Freedom of Religion

Contraception, Immigration, and Liberal and Conservative Hypocrisy

Partisans decide their position on religious liberty based on their partisan agendas toward the specific issues.

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Laughing at politics is important; it keeps you from crying. Fortunately we have no shortage of amusing material. Take the debate over religious liberty and obligations to the state.

A couple of years ago the country was consumed by arguments over whether the government should be able to force employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception. The Obama administration originally had tried to impose such an obligation on everyone, including religious institutions that object to contraception, but backed down—grudgingly—in the face of widespread outrage.

It didn't back down in other cases, however—such as Hobby Lobby. Eventually the Supreme Court ruled that the craft-store chain and other closely held corporations have at least a statutory religious-freedom right to exemption from the mandate as well. (Another case, concerning the Little Sisters of the Poor and several other similar parties, is on its way to the High Court now.)

The contraception mandate was imposed through Obamacare and was favored by abortion-rights groups, so opinions fell along predictable lines. Conservatives defended the right of devout employers to exemption. They argued that forcing people to violate the dictates of conscience when employees could easily get contraception by other means was tyrannical.

Liberals argued that companies had no business forcing their religious views down employees' throats, and that letting them do so would set a dangerous precedent. One deep thinker at The New Yorker wondered what would happen when the Taliban set up a closely held corporation so it could deny polio vaccines to children. Others pointedly cited Justice Antonin Scalia's view in an earlier case: that the "right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability." To hold otherwise, Scalia wrote, would invite "anarchy."

The two sides took the same stances in the various cases concerning whether bakers, photographers, and others who object to gay marriage on religious grounds should be forced to provide services for gay weddings. Conservatives said religious liberty trumped equal-protection guarantees; liberals said the opposite.

And then everybody switched.

Well, maybe not everybody— generalizations are dangerous. But plenty of people on the right started sounding like leftists, and plenty of those on the left started sounding like rightists. Why?

Illegal immigration.

As Christianity Today reported recently, "US Churches Defy Federal Law and Offer Sanctuary to Illegal Immigrants." Federal immigration raids have prompted at least 50 churches across the country to take in scores of unlawfully present foreigners.

And boy, how the tunes have changed.

"U.S. Churches Offer Safe Haven For A New Generation Of Immigrants," reported NPR, which characterized the action as "civil disobedience." In November, it interviewed an undocumented immigrant who had been staying in a Texas church for 15 months. NPR really put the screws to her with hard-hitting questions about "how she would respond to people who say that sanctuaries like the ones she used shouldn't be allowed" ("When I hear these words of hate, I don't understand them," she answered) and what she thought of "the objection that she has violated the law" ("I don't really see it that way").

The liberal ThinkProgress—a sharp critic of Hobby Lobby—has likewise painted the movement in golden hues with a paean to its "activist roots." But it recognizes there are difficulties, too. For instance, "there is no single national organization dedicated to helping churches find a suitable sanctuary case." Gosh, if only there were!

Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva (D), who denounced the Hobby Lobby ruling as a giant step backward, thinks the sanctuary church movement is wonderful: "It speaks to faith and it speaks to the humanity of this issue."

Meanwhile, conservatives are not thrilled to see churches fulfill their God-given mission of helping the poor and downtrodden. "Do Churches Have a Responsibility to Turn over Illegal Immigrants?" asks Fox News, which helpfully introduces the topic by bringing up "the murder of Kate Steinle by illegal immigrant Francisco Sanchez."

That was also how conservative bomb-thrower Michelle Malkin introduced her own piece on the topic. "Churches across the country are brazenly thumbing their noses at our immigration laws," she argues. "And political phonies are doing nothing to stop them." Contrast that with Hobby Lobby. Of the chain's owners, she wrote, "Christian faith is at the heart of how they do business"—not like those "intolerant freaks at the White House." That piece was titled, "Thank you, Hobby Lobby."

Then there was Breitbart.com, which said Hobby Lobby was practicing "civil disobedience, consistent with America's highest traditions when moral issues are at stake… The Christian tradition of defying government commands to do something wrong goes back to the very birth of Christianity."

