- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Richard Land: We’ll go to jail

It’s not just the Catholic bishops [1]. The Southern Baptist theologian and leader Richard Land says that Baptists should be prepared to go to jail as an act of civil disobedience to the Obama administration’s HHS mandate. In an op-ed [2], Land wrote:

Our Baptist forebears died and went to prison to secure these freedoms. It is now our calling to stand in the gap and defend our priceless First Amendment religious freedoms.

Similarly, Ross Douthat shows why [3]the standard liberal view, as articulated best by Kevin Drum, that this issue only matters to the Catholic bishops because everybody else uses contraception shows an incredible lack of understanding about how religious belief actually works, at least within Catholic circles. Excerpt:

But of course [Catholics who don’t use contraception] aren’t the only Catholics who have objected. Here Drum glosses over the complexities of religious faith and practice, which ensure that many Catholics’ relationship to the teachings of their Church is more complicated than a simple “agree or disagree.” There are Catholics who accept the Church’s view on contraception but simply don’t live up to it. There are Catholics who respect the general point of the teaching while questioning its application to every individual case. (My sense, elaborated here [4], is that the current pope has some sympathy for this perspective.) There are many American Catholics, as Daniel McCarthy noted in a perceptive interview [5] recently, who are neither devout nor dissidents — Catholics who practice their faith intermittently, drifting away and then being tugged back, without having any particular desire to see its teachings changed to suit their lifestyles. And then there are Catholics (and this is a large category) who do explicitly dissent from Church teaching, but who also don’t want to see secular governments set the rules for what Catholic institutions can and cannot do. These are people who have been particularly vocal in the current debate (to their great credit), and their voices undercut the entire Drum thesis. If this issue a matter of conscience only for the “formal hierarchy of the Catholic Church,” then why is the White House taking so much criticism from Catholics with a reputation for disagreeing with the hierarchy — from Commonweal Catholics andNational Catholic Reporter Catholics [6], from famous Catholic liberals like E.J. Dionne [7] and Chris Matthews [8], Catholic Democrats like Tim Kaine and Bob Casey, Jr. [9], and so on? The answer can’t be that they’re all afraid of the bishops, since we’ve just established that most Catholics don’t agree with the bishops on this issue. Something else is going on here.

Southern Baptists have no problem with non-abortifacient forms of birth control. And yet you have one of the top Southern Baptists in the US saying the question of religious liberty raised by the Obama administration’s HHS move is so great that it’s worth going to jail over. Something else is definitely going on here.

Kevin Drum and his fellow liberals are suffering from a lack of imagination and empathy. As a Christian, I believe sex outside of marriage is wrong. I don’t engage in it, and I morally disapprove of it. By their logic, I should also approve of, for example, anti-sodomy laws. But I don’t. Not everything that is wrong should be outlawed. Similarly, Team Drum should understand that it makes perfect sense to disagree with the Catholic position on contraception — as most Americans do — and still believe that the government has no business forcing the Catholic Church, or any religious organization, to fund something it finds abhorrent.

Evangelical leaders Chuck Colson and Timothy George call for Christian unity: [10]

Catholic institutions aren’t the only ones affected by this mandate. Prison Fellowship, for example, which employs 180 people, could not purchase insurance for its employees that covers abortifacients. Nor could the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners and their families afford the fines we would incur.

Three years ago, when we co-authored the Manhattan Declaration, we predicted that the time would come when Christians would have to face the very real prospect of civil disobedience—that we would have to choose sides: God or Caesar.

Certainly for the Catholics and for many of us evangelicals, that time is already upon us.

Terry Mattingly observes that the (secularist) media is still not grasping the other side [11] in reporting this issue:

My point is not that the “religious liberty” camp should be covered and the “birth control” arguments ignored. In fact, I will say this again: There is no way to cover this story without hitting the birth-control angle and hitting it hard. There is no way to cover this story without covering its political angles.

From a journalistic perspective, this is not doctrine vs. politics. It’s both-and. This is not “religious liberty” vs. the sexual revolution. It’s both-and. The journalistic framing in this story must take seriously the line (currently) coming out of the White House and the voices of observant Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Orthodox Jews, evangelical Protestants and others who believe that the U.S. government is trying to punish those who refuse to edit centuries of tradition and law in order to conform to Caesar.

