Bizarre. Mystifying. Irrational. That's what religion is.
And that's also how I look upon the freak-out that erupted after the Obama administration required religious organizations (colleges, hospitals, etc.) which serve the general public to cover contraception, just like others who offer health insurance are required to do.
Note: contraception. Not abortion. Birth control pills, condoms, IUD's. The Institute of Medicine recommended that birth control be fully covered under health plans.
But, you know, the Institute of Medicine used facts, evidence, research, and common sense in reaching that conclusion, which weirds out faith-based folks. Preventing unwanted pregnancies saves lives, reduces abortions, and enables women to space out births, among other benefits (some medical conditions also are treated with birth control pills).
Yet a Catholic archbishop looks upon birth control this way:
During his lecture, Archbishop Dolan criticized people who postponed conception with “chemicals and latex,” calling them part of the “culture of death.”
Archbishop Dolan, you need to get out of the Dark Ages. Step into the light. And bring your 100% male Catholic leadership along with you. I have zero sympathy for religious crazies who fuss about being required to comply with laws that everyone else has to follow.
Well, make that almost zero.
Conscientious objectors to war, like Quakers, being able to perform some other service than fighting -- that makes sense to me. I'm also OK with doctors who are morally opposed to abortion not being required to perform that procedure.
But a religious institution offering birth control to employees and students of many different faiths who are covered by a health insurance plan is completely different. Nobody is being forced to use contraceptives who doesn't want to. Birth control simply is available at little or no cost to those who want to avail themselves of it.
A "religious conscience exemption" argument usually is a load of crap. Religious believers shouldn't be able to avoid laws just because they have a strongly held personal belief. Hey! We all have strongly held personal beliefs.
I haven't had a single bite of meat or fish since I became a vegetarian in 1970, forty-one years ago. I strongly believe in both the morality of not killing animals for food, and in the health benefits of vegetarianism.
But if a bunch of other vegetarians and me started a college which espoused our dietary beliefs, yet enrolled meat-eaters also, would it be fair if we required that anyone who got a student loan from the federal government couldn't buy a hamburger -- or any other animal flesh -- while they were associated with our college?
Most people would think that'd be ridiculous. But it's no more ridiculous than a Catholic hospital saying "We shouldn't have to provide our employees with birth control coverage under their health insurance plan."
Kevin Drum gets it right: "If You Take Taxpayer Money, You Have to Follow Taxpayer Rules."
I guess I'm tired of religious groups operating secular enterprises (hospitals, schools), hiring people of multiple faiths, serving the general public, taking taxpayer dollars — and then claiming that deeply held religious beliefs should exempt them from public policy. Contra Dionne, it's precisely religious pluralism that makes this impractical.
There are simply too many religions with too many religious beliefs to make this a reasonable approach. If we'd been talking about, say, an Islamic hospital insisting that its employees bind themselves to sharia law, I imagine the "religious community" in the United States would be a wee bit more understanding if the Obama administration refused to condone the practice.