Religious liberty on the ballot

Campaign 2012

"It's the economy, stupid" was the gem of political eloquence that came out of the Clinton years. The wisdom contained in this little aphorism is that when times are tough, aspiring officeholders should focus like a laser beam on the economy and ignore everything else. Tactically, that seems to be wise advice because according to a recent Washington Post/ABC poll that's where the public's attention resides. Economic recovery is the chief concern for an overwhelming percentage of the population. Those who regard moral issues as the nation's highest priority register in the single digits.

But perhaps if one sees the world as the world's Creator sees it, it is "stupid" ever to value the economy above all else. True, "the economy" is not simply an abstraction. It has real consequences for real people. Its health makes the difference between work and unemployment, between dignity and shame, between education and missed opportunity, and even between marriage and divorce. But God warns us, "Man does not live by bread alone" (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Catholics Called to Witness has produced a video (see below) in which they address the electorate's fixation on the economy, which, while understandable, can distract from the broad questions of liberty, and specifically religious liberty. The group is responding to moves by President Obama's Department of Health and Human Services to force Roman Catholic institutions such as hospitals and universities to include benefits in their health insurance plans that violate church teachings. HHS defends what seems to be a heavy-handed and bullying violation of First Amendment rights by defining religion quite narrowly, excluding any church-affiliated institution that serves people who are outside the church's fold. In other words, if you're busy loving your neighbor you couldn't possibly be doing the work of the church.

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The video cites Psalm 127, "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." If we restore the nation to copious prosperity but through our negligence we surrender our liberty to worship and serve God as our consciences dictate, we will have gained the world but lost something infinitely more precious.

D.C. Innes
D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.


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