83 Comments (Open | Close)

83 Comments To "Richard Land: We’ll go to jail"

#1 Comment By Doug Indeap On February 9, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

Largely lost in the fuming over some supposed moral dilemma is that THE HEALTH CARE LAW DOES NOT FORCE EMPLOYERS TO ACT CONTRARY TO THEIR BELIEFS–unless one supposes the employers’ religion forbids even payment of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion). In keeping with the law, those with conscientious objections to providing their employees with qualifying health plans may decline to provide any health plans and pay an assessment instead or, alternatively, provide plans that do not qualify (e.g., without provisions they dislike) and pay lower assessments.

No moral dilemma, no need for an exemption. That the employers must at least pay an assessment is hardly justification for an exemption. In other contexts, for instance, we have relieved conscientious objectors from required military service, requiring them instead to provide alternative service in noncombatant roles or useful civilian work. In any event, paying assessment does not pose a moral dilemma, but rather a garden-variety gripe common to most taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action of the government. Should each of us feel free to deduct from our taxes the portion that we figure would be spent on those actions (e.g., wars, health care, teaching evolution, subsidizing churches, whatever) each of us opposes? The hue and cry for an exemption is predicated on the false claim–or, more plainly, lie–that employers otherwise are forced to act contrary to their religions.

Questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith are entirely real, but not new. The courts have confronted such issues and have generally ruled that under the Constitution the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, fraud, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. Were it otherwise and people could opt out of this or that law with the excuse that their religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.

#2 Comment By cp On February 9, 2012 @ 5:32 pm


I’d add Mormon polygamy to the list of things that don’t qualify for 1st Amendment protection.

Catholic teaching has long been that a Catholic cannot refuse to pay that portion of taxes which funds things that the Catholic Church finds morally offensive, from capital punishment to pre-emptive war to state-sponsored torture and murder.

Insurance pools being akin to tax pools, it seems to me that the Catholic Church’s official teaching on the payment of taxes undermines its argument on this front.

#3 Comment By JonF On February 9, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

Re: . Single payer is nuts for a country already on the verge of bankruptcy

We are no more on the verge of bankruptcy than I am on the verge of being elected Pope.
Good grief.
As while I can think of valid (though maybe not dispositive) objections to single payor the cost is not one or them. Single payor is CHEAPER.
The single (almost sole) out-of-control factor in the federal budget is healthcare– and it’s out of control for everyone, the private sector too. A monopsony (look it up) would hold prices to their lowest possible level.

#4 Comment By alkali On February 9, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

To try to engage with this more directly:

Speaking an unimaginative and un-empathetic leftwinger, I genuinely do get it that the Obama administration shouldn’t literally force bishops to buy condoms. But that’s not what’s being proposed here.

Here, the connection between the church and the particular thing that the church objects to seems at least to me to be pretty attenuated. The question is whether how church-affiliated institutions that have secular counterparts and that employ non-church members (i.e., not churches or seminaries themselves) can be required to provide certain insurance coverage that their employees are not obliged to make use of. And we’re not talking “required” in the at-gunpoint sense: if an institution did not provide the contraception-included coverage, it would have to pay a penalty of $2,000 for each employee who declined the contraception-minus coverage in favor of buying his or her own coverage. (If I’m reading the statute right, that’s how it works.)

In addition, there are significant practical objections to providing a broader exemption then what the administration has proposed. Should it apply to business owned by church members? What about ob/gyn visits that include discussions of contraception? What about other religious groups that have objections to other medical procedures, e.g., Christian Scientists or Jehovah’s Witnesses?

I take it that the RCC recognizes in other contexts that there are limits to the principle that the government can’t force someone to pay for something the RCC objects to. For example, federal and state governments pay for all sorts of things the RCC might object to (including family planning programs, and insurance coverage for government employees that includes contraception). But Catholic hospitals still collect and pay withholding tax like other employers.

So why is this qualitatively different?

