Wednesday, February 15, 2012

War on Religion or War on Democracy?

Watching the CNN evening news, the "crawl" along the bottom of the screen read: "Catholic bishops denounce contraception compromise." My comment on twitter was:
Seriously???? That qualifies as NEWS??? Enough with theocratic war on democracy
Because here's the deal: It's time to call foul on the much ballyhooed "war on religion" and call it what it is ... and it IS a theocratic war on democracy.

It is not a "war on religion" when 1st Amendment protections are employed to protect both freedom of religion and freedom from religion -- because nobody has the right to write their theology into our Constitution.

It is not a "war on religion" when courts recognize that the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment equally protect all Americans -- because as the 9th Circuit Court put it when it ruled last week: "The people may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry."

And it is not a "war on religion" when the White House "just says no" to efforts to make women's health care a sacrificial lamb on the altar of partisan politics by politicizing equal access to insurance for contraception.

Which brings me back to "Catholic bishops denouncing contraception compromise." Catholic bishops notwithstanding, there are plenty of good people of deep faith all over the map on a whole variety of issues who are yearning for ways to claim their own First Amendment protected right to free exercise of their religion without trampling on their neighbor's free exercise of a religion different than theirs. And to do that, compromises are called for.

The case in point this week is the compromise the White House crafted on the issue of women's access to insurance for contraception. It was -- as ABC News reported -- a compromise that satisfied both Carol Keehan and Cecile Richards: no small feat.
Though they're on opposite sides of the birth control and abortion debate, both Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued statements Friday morning applauding the compromise, which allows religious organizations to keep contraception out of its coverage while requiring the insurance companies to step in and offer contraceptive coverage to the female employees.

"The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions," Keehan said. "The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed. We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished. The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance. This difference has at times been uncomfortable but it has helped our country sort through an issue that has been important throughout the history of our great democracy."

Richards said in a statement: "In the face of a misleading and outrageous assault on women's health, the Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work. We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman's ability to access these critical birth control benefits. However we will be vigilant in holding the administration and the institutions accountable for a rigorous, fair and consistent implementation of the policy, which does not compromise the essential principles of access to care.

The individual rights and liberties of all women and all employees in accessing basic preventive health care is our fundamental concern. Planned Parenthood continues to believe that those institutions who serve the broad public, employ the broad public, and receive taxpayer dollars, should be required to follow the same rules as everyone else, including providing birth control coverage and information. As a trusted health care provider to one in five women, Planned Parenthood's priority is increasing access to preventive health care. This birth control coverage benefit does just that."
Not for Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler. He writes ...
This controversy concerns the deepest convictions held by millions of Americans, and these convictions are rooted in over two thousand years of religious teaching. Anyone who celebrates this "compromise" as a victory is hiding behind an accounting trick. That accounting trick cannot hide the great moral tragedy at the heart of the President's policy -- a policy that leaves religious liberty in peril.
... making Chicago Theological Seminary's Susan Thistlethwaite's point:
There's the difference between the way progressive people of faith pursue issues in the public square, and those on the far right. Creative compromise, like the recent decision by the Obama administration, that builds common ground, we regard as a good thing and something that finally will produce a "cease-fire" through negotiation.

We are open to a cease-fire, though not when it means our values are demeaned and violated. Negotiated settlements have to represent the real interests of each side and be made in good faith for there to be genuine and lasting peace. Conscience and common ground. It's possible for there to be peace between us over religious differences.
It is not only possible -- it is essential if we're going to win the theocratic war being waged on our democracy. So let's all "Just Say No" to the myth of war on religion -- whether it comes from a bishop or a Baptist -- and get busy making liberty and justice for all not just a pledge but a reality.


RonF said...

This isn't about "women's access to birth control". The women involved have full time jobs with the RCC. They can afford to buy birth control pills.


... said RonF -- once again UTTERLY missing the point of systemic sexism exploiting women's health care as a wedge issue in a partisan political strategy to mobilize the conservative base in a presidential election year.

RonF said...

Just so you don't think I'm the only person who considers it's possible that hyping up their base was Pres. Obama's plan.

RonF said...

To be clear:

It seems to me that you see this issue as having been initiated by the Catholic bishops and/or various conservative actors to attack Pres. Obama. I see it as having been initiated by Pres. Obama in order to attack conservatives.

It is, after all, the President whose Administration pressed forward with this rule. It's hard to believe that he didn't anticipate the result and calculate how he could use the reaction. The man may be a terrible President but he's a pretty good politician.


OR he's a great President and a powerful advocate for women's rights and protecting not only the freedom of religion but the freedom from religion.

(And yes ... Andrew Sullivan made that mobilizing the liberal base argument a few days ago. Whether it's the cart or the horse it's long past time to get male theocrats out of the business of women's health care. Period.)


PS -- and how is providing equal access to health care for women "attacking conservatives?" Or is it the same kind of attack that opposite-sex marriages are under from same-sex marriages?

MarkBrunson said...

Of course, if we had state-provided healthcare/insurance, it wouldn't really be an issue, now would it? So, another big fail for capitalist greed.

