Life, Marriage, Religious Freedom and the Next Four Years

James Tonkowich | Columnist | Thursday, January 24, 2013

Life, Marriage, Religious Freedom and the Next Four Years

The 57th inauguration of an American president occurred this year on Monday, January 21. It was Martin Luther King Day and the eve of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision unleashing an unlimited right to abortion in the United States.

In his inaugural address, Mr. Obama referenced the founders of the Republic and “inalienable rights.” On the one hand, that seems admirable. On the other hand, as the old political saying goes, “The devil is in the details,” a fact that was evident throughout the speech.

First, after affirming the need for “the freedom of every soul on Earth,” Mr. Obama went on to say “our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.” Who can object to that?

I can if it is (and I suspect it is) a commitment to defend and even expand (assuming that’s possible) the “right” to abortion. There’s a widely held belief that “abortion helps women finish their education and pursue careers.” Elise Italiano writing in Public Discourse lists this as the first of three “myths” about abortion — conventional wisdom that turns out to be false.

Nonetheless the belief persists and Mr. Obama, who has rightly been called the most extreme pro-abortion president in our history, will seek to capitalize on it.

Second, the president made his once vague position on extending marriage to same-sex couples crystal clear. After creating a moral equivalence between women’s rights (Seneca Falls), civil rights (Selma) and gay rights (Stonewall), he said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.”

The Washington Post probably understated the response by reporting, “Gay rights advocates were jubilant.” The defense of marriage as one man and one woman for life just got more urgent — and probably more difficult.

Third, “[P]eace in our time,” the president said, “requires those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.”

Tolerance as it was once used insists that (a) there is absolute truth, (b) we can know truth, and (c) truth may not be forced on anyone. Because God does not coerce belief, humans may not coerce belief either and, therefore, error must be tolerated.

By contrast, tolerance as it is used today insists that (a) there is no absolute truth, (b) everybody ought to know that by now, and (c) relativism may be — and perhaps should be  —forced on everyone since the archaic belief in absolute truth is nothing but bigotry cloaked in religious language. Thus freedom of religion — one of those inalienable rights the founders believed in — can be compromised.

From the start of Obama’s first term, his administration has talked about “freedom of worship” rather than “freedom of religion.” In doing so they’ve substituted the right to practice religion as a hobby for the muscular right to live our religious convictions and to take them fearlessly into the public square.

The HHS mandate regarding contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and the administration’s arguments before the Supreme Court that religious organizations do not have the right to choose their own leaders are just two pieces of evidence from his first term that indicate that Mr. Obama favors greater government regulation of religion.

Abortion and other life issues (cloning, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research, etc.), marriage, and religious liberty were problematic before the Obama administration arrived in the White House four years ago. But the past four years made things worse and the coming four years promise more of the same.

That’s why this Friday at the 39th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. — snow or no snow — I’ll be joining with others to collect signatures for the Manhattan Declaration.

The late Chuck Colson along with Robert George of Princeton University and Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School spearheaded the Manhattan Declaration out of concern with the prevailing culture of death, the death of the culture of marriage, and brazen attempts to marginalize Christian voices as we speak to these and other moral issues.

Those who march for life should want to sign the Declaration and so should readers of Religion Today. Go to to read, consider, and sign the Manhattan Declaration. Then think of ways you can get involved. There’s a battle going on out there.

Publication date: January 24, 2013