The Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program held a conference last week. The title of the conference was “Rising Threats to Religious Freedom”. I realize this appears to be a promising event. It is not. The EPPC is an organization that is religious in nature. The reality of the situation is that this event was exactly the opposite of what it should have been. This was a group of people from clergy, politicians, and religious activist groups who got together to try to figure out how they can better force religion into public and government life.
People ask me all the time why I am so vocal in my opposition to religion. The short answer is that the Christian religions in the U.S. lie and deceive to further their own end—the self-preservation of their leaders and dogma/doctrine. They are not interested in truly educated their followers they will spin political and social projects to further their own end rather than acknowledge facts. They are not democracies and are not interested in pluralism. They are in fact, theocracies with top down administration. The Pope, for example, is a dictator, yet he is seldom referred to by that title. This conference was nothing more than a validation of all that I just stated.
According to the Catholic News Service’s article “Archbishop urges people of all faiths to stand for religious freedom” Catholic Archbishop William Lori of Maryland was one of the leaders at this conference. Lori stated, “U.S. bishops and faithful Catholics in this country, numerous though we may be, cannot fight the tide of radical secularism alone.” That statement is nonsensical. A rising tide of radical secularism does not exist. There is no such thing. It would be hard to marginalize secularists more than we already are in this country… “a rising tide”…I wish! Lori is tilting at windmills and trying to incite others to join him.
Lori goes on to say, “…fighting the tide of secularism in general, and current threats to religious liberty in particular, can seem like a daunting task, (but) we know that with God, all things are possible, and we know that prayer is the ultimate source of our strength in this fight.” As previously mentioned a secular tide does not exist, it is what is needed. Second, threats to religious liberty do not exist (more on that later). Third, if all things are possible with “God” then why are we having this conversation? Should not “God” have already fixed this problem for you? By the way, when he is done with that, can you ask him why he is not using his power to help real problems like hunger and disease? Lastly, I would feel strengthened if I actually believed Lori was going to rely on “prayer” for the source of strength in this fight. The truth is, he knows as well as I do, that statement is nonsense. The Church is not going to rely on prayer. They are going to rely on money, lawyers, politicians, and spin. Prayer will not be a factor in this fight, but it does make for a good sound byte from his perspective.
Speakers from many different religious sects were present, but the Catholic Church dominated proceedings. Lori explains, “the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate on contraceptive coverage “has now become the most critical religious liberty challenge that we face in the United States today.” This is sheer nonsense. There is no threat to religious liberty in that mandate.
We need to have a quick look at religious liberty. One’s religious liberty could be considered to be violated if they are forced to act in a manner that opposes their religious views. The Church is trying to fit this mandate into that mold. It does not work. The mandate does not force anyone to use birth control. I realize that is an obvious statement, yet many people do not seem to understand that a measure forcing something as absurd as compulsory contraception would be about the only way that we could have a violation of religious freedom in this case. The mandate would force all insurance plans to provide means to birth control. In the cases of Catholic organizations, the Church does not even have to pay for it. No Catholic is being told that a) they must use birth control or b) they must pay for someone else’s birth control. What the Church is being told is that they do not have the right to deny birth control to anyone else. That is the end of the story. The only violation of religious freedom is coming from the Church. They are seeking to impose their dogma/doctrine on the non-Catholic employees/students of those organizations. That is a violation of those people’s rights.
The Church is attempting to spin this as a matter of “conscience”. They say that it goes against the conscience of Catholics to have to provide a health plan that covers contraception. That is pure propaganda. They are not paying for it and do not even have to condone it. The only thing they cannot do is deny it to someone else. If withholding something that is considered a basic human right from a person who wants it violates the conscience of the Catholic Church that is not the government’s problem. Second, we live in a democracy. Part of the social contract that is necessary to make this society work is the idea that each of needs to give up some things for the greater good. It is against the “conscience” of many people to have our tax dollars spent the way they are. That is life in a democracy. Each and every citizen of this country has had her/his conscience violated at some point in time by the government. The Church cannot be excluded from that. The conscience of the church counts for nothing in politics. The conscience of Catholics only counts in their own actions. The use of that word in this debate is improper and deceitful. It is nothing more than propaganda.
One the biggest problems that is not being pointed out too often in this story is the failure of the Catholic Church to control its members. It has been widely reported that 98% of Catholic women have used or are using birth control. When you factor in the sexual partners of those women, the number of Catholics who are using birth control would be amazingly high. The Church has failed to keep its flock in line. It is now seeking to use the government to do the job it failed to do. This is preposterous. It is not the job of the government to limit who can use birth control because the pulpit has failed to convince those in the pews.
The last matter that I would like to address as dishonest and deceitful by the Church is its attempt to play the victim in this matter, while making threats. Both Cardinals Dolan and Lori have stated on numerous occasions that the Church does not want this fight. That is false, as noted in the previous paragraph. Second, they point out that as a result of this mandate (and some other recent mandates) the Church may be forced to close many of its schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations. This is nonsense. They would be forced to do no such thing. Like most everything in life, that is a choice that they may make. It is not being forced. The Church may choose to stop caring the most needy among us—the sick, poor, and children rather than allow a program of birth control to come from their institutions that they do not need to pay for. Let that sink in. The Church will close orphanages and hospitals leaving many to suffer rather than to let a non-Catholic use birth control. This is vile and disgusting. I give credit to Martin Bashir’s program for calling the Church out on this last week. More of the mainstream media needs to call attention to the Church’s vile actions and propagandizing on this matter.
Both Dolan and Lori have stated that the government needs to stay out of Church affairs on this matter. I would be okay with that with one stipulation. If the Church wants to truly be separate and left alone then they must agree to two principles. First, start paying taxes. Second, they need reject the almost $3 billion of federal aid that goes to fund their schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations. That $3 billion makes up around 60% of the total budget those programs need to survive. If they are going to take that money—our money—then they need to capitulate that our government has some say in how that money will be spent. This is the deceit of the Church. They do not inform their members that without Uncle Sam chipping in, these organizations would cease to exist. Oh no…they welcome government involvement when money is involved.
If we look back to my second paragraph, all that I said there holds up. The Church is not interested in educating its members on what is really happening, they are most certainly not interested in a pluralistic democracy with a social contract, they are seeking to spin these debates as deftly as any other political actor to further their own ends, and they will lie and deceive to accomplish their end of self-preservation of their leaders and dogma/doctrine. It is a sad state of affairs when the Church’s dogma/doctrine on birth control supersedes its mission of caring for the needy. As an atheist, the latter is about the only use I see for the Church in today’s world. If they are willing to abandon those missions, I must ask, what good does this organization provide? Why should it be around at all? The Church has become a political organization that may rapidly be outliving any benefit that it provides to society.
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