Obama Supporter Andrew Sullivan Flays Liberal Left for Dismissing Religious Liberty Concerns

Andrew Sullivan, writer and strong supporter of President Obama, denounced the "general liberal contempt" for the sincere objections religious organizations have against the contraceptive mandate and gay marriage.

Sullivan, a proponent of same-sex marriage, uses "a rather aggressive column" by Linda Greenhouse in The New York Times as a recent example of how liberals dismiss the genuine worries of religious groups, such as the Colo.-based Little Sisters of the Poor.

"All the government is asking the order (the Little Sisters) to do is sign the standard one-page form that sets the exemption machinery in motion," wrote Greenhouse, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer on law. "That's it. There is no government investigation of the merits of the religious claim – or of the unfounded belief that some of the contraceptives to which the nuns object can actually terminate what the medical profession regards as an existing pregnancy."

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Still, the justices gave the Little Sisters what they wanted, she added, referring to the Supreme Court's temporary exemption of the Catholic nuns from Obama's Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," she said. "The Obama administration has offered the churches an ever more generous set of accommodations, but each has only led to a demand for more."

"An excellent rebuttal" by Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor for National Review magazine, helped Sullivan, a Catholic, to understand religious groups' objections to the mandate that employers provide coverage for contraception, including abortifacients, in their employees' healthcare plans.

The form, Ponnuru wrote for his magazine, is the "instrument" that triggers the requirement that a third-party administrator provide contraceptive coverage. "The nuns don't want to take any action that (they believe) involves them in facilitating immoral acts, which includes causing other people to perform immoral acts. Signing the form would (in their view) do that," he pointed out.

"… Houses of worship, which are truly exempt from the administration's contraceptive mandate, do not have to sign any such form to get that exemption," he explained. "That fact makes a hash both of Greenhouse's claim that the Little Sisters of the Poor are 'exempt from the mandate' and her (and the administration's) claim that certification is the only way to prevent the exemption process from sliding into 'chaos.'"

Sullivan, who was born and grew up in Britain, confesses in his blog post on The Dish, "I hadn't seen it that way before." Delegating the authority to approve of contraceptive coverage to a third party is itself "an act of complicity" in something the nuns oppose for religious reasons.

In its ruling last month, the court said the Little Sisters simply needs to inform the Secretary of Health and Human Services in writing about its objection to the contraceptive coverage, without having to fill out the form.

"If the key is signing a form that requires active complicity in a system the Little Sisters object to, and if a letter merely stating their objection to the contraceptive coverage can suffice, then this seems like more than a temporary solution. This may be splitting hairs – but allowing for religious freedom in a secular society can often come down to splitting hairs," Sullivan wrote. "And what concerns me is less the details of this particular case than the general liberal contempt for the genuine moral quandaries religious organizations may face."

The writer then deals with "the brusque and smug liberal assumption" that religious objections to marriage equality are somehow as illegitimate as defenses of slavery, referring to an article, "Secularism Is Good for America-Especially Christians," in New Republic.

The "anathematization" of homosexuality in Christianity, Judaism and Islam is rooted in "a deep theological narrative and argument" that cannot be reduced to bigotry, Sullivan argued. "I think it's mistaken, but I sure don't think it's mere prejudice."

Sullivan said while he doesn't agree with the Catholic tradition Humanae Vitae, it is a "coherent view of the role of sex and procreation in human life," and not bigotry. "And many of us have grounded our own defense of civil gay equality without the need to disqualify large swathes of conscientious religious folks from polite company."

What actually borders on bigotry "is the kind of casual dismissal of sincerely held religious beliefs," he concluded. "You can [be] pro-gay and for religious freedom. And it is vital that the gay rights movement is not co-opted once again by the illiberal left's contempt for people of faith."

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