To begin, let me say that I love the fact that the Republican Party in 2012 is running against women’s rights – and not even the traditional issue of a woman’s right to choose but her very right to not get pregnant. Right now they’re campaigning against the very act of sex, which (even if they make some gains) is a long-term losing battle because – guess what! – people have sex and not everyone wants to have children.
This is not to say, though, that observing the battles of the present aren’t frustrating – right when you think we’re in the third wave of feminism, the tide pulls back and we find ourselves still having a public conversation about sexual liberation. This time, though, it’s not about public morality and overt oppression; it’s about freedom of religion and giving to employers the right to discriminate based upon their religious beliefs. It’s the same arguments wrapped up in a cloth we are often too afraid to criticize (hence the stigma of the New Atheists).
It really shouldn’t be this way – this is why we have the separation of church and state, why liberal democracies are predicated on a deference to science and reason to guide what is best for a secular society. Without these things, what do we become? Whether we like it or not, we live in a pluralist society and if every religious faith were granted the opportunity to function outside of the legal system, what would happen?
I have a feeling it wouldn’t be pretty, and we’d get stuff like what Republicans are pushing in Arizona. Recently some legislators started pushing a bill that
would require women who wish to have their contraception covered by their health insurance plans to prove to their employers that they are taking it to treat medical conditions. The bill also makes it easier for Arizona employers to fire a woman for using birth control to prevent pregnancy despite the employer’s moral objection. [Bolding mine]
And as one can imagine, how exactly does one go about “judging” the intentions of a woman on the pill? Does she have to hold her stomach screaming about cramps to illustrate how necessary birth control is? Does she need to have acne scarring? Why does the medical dimension even matter?
Oh, right, because if it’s framed as anything but it becomes a First Amendment issue (somehow).
“The bill goes beyond guaranteeing a person’s rights to express and practice their faith,” Anjali Abraham, a lobbyist for the ACLU, told the Senate panel, “and instead lets employers prioritize their beliefs over the beliefs, the interests, the needs of their employees, in this case, particularly, female employees.”
The sponsor of the bill told the committee that it is intended to protect the First Amendment right to religious liberty.
“I believe we live in America,” said Majority Whip Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale), who sponsored the bill. “We don’t live in the Soviet Union. So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”
Frankly, I don’t think these religious organizations should be the ones judging morality when, say, the Catholic Church has a reputation for covering up child-rape, when religious groups are the greatest stumbling blocks to the advancement of science and reason (yet still savor the fruits of their discoveries), when these same organizations have been the greatest impediments to the expansion of civil rights (whether it’s racial minorities, women, or the GLBT community), and the list can go on and on.
The freedom of religion is also the freedom from religion and I’m disappointed that there are those who believe proclaiming “BUT I’M RELIGIOUS” suddenly exempts them from the basic rules and obligations of society, grants them status to discriminate and oppress other groups simply because their Bronze Age text said it was OK.