Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004) and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007). His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).
The Obama Mandate to Catholics: "To Hell With You!"
America's Catholic bishops are princes of diplomacy, highly educated, erudite, men of tact, propriety. They're asked to shepherd the flock with a long historical timeframe - say, eternity. They tend not to have knee-jerk reactions to issues of the moment.
And so, it's not often when a paragon of decorum, namely, Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, publishes a letter in his diocesan newspaper with a title such as, "To hell with you."
Gee, what could have provoked that? The answer is the Obama administration via its horrendous mandate to Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients - that is, birth-control drugs that induce abortion. The Catholic Church defines these things as "evil." The Church and its members are now being told they must provide them. By fiat, the Obama administration has issued that decree.
It sort of flies in the face of that old freedom of religion thing we've always had in America. And it's certainly of concern not merely to Catholics but all Americans.
Here's what happened:
Last August, the Obama administration's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidelines for implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obama-care." The guidelines mandated that by summer 2012 all health-insurance plans - yes, all of them - must cover any and all FDA-approved contraception, sterilization procedures, and pharmaceuticals, even those that produce or result in abortion. Every employer and employee must pay for these things, even if they violate the dictates of their conscience. The employers include all Catholic institutions, from colleges to hospitals to nursing homes to social-service agencies to charities . . . to whatever else. "All" means "all."
How's that for social justice?
When ex-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a lifetime Roman Catholic, said that we'll learn the details of Obama-care after Congress passes the legislation, this is a perfect illustration. The Devil is truly in the details.
In response to this screaming train-wreck, Catholics sent letters to Kathleen Sebelius, HHS secretary, who happens to be Roman Catholic. When she was governor of Kansas, Sebelius was so terrible on abortion, and so defiant of Church teaching, that her bishop ordered that she be denied Communion. Catholics protested directly to Sebelius.
On January 20, Sebelius and Barack Obama answered Catholics. As Bishop Zubik put it, "On Jan. 20, the Obama administration answered you and me. The response was very simple: 'To hell with you.'"
This is government by fiat that attacks the rights of everyone. . . . At no other time in memory or history has there been such a governmental intrusion on freedom. . . . It undermines the whole concept and hope for healthcare reform by inextricably linking it to the zealotry of pro-abortion bureaucrats. The mandate would require the Catholic Church as an employer to violate its fundamental beliefs concerning human life and human dignity. . . . It is really hard to believe that it happened.
All of the bishops are frustrated. Bishop Timothy Dolan of New York said that the Obama administration has basically told American Catholics that they have one year "to figure out how to violate our consciences."
In Phoenix, Bishop Thomas Olmsted appeared to urge civil disobedience. In a letter read to every church in his diocese, Olmsted wrote: "Unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). We cannot - we will not - comply with this unjust law."
Also vowing non-compliance is Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay and Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati. LifeNews.com reports that 86 bishops (thus far) have spoken against the mandate.
The Obama administration has forced the bishops' hand. President Obama and Secretary Sebelius are not backing down. They are true believers.
Where are liberals on this issue? We know they support the so-called "right to choose," politically sanctified by Roe v. Wade in January 1973. But the Constitution predates Roe by a good 200 years. The First Amendment that begins the Bill of Rights starts with religious freedom. Are liberals so devoted to "abortion rights" that they will trump the conscience of their fellow Americans?
Apparently so. They've already ensured that my tax dollars fund Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. It was only a matter of time before they forced me to fund abortifacients. The direct funding of actual abortion procedures is no doubt next. It's amazing, when it comes to abortion, pro-choice liberals have everything they want, but it isn't enough. Now they want to force pro-lifers - and our churches - to pay for their choices.
Sadly, all of this was so painfully predictable back in November 2008, when a majority of professing Roman Catholics voted Barack Obama president.
Well, you reap what you sow.
Readying Romney for the Class-Warfare Machine
If Mitt Romney gets the GOP nomination, prepare for a season of class warfare in America unlike any before. Not only has President Obama been pushing class warfare unceasingly for three years now, but his chief strategist, David Axelrod, has been employing precisely this tactic against Romney, and well before Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry started harshly criticizing Romney's Bain Capital work.
Axelrod, of course, is the Chicago-based consultant who got Obama elected. He was the chief architect of Obama 2008, right down to the very words "Hope and Change." The Los Angeles Times correctly calls him the "keeper" of the Obama message. The New York Times dubs him "Obama's Narrator." Axelrod honed the Obama image, got him elected, and changed this nation. Then, after two years as a presidential adviser, he went back to Chicago to strategize on reelecting Obama. "I have one campaign left," Axelrod told a reporter, "and it is going to be to try to elect a guy who I think is a great president."
Which Republican stands in the way? The leading candidate is Mitt Romney, who happens to be the candidate Axelrod and Obama want to run against. "Ax" is slicing up Mitt for an Occupy Wall Street feast. He sees Mitt as a hunk of red meat for the Occupy movement, the poster-boy for Wall Street greed.