So what does Breitbart have to say about sanctuary churches? This: "A two-time border invader given sanctuary in a Portland church for months has become a cause celeb (sic) for Pacific North-leftists in spite of multiple criminal convictions. Francisco Aguirre-Velasquez, 36, isn't some well-intentioned immigrant pursuing the American Dream; he's a professional job-thief enabler hellbent on turning the United States into a socialist nightmare."

Yes, certain nuances—Hobby Lobby isn't a church, for example—make the parallels imperfect. But the principles remain the same. And for too many, those principles depend to a great extent on whose ox is being gored. So go ahead and laugh—or cry.

This article originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. The concept of sanctuary/asylum has a lineage that spans more than 3,000 years of history in Western civilization. One would think soi-disant “conservatives” would seek to defend it.

    1. Even if they do, that just means the law doesn’t bust into the church. Once the person steps off of church property, the law is free to arrest them. I seriously doubt these people never leave church grounds. They are just living in the church while working somewhere else.

      The most I could see this meaning is they just deport them when they are at work instead of busting into the church. That is probably the most reasonable position. I don’t see how having the cops bust down church doors leads anywhere good. Reasonable or no, I don’t see how it makes any practical difference, since either the immigrants either end up prisoners in the church or deported once they step off church property.

      1. Once the person steps off of church property, the law is free to arrest them. I seriously doubt these people never leave church grounds. They are just living in the church while working somewhere else.

        Fair enough, that’s how it worked in antiquity.

        Reasonable or no, I don’t see how it makes any practical difference, since either the immigrants either end up prisoners in the church or deported once they step off church property.

        Right, so I don’t understand the spit-flecked rage it seems to be inducing among the Brietbart crowd. Isn’t it a better state of affairs from their point of view?

        1. I agree and don’t quite get it either. My best guess is that they don’t consider giving shelter to immigrants to be a religious duty. And I can see their point. It would be one thing if the church ran a homeless shelter and took in everyone. And maybe that is what is going on here. The question is would they give you or I shelter if we asked or is this only available to illegals. If its only available to illegals, then i have a whole lot less sympathy for the churches here.

          Regardless, reason’s claim of this having anything to do with the contraception mandate is complete bullshit.

          1. The question is would they give you or I shelter if we asked or is this only available to illegals. If its only available to illegals, then i have a whole lot less sympathy for the churches here.

            Absolutely, though it’s certainly not unheard of for churches to regularly offer sanctuary to the homeless of all creeds and colors.

        2. Exactly. It’s not like 40 million people are going to sleep in churches.

    2. Open borders =/= sanctuary.

      Immigration for economic reasons =/= asylum.

      As for the equivalence between contraception mandates and sanctuary for immigrants, this is exactly the kind of cockup you get when you try to have both a plenary state and religious freedom. Conflict between religious diktats and state diktats is inevitable, and parsing whether anyone is being a hypocrite requires you to rule on whether their religious diktats are genuine or a pretext. Which, in itself, is abhorrent to the idea of religious freedom when done by the state.

      Are people using religion as a pretext for their political views? Of course they are. The problem, though, is that we now have a state with power that extends into every corner of your life, and will inevitably step on someone’s genuine political views. A limited government is much less prone to this problem.

      1. Make that “genuine religious views”. Thanks for the no-edit button, Reason.

      2. As far as I know it is a crime to hire an illegal alien but not a crime to harbor one. The immigration laws, therefore do not demand that churches violate their religious teachings. To be comparable to the contraception mandate, the feds would have to make it a crime not to turn in an illegal alien. And that is not the case as far as I know.

          1. Thank you. Assuming the churches are really acting on their conscience, then i would agree that prosecuting them is wrong. That said, if they are just giving shelter to illegals and not to anyone, then I don’t see how they are acting on their conscience.

            1. So you’re saying that if someone beileves to be acting according to their conscience, they should be free from prosecution? So if some Black Lives Matter activists decide to beat up a marine, or some Sanders supporters decide to trash someone’s car that is too expensive for their taste, as long as they are acting according to their conscience that’s OK with you? I don’t think so.

              If churches harbor illegals, they should be prosecuted the same way as anybody else who does the same thing.

      3. Open borders =/= sanctuary.

        Immigration for economic reasons =/= asylum.

