“Sanctuary” concept is coercion masquerading as conversion

by Ken Burrows

The following opinion piece was written in response to an editorial that appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette on 1/5/13. It appeared in the 1/8/13 edition of The Gazette and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

Fr. Bill Carmody starts out right in describing how pro-lifers can more effectively reduce abortions—i.e., by converting those on the pro-choice side through personal example, compassion for pregnant women, and, yes, love. He proposes this new tack in lieu of the in-your-face vitriol and extremism many pro-lifers have tried that he says results in too much backlash, which he labels as hate. (“Make Colorado Springs a sanctuary city, closed to abortion,” 01/05/13) It was a worthy idea up to that point, but having called for this “love over hate” approach, he then subordinated the concept by proposing that Colorado Springs declare itself a “sanctuary city” in which abortion would be banned, an odd phantasm that would have the city withhold a right that is the recognized law of the land.

abortion“Abortion would still be legal,” he explained, “yet you could not do it in the sanctuary.” Where would this leave those who live in the city but do not share the same faith tenets as Fr. Carmody and his pro-life colleagues? With religiously based abridgment of individual liberty, for starters, where the will of all is forced to conform to the faith of the few. This is effectively a call to put the city in service to the church, inflicting insult to constitutional principle and injury to freedom.

It’s curious that Fr. Carmody presents this sanctuary concept as an alternative to what he says is the failed effort by pro-lifers to “convert hearts by truth.” He says pro-lifers trying to persuade by their definitions of truth has simply led to making reactive hate “the weapon of the pro-abortion movement.” But if we are to talk about hate and weaponry, let’s ask which side, pro-choicers or pro-lifers, has resorted to torching and bombing the workplaces of those with whom they disagree, or maiming and murdering these people outright. Is this also part of the pro-life “truth” that has failed to convert?

It’s quite possible it is not pro-life “truth” that has failed to convert or that has spawned the blowback Fr. Carmody perceives. Rather it may be the relentless drive by pro-lifers, and particularly his own church hierarchy, to use force in the service of faith—to coerce those of us beyond the congregation’s walls to live by religious precepts we do not assent to. One sees the same thing happening in the militancy against marriage equality for gays and lesbians. Given that such efforts effectively dismiss the sincerely held convictions of others, it’s quite the contradiction that these campaigns are waged by an institution that has of late been sounding the trumpet ever more loudly on the inviolability of a free conscience.

So Fr. Carmody’s “sanctuary city” would likely exacerbate the divide he seems to want to bridge. It largely departs from his nobler exhortation that “We must love them to conversion.” The sanctuary is coercion masquerading as conversion. It would be yet another church-based constraint on liberty, the choice of those who still have not learned what does not work.

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