RonF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RonF said...

Susan, the First Amendment guarantees you the right to practice your religion as you see fit. Rather than trying to characterize your words, I'll ask this; what does the phrase "freedom from religion" mean to you, and how do you derive it from the First Amendment?

RonF said...

Andrew Sullivan made that mobilizing the liberal base argument a few days ago. Whether it's the cart or the horse

So, then, do you concede that it's NOT necessarily "systemic sexism exploiting women's health care as a wedge issue in a partisan political strategy to mobilize the conservative base in a presidential election year." but is quite possibly a calculated effort on the Administration's part?

it's long past time to get male theocrats out of the business of women's health care.

They're perfectly willing to help pay for women's healthcare, and I expect that if they showed you their books they pay for quite a bit of it. In fact, given the large number of charities, hospitals and clinics run by the Roman Catholic Church it would be a complete disaster for women's health care if "male theocrats" got "out of the business of women's health care".

It's women's birth control they are not interested in funding. But they didn't ask to be put into the latter business; it's the Administration that's insisting on it. If you try to make someone pay for something they have a right to have something to say about it. The alternative is a violation of the First Amendment and would be un-American.

RonF said...

Refusing to pay for birth control for women who have full time jobs is not equivalent to restricting "equal access to health care".

In my opinion such phrasing is hyperbolic rhetoric that masks the fundamental issues here.

And it seems rather odd to phrase this as an issue of "freedom from religion". Can one really go to work for the Roman Catholic Church - a voluntary act, and one that you'd expect people wouldn't take unless they were in at least broad accord with it's principles - and expect that their religous views would (or even should) have no effect on their employment policies? I don't see how that makes a lot of sense.


1 -- it's not about "going to work for the Roman Catholic Church" ... churches are exempt

2 -- watch the Rachel Maddow segment on the evolution of the opposition on this issue and then make your case that it's not part of an orchestrated thecratic war on democracy with women's health as the frontline issue du jour

RonF said...

Who's Rachel Maddow?


Nice. And a great "Exhibit A" of the axiom "you can lead a man to information but you can't make him think."

uffda51 said...

, … “remember that we're not talking about banning birth control pills for the whole population. . .”

Oh, but we are, RonF. That is exactly what Governor MacDonald of Virginia, mentioned as a GOP VP prospect, is proposing. His bill defines personhood as beginning at the moment of conception, and so would redefine both abortion and contraception as murder. Misogyny is alive and well in Virginia. But individual liberty and limited government, not so much.

Missouri Sen. Blunt’s proposal doesn’t just apply to religious employers and birth control. Instead, it would allow any insurer or employer, religiously affiliated or otherwise, to opt out of providing any health care services required by federal law simply by claiming a “moral objection” to the cost of providing a given benefit.

Next thing you know, someone will propose that businesses can refuse to serve African-Americans. Oh, sorry, Ron Paul has already proposed exactly that.

We know you have “no idea” what your female friends think about the Catholic bishops “controversy.” Likewise, Darrell Issa does not think that hearing from females is necessary.

That’s why public policy is best decided on the basis of facts rather than ideology. It’s tough to gather facts when you don’t listen to people.

We know that Orrin Hatch’s “understanding” is that abortions account for 95 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. The actual figure is 3%. We also know that John Kyl claims that the figure is 98%, and when called on it, said his statement was not meant to be “factual.”

President Obama has made a distinction between Catholic employees of the Catholic Church and non-Catholic employees of Catholic hospitals and universities. He is doing exactly what Ronald Reagan advocated in the quotation cited on the homepage of this blog.

MacDonald, Blunt, Kyl, Hatch, Tony Perkins, etc, are either willfully ignorant, lying or deliberately throwing red meat to their voting base. Who is acting responsibly here, and who isn’t?

RonF said...

Nice. And a great "Exhibit A" of the axiom "you can lead a man to information but you can't make him think."

Susan, I fail to see how this is particularly responsive to my question.

RonF said...

uffda51, it appears you're trying to change the subject. We are not talking about what the Governors of Virginia or Missouri are trying to do. We're talking about what the President of the United States is trying to do.


Ron F ... responsive to your "who's Rachel Maddow." Whatever you think about Rachel Maddow, the post referred to gives a factual overview of the hypocrisy in action on health care in GOP land. (And if you really DON'T know who Rachel Maddow is, then that's what Jesus made Google for.)

RonF said...

Susan, I don't think about Rachel Maddow. In fact, I don't think about anyone when I don't know who they are. Is she someone well known in leftist circles? Who's Rachel Maddow?


Ron ... once again, if you were sincerely interested in finding our more about who Rachel Maddow is you'd Google her. If you were actually open to an opinion or perspective other than your own, you'd make it a habit to read and listen -- perchance to learn -- to a wide range of contexts. Finally, if you'd like to employ that literalism you're so fond of to this comment thread, my reference was not to Rachel Maddow in general but to the piece I posted on this blog in specific wherein she outs the Republican hypocrisy on health care.

They're called "facts." And they're all the rage in leftist circles. You might give 'em a try sometime. Seriously.