Today, freedom of religion dies in the USA
Religious liberty is a cornerstone of the Constitution of the United States of America. The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from making a law ‘respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’. There is also provision that ‘No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification of any Office or public Trust under the United States’.
Today, ‘the free exercise thereof’ dies not with a bang, or even a whimper, but with almost complete indifference. There will be no marches or protests, no speeches or martyrs, for the coercion will not be a perceptible burden. In fact, it will scarcely change anything, for, rather like the EU’s ‘ever closer union’, the effects will be gradual, incremental; purposely designed to take effect increasingly over the lives of future generations.
As of today, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act decrees that the vast majority of health insurance plans in the USA will be obliged by law to cover sterilisation procedures and contraceptives, including the abortifacient ‘morning after pill’, without cost-sharing by the insured. There is no retrospective mandatory application: current policies will be permitted to run their course. But renewal at the end of a plan will be caught by the new law, ratchet-like, as will all new policies.
Roman Catholics in particular (but also a great many Evangelical Protestants) are pinning their hopes on key test cases to determine what remains of religious liberty and the free exercise of the conscience in these matters: Humanae Vitae is henceforth trumped by Obamacare. The Department of Health and Human Services grants exemptions for the ‘religious employer’ who may be granted ‘safe harbor’ (sic), but the definitions are narrow and derogations temporary (indeed, some lasting only until this date next year). There was talk of the ‘accommodation’ of dissenting views, but it is elusive in the final solution.
Within the year, Christian employers will be forced to make a decision – to follow their religious convictions, or provide their employees with health care benefits; to choose between their interpretation of the Laws of God, or sacrifice to Molech, the Canaanite god of propitiatory child sacrifice.
Some employees will undoubtedly lose their health cover because their employers will refuse to betray their consciences to finance ‘sex without consequences’. These already hard-pressed will then be subject to further financial hardship as they struggle to find the extra dollars to finance their own plans. Most will be unable to afford the insurance, thereby rendered helpless against life’s slings and arrows.
There are glimmers of hope: cases presently before the courts to determine when a company is ‘religiously owned’ or ‘religiously affiliated’, because the ‘bureaucrats in Washington can’t decide what faith is or who the faithful are’. It amy eventually be determined that the public-health interest to compel private companies to offer birth-control services are ‘countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion’.
But there is a sense of inevitability: the unbelieving employee’s free choice to contracept or abort is about to become the financial liability of the believing employer.
Rather like same-sex marriage over here, whatever the moral or religious arguments may be, it is appalling politics: David Cameron is costing the Conservative Party thousands of its most loyal supporters and potentially millions of votes. Barack Obama is alienating some 30 million Roman Catholics (about 25 per cent of the electorate) with Obamacare, a constituency which traditionally leans towards the Democrats.
In just three months, we will know if the first black President of the United States is to be reaffirmed and mandated to continue his ‘change we can believe in’, or thrown out of the White House to go down in history as another one-term failure. One thing is certain: if the nation’s Christians - Protestant and Roman Catholic - were to unite to defend their historic religious liberties, the United States of America would most surely get its first Mormon president.