"Nuns hopeful of stay," read the headlines. No, they weren't going to be executed. Only their consciences were to be violated. The HHS Mandate was going to force them to cover abortifacient drugs that can end the lives of unborn children. Now, and only temporarily, the Supreme Court has stayed the execution of the HHS Mandate under ObamaCare.
Never in America's long history has such a headline even been imaginable. The gravest threat to religious freedom has been part of what President Obama meant when he said he would "fundamentally transform this country." Nuns have faced anti-Catholicism, Bible riots, and various forms of Klan-instigated bigotry, but never has the federal government itself threatened to snuff out the lamp of freedom. Evangelicals and Lutherans, too, face a hostile administration.
That's in part why the Hobby Lobby and the Conestoga Wood Company have appealed to the Supreme Court to exempt them from the HHS Mandate that violates their deepest religious convictions.
Religious freedom is the necessary pre-condition of civil freedom. In his first Inaugural Address in 1789, President George Washington spoke of the "sacred fire of liberty." He said it had been entrusted to the American people by Providence.
Washington's colleague, James Madison, recognized this truth and noted that religious liberty had been secured in their home state three years earlier, with the passage on January 16, 1786, of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Madison wrote that this world historical enactment had added to "the lustre of our country." Indeed it had. Religious freedom was foundational for the American experiment in ordered liberty. Madison argued in Federalist No. 51 that:
In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of country and number of people comprehended under the same government.
President Obama has not only sought to crush religious freedom at home. He delivered a 2009 address at Egypt's Al Azhar University. He extended an olive branch to what he termed "the Muslim world." By bowing to Islamic supremacist ideas in that hotbed of Muslim Brotherhood, the new U.S. leader was signaling to Islamists throughout the region that this country would henceforth side with them provided only that they came to power democratically. In Egypt, where 84% of the inhabitants report that anyone who departs from Islam should be killed, the prospects for true liberty were limited at best.
Undeterred by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's regime, Mr. Obama showered U.S. foreign aid on those who seek to murder their neighbors who worship differently. In Egypt, for example, this administration shoveled Americans' tax dollars into the coffers of Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate for president. Muslim Brotherhood activists attacked Coptic Christians throughout Egypt, leaving hundreds dead. Morsi himself announced that his Number One objective when he visited the U.S. was to obtain the release of the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted of the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.
Mistaking the Muslim Brotherhood movement-and the support it regrettably received from Egyptian voters-as evidence of democracy in an "Arab Spring," the Obama administration reacted negatively to the Egyptian military's overthrow of Mohamed Morsi and banning of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Few Christians in Egypt doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization. And few Christians in the Middle East can now look to the Obama administration for friendship and support.
President Obama bowed before Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah. The Saudis burn Bibles and behead those who convert to Christianity. Even so, Saudi Arabia now views the U.S. with distrust because of the Obama administration's Munich-style accord with the Shi'ite mullahs of Tehran.
The situation of Israel is little better. President Obama went to Jakarta, Indonesia, to hail that Muslim majority country as a beacon of tolerance. But Indonesia tolerates no Jews and Christian schoolgirls have been beheaded walking to their Catholic school. Mr. Obama chose Jakarta as a platform to denounce Jews in Jerusalem for building new apartments. He ignored the sage advice of Winston Churchill, who had said: "Let the Jews have Jerusalem; it is they who made it famous. Even today, Obama's Sec. of State John Kerry is pressuring the Jewish state to make dangerous territorial concessions to the political heirs of Yasser Arafat. Arafat and his PLO invented airline hijacking for terrorist purposes.
History may record that the Obama administration was the most anti-Christian, and anti-Israel administration in U.S. history. Let us hope not. There is time yet to turn around. The Mideast is imploding. States are collapsing and what one Egyptian diplomat called "tribes with flags" are rising up. Perhaps the most hopeful sign from this violence-racked region was the photo of Muslim men ringing a church in Egypt to protect Christian worshipers. This is the way to re-kindle "the sacred fire of liberty." We appeal to the Obama administration to change course.