Virtual Voices

Caesar vs. religious liberty

Religion

I try to follow the advice of Cal Thomas: "Read the Bible when you get up, and then read The New York Times to get the other side."

Bible reading this morning included Jesus' famous comment when Pharisees and Herodians tried to trap him by asking whether they should pay taxes to Caesar. He asked for a Roman coin, had them identify the face of Caesar on it, and said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

Times reading this morning included a column by Linda Greenhouse on the new federal requirement that employers include contraceptive coverage without a co-pay in their insurance plans. She argued that Catholic hospitals opposing the law receive "a steady stream of federal dollars" and should thus follow the same rules as secular recipients.

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A modern rewriting of the passage in chapter 12 of Mark's gospel could read, "Timesians asked, 'Teacher, is it right for Christian nonprofits to take money from Caesar?' He said to them, 'Whose face is on a dime?' They said, 'Franklin Roosevelt's.' He said, 'Render to Roosevelt the things that are Roosevelt's, and to God the things that are God's.' And they marveled at him but said, 'You are unrealistic.'"

Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s began the process of replacing church and private charity with taxpayer funds distributed by the federal government. Christian nonprofits should protest against the Obama administration's assault on religious liberty, but the problem did not begin with the current president: Once politicians have the economic upper hand, they almost always say or suggest, "My will be done."

Given the extent of Washington's control over all kinds of social service spending, is it unrealistic for Christian institutions to refuse federal dollars? In some ways, yes-but that's one more reason to roll back governmental monocracy and assert the importance of free competition.

Greenhouse in the Times, by the way, noted that the Obama regulation "exempts any religious employer that primarily hires and serves its own faithful." True: That's very much like Muslim thinking about the rights of Christians, who-when Muslims are lenient-can worship together and serve their own faithful, but not bring in others. The problem, though, is that Christians for two millennia have served others.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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