(Photo: CPAC/Eric Draper)
Ben Carson and Eric Metaxas, who both gained notoriety for their speeches at a National Prayer Breakfast, appeared together Saturday and warned about a loss of religious freedom, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md.
The controversy over the Obama administration's birth control mandate is about religious freedom, not contraception, Metaxas argued.
Paraphrasing how he views the government's position, Metaxas said, "We will force you to violate your conscience. Why? Because we can. We have the power and you Catholics are just the backward religious minority."
Metaxas' most recent book is a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian theologian who opposed Hitler during Nazi Germany. Because of Bonhoeffer, Metaxas said, he found himself thinking more about religious freedom in America. He believes there are some "disturbing parallels" between what was taking place in Germany in the 1930s and the United States today on the issue of religious freedom.
"When a government bullies a minority, instead of protecting a minority," Metaxas said, "that is the beginning of the end of America."
The birth control mandate requires all employers to cover contraception, sterilization and the "morning-after" pill, in their employees health care plans. There is a religious exemption, but the exemption is so narrow that most religious employers do not qualify. Houses of worship, for instance, are exempt, but a religious school, hospital or social service organization, is not exempt.
Allowing a freedom to worship but not allowing freedom of religion is one of the parallels that Metaxas finds with Nazi Germany.
"Freedom of worship says you can have your little strange rituals and say whatever you like in your little religious buildings for an hour or two on Sundays, but once you leave that building you will bow to the secular orthodoxy of the state," Metaxas explained. "We will tell you what to think on the big and important questions like when life begins and who gets to decide when to end it and what marriage is, and if you don't like it, tough luck. That's freedom of worship and they have that in China and they had that in Germany in Bonhoeffer's day."
Metaxas is also concerned that the introduction of gay marriage will lead to a loss of religious freedom.
"Here is my question to all the legal scholars across America," Metaxas said, "what about the religious freedom of those who dissent on that issue? When the legal definition is changed, will they be forced to stifle their religious feelings because the state demands it? This is not a live and let live issue. If it were, it would be another story. No, if marriage is redefined, it will utterly cripple religious freedom in America and it's already beginning to do that and no one is even talking about this."
Carson's speech was more wide ranging and was similar to his speech last month at the National Prayer Breakfast. He spoke about taxes, health care, political correctness and religious freedom.
"We have to resist this war on God," Carson, a neurosurgeon who will soon retire, said. "People don't want to talk about God and don't you ever dare mention Jesus Christ. And this is supposed to be a country where we have freedom of religion and freedom of speech? It is absolutely absurd."
Carson's National Prayer Breakfast speech became a YouTube sensation and helped launched his book, America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great, to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.
Metaxas' National Prayer Breakfast speech in 2012 also became popular on YouTube. Like Carson's speech, it contained some pointed criticisms of the event's main speaker, President Barack Obama.
After, both men addressed CPAC they sat together on stage for a more informal conversation. In that talk, Metaxas urged the conservatives in attendance to always express the truth in civility and love.
"I thought you spoke with grace and civility," Metaxas told Carson about his National Prayer Breakfast speech. "I was dismayed that the punditocracy, most of the folks in the conservative world, were kinda spiking the ball and doing the end zone dance at what you said, which colored those remarks in a way that, I thought, was not appropriate."
"I just want to say to my fellow conservatives," Metaxas continued. "We need to express the truth in civility and love, otherwise, it's magically not the truth anymore."
The speeches can be viewed here.