"Obama officials intend to frame Romney as the very picture of greed in the great recession - a sort of political Gordon Gekko," reported an August 2011 Politico piece, titled, "Obama plan: Destroy Romney." The article quoted Axelrod:
He [Romney] was very, very good at making a profit for himself and his partners but not nearly as good [at] saving jobs for communities. He is very much the profile of what we've seen in the last decade on Wall Street.
This, mind you, was still before Occupy Wall Street exploded in September and October.
The Politico quoted a "prominent Democratic strategist" close to the White House: "Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney."
Well, indeed, Obama and Axelrod will run on Romney - tire-tracks and all.
Axelrod has steadily maintained this caricature of Romney. "He says he represents business," Axelrod told MSNBC in October, "but he really represents the Wall Street side of business."
Last Sunday, Axelrod told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that Romney is "rooting" for economic decline. He described Romney as a nefarious outsourcer of "tens of thousands of jobs," who "closed down more than 1,000 plants, stores, and offices" and "took 12 companies to bankruptcy." As this rapacious profiteer cheerfully destroyed companies and businesses and shops and shop-owners and the poor and the meek and the downtrodden and the crippled and the lame, "he and his partners made hundreds of millions of dollars."
"He is not a job creator," scowled Axelrod. "He is a corporate raider."
Axelrod frames this Romney way as the sinister "Bain mentality."
And if you thought the Occupy movement was worked up last fall, you ain't seen nothing yet. If Romney is the nominee, the Occupiers will go bananas this coming fall, especially if prodded by the Obama campaign.
With Barack Obama at the helm, and David Axelrod charting the course against Mitt Romney, this nation will set sail into a poisonous sea of class hatred. "Bain" Capital will be "Bane" Capital, as in evil. "Venture capital" will be "vulture capital."
This November's election might boil down to a fundamental debate between the merits of markets vs. central planning and wealth redistribution; that is where the rhetoric is headed.
If I were Mitt Romney, I would be prepared to carefully explain to Americans what venture capital is, and why someone with such economic experience is arguably perfect for the White House given today's economy. I would bone up on Friedman, Hayek, Mises, Hazlitt, Laffer, and, most of all, Marx. Oh, and I might Google the word "agitprop," understanding that I'll be thus targeted.
If Romney (as the nominee) does this right, he has a chance not only to win Americans' votes but also to educate them about the free-market system that has made their nation the marvel it is. An ugly campaign of class envy could become a valuable and teachable moment.
On Santorum, Democrats, and "God's Will"
In case you didn't notice, with George W. Bush out of office and a Democrat in the White House, the secular media stopped its handwringing over the president mentioning God. With Rick Santorum's surge, the hysteria has started again. Every religious utterance by Santorum will be a cause for apoplexy by the liberal press.
It will be just fine - perfect, actually - for President Obama to effectively claim that Jesus favors a 39.6 percent marginal income tax rate on wealthy Americans (as opposed to 36 percent), or repeatedly sermonize about being his "brother's keeper." It won't be preachy for Nancy Pelosi to urge no domestic drilling as "an act of worship." But if Rick Santorum's wife, Karen, dares to consider her husband's presidential pursuit as "God's will"?
Well, that's plainly unacceptable.
Speaking of God's will, I could offer countless examples of Democrats invoking precisely that. I've done articles, chapters, books, on the subject. Pick your liberal/progressive: Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore. Democrats have never been shy about claiming God's work as their own. The difference is that the secular press calls attention to this alleged malfeasance only when committed by conservatives.
To briefly illustrate the case, here are some examples from Bill Clinton: "By the grace of God and your help, last year I was elected president," said Bill Clinton, speaking at the Church of God in Christ in Memphis, November 1993. Or take this one: "Our ministry is to do the work of God here on Earth," said Clinton to a church in Temple Hills, Maryland, August 1994.
Mind you, Clinton said this not merely while speaking in churches but actively campaigning in churches - another tactic the press only permits of Democrats.
In fact, Bill Clinton's wife, as the senatorial candidate for New York in 2000, likewise campaigned in churches, as did Clinton's vice president, Al Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee. On election eve in November 2000, Mrs. Clinton campaigned in seven churches in seven hours.
Bill Clinton, sitting president, happily helped Hillary and Al Gore and other Democrats that year, barnstorming churches like a country preacher. On October 31, 2000, Clinton hit the Kelly Temple Church of God in Christ in Harlem. Joined by a contingent of fellow Democrat politicians, Clinton reminded congregants why they were there:
Now, we all know why we're here. . . . But I want to talk to you about the people that aren't in this church tonight . . . but they could vote. And they need to vote, and they need to know why they're voting. And that's really why you're here, because of all the people who aren't here. Isn't that right? . . .
So what you have to think about tonight is, what is it you intend to do between now and Tuesday, and on Tuesday, to get as many people there as possible and to make sure when they get to the polls, they know why they're there, what the stakes are, and what the consequences are. . . . If you've got any friends across the river in New Jersey or anyplace else, I want you to reach them between now and Tuesday, because this is a razor-thin election.
