Sunday, April 8, 2012

Religious Liberty and Health Care Mandates

This article was submitted to the Waco "Trib" as a guest column, but was never published. I guess it was just too controversial.


Religious liberty is like all our other liberties. They are all precious. They are all guaranteed by the Constitution. And they all end just short of harming someone else.

Some (but not all) of the Founding Fathers were Christian. They knew enough to prevent the formation of a state-supported, state-enforced religion. This gave all of us the right to believe whatever we choose.

Most, but not all, of us in this country are one or another denomination of Christian, in heritage if not in practice. It is very important for everyone to understand that no two of those denominations believe in exactly the same things, or practice exactly the same standards of behavior.

Freedom of religion means that we do not have to believe in, practice the rituals of, or even be forced to see or hear the public practice of, of denominations with which we disagree. The Founding Fathers made sure this extended to our non-Christian neighbors as well.

You are all free to celebrate Christmas and Easter in any way you want. The government is not, because there are Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and many others in our midst, and the Constitution simply requires there be no favorites. While these others do not celebrate Christmas and Easter as we Christians do, they do celebrate and enjoy holidays with us. And that’s a good thing.

The elimination of school prayer has been often-cited as “an attack on Christianity”. It is not. What is allowed is a devotional time for each student to reflect and practice whatever tradition is taught at home. This is the only way that allows for the fact that there are so many different Christian denominations, and so many other non-Christian traditions, in our society.

That some kids do nothing during this time simply reflects what was not taught at home, and that lack explains a lot regarding school discipline and grade problems. That home lack is not a school problem, or a government problem.

As for healthcare mandates, the recent publicly-aired problem has been insurance coverage of birth control materials for employees of Catholic-owned schools and hospitals. This is a tough nut to crack, since statistics show over 90% of American Catholic women use birth control! Plus, the employee looking for coverage is not necessarily Catholic.

Common sense suggests that the coverage needs to be made available in the same way as for non-Catholic employers, simply in order to provide the option for individual choice. The only question is how to pay for it, since the Catholic employers have religious scruples about that.

We can always argue about exactly how to accomplish paying for it, but we shouldn’t be arguing about whether it should be offered: individual choice is too precious a Constitutional tradition. The current federal policy is but one possible way to accomplish what must be done.

Because there are so many different religious traditions, with so many very different prescriptions for moral behavior, we have to have a civil law that all can agree on. That makes the civil law a sort of “lowest common denominator”, and that’s the way it should be.

If we legislate one group’s behavior standards as the civil law all must obey, the rest will be decidedly unhappy with restrictions they view as unnecessary. That way eventually lies civil unrest, perhaps even dissolution of the Union. We do not want to go there, we’ve been there before.

Under a “lowest common denominator” civil law, all are free to self-restrict according to their traditions, none are coerced by others to do things they do not believe in.

That is why Roe vs Wade, which has worked well for decades, should not be overturned. Any judge in any court, who says otherwise, is lying to you to protect his personal political preferences.

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