Does the Left Understand Religious Liberty?

by David French

Those of us who’ve long fought for religious liberty are familiar with exactly the form of (Christian) religious liberty the Left respects: the freedom to advocate for liberal social-welfare policies and liberal visions of “social justice.” Debate the issue for long, and you’ll get some version of the following (typically delivered with maximum snark): Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the Bible much more concerned about the poor than about [fill in the issue -- from abortion to contraception to proselytizing to worship]? “Concern for the poor” is redefined as support for this or that government program, while “religious liberty” is redefined as hatred for women or gays or perhaps even just simple intolerance.

Of course, the same standards aren’t applied to, say, Muslims, but that’s a post for another time.

Nicholas Kristof’s Saturday column is a classic of the genre. Decrying “pelvic politics,” he begins like this:

I may not be as theologically sophisticated as American bishops, but I had thought that Jesus talked more about helping the poor than about banning contraceptives.

Never mind of course that there are light years between “forcing Catholics and Protestants to provide free contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees” (the actual issue) and “banning contraceptives” (the fake issue) but if some highly flammable straw men have to to built and torched to mock Catholics, then that’s a price worth paying. Straw is cheap, after all.

But Kristof is just warming up. It turns out that you can’t fight poverty without an armload of condoms:

The debates about pelvic politics over the last week sometimes had a patronizing tone, as if birth control amounted to a chivalrous handout to women of dubious morals. On the contrary, few areas have more impact on more people than birth control — and few are more central to efforts to chip away at poverty.

Never mind (again) that the actual controversy involves government-enforced free contraceptives for people who’ve voluntarily chosen to work for religious institutions, but, okay, let’s roll with this. After all, we’re talking about a country confronted by three indisputable truths: (1) contraceptives are more available than they’ve ever been (and cheap too!), (2) the national illegitimacy rate has soared to 41 per cent, and (3) there are well over 1 million abortions per year in the United States. So, yeah, making sure every librarian at Notre Dame gets free birth-control pills is just what the country needs to turn the corner on poverty.    

The column gets worse and worse. He of course cites the Planned Parenthood–affiliated and pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute as a “nonpartisan” expert on the cost-savings of “family planning.” (Unsurprisingly, it is cheaper to dismember children in the womb than to bear the costs of a lifetime of doctor’s visits.) But the dime-store liberal theology has to be read to be believed:

[B]irth control is not a frill that can be lightly dropped to avoid offending bishops. Coverage for contraception should be a pillar of our public health policy — and, it seems to me, of any faith-based effort to be our brother’s keeper, or our sister’s.

Really? Is he not even remotely familiar with the fullness of Catholic theology regarding sex and families? Does he not realize that living out Catholic theology — intact, God-honoring, mother-father households joined in a sacramental relationship for life — would actually do more to end poverty than dump trucks full of free birth-control pills?  

Yes, Jesus spoke quite a bit about the poor, and as our Creator He understands how we truly flourish. And it’s not by viewing sex as god and forcing even His church to bow before the latest cultural “health care” fashions. The issue isn’t about “offending Bishops.” It’s about whether people like Nicholas Kristof (except that they draw a government check and work for a technocratic liberal administration) can tell the Church not only that it can’t live its own values but that it has to actively advance the other side’s failed agenda.

That’s worse than censorship; it’s compulsory participation in the sexual revolution. But I guess that’s okay. HHS — after all — knows best.