge fines for our unwillingness to act against our conscience shaped by the teachings of Christ? Will the USA someday be on the list of the worst fifty nations for religious persecution?
Christians purport to believe in prayer. Now is a good time to pray that the US government will be enlightened about the meaning of the First Amendment and cancel the regulations that are currently imposing secular moral values on individuals, businesses and institutions which operate by Christian values. Christians need to pray that they will themselves be very clear about the values they live by and that they will be ready to pay the price for their convictions. In Azerbaijan, people are arrested, fined and imprisoned for their values. Are Christians in the USA ready for the same thing? Are Christians in the USA ready to act and speak and pray with all their hearts for religious liberty for Christians in Azerbaijan and in the USA?

The Terms of Religious Liberty

Many of the arguments people have about almost anything actually boil down to dictionary problems. A lot of differences of opinion hinge on differences of definition. 

Take religious liberty for example. If you ask any ten people today if they believe everybody ought to have religious liberty, it is unlikely that even one will answer No. However, if you ask ten people if they believe the Catholic Bishops have a right to dispute the president’s order that Catholic hospitals must provide health insurance coverage for services that Catholic theology defines as sin, then you will stir up a hornet’s nest. It is obvious that the man in the street and the man in the White House do not necessarily define religious liberty the same way as the Catholic Bishops do. 

The question we are discussing is this: Does the Constitution of the United States protect religious liberty 

There is no way to have the conversation unless we understand what we are discussing. What, exactly, is religious liberty? 

In China, the government says that its citizens have religious liberty. Chinese citizens may belong to any religion they choose – if the religion they choose is authorized by the government. For example, the Chinese government says that it grants complete religious liberty to Christianity. An American hearing those words would immediately ask why there are so many rumors about religious persecution of Christians in China if Christians have religious liberty. The answer is that Christians have the liberty to belong to the Christian organization named and regulated in Chinese law. They may worship in locations registered with the Chinese government. They may listen to sermons preached by pastors trained in the Christian seminary authorized by the Chinese government as long as those pastors read from the Bible in the translation authorized by the Chinese government. If a group of Christians decides to get together in somebody’s house which is an unregistered location for prayer and Bible study with a study leader who is not licensed by the government and if they choose to read from the wrong translation of the Bible, they can all be arrested and imprisoned, and their Bibles will be confiscated. China’s definition of religious liberty doesn’t sound much like anything an American would define as religious liberty. Just a little research will reveal that it is not at all uncommon for governments to enforce religious liberty by specifying the religions people are free to join. 

The confrontation between the President of the United States and the US Catholic Bishops is entirely about the definition of religious liberty. It should be easy to figure out whether the religious liberty of Catholics is being infringed if we look at the Constitution. It isn’t. Any legal document is written in words that are subject to be defined differently by the parties to the agreement. Our Constitution is no different. The history of our country is a history of wrangling over the meaning of the words of the Constitution. The discussions about the term religious liberty and another commonly-used term, freedom of religion, are actually arguments about the words in the First Amendment to the Constitution.  

The First Amendment says:

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. 

In the present conflict the phrase at issue is the free exercise thereof in which the word thereof can safely be rephrased for purposes of discussion as of religion. When the president and the Catholic Bishops argue about the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act, they are arguing about the free exercise of religion.

Because the US is not like China, the Christian religion is not defined and regulated in US law. Houses of worship are not registered in some bureau. The theology of Catholics is not required to comply with a government-authorized document in a government-authorized seminary and administered by bishops who are licensed by the government to administer the government’s version of Catholic teaching. The Catholic Bishops are completely free under US law to teach their own understanding of Catholic theology. In their interpretation of Catholic theology, they teach that every Catholic Christian is obligated to live by Catholic Christian teachings all day every day, not just during mass. They teach that Catholic Christians must not only comply with the ethical and moral standards taught by the Catholic Church at all times, but that Catholic Christians must not participate in leading non-Catholics astray, either. For a Catholic individual or a Catholic institution to promote contraception or to provide and enable contraception, just for one example, is a sin. The teaching about contraception is not simply a topic in the Sunday morning homily during worship; this teaching is about the whole life of a Catholic Christian, the whole character of any institution or individual associated with the Catholic Church. In order for a Catholic Christian to be able to engage in the free exercise of the Catholic religion, that Christian must not promote or participate in contraception either personally or as an institutional act.

(Some readers will immediately remember that many Catholics do use contraception, and some of them are just as incensed at the Bishops as the President is. This fact does not change Catholic teaching any more than people who exceed speed limits change the speed laws. Catholic teaching is not changed by the fact that some members fail to live up to it. In fact, I know of no religion where the deficient practice of members changes the teachings of the religion.)

