Partisan politics and the war on religious freedom

The Orwellian spin that we referred to last week regarding those who seek to blame the Catholic Church for the Obama administration’s war on religious freedom is nowhere more obvious — and more erroneous — than in the claim that it is the Church that is here engaging in “partisan politics.”

Once again, let’s look at the facts.

It was the administration — not the Church OR the political opposition -- that initiated this controversy, by mandating that religious institutions provide “services” in violation of their moral teachings.  And it was the administration’s political supporters who immediately followed up that mandate by charging that any who disagreed were waging a “war on women.”  This was clearly an undisguised effort to exploit the political “gender gap” that purportedly has women monolithically favoring the administration’s Democratic Party — and distrusting the opposition Republicans — on carefully selected, so-called “women’s issues.”  

The Church, and religious freedom in general, were merely political pawns — acceptable “collateral damage” if you will — in this effort to discredit the political opposition, and thereby strengthen the administration’s perceived hold on the “women’s vote.”

The Church was presented with two choices: accede to this politically motivated mandate to violate it’s teachings, or, if it dared to stand up in defense of its religious freedom, be accused of “partisan politicking” and breaching the “wall of separation” between Church and state — a breach that, in fact, is being attempted not by the Church but by the state, as it tries both to force the Church to violate its teachings, and to dictate to the Church which of its ministries actually qualify as part of its divine mission.

Against this backdrop, charges, such as those voiced by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr., that Church leaders are “aligning the institutional church too closely with the political right,” and becoming “enmeshed in Republican election-year politics” are absurd. It is the Obama administration that is trying to enmesh the Church in its election year partisan politics.

The idea of a coordinated anti-Obama partisanship is easily refuted by taking a look at some of the Catholic entities that joined last week in lawsuits against the government’s action: for example, the University of Notre Dame. Just three years ago, Notre Dame — in the face of widespread criticism due to the president’s consistent pro-abortion advocacy — hosted President Obama as its commencement speaker, and conferred upon him an honorary degree. The university can hardly be accused of anti-Obama partisanship.

Rather, as Notre Dame’s president, Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, explained, its current lawsuit “is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission.”

And it is the Obama administration, not the Catholic Church, that is playing partisan politics with that fundamental freedom. Claims to the contrary are disingenuous, to say the least.