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Using “Religious Liberty” to Hide Religious Overreach

8:12 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Rabbi Dennis S. Ross for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Birth Control Pills

Photo: Sarah C / Flickr

We have been hearing plenty about “religious liberty” lately. Now let’s see who’s using the term “religious liberty” in a novel way, trying to conceal a campaign of religious overreach.

The issue has to do with the faith-based legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Recently, a Missouri mining and manufacturing holding company, O’Brien Industrial Holdings, filed a lawsuit against the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The lawsuit challenges the ACA employer requirement to include birth control coverage in employees’ health insurance. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri filed an amicus brief supporting the ACA contraception rule. The brief examines the O’Brien complaint and considers the arguments in light of modern legal history.

Even though O’Brien is a secular business, the company maintains that the birth control rule violates its religious liberty — a claim that does not stand up to deeper examination. First of all, workers earn their employer-sponsored health insurance. The insurance belongs to the worker like any other earned benefit, such as salary and pension; it is as much a worker’s personal property as a pay check — the employer’s religion doesn’t belong there. After all, workers may well have different and personal moral understandings about access to birth control and no judge, politician, or office boss has any business barging in.

Moreover, a look back at recent history shows two things. First, similar laws in New York State and California have prevailed in state-level legal challenges. And second, as described in the ACLU brief, a business cannot use religious liberty as an excuse to practice religious discrimination.

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On Contraceptive Coverage, It’s Not Up to Obama to Decide What is More “Catholic”

11:51 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Benedict XVI (Photo: catholicism, flickr)

Benedict XVI (Photo: catholicism, flickr)

Written by Frances Kissling for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of the Birth Control Mandate 2011 here.

This article was amended at 2:22 pm Friday, November 25th to add a missing paragraph and missing words in three sentences.

When it comes to contraception Catholics have stopped listening to popes, bishops and other institutional leaders.  It seems the only person left listening is President Obama. Obama however lacks the theological training –and it would seem the scholarly advice –needed to figuring out if the bishops and various hospitals, universities and social service agencies clamoring for a “religious exemption” from new federal regulations really need them in order to be good Catholics. The regulations require insurance plans offered by employers to cover contraception without a co-pay, although they exempt churches and other specifically religious institutions from the requirement.

The President seems unaware of the fact that Catholic disagreement with the ban on birth control goes far beyond the average Catholic lay-person. Some bishops, many priests, religious orders, theologians and church-related groups have publicly and privately disagreed with blanket prohibition of contraception. All of them, individuals and institutions, are free to follow their conscience on contraception and there is ample evidence that many of the very groups asking for an exemption from the new federal regulations have not followed church regulations religiously. Some within the organizations may agree with the ban, but not all, and none are required to do so.

Of course, it would take courage for organizations such as the Catholic Health Association (which is now siding with the Bishops publicly in their fight to broaden exemptions) or Catholic Charities to publicly buck the U.S. bishops and just follow the law and give their employees health insurance that makes it possible to avoid pregnancies they cannot afford or do not want; but after all, being a Catholic is all about courage and helping the poor and marginalized. A fair number of employees of Catholic institutions are low-income workers, struggling to get by on a minimum wage. We Catholics are taught to follow our conscience rather than the positions of the Catholic church, even if it means getting kicked out of the church.  If Obama’s current religious advisors don’t know that, all he has to do is call one of the most trusted of Catholic theologians, Fr. Richard McBrien of  Notre Dame. McBrien will repeat what he has said in his widely used text Catholicism:

If, after appropriate study, reflection and prayer, a person is convinced that his or her conscience is correct, in spite of a conflict with the moral teachings of the church, they not only may but must follow the dictates of their conscience rather than the teachings of the church.”

Centuries earlier Thomas Aquinas said the same thing.  Yet, the Catholic-affiliated institutions asking for a religious exemption insist that corporations, like persons have a conscience. Read the rest of this entry →

The Anti-Choice Class War

9:19 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

"Class War"

"Class War" by London Permaculture on flickr

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Whilst whiling away my time in a manner greatly pleasing to myself—reading the Tumblr STFU Conservatives—I was genuinely startled to see that the blogger had curated this amazing bit of anti-choice propaganda from Live Action.

See image here.

I couldn’t have created a better distillation of how anti-choicers actually view women who are facing unintended pregnancies. I can just imagine how this particular ad came to be. One of the folks working at Live Action was flipping through stock photos of pregnant women—concentrating on very pregnant women in order to mislead people about the flat-tummied realities of abortion—and they were drawn to this one because it’s such a vicious stereotype. The woman pictured is clearly supposed to be young, adolescent even, and poor. You can tell she’s likely a teenager because she’s wearing trendy clothes like you get at Forever 21. And the clothes don’t fit well and are clearly supposed to be clothes from before she got pregnant, the implication being that she’s too poor to afford maternity clothes. This image characterizes young, poor women as stupid sluts who can’t manage basic responsibilities. And our youthful right wing propagandist saw this picture and thought, Perfect! This is exactly how I imagine life is like for the kind of women who get pregnant on accident.

The text indicates that whoever wrote this ad thinks that the intended audience—presumably young and likely poor women—is really stupid, and that the only reason a person might conclude that aborting a pregnancy isn’t the same thing as killing a baby is that they’ve been brainwashed by the condom-pushers at Planned Parenthood. In reality, people draw the conclusion that embryos aren’t babies so much as potential babies because they look at the obvious evidence on hand. They notice that people don’t have funerals for miscarriages, that we start counting someone’s age from their birth date and not their conception date, and that unlike babies, embryos can’t experience emotions or sensations, due to the lack of a functioning brain.

This particular ad further reinforces my sense that the anti-choice movement is increasingly moving away from the strategy they embraced for the past decade of feigning concern for pregnant women, and instead they’re moving back to old school hysterics about women’s sexual freedoms mixed in with overt classism and racism. The most obvious example of this turn has been the right wing reaction to the HHS ruling that will require insurers to cover contraception without a co-pay. All feigned concern for women flew out the window the second the possibility of free contraception was even raised, and so far the theme of the criticisms of the HHS has been, “Dirty, stupid, irresponsible sluts don’t deserve squat.” Read the rest of this entry →