“Follow Your Own Moral Compass”
Kathleen Sebelius: religious liberty – or something else?
by Dr. Tom Askew
In a dramatic move which surprised many faithful Catholics, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was invited to speak at the recent awards assembly for Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. Sebelius, a former governor of Kansas, is well-known as a “pro-choice Catholic.” Because of her opposition to laws limiting abortion, one archbishop has noted that “after pastoral admonition, she persists in serious sin.”
Sebelius’ appearance at Georgetown is significant in that she is the primary author of the Obama administration’s mandate requiring religious employers to provide health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and some abortifacient drugs. Georgetown, the nation’s oldest Jesuit university, has been the center of the controversy over whether this mandate should apply to employees of institutions with a religious objection to the policy.
While Sebelius did not directly address the controversial health care mandate, she did speak at length about “the intersection of religious faith with policy decisions,” and raised more than a few eyebrows with her comments.
Citing John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech in which he assured Americans that the Vatican would not dictate U.S. policy under his presidency, Sebelius quoted this passage:
“In that talk to Protestant ministers, Kennedy talked about his vision of religion and the public square, and said he believed in an America, and I quote, ‘where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against us all’.”
Yet Sebelius, in her address, treated Kennedy’s words as though there were no reference to religious liberty at all. “Today, there are serious debates underway about the direction of our country – debates about the size and role of government, about America’s role as a global economic and military leader, about the moral and economic imperative of providing health care to all our citizens,” she said. “People have deeply-held beliefs on all sides of these discussions, and you, as public policy leaders, will be called on to help move these debates forward.”
If by “forward” Sebelius means away from the already clearly stated position of the Catholic church, or the stance of those who hold the Bible as authoritative, what guideline did she recommend for “advancing” toward better policy decisions?
“Contributing to these debates will require more than just the quantitative skills you have learned at Georgetown,” she concluded. “It will also require the ethical skills you have honed – the ability to weigh different views, see issues from other points of view, and in the end, follow your own moral compass.”
How can one advocate that it is possible for every individual to follow “his own moral compass” without inevitable conflicts? How should these conflicts be resolved? Sebelius seems to advocate that those who will make policy (the graduates to whom she was speaking) are free to follow their own moral direction…and then enforce it on everyone else through the rule of law.
As seen in her personal life choices, Sebelius has dismissed the authority of her own church. Now she advocates that graduates of a university founded by the same faith abandon any loyalty higher than themselves.
Scripture has much to say about following one’s “own moral compass.” When Moses defined the Hebrews as a law-abiding people in Deuteronomy 12:1, he declared, “These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess…” Then he added, “You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes.” (v.8) When God raised up the prophet Micah to reprove the nation of Israel, it was because “in those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6)
And in more than one place in Proverbs, Solomon warned against this same folly: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes…”
As you pray for America, ask that it become not a nation of chaos with everyone doing what they want, or a nation of tyranny with everyone doing what is right in the eyes of public opinion…but a nation that recognizes and honors the God of the Bible. Dr. Tom Askew has been an educator in both public and private schools for 37 years, in Hong Kong, Germany, Georgia, and Arizona. He is currently doing educational consulting and instruction for Christian schools in Arizona.