It's Religious Freedom, Stupid

The Catholic Church is supposed to proclaim the truth, not reflect the culture.
So IT DOES NOT MATTER if every single Catholic woman in America uses artificial birth control. (They don’t, by the way.  And that 98% figure that the media is flinging around is . . . shall we say . . . imprecise.  I’ll write about that another time.)
I’d say 98% of us Catholics have been unkind, have been dishonest, have yelled at our kids, have in general failed to live good Christian lives, some more than others.  Because, you know, we are human.  Does that mean the Church is supposed to fold and say those things aren’t sinful anymore?
This debate is not about reproductive freedom (that’s the liberal spin).  It’s not about the fact that most Catholics dissent from the Church’s teachings (that’s the media spin).  It’s not even really about President Obama being in a war against religion (that’s the conservative spin).  No, what this is about is freedom of religion.  It’s about the Constitution.  Is about the dismantling of a right that is absolutely intrinsic to what it means to be an American.  That’s why many progressive Catholics, erstwhile supporters of the President and his health care plan, are outraged.  This is so foundational that the lack of uproar among the Catholics in the pews–indeed, among people in general–astonishes me.
Don’t people remember their American history classes from grade school?  You know, the ones in which we all learned about people coming to this country to be free to practice their religion without government interference?  What if President Obama wanted to mandate (as has happened in France) that Muslim girls stop wearing their headscarves in public schools.  I don’t wear a headscarf.  The practice does not make any sense to me personally.  Some argue that it is demeaning to women.  But I would be furious if anyone tried to legislate against it and I bet a lot of others would as well.
Is it a problem that this disconnect between Church teaching on artificial contraception and the practice of most Catholics exists?  You bet it is.  There’s blame enough to go around, and I’ll write about that elsewhere so as not to cloud the issue.
American freedoms have already been eroded in the name of the “War on Terrorism.”  Do liberals really want to join in stripping away more of the rights on which this country was built?

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  1. From a non-Catholic point of view, not that there needs to be another one out there, I don’t think your comparison of a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf is the same as requiring Catholic employers to cover BC in their insurance policies. A Muslim wearing a head scarf only affects HER. But if I were to go work for the former St. Mary’s, for example, and their employee benefit package specifically did not cover BC, that affects me and other women, Catholic or not, who choose or need to use BC. I can understand the conundrum here: how do you remain a truly Catholic entity while working with Protestants/non-Catholics? It would be easy if ONLY Catholics applied/worked for Catholic employers, but obviously that can’t happen either. I know for me, I fall into the camp of “If you don’t like it, don’t do it” when it comes to issues of personal religion and morality, and I think one person’s morals should not limit mine and vice versa. It’s definitely a tough call, and I can see how it’s got Catholics really upset. But I do think limiting others is unfair. Just my .02! Great post!

  2. Clisby says:

    I think the Catholic bishops would be in a stronger position if they’d gone to the wall over the *states* that already have similar requirements.
    I’m also curious whether you think any every religious belief should be accommodated. For example, let’s imagine there’s a hospital run by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Can they refuse to perform blood transfusions? What if it’s a Jehovah’s Witness charity? Can they require that their insurance not cover blood transfusions?
    Personally, I think this is a good argument in favor of our government joining other civilized nations and instituting a single-payer health care system, where employers don’t supply insurance and therefore have zero to say about what’s covered.

    • lesliesholly says:

      Clisby, I don’t think anyone would go to a hospital that couldn’t perform blood transfusions! I think you could make a case that they could refuse to perform them except to save a life. For example, the Catholic hospital here will do tubal ligations for sufficient cause certified by a doctor. I don’t know why the Bishops did not complain about existing state regulations because I have not really looked into that, but on its face I agree with you. And I also TOTALLY agree that I wish we had a single payer system, for all kinds of reasons.

  3. Perplexed says:

    No, this is not about religious freedom. No one is trampling on your right to practice your religion freely. What the government is saying is that if you want to live in a pluralistic society where you employ people who are not of your religion and who would like full and complete health care that others not employed by zealots enjoy, you have to provide it. When you live in a pluralistic society, you don’t get everything you demand. Sometimes you make concessions to living in society, so that you can also receive the benefits. Sometimes your church gets to be tax exempt and refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees (even if they would like to violate church doctrine and use them). Other times your religious institution has to do things it would rather not because it hires secular people (otherwise it couldn’t do its job).
    Even though you employ a fairly mild tone, and espouse some good ideas here, you are still adopting this ridiculous rhetoric about trampling, shredding, destroying,dismantling the First Amendment. It’s almost like people don’t actually know what the first amendment says.
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
    Who is telling you you can’t freely exercise your religion? Is it a First Amendment violation when the government *forces* you to pay taxes that go to fight unjust and illegal wars? Or that fund capital punishment? No, it’s not. You likely disagree with these things as a good Catholic, but it doesn’t mean your ability to freely exercise your religion has been affected. Your conscience `has been hurt.
    I honestly don’t understand this freak out. Where were the catholics when the States were passing such laws? Where are they every time their tax dollars fund morally reprehensible conduct by our country?

    • lesliesholly says:

      I think the misunderstanding is that we Catholics consider our hospitals, for example, and the care we provide there, to be part of the free exercise of our religion. The Church didn’t build hospitals just for the heck of it; they did it to provide Corporal Works of Mercy.

  4. Clisby says:

    I agree somewhat with Perplexed. I think it’s less a matter of religious freedom than a matter of employer freedom. I don’t think any employer should have to provide any insurance at all. I think employers who are inclined to provide insurance should be 100% entitled to put whatever limits on insurance coverage they like. If we as Americans think health care/insurance should be mandatory, then we (via the government) should provide it, and the heck with what employers, religious or not, think about it.

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