Memo to Jews: After They Come for the Catholic Church, They Will Come For Us

Today it is contraception and the morning-after pill. Tomorrow it will be kosher slaughter, or matrilineal descent, or circumcision, or other matters of existential importance to Jewish observance. If the Obama administration gets away with forcing Catholic institutions to step across lines of life and death in the name of "health," the federal government will have a precedent to legislate Judaism out of existence -- as several other countries have already tried to do.

Now the Obama administration has told Catholic institutions that they don’t have to dispense pills that kill babies. Instead, they can pay the insurance company, and the insurance company will dispense the pill for them. It is an accounting trick (as Paul Ryan called it) that the White House misrepresents as a compromise. The Catholic bishops, of course, reject it. And only one Jewish organization, the haredi organization Agudath Israel, offered a sharp response. Its Washington director Abba Cohen stated:

Whether or not the White House's new "compromise" proposal adequately addresses the religious freedom concerns raised by the Catholic Church is for the Catholic Church to say, not us - and, frankly, not the White House, either. The important points here are that no religiously sponsored entity, and no religiously motivated individual, should be forced by government to violate its or his sincerely held religious principles; and that the determination of religious propriety must be left to the religious entity or individual, not to the government.

The Orthodox Union, according to press accounts, guardedly praised the "compromise," saying: "The president's stated commitment is a positive first step forward, the details of implementation are crucial and we look forward to working with the administration to see that through.” As a late-in-life returnee to Jewish observance, I habitually defer to  the Orthodox Union leadership in such matters. Having had the misfortune to have spent half my life among the atheists and religion-haters, though, I know how embittered and unrelenting are the supposed disciples of science. They are in fact  religious fanatics of the worst kind. You can't make a deal with them. After they come for the Catholics, they will come for us. They already are coming for us all over the world.

It isn't happening in the United States -- not yet, except for a laughable referendum in San Francisco last year to prohibit circumcision. But it's happening in England, where the country's highest court has ruled that the religious definition of Jewish identity is racist. It's happened in several European countries as well as New Zealand, which have banned or might ban kosher slaughter.

Contraception is not the issue. The issue is whether science has the right to decide the ultimate matters of life and death, or whether this is reserved to faith. We can argue the practical consequences all day and not get anywhere. It's not as if contraception has ushered in a glorious era of human reproduction in which every child is planned and wanted. More than half of births to American women under 30 now occur outside of marriage, the New York Times reported Feb. 18, and overwhelmingly to working-class women who are economically unprepared for single motherhood. And 71% of total African-American and 53% of Hispanic births are out of wedlock as well. The cultural shift from the nuptial mystery of religion to the blandishments of recreational sex has left us with a catastrophic rate of illegitimacy and the prospect of a self-perpetuating underclass.

But that isn't the issue. The fact that the liberals have left us with a social dystopia instead of a golden age is beside the point. The issue is: Who has the right to draw the lines where life and death are concerned? Morning-after pills may not seem too horrible to most of us. It's not the same as sucking out the brains of a fully-developed fetus in a so-called "partial birth abortion," or dismembering a 3-month-old fetus that responds to stimuli and can feel pain, is it? The Australian comic Jim Jeffries has made a career out of a routine that claims heaven must be boring; if you think of eternal bliss as a simple extension of ordinary time, you'd get used to it eventually. That sort of paradox of time has been in the literature since St. Augustine. But the paradox cuts both ways. If you don't like sucking the brains out of a fully-developed fetus at eight months, how about 7 months? Or six months? Or five months? Three months? How about three months less one minute? Or less one second? Where do you draw the line? Nothing in our science can tell us where life begins. If you can overrule the Catholic assertion that life begins at conception on putative scientific grounds and require Catholic institutions to pay for morning-after pills, you have given "science" carte blanche to determine where life begins -- and ends.