EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 29, 2012

Column: Is America still ‘one nation, under God’?


The Obama administration offered a compromise, saying insurance companies would have to provide contraception for employees who wanted it — so Catholic employers could avoid directly providing birth control. But that wasn’t good enough for the church, and the lawsuits persist.

If we didn’t still see ourselves as one nation under one god, none of this would matter very much. But the fact that we do gives the Catholic Church the right to sue over something like this.

It requires a huge leap of faith (pun intended) to jump from the free-exercise clause to claiming that requiring insurance companies used by Catholic employers (schools, hospitals and the like) to provide birth control to employees who want it (many of whom are not Catholic) somehow violates the right to religious liberty. Yet Catholic prelates feel justified enough in their zeal to overturn this policy that they are willing to invest millions of dollars in lawsuits to try to have it overturned.

Clearly, they and other Christian church leaders still see us as one nation under one god. But as the Pew poll indicates, this is changing. Another Pew poll released two years ago on the “millennial” generation and its relationship with faith should be even more troubling to Christian leaders. It showed the following, quoting from the Pew website: “Americans ages 18 to 29 are considerably less religious than older Americans. Fewer young adults belong to any particular faith than older people do today. They also are less likely to be affiliated than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations were when they were young.”

One day, Christian leaders will wake up and recognize that their era is crumbling. If that means they will have decreasing power in the political realm, it will be a blessing for all of us — regardless of whether the “one nation under God” pledge still applies.

Bonnie Erbe is the host of PBS’ “To the Contrary” and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.

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