Rick Garnett has posted a response to my writings this week on the subject of religious liberty at the great blogsite "Mirror of Justice." I will offer a more thoughtful reply subsequently but will say this at the outset: Garnett and I probably agree on about 90% but the other ten percent is very important. I will also say that it is an honor to be engaged in disagreement with someone like garnett who is smart even when he is wrong and respectful even in disagreement.
Dr. Jeff Mirus, writing at CatholicCulture.org, castigates Bishop Stephen Blaire for be willing to secure the Church's freedom "at the expense" of the conscience rights of individuals. The key point of his argument is this: "it is not enough that the institutional Church should be exempt from immoral insurance requirements. Nobody should be forced to financially support immoral practices."
Certainly, I am sure Mirus would allow that the Church has a First Amendment claim that an individual does not: The text of the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion, religion is a word derived from the Latin meaning "to bind," and it certainly means to us Catholics, and it certainly meant to most of the Founders, a binding not only to the moral law and its Author but to each other in some sort of religious community.
Jonathan Cohn, at the New Republic, knows more about health care policy than anyone writing on the subject today. In a fine piece published yesterday, he looks at Gov. Romney's somewhat vague policy proposals and why they would be a disaster for the country.
As the USCCB continues to focus on religious liberty, a cause I support wholeheartedly, they need to remember that this election is also about other issues and one of those is whether or not the country will get health care to more than 50 million Americans or deny health care to 50 million Americans.
I mentioned on Tuesday that I had attended the previous night an event at the National Press Club sponsored by Catholic University's Columbus School of Law on the subject of religious liberty. The event featured a panel including CUA President John Garvey and UVA law professor Douglas Laycock. Here is a link to video of the event.
Memorial Day brings a flood of memories. Our little town always has a parade down Main Street, with floats on the back of farm trucks, the band from the local high school, and our town’s fire trucks, freshly washed and waxed. At the end of the parade, everyone gathers at a monument to our town’s veterans, someone gives a speech, a wreath is laid, a trumpeter plays taps, the flag is lowered to half-mast. Then, the local Grange has a BBQ with free ice cream for the kids. It is very Norman Rockwell.
Just back from an event sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center on religious freedom. It was not exactly “fair and balanced” anymore than Fox News is, although Bill Galston from Brookings was given the microphone and, unsurprisingly, gave the most nuanced of this morning’s presentations. At least the organizers were candid that the day’s proceedings were not just about learning, they were about action. This was the religious right’s highly educated cohort, getting their marching orders and their battleplans.
The avalanche of criticism against, variously, the Obama administration, secularization, gay and lesbian activists, etc., began with Tom Farr of Georgetown who said that in his 2009 address at Notre Dame, President Barack Obama asserted a “lack of rational content” in religion. The relevant words of Mr. Obama’s were: “It's beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us. And those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.” Now, as I recall, I found Obama’s comments strange in a speech at a Catholic university dedicated to the pursuit of faith and reason.
I will be heading out shortly to a conference on religious liberty sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Why these start these things so early, and all the way across town is beyond me. I will file a report early afternoon.
But, here is some food for thought on the issue.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl has an article at the Washington Post explaining the archdiocese's decision to file a lawsuit against the HHS mandate. It is worth noting that Cardinal Wuerl focuses on the same objection Bishop Blaire highlighted - the still-extant, four-part definition of what is, and is not, a religious organization for purposes of exemptions from the new HHS mandate. I am sure there was some gnashing of teeth at the idea that bishops were taking different positions in public on this issue but I don't think the positions are that fundamentally different. The differences are ones of emphasis and context. All agree on the heart of the matter.
In a speech at the Reagan Library, Cong. Paul Ryan said he expects that the GOP will not only win this November's election, but will do so with a "mandate" to "sweep and remake the political landscape." If the option is continued, divided, dysfunctional government or a mandate to enact the Ryan view of government, I;ll take a few more years of divided, dysfunctional government.
Yesterday, the dam broke. In comments made to Kevin Clarke at America magazine, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, with carefully selected words and a persuasive and important argument, explained his differences of opinion with some of his brother bishops regarding the best way to address the religious liberty concerns the bishops all share.
My monthly campaign analysis for the print edition of NCR is now available online. This month I look at campaign finance in the post-Citizens United era. You can access it by clicking here.