Dick Morris is quite right, though it doesn’t take any great insight to see this, if you’ve been paying attention: the Democrats (as presently dominated by Progressives) wish to present this conflict as the result of the Catholic Church trying to deprive women of contraceptives, generally. I’m sorry, but the Church has simply never been that militant. The issue from the point of view of the Church is that all of its institutions are in fact central to its mission, and that it cannot agree to any face-saving formula that the administration may provide to paper over what is a breach of their doctrinal principles.
It needs repeating from us, whenever the other side tries to make this about the Church attempting to deprive women of their “right” to “free” contraception, over and over, like Andrew Breitbart bellowing, “Behave yourselves!” to the Occupy mob, that this is about the protections of religious freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment. When you hear someone argue that the Catholic Church is attempting to prevent women from access to birth control, you must say, however often it is necessary, that it’s not about that, it’s about the First Amendment. And furthermore, it’s not a matter of abstraction to say so: the US Army, attempting to accommodate the White House, actually censored the reading by Catholic Chaplains of the letter on the subject that they were asked to by the Church.
The First Amendment’s Religious Protection Clause makes it absolutely clear that the Founders anticipated that government would have a natural inclination to tread on the territory of faith, and that it was imperative that it not do so. The religious wars of Europe were not as distant in their memories as they are ours, and those wars were used more often than not as ways to hash out territorial disputes under color of faith. Those who like to bash religion, in general or in particulars, for those and other conflicts seem to forget that it was often the secular powers that were most keen to war, and found in doctrinal disputes a means of stoking resentment and recruiting armies that otherwise would have demanded to have been paid more. Dulce et decorum est. Further, they understood from close up what it meant to conflate the two, as in the Divine Right of Kings: they saw the ridiculous King George III actually believing in it, with fatal effects to the relations between the UK and her colonies.
At the same time, they understood in a way that perhaps too few Americans today do the importance of religion and the spiritual dimension of human being, because the majority of them lived it. Those who have been in communion with God, who have received His counsels through the practice of prayer, understand the liberation that comes with the perspectives we to which we are lifted. To people who have never experienced that communion, it is impossible for me to express the sensation of dilation, of the lifting of the lid off of the world that comes with it. It is a perspective that gives one confidence that all things are possible, even here in this subcelestial realm where we creep along through our days in seeming futility.
Yes, of course, God is a “construct,” if you want to think of God in a particularly unedifying way. But so too, then, is nature. And yet few mock when people speak of communing with that. People speak of going off of the grid, or escaping “the matrix” (with a great deal of prejudice against women), and think that that sensation of liberation can only be achieved by their means, but it has been going on for centuries, and as government obtrudes further and further into not only our lives, but our consciousness, it becomes more and more that which must be escaped, and those religious institutions that once were supposed to be the means of the production of mind-forged manacles become more and more the resistance to them. And the more the State warps, let us not say reality, but realism to its increasingly demented ends, the more important that resistance is.
The State has now expanded to the point where it believes that its ends are so compelling that the Constitution does not demand that it accommodate itself to permit freedom of religion, which necessarily encompasses freedom of religious conscience, but that religions must accommodate themselves to its conceptions of “fairness.” In practice, “fairness” demands that Pigford frauds must be paid off, because the money will go to the black community. Similarly, it is “fair” for the DoJ to use the settlement money for the mortgage fraud that was stimulated by Progressive policies to pay off Progressive institutions, which will happily back more of our disastrous Demander-in-Chief. “Fairness” demands that low-income people should be provided with cell phones and internet access. “Fairness” demands these and many other things because the Pursuit of Happiness cannot be undertaken without all of these provisions. And “fairness” demands that women have “free” access to “free” birth control, because, as Joy points out . . . stop patronizing me!
So demented has the rhetoric become that Loony Andy Sully, who wrote a few days ago that the Catholic Church and SoCons had been caught in a clever trap of Obama’s designing, then turned around and argued on television that the trap actually had been laid by the Catholic Church for Obama, but that it had blown up on them, Wile E. Coyote-like. Last night, I saw Larry O’Donnell and Dana Milbank talking about it, and they thought that Obama had fumbled, but that he picked up the ball and ran into the end zone, if I recall the metaphor correctly. All of this is nonsense. The Catholic Church was far too eager to sign onto ObamaCare, and even now there are nominally Catholic-affiliated organizations that steadfastly refuse to interpret the HHS contraceptive/abortifacient mandate as an imposition on the Church. Obama received 55% of the Catholic vote the last time around, and now stands at 39% approval. He speaks of others attempting to make this a wedge issue, when he himself has been the aggressor. Deeply confused people like Andrew Sullivan may think that this has been a stroke of genius, but wiser heads understand that this has been a horrific play from Team Obama, among them, Rasmussen (who appears to have applied the football metaphor first), Gerson, and George Weigel.
So, in short, the White House’s idea is this. Let’s stick to a narrow definition regarding what the core functions of religious institutions (in this case, the Catholic Church) are; we want them out of the public space, anyway. Let’s try to paint the Catholic Church as the aggressors, trying to deprive women of their access to birth control. Let’s stuff abortifacients and sterilizations under the heading birth control, and never mention them. If anyone tries to depict this as a First Amendment issue, shout them down by insisting that it’s a women’s health/women’s rights issue.
Unanswered in this enormous smokescreen is a simple question: in what way is the Catholic Church supposed to be depriving women of birth control? Is the Church picketing Walgreen’s? Is it highjacking shipments of Depro-Vira? Are they calling for the ban of condoms because they pose a danger to seagulls? No. They simply don’t believe that they should be forced to pay for their employees’ subsidized access to those things, accounting trick or no accounting trick. And accounting tricks are what we get instead of leadership from Obama (Obama’s being compromising and the Church is being recalcitrant). At any rate, the First Amendment makes it perfectly clear that the onus is on the government to steer clear of these kinds of clashes, whatever the Proggs may say, but once again, the Constitution is mostly an impediment to them, and there’s no use trying to change it by employing the democratic means that it provides in order to do so. This case is widely demonstrative of their very casual attitude towards the rules of engagement laid down there.
The White House is apparently desperate enough that they want to make this election about social conservatism, even as the welfare state is crumbling and taking the economy down with it. Social conservatism has become redefined as the temerity to think and publicly declare that citizens are in some respects responsible for their own welfare. Because of this redefinition, it is no longer possible to talk about fiscal conservatism separately from social conservatism. But the first thing we must do, if we are to maintain any charter of limited government, is not to permit Obama and his acolytes to turn this First Amendment issue into a plebiscite on the lawfulness of birth control.
Watch this good example of what I’m talking about from K-Lo:
Please let me also make a pitch for Rex Gero, whom many of you know from twitter as @rxthepoet. He will die shortly, and would prefer not to leave his family in debt over his (inexpensive) funeral arrangements. Please help put this good man’s mind and body at ease.
UPDATE: Circle or Line has a nice round-up.