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Fortnight For Freedom Is a Dangerous Sham. Let’s Celebrate Real Religious Freedom for All People

1:47 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

religion

(photo: loop_oh/flickr)

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

This summer, Americans of every faith and of none have been subjected to the propaganda machine of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and their “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign. By all measures, the fortnight fell flat. There was no religious persecution to decry; Catholics were too busy living their lives and planning their summer vacations to show up en masse for the bishops’ rallies; and the Affordable Care Act, the threat to religious liberty (according to the bishops), was upheld by the Supreme Court.

What we know, and what the bishops missed, is that religious freedom deserves more than a fortnight — and it’s about protecting more than the interests of a small group of men whose demands don’t reflect the needs and desires of the people they claim to represent.

Throughout history, good people — religious and secular — have been harried, hunted and harmed because of their religion or in the name of someone else’s. Irish Catholics lost the right to worship, and many their lives and livelihoods, to the English crown merely because they were Catholic. European Jews, for no reason other than their faith, were persecuted for centuries, and the Shoah remains an appalling testament to the capacity of human cruelty and religious repression. But religious persecution isn’t only history. If you adhere to the Baha’i faith in Iran today, you live in fear, monitored by a government that has a history of arresting, torturing and killing members of your faith. In Indonesia, the refusal to confess a belief in God will land you, badly beaten, in prison—in 2012.

Today’s American Catholic bishops would have us think they are the latest victims of religious persecution. Their claims denigrate the suffering of those who know the true meaning of that term. A few powerful conservative religious leaders, not joined by the majority of their faith or even of all their fellow bishops, have opened their coffers to sue the government to allow them to force others to live by their rules and to deny them what everyone else is guaranteed by our society. This isn’t about religious liberty. It’s a sham. And a dangerous one.
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Fortnight for Freedom – Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

11:53 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

An empty birth control holder discarded on the street.

Freedom from contraception? (Photo: Beatrice Murch / Flickr).

The Catholic bishops have begun a two-week campaign leading up to July 4th with the central focus of removing contraceptive coverage from health insurance reform. Of course, the Supreme Court any minute now may end or modify the Affordable Care Act, which may make this debate moot.

The bishops are calling their campaign a “Fortnight for Freedom” and cloaking their objection to modern methods of contraception in a religious liberty argument. It is a classic example of those on the religious right who would restrict individual freedom to make private sexual choices co-opting language to confuse and gain supporters. It is reminiscent of the right’s coinage of “partial-birth abortion” for abortion procedures after 20 weeks and the use of the term “death panels” in health care debates.

As a religious leader and as a person of faith, I of course support religious freedom. So does the U.S. Constitution and so, I presume, do you. To me, and millions of people of faith, religious freedom means that all persons should be free to make their own personal decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives, including their decisions about when, whether, or if to have children. These decisions are optimally informed by their conscience, faith tradition, religious beliefs and families, but ultimately they are deeply personal decisions that individuals can and should have the freedom to make for themselves.

Religious freedom means that the government should not privilege the teachings of one religion over another or deny individual religious freedom. Individuals must have the right to accept or reject the principles of their own faith without legal restrictions. The Catholic bishops do not speak for all faith traditions on contraception; indeed they don’t even speak for the people in their pews who use and support family planning in overwhelming majorities. It is past time for the Vatican and the American Bishops to understand that they cannot claim final moral authority in domestic or (as we saw in Rio last week) international discourse.

It is up to each of us to not allow the Catholic bishops or anyone else to co-opt religious freedom. Universal access to family planning does not require anyone to use contraception – rather it assures that individual moral agency and conscience are respected. Supporting religious freedom means supporting the right of all of us to make our own moral decisions. We know a wolf in sheep’s clothing when we see it.