Thursday, March 08, 2012

Religious Objections

"I'm also frustrated that people seem to think that freedom of religion flows only one way and seem to think they have the right to decide whether or not other people should have access to contraception.Allowing other people the free will to choose what behavior they are going to engage in doesn't mean you condone their choices. God gives us all free will...but we sure like to impose that will on other people. My freedom of religion only exists so long as people who I disagree with have the same freedom."

This quote, taken from the comments thread of this post, comes from a commenter known as C_karnes. It's one of the more lucid and succinct rebuttals of the religious objection side of the coin that I've read.

Americans have really forgotten their history. The first European settlers came to America in part because they weren't allowed to practice their religious beliefs in their countries of origin. In general, they weren't polytheists or animists or Muslims or Sikhs. They were Christians who were being oppressed by other Christians. The Christians have a really BAD track record when it comes to getting in bed with governments. We should remember that. Christians don't hold power well. No one does. But a religion that's based on honoring the least, striving for downward mobility and serving a God who rejected all outward aspects of success really should be careful when begging to run things. Because our priorities start to skew. But THAT is another rabbit trail entirely. The point is, freedom of religion is freedom to practice ANY religion, insofar as said religion does not harm one's neighbor. You can probably practice animal sacrifice to Isis, if you wanted to, in the USA, but you can't practice human sacrifice. If you feel that showing the knuckles of your little finger causes people to sin, by all means, encourage your religious group to wear gloves. But you can't mandate that everyone else in the country wear gloves because of your religious beliefs. No matter how deeply held or well-intentioned they are. Our country has already set the minimum threshold for modesty; no religion can require that all men and women adhere to a stricter standard. Thank goodness.

When American Christians start talking about religious oppression because as individuals they're being required to offer services that go against their beliefs, I can understand. If you are a doctor and you do not want to perform abortions, that's understandable. If you are the owner of a restaurant and don't want to serve alcohol, you don't have to. (A waitress at a restaurant that serves alcohol can't whine about religious problems with serving it to others; go get another job!) But it's wrong for you to take your beliefs into the public square and force others who believe differently to swallow yours or else. That too, my friends, is religious oppression. Catholic employers may not like that their employees use birth control, but if they are offering health insurance, health insurance is going to include contraceptive options. They can't prohibit access to that basic aspect of healthcare merely because it goes against their teaching. If Catholics or any other religion with business interests have issues with basic healthcare, then they need to get out of the hiring game. No employees, no insurance hassles. End of story.

But that leads me to my second point, which is that it's absurd to talk about businesses and religion in the same sentence.

An interesting article over on NBC
last week included this phrase:

"The Senate Thursday defeated a proposal that would have allowed employers and health plans regulated by the 2010 health care law to opt out of paying for medical services that are contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions."

I didn't know that corporations and business entities COULD have convictions. I thought only people did that. It raises a host of questions. Can a corporation be saved? Do all good businesses go to heaven, or just those that accept Jesus? How exactly would we go about baptizing corporations, and can they partake in all the sacraments (except marriage, of course, which is between one man and one woman...or are they going to make an exception for mergers?)

How, I ask you, do corporations and business entities have moral convictions and religious beliefs? Obviously, individuals within those entities have very specific beliefs...but can an agglomerate? (Religious institutions are the exception here, to a degree, as they often have written creeds and statements of belief, etc...)

That's one reason I am not about to get all huffy about the perceived "war on religious beliefs" because insurers will be required to offer basic medical services regardless of whether employers like paying for them. Individuals still have the freedom to tell others what they think, go out and preach on the sidewalks, leave silly tracts in the toilets at work or choose not to utilize certain services which their health care plan would allow.

In fact, I support this 100%. Freedom of speech.

As another blogger wrote earlier last week, "I’ve always appreciated that The United Methodist Church has never claimed to be a victim of religious persecution. Even though we imposed our religious views on others when we pushed through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting sale and manufacture of alcohol nearly 100 years ago, we did not insist our religious liberty was infringed when Prohibition was repealed."

Methodists didn't have to go out and buy alcohol if they didn't want to. But post-Prohibition, they couldn't force others to do the same. (Again. Thank goodness!) Some churches (Mormons included), don't approve of caffeine usage. Thank goodness Romney isn't running on a "close-all-coffee-shops" platform. Though I'm surprised he isn't. After all, it's not a far leap. If we're willing to be okay with imposing some of our religious beliefs on others, where will it stop?

The religious-objection insurance limits wouldn't have been just for birth control; as one commenter on the NBC article noted, an employer or insurer could come up with many different "beliefs" ...who's to say that one belief is more valid than another? Maybe tomorrow Wal-Mart will wake up and decide that heart disease is completely preventable and the result of sinful behavior. As Wal-Mart does not condone sinful behavior, they are revoking all health care plans which cover heart disease or any related conditions. I'm sure there are lots of employers who have a problem with circumcision, but they're not going out trying to prevent their employees from having their baby boys circumcised. The Shakers (do they even exist anymore?) didn't believe in reproduction. Period. Should they get an out from offering their employees pregnancy coverage? What about the severely modest? Can they require that health care only cover visits to doctors of the same sex as their patients? After all, who knows what goes on when a women visits her male gynocologist?

