Thoughts on Religious Freedom

The Catholic Church in the U.S. is beginning “A Fortnight for Freedom” on June 21, 2012. Its primary intention is to bemoan the fact that new federal health care rules require employers to provide birth control along with many other medical services.

Pity no one is going to go for my simple solution to the health care crisis.

But let’s take a closer look at the subject of religious freedom.

The Catholic Bishops decided to kick-off their campaign on June 21, because that’s the night when a vigil would typically be held for the saints celebrated on June 22, which include Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher, who were executed for refusing to acknowledge the king, instead of the Pope, as the head of the Church of England.

King Henry VIII hatched that scheme because the Pope refused to annul his 16-year marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Henry wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, a younger woman who he hoped could give him a son.

Most people went along with the change, because to disagree with the King was treason, and the punishment was death. Bishop Fisher was executed on June 22, 1535. Two weeks later, Sir Thomas More went to the block. It is reported that he paused on the scaffold for a few last words, saying to the gathered crowd, “I die the king’s good servant but God’s first.”

It’s important to remember that, prior to their imprisonment, both Fisher and More were involved in the prosecution and execution of “heretics,” generally Protestants.

Fast forward to 1553. After the death of Henry VIII and his only son Edward VI, Henry’s daughter Mary ascended to the throne. Mary, the daughter of Henry’s first wife and a devout Catholic, reconciled with Rome, and during her five-year reign, she is said to have ordered the deaths of nearly 300 “heretics.”

Now that you have the background, here are my thoughts:

1. How many of the Catholics who’ll march with signs over the next two weeks would willing walk up a short flight of stairs to have their heads hacked off in defense of their beliefs?

2. Why does it matter so much that birth control pills and/or abortions would be covered by the insurance? Good Catholics would never consider availing themselves of those options, right?

3. The cost of birth control pills and/or abortions is miniscule in comparison to the cost of pre-natal care, post-natal care, and pediatric care for a healthy child, and even cheaper than a birth with complications.

The purpose of separation of church and state — and the abhorred secular government — is to keep people from being jerked around by people like Henry VIII and Queen Mary.

I don’t go to church every Sunday, but I’m more or less a Christian. I think the Pope back in Henry’s time had it right. Divorce or annulment shouldn’t be granted on a whim. How many of the marching militants would have to hide behind their signs in shame if I walked by and asked how many are divorced? Or single parents never married? Or read out the Biblical passages against tattoos?

Christians of all persuasions, and very likely people of other religions as well, are very selective in the tenants that they follow. Many people are opposed to the Affordable Care Act for different reasons – some because they just don’t like President Obama or they can’t accept anything proposed by a Democrat, some because they don’t like that health care becomes mandatory, some because they fear for their jobs or are worried about insurance costs going up. So, the religious groups decided to get on board and whip up a frenzy among their sheep on that particular issue.

When the Catholics (or any religious group) takes a stand against something that individuals can control in their own lives, like getting a tattoo or having a child out of wedlock, give me a call.

Otherwise, stick to shepherding your own flock and stay out of issues that affect the wider population.

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About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my mid-40s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have nine cats and a husband.
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2 Responses to Thoughts on Religious Freedom

  1. Here’s some additional things to think about:
    1. Because of fair hiring laws, religious institutions can only hire based on religion for ministerial positions. Religion can not be considered for positions such as janitor, which have no religious responsibilities. Therefore, churches and religious institutions may have people on their staff who would not be opposed to taking them up on the birth control options offered by their insurance.

    2. There are various reasons various religions are against birth control. Chemical birth control (ie the pill) can work in one of two ways…it can block a pregnancy by forming a mucus plug that prevents sperm from meeting egg, AND if the sperm gets past that plug, it will prevent the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, which some consider a form of early abortion. And Catholics consider abortion murder.

    Now, whether you think those beliefs are valid or wrong, the issue is that they are being forced to pay for something which they believe is murder. Now I realize everyone has to pay taxes and this may go to some things we think are wrong, and logistically, we can’t just say “if you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay for it.” But Churches have, in our country, been exempted from taxes as non-profits. And since the funds churches depend on come from people whom we can assume support of their beliefs and, it does seem wrong to me that those funds people donate would have to go to something that the the the majority of those people find reprehensible (even if I disagree with their belief).

    Furthermore, anyone working for them who disagrees can
    A). Change jobs and work for someone else
    B). Buy additional insurance to pay for what is missing.

    I think a good solution might be to require institutions who choose not to cover certain services to give back the portion of the paycheck that would usually be kept to pay for insurance if employees choose buy their own insurance elsewhere and can prove that. Since the church is not directly buying the insurance, but leaving that choice to their employees, they are not being forced to directly support something they find reprehensible.

  2. Taminar says:

    You make some interesting points, Gale. Your solution reminds me of the voucher system Paul Ryan is proposing, although I’ve just heard brief mentions of it and don’t know exactly what it entails.

    An independent church would likely be exempt from offering insurance at all; as long as they employ fewer than 50 full-time workers (or the equivalent based on hours). I don’t know if the Catholic Church, for example, has a national health care program available to any and all member churches or if each church or diocese makes its own arrangements.

    I might be a little more lenient in my thinking if I didn’t feel that churches are often hypocritical. They may preach heavily against birth control and gay marriage while turning a blind eye to practices that the Bible is very clear about like adultery and tattoos. That picking-and-choosing is part of what makes me skeptical of their actions and motivations.

    It’s also a bad precedent to exempt one group from offering specific and general health care options. The idea of the system is that if everyone has insurance and contributes to the cost of their own health care they’ll take advantage of options that will keep them in better health, or go to their regular doctor instead of the E.R. when they have the flu, and that will bring costs down for everyone. If one group is exempted from offering a certain option, then others will ask for exemptions, and pretty soon, we’ll be back to what we have now.

    One final thought for tonight: if at any point the government decides to give the churches their way, their insurance provider should be required to charge them a pregnancy premium, to help offset the increased expenses associated with a higher number of pregnancies and births, along with subsequent pediatric care.

    Gale, thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

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