What Does Separation Actually Mean?

by Cody Hensarling

“If we are going to have a separation of church and state, we’re going to have a separation of church and state.” – Rev. Al Sharpton, MSNBC The Obama Administration recently decided to create a rule that will force many religious employers to cover birth control in employee health plans. While HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has argued that this rule respects those with “deeply held beliefs opposing the use of birth control”, many Catholics are not viewing the law in the same light as the Secretary. (//www.politico.com/news/stories/0212/72489.html) While certain religious organizations are exempted, many, including Catholic hospitals and universities, are not. Sebelius continued, claiming that this rule protects the individual’s right to conscientiously object to performing certain health services. What this claim seems to ignore is the ability of Catholic organizations to object to the provision of birth control through employer-purchased health insurance, which is stripped away in this new rule. Secretary Sebelius is hardly the only major figure to comment on this issue. Rev. Al Sharpton weighed in on Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough: (//hotair.com/archives/2012/02/06/sharpton-obama-needs-to-dictate-to-the-catholic-church-to-maintain-separation-of-church-and-state-or-something/) “Rev. Al Sharpton: No, I think you have to have the reverse argument, and that is if I want to seek employment and have employment in a church but that I disagree with the dogma and theology of the church, do I have the right to be protected by law? And I think that what the Obama administration is saying that you do not have to follow the tenets of a church organization to be an employee of a church. Scarborough: Do you think this is a good decision? Sharpton: If we are going to have a separation of church and state, we’re going to have a separation of church and state. Whether I would personally agree with the decision or not, the question is do I have a right to make that law?” Yes, Rev. Sharpton is claiming that the separation of church and state demands that this rule be passed. This is a logically ridiculous interpretation of the concept of separation of church and state. The government, through this rule, is deciding how religious organizations must provide health insurance and is doing so against the religious will of said organizations. How exactly is the state preserving separation in this instance? This is a severe intrusion on religious freedom and freedom in general on the part of the Obama Administration. This alone should be enough for all those who love liberty to object to this rule. Yet, it doesn’t have to be the only reason. This rule will have disastrous consequences on the poor. Yes, the poor. As Ed Morrissey points out in his HotAir blog as previously cited: “The Catholic Church’s hospitals get money from the government, but only for caring for the otherwise indigent.  If that’s the basis of the intervention, then Catholic hospitals will likely close their doors.  The bishops will not allow for abortions and sterilizations that violate the very mission on which those hospitals are based — the protection and promotion of sacred human life.  That will only make matters worse for the poor, and also for the government that would have to fill the very large gap left by the closing of hundreds of hospitals and clinics.” So not only did the Obama Administration manage to mount a full-scale assault on religious liberty, they managed to threaten the ability of the indigent to get health care. Ouch.

Cody Hensarling is an intern at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

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