By Kelly Boggs, Editor Baptist Message Planned Parenthood, Vanderbilt University and the Obama administration – what do these three have in common? Each recently has been involved in situations that address whether or not private and/or religious organizations are going to be afforded freedom and respect when it comes to matters of faith and conscience, especially by those who disagree with their beliefs. In January Komen for the Cure, which claims to be the global leader in the fight against breast cancer, announced it was pulling an annual $680,000 grant it had been giving to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer awareness. The amount represented only .00068 percent of the PP budget. Planned Parenthood and its supporters went apoplectic over the Komen announcement. The nation’s largest provider of abortion services mounted a public campaign accusing Komen of abandoning poor women. Privately, the message that was communicated was clear: If Komen did not reverse the funding decision, its days were numbered. Given the intensity of Planned Parenthood’s attack you would have thought it was losing at least a quarter of its budget. But its budget is more than $1 billion. Why did it react so intensely and so publicly over the loss of .00068 percent of its budget? From Planned Parenthood’s perspective, if a respected organization like Komen pulled its funding, what sort of signal would that send to the masses? Perhaps there really is something amiss with the reality of Planned Parenthood. So despite the fact that Komen is a private organization that has every right to invest its money where it sees fit, Planned Parenthood publically strong-armed Komen into submission. Vanderbilt University recently imposed a new regulation on student organizations. The new policy denies any faith group – read, “Christian organizations” – the ability to require any belief as a prerequisite for participation in a group. The regulation even applies to leadership of an organization. In other words, not only does a student at Vanderbilt not have to accept the basic tenets of a faith-based organization to join the group, he or she cannot be denied a leadership position because of a lack or absence of faith or belief. You might ask, “Why would a person join an organization he or she does not agree with, much less seek to be a leader in that group?” Good question. Political and lifestyle activists, who hold the opposite position of a faith group, now can take advantage of the policy at Vanderbilt to infiltrate a faith group and push their point of view. In fact, Vandy’s new regulations are the result of an incident involving a homosexual student. During the Fall of 2010 a male student was a member of the national Christian fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi when he “came out of the closet” and announced he was homosexual and involved in a same-sex relationship. The Christian-based fraternity removed the young man from the group. Under pressure, the university capitulated by enacting the new all inclusive, anti-discriminatory, oh-so-tolerant regulations. Tolerant, that is, to everyone but students of faith. Vanderbilt is a private institution and thus can regulate religious groups however it sees fit, since the First Amendment does not apply in the same way it would at a publicly- funded university. That said, the fact that it is private is all the more reason it should not have surrendered to the demands of the homosexual student and the threat of a law suit. In the cases of Komen and Vanderbilt you have two private organizations that were threatened by a liberal agenda and, as a result, capitulated to the pressure. In both instances they feared being smeared by not only political and lifestyle activists groups, but also a media sympathetic to liberal causes. The Obama administration recently took the tension between private organizations and liberal activists to a new level when it was announced that the national health care law would require even religiously affiliated organizations to provide contraceptives, including abortifacients, to all employees at no cost. Facing an outcry from religious groups, the administration seemed to change its tune and offered what it called a compromise: No longer would the religious affiliated organizations have to offer the contraception and abortifacients; the insurance carriers would be required to offer the products and/or services. Faith groups saw through the so-called compromise for what it really was – nothing more than an accounting maneuver. Faith-based employers pay the premiums for their employees, so the end result is they are still being required to provide products and services that go against their deeply held beliefs. Many believe the attempt by the Obama administration to force religious groups to fund contraception and abortifacients is a blatant violation of the First Amendment. I agree. It also reveals a total lack of respect for Americans who are serious about their faith. What seems clear with regard to the situations involving Komen, Vanderbilt and the Obama administration is that some in America have no respect for the right of private and religious organizations to make decisions according to the dictates of their faith and conscience. One of the hallmarks that has helped to make America great has been the respect extended to religious individuals, and the organizations they have formed, to operate according to the dictates of their faith and their conscience. If our nation is to recover from its current moral stupor, it will require not only a respect for religious faith, but also an appreciation for the role it has played in the history of America, a role that has been significantly diminished in recent years.