Back in January Watertown Daily News “broke” the story that the Amish would be exempt from the health care mandate should the bill pass (as they are from all government insurance requirements, social security, and taxation). Conservative commentators got all worked up, claiming, “We’re all Amish now” and threatening a mass conversion of 16 million Americans who opposed the bill. The conversation in a matter of days devolved into criticism of not only the Amish but of what some perceived as the favoring of one religion over another — a misinterpretation of the Establishment clause. (You can read my January 21 post, “Who’s Amish Now?” at Killing the Buddha.)

Today, Richard Bartholomew brings us up to date on the noise surrounding religious exemption from the health care mandate. What’s stirring the discontent now? The Muslims! Bartholomew writes:

…it has also come to attention that Islam regards conventional insurance as a form of gambling which is therefore generally forbidden; an American Thinker pundit extrapolated from this to “the probability that Muslims will also be expempt”, in a piece headlined “Amish, Muslims to be excused from Obamacare mandate?” Other conservative websites then took up the baton, while dropping the question-mark. The inevitable climax is now an article by the shameless huckster Walid Shoebat, who warns that this is further evidence that Obama is really a Muslim and that healthcare reform is actually an Islamic conspiracy against America:

That is an interesting situation as president Obama is regarded by most Muslims who live inside and outside America as a Black Muslim. Another statistic in a recent poll conducted by the liberal media shows that 57% of Republicans also believe Obama is a Muslim, but hey, those silly extremist bigots, they know less than the actual 99% of all Muslims who also believe the same thing. So Obama who is a leader of the USA now enacts laws for the Dhimmis – us, and gives freedom to his Muslim brothers. Healthcare was a lot of things but one thing it was not, and that was not about improving health for Americans. The Democrats have adopted Sharia law literally.

Of course not everyone is opposing the mandate because it was “designed for Muslims.” Bartholomew notes a March 26 article in the Christian Science Monitor that reports Liberty University and the Thomas Moore Law Center have teamed up on a lawsuit that challenges the mandate exemptions. Many, they say, are religiously opposed to abortion; why should those individuals be forced to participate in health care that they morally oppose? And why are they less exempt than others?

As I wrote back in January, there’s a larger discussion that missing from all this. The Amish are being used as representatives of Anabaptism, a denomination of Christian believers who formed after the Radical Reformation in Europe. Some of the earliest homesteaders of the U.S., they were recruited by William Penn (the founder of Pennsylvania) because they were superb farmers. He promised them exemption from state persecution and laws in return for land. The Anabaptists, comprised of Mennonites, the Amish, and Hutterites (among others), ascribe to aTwo Kingdoms theology — a phrase first used by Augustine, then picked up by Luther and Calvin — that requires they live in self-relance, separate from the world and its financial safety nets. More than other reformed churches, the Anabaptists often take this literally; they suffered for centuries under theocratic state persecution. As for those who claim that Obama was just looking out for his Muslim own? They could just read the bill.