Threats to Religious Freedom?

Catholic Progaganda

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.

Thanks for Reading.  I look forward to your comments.


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10 thoughts on “Threats to Religious Freedom?

  1. Loren Miller from Bedford, OH, United States

    Someone needs to wake the religious community in the US up to the fact that there is a difference between religious liberty and religious LICENSE. Many of them act as though the US were a christian nation and they were free to act as though christian dominance of culture was not just permissible but utterly acceptable behavior. It is not, not to atheists, nor to anyone who indulges in a belief system other than christianity.

    What is going on here is yet another reaction to the recent phenomenon of challenging the christian assumption that it can be their ball, their bat, and their game here. Personally, I have no problem if they wish to practice their religion within their own religious community-congregation-parish or whatever, and I have said this multiple times. I have also stated that if they attempt to superimpose their beliefs on me or the government I live under, I will not tolerate that, and as a result, THEY HAVE A PROBLEM.

    This is a paradigm shift we're experiencing here: from a society where societal christian dominance was taken as a tolerated de-facto reality to one where it is not … and they have some adjusting to do.

    1. Cephus from Redlands, CA, United States

      The problem is, far too many religious folk can't differentiate between "freedom to practice religion" and "freedom to impose religion". The two are functionally identical in their minds and therefore, if you infringe on one, you're infringing on both.

      Of course, they have a big problem if you try to impose your religion on them, they get up in arms at any other religion who wants the right to do exactly what they demand they have a right to do. Freedom of religion means that they have freedoms to make everyone just like them.

    2. reasonbeing from Rochester, MN, United States Post author

      Great comments as usual Loren and Cephus. Loren great job pointing out the idea of Christian Dominance and the feeling that they have that they are entitled to that. Cephus great job pointing out the difference between freedom to practice and freedom to impose. Those two things tie in nicely together.

      I suppose that at the heart of the matter that is where our problem lies. The Christian religions all have a form of evangelizing as part of their nature. I suppose they view the suppression of that a violation of their freedom to practice. I think that is an absurd way to to look at it, but can't help but feel that is part of the reason they act the way they do.

  2. Doug Indeap from Belmont, CA, United States

    Good points well put. Notwithstanding the bishops’ arm waving about religious liberty, the health care law does not force employers to act contrary to their consciences. Contrary to bishops’ assertions and the widespread belief of those who trustingly accept their claims, the law does no such thing.

    Many initially worked themselves into a lather with the false idea that the law forces employers to provide their employees with health care plans offering services the employers consider immoral. The fact is that employers have the option of not providing any such plans and instead simply paying assessments to the government (which, by the way, would generally amount to far less than the cost of health plans). Unless one supposes that the employers’ religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law’s requirement to pay assessments does not compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs. Problem solved. Solved–unless an employer really aims not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather to control his employees’ health plan choices so they conform to the employer’s religious beliefs rather than the law, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed. For that, an employer would need an exemption from the law.

    Indeed, some have continued clamoring for such an exemption, complaining that by paying assessments to the government they would indirectly be paying for the very things they opposed. They seemingly missed that that is not a moral dilemma justifying an exemption to avoid being forced to act contrary to one’s beliefs, but rather is a gripe common to many taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action the government may take with the benefit of “their” tax dollars. Should each of us be exempted from paying our taxes so we aren’t thereby “forced” to pay for making war, providing health care, teaching evolution, or whatever else each of us may consider wrong or even immoral? If each of us could opt out of this or that law or tax with the excuse that our religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.

    In any event, those complaining made enough of a stink that the government relented and announced that religious employers would be free to provide health plans with provisions to their liking (yay!) and not be required to pay the assessments otherwise required (yay!). Problem solved–again, even more.

    Nonetheless, some continue to complain, fretting that somehow the services they dislike will get paid for and somehow they will be complicit in that. They argue that if insurers (or, by the same logic, anyone, e.g., employees) pay for such services, those costs will somehow, someday be passed on to the employers in the form of demands for higher insurance premiums or higher wages. They evidently believe that when they spend a dollar and it thus becomes the property of others, they nonetheless should have some say in how others later spend that dollar. One can only wonder how it would work if all of us could tag “our” dollars this way and control their subsequent use.

    The bishops are coming across more and more as just another special interest group with a big lobbying operation and a big budget—one, moreover, that is not above stretching the truth. The bishops want the government to privilege their business enterprises by allowing them to offer their employees health care plans conforming to the bishops’ religious beliefs rather than the law. They’re so keen on this that they have resorted to a media blitz centered on the false claim—sometimes uttered in priestly tones by bishops themselves—that the law forces employers to act contrary to their consciences. Bunk!

    1. reasonbeing from Rochester, MN, United States Post author

      Well said Doug. You provide a great and, in my opinion, unbiased summary until your last paragraph, where you put in your own thoughts a bit more. Speaking of your last paragraph, I agree with your assessment. However, I would have worded the part regarding the RCC acting like a special interest group an not above "stretching the truth" a lot more strongly. They are, in my opinion, downright lying and purposefully deceiving. Thank you for stopping by and leaving such a lengthy comment.

  3. matt greenberg from Norristown, PA, United States

    i'm glad the RCC and the Universities are taking this challenge to the Courts. let's face it – they haven't a leg to stand on. no offense, RB, but you aren't a Justice and likely don't have the legal background to understand all aspects of the law regarding this case. however, i don't think there is a case to be made other than the one you laid out here. those be the facts, plain and simple. i think that any judge who comes across this case will laugh this one of the docket. it's an absurd and losing argument. great job laying the groundwork of what is so obviously going on here.

    also, i came upon this petition that you might be interested in signing. i doubt it will have much effect, but just the fact that it exists is kinda fun.

  4. Pingback: Logos & Muse | Exposing the Statism of Doug Indeap from Provo, UT, United States

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