Another Perspective

Hillary’s Religious Hobby

The radical leftist resurfaces, full-bore.

By 7.3.14

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A few years back I wrote book on the faith of Hillary Clinton. To this day it jolts liberals and conservatives alike that I, a principled Reagan conservative, would have written God and Hillary Clinton: A Spiritual Life, especially on the heels of books I did on the faiths of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Conservatives were incredulous, annoyed that I took Hillary’s faith so seriously.

And yet, I always grabbed conservatives’ attention by highlighting some surprises regarding Mrs. Clinton’s faith. Chief among them, I noted that she was against gay marriage and a vigorous defender of religious freedom. In 2005 Senator Clinton actually co-sponsored (with Rick Santorum, no less) the Workplace Religious Freedom Act. Likewise, her husband was an advocate for religious freedom. Bill Clinton supported the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (passed 97-3 by the Senate) and the 1997 Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace.

Appropriately, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its majority decision in favor of Hobby Lobby (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties), ruled that Obama’s HHS mandate, as applied to “closely held corporations,” was a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

In at least two noteworthy areas — religious freedom and traditional-Biblical-natural marriage — Hillary Clinton could make a claim to being more of a centrist than her detractors were willing to concede.

Well, I’m here today to underscore that those onetime claims are completely gone. Last year, Hillary Clinton embraced gay marriage, moving to the left of even her socially liberal denomination, the United Methodist Church. And now, this week, Mrs. Clinton blasted the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling in a shocking way that signals her shift to the extreme left.

Speaking at something called the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado, Clinton said this of the Hobby Lobby case: “I disagree with the reasoning as well as the conclusion…. It’s the first time that our court has said that a closely held corporation has the rights of a person when it comes to religious freedom, which means the corporation’s … employers can impose their religious beliefs on their employees, and, of course, denying women the right to contraceptives as part of a health care plan is exactly that.” Clinton added ominously: “I find it deeply disturbing that we are going in that direction.”

In truth, Hillary Clinton’s direction is deeply disturbing. These employers are not imposing their religious beliefs on anyone, and they’re not denying women contraceptives. Women all over America remain fully free to buy contraceptives and abortifacients (drugs that produce an abortion). The employer is pleading with the government to not be imposed upon by government. The employer merely wants to be left alone, to keep things as they were. The employer is acting solely defensively. Big-government liberals are the aggressors; they are on offense.

The position of Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Woods, and, for that matter, the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious organizations and individuals who don’t want to pay for other people’s contraception and abortions isn’t an imposition at all. They simply want America as it has always been: they don’t want to be forced to pay for things that violate their conscience. Has liberalism become so intransigent and so intolerant that liberals can’t understand or permit this?

But even then, Hillary Clinton’s statement is wildly flawed and misleading. As noted by (among others) John McCormack of the Weekly Standard, contrary to Clinton’s assertion that Hobby Lobby’s owner “doesn’t think [women] should be using contraception,” the family-owned business already covers the entire cost of 16 out of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives under its insurance plan. The Hobby Lobby owners aren’t anti-birth-control Catholics. They object to paying for pills or devices that kill a human embryo. That is, they’re against the abortion element of the HHS mandate.

Does Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state, first lady, and the Democrats’ presidential nominee-in-waiting, not know this?

Undeterred, Mrs. Clinton continued with her red herring, telling the group in Aspen: “It’s very troubling that a sales clerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception, which is pretty expensive, is not going to get that service through her employer’s health care plan because her employer doesn’t think she should be using contraception.”

Again, this isn’t accurate, but, for the sake of argument, what’s so expensive? Birth-control pills are available at Target for $9 per month, the cost of two large skim mochas at Starbucks. Some Planned Parenthood clinics, which are already subsidized by taxpayers, hand out birth-control pills like candy.

But Mrs. Clinton wasn’t finished.

She said that the Supreme Court’s invoking of her husband’s religious freedom law was illegitimate, contending that the court cited the law in a way not originally intended — “that no one foresaw.”

Please, don’t get me started.

No one two decades ago foresaw a “fundamentally transformed” America in which “progressive” Democrats would force employers to pay for their workers’ abortions. That would have been judged an unimaginable obscenity. The mere suggestion would have infuriated just about every member of Congress, and especially those who came of age under the Hyde Amendment. And to compel employers to pay for abortion drugs in direct violation of their religious convictions would have caused a riot on Capitol Hill.

The previous Hillary Clinton, the one who could once claim a modicum of moderation on some issues, would have understood this. Hillary even had a surprisingly good relationship with Mother Teresa, respecting the saintly nun’s enormous respect for unborn human life.

Today’s Hillary has been either swept up by the radical secular-progressive zeitgeist or has calculated that embracing Obama’s HHS mandate will help her politically. It’s probably both. Consider: Hillary Clinton has always been radical on abortion. The most common criticism I heard of her is that she can’t call herself a Christian while being so awful on abortion. Thus, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that when Hillary’s support of religious freedom clashes with her fanatical support of abortion, abortion wins out.

As to the political motivation, Democrats relish their Republican “war-on-women” thing, advancing the deranged argument that not desiring to pay for others’ birth control and abortions equates to declaring war on them. Ridiculously sophomoric as that is, it’s apparently effective, animating certain emotional voters in the new America. Maybe Mrs. Clinton is hoping to make political hay with this disgustingly divisive argument. Envy and class warfare has always worked magnificently for Democrats. Fanning this war-on-women hatred seems to be fruitful as well. Love that hate!

But even then, this doesn’t get to the worst of Hillary Clinton’s assessment of the Hobby Lobby case. In this same interview in Aspen, the former secretary of state seemed to suggest that the desire by Hobby Lobby (and tens of millions of the rest of us) to not be forced to fund abortion against our conscience is tantamount to Sharia law imposed by brutally misogynistic Muslim regimes. “Part of the reason I was so adamant about including women and girls in our foreign policy, not as a luxury but as a central issue, is because they’re often the canaries in the mine,” said Clinton. “You watch women and girls being deprived of their rights, some of them never have them, some of them lose them. Among those rights is control over their bodies, control over their own health care, control over the size of their families. It is a disturbing trend that you see in a lot of societies that are very unstable, anti-democratic, and frankly prone to extremism. Where women and women’s bodies are used as the defining and unifying issue to bring together people — men — to get them to behave in ways that are disadvantageous to women but which prop up them because of their religion, their sect, their tribe, whatever. So to introduce this element into our society… it’s very troubling that a sales clerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception, which is pretty expensive, is not going to get that service through her employer’s health care plan because her employer doesn’t think she should be using contraception.”

Wow, wow, wow. That is breathtakingly outrageous and irresponsible.

If this is genuinely Hillary Clinton’s take on this situation — and not just crass, dangerous demagoguery — then she is a person of such profound ignorance and bad judgment that she should never be voted anywhere near the Oval Office.

In short, Mrs. Clinton is no longer a champion of religious freedom, and I will certainly never again present her that way. Like her erstwhile position on marriage, she has redefined her understanding of freedom of conscience. She is now in the habit of redefining the fundamentals. That’s not something that a moderate does. She has detached herself from the roots that once anchored her, and now she’s flying off the hinges, drifting along with whatever whim and fancy and cultural “change” modern progressives demand at the moment.

Hillary Clinton has moved decisively to the far left. The onetime Goldwater girl who not that long ago had at least some tendencies toward the political middle has forfeited any claim to the centrist label. Her take on the Hobby Lobby case is, to borrow her own language, “deeply disturbing.” 

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About the Author

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book is 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative.