Religious freedom is more than religion
On December 21, 2020 –just four days before Christians everywhere would celebrate the birth of their Savior– the Vatican’s doctrinal office (The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) issued a statement alleging that it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to take the COVID-19 vaccine, despite the fact that aborted fetal cells were used in the development of the vaccine. The doctrinal office pointed to the “grave danger” of the COVID-19 pandemic, reasoning that the threat posed to life on earth outweighs the inherent immorality of profiting from the murder of innocent life in the womb.
The office continued…
When ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.
Let’s just start with the easy part: the Vatican is WRONG, dead wrong (quite literally, as they are advocating that Christians seek to gain a profit from death itself). It is never morally permissible to commit evil acts, even for the sake of some “greater good.” That is absolutely and unequivocally at odds with Catholic teaching, and faithful Catholics (not just the kind that are more than happy to conceal the image of God with a mask in the house of the Lord) know this already.
It is also never morally permissible to profit from the evil of others. As The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us…
A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. CCC 1753 (emphasis added).
It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it. CCC 1756 (emphasis added).
“An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means. CCC 1759 (emphasis added).
Were we to follow the Vatican’s reasoning to its natural and logical conclusion, it would be morally permissible for one to willfully slaughter a child in exchange for a terrorist’s promise that he would spare the lives of 10 hostages if you did so. After all, in that dreadful scenario, the ratio of life preserved to life lost would be 10:1, so your act of murder actually saved 10 lives. Given the threat that all 10 of those hostages would be killed if you chose not to kill the child, you really had no “ethically irreproachable” option, right? I hope it is patently obvious that this is a rhetorical question.
But you know what? It really doesn’t matter what they say, because their “opinion” is irrelevant. For the purposes of the First Amendment, if you hold a sincere personal religious belief that it is immoral to use or receive a product that was procured through the death of innocents, you can legitimately claim a religious objection to the COVID-19 vaccine (or any other vaccine produced using aborted fetal cells, like the measles/mumps/rubella, or MMR, vaccine), regardless of your church’s official (or unofficial) position on the subject.
The Supreme Court of the United States, while never precisely defining “religion,” has clearly stated that a law violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment if it gives preference to objections founded in theistic beliefs over those that stem from one’s moral, ethical, or philosophical beliefs. See Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 333, 356-61 (1970).
As Justice Tom C. Clark so eloquently stated in United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163, 184 (1965),
The validity of what he believes cannot be questioned. Some theologians, and indeed some examiners, might be tempted to question the existence of the registrant’s ‘Supreme Being’ or the truth of his concepts. But these are inquiries foreclosed to Government.
Those of us involved in the ongoing struggle for medical freedom in this country have heard time and again politicians dismissing their constituents’ religious beliefs as “invalid” simply because they do not align with a tenet or the official position of one’s stated religious affiliation. This would seem to fit squarely within the ambit of the line of inquiries “foreclosed to Government.”
Government officials have absolutely no right to tell you that your beliefs aren’t valid. Politicians are not the arbiters of our faith. We are a nation of free persons, and nowhere does that freedom manifest itself more dearly than in our religious beliefs. Just as it was reprehensible for governors and mayors to pick “winners and losers” among our businesses through illogical and unconstitutional lockdown orders, it is even more reprehensible for state actors to decide which beliefs are worthy of protection.
The Framers of our Constitution agreed, and so gifted us the First Amendment. God bless them, and God bless the brave men and women who have fought so valiantly to defend it. We will not stand idly by while these godless tyrants try to tear that precious document to shreds, besmirching the memory and the honor of those who died for its sake. Stand tall. Stand proud. Stand together, one nation, under God.
Brian Festa is a Hartford attorney and Co-Founder of the CT Freedom Alliance, LLC.
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