In Part 3, I promised to give an example of the totalitarian attempt to suppress religious expression in the public sphere. Here we go.
Consider the HARRIS v. McRAE Supreme Court case of 1980. This case revolved around the Constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment. You will recall that Roe vs. Wade had made abortion on demand a ‘fundamental’ right in 1973. Those who opposed abortion worked swiftly to at least ensure that government money, in particular through Medicaid, would not be used to pay for abortions. This was the Hyde Amendment.
Now, it is very interesting to note that when the Hyde Amendment was challenged, it was challenged both on fifth amendment grounds (due process) and first amendment grounds. That is, it was seriously put forward- at the Supreme Court!- that since the Hyde Amendment ‘coincides’ with the Catholic view on abortion- that is, the Hyde Amendment would not allow public money to pay for abortions, which the Catholics likewise would object to- the Amendment constituted an establishment of religion!
The Court would rule in favor of the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment on a 5-4 vote. That’s FOUR justices that felt otherwise. In fact, three of them concurred in saying:
the Hyde Amendment is a transparent attempt by the Legislative Branch to impose the political majority’s judgment of the morally acceptable and socially desirable preference on a sensitive and intimate decision that the Constitution entrusts to the individual.
Here is the lunacy that I was describing above, writ large. First of all, we note the hypocritical idiocy in which the ‘political majority’ are not apparently allowed to advocate for what they deem is ‘morally acceptable and socially desirable,’ while the ‘political minority’ is free to do so with reckless abandon. This must surely mean they thought that morality and religion is part and parcel; hence we must believe that they believe our legislation must be amoral, or else be a violation of the establishment clause. But did not the minority believe they had a moral obligation to provide abortion services to the poor?
Second of all, we are led to believe from this fetid line of reasoning that if there is a sensitive and intimate decision that the Constitution entrusts to the individual, the Federal government must subsidize that decision.
Now, that is really funny, because in Roe vs. Wade the Court pulled out of thin air a “fundamental right to abortion”, despite there being no such language in the Constitution, we must acknowledge it and go further, and pay for those abortions. But there is explicitly a right to the free exercise of religion, but you can bet that these very same people would scream bloody murder if you employed their reasoning and demanded then that the government pay for the building of churches, the salaries of pastors, and my gas money so I can get to church on time.
The minority made a big deal about the fact that it was the ‘indigent’ (that is, ‘poor’) who were not able to afford these abortions; very well, if a person is a poor Christian and cannot afford to contribute a tithe at the congregation of their choice, shall the government be compelled to provide that tithe? The free exercise of religion is a fundamental right enshrined (explicitly!) in the Constitution, after all. And why stop there? There is a right to free speech, the right to have a free press, and the right to bear arms. Should the government therefore pay us for microphones, purchase our printing presses, and subsidize our purchase of weapons- if we are poor?
Obviously, the argument is ridiculous. The majority bluntly dealt with it, saying,
That the Judaeo-Christian religions oppose stealing does not mean that a State or the Federal Government may not, consistent with the Establishment Clause, enact laws prohibiting larceny.” … In sum, we are convinced that the fact that the funding restrictions in the Hyde Amendment may coincide with the religious tenets of the Roman Catholic Church does not, without more, contravene the Establishment Clause.
But again, there were four justices that thought otherwise.
This case is a perfect example of how liberal secular humanists will not even allow you to be motivated by a perspective that they deem ‘religious.’ One can only imagine the precedent that would have been set had this case gone the other way. Besides the fact that those of us who oppose abortions would have to also pay for them, it would be the ‘law of the land’ that one must have a purely ‘secular’ reason for advocating for something.
We can only guess at how, in thirty years, they would have decided to actually enforce it. Perhaps we are back to my progressive friend’s near-miss with heavily armed interrogators standing next to you in the polling booth.
