The manufactured controversy over President Obama’s initiative to make employer-provided contraceptive coverage available to all women, regardless of where they work, has been morphed into a phony debate on religious freedom. OK, if it’s a religious debate they want, then bring it on.
Juan Cole has published a brilliant analysis on Alternet enumerating the 10 Catholic Teachings Conservatives Reject While Obsessing About Birth Control.
1. Pope John Paul II was against anyone going to war against Iraq
2.The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans.
3. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for criminals in almost all situations.
4. The US Conference of Bishops has urged that the federal minimum wage be increased, for the working poor.
5. The bishops want welfare for all needy families, saying “We reiterate our call for a minimum national welfare benefit that will permit children and their parents to live in dignity. A decent society will not balance its budget on the backs of poor children.”
6. The US bishops say that “the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions…”.
7. Catholic bishops demand the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.
8. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops ripped into Arizona’s law on treatment of immigrants, Cardinal Roger Mahony characterized Arizona’s S.B. 1070 as “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law.”
9. The Bishops have urged that illegal immigrants not be treated as criminals and that their contribution to this country be recognized.
10. The US Conference of Bishops has denounced, as has the Pope, the Bush idea of ‘preventive war’, and has come out against an attack on Iran in the absence of a real and present threat of an Iranian assault on the US.
Cole goes into more detail on each item and provides examples of legal cases where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against select religious activities. For instance, both polygamy and peyote (used in religious rituals) are prohibited despite the Constitution’s enunciation of freedom of religion. So if the Catholic puritans who insist that an insurance company can’t offer legal medicine to patients on the basis that it is against their faith, then they had better switch their positions on all of the issues above as well.
The media needs to be honest about the framework of this debate. It is not about freedom of religion. Catholics are not encumbered in way from engaging in their chosen form of worship. But if they leave their churches to participate in the broader society, whether by opening hospitals or McDonalds franchises, they have to play by the same rules as everyone else. A church that preaches racial segregation can say whatever they want to their parishioners, but they can’t open a hotel and refuse to hire African-Americans or decline to admit them as guests. And any church-owned business that employs and serves the general public in a non-religious capacity cannot discriminate on the basis of their personal beliefs.