O'Malley's selective application of religious freedom

Md. governor promotes church rights in gay marriage issue but not when it comes to forcing contraceptive coverage

January 31, 2012|Marta H. Mossburg

On one hand, Gov.Martin O'Malleypublicly advocates religious freedom. On the other, he supports — through his silence — federal rules dictating how religious groups must act.

I am referring to Mr. O'Malley's promise that gay marriage legislation he supports will protect religious groups that object to such unions from having to perform them. And I am also referring to the lack of comment from the loquacious head of the Democratic Governors Association about the new federal rule requiring religious institutions to provide contraception free of charge for employees.

If he is so outspoken about the one issue, he should be about the other. Agreeing with both positions is philosophically untenable. It is akin to believing that "separate but equal" is a legitimate interpretation of the Constitution's guarantee of equality under the law.

Maybe that is why he isn't talking about the new mandate that will impact so many organizations in the city where he used to be mayor, as he and his wife soliloquize about the importance of civil liberties for a favored group.

"We have done our very best in the drafting of this bill to make very, very, very explicit the protections of religious liberty, as well as the protection of rights, equally under the law," Mr. O'Malley said last month of the gay marriage legislation. "One does not have to be an advocate for same-sex marriage in order to support equal rights under the law."

Neither does one have to be a Catholic to agree that believers of that faith should be free to practice it as they see fit so long as it does not trample on the rights of others. Last time I checked, free birth control pills were not in the Bill of Rights.

But there is no record of his having said anything on this topic, and his press office did not respond to a request for comment. The Democratic Governors Association does not have a position on the issue, either. Sean Caine, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said his organization had not heard from the governor. Neither has NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland been in contact with him about the issue, said Executive Director Jodi Finkelstein.

But then, the gay marriage debate has never been about religious freedom — it has always been about forcing a progressive worldview onto the public using language that is part of our cultural lexicon. The strategy is well known. Lesson two of Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" is: "Never go outside the experience of your people."

Every once in a while, however, the truth comes out. As Judge Katie O'Malley, the first lady, let slip at the National Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality in Baltimore last week, legislators who withdrew their support for the gay marriage bill last year are "cowards."

And, as she went on to say at the meeting, what she and her husband would like to see is religion removed from the public sphere.

"We're all very diverse, and that's what makes us so strong, but religion should never play a part in what the laws of our state are, and that's what we're trying to convey to religious leaders who are opponents of the bill that believe that for some reason — for some reason — religion has some role to play in this, and quite frankly we believe that it doesn't."

They want to replace it with a secular code of ethics that is equally religious in nature and scarily totalitarian, because its Ten Commandments are not just required by faith but enforced by the state.

Remember, Mr. O'Malley promised that Maryland "will lead the country, not only economically but morally."

If gay marriage passes, it is not hard to imagine what will follow, including public school curriculum that teaches gay history and bans negative portrayals of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, as in California. Who will be forcing their beliefs on others then?

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. So when faith can only be practiced within the physical confines of a home or place of worship, it is not freedom but the beginning of suppression.

To pretend otherwise, as Mr. O'Malley is doing, is intellectually dishonest. It is also a harbinger of what is to come from a man whose deeply religious tone and language belie a political agenda whose faith is in government alone.

Marta H. Mossburg's column appears regularly in The Baltimore Sun. Her email is martamossburg@gmail.com.

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