It may not be the law of the land (yet) and this attitude may not be codified, but the attitude is pervasive and persistent. It is indeed a problem, but there is something that is even worse: the average Christian who goes along with it, thinking that the secularists are right in saying that we are not allowed to have our moral views inform our stances on public positions. This has led in many cases to Christians simply bowing out of the public sphere altogether, and making the decision to stick to ‘spiritual’ matters only. After all, they reason, they aren’t allowed to impose their views on others, since they are ‘religious’… right?
Some of the worst examples of this are the Christians who say that they are going to focus on the Gospel and not get ‘side tracked’ by worldly issues. I was once rebuked by a conservative Lutheran pastor because I was stridently insisting that our Christian worldview demands that we have a pro-life perspective- and act on it. Evidently, Christians can have honest disagreements about whether or not a woman can murder her own offspring, and receive society’s approval, and even financial assistance. Though he did imply that, his real point was that it isn’t the Church’s job to take stands on moral issues in the public sphere. We should preach the Gospel (and rightly administer the sacraments), and consider our work done.
I would like to ask that gentleman if he thinks that should have been the attitude of the church while Hitler was rounding up Jews and gassing them, and worst. I would like to ask him if he believes that Gospel can be faithfully preached while being indifferent to the question, “Should the Aryan race be purged of impure genetic stock?” That, of course, is merely a political question; the Christian should stay out of it.
As you can tell from this pointed treatment of this man’s position, I believe that the Gospel itself compels us to respect and protect Life. Jesus said that he came to give life, and life to the full. Clearly, he had eternal life in mind, but our life on this planet is still life- and his promise that he will give life to the ‘full’ consequently applies to the life that we have now. We cannot idly stand by while people are murdered, preaching the Gospel in doctrinal purity, and believe that we are actually preaching the Gospel of Life faithfully.
All this hinges on an estimation of the value, worth, and dignity, of human beings. Naturally, if you believed that the Jews were mere vermin, as the Nazis did, then you could remain indifferent to their plight, and still call yourself a Christian. You could still honestly say that you are Gospel-driven. If you do not believe that the unborn are people that Jesus has redeemed with his own costly blood, then you can administer the sacrament and still think you are doing all that the Church should properly be doing.
You’d be wrong, but at least you would be consistent with Christian values. What is despicable is that you tell me that the unborn are people who are redeemed by the blood of the lamb, but that as Christians it is not our concern if society decides that it is ok for women to kill their unborn child. I personally don’t see how a ‘Gospel-centered’ individual could possibly reconcile those two attitudes, but it must be possible, else we would not have had the Holocaust.
I, on the other hand, believe that if you believe that the unborn are humans just like the rest of us, just at a different stage of development, and entitled to all the rights and privileges that we give to all humans by virtue of their mere humanity, you must actively defend and protect the unborn, and anyone else who is too weak to defend their own humanity. This, by the way, could actually be construed as a ‘purely secular’ argument. But I would add this: I come by this view in part because I recognize that the Gospel has Life at its core, and so I believe that a Gospel-driven person must consider the protection of life an aspect of the Gospel itself, and act accordingly.
In light of this view, which some would classify as ‘religious,’ I cannot stand by while the secularists pursue their own view, which I would also classify as ‘religious.’ Since there is no God in their understanding of the world, and we were not created by God, but evolved from the primal slop, we decide for ourselves what and who has value. Many of these secularists are actively promoting what I call the ‘culture of death.’ That is, in true Malthusian form, they believe that humanity must take its own evolution by the horns. The ‘herd’ must be managed. At times, it must be culled. Society must be engineered, and they alone are smart enough to do it, and only they understand the moral (!) imperative to take action ‘for the public good.’
Isn’t it obvious that what constitutes a public ‘good’ is subject to opinion, and that ‘good’ inherently embodies an expression of somebody’s moral calculation? Why should their notion of ‘good’ be allowed public expression but not anybody else’s? In the next post, we will continue discussing this point.