Much has been made of the life and career of Muhammad Ali in recent days. This is a good thing. His great boxing fights against George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton were recalled. But even more has been made about his fight to be a conscientious objector due to his Muslim faith. Many have applauded Ali's strong battle for religious freedom.
Ali's widow, Lonnie, according to ESPN, said that her husband had been prepared to sacrifice everything to follow his soul. She said that message resonates even stronger today. Indeed it does.
Comedian Billy Crystal, in a moving speech at his funeral, said:
"Muhammad Ali struck us in the middle of America's darkest night, in the heart of the most threatening, gathering storm...His power toppled the mightiest of foes, and his intense light shined on America, and we were able to see clearly in justice, in equality, poverty, pride, self-realization, courage, laughter, love, joy and religious freedom for all."
President Obama himself sent a message, which said, in part, “He was our most basic freedoms: religion, speech, spirit."
But it is Obama himself who seeks to undermine religious freedom. Interestingly, many who are praising Ali today for his stance for religious freedom as a conscientious objector are the same ones working to undermine and dismantle those very freedoms.
As Rabbi Michael Lerner said at Ali's funeral , "the way to honor Muhamad Ali is to be Muhammad Ali today."
I wonder, who better represents the struggle for religious freedom than the Little Sisters of the Poor today. Ali was willing to sacrifice everything and fought for the United States government in order to follow his religion as did the Little Sisters. Ali took his case all the way the Supreme Court as did the Little Sisters. Both achieved hard won favorable judgements from a high court with eight justices.
But while Ali's fight for religious freedom is praised as his greatest victory, the plight of the Little Sisters of the Poor for the very same freedom is either assailed or ignored. President Obama praises Ali's stance while attempting to destroy the religious freedom of the Sisters. The media which praises Ali often heaps scorn upon the Little Sisters. The LA Times labeled the Little Sisters of the Poor's lawsuit "absurd." Slate Magazine accused the Sisters of "trying to weasel out of nothing more onerous than signing a piece of paper."
I think it says something sad about us as a country and how little we cherish freedom. I believe that many praise Ali, not because of his stance for religious freedom but because they see his fight as being a liberal anti-Vietnam stance of which they approve. On the other hand, the right of nuns to not be forced to provide abortifacients is seen as coming from the right end of the political spectrum and therefore not approved. We are no longer a nation of laws and rights. We have sadly devolved into a nation of gangs. If someone in your gang does something, we are no longer concerned with right and wrong but solely on right and left. We are no longer concerned with principles but party.
I do not believe the country can long survive like that.