President Obama’s Legacy on Religious Liberty

Assessing the outgoing president’s policies over the past eight years, Andrew T. Walker and Josh Wester see a consistently “callous” attitude toward religious freedom, especially when it came to legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Regarding the latter, they write:

During the implementation of the ACA, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a mandate . . . requiring most employer health plans to provide “all FDA-approved forms of contraception,” including some that act as abortifacients. Despite being aware of the conscience issues created by such a rule, HHS allowed only the narrowest of exemptions for certain types of religious employers. The protests of business owners, religious leaders of various faiths, and advocates of freedom fell on deaf ears. The administration’s unyielding commitment to this HHS mandate revealed its animus toward religious freedom and ultimately resulted in two very consequential and public defeats for the president’s agenda [at the Supreme Court]. . . .

Among those seeking relief from the oppressive mandate were the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic religious order dedicated to caring for the elderly poor. After years of bureaucratic and legal strife—to say nothing of the threat of million-dollar fines for conscientious dissent—the administration ultimately acknowledged that this mandate was not the least restrictive means of furthering a government interest in providing contraceptives—an unnecessary outcome.

From the start, the administration should have established compromise measures to ensure health coverage for contraceptives without needlessly burdening religious exercise. But such intransigence only proved the larger point. For the Obama administration, whatever the value of religious freedom might be, it could easily be subjugated to a higher, more progressive, ideal.

Read more at National Review

More about: Abortion, Barack Obama, Freedom of Religion, Gay marriage, Obamacare, Politics & Current Affairs

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy