Tag Archives: United States Constitution

National Healthcare, the Engine of Religious Suppression in the USA, is Upheld

English: United States Supreme Court building ...
English: United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., USA. Front facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States Supreme Court now completes the circle. Every branch of government has now caved in to a progressive and liberal replacement of the ideas somebody wants in place of the Constitution of the United States. All three branches of our government, which in theory act as checks and balances to each other’s excesses, have now completely betrayed the people and trashed the Constitution of the United States of America.This announcement would ordinarily be out of place in a blog on the subject of the Christian life and the signs of a building trend toward religious restriction and persecution. Today, however, this announcement is fully consistent with the theme of this blog. The so-called “Affordable Healthcare Act” includes a requirement for employers that has resulted in the complete trashing of the First Amendment to our Constitution, and the affirmation by the Supreme Court of the law in its entirety assures us all that religious restriction and perhaps even persecution are not beyond the reach of our government.In the midst of all this disaster, God remains on his throne. In the affairs of time and space, he is not obligated to intervene and act as we, his besieged children, might ask. He promises to go with us through the fire and to give us grace to endure it. I see the fires already, and I know I need the grace. I prayed that the healthcare bill would not pass, and it did. I prayed that the court would overturn it, but the law is upheld. It matters not that any third-grader could recognize that the plain meaning of language has been completely distorted in order to declare this law constitutional. I accept God’s sovereignty, whether or not I understand it, and I continue to trust him with my life. However, the country for which I used to give him thanks is gone.

As of today, the United States of America, governed according to the Constitution of the United States of America, no longer exists. It is a glorious memory, a high and noble story in the history of the world, but it no longer exists. With this decision, the Supreme Court declares that the words of the Constitution are irrelevant and that all words henceforth mean only what the government declares them to mean.

This state of affairs does not bode well for freedom of religious expression. It particularly does not bode well for Christians, because Christian teaching is the source of the idea that people are born free and have a right to run their own lives. The concept that every person has a right to choose and freely express his religious choice has thrived in countries where Christians were the majority, but in countries where other religions prevail or where no religion prevails, this freedom has almost universally been at least constrained if not completely suppressed.

My friends who identify with liberal political views, even if they call them progressive, will claim I have wandered off topic. I have not. National healthcare and religious practice are integrally related. (You can argue that we don’t have national healthcare if you want, but healthcare required and enforced by the national government is national healthcare. Any other wording is a semantic game.) The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has already felt the heavy hand of oppression in the regulations associated with this law. Their right to free expression of their faith, and the right of institutions and individual employers to express their faith have been suppressed, even crushed, by the administration of this law and the president’s adamant refusal to allow a conscience exemption for them. We should all view today’s decision with horror and trepidation. If the government can do this, what can it not do?

When I was a little girl, I learned not to fear my government. My parents and my teachers all told me that our government believed in personal freedom and respected the freedom of every citizen to run his own life without interference, unless the citizen chose to engage in criminal activity. I don’t think a choice whether to buy health insurance has a criminal aspect. It is simply a personal choice, just like buying furniture or a car, or, for goodness sake, a light bulb. In all those decisions a citizen in the constitutionally governed United States would be left alone to make his own decisions while the federal government busied itself with its rightful concerns. As of today’s decisions, the government has sat down comfortably in every family’s living room, and even in the hospitals and social services operated by churches. Our days of freedom are over. I do fear my government.

Enslavement to individual property owners ended during the Civil War. It was a bad thing and we should be proud that it ended. However, we are all slaves now, slaves to an overarching government that accepts no limits to its power to intrude in our lives.

I pray that it will take a while for the government to decide to make any more rules or laws about religious expression, but given that I never thought a healthcare law, constitutional or not, would involve religious liberty, I no longer have any idea that I can predict what the government is likely to do.

I am a proud citizen of the constitutionally governed United States of America. I will make one last attempt to save the country from complete destruction by voting for Mitt Romney for president on November 6. If he doesn’t win, there is no hope that anything even vaguely resembling the United States of America and its Constitution will survive beyond November 7.

How Does Persecution Begin?

The history of the USA is rich in stories of people who fled countries where their faith made them targets. In some cases they were in danger because their neighbors persecuted and scorned them while a complicit government cruised with hands off. In other places, the government persecuted them directly. Many of these refugees have suffered horrors American citizens can only barely imagine. American citizens welcome people fleeing persecution and give thanks that in this country, we have a Constitutional amendment that protects us from such things.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which became part of the Constitution in 1791, reads as follows:

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.


It sounds quite straightforward. Congress may not make any law that prohibits the free exercise of religion.

Common sense has resulted in an understanding that if somebody’s religion called for child sacrifice, the nation would respond with outrage and certainly would prohibit a religion from engaging in that practice. It is interesting to me that this is a common example used to show that as a nation, our understanding of religious freedom balks at burning a child on an altar, precisely because the practice of abortion, and the related practices of contraception and sterilization, have become the elements of a prohibition of the free exercise of religion in this country. The Affordable Healthcare Act, conversationally known as Obamacare, has introduced something into our system of law that raises a bright red flag for anyone who pays attention to the history and daily news of religious persecution around the world.

This legislation requires every employer in the US to provide health insurance coverage for services the law classifies as “preventive” health services. The required services include contraception, abortion and sterilization at no cost to the employee. That is, the employee may not be required to pay the premium, and the employee may not be required to pay deductibles or copays for these services. For the employee, these services must be free. Further, the regulations built on this legislation allow a conscience exemption only for worship institutions whose religious theology prohibits engaging in or providing such services. Institutions such as hospitals, universities, counseling centers, and so forth are not exempted, regardless of the religious convictions of the employers. On February 10, 2012, President Obama announced what he called an “accommodation” in response to complaints by Catholic employers, a response that simply shifted the cost of providing such so-called “preventive” health services to the insurance company itself. Yet when the final rule was published on February 15, it appeared to be an unmodified publication of the initial rule. The Catholic Bishops and numerous other individuals and groups protested to no avail that this ruling was a breach of First Amendment protections.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this particular confrontational issue, it represents only the tip of the iceberg. Every Christian, and every person who lives by the principle that obedience to God trumps obedience to the State, must be concerned by this development. It is hard to imagine any prior administration daring to trample First Amendment rights this way. Catholic teaching for two thousand years has forbidden engaging in contraception, abortion or sterilization, and the government had to know this when the original rule was published. Yet the rule was published, the argument was argued, and in the end, unless some future court ruling changes things, the rule stands. The forcefulness of the government’s rejection of the issue of religious expression is startling, given our history. It may lie in the equally startling semantic corollary to this conversation. The advocates for this rule speak of pregnancy as a disease that must be prevented. Such a view of pregnancy is shocking by itself, but that view is required in order for the mind to accept the notion that contraception, abortion and sterilization are preventive health services, necessary, even essential to women’s health. In fact, the language being used has ramped up the concern about women’s health to such a level that many speakers talk about a universal human right to free contraception, abortion and sterilization.

The concise version of the story of the Affordable Healthcare Act and its mandate on employers to provide all women’s preventive health services at no cost to the employee is this: the State has a legitimate interest in assuring that women do not get pregnant by accident, and if an unplanned pregnancy should occur, it must be easy and cost-free to end that pregnancy. Notice how none of the verbiage uses the word “baby” or the word “child.” Yet the State is motivating women to practice contraception, abortion and sterilization without regard to the scientific truth that these procedures do, in fact, involve sacrificing a child on the altar of somebody’s convenience. In fact, the pressure exerted and the scorn poured out upon people of faith who object to this rule as a violation of their right to live their faith convictions makes it quite clear that the State’s convenience is at least as much at issue here as the convenience of women who don’t want babies.

The antagonists in this conflict are 1) the State (the United States of America personified by the President of the United States of America and the Congress of the United States of America), and 2) people who hold religious convictions prohibiting them from practicing or supporting the practices of contraception, abortion and sterilization. The State has by its actions asserted that to assert that God’s law has a higher claim to obedience than the law of the United States of America is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

It is not farfetched to say that the State wants to be a god for whom citizens sacrifice children.

Historically, when the State requires any citizen to disobey God in order to obey the State, it signals the beginning of real persecution. The path from this moment of truth to some more gruesome evidence of persecution may be fairly lengthy, or it may be so short that we get there tomorrow. In many countries, the path for the State is smooth and unfettered, because many countries have no legal protection in place for Christians. In the US, there should at least be a fairly massive outcry against imprisoning or torturing Christians, but many more subtle and devious methods of persecution exist, and many are already in place in our culture.

This post is about an explosive and obvious moment when our country stood on a precipice and actually appeared to fall over the cliff. Perhaps rescue from this particular assault will appear from somewhere. Perhaps not. Christians cannot count on a drift away from the precipice. When someone with power exerts that power and subdues a powerful opponent, the high is like the first injection of heroin. The memory of that moment always calls out for repetition.

 Christians must be faithful in word and deed. We must speak out and stand up for the right to free expression of our faith. In the USA we have that privilege today. We must not let it dissolve before our eyes in a semantic cesspool.