What a joy to find the New York Times editorial page staff on duty whenever a tough moral question arises, such as, "Can the U.S. government require business owners claiming religious liberty privileges to fund contraceptive care for employees?"
Sure, natch, you bet, returns the Times, doubtless to the relief of the U.S. Supreme Court, which takes up the question formally this week in yet another suit stemming from Obamacare. Owners who "personally disapprove of certain contraceptives ... are wrong," asserts the Times, "and the Supreme Court's task is to issue a decisive ruling saying so. The real threat to religious liberty comes from the owners trying to impose their religious beliefs on thousands of employees." Get those employers and their stale convictions outta here!
Because, look -- and one does need to look, though the Times omits the point from formal consideration -- America just isn't the kind of country anymore where religious convictions hold much water in the establishment and maintenance of ideals.
The U.S. today is in fact a pretty secular outfit, the Times all but whispers behind its hand; a place fairly well, and rightly, denuded of arguable notions stemming from some kind of "faith" consensus, be it ever so ancient.
Mumble your prayers if you like, according to this view of things; just don't get to thinking that beliefs formed outside the civic sphere have relevance to civic purposes. Dearly does the Times hope the high court will dismantle the pulpit from which the owners of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. claim legal standing for non-secular ideas.
There is a sense in which the government's, and the Times', counter-claim gee-haws with reality. Religion? We've got lots of that around here. What if the Quakers tried to put the military out of business? Until recent years, we sidestepped such questions by working out accommodations that honored religious thinking without impeaching certain public necessities. That was when religion was seen as a different kind of necessity: reflecting truth and reality, shaping conscience, giving form to public institutions. Such as marriage.
Such as marriage. Ah, yes. Recent court decisions on same-sex unions tend to push away religious understandings of marriage -- universal as they have been -- from consideration of what marriage ought to be. On the federal courts' current logic, marriage ought to be whatever its participants want it to be -- never mind ancient teachings (which we've Gotten Past, right?) on the union of man and woman and the attendant duties of procreation and child rearing.