Obama’s More Deferential to Afghan Muslims Than American Catholics

Terence P. Jeffrey | February 24, 2012 | 12:14pm EST
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President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Here is a simple question with an obvious answer: Is President Barack Obama more deferential to the religious sensibilities of Afghan Muslims or the religious freedom of American Catholics?

The answer: Obama is more deferential to the religious sensibilities of Muslims in Afghanistan than to the religious freedom of Catholics in the United States.

Let’s stipulate a point of principle out front: People should not burn Korans, period. To burn a Koran, whether as a premeditated act of spite or as a boneheaded mistake, is wrong.

That being said, the Korans burned at Bagram Air Force in Afghanistan were burned as the result of a boneheaded mistake--not as a conscious effort to affront Muslims.

Here in the United States, President Obama’s decision to order Roman Catholics to act against the teachings of their faith by forcing Catholics to buy insurance that pays for sterilizations, artificial contraceptives and abortifacients was not made by mistake. Obama did it with long and careful premeditation--fully understanding that the Catholic Church would (correctly) perceive the regulation as a very serious and direct attack on the free exercise of religion by Catholics.

We know this because from August to February, the Catholic bishops of the United States repeatedly warned the Obama administration directly and through public statements that the administration's sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate was an attack on the religious liberty of Catholics and that Catholics would adamantly oppose it as an attack on their religious liberty.

In official comments delivered to HHS on Aug. 31, the Catholic bishops said: “Indeed, such nationwide government coercion of religious people and groups to sell, broker, or purchase ‘services’ to which they have a moral or religious objection represents an unprecedented attack on religious liberty.”

On Sept. 30, the Catholic bishops distributed a call-to-action sheet in church bulletins across the nation. It said that Obama’s sterilization-contraception-abortfacient mandate “poses an unprecedented threat to individual and institutional religious freedom” and called on Catholics to contact HHS to urge the administration to rescind the mandate in its entirety.

In January, most of America’s Catholic bishops asked that their parish priests read a letter from the pulpit denouncing Obama’s regulation. The letter said in part: “In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.”

“We cannot--we will not--comply with this unjust law,” the bishops said.

Obama did not respond by apologizing to Catholics. Instead, he responded by finalizing the regulation, thus moving forward with an unambiguous effort to deny Catholics the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the Constitution that Obama swore to uphold.

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh summed up Obama’s action this way: “The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States,‘To Hell with you!’ There is no other way to put it.”

"This is government by fiat that attacks the rights of everyone--not only Catholics; not only people of all religion,” said Bishop Zubik. “At no other time in memory or history has there been such a governmental intrusion on freedom not only with regard to religion, but even across-the-board with all citizens.”

In a letter to Americans serving in the military, including those serving in Afghanistan, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, summed up Obama’s regulation this way: “It is a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle.”

The Obama Defense Department tried to censor Archbishop Broglio’s letter—thus compounding one violation of the First Amendment (abridging the free exercise of religion) with another (abridging the freedom of speech).

As outspoken as they were in declaring that the Obama administration was violating the rights of Catholics with its regulation, the Catholic bishops did not call anybody into the streets. They did not incite riots. They did not sanction or condone any kind of violence or destruction of property. They simply called for this: That Americans should use the constitutional rights we still have to peacefully address our government and ask that our right to the free exercise of our religion be respected and restored by those who have sworn an oath to God to do so.

The peaceful, articulate, intellectually and morally powerful pleas of faithful Catholics in this country—and of those of other denominations who have joined with Catholics in calling for respect for religious liberty—have been ignored by President Obama even as they have been distorted and mocked by some of his allies in Congress.

How different was the administration’s response to the outrage of Muslims in Afghanistan?

After it was revealed earlier this week that American forces at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan had mistakenly burned some Korans, Gen. John Allen, the U.S.commander in that country, recorded a video profusely apologizing to Muslims and announcing that he had launched an investigation of the incident.

“To the noble people of Afghanistan: I have ordered an investigation into a report I received during the night that ISAF personnel at Bagram Air Base improperly disposed of a large number of Islamic religious materials which included Korans,” said Gen.Jones. “When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them. The materials recovered will be properly handled by appropriate religious authorities.

“We are thoroughly investigating the incident and we are taking steps to ensure this does not ever happen again,” said Gen. Jones. “I assure you--I promise you--this was NOT intentional in any way.

“I offer my sincere apologies for any offense this may have caused, to the president of Afghanistan,the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and most importantly, to the noble people of Afghanistan,” said Gen. Jones.

“I would like to thank the local Afghan people who helped us identify the error, and who worked with us to immediately take corrective action,” he said.

Following the general’s apology there were demonstrations in the streets across Afghanistan, and a man in an Afghan Army uniform shot and killed two American soldiers.

Then President Obama dispatched an ambassador with a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai to personally apologize for the mistaken, boneheaded burning of the Korans.

The Taliban responded by calling for American troops to be killed, beaten and captured.

Obama, meanwhile, is moving forward with his presidential command that American Catholics must act against their faith by purchasing coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients--drugs that take the lives of innocent unborn children.

It is plain as day: Obama is more deferential to the religious sensibilities of Muslims in Afghanistan than he is to the constitutionally protected religious liberty of Catholics in the United States of America.

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