Monday 28 January 2013

Freedom of Religion: I am free to believe what you want

You believe in creationism and that the world was created 6,000 years ago. I don't. You have the right to your beliefs and I have the right to mine.

You believe only in abstinence and you are against any form of birth control. I don't. You have the right to your beliefs and I have the right to mine.

You believe sex education promotes loose morals and leads to promiscuity. I don't. You have the right to your beliefs and I have the right to mine.

You have your beliefs and I have my beliefs. So where's the problem? The problem seems to be that you are not content with believing what you believe; you also want me to believe the same thing. Okay, maybe you don't care if I believe what you believe but you seem to what to control my choices so that even if I don't believe what you believe I am going to be forced to follow the dictates of your beliefs.

Pardon me?

Gee whiz, now don't you seem a little dictatorial. What happened to democracy and freedom? Oh yes, I remember, I am free to do what you say. Otherwise I'll be locked up.

Now that Obama is back in the driver's seat, Mr. Romney and the rest of the Republicans are unable to carry out their threat of repealing the Affordable Care Act commonly known as Obamacare. Nevertheless, those of faith have taken to the courts to plead that complying with Obamacare means they are not respecting the tenants of their faith. Providing employees birth control as part of health care? Tch, tch, those of the same "ilk" as Sandra Fluke (You slut!) are going to have to look elsewhere to support their sinful ways. (see my blog: Rush Limbaugh: That's spelled with one F and one U)

Faith-affiliated organisations like universities, charities, and hospitals have taken their cases to court demanding to be made exempt from this aspect of Obamacare. Thou shalt not hand out contraceptives. For-profit business owners are doing likewise claiming a violation of their religious beliefs. The Get Out of Jail free card for the administration is the promise to re-jig the system so that insurance companies and not those of faith be required to pay for birth control coverage.

Are things getting just a tad twisted around? If you don't believe in birth control, I believe you are free to not use it. But what if you feel that not only should you not use it, you believe everyone should not use it? What's curious is the reasoning behind this. You think you have moral grounds to force your ideas on everyone else. It's not a question of an individual choosing what he or she wants to do, you actually think you are on the moral high ground and have the right from the Lord Almighty to enforce what you think is His will.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 is a 1993 United States federal law aimed at preventing laws that substantially burden a person's free exercise of their religion. (Wikipedia) Unfortunately while those words would seem clear enough the enforcing of the act has been problematic. What is constitutional? What authority does congress have? When does the government encroach on the liberties of the individual and when do the religious beliefs of the individual negatively affect other people or the collective we?

Nevertheless it would seem both business owners and faith affiliated organisations have thought to use this 1993 act as a means of arguing their point to be allowed to opt out of Obamacare's mandate to supply birth control.

Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, argued the business owners are trying to use a religious liberty claim to deny benefits to someone else. "We don't think that religious liberty claims can be used as a way to discriminate against women employees – using those claims to take away someone else's benefits and services," Amiri said. (Huffington)

Note what's going on here. The supposed religious people are not satisfied with living their religion; they seems compelled to force those beliefs on other people. The woman as an individual has the right to decide to use birth control or not but the employer, the supposed believer, wants to deny the rights of the woman.

I return to my original premise. You are free to decide what you do. But should I not be free to decide what I want to do? There's a subtlety in the argumentation and I can see people are going to be debating this from here to kingdom come. If I go to a Jewish restaurant, should I expect to be served pork? Should an employer be expected to furnish birth control if this goes against the tenants of his faith? If Obama manages to re-jig things so the insurance company pays for the birth control then the employer is out of the equation. I get my pork elsewhere; I don't get it from the Jewish restaurant. Of course is health care the same as pork?

Is there a moral issue or a religious issue or is kerfuffle more to do with people who don't like being told what to do? Don't we all hate being told what to do? The powers who be, the government, the collective we decided the speed limit should be 60 miles per hour, a middle ground between road safety and the freedom to speedily get to where you want to go. In general we have collectively accepted this but there is always a number of speeding tickets handed out proving that while the collective we accepts the rules of the game, there is always a percentage of rebels who continue to try to buck the system. I demand the right to be free to drive like a maniac and kill myself! (Unfortunately, I am probably going to kill others hence I shouldn't have that right.)

Final Word
There are a number of volatile issues at stake here: birth control, sex education, abortion, etc. The list goes on and on. The curious point for me is not what somebody personally believes, it is that the person in question wants to put into effect laws which would curtail my freedom. They are not satisfied with following their own beliefs; they demand that I follow them too. I can't help thinking of Dominionism, a movement of politically active conservative Christians who are working towards a nation governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Wikipedia: First Amendment to the United States Constitution)

I believe birth control should be made available to every individual. If you choose not to take it, that is your right. But you do not have the right to [prohibit] the free exercise [of my beliefs].


NY Times - Jan 26/2013
A Flood of Suits Fights Coverage of Birth Control by Ethan Bronner
In a flood of lawsuits, Roman Catholics, evangelicals and Mennonites are challenging a provision in the new health care law that requires employers to cover birth control in employee health plans — a high-stakes clash between religious freedom and health care access that appears headed to the Supreme Court.

Huggington - Jan 26/2013
Birth Control Lawsuits: Obama Health Care Mandates Loosen Legal Challenges by Rachel Zoll
The legal challenges over religious freedom and the birth control coverage requirement in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul appear to be moving toward the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wikipedia: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called Obamacare or the federal health care law, is a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, it represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

Wikipedia: Religious Freedom Restoration Act
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 is a 1993 United States federal law aimed at preventing laws that substantially burden a person's free exercise of their religion. The bill was introduced by Howard McKeon of California and Dean Gallo of New Jersey on March 11, 1993. It was held unconstitutional as applied to the states in the City of Boerne v. Flores decision in 1997, which ruled that the RFRA is not a proper exercise of Congress's enforcement power. But it continues to be applied to the federal government, for instance in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, because Congress has broad authority to carve out exemptions from federal laws and regulations that it itself has authorized.


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1 comment:

H. Bratset said...

Amen (and not a religious amen, hehehe)! I couldn't agree more.