Freedom of religion. We take it for granted.
This past Friday evening, Karen lit candles, ushering in Shabbat.. Openly wearing my kippah,, I walked to shul and prayed with scores of friends and neighbors. After prayers, Karen and I sat down to a joyous dinner where we sang Shabbat songs and expressed gratitude to G-d for all he has given us.
Karen and I did all this without fear.
My grandfather, Rabbi Shmuel Avrech, lived in fear as a pious Jew in the Pale of Settlement. Would the flickering Shabbat candles invite a rock or a Molotov cocktail thrown through his window? Perhaps the sight of my grandfather and other Torah-observant Jews would enrage neighbors who would shriek “Christ-killer,” and the state-incited/sanctioned pogrom would follow.
Rabbi Shmuel left the Pale of Settlement for America before the Holocaust. He never claimed to have foreseen the coming genocide. But he did say that there was no future in a land where Jew-hatred was a foundational element of the Church: Russian Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant. And the church of communism as well.
My grandfather crossed the ocean to America alone. My grandmother Miriam and her infant children — my father Abraham and my uncle Chaim — remained in the Pale for several years until Shmuel earned enough money to pay their passage to the goldene medina.
In America, they were desperately poor. But they were free — free to practice Judaism in a way that was unthinkable in Christian Europe.
Jewish freedom of worship remains unimaginable in post-Christian Europe, where radical leftist secularism and Islamic theocratic supremacism are locked in an alliance whose foundation is genocidal Jew-hatred disguised as anti-Zionism. Both ideologies call for the annihilation of the Jewish people. And then, like Stalin and Hitler’s non-aggression pact, each plans on destroying the other.
We tend to view freedom of worship as a civil code where a commitment to G-d is not suspected of being in conflict with the good citizenship of loyalty to country. A friend who is a Jehovah’s Witness refuses to pledge allegiance to the flag. He believes that saluting or pledging to a flag is equivalent to worshiping the flag and its leaders, and explained that his sole devotion is to G-d. (If I remember correctly, he cited the Book of Daniel as a source.)
So: even this theology is tolerated in America — an astonishing freedom. Which means that you can be loyal to G-d without fear of being labeled an enemy of the state.
It seems to me that freedom to worship in Judeo/Christian America—in contrast to the anti-Judeo/Christianity of Europe—is a unique concept whereby the state voluntarily alters itself in order to absorb and accommodate religious practice.
But Barack Obama’s authoritarian regime, along with the radical Democrat party, are moving to reverse this equation by insisting that religion and religious people alter themselves in order to accommodate the state.
This is a perversion — a European perversion — of Americanism.
The postmodern Democrat ideology of state supremacy over religion signals the growth of a deeply reactionary movement where the worship and love of G-d is tolerated and regulated by the shifting whims of the progressive-autocratic state.
Mona Charen has written a fine article at NRO about Obama and the Democrat persecution of the Catholic order Little Sisters of the Poor and the horrifying implications for those of us who cherish not just the freedom of religion, but all our freedoms.
An administration as image-conscious as this one should have been more careful in its choice of antagonists. The Little Sisters of the Poor is a Catholic charity providing care to the poorest elderly in a hospice-like setting. They serve 13,000 people in 31 countries, and operate 30 homes in the United States. Their faith calls them to treat every person, no matter how old, disabled, or poor, as if he or she were “Jesus himself.” There is no religious test for admission, only that you be poor and in need of care at the end of life. Think thousands of Mother Teresas. Today, they are facing harassment from the Obama administration.
In 1970, David and Barbara Green founded Hobby Lobby in their garage (which seems to be where all great American businesses are born these days). The family now owns 500 of the arts-and-crafts stores, employing 13,000. They also own Mardel, a chain of Christian bookstores.
The Greens run their businesses according to their lights. They don’t believe in alcohol consumption, so their stores do not sell shotglasses or other drinking-related items. They play Christian music. They close on the Sabbath (losing millions per year). Employees are offered free access to chaplains, other counselors, and religiously oriented financial courses. Because the Greens abjure alcohol, they lose money annually by declining to permit their delivery trucks to “back haul” liquor. They provide health insurance that covers 16 different contraceptives. They draw a line, though, on providing four methods that they consider abortifacients, and that’s why they have found themselves in court facing the federal government (along with 300 other litigants challenging the HHS mandates).
Hobby Lobby, the federal government argues, must bow to the regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services under Obamacare and provide all 20 methods of contraception, including Plan B and Ella. If they decline, they will be assessed a fine of $100 per day per employee, or $475 million per year.
ObamaCare is the willful dismemberment of the finest health care system the world has ever known, a first step in nationalizing the insurance industry, and a dagger to the heart of of religion and religious people.
This paragraph leaped out at me.
It’s also a worrying precedent. As the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs urged in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, if Hobby Lobby can be forced to provide abortifacients, then observant Jewish employers (if incorporated) could be forced to open on Saturdays, serve non-kosher food, or engage in other practices that violated the consciences of the owners.
Read the entire article here.