The Obama Inquisition

The American Founders were very conscious that in Europe, religious liberty was virtually nonexistent.  In fact, that was the reason why many fled to the U.S. in the first place.  Prussia enforced the State Religion of Lutheranism.  England enforced the State Religion of Anglicanism.  Spain enforced the State Religion of Catholicism.  The European states persecuted those who did not observe the State Religion.  Spain persecuted Protestants in the Spanish Inquisition.  England and Prussia persecuted Catholics.  Everyone persecuted Baptists.

In 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote a letter to the newly elected President Thomas Jefferson to ask if he believed that religious liberty was an unalienable right granted by God that could not be revoked by government.  President Jefferson declared that the Baptists need not fear because the First Amendment had created a "wall of separation" between Church and State.

The Danbury Baptists, as Bible-believing Christians, knew as well as Thomas Jefferson that Jesus had declared that there were two great commandments: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'  The second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"  The secularization of the State removed the U.S. from any jurisdiction over the first great commandment to love God and confined it strictly to addressing the second commandment dealing with how men treated one another.  The U.S. demoted the State and declared theological competence to be utterly outside State expertise, thus preventing an "American Inquisition" that persecuted people for their religious convictions.  Clearly, Mr. Jefferson was making clear to the Baptists that the "wall of separation" was designed to protect Religion from the State, not to protect the State from Religion.

President Obama shattered this two-century consensus.  He mandated that Catholics must violate their religious convictions to pay premiums for health care plans that cover contraception, abortion-inducing drugs such as Ella, and sterilization, all of which Catholic doctrine teaches to be harmful and immoral.  Those who refuse to comply will be persecuted by crippling fines.

The president explained, "It's a lot cheaper to prevent an illness than to treat one.  We also accepted a recommendation from the experts at the Institute of Medicine that, when it comes to women, preventative care should include contraceptive services such as birth control."

Catch that?

The president apparently believes that pregnancy is a disease that must be prevented to protect women's health.

In 2005 the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society officially announced that the oral contraceptive pill has carcinogenetic effects on women.  The president has decided that it is worth it to risk an increased chance of breast cancer in women in order to prevent the pregnancy disease.  There is not a universal scientific consensus, but the evidence indicates that women's health may be harmed by increased exposure to hormonal contraception.

So what is the real motive?

The White House has repeatedly recycled the discredited claim that 98 percent of Catholic women use contraception, based on a 2011 study by the Planned Parenthood-allied Guttmacher Institute that discovered that sexually active Catholic women aged 15-44 who do not wish to get pregnant have used contraception at least once.  Guttmacher launched a study to determine the self-evident: that contraception markets to the sexually active of all faiths who do not want to have children.  Of course, abstinent Catholics, Catholics 45 and over, pregnant and post-partum Catholics, and Catholics who do desire to become pregnant were excluded from the 98 percent figure.  Fortunately, the Pew Research Center released a poll restoring some sanity that found that 27 percent of Catholics who attend Church weekly believe that contraception is immoral.  More importantly, Rasmussen polling found that 65 percent of Catholics (supporters and opponents of the idea that contraception is immoral) oppose the mandate.  Catholics -- an electoral bloc the president carried by 54 percent in 2008 -- now disapprove of him by 59 percent.  CNN polling revealed that 50 percent of all Americans both have heard of and have come to oppose the mandate. 

The Catholic doctrinal prohibition on artificial contraception is part of a two-millennia theological tradition reasoned from the nature of the Trinitarian Godhead, the meaning of unconditional love as demonstrated by the death of Jesus on the Cross, a Natural Law-based understanding of human dignity, and an inquiry into God's plan for the family.  Suffice it to say that theological analysis of the issue is far outside the competence of the Obama White House.  But this has not stopped the president from misrepresenting polling data to declare faith-based opposition to his mandate theologically untenable.

The president targeted contraception because it is the most countercultural doctrine of the Catholic Church, a pre-selected weak point in the "wall of separation" between Church and State.  The president did not count on the fact that Americans of all faiths who may disagree on contraception are not willing to sit by and watch the Obama Inquisition.  They know that if the "wall of separation" is breached on contraception, their own religious convictions could be next.

Andresen Blom is the executive director of American Principles in Action.  James Bell is policy adviser.