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Unto Caesar

I write this as a Catholic.  Religious faith is under attack in both England and America this week, from reasonable secular argument that no doubt emanates from enlightened good will.  This does not make it right.  In American, President Obama wishes to enforce by law provision of contraception in health care, even at Catholic institutions (such as hospitals), where such provision explicitly flies in the face of Catholic teaching; though most Catholics turn a blind eye to the contraception ban, such an option is not easily available to an official organ of the Church.

This is an example of two competing claims for good - the state's versus the personal moral rights of persons and churches to follow their own beliefs.  The absence of contraception is a secular evil; its presence, for Catholics, is a sin.  Obama, a politician, is attempting to render unto Caesar what is not his.  In England, a new judgement by the courts has banned the saying of prayers before town council meetings, a common practise in a nation where Her Majesty the Queen is the head of the Church of England.  Here, the state has a religion, unlike in America, but atheist activists are attempting to prune such powers back.  This seems a grubby and sad attack on a harmless, even positive act.  To ban prayer is to begin to delimit what more broadly makes us human - and here, unlike with contraception, is no medical issue.  If anything, prayer is known to be therapeutic.

It would seem that in America, the churches need to be tempered, and in England, bolstered - a paradox, since on paper, England's religion is more secure; but on paper only.  Faith is stronger in America, where 90% of citizens claim to believe in God.  Seen in this light, Obama's liberal attack on faith-based institutions seems bold, and, arguably, foolhardy.  This will play into Santorum's zealous hands.

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