President-elect Barack Obama angered gay groups this week by choosing “Purpose Driven Life” author Rick Warren to give the invocation at Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Despite the fact that Obama and Warren have the exact same position on same-sex marriage, gay leaders like Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese object to “the symbolism” of inviting an “anti-gay theologian” to deliver his inaugural invocation.
But while gay groups have the luxury of worrying about the “symbolism” of Obama choices that have no actual effect on real-world policy, social conservatives are not so lucky. Yesterday, the Bush administration issued a regulation clarifying a 1970s anti-discrimination law that prohibits recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and health care aides who refuse to take part in procedures because of their religious convictions. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has already sponsored legislation to overturn the regulation and Obama has previously stated that he is committed to undoing the law. This is very unfortunate.
On June 28. 2006, then-Sen. Obama said, “Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. … To say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.” We couldn’t agree more. Already Obama is facing pressure from the left to dismiss mainstream religious views like those of Warren from the public square entirely. We hope Obama continues to resist these efforts. In particular, Obama should continue to reach out to religious Americans by giving support to the following policies:
- Protect the ability of faith-based social service providers to honor their religious integrity by maintaining their right to make employment decisions based on religious convictions. Forcing faith-based organizations to abandon their religious identity and religious integrity whenever they partner with the federal government to serve the needy would be a major mistake. As Obama made clear, it would be wrong to ask religious organizations to “leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square” — but for many religious organizations, forcing them to abandon their hiring rights whenever they participate in publicly backed social service efforts would do just that.
- Ensure the availability of federal conscience protections that free medical professionals to serve patients without violating their religious beliefs. In addition to letting Bush’s “conscience rule” stand, Obama should resist other legislation that will force pro-life believers to perform abortions. As even Slate has admitted, legislation like the Freedom of Choice Act will force Catholic hospitals to either perform abortions or shut down. It is impossible to see how forcing people to participate in procedures they consider to be morally objectionable does not require them to “leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.”
- Call on all citizens to respect the ability of religious citizens to participate in public policy debates — including debates about marriage — without fear of intimidation and reprisal. Obama correctly stated that it would be a “practical absurdity” for Americans not to “inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates.” In the days since your election, for example, this country has witnessed acts of blatant religious hatred directed against those who supported Proposition 8, the ballot measure in California defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. People who donated to Proposition 8 have been pressured out of their jobs; their businesses have been targeted for reprisals; churches have been vandalized; a copy of The Book of Mormon has been set on fire on the steps of a Mormon church; and suspicious white powder has been sent to Mormon temples. Obama should condemn all efforts to intimidate religious people in the civic arena and should welcome the contributions and perspectives that stem from their “personal morality.”
Obama has made a solemn commitment to allowing space for religious conviction in the public square. Accordingly, we respectfully urge him to uphold the hiring rights of faith-based social service providers, to strengthen laws protecting conscience rights in the health care arena, and to condemn acts of hostility and intimidation directed against religious individuals and institutions that choose to put their faith into action by supporting important public policies that correspond with their moral views.
- The official price tag for Obama’s preferred stimulus package has now reached $850 billion.
- Obama’s choices for labor secretary and trade representative have conflicting view on free trade.
- Interest rates on 30-year fixed rate mortgages dipped to their lowest level in at least 37 years.
- Democrats in Illinois are backing off their calls for a special election to fill Obama’s vacant Senate seat.
- Seeking to “strengthen cooperation,” Russia is hosting a meeting next week of natural gas exporters.