Bishop William E. Lori recently testified at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about the Obama administrations efforts to force religious institutions to violate their doctrine regarding contraception.
I thought his comments were noteworthy:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee, for the opportunity to testify today. For my testimony today, I would like to tell a story. Let’s call it, “The Parable of the Kosher Deli.”
Once upon a time, a new law is proposed, so that any business that serves food must serve pork. There is a narrow exception for kosher catering halls attached to synagogues, since they serve mostly members of that synagogue, but kosher delicatessens are still subject to the mandate.
The Orthodox Jewish community—whose members run kosher delis and many other restaurants and grocers besides—expresses its outrage at the new government mandate. And they are joined by others who have no problem eating pork—not just the many Jews who eat pork, but people of all faiths—because these others recognize the threat to the principle of religious liberty. They recognize as well the practical impact of the damage to that principle. They know that, if the mandate stands, they might be the next ones forced—under threat of severe government sanction—to violate their most deeply held beliefs, especially their unpopular beliefs.
Meanwhile, those who support the mandate respond, “But pork is good for you. It is, after all, the other white meat.” Other supporters add, “So many Jews eat pork, and those who don’t should just get with the times.” Still others say, “Those Orthodox are just trying to impose their beliefs on everyone else.”
But in our hypothetical, those arguments fail in the public debate, because people widely recognize the following.
First, although people may reasonably debate whether pork is good for you, that’s not the question posed by the nationwide pork mandate. Instead, the mandate generates the question whether people, who believe—even if they believe in error—that pork is not good for you, should be forced by government to serve pork within their very own institutions. In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no.
Second, the fact that some (or even most) Jews eat pork is simply irrelevant. The fact remains that some Jews do not—and they do not out of their most deeply held religious convictions. Does the fact that large majorities in society—even large majorities within the protesting religious community—reject a particular religious belief make it permissible for the government to weigh in on one side of that dispute? Does it allow government to punish that minority belief with its coercive power? In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no.
Third, the charge that the Orthodox Jews are imposing their beliefs on others has it exactly backwards. Again, the question generated by a government mandate is whether the government will impose its belief that eating pork is good on objecting Orthodox Jews. Meanwhile, there is no imposition at all on the freedom of those who want to eat pork. That is, they are subject to no government interference at all in their choice to eat pork, and pork is ubiquitous and cheap, available at the overwhelming majority of restaurants and grocers. Indeed, some pork producers and retailers, and even the government itself, are so eager to promote the eating of pork, that they sometimes give pork away for free.
In this context, the question is this: can a customer come to a kosher deli, demand to be served a ham sandwich, and if refused, bring down severe government sanction on the deli? In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no.
So in our hypothetical story, because the hypothetical nation is indeed committed to religious liberty and diversity, these arguments carry the day.
In response, those proposing the new law claim to hear and understand the concerns of kosher deli owners, and offer them a new “accommodation.” You are free to call yourself a kosher deli; you are free not to place ham sandwiches on your menu; you are free not to be the person to prepare the sandwich and hand it over the counter to the customer. But we will force your meat supplier to set up a kiosk on your premises, and to offer, prepare, and serve ham sandwiches to all of your customers, free of charge to them. And when you get your monthly bill from your meat supplier, it will include the cost of any of the “free” ham sandwiches that your customers may accept. And you will, of course, be required to pay that bill.
Some who supported the deli owners initially began to celebrate the fact that ham sandwiches didn’t need to be on the menu, and didn’t need to be prepared or served by the deli itself. But on closer examination, they noticed three troubling things.
First, all kosher delis will still be forced to pay for the ham sandwiches. Second, many of the kosher delis’ meat suppliers, themselves, are forbidden in conscience from offering, preparing, or serving pork to anyone. Third, there are many kosher delis that are their own meat supplier, so the mandate to offer, prepare, and serve the ham sandwich still falls on them.
This story has a happy ending. The government recognized that it is absurd for someone to come into a kosher deli and demand a ham sandwich; that it is beyond absurd for that private demand to be backed with the coercive power of the state; that it is downright surreal to apply this coercive power when the customer can get the same sandwich cheaply, or even free, just a few doors down.
