What Was Missing at Last Night’s State of the Union

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

There should have been nuns in the Capitol last night. As I tweeted last night:

These State of the Union addresses, as has been said, don’t always or often amount to much but a lot of talking. They are opportunities to highlight uplifting stories and give coverage to stories that don’t otherwise get coverage. John Boehner made good use of his Speaker’s box, for instance, highlighting some of the inner-city school students who have benefited from D.C. Opportunity Scholarships, a program the president has cruelly and inexplicably been no friend of.

It was just this past Friday when the Supreme Court gave relief beyond Justice Sotomayor’s New Year’s Eve reprieve to the Little Sisters of the Poor. A group of Catholic religious sisters who run homes for the elderly poor, as most readers here know, have had to go to court to insist on religious liberty in America because of the Obama administration’s radical narrowing of religious liberty by mandating abortion-drug, contraception, and female sterilization coverage as part of the president’s health-care law. It’s but one of the problems with Obamacare, but it is the most shockingly unnecessary and insulting. The president has gotten away with it — with little media scrutiny until the Little Sisters caught an Obama-nominated Supreme Court justice’s attention — by dismissing concerns and accusing others of lying about it. (Though get him or his Department of Health and Human Services secretary in front of their base for a rally or fundraiser, and you’ll hear bragging — “darn tootin’ – and a declaration of war.)

One of the major cases of the Supreme Court’s spring term will be the case that involves the Green family who run Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts-and-crafts stores, and a lumber company run by Mennonites. The media will talk about a “war on women” and how corporations aren’t people — the Obama Department of Justice argues you surrender your religious liberty when you decide to become a job creator. But as a cake maker from Colorado tells me in an interview elsewhere on National Review Online today, that doesn’t gel with real, integrated religious faith.

Even Rachel Maddow last night noted the absence of reproductive issues in the president’s talk. Instead he patronized women with the typical 77 cents nonsense — a figure that ignores choices and fundamental realities of family life. Normally, he insultingly suggests all women need for freedom is abortion and “free” birth control. Perhaps he left it out because he’s likely to lose this fight. It’s a key reality of the state of our union right now, one that speaks to our tenuous hold on and understanding of religious liberty. The HHS mandate is a milestone in the secularization of the United States, a country that once actively encouraged real religious characters serving and building and bolstering civil society. The success of the mandate has always been contingent on people not understanding its implications. Joe Biden and others in the administration have realized this (even while ultimately being important proponents of the policy and using misleading campaign rhetoric about it).Thus, I suspect, the reason for the silence last night. 

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