“That is extraordinary,” proclaimed Justice Scalia.
“I, too, find that amazing,” Justice Kagan chimed in.
As reported by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, The conservative Scalia and the liberal Kagan seemed bewildered by the Obama administration’s unbelievable assertion that there should be no “ministerial exemption” for churches when it comes to hiring.
That’s the issue at stake in the case Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. Who, in the end, decides who is a minister and who is not? A church, or the government?
In his excellent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Stanford’s Michael McConnell, a former federal judge, notes that for “40 years lower courts have applied a ‘ministerial exception,’ which bars the government from any role in deciding who should be a minister."
But, McConnell continues, “the Obama Justice Department has now asked the court to disavow the ministerial exception altogether. This would mean that, in every future case, a court — and not the church — would decide whether the church's reasons for firing or not hiring a minister were good enough.”
Folks, this is frightening. And I can’t but help wonder if there’s not a deliberate pattern here by the Obama administration to restrict religious freedom.
Now, I’m not given to conspiracy theories, but how else do we interpret the administration’s actions over the past couple of years?
Remember last year, I warned something was up when Hillary Clinton proclaimed that “freedom of worship” was a top U.S. priority. As I explained then, “freedom of worship” and “freedom of religion” are not interchangeable. One allows you to worship any way you want in private — even Chinese citizens enjoy such so-called “freedom of worship.” Freedom of religion, however, means the right to live out your faith in private and in public.
Well, not long after Clinton’s speech at Georgetown, the administration said it would no longer defend or enforce the Defense of Marriage Act — that’s a federal statute!
Earlier this month, the administration announced it would not renew a $19 million contract with Conference of Catholic Bishops to help sex trafficking victims. Why not? Well, we do know the ACLU sued the government to terminate the contract because the Bishops Conference wouldn’t help sex-trade victims obtain abortions!
And recently, the Department of Health and Human Services issued regulations that would force all employers — religious or otherwise — to purchase insurance that covered contraception and other “preventative care.” Could that be true? True enough that the president chirped “Darn Tootin’” at a political rally.
What is the administration up to? The Catholic Bishops are alarmed enough that they are forming a committee to press the administration on its overtly hostile approach to religious freedom.
This is why everybody listening to me today has got to read and sign and get friends to sign the Manhattan Declaration. If you have read it already, go and read it again. We’ll have a link for you at BreakPoint.org.
I think there’s good reason to fear that if we fail to raise our voices now, we will be forced into civil disobedience. It’s time to rally our forces. Christians should not have to compromise their faith to remain free and equal citizens.
Again and again, we must make clear, as the Manhattan Declaration states, we will under no circumstances ever render to Caesar what belongs to God.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media and print.
Publication date: October 21, 2011