Here’s Newsweek editor Jon Meacham in this week’s cover story, “The End of Christian America.” You know, the one declaring “The Decline and Fall of Christian America” in type set to form a cross.
While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago. I think this is a good thing—good for our political culture, which, as the American Founders saw, is complex and charged enough without attempting to compel or coerce religious belief or observance. It is good for Christianity, too, in that many Christians are rediscovering the virtues of a separation of church and state that protects what Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters, called “the garden of the church” from “the wilderness of the world.” As crucial as religion has been and is to the life of the nation, America’s unifying force has never been a specific faith, but a commitment to freedom—not least freedom of conscience.
Freedom of conscience, huh?
As Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl and others have said, “If a federal regulation protecting the conscience rights of health care providers is revoked, Catholic doctors, nurses and others may be required to participate in abortion or other procedures that violate their moral or religious principles.”
Yesterday, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) offered an amendment to the budget bill that would protect the conscience clause for health care workers, which may be rescinded by President Obama. The Coburn amendment stated, “To protect the freedom of conscience for patients and the right of health care providers to serve patients without violating their moral and religious convictions.”
The amendment was rejected 41-56.
For those interested in such things, nine Catholic Senators voted to support the Coburn amendment: Murkowski (R-AK), Martinez (R-FL), Risch (R-ID), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Vitter (R-LA), Johanns(R-NE), Voinovich (R-OH), and Casey (D-PA).
The Catholic Senators opposing the Coburn amendment are Senators Begich (D-AK), Dodd (D-CT), Kaufman (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Harkin (D-IA), Landrieu (D- LA), Collins (R-ME), Mikulski (D-MD), Kerry (D-MA), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY), Reed (D-RI), Leahy (D-VT), Cantwell (D-WA), Murray (D-WA). Senator Kennedy did not vote.
Tell me again about freedom of conscience! How do you like post-Christian America so far?