John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America, has long been one of the most eloquent and persistent voices defending religious freedom in this country. In today's Washington Times, Garvey has a piece that clearly sounds the warning that an always growing government is a danger to religious freedom.
The worrisome trend in recent affairs is the administration’s inclination to couple big government with an18th-century two-kingdoms view of religious freedom. The enthusiasm for big government is obvious. The administration also wants to assert, like Jefferson, that man “has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.” Because it is unwilling to allow exemptions from its policies (think about the Health and Human Services regulations), it can avoid conflict only by making religion smaller and smaller.
In this year’s Religious Freedom Day message, for example, Mr. Obama equated religious freedom with “the freedom to worship as we choose.” Worship is a private activity shared within a community of believers. The First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion, though, an idea that comprises many forms of activity motivated by conscientious belief
The president’s proposal was not an idle thought. It has been the administration’s position on a number of fronts. In the contraceptive regulations, for example, Health and Human Services defines “religious employers” as “houses of worship,” ignoring religious groups who have ministries of service (like Catholic Charities or Big Heart Ministries). In a Supreme Court case about the ministerial exception to antidiscrimination laws, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission conceded that it couldn’t regulate the ordination of priests and rabbis, but argued that it could review the employment of religion teachers. National Labor Relations Board regional offices have ruled in several recent cases about exemption from the Wagner Act that Catholic universities aren’t really religious unless they engage in “indoctrination” and “proselytizing.”
This disregards the modern compromise we have made to preserve religious liberty in a world overrun with taxes and regulations. We have lately seen a number of reasons to oppose big government. Those who want more of it — if they have an eye on the next election — would do well to avoid adding another one.
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