At the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday, Obama talked about how his religious beliefs have shaped his policy proposals. He said that as a person who has been “extraordinarily blessed," he is willing to give up some of the tax breaks he enjoys because doing so makes economic, and religious sense. "For me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus's teaching that for unto whom much is given, much shall be required," Obama said as he quoted the Gospel of Luke.
Obama has proposed letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the richest Americans, and raise the effective tax for that economic class so that they pay a higher rate than those in the middle or lower classes. He views such a move as leveling the playing field and increasing equality, something he says the Republicans do not do. There is nothing new here, except that now he has made a connection between religious beliefs and politics.
"I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years," Obama said. "And I believe in God's command to love thy neighbor as thyself. I know a version of that golden rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs."
Now that he’s quoting Bible verses, I wonder how he reconciles “Thou shalt not kill,” with tax money for abortions, and a policy that forces coverage of contraceptives, sterilization, and abortive drugs. The White House remains at odds with the Catholic Church, other Christian denominations, and much of the Jewish community over the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) policy that forces religious schools and institutions that offer employee health insurance to cover FDA-approved contraceptives, morning-after type drugs, and sterilizations.
So far, the administration is standing tough with this, but it has angered Christians and Jews of all stripes as they view the policy as a gross violation of religious liberty. Kathleen Sebelius, Director of HHS, has given institutions a year to sort out the manner in which they will comply, but compliance means capitulation and the casting aside of Church teaching, something the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops can never do.
And the church is standing its ground. Last weekend, an estimated 70 percent of parishes read forceful letters from bishops affirming the Church’s position and their determination not to comply with this ruling that requires the church to abandon Catholic principles and beliefs. The bishops rightly see it as an abridgement of the First Amendment and it is not acceptable. The letters reminded Catholics of their American citizenship and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
If all 77.7 million American Catholics stand strong and fight this issue they will win. In 2008, they constituted 27 percent of the electorate, about 35 million strong. Obama carried 54 percent of the Catholic vote. He can’t have it both ways. He must either use the Golden Rule in his approach to all American citizens, or he uses it for none. But if he persists in this attempt to run roughshod over the Catholic Church in an attempt to advance his agenda, he will not only lose on this issue, but he may well lose the election.