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An attack on religious liberty


February 22, 2012
I am not Catholic — I attend a Southern Baptist church — but I'm deeply troubled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' recent decision not to exempt Catholic-operated hospitals, universities, schools and social service agencies from the federal health reform law requirement that work-based insurance plans offer women coverage for contraception, despite the Catholic Church's opposition to birth control.

Following the initial public uproar, the Obama administration announced an "accommodation" in which it shifted the requirement from the Church to the insurance companies. Essentially, the Church would not provide contraception through its health insurance plan, but the insurance companies must offer it to employees for free.

That is not an accommodation, nor is it the administration backtracking, as many media outlets reported. Contraception is still being provided to those employed by the Church as part of its health insurance coverage, even if the Church technically isn't paying for it. That doesn't make the whole issue any less troubling.

The Catholic Church doesn't believe in any type of artificial birth control, let alone the so-called "morning after" pill and sterilization. To mandate that it must adhere to a policy that is in contrast to its beliefs or pay a fine — and, perhaps, close — its hospitals, social service agencies, etc., is a clear attack on religious liberty.

Separation of church and state proponents have successfully sought court rulings making it unconstitutional to pray in school and post the Ten Commandments in courthouses, while people, including many "persons of faith," are afraid to mention God, let alone Jesus, in a casual conversation in the workplace for fear of being sued.

Right or wrong, if those are the rules that we are going to play by as a society, shouldn't they go both ways? Unfortunately, for many people, separation of church and state simply is about freedom from religion, when it also should be about freedom of religion.

A government's belief that it can trump an organized religion's belief system should be troublesome not only to the members of that particular religion — in this case 77 million U.S. Catholics — but also to every member of society. It may be the Catholic Church under attack today, but tomorrow it could be Baptists being told they must hire women pastors, opposite of the denomination's beliefs. Even secular groups should be worried as the hand of government can easily extend to issues they care about.

Therefore, the controversy of the HHS mandate really goes beyond the Catholic Church. It strikes at the heart of freedom — religious as well as general liberties — and serves as a reminder that we must stand up to protect them.

While the U.S. Constitution lays out the freedoms we're to have, we're not guaranteed them. If we're not vigilant, they can be taken away with just the stroke of a pen.

Therefore, while I'm not Catholic, I am deeply troubled by the HHS mandate, and so should you.

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  1. print email
    February 24, 2012 | 02:55 AM

    Dear the GOP:
    How did you get here? From the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Goldwater, and Reagan to the party that is concerned with my wife’s crotch and mine. What happened to the belief in individualism and the skepticism about big government?
    Lincoln sought for unity, equal rights, and humanity.
    Eisenhower cut bloated spending on the military to build our infrastructure, schools, roads, and bridges.
    Goldwater, who was not a president, but shaped the GOP, sought for Government that stays out of the boardroom and stays out of the bedroom.
    Reagan sought for smaller government.
    I am not implying that you should rename the GOP to the Crotch Party.
    But, all you talk about is abortion, gay marriage, don’t ask and don’t tell, contraceptives, condoms, sex education, and so on… I usually say who cares.
    Do you want government in your bedroom? Do you honestly think government can enforce morality? Morality is a part of individualism.
    No one should be able to tell you what you can eat, drink, smoke, or marry, or what kind of gun you can own. We the people do not want to be snooped on by an all-knowing big brother government.
    True Freedom is both economic and personal freedom.

    -Bill


    Bill Stroud
Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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