Paul Greenberg

It is the predictable result of government's crossing the unmistakable line the Founding Fathers drew between church and state in the clear and simple words of the First Amendment and first freedom:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....

What is it about Make No Law that this administration doesn't get?

Everything, apparently.

This is what we get when we elect a professor of constitutional law president. As usual, it's not the law that's the problem, it's the lawyer.

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Query: If the church, at least in this administration's narrow definition of the Body of Christ, gets to be a conscientious objector when it comes to Obamacare's loving embrace, what about the rest of us?

Might we not have religious convictions, too? Can we get a waiver?

Sure we can. Just as the church did. All we need do is meet a couple of conditions: (a) be able to mobilize millions of voters in this year's presidential election, and (b) have the support, influence, organization, tradition, history of devotion and worldwide reach of the Roman Catholic Church.

It ought to be a snap.

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This much the administration accomplished by its latest decree: It's united the whole, widely disparate spectrum of religions in this country -- against it. Along with all Americans who treasure religious liberty, believers or not.

As an Arkansas preacher (also governor) Mike Huckabee said when he first heard of the administration's latest and maybe strangest ruling, "We're all Catholics now."

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By now the administration has retreated from its original ruling. Or the president says it has, which may not be the same thing. He can be a slippery customer, Mr. Obama.

According to his latest edict, employees of Roman Catholic institutions must still be offered access to procedures the church finds abhorrent, but there's no need for concern. For there's always a way around a moral imperative. Isn't that what professors of constitutional law are for?

Under the Obama Out, which sounds like a direct descendant of the Clinton Clause, the church wouldn't actually be paying, not directly, for the kind of things that violate its conscience. Indeed, nobody would. The insurers would just swallow the cost. (Gosh, how come I never met an insurance company like that?)

As the president explains it, the insurers would actually make money his way. Because not having a baby is so much cheaper than having one, let alone raising it. (Have you seen what colleges charge for tuition these days?) Having the insurance company handle the problem makes it all constitutionally kosher. And so much simpler.

Well, sure. Think of how much simpler things would be if none of us had been born. We wouldn't have to worry about those federal Rules and Regulations. Or anything else. No more constitutional conundrums that would cross a law professor's eyes. All would be a perfect blank. Man would never have marred Creation.

This where we end up when we start treating life as a cost-benefit ratio. But it isn't. Even if the president's figures were right, they'd be wrong. Because this isn't a question of costs and benefits, probabilities and projections. It's a question of faith and morals. The question is whether even a president of the United States can put a price tag on life or whether it is priceless. I know what I think. You probably do, too.

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This is what happens when life becomes just one more item to list on the profit-and-loss statement. And not something to be respected, even revered. As if it were sacred and inviolable. Instead, our president adds up the sums and assures us it would be cheaper to forgo life.

Sad. And surreal. For life is more than a row of figures. We used to know that. Not any more.

It's all enough to make me want to rear up, look the president in his eyes that do not see, and, like Edgar speaking to blind old Gloucester in "Lear," shout: Thy life's a miracle!

Everybody's is.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.