In my last post, I proposed that many of our social and political disputes stem from a fundamental conflict in how one views the human person — the Secularist view versus the Incarnational view. That may or may not be an interesting point, but how does it play out in the real world?
To see the impact of this conflict, we need look no further than the recently-announced regulations by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The Department was acting pursuant to a provision in the health care “reform” law that mandates coverage of “preventive services”, a term that would ordinarily encompass medical care that prevents diseases. The Department, reflecting the Administration’s contraceptive mentality, has decided that pregnancy is a disease to be prevented, and has mandated that every private health insurance plan cover — without any charge to the insured person — contraceptive drugs and devices (including some that clearly have the effect of causing an abortion) and sterilization surgery.
I’m not going to discuss the absurdity and iniquity of this proposal. Those should be self-evident. I want to focus for now on how it demonstrates the impact of Secularism on religious liberty.
HHS has proposed an exemption from this rule for “religious employers”. Note this — not religious individuals, who will be forced to pay premiums for immoral drugs and procedures. Not religious insurance companies, which will be forced to pay for them. Only religious employers can be exempt, if they satisfy HHS’s view of what that term means.
It is in this definition that we find the Secularist attack on religion and on human liberty. HHS has defined “religious employer” to mean only an organization (a) whose purpose is the inculcation of religious values, (b) that primarily hires persons who share the organization’s religious tenets, and (c) that primarily serves person who share those tenets. So, you only count as a religious institution if you are solely religious in your activities, and you refrain from interacting with anyone else — in other words, if you keep your religion entirely in the private sphere, and dare not step out into society as a whole.
Think of how narrow this definition is. Every Catholic social service or health care agency serves the needy, regardless of their faith. Every Catholic parish has many purposes, including the celebration of liturgy and sacraments and the salvation of souls. Every Catholic school has multiple educational purposes beyond just inculcating religious values.
Jesus himself wouldn’t qualify for this exemption.
The regulation raises many disturbing questions for the future of religious liberty in our nation. How will HHS determine whether an organization qualifies? How will they determine what the purpose of the institution is? How will they tell if the employees or clients share our religious tenets? Will there be a test given by HHS? Will people be asked about their beliefs by a government official? Will a government agency, perhaps called the State Administration for Religious Affairs, be set up to make these determinations or to issue certificates or licenses to religious groups?
The point here is not just the reflexive hostility that this regulation displays for religion and religious believers. Rather, it is that the government considers itself authorized or qualified to define what an authentic religious organization is. And that in their mind, the only acceptable religion is the one that keeps to itself, keeps quiet, and follows orders.
This is the impact of Secularism on our society, with all the coercive power of the government at its disposal.