The question before the United States government—right now—is whether the story of our own Church institutions that serve the public, and that are threatened by the HHS mandate, will end happily too. Will our nation continue to be one committed to religious liberty and diversity? We urge, in the strongest possible terms, that the answer must be yes. We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to answer the same way.
Representative Mike Kelly, Republican, Pennsylvania, unscripted and off the cuff:
We should require everyone seeking public office to first spend a career in the private sector.
I’ve been involved in several discussions recently about rights. The right to low or no cost healthcare, the right to have an abortion, the right to receive public assistance, the right to an environment free of discrimination, etc.
When I hear people advancing those views, one question always comes to me: Who grants those rights and by what authority?
I’m not sure that anyone has a right to something that requires someone else to fulfill the obligation and I’m pretty sure that taking a human life, in whatever stage of development, is not a right in any sense of the word as I understand it.
It seems to me that all those examples of rights are disingenuous. They are actually a trampling of the fundamental rights we all enjoy. The right to the quiet enjoyment of the fruits of our labor, the right to associate with whomever we please and the complimentary right of non-association, the right to life and the right to free speech. None of the superficial rights so many people feel they deserve can be granted without over-ruling the fundamental rights a well-developed society should enjoy.
I’ve decided that it is my duty to strenuously resist those people who mis-represent their motivations. I would hope that all lovers of liberty would do the same.
The latest news on the environmental regulation front is that the average household’s energy costs will increase by 40 to 60 percent by 2014 as a result of EPA environmental regulation.
These rates will “necessarily skyrocket” in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by coal-fired generating plants.
We’ve been told that greenhouse gas emissions are the leading cause of Anthropogenic Global Warming and that anyone would have to be a total flat-earther to deny the threat. Wouldn’t they?
Well, maybe not. Even though we are currently producing greenhouse gas faster than we previously expected, the planet doesn’t seem to be warming as all the models predict. As a matter of fact, the planet hasn’t warmed at all during the past decade, even though we continue to spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at higher levels than ever before.
I think there must be something else behind our insistence on rationing energy through governmental interference. Maybe we should be looking at who benefits from this manipulation.
There’s been a bit of an uproar in the media the last few days about Sarah Palin’s remarks that “Paul Revere warned the British” by “ringing those bells.” (Consider this from the New York Daily News.)
The ridicule and derision they, along with the left-wing blogosphere, have put her through is completely understandable. You see, the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem doesn’t mention warning the British or the ringing of bells. Seemingly, if it’s not in the poem it cannot be part of the historical record.
How could she be so stupid about such a significant event in our history?
If you were to look at her comments in their entirety, and compare them to the historical record, another possibility emerges, that her words were correct.
What she actually said about Paul Revere:
“And, you know, he who warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”
Now, compare this to the historical record which shows that months before his most famous ride, Revere took part in the “Powder Alarms” whereby American patriots devised an early warning system consisting of lanterns, bells and gunshots to warn neighboring towns that British troops were en route to seize their gunpowder, in order to deny the use of arms by potential rebels. Once activated, gunpowder would be liberated from armories and hidden for the patriot’s later use.
This system was so effective, the British tried to quarantine Boston in hopes of preventing its activation. Revere acted as one of the organizers of the warning system and acted as a courier during it’s usage, well before his famous “midnight ride”.
Judging from the media’s reaction to her comments, I’d suggest that “journalists” add a few American History courses to their English major curriculum. Perhaps then, they wouldn’t look so foolish.
As the Memorial Day weekend comes to a close, I think it’s fitting to share Ronald Reagan’s remarks at Arlington National Cemetery on May 26th, 1986:
Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It’s a day to be with the family and remember.
I was thinking this morning that across the country children and their parents will be going to the town parade and the young ones will sit on the sidewalks and wave their flags as the band goes by. Later, maybe, they’ll have a cookout or a day at the beach. And that’s good, because today is a day to be with the family and to remember.
Arlington, this place of so many memories, is a fitting place for some remembering. So many wonderful men and women rest here, men and women who led colorful, vivid, and passionate lives. There are the greats of the military: Bull Halsey and the Admirals Leahy, father and son; Black Jack Pershing; and the GI’s general, Omar Bradley. Great men all, military men. But there are others here known for other things.