        I’m not sure what your ipse dixit formulations have to do with anything considering that the concept of sanctuary a) predates the nation-state and controls over movement across borders, and b) is intimately tied to the Classical concepts of hospitium or xenia, which were assumed to be granted to all foreigners.

        Similarly, there are contemporary accounts of debtors seeking asylum during the antiquity all the time.

        The problem, though, is that we now have a state with power that extends into every corner of your life, and will inevitably step on someone’s genuine political views. A limited government is much less prone to this problem.

        I agree wholeheartedly.

        1. I’m just pointing out that its difficult to align many pro-immigration positions with concepts of asylum or sanctuary, especially with the massive abuse of the language attempting to disguise economic migration as seeking asylum.

          The specifics of churches giving old-school sanctuary may line up better, but I wonder how many really are as a religious practice, as opposed to being motivated by politics. The churches I know of who are participating in this (anecdote, I know) are run by the kind of liberation theology knuckleheads who don’t do anything unless it to advance the political cause.

    3. But the old ‘conservative” meaning was that if you get sanctuary/asylum you are stuck in that sanctuary/asylum. That is not what the “immigrant” wants, they want freedom to leave the sanctuary/asylum and live a normal life.

      And since it appears that the government is allowing the sanctuary/asylum immigrant to stay in the sanctuary/asylum then they are using the real meaning

    4. How else could Quasimodo protect Esmeralda? (Anyone who looked like the nineteen year old Maureen O’Hara certainly needed protection.)

  2. Contraception, Immigration, and Hypocrisy: New at Reason

    You know some people are going to claim none of the three are actually new at Reason, right? And then they’re going to suggest your next new immigrant ought to be somebody that’ll profread the headlines and consider the phrasing.

  3. Donald Trump is going to provide this country with what it’s prayed for: an immigrant prophylactic right there at the border. (There, that ties everything in this article together.)

  4. So Reason’s position is now that Churches should be free to offer save haven to anyone wanted by the law? That puts a whole new spin on the Catholic Church pedophile Priest scandal.

    I don’t see for a moment how telling Churches they must pay for something that is against their religion is anything like the same as telling them they can’t harbor fugitives from the law, even if you think the law is unjust. Beyond that, I don’t see where anyone is saying the churches should be punished or forced to turn over the immigrants. The issue is should ICE go in and deport the immigrants. I don’t see how doing that is forcing the churches to do anything against their conscience.

    1. I don’t think people should be forced to pay for contraception against their will. I also don’t think people should be forced to pay for illegal immigration against their will. This is not a contradiction. Open borders are an assault on private property.

      The fact that sanctuary/asylum has a long history does not mean it’s always and forever a good thing, in any amount. We’re a broke welfare state, and immigration is lowering wages, increasing crime, and lowering social trust. And it’s completely insane to take Muslim refugees while Islam is at war with itself and the rest of the world.

      1. Exactly, what if they were offering asylum to eco terrorists? Would Reason be all about protecting religious freedom then?

        As stated above, the Asylum is only good if you are on the property. So there really isn’t a conflict here. Just because they are staying at a church doesn’t mean the Feds can’t police them up the moment they step off church property.

        1. You seem to live under the misconception that “protecting religious freedom” means giving churches special privileges and exemptions from laws.

          Churches are just private property, no more and no less.The same laws ought to apply there as anywhere else. Any other way of dealing with religion amounts to an establishment of religion and is unconstitutional.

  5. My grandpa sells cheap prophylactics
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  6. RIght, so defending the rights of business owners to offer whatever kind of insurance they want. to people who are free to accept that job or look for employment elsewhere is hypcricy because that same person thinks that a person who is not just an illegal immigrant, but a convict, shouldn’t be given sanctuary in a church.

    The Breitbart article that Hinkle linked to regarding the guy in Portland makes no demands of the church WHATSOEVER. Nor is the article in anyway specifically denouncing the church or other churches. He is denouncing the guy, and others like him. RTFA!

    Indeed the Christianity today article headline that the writer quotes is in itself misleading. It makes it sound like churches were the victims of federal raids. No. Businesses were, and then the churches decided to provide sanctuary to those people who were either rounded up and not deported, or weren’t actually caught in the net.

    These are not the same principles involved at all!

