A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Religious Freedom

Last night I had the most fascinating exchange on reddit with a variety of self-described conservatives. While I keep Poe's Law in mind when dealing with people like that, I'm not willing to assume that all of them were trolling.

The topic was health insurance and the conservative argument that religious freedom means employers cannot be required to fund birth control in health insurance if they have a religious objection to it. I find this positively absurd at face value; how on earth does your position as an employer entitle you to dictating what an employee can or can't get through insurance? The response I got was nonsensical: to do otherwise is to force my values on the employer and besides I can buy health insurance elsewhere.

There are so many problems with this argument it's hard to know where to begin. But to each I posed this question: if employers can deny birth control to employees through health insurance on religious grounds, what about religious objections to blood transfusions? What about employers who believe that the only appropriate medical treatment is the power of prayer? What about their religious freedom? The best answer I got was "then buy your own."

"Religious freedom" has become a cancer on our society, a red herring that social conservatives invoke whenever they want to deny something to other people for the sake of their religion. It's because of "religious freedom" that pharmacists claim the right to refuse to sell birth control pills to women even when they have a medical need not related to contraception. It's because of "religious freedom" that social conservatives insist that marriage equality be denied and that marriage be redefined as strictly between a man and a woman.

I think it's time to remind people that "religious freedom" is the freedom to worship as you choose, not to impose your religious beliefs on other people. Religious partisans have been trying to attack Jefferson's Wall of Separation between Church and State for years, and this is where it has led. I'm all for civility in a civil society, but not when it produces results like this. The self-proclaimed "Moral Majority" is anything but, and they're certainly not civil in their attacks against our rights. I see no reason why we should tolerate it or remain silent while they install their religious beliefs without consideration of anyone who doesn't share them.

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