Marvin Olasky

I'd like to tackle some wrong assumptions in the current furor about the Obama administration's attack on religious liberty. The proximate cause of war, of course, is the Obama demand that all institutions, regardless of religious convictions, arrange to provide free contraceptives. I now want to upset both sides by saying that each is overlooking an inconvenient truth.

Inconvenient truth No. 1: The Obama administration, by stipulating that an organization to be defined as a "religious employer" must primarily serve only people of its own faith, is beginning to treat Christians as many Muslim countries treat Christians. Those countries allow Christians to meet for worship in nondescript buildings, but that's it. Christians cannot evangelize. They cannot make disciples. They cannot engage in social services and help others.

Some Christians in Muslim lands have some freedom of worship. They do not have freedom of religion. Muslim restrictions cut against two prime Christian goals: evangelism, and seeking the welfare of the entire city, as Chapter 29 of Jeremiah commands. For example, some Christians I visited in eastern Turkey had grudging permission to meet, as long as they kept a very low profile, with nothing on the exterior of their building indicating a church assembled there.

The Obama regulations, if put into practice, will exclude from the "religious employer" category many Christian social service agencies, hospitals, and schools.

Inconvenient truth No. 2: Some of those "Christian" institutions should be excluded, in theory. They are CINOs, Christian in name only (or Christians in nice outfits). In much of their practice they are government lookalikes. The Obama administration is right to define a religious organization as one working to inculcate its religious values. If a "Christian" organization has Jordan River posters or crosses on the wall but is a gospel-free welfare state adjunct, it should not receive special privileges.

The Obama regulations are wrong in two ways, though. First, if the administration says inculcation is the only task of a religious organization, it ignores Christianity's claim to deal with every square inch of our territory and every moment of our existence. Second, practice is more complicated than theory: It's above any bureaucrat's pay grade to determine which organization is truly religious and which is not.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of the national news magazine World. For additional commentary by Marvin Olasky, visit
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