#5 Comment By Steve On February 9, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

No one is requiring the 98% of catholic women who have used birth control to use it. The law is not forcing individual churches or denominations to use or pay for it. The law does require catholic schools and hospitals to provide insurance that covers contraception. There are many catholic schools and hospitals that hire and employ non catholic women. If a broad law requires me, as a employer to provide health insurance that covers contraception, if I provide the insurance, why should Catholics get pass. If a religious group wants to deny coverage for antibiotics, is that ok? If they felt heart surgery was a violation of their belief, is it ok to drop that from the coverage for OSS they employ who does not hold to that belief? Does religious freedom trump individual rights, or the rights of all females who use birth control, often for medical and not contraceptive reasons? Is the pope the final authority for all females in the USA? (bishops want the clause dropped for everyone, in all insurance programs, not just catholic institutions) Rod, you are trampling on 98% adult women when you give the pope the right to dictate his view for them to be upheld by a government.

#6 Comment By David M On February 9, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

“There are no high crimes and misdemeanors involved here. Impeachment shouldn’t even be talked about.”

This is why people that may not agree with Rod still read him and comment here. For myself, I’ll agree more with the articles at DailyKos, but it’s more interesting to hear opposing arguments that are still based in reality, which is why I read all the blogs here more.

#7 Comment By Jamie O’Neill On February 9, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

Isn’t the situation similar to Quakers, who do not wish to participate in wars, yet must pay for them … ?

#8 Comment By Angela On February 9, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

Are Catholic organizations willing to pay for vasectomies?

#9 Comment By Susan D. On February 9, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

David M, Catholic teaching holds that medications that are used as contraceptives can be used for other medical purposes. Here’s the quotation from Humanae Vitae:

Lawful Therapeutic Means

15. On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever. (19)

#10 Comment By Sean Scallon On February 9, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

“Similarly, Team Drum should understand that it makes perfect sense to disagree with the Catholic position on contraception — as most Americans do — and still believe that the government has no business forcing the Catholic Church, or any religious organization, to fund something it finds abhorrent.”

Complexities and nuance are lost to purveyors ideology. If they don’t do nuance in Texas, they certainly don’t do so in Obamaword either.

#11 Comment By Cannoneo On February 9, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

“Socialism” was the rage-button around which tribal conservatives have tried to lure fiscal-minded independents to forget how bad Bush was and what Obama had to overcome.

I guess “religious liberty” will be the one aimed at Christian swing voters. Good luck with that.

#12 Comment By Tom S On February 9, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

The biggest mistake the Catholic bishops could make is allowing themselves to be coopted by the Republican religious right–as they appear to be doing. It strips away their freedom of religion argument, since the religious right does not actually believe in it, as evidenced by their ongoing attempts to chip away at the establishment clause. (Some still think that the Pope is akin to the antiChrist, but never mind.) It also ties them to possibly the least popular element of today’s political scene–namely Republican congresspeople. It also makes the fight about limiting access to contraception, which is not something most Americans support.

#13 Comment By sdb On February 9, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

@Stef Human sacrifice is outlawed? Oops…. The issue here isn’t something thorny like opting out of vaccines that may endanger public health. Rather the state is requiring religious employers violate their conscience to buy a product employees could easily purchase on their own.

Pills cost $15-50/mo. My wife’s generic pills were $20/mo five years ago. Unless prices have quadrupled this isn’t about $1000/yr. A vasectomy costs $350-$1000 (I paid just under $500 for mine two years ago). Assuming you earn enough not to be on Medicaid, this is affordable. Female sterilization is more of course, but it isn’t 10,000+. PP puts it at $1500-6000. Again, if you are making enough not to be on Medicaid, most can pay this off in installments without going bankrupt.

#14 Comment By Monterey On February 9, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

Go to jail? Heck, the baptists ought to be prepared to vote en masse against Barack Obama in 2012.

First they came for the catholics….

#15 Comment By sdb On February 9, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

Taxes are thorny. Thoreau went jail over this as I recall. I guess the difference from a Christian point of view (following the apostle Paul) is that the state is divinely ordained (even one that engages in grave evil as the Roman empire did), thus we are to be obedient (including the payment of taxes) unless the state requires us to actively violate the requirements of our faith. So Paul knew that the taxes he paid would be used to fund idol worship,but this is not a valid reason not to pay taxes. It is a problem when Rome required everyone to confess that Caesar is Lord. This he couldn’t do.

It is one thing for the state to use my tax dollars in ways I find immoral, it is something else to require me to engage in that immorality.

