For those who follow Garry Trudeau’s cartoon Doonesbury, his recent offering is a phone number you can call, called myFACTS, which will provide you (at a small price) with any ”cover” or solution you may need to defend a fictional political position. myFACTS’ claim is they are “privatizing the truth.”
No other current fictional claim is better suited to a myFACTS offering than the now promulgated fictional claim that the Obama administration is making an attack on religion. Also, that we are somehow losing our “freedom of religion.” In their own words, the current crop of Republican candidates is trying to outdo each other in charging that Obama is somehow “secularizing our government.” Be that true, I have only a two-word response: thank goodness.
Mitt Romney, in January stated: “I will not proceed down the path that I think you’re seeing across this country, which is to try to secularize America.” Rick Santorum has an even more radical view. He said in addressing a group of pastors: “I have seen the interaction with faith and public life, and to me … there are not boundaries at all. I can’t and I won’t check my faith at the door because it motivates me to do things that I believe are best for our country.” The question then becomes: whose faith?
The Obama administration, like most others in our long history of religious freedom, has not done anything to abate or harm religious freedom. The current flap involves rules on employees’ birth-control insurance coverage at hospitals, colleges and the like when the employer is a religious organization. It is so remotely related to any attack on religion, freedom of religious choice or “secularizing government” that it hardly needs a defense. But the aggressiveness of the charge and the absurdity of the claim are so out of the box that they deserve at least a response.
Freedoms more than ever
The fact is, never, in the history of our nation, have our citizens enjoyed so much freedom – and in more ways than ever before. Despite the claim that our government is somehow trying to stifle our religious choices, every citizen in our land has every right — totally unconstrained — to pray, associate, and belong to any religious organization of his or her choice. Nothing, either the government has or is doing, has changed that truth. And in fact, we likely enjoy more freedoms today than ever before.
Having been born in 1933, I have seen the breakdown of Jim Crow. Not that our race relations are perfect, by any means, but they’re certainly far better than before the Civil Rights Act. Interracial dating and marriages, not many years ago, were considered an anathema; today they are considered common and normal (now one in six marriages are interracial). More freedom than ever before.
When I was young, gays were strongly derided. No more. They have been allowed to come out of the closet, and they have. They have been given rights and respect they did not enjoy before. More freedom than ever before.
Women in America, for centuries now, have continually gained the rights they always deserved. Obviously voting was the most significant, but a woman’s right to control her own body was also vital. Thus we have legal abortions, and the above mentioned right to use birth control — regardless of her religion. More freedom than ever before.
As regards “secularizing government,” that is exactly the way it was supposed to be. Though many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Christians, several (notably Jefferson, Franklin and Paine) were not practicing Christians. We were founded and remain a “secular society” — at least as it relates to government. Just the way it should be in our melting pot of race, religion and beliefs. Indeed, the Founding Fathers saw fit to write the following in the very First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Given this, what laws has the Obama administration made that prevents the “establishment” of any religion, or prohibits the exercise thereof? None is the correct answer. Since Obama was elected, all who believe in their own personal religion practice it as always before. No freedoms have been lost. Specifically relating to the health-care reform act, you choose not to use contraception? Fine. Do not do so. And meanwhile continue to practice Catholicism (or any other religion you so choose) as you always have.
Bringing religion into the political scene – at least in this point in our history – is a red herring. A solution in search of a problem. But then, that’s precisely what Trudeau’s myFACTS can do; for a small price they will create a solution for any problem — even one that does not exist. Now, if I can just find that phone number …
Myles Spicer of Minnetonka has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.