Should we talk about freedom of conscience instead?

Obama’s healthcare reform law hasn’t been much in the media or on our minds as the election approaches – but maybe it should be. I was reminded last Sunday that the Christian publishing company Tyndale House Publishers, to pick just one example, is facing fines of $26,000 per day if they refuse to pay for abortifacents for their employees. Their president has released a letter about this, and it sounds likely they will refuse to pay for the drugs even if it drives them completely out of business. (h/t Acts 4:19)

But I wonder if, in the interest of communicating better with the populace at large, we should change (or at least add to) the language we use when talk about these issues. Because, while I think freedom of religion is an important principle, an increasing number of Americans seem to have a decreasing amount of respect for the principle. And part of the problem, I think, is that they can’t empathize – they feel like Christians are just sort of following the instructions in some book we have because that’s what we do, by golly.

But, while not everyone has some holy book they can point to, everyone has a conscience, and everyone can imagine what it would be like if someone forced you to violate that conscience. It isn’t just that Tyndale doesn’t want to pay for abortifacents because they’re following, in a detached sense, the instructions of some book they like. No, rather, they believe in God, believe that the Bible contains messages from God, and believe, with their hearts as well as their minds, that it would be a great evil for them to have any personal involvement in an abortion. And the freedom to obey your own conscience is a freedom cherished by everyone.