By Addie Darling
In the days leading up to yesterday’s election, both President Obama and Governor Romney made last-minute appeals to the public based on common values and national well-being. This past Saturday, President Obama presented a new ad about his faith values.
However, while President Obama may have been leading with his values for the past four years, his actions have threatened to undermine the ability for faith to be expressed publicly. This ought to concern not only the Christians who have been directly impacted by some of the President’s policies. They have affected Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, as well as those of no faith at all.
For nearly a year now, the public has been constantly hounded about the threats of Obama’s War on Religion and the sweeping repression of the conservative War on Women, both of which suggest a total oppression of a specific population. Underneath the hype and the spin lies a handful of facts. Firstly, some business owners, hospitals, and charities believe that as an integral part of their beliefs, they cannot dispense certain (or all) contraceptives and potential abortifacients. Secondly, a mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services requires nearly all employers– including religious individuals who own small businesses and religious hospitals and charities- to directly cover and pay for their employee’s contraceptives and some early potential abortifacients.
One fact, however, was not discussed at length. There are a number of other options for providing women universal access to contraception that do not require government coercion of conscientious objectors. And though the religious freedom debate has raged for over 10 months, those options have not been explored.
In short, President Obama has been responsible for a policy that oppresses a minority religious opinion. Furthermore, the inability to accommodate the free exercise of religion turns religious business-owners and non-profit leaders into second-class citizens.
This unsettling attitude towards these individuals – particularly Catholics – will not immediately result in widespread oppression of all persons of faith. It is, however, a step backwards for freedom of belief and expression for everyone.
The refusal to make accommodations for integral matters of faith strengthens laws, such as one in Alabama, that limit services religious institutions can provide to undocumented workers. Such an attitude weakens the case against “Anti- Shariah” laws that were passed in certain states last year. If Catholics can be treated as second-class citizens under the law, then how can the nation condemn discrimination against Muslims, a prison’s refusal to supply kosher and halal meals to inmates or prohibitions against observant Sikhs and Muslims expressing their beliefs through their choice of dress?
Only the President can affirm or deny to what extent his personal faith forms his politics. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, even in areas where his view of the faith diverges from traditional Christian values. But faith without works is dead, and the President must stop his sidelining of Catholics and other Christians, lest these actions undermine freedom of consicnece for all Americans.