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HHS and soft totalitarianism


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The Obama administration's recently-announced HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) regulations, which would require Catholic institutions to subsidize health insurance coverage that provides sterilization, abortifacient drugs and contraceptives, should be located within the context of the administration's three-year-long effort to define religious freedom down.

As the administration has demonstrated in its international human rights policy, it regards religious freedom as a kind of privacy right: the right to freedom of worship, which the administration seems to regard as analogous to any other optional, recreational activity. No serious student of religious freedom, however, takes the redefinition of religious freedom as freedom-to-worship seriously. For if that redefinition were true, there would be "religious freedom" in Saudi Arabia, so long as the "worship" in question were conducted behind closed doors. And that is manifestly absurd.

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