Sean Hannity calls Barack Obama “The Chosen One.” As it turns out, it’s the perfect characterization.
The current president of the United States is a uniter. He is a healer. I would even go so far as to suggest that he might be a miracle worker. Witness that he got George Weigel, John Paul II’s biographer and a conservative, and E. J. Dionne, a progressive Washington Post columnist, to sit side by side on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown a week ago and agree on something: Both protested the Obama administration’s mandate that Catholic organizations purchase and offer to their employees health-insurance plans that violate their consciences. Later last week, Hardball host Chris Matthews, normally a reliable Obama-booster, rhetorically knocked a reporter’s White House talking point out of his hands in frustration. And ABC’s Jake Tapper has reported that, even within the administration, Catholic aides have argued against the mandate, not just for political reasons but as a matter of policy.
The administration’s overreach has backfired politically. And it has been tremendously instructive.
Even with Friday afternoon’s phony compromise — saying that Catholic employers don’t have to provide contraception coverage, but that the insurance companies that serve them do — this fight has shown us the radicalism of some in the administration, led by the president and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and urged on by Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates. They consider birth control to be a basic health need and pregnancy a disease that needs to be managed, suppressed, and often terminated.
But this fight is not, and has not been, primarily about contraception. It’s about religious liberty. It is about the federal government taking it upon itself to determine what is and what is not an acceptable religious belief. Some public conversations in recent weeks have highlighted this: Many observers have expressed the hope that, as a result of the chipping away at the freedom of religion, what they consider the Catholic Church’s antiquated teachings on sexual morality will have to be brought up to date.
Something else has become clear: Most Americans believe that religion is a good thing, just as our Founders did. And we don’t want the government to infringe upon our practice of it.
As Carl Anderson put it in his 2010 book, Beyond a House Divided: “On basic moral questions, on what they believe at their core, most Americans stand shoulder to shoulder. They agree that morality has a place not only in our families and personal relationships but also in corporate offices and boardrooms on Wall Street, in the country’s newsrooms, and in the halls of political power in Washington.”