Health care in America, at least currently, is still a benefit, not a right. But those benefits are often tied to total salary packages. Some employers pay all of their employees' insurance premiums, others pay a portion...and some people pay 100% out of their own pockets. In all those cases, people are paying for a specific service. And that service shouldn't and cannot be revoked on the basis of disingenuous religious claims by organizations that by their very nature are unable to be religious. If employers are going to offer insurance, they shouldn't get to cherry-pick what basic services are covered. Want to provide plastic surgery? That's great, pick the premium plan. Don't want to cover blood transfusions? Tough luck. Don't want to cover antibiotics? Suck it up. Basic health care is not up for discussion.

We've got other states trying to enforce unnecessary, invasive and costly medial procedures
(such as trans-vaginal ultrasounds before abortions, which would include procedures for natural miscarriages-as if that weren't traumatic enough) while these very same people decrying the TSA's "invasive" body scans at airports and the government's inappropriate intrusion into citizen's lives. Hm. Does anyone else see a discrepancy here?

Politics this year, it seems, is all about your body. And, as usual, served up with plenty of hypocrisy on the side. Nothing changes, it seems.


Anonymous said...

As you are aware, many (even the majority) of NGO's are corporations and established on moral and religious values.
In most cases these institutions are trying to mitigate suffering in their communities within, and because of, their moral convictions. It might be correct to say a corporation can't have a moral conviction, but it is not accurate in the broader sense, unless you are arguing that only individuals have the right to religious freedoms. BTW It seems to me that Ms. Fluke was attempting to have the government financially support her personal beliefs concerning contraception - the same as Christians wanting to change government to their values? This is consistent for her, since her jobs and schooling have been paid for by the tax payer. -Dad

Anonymous said...

One healthcare option that is not going to be available is to NOT have it. The govt. is forcing me to put my body in subjection to the state...not too far removed from Roman times when you paid a head and pissing tax. Do we really want to go down this road? -Mom

--jenna said...

Mom: I think some basic form of nationalized health care system is smart and necessary. I think requiring all citizens to have health insurance is absurd and completely misses the mark as far as offering basic health care to all people. That wasn't really the point I was making; I think my comments still stand...and you're right, requiring the purchase of health insurance IS invasive.

Dad: I don't believe corporations have a right to religious freedoms if those "freedoms" curb the free exercise of rights/religion/etc for others. Especially as corporations wield more power and influence than individuals can, making it a situation ripe for abuse. Also, if you read Ms. Fluke's testimony, she never indicated that she wanted the gov't pay for anything. Students pay for insurance at Georgetown but their insurance won't cover female reproductive healthcare (while faculty and staff insurance does). Rush pulled that little lie about wanting the taxpayer to pay out of his ass.

anne said...

good rebuttal, ms jenna.
The health care law requires health insurance because that was seen as a way to give "everyone" access to health care, and less "socialist" than a nationalized health care system. IF we had nationalized health care, the whole insurance thing would be moot...but that's not likely to happen, due to the perception that "we" would be just one small step away from Socialism if we had said system. One imagines that the whole health care thing will be overturned and we will be back to only "some" being able to afford care of whatever sort, and some not. There's a HUGE bunch of folks who are too "rich" for medicaid and other such programs. And they mostly just do without care. Which ultimately costs the country more.
Who has the "right" to health care? I would have thought the answer was Everyone.

Your comments about the Church/religious freedom and contraception seems to be spot on, jenna. The commenter C_karnes also seems to have thought this question through thoroughly. Mention the word "religion" and people just go up in flames, without even thinking about what the issues are.

Padillas said...

I realize I am very late to this tread but have to pose the question: is anyone forcing people to work for catholic institutions? Could they go out and find a job that would provide them with the healthcare benefits they prefer? You made the analogy that a waitress who did not believe in drinking alcohol had no right to complain about serving it and should find another job. Why should the employee at a catholic institution Be allowed to complain and demand birth control?

As a catholic I am offended by this law. I am an educated person and don't impose my views on you. If you or another person doesn't like my beliefs, then please don't work for catholic hospitals, schools or charities. Please don't be a patron of them either. If mo one needs/wants their services or to work for them, simple economics will require them to close. And then the issue of whether they provide adequate healthcare or not will be mute.

--jenna said...

Padillas: If you're offended because employees want comprehensive health care coverage, I can't really say anything other than I'm sorry you suffer from being so easily offended, and do hope it causes no lasting harm. Unfortunately, your statement about "not imposing your views" on others rings a bit hollow for the people you'd like to see denied female reproductive system health do realize that prohibiting someone's insurance premiums (part of their salary package and therefore, part of their own money) from being used as they need it because your religion has problems with estrogen and progesterone is, in fact, the definition of "imposing one's views?"