People in the United States who consider themselves religious, particularly women of that group, should be angry with the Republican party. By continuing to equate faith and Biblical adherence with policies that are anti-female, anti-gay, and intolerant of anything outside a very selective and narrow interpretation of scripture, the GOP helps give Christianity a bad reputation. The continued antics of the extreme right paint Christians as unforgiving and completely antonymous with compassion.
Republican mouthpieces are choking the airwaves this week with cries of religious persecution, claiming that President Obama’s mandatory order to extend health insurance coverage of contraceptive medicine for all women violates the right of religious organizations who do not support birth control. The claim is shameful and ridiculous.
The president signed an order taking effect on August 1st which will require all issuers of insurance to provide contraceptive birth control at no out-of-pocket expense to women who choose to use it. Some universities and organizations which are affiliated with the Catholic church or other religious denominations requested an exemption from this rule, citing their philosophical opposition to contraceptive birth control. The Executive Branch denied that request. Republicans immediately jumped into that teapot with their tempest in hand, calling it an attack on religious freedom.
When will dogmatic zealots from the right figure out that religious freedom allows one to believe and worship as they choose, but does not allow one to impose those beliefs on others? Why is that so difficult to understand? Conservatives have tried using the same “religious freedom” argument for a long time to justify their discrimination against gays, and use it constantly to defend the hostile antics of anti-abortion activists. Now the target is birth control, which makes no sense at all because the 1950s ended 53 years ago. Members of a religion which does not believe in contraception do not have to use contraception. That is their freedom. However, they do not have the right to prevent others from using contraception, even if those others are members of their own faith, students at their school, employees of their business, or members of an affiliated organization. That is an imposition on the rights of the individual, and against the principals of individual freedom. Insisting that your special club shouldn’t have to follow the rules because of your beliefs is not a defense of your right to believe; it’s an insistence that others be punished if they don’t believe as you do. Yes, a woman is free to choose another school, another job, or even another church, but she should not have to choose between these things or controlling her own reproductive health.
Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, John Boehner, Michael Steele, Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the gang (even some weak-willed Democrats) are demanding a reversal of the president’s order. They’ve gone on television to decry his War on Religion, aided by the media’s appetite for overblown buzzwords and catch-phrases. If Obama is smart, he’ll stand his ground. The public supports his policy. Catholics support his policy. Women support his policy. The recent outcry over the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s rift with Planned Parenthood should have been a warning to the GOP. They should recognize that women are politically educated and active, and when you have a president offering to save women money while also protecting their health, parading a bunch of men across the television screen who insist women should have less control over their reproductive interests is a bone-headed, short-sighted move.
As much as Republicans enjoy having wars on things, pitting themselves against women’s rights is a suicide mission. The men at the top of the party are leading the charge. Who are they expecting will follow?
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Jake Negovan drives Red Brown and Blue to be an outlet for progressive political opinion that leads to the betterment of life for the real, multicultural population of the U.S. and the rest of the world. His columns address the issues faced by our country as we continue growing toward a society of equality. More about Jake can be found on the web at jakejots.com or on Twitter@jakenegovan.