The President of the United States demonstrates by his decision about the employer mandate that he does not understand the free exercise of religion the same way the Bishops do. Our president believes that he has allowed the free exercise of religion by granting a conscience exemption to houses of worship. The Holy Family Catholic Church in Jacksonville, for example, would be exempted from providing health insurance coverage for contraception, but its school, in the President’s eyes, is a providing a secular function, and would not, therefore, be exempt. The president clearly believes that worship is a protected exercise of religion but education in English grammar and composition is not. Notre Dame University is, according to the President of the United States, engaged in secular work, not religious, even though that university would not even exist if the people who founded it had not intended it to be permeated with the teachings and principles of the Catholic faith. The President likewise sees the work of hospitals, homeless shelters and soup kitchens as secular social work, nothing to do with religion. The administrators of these institutions must comply with a secular law that may require them to disobey teachings fundamental to their religious life.

The same issues arise with many denominations of Christians and with other religions as well. There may be a religion that is only about worship, but I am not aware of any. Hindus, for example, do not eat beef. Muslims must abstain from pork. Orthodox Jews must serve meat in different dishes than milk. None of these teachings is practiced during the worship activities of these religions. These teachings are about daily life. For our president to ignore this very basic truth about all religions betrays a serious deficit in his knowledge of religions. The exercise of any religion extends far beyond the form and practice of worship. In fact, it can properly be said that a great deal of what happens during worship in any religion is intended to shape and guide daily life outside of worship.

We who serve Christ certainly know this to be true. We know that Christ did not die in order for our worship experience to be richer. He died because our whole lives need to be redeemed. Our attitudes and behaviors all day every day are touched and shaped and guided by our growth in relationship with him. Our relationship with Christ does not take a break when we leave the sanctuary and resume when we return a week later. Christ goes with us into the world where he has commanded us to tell the good news and make disciples. The Holy Spirit dwells within the temple of our bodies, and wherever we go, our service and our whole lives grow out of an ongoing relationship with that Holy Spirit.

This is why people of all religions, Christian or not, must resist this restriction of the Catholic faith. If the government is free to compel Catholics to provide and enable contraception, what stops it from forbidding a Lutheran congregation to march on sidewalks funded by a municipal budget on Palm Sunday singing hymns and praying in unison? Can a Baptist Sunday School teacher be forbidden to mention her faith to a man sitting next to her on the plane mourning the death of his sister, just because she is not in a house of worship? Can the federal government issue a regulation forbidding religious jewelry, such as a necklace with a cross-shaped pendant, to be worn in any public place? Can a Jewish child be compelled to eat a hot dog made with pork in a school lunch, on the grounds that he is not in a synagogue?

The issue of free exercise of religion was important to the people who wrote the Constitution. The original writers believed that if the federal government were not authorized by the Constitution to establish or control religion, then the federal government did not have that power. They did not want the government either to mandate or restrict the practice of religion. Many citizens, however, recognized that it would be easy for national leaders, such as our president, to assume powers not granted to the federal government precisely because they were not specifically forbidden. Even though the Tenth Amendment says in plain language that any power not specifically granted to the federal government is, therefore, forbidden to it, the tug-of-war among the states, the people and the federal government continues to this day, and the current confrontation over the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act is a good example of a way that this tension continues.

Christians need to be very aware of the problem. Christians need to make this problem a matter of prayer. In the USA we have been proud and privileged to be free of religious persecution, but the current issue, arising over a simple definition, shines a light on the likelihood that other issues around this same definition will arise.

The notion that worship is a protected form of exercise of religion while education, healthcare, and social services are not, is the outgrowth of secular philosophy. To a secular thinker, religion is belief in an imaginary deity. To someone who believes that faith in God is equivalent to believing in the tooth fairy, the idea that morality or ethical principles grow out of a relationship with God is completely ridiculous. Such ideas must not be permitted to impact public life. A secular thinker is quite willing to respect the existence of houses of worship or even of private prayer and Bible study, but for anyone to seek to modify public behavior because of what the secular thinker regards as private, personal quirks is unthinkable. To our president and to those in his administration who have spoken publicly on the subject, it is clearly absurd to allow any religious exercise to interfere with public health principles they believe to be rooted in reason alone. Many people, even non-religious people, might dispute whether the services the administration defines as necessary for prevention of the disease called pregnancy are rooted only in reason, and that is an argument in the definition of reason. Christians may or may not engage in that argument, but all Christians must recognize that whether or not they agree with someone’s religion, they must agree with the constitutional protection of the free exercise of religion.

If people of any faith want to remain free to live their faith in the USA, they must all be vigilant to protect the free exercise of religion. If they want religious liberty, they will need to work for it. Christians will want to add this concern to daily prayers and petitions before God. In the best Christian tradition, those prayers will produce change in word and deed of daily life.

What do you plan to do today to protect your right to freely exercise your faith?