Douglas Kmiec on “The Fictitious War on Religious Liberty”; George Weigel’s Differing View

I attended the talk entitled untitled, “The Fictitious War on Religious Liberty,” by Prof. Douglas Kmiec on 3/14/12, sponsored by the Catholic Studies Program of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Kmiec is presently the Caruso Family Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University.

Prof. Kmiec, a leading Catholic supporter of Barack Obama’s 2008 candidacy for U.S. President, had released a letter criticizing the President’s original HHS mandate on contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients on 2/6/12, but had backed away from this position after the 2/10/12 “accommodation.”

Prof. Kmiec said several interesting things on 3/14/12, but did not connect the dots to show how the current HHS mandate controversy involves a fictitious war on religious liberty. He claimed that prior to the HHS mandate being announced, he advised the Administration to grant the widest possible exception or accommodation to Catholics, but his advice did not prevail.

It is hard to make a claim that a war on religious liberty is fictitious when the very person making the claim had himself advised on broader rights and was rebuffed.

Kmiec took up, but never completed his answer to the question: Since the government must respect religious liberty, is there a reciprocal obligation on the part of religious believers to moderate their views for the public good?

Sometimes conversation supersedes formal argument in turning history. Prof. Kmiec’s asides and digressions were therefore quite revelatory. His aside on the unfunded mandate for contraception: a suspension of the rules of Adam Smith?

Prof. Kmiec also reported that in an early conversation with then Senator Obama, the Senator asked Prof. Kmiec if he was happy when he found out that his first child was coming. When the Professor said yes, the Senator said that some single mothers, alone and afraid, do not have Prof. Kmiec’s benefits and resources, and see abortion as the only option.

This point made by the Senator was the classic “bourgeois morality” argument made by George Bernard Shaw in his plays and by a long line of Marxists and progressives: that only the well-off can “afford” morality. This point is disproved by millions of very poor Catholics worldwide every day. I recall especially the lines in Matthew 11: 2-6:

When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.

Although Jesus fed the poor, the “signs of the Kingdom” reported by Jesus to the Baptist’s disciples put the Gospel message first. Jesus preached the Gospel to the poor before he fed the poor. The miracles of the loaves and fishes, the only miracle stories to be contained in all four Gospels, show the feeding second or contemporaneous to the Gospel proclamation and healing (Matthew 15: 32-38, Mark 8:1–10; 6:31–44, Luke 9: 11-17, John 6: 1-15).

The preservation of life is therefore not a luxury item. No matter what our station, we are called by God not to kill just as we are called by God to feed the hungry.

I’ll continue to add to this post with more detail over the next few days.


BTW, George Weigel’s 3/14/12 essay, his 3/12/12 essay, and his 3/8/12 essay are worth a look.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


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