Wash Post Journalist: 'Maybe the Founders Were Wrong' to Guarantee Free Exercise of Religion

Washington Post political writer Melinda Henneberger shockingly stated, Wednesday, that "maybe the Founders were wrong" to guarantee religious liberty. Henneberger appeared on Hardball to discuss the Obama administration's decision to force the Catholic Church to provide birth control in health care.

Discussing the battle between the left and those who see it as a threat to the First Amendment, she declared, " Maybe the Founders were wrong to guarantee free exercise of religion in the First Amendment but that is what they did and I don't think we have to choose here. " Henneberger's awkward comment came as she attempted to defend the Catholic Church. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

Host Chris Matthews speculated about the Catholic Church capitulating: "Can you imagine them saying we give up? We're going to provide full insurance coverage with no co-pay for everything now defined by the FDA as birth control...They're going to go for this?"

Henneberger shot back, "That will never happen."

She added, "...What [the Obama administration is] doing is guaranteeing people, you know, these Catholic outfits and others can't serve the populations that they were called to serve. But, it does not have to come to that."

Henneberger's larger point was defensive of the Catholic Church and of religious liberty. However, her comment on the First Amendment was poorly phrased.

A transcript of the February 8 segment, which aired at 5:20pm EST, follows:


CHRIS MATTHEWS: There you have the ideological argument from the left, I suppose, the progressives in this country. You heard it well-spoken there, I believe, Melinda, they see it as an argument over whether you're allowed to have birth control or getting covered as part of the insurance or not. The Catholic Church and those who are looking at the interests of the, well, the First Amendment if you will, as they see it look at it differently. Explain this distinction and how you look at the interests involved, the conflicts, the rights involved here.

MELINDA HENNEBERGER (Washington Post): I just think the two sides can't hear each other, not that there is anything unusual about that. But I know in my own conversations with friends, I'm saying, "First Amendment, First Amendment, First Amendment." And what I hear back is, "Wow. I had no idea you, you didn't believe in birth control." You know, this really is  seen widely among Catholics and people of other faiths as an attack on religious liberty. Maybe the Founders were wrong to guarantee free exercise of religion in the First Amendment, but that is what they did and I don't think we have to choose here. The key is that I think there are ways we can go about this where, without infringing on any concern about a woman's health, we can still guarantee religious liberty without which, I mean, there is no way this is going to stand in the court but it's also a huge political liability.

MATTHEWS: Okay. You say there is no way it's going to stand in the court. Let's assume there is no legislation that gets signed by the President. Let's assume it stands between this who's going to blink thing. Let's ask, will the Catholic Church, let's ask, blink? Can you imagine them saying we give up. We're going to provide full insurance coverage with no co-pay for everything now defined by the FDA as birth control. They're going to do it. They're going to go for this?

HENNEBERGER: That actually can never happen so they would have to literally go- I mean, what Sister Carol Keehan is saying who runs the Catholic Health association, do I really have to choose between the call that I think came from Jesus to serve the have nots in this world and the government telling me that I have to do something that goes against my faith? I mean, this really- that will never happen so what they're doing is guaranteeing people, you know, these Catholic outfits and others can't serve the populations that they were called to serve. But, it does not have to come to that.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org