Monday, March 26, 2012

The Little Bit Late But Still Kinda Relevant Religious Freedom/War on Religion Post

In the past month or so (give or take a couple weeks) there has been a lot of people crying split vodka over the issue of "religious liberty" as it pertains to whether religious hospitals and universities should be required to cover the cost of contraception in employee health plans. Even with President Obama's compromise which let women deal directly with insurance companies on the issue, social and political conservatives are still acting as if Obama and his administration are personally placing steel toed non sweatshop labor union made jackboots on the necks of people of faith.

The argument made against this is it violates the conscience of believers of certain religions to do this simple step. However, there is one simple fact that isn't noted. While individual churches most likely (pastors being the exception) only hire people from within their own congregation, religious hospital s and colleges usually don not. Those institutions try to get the best people with religious belief not as high on the criteria. Thus, for example, it's entirely possible that a Catholic hospital has employees of varying religious faiths (including those who don't believe at all). Because of this (and an argument that they serve the public), saying that requiring contraception coverage violates a conscience clause of sorts become less plausible than it would for a church. Thus, what may be a "violation of conscience" for an employer (or more likely someone in HR) may be fine for someone employed at said institution.

The other issue here is that this is already law in a number of states and has been pretty much a non-issue until now. So why now? Is it really about religious liberty or is it more red meat for the election coming up. When Newt Gingrich implies that Obama is bending over backwards for Muslims and extremists while persecuting Catholics one has to wonder (then again, Newt is known for being full of shit whenever he speaks so that might not be the best example). Between this and what appears to be a race to the bottom in state legislators proposing bills that range from claiming single parenting is child abuse to an Arizona proposal that would mandate an employee tell their boss why they need the pill, and the mixture of treating women as less than human while throwing red meat to a base whose quest for total purity has chased away the moderates and those willing to talk to the other side can almost make one physically ill.

Right now, things are at a strange state. While Republicans in Washington try to backpedal, on the state level this keeps moving forward. And while they may have shown their support for "religious freedom" (provided you believe in their interpretation of God), this become less about conscience and more about stabbing whoever in the back to get your way. At that point, we all lose.