January 10, 2014
Establishing a U.S. State Religion
By Fay Voshell
In direct contradiction of the First Amendment, which forbids the establishing of a state religion, the Obama administration is busily doing just that. Meanwhile, it is attempting forced conversion of the reluctant, all the while targeting Christians and Orthodox Jews as people who are continually violating the establishment of religion clause.
Just what religion is our current administration establishing in direct violation of the Constitution of the United States?
It is establishing the faith of secular statism, a religion currently characterized by the tenets of radical progressivism. Statism is rapidly becoming the only faith in America allowed to operate with complete freedom.
Remember the announcement at the 2012 Democrat National Convention that "government is the only thing we all belong to?"
Even when listened to in context, it is an alarming statement, as it implies the State has ultimate power over the individual, who becomes merely part of the collective. In fact, the phrase can be seen as a short creedal statement summarizing the beliefs of an American state religion. It is but a short step from you all belong to the government to you all must do what the government decrees to you must, forsaking your own faith, bow before the god of the State.
Government enforcement of the religion of statism, which includes the belief in the supreme higher power and authority of an absolute State, is nowhere more apparent than in the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Whatever the eventual fate of the sisters, their case is an example of our administration trying to force state religion down the throats of Christians.
The group of nuns has devoted itself to the care of the elderly for the last 175 years -- a generally thankless task, as they are dealing with human beings who are physically debilitated and most often mentally frail as they come to the end of their earthly existence.
The nuns have preferred to do their works of mercy unheralded, as Christ commands.
But now the quiet sisters have taken a stand, refusing to obey the Affordable Health Care mandate to include abortion-inducing drugs as part of the insurance policies offered to the orders' employees. Such provisions violate the nuns' religious beliefs concerning the sacredness of life from conception to death. In fact, the order would not exist if the sisters did not believe in the sanctity of life from conception until old age and death.
According to Beverly Monk's report on Citizen Link, the nuns have been told they themselves or their order won't have to offer abortion-inducing drugs in health care plans, but they must sign "a government form that delegates the action to a third party."
In other words, HHS and the DOJ are essentially saying to the nuns, "You yourselves don't have to do it, but you have to allow someone else to do it on behalf of your order." That's legal casuistry at its most serpentine. Monk also reports the DOJ demands [...] "the Little Sisters must sign a 'self-certification' form claiming eligibility for an exemption from the mandate, or pay millions in fines [...]."
In other words, sign the paper or else.
In some ways the actions of the DOJ are not surprising, as the American state religion is increasingly marked by iconoclasm, which is the deliberate destruction within a given society the culture's familiar religious icons, symbols and institutions in order that the old ways of worship are supplanted by new ones, either religious or political.
History is replete with examples of "sign that paper or else."
When Japanese rulers had Christians stomp on an image of Jesus Christ, they knew they were forcing a Christian to convert or pay the consequences. When a Florida professor decided his Christian students should stomp on an image of Jesus, he knew he was actually forcing Christians to repudiate their faith.
Even more pertinent, when the President of the United States demanded the Christian symbols of Georgetown University be covered with a black cloth before he deigned to speak at the Catholic University, he was announcing the State religion supersedes the Christian faith and the authority of Catholic institutions to hold to their Christian standards.
His action was an act similar, at least in its meaning and intent, to the conversion of the Christian Hagia Sofia, the Church of Divine Wisdom built by Emperor Justinian between 527-565 AD, into a mosque by Sultan Mehmet or its subsequent conversion into a secular museum by Ataturk in 1935. The supremacy of the almighty State, one overtly religious and the other overtly secular, was announced as prevailing over Christianity, disestablishing its symbolism and as abrogating the right of Christians freely to practice their religion.
In all cases cited, Christians were not so subtly told they were subservient to the State and to its rulers.
When the U.S. government demands nuns sign a paper that is against their religious beliefs, such an action is also iconoclastic as well as repressive. It amounts to an overriding of the conscience so severe that it is actually a repudiation of the nuns' faith. It is a forced confession that they no longer adhere to their religious convictions but now accept the new state religion. To put it another way, signing the paper amounts to forced conversion and an acknowledgement that the State has the right and power to override the sisters' religious convictions.
If they refuse to sign on the dotted line, they also will actually have symbolically "signed" a warrant for their persecution by the state. The stiff fines they would have to pay for not capitulating are persecutory. Who would have thought such persecution would happen in tolerant America?
For Christians, especially Catholics, the case of the Little sisters of the Poor is where the rubber hits the road. The Church must refuse to bow before the demands of the government or it ceases to be the Church in any meaningful way. If it capitulates, it will be reduced to begging for permission to follow the tenets of the Christian faith. It will be dependent on accepting favors from Caesar. It will eventually be exiled into the backwaters of culture, just as it has been in Europe.
Unfortunately, due to the inroads of liberation theology and a syncretistic absorption of the tenets of progressivism, Catholic universities such as Georgetown University and Notre Dame essentially have caved to the HHS mandate.
The state has effectuated a coup, as it now has abrogated to itself the authority once belonging to the Church universal. Using the ACA as a weapon, the State is intent on a complete takeover of Christian colleges and universities. This is to say nothing of Christian owned businesses. This is also to say nothing of the Church herself, as the State has long had an eye on the wealth and institutions of the Church, including Christian hospitals. Just think of all the fines that could be collected from disobedient Christian churches and institutions. When most could not pay, how much real estate could be seized by the government? Just think of how tempting it would be to make all non-government institutions subservient to the State!
Frankly if matters continue as they presently are, it will not be long before the State feels entitled to dictate anything it chooses, as the issue of abortifacients is the proverbial camel's nose in the tent. It may not be long before the state demands that Christian hospitals provide abortion on demand, euthanasia of the handicapped, the elderly, and the deformed.
In sum, while Christians and others have been sleep walking their way to the backwaters of society by allowing an ever narrower interpretation of freedom of religion to invade the Church's conscience and institutional practices, the State has for decades been busily establishing its own religion in direct violation of the first amendment. On rare occasions, the Church has been stung into a sort of reflexive action, but for the most part, she has allowed herself to be slowly boiled to death as the heat has been turned up. Too often she has allowed herself to be seduced into taking the government's monies, some even absorbing the entire secularist agenda.
But it is not too late.
Now may be the moment Christians take a stand, as Martin Luther was forced to do long ago when faced with the overwhelming might of an intertwined Church and State.
Faced with near-certain death if he did not agree to recant his teachings, he refused, saying, [...] my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."
It may be the quiet Little Sisters of the Poor, small and seemingly as insignificant as Martin Luther the renegade monk was in his time, hold firm and say, "Here we stand. We cannot do otherwise." In so doing, frail as they are, they may see the tsunami tide of statist religion begin to halt and start to recede at last.
May Jehovah God help all good men and women to stand with the little sisters.
Fay Voshell is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and other online publications. She received the Charles Hodge Prize for excellence in systematic theology from Princeton Seminary. She was also selected as one of the Delaware GOP's "Winning Women," Class of 2008. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org