Freedom Of Religion: What Happened?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” —The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights

Freedom of religion.

This used to mean that every citizen had the right to her own beliefs in God. She had the right to choose her own church, and attend it freely. She had the right to pray to her own God, with no governmental inference.

This used to mean that every citizen had the right to belief in no god. She could not be compelled to attend church, or to pray to any god.

It meant that there was no State Church, no State religion.

When did it come to mean that the beliefs and practices of a faith held by a numerical majority of the country could be written into law?

When did it come to mean that the declarations of a religious system had to be given deferential treatment, that one’s faith held equal footing with science in the practice of medicine?

When did it come to mean that religious leaders held more sway with our government than its very own people?

What happened?

Church attendance has declined. Our knowledge of science has advanced. Technology has developed so quickly that our world has been changed dramatically. The power of the Church has been waning. It can no longer send armies to subdue heretics. Questions that humans have been asking for centuries are increasingly being answered by science. The Church is losing, every day, more and more, the status of having all the answers, to life, the universe, and everything.

It is no coincidence that religion is fighting for so hard now in this country what it fought against over two hundred years ago. They began fighting against it as almost as soon as they got it.


Split in GOP Over Birth Control Mandate?

Last week, the Obama administration announced that employers will be required to cover birth control in their insurance plans–including religious hospitals and schools.

The GOP promptly threw a shit fit. Along with, you know, fundamentalist Christians and conservative Catholics.

Boehner is threatening to introduce legislation overturning the rule.

But wait! The GOP isn’t united on this. While mainstream news sources cream their pants over a Democrat in Congress that is also throwing a shit fit over the rule, (I’ll give you one guess who it is.) they’re ignoring the pro-choice segment of the Republican Party.

Republican Majority For Choice is calling for the GOP to stop pandering to the extreme minority in the party and cease their war on contraception.

“I think this week’s outrage over the Komen decision should be a warning to the Republican party about how quickly there was a mass outrage over further and further attacks on general women’s health,” Kellie Ferguson, executive director of Republican Majority for choice, told me Wednesday. “You could see the same backlash on attacks on contraception.”

“For the last number of years, we in the pro-choice community in general — and we specifically as Republicans — have been saying as this pandering to a sort of social conservative faction of voters continues, you’re going to see the line pushed further and further and further,” she said. “And we’re now crossing the line from discussion of when we should regulate abortion to when we should now regulate legal doctor-prescribed medications like birth control, which is woven in the fabric of society as an acceptable medication.”

Of course, they’re not getting press because the GOP isn’t going to listen. Along with the religious right pushing more and more of their agenda, this is an election year–and the prolonged primary ensures that the rhetoric is going to be very partisan. Let’s not forget, either, the GOP’s number one goal: to make President Obama a one-term President, by undermining everything that he attempts to do. This would be a perfect storm, save for the fact that going after birth control is crossing a very distinct line in the sand.

Americans like their birth control–and the vast majority of the country that uses it? Isn’t going to give it up anytime soon. If the GOP continues on this course (and they will) they will lose more and more women, and more and more of the 18-24 demographic.

The GOP is heading for a brick wall at a very high speed.

But naturally, President Obama is looking to compromise.



The Tea Party: Not Quite Dead

From the Daily Beast:

“The Tea Party movement is dead. It’s gone,” says Chris Littleton, the cofounder of the Ohio Liberty Council, a statewide coalition of Tea Party groups in Ohio. “I think largely the Tea Party is irrelevant in the primaries. They aren’t passionate about any of the candidates, and if they are passionate, they’re for Ron Paul.”

I wouldn’t say the Tea Party is dead. As far as it being a popular political movement, sparking protests, rallies, and changing the political game–yes. That game is up for the Tea Party.

As it is right now, the Tea Party is a Republican Party boogeyman. It’s a demographic within the GOP to be feared and pandered to. It shapes the message of Republican candidates and office-holders.

However, the problem is, the Republican Party already has a boogeyman to be feared: the Religious Right. The RR has had a stronghold in the party for years now, and it’s not going to relinquish its status as the Demographic That Must Be Pleased, or else it is the end of your legislation, your message, and your political career.

The Republican Party is struggling right now. It’s doing this awkward shuffle-dance to try to appeal to both demographics at once, with embarrassing results. Both demographics are competing for supremacy within the GOP, and the results are yet to be seen–hence, Republican candidates are playing to both sides, waiting to see which demographic will come out on top, and subsequently appearing lukewarm and somewhat repellant to both sides.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t conservatives and Republicans that identify with both the Religious Right and the Tea Party–there certainly are. This also alters the appearance of both groups, to a certain extent.

Until this power struggle has come to an end, the GOP isn’t going to be able to fully unite and face off against the Democrats. Republicans are fighting a war on two fronts–and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any agreement in time for the Presidential election later this year.

To Those Who Don’t Understand the Decision Regarding Birth Control

Because I read HuffPo and Facebook comments, even though they drive me up the wall:

So, here’s how this new rule requiring full coverage of birth control works:

1. Insurance policies for all employers, save churches, must provide full coverage for birth control.

2. This is not violating religious freedom, or “keeping organizations from practicing there [sic] beliefs.” Women employed by a Catholic hospital, or a Baptist university aren’t there to “practice their beliefs.” They are working. For a paycheck. Also! For the benefits.

2a. An organization cannot be religious, or have beliefs–people have religious beliefs. Women that work at a Catholic hospital are just as free to practice their beliefs as before–they can take or not take birth control as they see fit. Many employees of these types of religious organizations do not have the same religious beliefs–it would be discriminatory to force a Baptist woman, for example, to follow the rules of Catholicism (to use my aunt as an example).

3. These religious organizations are not paying for the birth control–the employees pay for their own policies.

4. Let’s put this in a more abstract way–companies do not get to dictate the health care of their employees. Google cannot tell one of their programmers that they’re not going to offer an insurance plan that would cover surgeries. Zappo’s cannot decide that they’re not going to provide insurance policies that cover prescriptions. In short, employers do not, by and large, get to pick and choose which aspects of health care that their insurance policies will or will not cover.

5. Churches are exempt. Churches are exempt. CHURCHES ARE EXEMPT.

6. Employers have no goddamn business in the exam room with an employee and their doctor. Per-i-od.