A Lutheran, a Jew, a Baptist and a Catholic Walk Into A Hearing
Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration
Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?" Witnesses include the head of my church body, the Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod).
there: Dr. Ben Mitchell of Union University, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of
Yeshiva University, Dr. Craig Mitchell of Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary and Roman Catholic Bishop William Lori of
The hearing included many of the members (on both
sides of the aisle) engaged in grandstanding, but that shouldn't take
away from the unity shown by the many religious bodies taking the threat
to religious liberty very seriously. This is routinely treated as an
issue for bishops or a Catholic issue, and that is far too narrow. This
is an issue that poses serious threats to all religious groups. In fact,
we're talking about threats to our individual freedom that go well
beyond religion -- the federal government telling individuals how to run
their businesses with no detail too small.
At one point, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., suggested that the religious leaders were lying when they said they were concerned about religious liberty and called the hearing "a sham."
wise of a political strategy is it for Democrats to shake their finger
at Catholic, Lutheran and Jewish leaders while calling them liars? It
didn't sit particularly well with me.
Rev. Harrison revisited the
topic later by saying that he loathes politics and reminding the members
that 98% of what we Lutherans do has nothing to do with politics and
that our church is full of Democrats and Republicans. We are focused on
preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments, rather than
politics. We pray for President Obama daily, he noted. He said he was
there for one reason and one reason only: the HHS threat to religious
liberty. Other leaders echoed those sentiments.
I believe that the
church has much more important work to do than weighing in on politics
every day. I can't emphasize how rare it is for our church to get
involved. I don't know if the head of our church body has ever testified
before Congress before.
And we do think this is a worthy fight.
Earlier today Rep. Nancy Pelosi told reporters she believes the federal
government should require the Catholic Church itself
to pay for free birth control. And Rep. DeLauro claimed, in the
hearing, that religious liberty doesn't extend beyond the right to
worship. She basically said that so long as religious people keep their
beliefs secret and private, she won't bring the boot heel of the state
down on us. Why thank you! It's really amazing we're complaining at all,
We don't want to engage in these politics, but we will if forced to. And it looks like we're being forced to.