Posted on March 5th, 2012
Rep. Trent Franks last week published an outstanding piece in the Daily Caller, “What’s behind the president’s assault on our religious freedoms?” It reads in part:
The Founders believed in a hierarchy of rights, and they saw religious freedom as an “inalienable right” of all Americans. Alexander Hamilton, for example, eloquently wrote, “The sacred rights of mankind … are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” In drafting the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson included in the conclusion that, “If any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.” It is the repeal of such natural rights that the Obama administration is currently undertaking.
It is worth noting that the arguments of the Obama administration are hauntingly similar to those of the pragmatists of the early twentieth century, the philosophical progenitors of moral relativism, who believed that the purpose of government was to enact the will of the majority. President Obama and his allies seem to be taking their lead from former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who declared that law had become “wholly indifferent to the internal phenomena of conscience” and that the “tendency of the law everywhere is to transcend moral and reach external standards.” Individual conscience, as Holmes misunderstood it, was subservient to majority consent and “the greater good” was conflated with “the common good.” This brutal worldview, which lacks a proper understanding of the “phenomena of conscience,” is behind the latest assault on religious freedom.
Indeed, with an ethic of “the right of the strong to rule,” we can see clearly the effects of a government that is “wholly indifferent to … conscience.” Consider, for example, one of Justice Holmes’ most infamous Supreme Court opinions, the 1927 case of Buck v. Bell. Holmes believed that the “unfit” were a burden to society and could thus be forcibly sterilized. He wrote that the petitioner, Carrie Buck, was “a feeble minded white woman … the daughter of a feeble minded mother … and the mother of an illegitimate feeble minded child.” Holmes then astoundingly declared, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
The entire piece is worth reading.
Sen. Mitch McConnell’s statement on the Senate floor in favor of the failed Blunt Amendment, which would have protected religious freedom is also worth noting. I don’t have a link; these are excerpts of a transcript I was sent:
Now let me just say at the outset, that most of us didn’t expect that we’d ever have to defend this right in a body in which every one of us is sworn to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. Most of us probably assumed that if religious liberty were ever seriously challenged in this country, we could always expect a robust bipartisan defense of it at least from within the Congress itself. But unfortunately that’s not the situation we find ourselves in. Democrats have evidently decided that they’d rather defend a President of their own party, regardless of the impact of his policies.
So rather than defend the First Amendment in this particular case, they’ve decided to engage in a campaign of distraction as a way of obscuring the larger issue at stake here. And if Democrats no longer see the value in defending the First Amendment because they don’t think it’s politically expedient to do so, or because they want to protect the President, then Republicans will have to do it for them. And we’re happy to. Because this is an issue that’s greater than any short-term political gain; it gets right at the heart of who we are as a people. And we welcome the opportunity to reaffirm what this country is about.
What makes America unique in the world is the fact that it was established on the basis of an idea, the idea that all of us have been endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights — in other words, rights that are conferred not by a king or a president or a Congress, but by the Creator himself. The state protects these rights, but it does not grant them. And what the state doesn’t grant, the state can’t take away.
Now, the first of these rights, according to the men who wrote the U.S. Constitution, is the right to have one’s religious beliefs protected from government interference. The first amendment couldn’t be clearer on this point: the government can neither establish religion, nor can it prevent its free exercise. And if the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment means anything, it means that it is not within the power of the federal government to tell anybody what to believe, or to punish them for practicing those beliefs.
“And yet that’s precisely what the Obama Administration is trying to do through the President’s health care law. We all remember then-Speaker Pelosi saying that we’d have to pass the health care bill to find out what was in it. Well, this is one of the things we’ve found: that it empowers bureaucrats in Washington to decide which tenets religious institutions can and can’t adhere to. If they don’t get in line, they’re penalized.
Now, some of the proponents of this mandate say that, in this case, we should just ignore the First Amendment. They say that certain religious beliefs in question aren’t particularly popular, so they don’t really deserve First Amendment protection. But isn’t that the entire point of the First Amendment? To protect rights regardless of who or how many people hold them? Isn’t that the reason people came to this country in the first place, as a refuge from governments that said they had to toe the majority line?
Some of the proponents of this mandate have also said they’re willing to offer a so-called compromise that would respect what they call the ‘core mission’ of religious institutions. But here’s the catch: they want to be the ones to tell these religious institutions what their core mission is. This isn’t a compromise, it’s another government takeover. Only this time it isn’t the banks or the car companies, it’s religion.
This is just the beginning. If the government is allowed to compel people to buy health care, it won’t stop there. Now, it’s telling people what their religious beliefs are and what their religious practices ought to be. What’s next?
And remember: as many of us said during the debate on the President’s health care bill, this is just the beginning. If the government is allowed to compel people to buy health care, it won’t stop there. Now, it’s telling people what their religious beliefs are and what their religious practices ought to be. What’s next?
Let’s be clear: this isn’t about any one particular religion. It’s about the right of Americans of any religion to live out their faith without the government picking and choosing which doctrines they’re allowed to follow. When one religion is threatened, all religions are threatened. And allowing this particular infringement would surely ease the way for others.