Update: Please click here to see a clarification from the authors.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has responded vigorously to the restrictive and unworkable “conscience regulations” being imposed on health care providers by the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Department. The Catholic Archdiocese for Military Service has said “no” to allowing priests in the Armed Forces perform homosexual “weddings,” now that the historic prohibition on homosexuals in the military has been lifted. And most recently, eighteen Catholic colleges and universities banded together and, through the Alliance Defense Fund, submitted comments to HHS citing a violation of religious freedom regarding the interim final rules on preventative services.
We applaud the efforts of America’s Catholic leadership in defense of religious liberty. But we do so with a certain measure of consternation. As Evangelical Protestants, we wonder: Why is organized Evangelicalism so silent?
Where is the National Association of Evangelicals?
Where is the (Evangelical) Council for Christian Colleges and Universities?
Where are the editorials and feature articles in Evangelical publications?
At a time when our religious liberty is being eroded by an Administration that insists on forcing its anti-Christian policies on American public life, why are so many of our leaders shuffling their feet and staring at the ground?
Every Christian school in the nation that offers insurance to its employees or students will be affected by the 2010 health care law—as schools like the University of Dallas, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Ave Maria University immediately recognized. While Evangelicalism does not have specific teachings on contraception in the way that the Catholic Church does, no Christian organization in the United States should be comfortable with the requirement that insurance must cover abortions. Since that is the intention of the Obama administration, why are Evangelical Protestant colleges and universities, and Evangelical leaders generally, not speaking out? Why are they not joining with Catholic leaders and institutions in opposition to these anti-religious liberty measures?
A university may be justified in wanting to avoid political controversies that could alienate students or donors. But there is no excuse for schools—or any Christian organizations—to ignore a debate that will have such permanent and negative repercussions on our country.
To be Christian is not to be anti-political or anti-cultural. Instead, it means understanding the truth of God’s Word so that we can discern how to shape culture and respond to politics. College campuses are places of education, and setting an example is an excellent pedagogical method. What better way to educate young students on Christian public involvement than by participating in the democratic process and engaging policy makers who shape the very choices we are allowed to make?
While ad hoc groups of Evangelicals have formed to fight the Obama administration’s efforts (e.g., the 2,000-strong Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty), those who should be leading our efforts nationally are quiescent. These leaders and organizations appear to be so embarrassed by what they regard as the excesses of political activism that they have become mute. But it’s time they spoke out.
Evangelicals may have missed this opportunity—the window for submitting comments to HHS regarding the rules on preventive services is closed—but the battle for religious liberty is far from over. Evangelical Protestants have stood by as Catholics have led the defense of our first freedom. It’s time we joined them in the fight.
Robert Schwarzwalder is senior vice president at the Family Research Council. Julia Kiewit is associate editor at the Marriage And Religion Research Institute.
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