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National Review Online - The President's War on Religious Freedom

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By Senator Rand Paul

In his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II delivered a scathing critique of socialism, declaring that "the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated. . . . Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil."

Pope John Paul II's indictment of socialism is illustrated in the Obama administration's recent edict requiring nearly all employers - including Catholic hospitals, schools, and charities - to cover sterilizations and contraception in their employees' health-care plans. Because "contraception" includes abortifacients, this decision - made under the powers granted to the executive branch under Obamacare - also threatens many Protestant employers.

The decision is the latest and most outrageous example of why Obamacare - socialized medicine - must be repealed in its entirety. It is also a shocking example of the administration's choosing to ignore the opinions and beliefs of millions of Americans.

And while the Obama administration has never been a protector of pro-life Americans' conscience rights - for example, it supports the federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives - this latest decision attempts to crush the freedom of the Catholic Church in this country. The president has declared a "war on religion," as Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post last week.

Considering Obama's comments about rural Pennsylvanians who "cling" to their religion, however, this is perhaps not entirely surprising.
The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, correctly described the administration's actions as "simply un-American," and declared:

What other constitutionally protected freedoms might an increasingly powerful federal government revoke? What other [government]-mandated violations of conscience lie ahead for other groups of American citizens, in pursuit of what their government declares is in the common interest?

Archbishop Dolan also points out that the administration's decision threatens the religious freedoms of all Americans. It must not stand.

The president's contempt for the freedoms of Catholic Americans was also demonstrated in the way he personally betrayed Archbishop Dolan. Last November, the president met with the archbishop at the White House. During that meeting, President Obama reassured Archbishop Dolan that he respected the Church's beliefs. Archbishop Dolan left that meeting convinced that the president would keep his word.

But on January 20, the president called the archbishop and instructed him that the only "concession" he would give to the Catholic Church's beliefs was one extra year - until August 2013 - to comply with the contraception mandate. As Archbishop Dolan puts it, the president is "saying [the Catholic Church] has a year to figure out how to violate [its] conscience."

All Americans' religious freedoms are protected by the First Amendment. The earliest colonists who came to this country in the pre-Revolutionary War days traveled here because they were seeking a home in which they could practice their religion in freedom and peace without government persecution. Religious freedom - which has been called "our first liberty" - is ingrained in the very fabric of our national culture.

But HHS and the administration have decided that their goal of state-run health care trumps our first liberty. What the president is attempting to do here is something generally witnessed only in totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.

I stand firmly with the Catholic bishops in their efforts to assert the religious liberty and freedom of conscience that our forefathers guaranteed us. To that end, I will co-sponsor legislation with my Senate colleagues to overturn the administration's edict. I do so to stand with all of my constituents, Catholic and otherwise, against the beliefs and actions of an administration unconcerned with our constitutional rights. I will also personally work toward crafting even broader legislative relief to ensure that religious liberty in this country is protected.

- Rand Paul represents Kentucky in the U.S. S


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