Religious Freedom or Discrimination?


Following my last post on rescinding the free contraceptive mandate made by the Obama administration, someone dear to me shared a letter written by a representative of the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU)  of the same title as this post.  This is a copy of my reply with some minor revision (removal of personal references, etc):

Thank you for sharing, as I like to read opposing views and I had not yet seen this.  Although there was the big announcement yesterday [by President Obama], the basis of this email is still pertinent.

The first thing that I picked up on in ACLU’s letter was the labeling (anti-choice, anti-family, right-wing) and the accusation of discrimination.  As you are well aware, this writing (or even if spoken) method is meant to provoke emotion which can easily cloud rational thought and issues worthy of debate.  My preference it to always strive to look at things through the lens of logic (though I’m not without fault or shortsightedness).

For example, I take issue with most everything they purported and here is my rational:

Since access to, or denial of, birth control tends to be the main issue (included in six of the ten paragraphs), it appears the best place to start.  Let us first settle upon the fact that this mandate is not just about all companies (or religious groups) offering contraceptive benefits through health insurance, as this has been available to customers through most insurance programs for decades.  The change is that Health and Human Services (HHS) has mandated that there be no cost to the customer for contraception and that religious groups are not exempt (other than for the actual church/synagogue) [slightly changed as of yesterday].

My first question is what does access to “birth control” consist of?  Webster’s defines birth control as, “control of the number of children born esp. by preventing or lessening the frequency of conception.”  So while the ACLU’s letter gives the appearance that all birth control will be off the table if the right-wingers get their way, is there no other form of birth control than pills or things you stick in your arm?  Though efficacy can be brought into question, there are other methods, and they are accessible to any human being for free (and at least one method for minimal cost at any grocery/convenience store).  So to say access to birth control will be denied is blatantly false.

Now the type of birth control available and their varying success rates is a different matter.  Fortunately, we live in a country where people do have choices for their lifestyles, and so their choice of birth control is based on the choices they’ve made for their lifestyle.  [Though fully aware of socioeconomic influences, I am purposefully omitting them for brevity and to not steer from the matter at hand.]  Notice the word that crept up thrice just two sentences ago…choice.  Everything we do in our lives, no matter how grave the circumstances, is based on choices.  In fact, choice is our greatest power (some making better choices than others), and it is our only true power.  Though I am a firm believer in charity and giving a hand up to our brothers and sisters, at what point are we responsible for other’s choices?  For example, hypothetically say Grandma has a heart condition requiring medication and even though she has great health insurance/Medicare, she has to pay $120 a month for a prescription without which she will die, and her choices are limited.  On the other hand, we now have a new mandate saying my healthy wife shall receive free birth control if she desires, with no need to pay that $120 a month for her prescription of choice.  If you were donating your money, who would you give it to?  Where is this money coming from to pay for the ‘free’ birth control?  The fact is, we are donating our money as is mentioned in the next paragraph.  Birth control has not been denied, and isn’t even if religious groups’ greater community outreaches are exempted, because there is choice: where to work, big screen TV or insurance/copay, more expensive car or insurance/copay, more expensive home or insurance/copay, supplemental insurance, their sex lives, etc.  Admittedly, there are women with heavy-flow-periods that definitely qualify as a medical need, but the overwhelming majority use birth control as a choice of convenience.

Whether paid for through insurance, taxes, or insurance subsidized by our tax dollars; should we not look for the real need and benefit of our combined investments?  Allow me to digress as I recall one of your previous emails and agree that taxes are essential.  I am not an anti-tax person and believe we should all have skin in the game.  I am not an anti-insurance person, and as a responsible husband and parent I realize its importance.  But I am against using tax dollars or insurance pools to pay for a choice of convenience for people whom many of which are paying an equal amount on cable TV each month!  My family does not even have cable…and that is a choice…and the antenna on the roof provides all we need…free…in high definition nonetheless.  We live in a day and age of people wanting their cake, wanting to eat it too, and the government (through the people who want their cake) is often happy to oblige.  The sustainability of which is currently being demonstrated on the other side of the Atlantic.

So what about these religious zealots and discrimination?  Are we to really believe that those of faith, who typically donate more (quite a bit more on average according to every study I’ve seen on the subject) than atheists or agnostics, really support discrimination of either the poor or females?  Is it not discrimination that female options are covered and males are not?  Are we to believe that the politicians in congress are really “anti-family”?  Would such a mandate not impact religious freedom?

When it comes to religion, I believe our founders were wise to not prohibit “the free exercise thereof.”  Now there is common sense that goes along with this, as anything that causes direct physical and/or psychological harm is prohibited, and this is why stoning, inappropriate relationships with children, and sacrifices are not allowed in America.  On the other hand, anything in their teachings that does not directly cause physical or psychological harm “shall” be allowed.  When the government says they’ll force a religious group to pay for, or provide a service for, something that that religious body thinks is immoral; is religious freedom not impacted?  Is this not the basis for “churches, religious organizations, and ministers” having special tax laws enacted by Congress.

The ACLU closes the letter with, “Religious freedom is about protecting people of all faiths, not imposing the values of some on the rest of us.”  With that statement are they not supporting the mandates’ imposition of values upon religious groups?

In closing I share the words from President George Washington’s letter to the United Baptist Churches in Virginia, May 10, 1789:

 …If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension, that the constitution framed in the convention, where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it…if I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.

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