The Mythical War on Religion

I Want You to Pay for AbortionsReligion is under attack in America—at least this is part of the ongoing narrative from the far right.  It fits with the themes that Obama in particular and liberals in general are out to destroy the foundational institutions of the country.

It is in the context of this narrative that Michelle Malkin gets her panties all in a bunch over the new Health and Human Services directive that all employers must abide by federal guidelines to include legal contraception as part of their employee medical insurance, including employers such as church run hospitals, schools, and universities. (The churches themselves are still excluded)

Somehow, this translates to a government mandate that churches have to pay for abortions.  Bishop Paul Loverde didn’t mince words when he called the U.S. Department Health and Human Services order “a direct attack against religious liberty. This ill-considered policy comprises a truly radical break with the liberties that have underpinned our nation since its founding.”

Before I call “bullshit”, let me connect the dots.  Since the late 90’s, legal contraception has included Plan B or the morning after pill.  If you’re of a mind to view an unimplanted fertilized egg as a baby, then this becomes abortion.  So do a lot of other things, but that’s not important right now.  Further, strict Catholic doctrine holds that contraceptives of any kind are not allowed.  Hence the claim that the HHS directive is an attack on religious liberty.  Oh, and the HHS is part of the executive branch of government, so this is an order by Obama, who is evil and out to destroy us, one baby at a time.

Ok, all together now… “Bullshit!”

It is this sort of conflation that gives Conservatives the reputation of snake oil salesmen.  There are arguments to be had here, but this ain’t one of them.  For example, you might reasonably argue:

  • Plan B should not be a legal contraceptive
  • HHS should not require contraceptives to be covered by employee medical insurance
  • The government should make no regulations on medical insurance

Fine.  Have those battles.  (Actually we did have those battles, that’s how we got here.)  But recognize, the actual argument being made is that religious run organizations are exempt from following the law in cases where they disagree with it.  It’s wrapped in the cloak of religious freedom because that issue gets people not really paying attention (and that’s a scary big bunch of them) all in a tizzy.  The larger point gets muddled because the word “abortion” is tossed around, and everyone loses their frickin’ mind.

But suppose the fictional Church of Bob declares that all girls be deflowered by the minister upon reaching menarche.  Pretty clearly no sane person would advocate that the church get a child abuse waiver because it’s part of their doctrine.  What if the Gospel according to Bob dictates that no followers will pay taxes, or no followers will enter the military?

The point being that in this country, it doesn’t matter (or at least it’s not supposed to matter) who you are or what group you belong to.  The law is the law.  Follow it or pay the consequences.  Work to get it overturned.  But are we really going to sit by and argue that any person or group should be exempt from any law because they don’t agree with it?

Try that the next time a cop pulls you over. “Gee Officer, you see… the thing is… I don’t believe in speed limits.”  If that doesn’t work, try claiming that speed limits cause abortions.


9 thoughts on “The Mythical War on Religion

  1. Your one sided, narrow minded perspective is as bad as that of the conservatives…

    Its as simple as this, some religions do not allow contraception, forcing them to do so is a violation of liberty. That’s it…

    Whether you support said religious perspectives is irrelevant, the FACT is that it violates religious freedoms.

    You will likely prove me right by not publishing my comment.

  2. David – Nobody is forcing those religions to allow anything. If all their employees are tenet abiding members of their church, then that part of the insurance will never be used. But if they employ somebody who is not a member of the church, than that employee will be guaranteed this coverage.

    Just because you use big letters to spell FACT, doesn’t make it one.

  3. That’s a good point, although I don’t agree with that one either. It’s not clear why a church should be allowed to illegally discriminate while other organizations and people can’t.

  4. Dan and I debated that one – he called it but I figured cooler heads would prevail. Guess the solution is that we should ALL be able to discriminate! 🙂

  5. Usually I jump on the anti war on religion bandwagon quite quickly. Generally it’s Christian types that think this is a Christian nation and don’t recognize the need for the wall of separation. Quite often they think they have a right to something because they are in the majority, and if you aren’t, screw you.

    This seems different to me. I’ve been struggling with the idea since you first wrote about it. Usually I would say that if something is against your beliefs, just don’t do it. In this case, the church has to have employees. Employers have to provide insurance. The insurance has to have this coverage. The church cannot legally get out of it. I think they have a case. I think the government is encroaching on the wall of separation here.

    (Of course history is filled with people who break the law because the don’t believe in it. Rosa Parks comes to mind.)

    Then I read this:

    There’s not much in there I disagree with. I think the government is trying to do too much. They had a window to force health care through and they did a sloppy job.

    I don’t think anybody set out to take on religion, but it’s their own fault that they are in this predicament. Mythical? I’m not with ya on that one.

  6. I wrote the below as a response to the local paper’s editorial board. It is, I think, a bit more reasoned than my rant above. The key point still being that the foundational issue is whether or not churches get to opt out of the law.


    It would be one thing to argue that HHS should not have mandated that insurance policies cover contraceptives, but that’s not the issue here. What’s being argued here is that given we have a government rule, should religious groups be able to opt out if they disagree with it?

    Contraceptives may be the context of the current argument, but what if it was something else? Would a Jewish or Muslim University be able to deny employees coverage for pig heart valve transplants? Would a Jehovah’s Witness owned hospital be allowed to deny employees coverage for blood transfusions?

    Or for that matter, why is this unique to insurance regulations? Should an Islamic group be allowed to practice Sharia law in cases where it conflicts with government rules?

    I doubt anyone wants to grant that level of “religious freedom”. If you don’t, then you’re arguing there’s something special about the contraceptive issue. But who decides? Do we really want the government deciding which religious doctrines are worthy of special dispensation?

    If you want religious freedom, then the government should be blind to religious issues… all of them. No special treatment or classification in any direction. If you don’t like that a current rule conflicts with your religious dogma, this is America, and you can work to get that changed, but it changes for everyone. If you want the government to sanction your dogma as being above the law, maybe you should re-read the First Amendment.

  7. I agree one hundred percent that there shouldn’t be exceptions based on religion. (Concientious Objector my ass, put those Amish guys on the front line.) I’m totally saying the HHS shouldn’t have mandated the coverage, and I think the constitutionality of all Obamacare is in question. The government is pushing boundries that ought not be pushed.

    I’m still trying to grasp Obama’s compromise. The insurance companies still have to offer it, but the church affiliated organizations don’t have to pay for it? What? I think he’s digging a deeper hole.

  8. Yeah, I’m hard pressed to see what Obama offered as a compromise. He gave them a way to save face. They can rationalize they aren’t offering contraception… if they squint really hard and click their heels three times.

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