I’m not Catholic, so I don’t have a dog in this fight so to speak. However, this administration’s stance on religious liberty is deeply troubling to me.

#16 Comment By Ivan K On February 9, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

Contraception is health care? What disease does contraception treat?

When did getting free condoms become a right? When did it become a violation of someone’s rights to expect them to go to Walgreen’s and pay for their own condoms?

If someone thinks that a Catholic institution should be forced to pay for their employees’ condoms, they are beyond rational persuasion.

Obama’s supporters are all over the web screaming about the viciusly vile viciousness of the cat’licks, but they are ignoring the fact that it’s not just a few guys in robes but a good percentage of americans who are frightened and ticked off by the governmental overreach that this represents.

This will not be implemented. Period. I am confident that a lot of Catholics are willing to go not just to court but to jail over this.

#17 Comment By Steve On February 9, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

Would you feel the same if muslims were protesting this ruling in business they owned, and employed large numbers of nonmuslims who believed differently?

#18 Comment By sdb On February 9, 2012 @ 9:22 pm

@Siarlys The history of the SBC is indeed sordid, but it is worth mentioning they have publicly repudiated those views, noted the decisions were completely wrong, and formally apologized.

#19 Comment By Ivan K On February 9, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

“All I can say is, I never, ever, want to hear another American Christian conservative whining about Muslims and their evil attempts to assert shariah over American law again.”

Because Shariah is all about not being forced by the government to pay for other people’s contraceptives.

Actually, in this case, it’s the lefties who are imposing their shariah on society; they are the ones using the powers of the state to force people to comply with a moral code with which they don’t agree.

#20 Comment By Joanna On February 9, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

I’ve long thought that health care benefits should be divorced from expectations of a “good” employer. It is an unreasonable burden on employers and unfortunately contributes to wage slavery of the lower middle class. Universal healthcare with private supplementation plans is the best solution for the mosaic that is health care in the U.S.

#21 Comment By Peter H On February 9, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

For what it’s worth, I think the Obama administration is wrong on this issue.

#22 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 9, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

Thank you Mr. Dreher. Your last comment is a voice of both sanity and principle. (And no, I didn’t see any valid basis to impeach George W. Bush).

A note about the Smith case and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: It is not possible for congress to overrule a Supreme Court decision expounding on the constitutional limits to congressional power. In fact, the Supreme Court highlighted this by restricting the impact of the RFRA: it may be applied to FEDERAL agencies, but not to the states or private entities. CJ Rehnquist wrote that congress has the power to enforce a provision of the constitution, not to expand, limit, or redefine what it says. (See City of Boerne v. Flores).

Congress responded to THAT with the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which for the most part is based on one of the great back-doors to the exercise of federal power: it applies to any state, local subdivision thereof, or sometimes private actor, who receives federal funding. Of course, everyone received federal funding these days. The Supreme Court accepted RLUIPA.

On other angles, Agentzero and William Burns, thank you both for your insightful observations.

#23 Comment By David J. White On February 9, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

If yes, then should we generally be free for reasons of conscience to refuse to pay taxes that will be used by the government to pay for things we do not approve of? I don’t think that would make for a workable polity.

Isn’t that what Thoreau went to jail for?

#24 Comment By CB On February 9, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

I was surprised to read a defense of the Catholic view on birth control at Business Insider: [12]

#25 Comment By Leo Ladenson On February 10, 2012 @ 12:28 am

@Steve No one is requiring the 98% of catholic women who have used birth control to use it.

Please stop lying. 98% of Catholic women have not used the pill or other “medical” methods of birth control that are at issue here. Even PP hasn’t lied the way you have here.

#26 Comment By William Burns On February 10, 2012 @ 6:37 am

“All I can say is, I never, ever, want to hear another American Christian conservative whining about Muslims and their evil attempts to assert shariah over American law again.”

Because Shariah is all about not being forced by the government to pay for other people’s contraceptives.

Actually, in this case, it’s the lefties who are imposing their shariah on society; they are the ones using the powers of the state to force people to comply with a moral code with which they don’t agree.

Christian conservatives have been telling us that we must never, ever let Muslim religious law override American law, now they are telling us that we must allow Christian religious law to override America law. How is this a consistent position?

