“Have you heard of the Little Sisters of the Poor?”
Earlier this month, all eyes were on Arizona, as a fight over question of religious liberties morphed into a shout-down about civil rights. Asked about the issue on a radio show, Mark Brnovich, a lifelong Arizonan, focused on a group of religious sisters who serve the elderly poor.
A former prosecutor, Brnovich, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, pointed to the Little Sisters as an example of what’s at stake in the fight over the Obamacare birth-control mandate. The sisters are women who give their all to make sure that the vulnerable are not left alone and cast aside. They are religious sisters who are among more than 300 plaintiffs in 94 cases currently suing the Department of Health and Human Services. In the case of the Little Sisters, they qualify as a religious group under Obama administration definitions, but are still required to direct their employees to health coverage that violates the group’s conscience.
The Little Sisters are a good starting point for understanding Brnovich and his campaign for the Republican nomination for attorney general of Arizona.
“We have a moral obligation as a society to protect the vulnerable — whether they are unborn, children or adults,” Brnovich, who has been married for 17 years and has two daughters, said during a recent trip to Washington, D.C.
Brnovich, like Adam Paul Laxalt running for attorney general in Nevada and sitting Attorney General Scott Pruitt in Kentucky, represent a generation of leaders who feel a renewed responsibility to the law and a moral climate that helps the individual flourish in a healthy republic with a robust civil society.
“Every government that is big enough to give you everything is big enough to take things away,” he says.
His philosophy of government comes from long experience. It has a lot to do with his mother. A native of the former Yugoslavia, he recalls her nonchalantly telling his daughters one of many stories involving Soviet invaders in her village. The blessings of liberty are not taken for granted in the Brnovich home.
Visiting the nation’s capital just a few days before the Supreme Court hears arguments in the case brought by the evangelical Green family, which runs the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain, and the Mennonite Hahn family, which operates Conestoga Woods, a Pennsylvania lumber company, Hahn returns to the issue of religious liberty, as if to emphasize that without it, we’re losing something fundamental.
“Just because you open your business to the public doesn’t mean the public has the right to run your business,” Brnovich says. “Just because you have a restaurant doesn’t mean it becomes public property.”
The traditional image of Lady Justice, in most courthouses and halls of government, has both scales and a sword. Don’t forget that sword, Brnovich cautions. Reflecting on some of the executive and judicial tendencies of the day, he reflects, it’s “bad enough when politicians get into the business of picking winners and losers,” he says. When you wield the power of the sword of state, you have a “solemn obligation” and are “held to a higher standard.” This also means using that power to protect and defend the innocent and vulnerable.
We end where we began, remembering that America is an experiment in democratic republican government which has always, albeit imperfectly, operated with a sense of thanksgiving and duty. People throughout the world look to us as an example of what a nation can be. We protect freedom here. We give people a chance here. We want the Little Sisters of the Poor here.
That example should be in our minds as we make choices — by indifference as much as activism — about the future of our lives, families, churches, communities and institutions — ultimately, about our nation.
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