Barack Obama Is No George Washington

by Ed Whelan

When it comes to religious freedom, President Obama is certainly no George Washington. In an excellent Public Discourse essay titled “Religious Freedom’s Legal and Moral Basis,” Melissa Moschella offers this great statement by Washington:

The conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness; and it is my wish and desire, that the laws may always be extensively accommodated to them.

In blatant violation of Washington’s principle, Obama’s HHS mandate (whether in its current form or under proposed modifications) dragoons employers to violate their religious beliefs by requiring them to facilitate access to contraceptives and abortifacients even though there are plenty of alternative means that would be equally effective in advancing the governmental objective—equally effective, that is, if the real governmental objective is to increase the already ubiquitous access to contraceptives and abortifacients, rather than to punish those who hold politically incorrect religious beliefs. (See my “Least Restrictive Means” entry in this collection of my posts explaining that the HHS mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.) 

Moschella’s essay clearly explains that the “true basis for religious freedom” is not moral relativism but rather a recognition that “as human beings we have a grave obligation to seek the truth, and to follow the truth as we understand it”—which in turn means that a government respecting religious freedom won’t “make it illegal for you to practice your faith unless there’s an extremely good reason.” Invoking James Madison’s advice “to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties,” Moschella calls for Americans to fight now against the “grave, serious, and growing threats to religious freedom in our nation today”—threats that she listed and explored in a separate Public Discourse essay yesterday.

By the way, as my frequent links illustrate, I find the daily Public Discourse essays to be a great resource. If you’d like to receive them directly, just sign up for any of the e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or RSS feed options listed at the end of either of Moschella’s articles.

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