This is my column in today’s Greenville News.

This was submitted and formatted before the president made his ‘accommodation’ late this week.  We’ll have to see about that.

We live in a society very attentive to multiculturalism, alternative lifestyles and diversity. So why isn’t the ancient and venerable faith and culture of Catholicism considered worth of respect? Catholics make up a huge part of the rich fabric of American history, molding our country in academia, politics, the military, business, theology, art and most importantly, in family life.

In point of fact, if we were multicultural, if we were truly diverse and respectfulof differing viewpoints, it’s likely that at least half of our hospitals would never perform abortions of any sort, since on this topic, Americans are very closely divided. And pro-life is one of the ‘multis’ in multicultural.

Of course, some of those organizations indeed benefit from federal assistance. However, do we really want those groups to stop providing the life-saving and life-changing services they offer, and which the government could in no way replicate?

Probably not, but more to the point, federal assistance should not be allowed to dictate conscience. If it does so, it is perilously close to establishing religious belief on its own. The First Amendment, which prevents establishment of religion as well as preventing government from prohibiting its free practice, might just as easily read ‘shall not establish a mandated philosophy, nor prohibit the philosophy of others.’ Else atheists are not protected, since they have no particular religion while their views are worthy of protection as well as mine.

In light of our regard for some groups, the whole thing seems remarkably confusing. The Department of Homeland Security has been explicitly instructed not to use terminology offensive to our Islamic citizens. Homosexual advocacy groups have the ear of politicians and cultural icons. Immigrant groups are treated with kid gloves, to the extent that one is charged with Fascism merely for suggesting that a person have a photo ID in order to vote. So why this assault on Catholics…on Christians?

I suppose it’s because disregard for religion is the new religion. And those who dare to espouse a relevant faith are simply viewed as nonentities in the political arena. There are many who believe that faith should have no role in politics whatsoever. They are the same who wring their hands with fear that theocracy will be established by people of faith.

In a supreme political irony, to avoid the fantastical fear of totalitarian control, to avoid the whispy threat of a government run explicitly on religious grounds, they squash the very tolerance they all but worship themselves.

It’s all the more ironic that the President has lately used faith to prod us into social action. Jesus himself did call us to social engagement, to reach out to those in need. He called us to ‘render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.’ But He never suggested any sort of government scheme to do so, except that of the Kingdom of God, and the actions of its citizens, carried on out of love for God and man. In fact, tax collectors seem to have an interesting place in the Gospel, as Jesus calls Matthew and Zaccheus (tax collectors) to be with him and renounce their sins; as Jesus enemies ask why he hangs out with tax collectors and sinners; and as Jesus himself consigns those who don’t listen to the Gospel to the implicitely pejorative category of ‘gentiles and tax collectors.’ (Really, it’s in Matthew 18.)

The President mustn’t disdain Christian doctrine even as he calls on it as a foundation for policy. He should pick one or the other. Respect the Catholic doctrines on the sanctity of life and then the Church, Protestant and Catholic alike, will be more likely to be impressed by his call to action for the poor.

Or he can crush Catholic groups and force them to cooperate or close, but then he should honestly say that his policies are less about Jesus than Marx. The hard left will love it.

A little consistency would be much better evidence of his Christianity than lip service and schizmatic philosophy during election year. Conservatives Christians are often chided for hypocricy when we see armed conflict as acceptable, when we are cruel to homosexuals or other groups. Often the critcism is accurate, and stinging in its truth.

But charges of hypocricy swing both ways. And this time it’s the President himself who needs to step back and reassess his policy, in light of what he purports to be his remarkable faith and his adoration of multiculturalism.

Edwin