NORMAN — Surveying the response to last month’s Hobby Lobby decision, I was struck by a comment from progressive Massachusetts senator and possible Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.
Speaking about the ruling, Warren remarked: “I cannot believe that we live in a world where [we] would even consider letting some big corporation deny the women who work for it access to the basic medical treatments or prescriptions that they need based on vague moral objections.”
I won’t address inaccuracies in the first part of her comment — I did that last week. And frankly, it’s the latter half that concerns me, precisely for what it reveals about the deep and growing divide between religious and secular America.
The significance of religion in America evolved through history, but it has always been regarded with deep respect across the political spectrum. The reaction from the left to the Hobby Lobby decision indicates that is no longer the case.
In brushing off the religious convictions of the Hobby Lobby owners with such unstinting indifference, Warren describes quite succinctly how many on the secular left view religion today.
In a word: insignificant.
To the senator and those of like minds, faith, it would seem, is not fundamental, defining or life-giving, but vague, casual and intermittent; “more like a hobby,” as Bloomberg columnist Megan McArdle describes it.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent, seemed to agree about religion’s irrelevance in secular democracy, referring to any effect of the administration’s contraceptive coverage requirement on an individual’s free exercise as “incidental.”
For many Americans whose faith informs everything they do , relegating faith to the marginal role of “activity” or “hobby” isn’t just ignorant, it’s a threat to our democracy.
Anyone who has cracked a textbook on U.S. history is probably aware that our nation owes its beginning to men and women expressly seeking to secure their own religious freedom.