Editor's note: A version of this article first appeared in The American Spectator.
A few years back I wrote a book on the faith of Hillary Clinton. To this day it jolts liberals and conservatives alike that I, Mr. Reagan Conservative, would have written God and Hillary Clinton: A Spiritual Life, especially on the heels of books on the faiths of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Conservatives were incredulous, annoyed that I took Hillary's faith 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 co-sponsored (with Rick Santorum, no less) the Workplace Religious Freedom Act. Her husband backed 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, 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, Mrs. Clinton has blasted the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling in a shocking way that signals her shift to the extreme left.
Speaking in Aspen, Colorado, Clinton said of the Hobby Lobby case: "It's the first time that our court has said that … 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. As is widely known, Hobby Lobby already covers the entire cost of 16 out of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives under its insurance plan for employees. The Hobby Lobby owners aren't against birth control. They object to paying for pills or devices that kill a human embryo–that is, abortifacients (drugs that produce an abortion). 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?
And either way, women all over America remain fully free to buy contraceptives and abortion drugs. Countless employers and organizations, from Hobby Lobby to Conestoga Woods to the Little Sisters of the Poor to the University of Notre Dame, are pleading with the government to not be imposed upon by government. They are begging to be merely left alone, to keep things as they were. They simply want America as it has always been: they don't want to be forced to pay for things that violate their conscience and most sacred beliefs on human life. They are acting solely defensively, and paying huge sums in lawsuits in the process. Big-government liberals are the aggressors in this situation.
Has liberalism become so intransigent and so intolerant that liberals can't understand or permit this?
Quite the contrary, liberals/progressives are claiming that those who object to paying for other peoples' abortions, contraception, and sterilization services (this, of course, applies to men), favor nothing less than a "war on women." They "hate" women. This is incredibly divisive and vicious.
Undeterred, Mrs. Clinton continued with her charges: "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. In this same interview, 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. 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.
This assessment by Hillary Clinton is breathtakingly outrageous and irresponsible. If this is genuinely her take on this situation–and not just crass, dangerous demagoguery–then she is a person of such profoundly 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. 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. She has detached herself from the roots that once anchored her, and now she's off the hinges, drifting along with whatever whim and fancy and cultural "change" that ever-shifting 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."
---Dr. 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. His other books include The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor and Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
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