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  8. That the state has the authority to regulate immigration is part of the traditional definition of sovereignty and is not really controversial except in the details. The notion that the state has the authority to dictate employment benefits to employers and employees is rather novel and controversial as a principle. To compare resistance to both these types of laws is a bit disingenuous.

    1. “To compare resistance to both these types of laws as mirror images of each other is a bit disingenuous.”

      1. I love you for linking that, I may have to spend couple hours just basting in the language used. However,

        There shall be a full Liberty of Commerce, a secure Passage by Sea and Land: and after this manner all and every one of the Vassals, Subjects, Inhabitants and Servants of the Allys, on the one side and the other, shall have full power to go and come, to trade and return back, by Virtue of this present Article, after the same manner as was allowed before the Troubles of Germany;

        This reads to me like 17th century version of Shengen, where reciprocally different parts of the Empire, while sovereign, agree to free movement and trade among their people, while still being allowed to keep, say, Flemish or Frenchmen at bay (as a good German should). There is also no concept of ‘rights’ invoked (though there is a passage in previous chapter that asserts

        …The immoderate Expences and Charges of Posts, and other Obstacles to Commerce and Navigation introduc’d to its Prejudice, contrary to the Publick Benefit here and there, in the Empire on occasion of the War, and of late by a private Authority against its Rights and Privileges, without the Emperor’s and Princes of the Empire’s consent, shall be fully remov’d; …

        and fuck if I can tell whose “ancient Rights and Privileges” are being reasserted. Empire’s? Publick’s?

      2. The fact that these are included in a treaty is consistent with the state having the authority to regulate immigration and travel across its borders. Treaties are basically states agreeing to restraints on their exercise of sovereign authority.

        1. Exactly.

  9. “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
    Leviticus 19:33-34

    “But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!'”
    Acts 4:19

    “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!'”
    Acts 5:29

    1. “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”

      1. With bitcoin, I no longer have “Caesar’s” face on my money, so I don’t have to render it to him.

        Also, gold and silver.

        Is that a loophole of what Christ said (a “bug”)? Or is it a feature?

    2. cherry picking

      1. Really? OK, find some, actually any verses that back up your authoritarian view.

        I’ll wait.

    3. That’s the same God that has kept ordering his followers to kill and commit genocides.

      You’re free to worship whatever shitty deity you want. You still have to live with the consequences of your actions no matter how you justify them to yourself.

      1. That’s the same God that has kept ordering his followers to kill and commit genocides.

        Incorrect. That’s the same God who told the Israelites to get those darned trespassers off his lawn.

        You’re free to worship whatever shitty deity you want. You still have to live with the consequences of your actions no matter how you justify them to yourself.

        Tell me, how is that self-worship working for you? Do you make a good deity?

  10. This article is a great example of a false equivalence. It should be placed in textbooks.

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  12. Look, the overarching point that both sides will generate outrage along party lines is not lost on me, you don’t have to look any further than how they treat military spending versus welfare spending.

    That said, the two cases are rather different, as “churches” are not a unified all-powerful body that is going to start interfering with every immigration case in the country if unchecked. (For what it’s worth, good for those churches, but they’re not going to change anything nationally) Whereas if you let the feds start dictating terms of employment even against moral objections, they’re going to ride that horse as hard as they can until the courts stop them.

  13. I’m sure in here you’ll find
    The sanctuary

  14. You are mixing the church and a 50 million illegal alien invasion..

    illegal immigration is the number one avenue to the destruction of the USA,,,,,In many
    cases these invaders do not come to assimilate but to instead claim the US for their home country..

    the US borders have been a sieve for decades – any country that refuses to defend its own borders
    will eventually be no longer a country..

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  19. The “sanctuary” churches seek to protect a person for religious motives. By contrast, Hobby Lobby (which is a business, not a church) sought to deny an employee’s rights for religious motives. I respect the former (though I would not necessarily say it should give the person the right to stay in the US), and condemn the latter. I think this is consistent.

    The Hobby Lobby issue exists because medical coverage for employees in the US is set up through employment. This is a mistake for several reasons — for instance, it encourages businesses to use more machines and hire fewer people.

    If medical care were funded in some other way, for instance through a national health service funded by taxes on income, sales or wealth, the Hobby Lobby issue would not arise at all.

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