Thursday, August 2, 2012

Freedom of Religion. Maybe.

Imagine the following scenario: You pull into a Wendy's and order a bacon cheezeburger. But the young Jewish man at the window then tells you, "I'm sorry, I can't sell that to you. Eating pork is against God's law."

"Hunh. Weird," You think to yourself, then shrug and drive off, vowing to never eat at that particular Wendy's again. But then decide that pizza and beer sounds like a better idea. So you find a convenience store, grab a sack of pizza pockets and a six pack of Miller Lite, and head for the cashier. "I'm sorry," says the Muslim-looking man behind the counter, "but you cannot buy beer from me. Drinking alcohol is contrary to the will of Allah."

You leave in a huff, and by now are wondering what the hell's gotten into everybody.  Deciding it's better to just settle on a coffee until you get home, you pull into a Starbucks.  But, wouldn't you know it, there's a Mormon working the counter.  "I can't sell you coffee," he says. "God objects to strong beverages of that nature."

Sound like a world gone mad? Well, of course it is. But that's essentially the upside-down, topsy-turvey world that Republican leaders are living in these days. Because, according to them, if a religious hospital is not allowed to demand that you obey THEIR religious rules if seeking to buy contraception, then this amounts to religious discrimination!

We all recognize that if a religious business owner demands its customers follow his or her religious rules to get service, that's discrimination. This is part of why there's such a huff over Chick Fil-A these days. (Although the franchise never actually discriminated against gays. It's owner is just being a fucking asshole about the subject of, well, fucking assholes. Eating fried chicken doesn't have anything to do with sex, or sexual orientation, unless there's a new technique I haven't heard about.) So, if a cashier at Walgreen's refused to sell you condoms, you'd have a legitimate gripe. Why then, according to some Republicans, do we not have a similarly legitimate gripe if we're buying RU-486 from the pharmacy counter in back of the same Walgreen's when that parmacist just happens to be a religous nut?

The answer has to do with people's attitudes regarding abortion. I'm not going to detail my brilliant debunking of the anti-abortion establishment. That's a subject for a different blog post. (And I need to post that. I thought I'd already done so, but I guess somehow that got missed.) But I understand what a devout Catholic might feel if, when working at the pharmacy counter of a Catholic hospital, she was told she had to participate in dispensing a drug she felt would be used for murder. She would feel very uncomfortable indeed, and I'm not insensitive to that moral dilemma. But then, that's what other employees are for. If one employee consciously objects to a job which needs to be done, then another employee must do it. This is how the military has dealt with religious types who won't shoot at the enemy, and this is how Catholic hospitals must deal with dispensing medications to non-Catholic patients.

Think this sounds harsh? Then ask yourself, does a Catholic hospital require patients pray the Rosary? Does a Jewish hospital force patients to eat kosher? If a patient in a Catholic hospital were to ask for a Lutheran pastor to pray with him/her, or better yet, if a Muslim patient were to ask for an Immam, would that be forbidden? Of course not. Private religious hospitals serve all people, regardless of religious background. And if that patient needs care in a manner which is not conforming to the religion which owns the hospital, the patient's needs, not the hospital's dogma, take priority. Why then, when it comes to contraception, does this sensible standard suddenly, hypocritically, get suspended?

The answer is simple: Because people are usually blind to that which privileges. Whether it be ill-gotten wealth, unfair status, lucky fame, or illegal religious favoritism, people will find a way to justify the wrong things which favor them. We turn a blind eye to the Save the Children commercial. For the same reason, we will ignore a law which denies religious equality in favor of our own particular religious creed getting the ability to bully people.

Part of the importance of this has to do with the fact that we're dealing with patients, not customers. This isn't so much a case of a business refusing to sell something to a customer, as in the earlier examples. Such a customer could always simply go elsewhere. But if there is a medical emergency, the patient will be taken to the nearest hospital, regardless of religious background, and be stuck there. If said hospital happens to be religious, and it is suddenly given leave to dictate to such trapped patients what kinds of treatments they can or can't have based on its dogma, then a dangerous precedent. Religions would then be able to force doctrinal conformity upon a captive clientele. This is a violation of Church/State separation on a GRAND scale, and simply cannot be allowed!

That's not how it is to hear the private hospitals tell it. "Oh, horrors! We can't force our patients into obeying our religion anymore! This is an attack upon our faith!"

This is a what?!

Oh, yes. Not only is it an attack upon religious freedom, but according to Representative Mike Kelley (R) of Pennsylvania, it is an attack which is on par with September 11, 2001, or December 7, 1941. Representative Billy Long of Missouri says that this means we're not living in the land of the free anymore. And Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle of New York states that this is the largest assault upon our First Amendment rights. Former State Congressman, Mark Neumann, is campaigning primarily on this point, stating that he thinks this particular violation of religious freedom "should scare you to death."

These people are partially right. There was an assault on August 1st, 2012. But they are the ones who launched it!

Let's get this straight: Religious freedom means you have the freedom to practice whatever religion you want. It does not mean that you get to force people into obeying your religion's reproductive edicts when they had no choice but to be present inside your religiously-run hospital which has always acted in a non-sectarian manner IN EVERY OTHER INSTANCE beforehand! In short, religious freedom does not include the "freedom" to stuff your religion down other people's throats!

Especially when that action means sentencing them to 18 to 24 years of hard childrearing labor! I mean, holy shit, fuck you too!

Make no mistake: Religious freedom is always destroyed in the name of religious freedom! And if the wall of separation between Church and State is ever disassembled, it will be taken apart, brick by brick, with a prayer for religious freedom uttered over each one removed.

Still, it's nice to see the religious right supporting Church/State separation for a change!


Mark Neumann, you are full of SHIT! Drop out!


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