Life & Liberty: some borrowed thoughts on Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day weekend, my thoughts and prayers go to our nation’s fallen soldiers and sailors, and to the nation for which they died. I won’t be called to make that particular sacrifice for my country. It’s almost tempting to think that those who died fighting for American freedom have somehow protected me from having to give that freedom much thought.

image from Wikipedia/Creative Commons
image from Wikipedia, Creative Commons

If only. I refuse to concede the rights to life and religious liberty to people who would take those rights and relegate them to some figurative historical attic.

I am thankful to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia for his recent public statement, aptly titled “Religious Freedom and the Need to Wake Up.”  I don’t pretend that essays and speeches are on a par with dying for one’s country. I am grateful, beyond my powers to express, that those who died left the rest of us free to debate and defend our beliefs, protected by the Constitution.

From the Archbishop’s statement:

[H]ealth care has now morphed into a religious liberty issue provoked entirely – and needlessly — by the current White House.  Despite a few small concessions under pressure, the administration refuses to withdraw or reasonably modify a Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate that violates the moral and religious convictions of many individuals, private employers and religiously affiliated and inspired organizations.

Coupled with the White House’s refusal to uphold the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and its astonishing disregard for the unique nature of religious freedom displayed by its arguments in a 9-0 defeat in the 2012 Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court decision, the HHS mandate can only be understood as a form of coercion.  Access to inexpensive contraception is a problem nowhere in the United States.  The mandate is thus an ideological statement; the imposition of a preferential option for infertility.  And if millions of Americans disagree with it on principle – too bad.

…None of this is finally surprising. Christians concerned for the rights of unborn children, as well as for their mothers, have dealt with bias in the media and dishonesty from the nation’s abortion syndicate for 40 years.  But there’s a special lesson in our current situation.  Anyone who thinks that our country’s neuralgic sexuality issues can somehow be worked out respectfully in the public square in the years ahead, without a parallel and vigorous defense of religious freedom, had better think again.