by Quin Hillyer
On two important fronts in recent weeks, the political left continued its battles against religious freedom and traditional values. The double standards at play, not to mention the affronts to faith and morality, are astonishing.
In early August, the Obama administration filed a brief before the Supreme Court arguing the frightening proposition that churches enjoy almost no exemption from employment-law litigation regarding their decisions to hire, retain, or fire ministers and related employees. This "ministerial exception" to employment-discrimination laws, an exception the Obama team would severely limit, is an essential part of religious liberty. Otherwise, churches could be charged with violating employment law merely for insisting, for instance, that a pastor actually be a member of the denomination of the church in question.
As The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty argued in its most recent brief in the case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, "[F]or forty years, the lower courts have unanimously concluded that they cannot decide ministers' employment claims without evaluating ministers and deciding religious disputes." This, of course, would make courts deciders of religious doctrine - a massive encroachment on religious liberty. Hence the courts' traditional refusal to take on such a role.
The administration, however, would define this exception almost out of existence: "Any such exemption accordingly should be limited to those employees who perform exclusively religious functions, i.e., those employees whose positions have no secular equivalent and whose claims concern their entitlement to occupy or retain their ecclesiastical office." In plain English, the church would not enjoy a ministerial exception that would allow it to fire, for faith-based reasons, a teacher at a church-affiliated school, even if that teacher does perform "some religious duties."
In short, the courts, not the church, would decide what job roles carry "spiritual" or faith-based responsibilities. This would be an open invitation for federal officials to decide, rather arbitrarily, what is and isn't a validly "religious" job. James Madison and George Mason, who worked so hard to enshrine religious liberties within the American experiment, would be not just appalled but likely frightened by this assertion of federal power.
Hard on the heels of this abominable legal brief by the Obama team, federal district judge Sam Sparks in Texas issued an injunction blocking that state from enforcing parts of a new law requiring abortionists (or their designated sonographers) to provide their would-be patients with what he summarized as "visual, verbal and auditory depictions of the fetus." The idea behind the law, of course, is to ensure that women are fully informed about the life of the baby inside them before they make the life-ending decision to abort it.
This goal is a perfectly reasonable one for governments to pursue. Judge Sparks rightly quoted Supreme Court precedent: "The State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the womanand the life of the fetus that may become a child." (My emphasis added - although I would argue that it is, rather thanwill become, a child.) The state of Texas is merely pursuing its interests, even within the limits placed on it by Roe v. Wade, in protecting innocent life to the fullest extent allowed by Supreme Court precedent.
Nevertheless, the judge ruled that some requirements of the Texas law went too far, because it "compels speech" by the abortionist (example: that he provide the woman with "a detailed description of the embryo or fetus"), in violation of the First Amendment freedom of expression. This analysis is hard to fathom. The law does not require a doctor to provide an opinion he does not share; it just requires that he provide the patient with valid, scientific information which he might not want her to know because it might cost him her "business." This is no more a violation of the First Amendment than it is a violation for the government to force tobacco companies to put health warnings on cigarette packages.
If the judge's ruling stands, then the government would be forbidden to make abortionists provide valid medical information available to a woman; but - get this - it comes at the same time political leftists would force psychological counselors to advise homosexual clients against the counselors' moral beliefs, or force health care workers or pharmacists to assist in abortions or in providing abortifacient drugs.
Here's the difference: Conservatives merely ask for the right not to do a job at all for certain clients - in other words, to turn down business due to moral beliefs - whereas today's liberals demand a supposed right for doctors to ignore part of their job while still treating, and presumably being paid, by the client. In other words, these physicians would ignore professional obligations in order to attract business. This is morally and logically backwards.
What it really amounts to is that anything goes in favor of abortion or other moral ills, but nobody is allowed to express or act in opposition to those same ills. Actions toward death are favored over speech favoring life. Such is the horrid confusion of the modern liberals' moral universe.
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