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So it is not infringing upon religious freedom to require, let us say Georgetown University, to provide its janitors with the same health plan as NYU. No one is requiring the Catholic Church to operate Georgetown University. But the government does have a legitimate interest in insuring that all janitors get similar health coverage.

The freedom to practice one’s religion is a freedom that pertains to activities involving worship. It is a freedom that entitles church members to assemble together and to employ free speech to convince others to follow their path. But it is not a freedom to advantage the religious institution in its commercial enterprises. Such a demand by any religious denomination is a demand for special treatment. It is a demand that our government must not agree to because it is really asking for all of us to treat as special, a specific religion. To give Catholic universities or hospitals an exemption from any labor laws that apply to similar commercial enterprises would be a violation of the constitution’s prohibition against establishing a government sanctioned religion.

What these advocates of so-called freedom of religion are arguing for is that their practices be imposed upon all of us. They want to prevent everyone from using contraceptives. They want to prevent every woman from having an abortion, regardless of the reason. So they demand that the enterprises they support get special treatment, thus an advantage over others. Over time their demands will prove insatiable, their position intractable and we will find a government edict dictating that we follow their creed. This is not a matter of freedom but a matter of theocracy.

Once upon a time, in ancient Catholic Rome and in Europe during the Middle Ages priests were not subject to the laws of the state. They could not be tried in a civil court. They could commit any crime and walk free, unless the Catholic Church decided to discipline them. Some, like Rick Santorum, would have us go back to those days. But we must be aware of the danger, as were the drafters or our constitution.  Every cleric, of every stripe should be put on clear notice that once stepping out of the church and beyond their roles as leaders of services, that upon entering into the public square the secular laws of our state apply equally to them as to everyone else.  And politicians who advocate special exemptions to clerics from our secular laws, merely because of their religious affiliations, cannot without perjuring themselves, swear to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States. The likes of Santorum, Romney and Gingrich, in particular, are by their own admissions, disqualified to hold public office under our constitution. If we do not want to invite a return to the Dark Ages, we must repudiate them and their extremism.

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