Here in Arlington rests a sharecropper’s son who became a hero to a lonely people. Joe Louis came from nowhere, but he knew how to fight. And he galvanized a nation in the days after Pearl Harbor when he put on the uniform of his country and said, “I know we’ll win because we’re on God’s side.” Audie Murphy is here, Audie Murphy of the wild, wild courage. For what else would you call it when a man bounds to the top of a disabled tank, stops an enemy advance, saves lives, and rallies his men, and all of it single-handedly. When he radioed for artillery support and was asked how close the enemy was to his position, he said, “Wait a minute and I’ll let you speak to them.” [Laughter]
Michael Smith is here, and Dick Scobee, both of the space shuttle Challenger. Their courage wasn’t wild, but thoughtful, the mature and measured courage of career professionals who took prudent risks for great reward—in their case, to advance the sum total of knowledge in the world. They’re only the latest to rest here; they join other great explorers with names like Grissom and Chaffee.
Oliver Wendell Holmes is here, the great jurist and fighter for the right. A poet searching for an image of true majesty could not rest until he seized on “Holmes dissenting in a sordid age.” Young Holmes served in the Civil War. He might have been thinking of the crosses and stars of Arlington when he wrote: “At the grave of a hero we end, not with sorrow at the inevitable loss, but with the contagion of his courage; and with a kind of desperate joy we go back to the fight.”
All of these men were different, but they shared this in common: They loved America very much. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for her. And they loved with the sureness of the young. It’s hard not to think of the young in a place like this, for it’s the young who do the fighting and dying when a peace fails and a war begins. Not far from here is the statue of the three servicemen—the three fighting boys of Vietnam. It, too, has majesty and more. Perhaps you’ve seen it—three rough boys walking together, looking ahead with a steady gaze. There’s something wounded about them, a kind of resigned toughness. But there’s an unexpected tenderness, too. At first you don’t really notice, but then you see it. The three are touching each other, as if they’re supporting each other, helping each other on.
I know that many veterans of Vietnam will gather today, some of them perhaps by the wall. And they’re still helping each other on. They were quite a group, the boys of Vietnam—boys who fought a terrible and vicious war without enough support from home, boys who were dodging bullets while we debated the efficacy of the battle. It was often our poor who fought in that war; it was the unpampered boys of the working class who picked up the rifles and went on the march. They learned not to rely on us; they learned to rely on each other. And they were special in another way: They chose to be faithful. They chose to reject the fashionable skepticism of their time. They chose to believe and answer the call of duty. They had the wild, wild courage of youth. They seized certainty from the heart of an ambivalent age; they stood for something.
And we owe them something, those boys. We owe them first a promise: That just as they did not forget their missing comrades, neither, ever, will we. And there are other promises. We must always remember that peace is a fragile thing that needs constant vigilance. We owe them a promise to look at the world with a steady gaze and, perhaps, a resigned toughness, knowing that we have adversaries in the world and challenges and the only way to meet them and maintain the peace is by staying strong.
That, of course, is the lesson of this century, a lesson learned in the Sudetenland, in Poland, in Hungary, in Czechoslovakia, in Cambodia. If we really care about peace, we must stay strong. If we really care about peace, we must, through our strength, demonstrate our unwillingness to accept an ending of the peace. We must be strong enough to create peace where it does not exist and strong enough to protect it where it does. That’s the lesson of this century and, I think, of this day. And that’s all I wanted to say. The rest of my contribution is to leave this great place to its peace, a peace it has earned.
Thank all of you, and God bless you, and have a day full of memories.
Yesterday, President Obama signed the guest book at Westminster Abbey. As you can see above, his date was a little off. Three years off!
I can only assume that since he’s trying to mend broken fences with this tour of England, he subconsciously reverted to a period just before he began snubbing the country at every opportunity. Or maybe he’s just reliving his glory years, everybody loved him in 2008. But that was before he had a record to stand behind.
At any rate, I still gotta wonder, just what was he thinking?