The Ethics ,and Public Policy Center had their National Religious Freedom Conference today. It had some heavy hitter speakers , and as soon as it is archived on C-Span I will link it.
Mike Leavitt former Governor of Utah , former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and former Secretary of Health and Human Services spoke and had a wonderful point linking the fight for religious liberty , and the erosion of our nations wetlands.
He talked a great deal of how when he headed up the EPA he knew nothing about the Nations wetlands , ,and had to learn and be taught by others.
As a former Governor his only dealings with wetlands was it blocked a highway for years.
He later got a great education as EPA chief , and in giving this religious liberty talk did a nice job of pointing out Louisiana wetlands are in trouble.
He talked about certain things lead to Coastal erosion , and it's more than just one burning platform that gets all the press.
His analogy was that Religious Freedom is caused by the combination of many small events just like coastal erosion..He also stated he had no clue how vastly important Wetlands were until he experienced their natural benefits.
I thought this was a GREAT way to frame issues when we are seeing this year Religious Freedom on the forefront.
If you from Louisiana you really get it.
In effect as to wetland ,and coastal erosion we are dealing with two sovereigns that must respect each other.
That being MAN , and Mother Nature.
This is much like the two other sovereigns in their self respective realms. That is Church and State.
You can't separate man ,and mother nature just like you can't strictly separate Church and State interaction. When things are going good they help compliment each other.
Coastal Erosion does not happen overnight.
Now the Coastal /wetland crisis is not caused by one situation , and the people causing this often have the best intentions. They have some valid goals.
The oil and gas industry that fuels this nation , but has dug up the wetlands with canals at times.
Because this is a working coast the shipping , oil and gas, and fishing industry must have people to fuel it. So that means development on Coastal lands that has an effect on the wetlands.That has not always been good.
Both the Nation and Louisiana residents basically benefit by making sure the Mississippi River is the Nation's most important highway. However that also means because it's basically now a canal that sediment that built thewetlands is now just going off the edge of the Continental shelf .
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is a vital link in our commerce needs , but it also plays a huge role in Coastal erosion.
Finally disasters whether natural like Hurricane Katrina ,or man made like the BP oil spill do not help to say the leat.
What do we face today as to wetlands.. We face numerous towns including places like New Orleans under threat because there is no wetlands to stop the hurricane storm surge.
We have communities and farmers that have salt water infusion problems into their drinking water.
We have a whole eco system at threat .
We also have a very unique cultural tradition that might be gone with the wind.
ALL BECAUSE WE DID NOT ACCOMODATE MOTHER NATURE.
That does not mean let Mother Nature have free reign. People have to live here , and cannot have Mother Nature take a improper role of subverting man. ( Look at final paragraphs of this post to Church / Sate analogy) .
People In Louisiana have known for some decades there was a problem. However it was easy to ignore the threats , the real casual erosion, that caused numerous other problems.
The Nation's attention is briefly forced to pay attention to this problem with things like the hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. The state leaders to their credit have used those two events to try to demand that the nation be part of the solution.
The HHS Birth Control Mandate is in a way many religious leaders BP , and Hurricane Katrina moment.
Religious liberty at times can be eroded away by small things. We for the most part see this in the States and local Govt. We have seen the issues of same sex marriage ,and adoption issue affect numerous Catholic Dioceses. That includes. but not limited to the Archdioceses of D.C , Boston, and the entire state of Illinois
We have seen quite an attempt too pass overboard Anti Shari laws in various States . In fact just this past week the Michigan Catholic Bishops were fighting that battle in Michigan ,and tried to point out how this has many effects.
We see some laws in response to valid concerns over immigration issues that could make criminal the act of giving Christian Charity to an illegal alien.
We have seen a wedding photographer having to engage in litigation with the Government because her beliefs prohibited her in participating in a sex marriage ceremony.( That case is believe it or not still in the Courts).
In fact a leading religious reporter just last year seemed baffled that florists or food folks might not be mandated by NY Law to be sort of the provider of sacramentals in NY Same Sex Marriage events .
We are also dealing with numerous religious liberty , and conscience issues as to licenses one needs to have to be in a profession and make a livelihood.
We saw the Obama administration argue that there was no such thing as a ministerial exception in the first amendment.
The list includes a lot of small things that like erosion of wetlands causes problems.
The HHS Mandate is much like Hurricane Katrina. It's not the only attack on religious liberty , but it is a substantial problem that attacks perhaps a weaken system. See What is a Religious Institution? .
If you are at a bar in the French Quarter its doubtful you are thinking of that acre an hour the Louisiana coast is losing.
However if you were down there during Katrina with the feel of danger in the air it's much more hard to ignore. If you are having a nice walk down St Charles radio and spell the HEAVY THICK PUTRID smell of the BP oil spill in the air you get it.
However there are opportunities. It took Katrina and the BP spill combined in some ways to drag people's short attention spans to a pending national security ,economic, and cultural emergency.
Also I think , I hope at least, that the Federal Govt realize the "band aid" solutions are not enough. It is hoped that opportunity comes out of this crisis and these issues are highlighted.
The question is will the American people see this Katrina like threat , and be moved to take it seriously.
Much like the two sovereigns of Mother Nature and Man we cannot live where Mother Nature trumps all. Likewise in the clashing of the two sovereigns of Church , and State the Church cannot be exempt from all laws and regulations.
In Louisiana we are learning more , and more the great benefit of the wetlands now they are in danger. Benefits we might have had no idea about just years ago.Ignoring those benefits as I hope I stated well enough in this post has put us all in great danger.
Let me make one final analogy that involves the crucial issues of the The HHS Contraception Mandate vs. the Religious Freedom Restoration Act . Mother nature cannot trump man on the Louisiana Coast , but the wetland crisis made us learn that accomodating it is good. Our motives and aims ( energy, jobs, transportation, economic etc ) might be quite proper and right.
We have learned that we must do more to survive. That is in this relationship as to the wetlands GOVERNMENT can only substantially burden the wetlands only if
(1) there is a compelling governmental interest
(2) it is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
If you can see it as the wetlands then maybe you can see it as to religious liberty where that test is done.
Let us stop the erosion.