Murphy’s Line In The Sand

Appearing on “Face the State” with Dennis House, U.S. Representative Chris Murphy, who has announced his candidacy for Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon to be vacant seat, passionately defended an administrative edict that would require members of some religious faiths to commit what boilerplate secularists and practical atheists winkingly call “sin.”

“We need to draw a line in the sand,” Mr. Murphy told Mr. House. “Enough is enough, a women, where ever she works, has a right to a full range of reproductive health care; that should be the law of the land.”

It may have escaped Mr. Murphy’s notice that the edict promulgated by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius forcing religious affiliated institutions, hospitals and schools among them, to dispense contraceptives, some of which are abortifacients, and to offer sterilization under the so called “Affordable Care Act” is not a LAW in the strict sense. Congress has not written a bill that when signed by the president becomes a law compelling orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims to choose between their religious obligations and their duties as citizens. As a plus for legislators, Government by edict spares vote conscious politicians the embarrassing necessity of putting their fingerprints on bills that may induce a “no” vote during election season.

President Obama’s administrative edict does not go quite so far as Mr. Murphy’s “line in the sand” non-negotiable demand.

Nuns, for instance, are women who associate with churches, and yet the administrative edict does not require their employers to supply them with birth control pills, contraceptives and morning after abortifacients. Under Mr. Murphy’s line in the sand rule, even nuns would have a right to the full range of options supplied by Planned Parenthood, and employers who balked at providing them with such “health services” would be subject to crippling fines. Mr. Obama’s administrative edict imposes obligations, the news media continually tells us, not on “churches” as such but on religious people working in businesses associated with religious institutions. The opposition to the administrative edict from Catholic hospitals, for instance, has been very insistent, and those who argue that constitutionally protected religious rights inhere in people rather than administrative instruments such as churches do after all have a point.

Mr. Murphy perhaps will agree that drawn lines, must pass constitutional muster. And then too there is that little impediment in the First Amendment preventing congress from passing laws that infringe upon “the exercise of religion.” Mr. Murphy is familiar with this clause because he has passionately invoked it in the past on other occasions.

When Lowes home goods stores pulled their ads from a TV program called “All American Muslim,” Mr. Murphy took to the well of the House to condemn Lowes’ anti-religious bias:

“Murphy: This is a major American company rubberstamping basic foundational bigotry against a major American religious group. This nation was founded on the premise of religious freedom, and this body should never remain silent when a group of people is marginalized just because they worship a different God. And though we certainly have got more important things to worry about — like the economy – it’s traditionally during bad economic times that this kind of social marginalization has been at its worst, because people don’t speak up against it.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0MFuwBwHek]

Mr. Murphy also opened a rhetorical front on (Keith) Olbermann’s program,

“Olberman: How important is this issue to freedom of expression in this country?

“Murphy: Well listen, there’s nothing more basic to the founding of America than that you can come here and practice whatever religion you choose. And the fact is that this latest action [the withdrawal of a Lowes ad from the television program “All American Muslim”] is part of a really troubling pattern of running mosques out of town, of stopping people from teaching the history of Islamic nations in schools. You know, we used to celebrate the fact that you could practice any religion that you wanted in this country. It is a complete re-write of the strongest part of American history to allow this kind of garbage to continue. Look, Lowes is a good American company. Umm… this is way out of step with their commitment to the community we live in, and that’s why I still have maybe this unrepentant optimism that they’re gonna change their mind.”

Mr. Murphy’s is a fulsome defense of the historic posture of federal and state governments towards religion in the United States that even a Catholic Bishop might endorse. It is true the Catholic Church has more theological skin in this political game than other faiths, but it would be a fatal mistake should other religious faiths assume that an edict dismantling Catholic theology would leave them untouched. Jews, Protestants and Muslims, a sometimes scorned profession hotly defended by Mr. Murphy numerous times on constitutional grounds, also provide educational and social services.

Yet one would wrongly suppose that a fervid First Amendment supporting Non-Denominational Christian such as Mr. Murphy would readily understand that an administrative rule, possibly unconstitutional and certainly hostile to the American consensus on religion, that attacks one faith is an assault on all faiths. Ardently supporting the Obama administration’s rule, Mr. Murphy patronizingly claims, “I certainly have a lot of sympathy for the church’s argument, but if you’re talking about Catholic hospitals and universities, these are institutions that are integrated into the community and [have] public funding streams … [they] have already crossed the firm boundary between church and state.”

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