(Centennial Fellow) The latest embarrassment from President Barack Obama is more than an embarrassment. It's an assault on faith that begins with a 2,500-page health care bill enacted with no one expected to read it except the bureaucrats paid to translate its obscurities into thousands more pages of regulations.
After a prolonged look at a phrase that could have been interpreted multiple ways, the president and the masters of your life in the Department of Health and Human Services bypassed the sensible and decreed we are now in the age of mandated contraception coverage, one step closer to Utopian bliss.
Depending on what kind, contraceptives are easy to get for free or very cheaply. A federal study showed that virtually everyone who needs them and desires them has them. The chief reason for unwanted pregnancies is carelessness. The administration nevertheless decided to raise insurance premiums so that even the rich could get birth control benefits without co-payments or deductibles. Then came the real doozy.
Religious organizations are part of the ironclad formula. No matter the dictates of their faith, they must purchase birth control coverage for their employees in all their organizations except some churches. Must they even go along with morning-after pills that abort the workings of nature? Yes sirree, sir. The whole kit and caboodle.
Some Catholic bishops and priests have reacted furiously, even threatening civil disobedience. I myself am associated with an intåpeople who know a lot more about how you should live your life than you do and should therefore give you unbending instructions you are forced to obey. Mention of limited government leaves those of dictatorial bent shaking in fury, because that would interfere with their own power of interference.
Though some of us keep writing about it, I do not think most Americans understand the extent to which everyday liberties are being shredded. Government controls in your home extend to your light bulbs, water in your toilet, your ceiling fans, dishwashers, refrigerators and much more. Wrongheaded welfare measures have mangled our culture, contributing to intergenerational poverty, while wrongheaded industry rules not only make us poorer, but even threaten our safety. (See "The Really Inconvenient Truths" by Ian Murray.)
The Obama health care measure is a giant leap into this thicket, and one thing this particular requirement jumps over to get there is the First Amendment. The left has looked on the First Amendment religion clause chiefly as a means of telling Christians their moral judgments should not count in democratic discourse. In intellectual journals, academics with doctorate degrees amazingly warn that non-secular ethics lead to theocracy. But they do not seem to mind the government forcing people to behave contrary to conscience.
Maybe it does not get much emphasis in schools anymore, but many of the early settlers of this country were people seeking religious freedom. In my own genealogical searches, I have discovered Quaker ancestors who fled England to escape persecution. That doesn't mean the colonies allowed perfect religious freedom, but we worked on it, we had a revolution against Britain, we put together a Constitution, we adopted a Bill of Rights, we established our ideals, we got better.
We're now getting worse, and have been for quite a while, although it is all done in the name of a better world. That is always the case with anti-libertarian enthusiasms -- they are for the benefit of all us dummies, we are informed by those who see themselves as our betters, so much more enlightened, so morally superior. They are wrong, and something needs to change this election year.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow.