By Kim Plummer Krull
LCMS Life and Health Ministries Director Maggie Karner will participate in a panel discussion Feb. 27 in Washington, D.C., spotlighting what many Americans call religious-liberty violations in the wake of the recent government mandate on health insurance coverage for contraception, including abortion-causing drugs.
“This discussion is critical because our religious freedoms have never been as ‘in peril’ as they are at this moment in history. That sounds dramatic, but this government mandate will be the crucible that forges our future understanding of the roles of both church and state,” said Karner, who will join a panel of experts in the discussion hosted by The Heritage Foundation and the National Review Institute.
The forum, which begins at 2 p.m. EST, will be streamed live by the LCMS and can be viewed online at www.lcms.org/hhsmandate.
“This mandate forces us to provide products and services contrary to our doctrine, and it says a lot about the trajectory of movement on future issues of religious freedom,” Karner said in a Feb. 23 email interview.
Karner’s Washington, D.C., appearance follows LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison’s testimony before Congress on Feb.16. Alongside Roman Catholic, evangelical Christian and Jewish leaders, Harrison staunchly expressed the Synod’s opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruling requiring employers to provide access to health insurance that covers most forms of birth control, including those that can kill unborn children.
Panel sponsors invited Karner to participate, in part, because of Harrison’s testimony and because “the LCMS is such a strong defender of religious liberty,” said Jennifer Marshall of The Heritage Foundation, a research and educational institution that promotes conservative public policies based on traditional American values, among other principles.
A commentary penned by Karner and posted online by Christianity Today magazine after the congressional committee hearing also caught the eye of panel sponsors.
“Maggie was very strong in her statement urging all Americans to speak out for religious liberty. She’s a great spokesperson on that perspective,” said Marshall, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society with the Heritage Foundation, referring to Karner’s treatise about the “angry blowback” from some corners since the all-male panel was among those who testified at the House Oversight Committee.
In the article, Karner calls cries of sexism a clever but wrong “red herring” that detracts from the real concern: threats to religious liberty. (Click here to read Karner’s commentary in Christianity Today.)
Joining Karner on the Feb. 27 panel are: Hadley Heath, policy analyst, Independent Women’s Forum; Pia de Soleni, Diotima Consulting, LLC; Lori Windham, senior counsel, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) is the featured speaker.
Karner says she sees her role on the panel as speaking on behalf of the mercy work of the church.
“I hope to carry the message that the church’s role has always been one of mercy and diakonic service outside the sanctuary walls and into society’s most needy areas — hospitals, schools, orphanages, colleges, social-welfare organizations,” she said. “We have a long history and a lot invested in our society by God’s grace. I believe we have much to contribute in the future.
“We can be a valuable asset to the government as we help to address the many areas of need in society. But we can only do so if we are given the freedom to work within the framework of our deeply held beliefs.”
Karner joined LCMS World Relief and Human Care in 2003, serving as the Synod’s first director of Life Ministries. Today, she heads LCMS Life and Health Ministries, two emphases she says go hand in hand in promoting respect for — and good stewardship of — God’s gifts of life.
Harrison calls Karner “a treasure. She’s not only extremely articulate on the issues, she’s a doer. She has put into practice the church’s high value on life and on religious freedom. The quality of people we have working for the national Synod is truly amazing.”
As a veteran of a recent Washington, D.C., panel, the LCMS president was asked if he had any advice to share with Karner.
“Folks thought I did a good job last week. Wait till you hear Maggie,” Harrison said in an email interview. “She doesn’t need any advice from me!”
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted Feb. 24, 2012