Monday, March 05, 2012

The Republican War on Religion

The Blunt Bill, which sought to allow any employer in America to deny certain medical insurance coverage to employees on the grounds that it violates their personal religious beliefs, failed to pass the Senate last week. This bill would have widely expanded the Obama administration's January measure, as part of the new health care reform law, requiring religiously affiliated institutions to cover contraception. In a later compromise, Obama adjusted the rule to require insurance companies, rather than Catholic schools and hospitals, to guarantee contraceptive coverage if the religious institutions themselves refused. Since the controversy first heated up, Republicans have disingenuously framed the debate as a "war on religion." Nothing could be further from the truth.

And the truth is, America is a secular society. The Constitution provides for the separation of church and state, preventing government from mixing religion and politics. What the Obama administration has done with health care and its contraception policy is to protect religious freedom not assail or violate it.

Some Republicans, like presidential candidate Rick Santorum, have used the birth control issue to expound extreme social views. Contraception, he said, is "a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." The fact that the Centers for Disease Control cite that 99% of all American women have used birth control escapes the former Pennsylvania Senator. I suppose, in the infamous words of the GOP's spiritual leader Rush Limbaugh, these women are all "sluts" to Santorum.

So here's what it all boils down to: where do we draw the line with employers regarding contraception and other medical/health coverage? If the Catholic Church can take a pass on birth control, can a business owned by Christian Scientists pass on drugs, surgery and other conventional methods? Can Jewish-owned businesses deny delivery coverage unless parents of newborn males agree to circumcision? Should we simply say to those who don't like such policies, go to work someplace else?

Yeah, why not just let employers hire people who share their religious beliefs so there won't be an insurance problem, right? Wrong. That's called discrimination. There are laws protecting against such violations of religious freedom and one's ability to get a job without being subjected to religious Litmus tests.

Employers don't get to play God. And they don't get to decide what goes into or out of a woman's vagina. Nor do they get to pick and choose an employee's health coverage in an effort to satisfy their religious beliefs.

To be sure, there is no "war on religion" other than the one being waged by right-wing religious extremists like Santorum, Newt Gingrich and countless others who relentlessly attempt to impose their fanatical beliefs on everyone else.


Anonymous said...

Anyone who has been paying attention and has brains knows this is not a war on religion. However, the repub base, as we all know, won't get it. The real question is will the other voters know that this is not about religious freedom at all. It is more like religion pushing their will on the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Using religion as a political tool is like using religion as a laxative, all you get is a bunch of you-know-what.

phil said...

Totally agree. I would add, however, that the Constitution protects us from religious persecution by removing any tests of religion in eligibility for Office -- a (possibly strained) way of saying that the government will not be run by particular religious beliefs. The First Amendment is the flip side of separation of church and state, protecting churches from being outlawed or forced to work with the government. [It does not mean that they don't have to follow secular laws (like, ahem, pedophilia).]

Anyway, what the right wing political extremists (and yes, Santorum actually is a religious extremist as well) are doing can be truly framed as a war on religion in the sense that they are waging a war *between religions*. But the point I wanted to make is that this can also be, more directly I think, described as is an opening into religious intolerance and persecution, not by government a priori, but by one religion and its dogma, which Santorum in particular has explicity told everyone he's absolutely ok with (I find his lack of understanding of this reflective insight disturbing, to paraphrase Darth Vader). IOW, this is a war "by religion" against the People, not against religion. It's the thing that the pre-Bill-Of-Rights Constitution provided protection against, distinct from the 1st Amendment protection.