Speaking to the Alfred Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, Bill Clinton employed Scripture as justification to head to the polls:
The Scripture says, "While we have time, let us do good unto all men." And a week from Tuesday, it will be time for us to vote.
Clinton was joined at the Alexandria church by a prominent collection of Democrats. That talk came on October 29, 2000, at 12:40 p.m. Three hours earlier, at 9:40 a.m., he squeezed in another campaign talk to the congregation of the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. There, Clinton pitched various federal legislation and blasted Republican-proposed tax cuts before urging worshipers to go vote.
When Scripture was mentioned at these churches, it was for political purposes. It was a total infusion of church and state. And why not? shrugged Clinton. As he told a congregation in Newark, he and fellow Democrats were doing the Lord's work: "God's work must be our own."
Overall, Bill Clinton spoke in churches 21 times as president, over half of which came in election years. For the record, his wife did 27 churches in just two months in 2000.
The hypocrisy of the press on this issue is staggering. All a Republican needs to do is mention God and secular liberals go wild. Meanwhile, liberal Democrats can say anything they want about God - even while blatantly campaigning in churches - and their media allies will not utter a peep of protest.
"God's will?" To the press, that's the domain of Democrats alone.
Satan and Santorum: Perspective from Reagan's Evil Empire Speech
The secular world today trembles and shudders at the sight of Rick Santorum speaking on good and evil at Ave Maria University in Florida in 2008. Santorum's statement came 25 years after another much-maligned social conservative, Ronald Reagan, delivered a similarly fiery speech in Florida in 1983. In both cases, the secular left recoiled in horror, mortified that any American other than Barack Obama or Jimmy Carter might dare remark on matters of faith and state, of the temporal and eternal.
I caught excerpts of Santorum's speech for the first time yesterday, when America's omnipresent force - Matt Drudge - posted a link under the grim, black-and-white headline, "SANTORUM'S SATAN WARNING." Immediately, the remainder of the natural universe leapt in knee-jerk hysteria, and soon Santorum's warnings of the Evil One were the talk of a stunned nation.
As I digested the speech, I was struck at how so many of Santorum's themes and words echoed those expressed in Ronald Reagan's historic Evil Empire speech. Santorum ruminated on evil, spiritual warfare, truth, vanity, sensuality, temptation, pride, education, and abortion. Like Reagan, he fears that the "great political conflict" in America "is not a political war at all, or a cultural war - it is a spiritual war." In that war, "the father of lies" has "set his sights" on America.
And then, like Reagan, Santorum finished with a message of faith-based optimism for the faithful:
My message to you today is that you will lose, you will lose battle after battle; you will become frustrated, but do not lose hope. God will be faithful, if you are.
As for Ronald Reagan's Evil Empire speech, it was many things. It is remembered as a bold, long-overdue utterance of searing truth about the USSR, which Reagan described as "the focus of evil in the modern world." But the speech was much more. It looked inward at the sins and evils at work in America - as did Santorum's speech. It was first and foremost a speech about evil generally, theological as much as political - like Santorum's speech. As Reagan himself put it:
We know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin.
Reagan dared to use the "J" word: "There is sin and evil in the world, and we're enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might."
Reagan spoke on March 8, 1983, at the Orlando Sheraton. The audience was the National Association of Evangelicals. He began by thanking those present for their prayers. He cited his favorite quote from Lincoln, about being driven to his knees by the "overwhelming conviction" that he had nowhere else to go. He commended the crucial role of faith in democracy. "Freedom prospers only where the blessings of God are avidly sought and humbly accepted," Reagan maintained. "The American experiment in democracy rests on this insight." He said the discovery of that insight was the "great triumph" of the Founders. Indeed it was.
Characteristically, Reagan cited George Washington on the indispensability of religion and morality to "political prosperity." Reagan bemoaned the "modern-day secularism" that had discarded the "tried and time-tested values" upon which American civilization was based. He expressed deep concern over rising illegitimate births and abortions. He pushed for prayer in public schools.
Reagan then underscored the evils pervading American life. "Our nation, too, has a legacy of evil with which it must deal," said Reagan, pointing to the "long struggle of minority citizens for equal rights." He insisted: "There is no room for racism, anti-Semitism, or other forms of ethnic and racial hatred in this country."
Like Santorum, Reagan essentially agreed that America, too, had been victimized by Satan. Racism and slavery were among the Devil's vicious victories.
Reagan cast America's struggle as spiritual: "The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith." He referred to Marxism-Leninism as "the second oldest faith, first proclaimed in the Garden of Eden with the words of temptation, 'Ye shall be as gods.'''
Alas, Reagan finished with a burst of faith-based optimism, quoting Isaiah:
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increased strength. . . . But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary.
Of course, in reaction to Reagan's speech, the press went nuts, much like the reaction to Santorum's remarks.
Oh, well. To borrow from Reagan: There they go again.
Hang in there, Rick. Be not afraid. *