My friends run the gamut politically, from ultra-conservative to uber-liberal. And for the most part I shrug off some of the stuff I see them post when it’s over the top, on either side.
Tonight, one of my friends posted a link to this column by Charles Krauthammer, with the comment that Krauthammer “nailed it”. The title? The Gospel According to Obama.
I’ll be up front – I’m no fan of Krauthammer. I find that for the most part, he’s dead wrong and just does what he can to promote the conservative ideology. So I was already skeptical before I clicked the link. And sure enough he didn’t disappoint.
What Krauthammer tries to take to task is the President’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he spoke about the precepts in the Bible about “to those who much is given, much shall be required”. Of course, cons have immediately tried to use this against the President to say he was politicizing religion. One even walked out during the President’s speech. They want to say that the President was using that statement to talk about politics. And to be sure, there was talk of policy in that speech.
But what is either willfully ignorant, or intentionally deceitful, is ignoring the context of what the President said. He quoted that piece of scripture to indicate what his thought process is when deciding on policy, whether in dealing with Wall St. or dealing with the homeless. He was explaining that his process is to think that the poor and the disadvantaged need help from those that have been more fortunate.
It means maybe that research lab on the cusp of a lifesaving discovery, or the company looking for skilled workers is going to do a little bit better, and we’ll all do better as a consequence. It makes economic sense. But part of that belief comes from my faith in the idea that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper; that as a country, we rise and fall together. I’m not an island. I’m not alone in my success. I succeed because others succeed with me. And when I decide to stand up for foreign aid, or prevent atrocities in places like Uganda, or take on issues like human trafficking, it’s not just about strengthening alliances, or promoting democratic values, or projecting American leadership around the world, although it does all those things and it will make us safer and more secure. It’s also about the biblical call to care for the least of these — for the poor; for those at the margins of our society.
Those are the parts the Krauthammer and his like ignore, because they’re inconvenient to his narrative.
To answer the responsibility we’re given in Proverbs to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” And for others, it may reflect the Jewish belief that the highest form of charity is to do our part to help others stand on their own.
Treating others as you want to be treated. Requiring much from those who have been given so much. Living by the principle that we are our brother’s keeper. Caring for the poor and those in need. These values are old. They can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers. And they are values that have always made this country great — when we live up to them; when we don’t just give lip service to them; when we don’t just talk about them one day a year. And they’re the ones that have defined my own faith journey.
Gosh. So political. Somehow, Krauthammer and his ilk expect the President of the United States should not inject religion into his policy, or policy into religion. Yet they believe there is no separation between church and state. It’s a strange little world they live in, where the church is allowed to dictate the policy of the state, but the door doesn’t swing the other way.
But the fact here is that the President was talking about how he thinks, what his relationship to his faith means in his daily decision-making. The “brother’s keeper” responsibility concept is alien to conservatives. They don’t get it, or don’t want to. Krauthammer certainly doesn’t want to. He morphs this discussion of ideology and decision -making into an argument against the IRS and taxation. Hmmm… why make that jump? Because it’s convenient to ignore what was really said – that we all should be willing to help those less fortunate, and that those more fortunate should be willing to help.
Then, Krauthammer makes a turn into left field to suddenly morph into a discussion on the contraception issue that is currently the hot topic. Of course he did. It’s the flavor of the week. But again, either through ignorance or deceit, he completely misstates the issue. He lumps everything together to try to make a case for his argument, ignoring facts. Like this little passage:
Accordingly, it would be a mockery of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment if, for example, the Catholic Church were required by law to freely provide such “health care services” (in secularist parlance) as contraception, sterilization and pharmacological abortion — to which Catholicism is doctrinally opposed as a grave contravention of its teachings about the sanctity of life.
But that isn’t what is at issue here. The church is not being required to provide any services. None. What is required is that businesses operated by the church for profit, such as a hospital, provide health insurance to the employees that includes coverage for contraception and birth control. Unless the church is insuring itself, it is obtaining such insurance through a third party. And in most cases, the hospital would employ many people not of the same faith. Simple basis – if they cannot discriminate in hiring based on faith, they certainly should not be exempt from rules that every other business must comply with, based on faith.
It does not apply to non-profits. Krauthammer tries to bring in the idea of a soup kitchen. But those employees are working for a non-profit, which is exempt. And employees of the church itself are exempted from this requirement. Krauthammer conveniently ignores these to make his deceitful point.
He points out this criterion:
Criterion 2: Any exempt institution must be one that “primarily employs” and “primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.” Catholic soup kitchens do not demand religious IDs from either the hungry they feed or the custodians they employ. Catholic charities and hospitals — even Catholic schools — do not turn away Hindu or Jew.
Again, willful ignorance or intentional deceit. Non-profits are one of the specific carve-outs from the rules. Specifically for the reason that they “serve”.
But here is the real deceit: This isn’t new. In fact, the regulations requiring employers to provide contraception coverage have been in place since December 2000. The Bush administration did nothing to change it. The reason that they are required is that it violates the Civil Rights Act to provide prescription medications, but to deny some medications based on gender. Since the contraception in question is specifically used by women, providing other medications in an insurance plan but not providing contraceptive medications is based on gender, and a violation.
The 2000 ruling by the EEOC, which was never challenged the entire term of the Bush presidency, had no exemptions for religion. None. The new rule actually relaxes the requirements to respond to religious beliefs. The only other difference is that teh new regulation states that the preventive care contraception must come at no cost – as do all other forms of preventive care medication. That’s it.
Another thing Krauthammer conveniently ignores is that this is law at the state level in 28 states, with 8 being even more restrictive. This isn’t new. This is old news, but suddenly is fodder for Krauthammer and his cronies.
Make no mistake – he knows the facts. But they’re far more convenient to ignore, and he has an all too willing readership that will listen to what he says without doing their homework. The faux outrage is simply another political ploy. But so it is with those who are willing to lie and ignore facts to make a political point.
I’m not a religious person. And yet, maybe that’s why I could see the President’s speech wasn’t about taxes, but about lifting up our fellow man when he is down. Krauthammer either is ignorant or a liar if he claims it was something else.