[The following post was submitted via e-mail by a regular reader of the site who wishes to remain anonymous. — Patterico]
As most readers of PP know by now (astute as you are), Secretary Sebelius released guidelines under ObamaCare that make it mandatory for all employer-provided health insurance to include (free) birth control. There is an exemption proposed for religious groups who find such to be against their beliefs, but the exemption is defined quite narrowly to those within the religious order itself, not to institutions or organizations that until now have operated under the constraints/freedom of their religious convictions. Some have said that Jesus Himself, always involved hob-knobbing with people “outside” of the church, would not qualify for the religious conscience exemption.
The history of “church and state separation” significantly predates Jefferson’s wording on the issue in his letter to the Danbury Baptists (nope, not in the Constitution). In fact, history records such conflict even before there was “church.” One early incident involved Moses and Pharaoh. Moses requested a brief time-off from work for the Jewish people so they could go into the wilderness and worship. Pharaoh, claiming governmental and divine authority in addition to being their chief employer, was not too keen on the idea, resulting in much commotion and tumult — to Pharaoh’s chagrin.
Later there were incidents in the Kingdom of Babylon. The Jewish exiles Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were skilled and wise in their service to the king. But once again being king was not enough and he made a gold statue of himself, demanding that people bow down and worship him as god as well. Once again, the demand for loyalty to the government over loyalty to God did not work out too well for the king.
Some years later the rulers of a new empire again muddled the distinction between human authority and loyalty to the divine. The Roman Empire had a noble start. It was a republic, governed by a Senate and proconsuls who were elected, not a monarchy. But along came a man who felt he knew better than the founders, had no need of a senate to advise him, and decided he needn’t share his power with anyone. So powerful was he that his name became synonymous for the ruler of the empire, Caesar. As happened before, Caesar took unto himself the claim of deity as well.
Perhaps the most well known episode of the “church and state” strife in this time occurred when an itinerate preacher named Jesus was asked whether it was all right for the people to pay taxes to Caesar. Although this predated the age of news networks, sound bites, and “gotcha” questions, he knew a trap when he heard one. So, much to the disappointment of the RNN (Roman News Network), he asked the surrounding folk whose picture was on the gold coins. When told the picture was that of Caesar, he then replied, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” The Roman soldiers in attendance, interested only in the money anyway, saw nothing to make a fuss about.
The Roman Republic, to my knowledge of history, was the greatest republic on earth, until our own. But the Roman Republic was taken by force of will to become the Roman Empire. Perhaps it was with that in mind that upon being asked about the proposed United States Constitution, Benjamin Franklin answered that we had a republic, “…if you can keep it”.
Please bear with me for a moment while I draw a parallel. Barack Hussein Obama was elected as President of the United States, and as such declared an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of our Republic. However, prior to the election he clearly voiced his opinion that the Constitution was inadequate and flawed. Now, multiple times in history our government has seen the need to amend the Constitution, to make adjustments where necessary, but has any President suggested that it was inherently “wrong” and should have been made different, not amended? Can someone with such a low opinion of the Constitution seriously pledge to defend it?
Just as Julius Caesar demonstrated his disdain for the Senate by crossing the Rubicon against their orders, so President Obama first demonstrated his disdain for the Senate by appointing a new class of executive officials, honestly enough referred to as “czars,” without any approval by, or guidance from, the legislative branch. One could argue that such a move at least avoided a direct insult to Congress, but he then went further by making appointments without the required Senate approval, by “deeming” them in recess (which was news to them). In other words, Obama loudly proclaimed: “Your presence doesn’t matter!” Chastising the Supreme Court Justices in public gave President Obama the opportunity to demonstrate the fact that his contempt for the other branches of government was not limited to Congress. Whether his directions to AG Holder over which federal laws to defend and which to ignore is an action directed at the legislature or the judiciary is a question that people could debate, I suppose. In either case it is a show of disregard for the American people, who elected representatives to make the laws — and expected the judiciary to uphold them fairly.
But he has further made the comparison appropriate even to the extreme of essentially claiming the prerogatives of divinity. While he did not claim power to heal the sick or control the oceans directly by himself, he clearly stated that the time had come to witness these events with his rise to leadership. But he has now shown a quality clearly reserved to the Divine, that of overruling the petty gods of the people. This is what the HHS High Priestess Sebelius announced from on high recently. You are free to “exercise” your religious beliefs, just as long as you keep them to yourself. Whatever your deeply held religious convictions may be, when they try to get in the way of the will of Caesar, it is the will of Caesar that must prevail.
If no one will be able to limit his power, the comparison to Caesar will be complete.