Mary Ann Glendon: The Attack on Religious Liberty is the Point
Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard Law School professor and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, writes in The Wall Street Journal this morning that the infringement of religious liberty isn’t just an unhappy consequence of the HHS contraceptive mandate that could have such a profound impact on Catholic institutions of higher learning, it’s the point.
Glendon calls the mandate an ”unprecedented governmental assault on the ability of religious persons and groups to practice their religion without being forced to violate their deepest moral convictions.” She writes that, if we fail to defend our religious institutions now, it paves the way for a behemoth all-powerful state.
The main goal of the mandate is not, as HHS claimed, to protect women’s health. It is rather a move to conscript religious organizations into a political agenda, forcing them to facilitate and fund services that violate their beliefs, within their own institutions.
The media have implied all along that the dispute is mainly of concern to a Catholic minority with peculiar views about human sexuality. But religious leaders of all faiths have been quick to see that what is involved is a flagrant violation of religious freedom. That’s why former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, declared, “We’re all Catholics now.”
More is at stake here than the mission of all churches, including the Catholic Church, to provide social services like health care and education to everyone regardless of creed, and to do so without compromising their beliefs. At the deepest level, we are witnessing an attack on the institutions of civil society that are essential to limited government and are important buffers between the citizen and the all-powerful state.
If religious providers of education, health care and social services are closed down or forced to become tools of administration policy, the government consolidates a monopoly over those essential services. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, put it, we are witnessing an effort to reduce religion to a private activity. “Never before,” he said, “have we faced this kind of challenge to our ability to engage in the public square as people of faith.”
Glendon worries that, if the mandate should stand and the infringement of religious liberty continues, religious providers of education, health care and social services might be forced to close their doors or simply be transformed into secular claws of the government arm. Then the government would have a monopoly on those essential services.
Glendon makes it clear that, when we fight for religious liberty, we also fight the specter of an all-powerful government.
She finishes the excellent piece by quoting Timothy Cardinal Dolan who said, ”We didn’t ask for this fight, but we won’t back away from it.”
You can read her entire piece here: online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303610504577418201554329764.html?mod=googlenews_wsj