With the presidential election less than a week away, conservative think tank leader Ed Whelan spoke on the University of Wisconsin campus last night, highlighting his thoughts on religious liberties under President Barack Obama’s administration.
Badger Catholic, UW’s chapter of the Federalist Society and the Wisconsin Union Directorate hosted Whelan, who is the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, according to Badger Catholic President Jake Heyka. Whelan addressed in his speech what Hayek described to be core issues facing Catholics today.
According to Heyka, Badger Catholic looked toward EPPC for a speaker because of the organization’s dedication to Catholic values. The center is a Washington, D.C., institution that deals with the relations between religious and ethical issues and the choices of political leaders in the American democracy.
“As we looked at the oncoming election and the issues facing Catholics we considered having a speaker come in who could speak about the Catholic issues; obviously there have been some issues between Catholics and the Obama administration,” Heyka said.
Whelan outlined his belief that the president’s actions over the last four years have deteriorated and marginalized religious liberty in the United States.
Whelan said the president and the Obama administration have repeatedly undervalued religious liberty in their political actions.
“Religious liberty during the Obama administration, under President Obama, is also a story of President Obama subjugating religious liberty, subordinating it to goals he has decided are more important, disparaging religious liberty, deprecating it.” Whelan said.
In an effort to back his thesis, Whelan added under the Obama administration, it took two years to appoint an international religious liberty representative, who he said was ultimately given limited resources.
Whelan contrasted this with the immediate appointment of an international lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender representative who was given ample resources, Whelan said.
Focusing his talk on contemporary issues, Whelan discussed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s mandate that requires almost all private insurance providers to provide coverage for all Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription contraceptive drugs, devices, surgical sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs.
According to Whelan, the Obama administration’s ideology is marginalizing traditional Catholic beliefs by unilaterally requiring private insurance providers to cover contraception.
Whelan added this marginalization can also be seen in the context of LGBT rights. The administration’s refusal to exempt religious organizations from anti-discrimination laws, Whelan said, has “forced” Catholic charities and adoption agencies out of business because of the requirement to accept same-sex couples.
“There were plenty of adoption agencies that provided for same-sex couples,” Whelan said. “But in the name of diversity, each of these businesses had to be exactly the same.”
According to Whelan, such punishing legislature under the Obama administration has been seen in other industries as well, adding the president has finally “abandoned” the Defense of Marriage Act after “pretending” to support it.
Whelan ended his talks highlighting the importance of the upcoming elections when referencing religious liberties, adding the current administration is trying to push the ideology that “Religious organizations are only as good as the secular services they offer.”
According to Whelan, the significance of religious liberty dates back to the Founding Fathers, who called them “our rights from God,” and he added it is society’s obligation to secure those rights.