Op Ed: Lutherans push back against HHS mandate
Published Tuesday, October 16, 2012
By Robert Morrison
I well remember the press questions that greeted me when I became the first full-time Washington representative for The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS). “So the Missouri Synod has decided to leap into the fray” religion reporters would say. “No,” I replied firmly. “We are trying to keep the fray from leaping onto us.”
That the fray has indeed leapt onto the Missouri Synod is shown by the extraordinary testimony last winter of the synod’s president, Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, before Congress. Dr. Harrison joined a panel of Catholics, Evangelicals, Anglicans and Orthodox Jews to protest the HHS mandate that requires virtually all Americans to pay for drugs and treatments that can cause abortions. Dr. Harrison strenuously resisted this unprecedented infringement of religious freedom.
The Missouri Synod was an early opponent of the Roe v. Wade ruling. Lutheran theology has long recognized and respected the unique role of government. Reformation leader Martin Luther even described the state as the “left hand Kingdom of God.”
Because of that exalted role, government should be treated with deference. But, when government does not use its God-given powers to defend the innocent, and instead becomes a terror to those who do right, government abdicates its proper function. Such is the case with abortion. In this instance, government is allowing the slaughter of innocents.
As Americans, we know that the Declaration of Independence describes the right to life as the first right endowed by God himself. Further, Thomas Jefferson, as author of that primary document of our national existence, famously said: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.”
Americans can also agree with Jefferson’s maxim: “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”
Destruction of innocent human life is what the HHS Mandate is all about. To that extent, it is not a legitimate act of government.
The Obama administration’s HHS Mandate forces Americans, and especially American Christians, to participate in evil. In The Reporter, LCMS’s publication for pastors, teachers and church workers, Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller explains to the laity and clergy of the 2.4 million-member church body that “some of these contraceptive methods and procedures [covered by the HHS Mandate] end life in the womb ... they are [thus] in direct conflict with God’s Word, which teaches that life is good and should be protected. (Gen. 1; Ps. 139:13-16; Lev. 19:15-16; 24:18).” Rev. Wolfmueller strongly states that the HHS Mandate violates the Fifth Commandment: “You shall not murder.” (www.reporter.lcms.org)
LCMS President Matthew Harrison and James Sanft, President of the Concordia Health Plan, warn that the founders of the Missouri Synod left their homes in Germany and came to America in the mid-nineteenth century seeking freedom to worship and to practice their faith.
They are ringing the alarm bells once again. The LCMS has set up a website to inform its own members and all concerned citizens about the grave dangers to religious freedom they see in the HHS Mandate. The LCMS has launched “Religious Liberty: Free to be Faithful” (www.lcms.org/freetobefaithful). The purpose of this educational website is to raise awareness of all Americans.
James Madison famously said religious freedom would add to the “lustre of our country.” That unique American achievement is in danger today. On July 4, 2010, the National Archives announced with great fanfare they had found an original draft of the Declaration of Independence. In it, Thomas Jefferson crossed out the word subjects and penned in the word citizens. It was the first time, archivists excitedly informed us, we Americans thought of ourselves as citizens. That question is up for decision again. Citizens are free to be faithful. Subjects must obey Mandates.
Robert Morrison is a Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He formerly served as Executive Director of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod Office of Government Information.