Contraception or Not, Churches, Governments, and Squabbles

We live in an era of news cycles and during the most recent news cycle America has been consumed with the topic of contraception and whether a church run hospital, university, or social service agency should be required to provide contraception through its healthcare benefits program. On one side are the President and most mainstream Americans. On the other side are the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the extreme wing of the Republican Party that seems to have hijacked the Republican agenda. So what’s up? Are the President and mainstream Americans evil for trying to provide oral contraception to female employees, despite the moral objections of their employers? Or are the religious right, including the hierarchy of the Catholic Church a bunch of fringe lunatics whose world view more appropriately belongs in the 13th century?

On the surface one might be tempted to side with the protestations of the Catholic Church who argue that this negates the Constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state. They argue that the government and the church are separate now and forever, and so the government has no right to force the church into an action that their moral code says they cannot do. The problem comes in when one realizes that we are not talking about actual churches here. We are talking about large universities and hospitals and Catholic Social Services, where large numbers of employees are not Catholics, but are professionals doing a job for a Catholic funded organization. Do these employees incur a moral obligation to live by a code set out by the Pope and College of Cardinals because they receive their paycheck from an arm of the Catholic Church?

A similar conundrum faces Christians who live in predominantly Muslim countries with a conservative bent. We are not talking about Turkey. We are talking about Saudi Arabia and others of a similar social makeup. Should Christians be forced to follow traditional Islamic Sharia law because they live in a society dominated by Muslims? Most mainstream Americans would say categorically, “No!” So why would they say that non-Catholics should be forced to abide by a moral code that they do not embrace? Same thing.

Furthermore, there are members of the Christian Right in America who have jumped on the bandwagon in denouncing the actions of President Obama, as forcing his own moral views on the rest of society. At least one individual used this flashpoint as evidence that the President is “addicted to abortion.” Huh? One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Fact. Women who have access to contraception don’t need, or get abortions. It’s called family planning. Unwanted pregnancies are avoided. Attendant poverty and social issues that come with unplanned pregnancies are avoided. Then there is the fact that the ones complaining the loudest about liberals forcing their world view on others are trying to do exactly that to the general public. That is to say that the religious right wishes to force their own version of Sharia law, from a Christian perspective, on our entire society. These are individuals who wish to make homosexuality illegal and punishable by law. These are individuals who wish to keep women barefoot and pregnant and permanently ensconced in a second class role in society. These are individuals who would bring Christian prayer into public classrooms, despite the separation of church and state guaranteed in our Constitution.

Underlying this entire conflict lies the one central question. Should conservative leaders of any religion, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, or other, be allowed to dictate public morality in sectarian society? For the record, every major religion on the planet officially puts women in subservient roles. At least the current interpretations and practice of those religions do this. In the case of the Catholic Church and the U.S. government specifically, we have a bunch of old men who have taken a vow of celibacy trying to tell the rest of the population that they should have sex for purposes of procreation only and if you engage on non-procreative sex you’re going to burn in hell forever. Really? Really really?

Let’s get real here. Human beings are sexual animals. They engage in sex. Pregnancies occur. As higher animals human beings have, being the inventive creatures they are, created ways to prevent pregnancy. This is a good thing. Unwanted pregnancies have a litany of unwanted consequences. Most serious polls show that 98% of all Catholics use birth control at some time or other.

The only ones who seem to be addicted to this idea of sex for procreation only are they guys who deny their own sexuality, and we all know how well that works out. Can we talk about a priesthood that is overrun with closeted gay men who try to deny their sexuality? Can we talk about convents that are rife with lesbians? Can we talk about a priesthood where men, trying to deny their own sexuality, end up abusing children. I’ll say it again. Human beings are sexual animals. People have sex. People should not be forced to play pregnancy roulette every time their gonads urge them into action.

The bottom line here is that we need to get churches out of people’s bedrooms. We’re not talking about people forcing sex on other people. We’re talking about consenting adults engaging in sexual activity, normal sexual activity, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Religious individuals are not being forced into this activity if they don’t want to. Even if churches are forced to provide birth control for employees, no one is forcing those employees to use birth control if they are morally opposed to it. It isn’t the liberal elite who are forcing their world view on others. It is the ultra-conservative right who are forcing their world view on others and it needs to stop. As for President Obama and his policies in this regards. You go dude. America needs leadership that isn’t afraid to step up and do the right thing.

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