The National Prayer Breakfast, a D.C.-event going back to 1953, was held this morning. The keynote was USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and President Obama added remarks. Obama chose to focus on religious freedom, calling it a matter of “national security,” and commenting that he was looking forward to his trip to the Vatican next month to meet with Pope Francis.
Obama also said,
Yet even as our faith sustains us, it’s also clear that around the world freedom of religion is under threat. And that is what I want to reflect on this morning. We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful. We sometimes see religion twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, or how they pray or who they love. Old tensions are stoked, fueling conflicts along religious lines, as we’ve seen in the Central African Republic recently, even though to harm anyone in the name of faith is to diminish our own relationship with God. Extremists succumb to an ignorant nihilism that shows they don’t understand the faiths they claim to profess — for the killing of the innocent is never fulfilling God’s will; in fact, it’s the ultimate betrayal of God’s will.
While the president clearly wanted to focus on religious freedom outside the United States, those words are true within our nation as well. For instance, the Little Sisters of the Poor make it their mission to love, care for and minister to indigent elderly, yet the Obama Administration’s HHS mandate puts their mission in peril. The president’s administration has tried to quell the furor over forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor (and other organizations like them) by offering to have them sign a “waiver” that would allow a third party to provide artificial birth control, abortifacients and abortion coverage, which the government says isn’t a big deal, but those asked to sign say it violates their conscience. That doesn’t seem like an administration truly committed to freedom of religion.
In 2012, the Supreme Court heard the case of Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC, a case where the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged that a church had unfairly dismissed an employee for “insubordination and disruptive conduct,” and that she should be re-instated. The government
…escalated the dispute, arguing that there should be no ministerial exception and that any minister — even a priest, a rabbi, or a pastor of a congregation — should be able to sue the church that employs him. This would be a revolution in church-state relations.
The court “unanimously rejected its [the government’s] narrow view of religious liberty as ‘extreme,’ ‘untenable’ and remarkable.’”
Mr. President, while religious freedom anywhere should be a concern to all good people, perhaps your administration could pay a bit more attention to it in your own backyard.