#27 Comment By sdb On February 10, 2012 @ 9:01 am

“RFRA: it may be applied to FEDERAL agencies” Right. So is HHS in compliance with RFRA?

#28 Comment By sdb On February 10, 2012 @ 9:25 am

It looks like the Obama Administration has seen the light and is backpedaling now:

Also, and interesting thought experiment:

#29 Comment By Agentzero On February 10, 2012 @ 9:40 am

In response to my hypothetical above (Feb 9 at 4:14 pm), cfountain says:

“I don’t think this hypothetical applies, since the institutions we are taking about are non-profits and, hence, pay no income taxes. But perhaps someone knows different?”

They certainly do pay taxes. Not on income, but they are subject to social security taxes like any other employer. My hypothetical would be analogous.

“Additionally, there are CO’s (Conscientious Objectors) who have chosen (and are allowed) to avoid US military service for conscientious reasons (e.g. see Quakers). This does not seem to have had any appreciable impact on our polity and its ability to wage war.”

We have not had a draft in quite some time. Even then, COs generally had to provide some kind of alternative service. In any event, that was not the same as a rule that would allow people to not pay taxes for things they don’t agree with.

David J. White said:

“Isn’t that what Thoreau went to jail for?”

Well, yes. Are you suggesting he should not have gone to jail? Would it work if everyone took a Thoreauean approach?

Siarlys Jenkins said:

“On other angles, Agentzero and William Burns, thank you both for your insightful observations.”

Thank you, Siarlys, but I would note it was not an observation but a question, which no-one has yet answered.

#30 Comment By tbraton On February 10, 2012 @ 9:51 am

“The more I read of this issue, the more I’m swayed by the net advantages of single payer health care models of insurance. Get employers out of the health insurance provision business altogether.”

But wouldn’t the “principled Catholics” argue then that “their tax dollars” should not go to subsidize things like abortion, as many did during the enactment of Obamacare, or contraception, as in the present case. I find it remarkable that these same “principled Catholics,” like Ross Douthat, do not mind my tax dollars going to subsidize their beloved Catholic Church or other religious institutions by our tax code granting tax deductions to donations made to the Catholic Church,the Protestant Church, the Orthodox Church, the Jewish synagogue or Muslim mosque. (That does not even address the local property tax exemptions granted to these religious institutions.) Those deductions lower the tax burden of the religious donors and increase the tax burden for the rest of us. Here’s a modest proposal that I am sure the Catholic Church would willingly embrace: let’s ban any federal (or state) money going to any institution (hospital, school, etc.) that is controlled by a religious institution. For some reason, I don’t think the Catholic Church would embrace that proposal. They like to eat their cake and have it too. They remind me of those deluded Tea Partiers who were heard to loudly proclaim “the Federal government should keep its hands off my Social Security and Medicare.”

#31 Comment By Joseph D’Hippolito On February 10, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

Rod, since when is failing to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” not a high crime and misdemeanor? Pres. Nixon would have been impeached for failing to do exactly that had he not resigned.

#32 Comment By Jan Hus On February 10, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

The mandate will be changed. It’s such a clear violation of the first amendment, that this crazyness won’t stand the light of day. I hope it doesn’t come down to watching crowds of Christians being arrested, but if so, then so be it. In any case, this bone headed move will be rescinded.

All thinking Americans ought to be protesting this. Man the pitchforks and torches!!

#33 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 10, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

agentzero, I thought the answer was obvious, but I will be happy to state it explicitly:

Your hypothetical is entirely consistent with the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment, does not infringe the free exercise of religion, and is entirely ethical and appropriate. So is the current HHS regulation.

sdb, I am familiar with the Southern Baptist Convention’s profuse apologies… about thirty years after they provided the spiritual bulwark for resisting civil rights laws. But they have simply moved on to new forms of totalitarianism. The method remains, the empirics have changed.

Joseph d’H, as a citizen who regularly reads Supreme Court opinions, and is deeply devoted to the First Amendment, I’m not aware of any failure on President Obama’s part to “preserve, protect and defend” the same. Could you provide some details? Maybe Jan Hus, the Roman Catholic masquerading under a Protestant name, could help you out a bit, if he cares to make the effort.