A policy that challenges the soul
By Robert Morrison
I was headed back over the railing of a Soviet trawler in 1978. We were in the middle of the Bering Sea. My last words to the captain of that rusting, foul-smelling Russian fishing vessel were about whales. "Spaceetyeh Kitov," I said. It was the literal translation of the phrase, "Save the whales."
The Soviet skipper smiled, exposing his stainless steel teeth. "We know wot you mean, but that's nyegrammatnuh -- not grammatical. You must say 'don't kill whales.' Spaceets means to save one's soul. Whales dunt haff souls. Only people haff souls."
That trawler's skipper, serving under the red flag of the USSR, had a better understanding of human nature than the current president of the United States and his secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Only people have souls. And only people's consciences can be violated in the way their new HHS mandate violates them.
There's been a big media-generated controversy over whether an evangelist with a famous name thinks President Barack Obama is a Christian or not.
Obama is the first Christian president to go to Egypt and proclaim the Koran holy. He's the first to say that Islam was "revealed." He's the first Christian president ever to recite the Muslim call to prayer. In the words of New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, he did so "with a perfect Arabic accent." He has told audiences that the call to prayer is "one of the most beautiful sounds on Earth." For millions of the world's persecuted Christians, that call to prayer can be the opening gun of an anti-Christian jihad.
Still, the president assures us he is a Christian. I must agree with the famous quote of Queen Elizabeth I: "I have no window to look into men's souls." Good Queen Bess, at least, understood that only people have souls.
While I, too, have no window to look into the president's soul, I can conclude by his policies that he seems not to credit the rest of us with having souls. How else to explain his militant anti-Christian, anti-Jewish HHS mandate?
This Obama mandate - consider that word - requires that we all violate our consciences. It is an attack on our very souls. What it says is that you - the hospital, the church, the religious institution - must provide health care coverage for drugs that can cause abortions. You must provide coverage for sterilizations. And contraception.
For those of us who are not churches, not hospitals or clinics and not health care professionals, we have a less direct entanglement with the Obama mandate.
Still, we are entangled. We must pay the salaries of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her myrmidons. The dictionary calls a myrmidon "a loyal follower, especially one who executes orders without question, protest, or pity - unquestioning followers."
I was detailed for a time to HHS, so "myrmidon" seems an apt descriptor of the kind of folks Sebelius will employ to enforce the Obama mandate. And they will do it with zeal.
It's what people mean when they speak of "soulless" bureaucracy.
The media seems not to notice that only people have souls. They are portraying this controversy as one that pits the American people against the Catholic Church and its hospitals. That is wholly false. The Obama mandate is one that challenges all of us, whatever our religion.
Do not for a minute think that it stops here. If you can be mandated to provide drugs that can cause abortions, why not mandate you to provide drugs that can end life? What is the moral difference?
Writer Paul Ramsey, a Methodist, wrote "Ethics at the Edges of Life." In it, he expressed moral and theological opposition to abortion and euthanasia. He taught a generation of us how closely tied these questions are.
We must resist the Obama mandate. It is unjust, despotic and unconstitutional. And we must respectfully remind our president: Only people have souls.
Robert Morrison is senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.
This article appeared in The Virginian-Pilot on February 25, 2012.