We’re hearing a lot about the First Amendment rights of religious groups in America. An innocuous regulation in the new health care reform legislation is prompting the most unctuous fulminations from Catholic politicians like John Boehner and Rick Santorum – and even Mormon Mitt Romney. They are outraged – outraged – by President Obama’s “attack on religion.”
And if you buy that, there’s a bridge you might be interested in buying.
Obviously, the issue is a canard concocted to give Republicans campaign ammunition against the president.
The fuss was triggered by the new health care act’s requirement that Church-owned schools, hospitals and charities cover birth control in their employee insurance programs. And Roman Catholics are not supposed to practice birth control (except the rhythm method, and we know how well that works).
You and I know this is a joke. The vast majority of Catholics practice birth control.
It’s important to note that the law does not apply to the churches themselves, only their outside operations. And many Catholic owned hospitals and schools already offer free birth control to employees. Most insurance plans include it, and it’s the law in most states. Furthermore, the federal law does not require women to accept the birth control that’s offered. As good Catholics, they can say no thanks.
But that’s not the most patently hypocritical thing about the “issue.”
The entire concept of separation of church and state is a fantasy. Churches across America are deeply involved in politics. My Catholic mother used to tell me who “Father” was advising his flock to vote for. And Sandra’s Baptist relatives are routinely subjected to horror movies in their church’s crusade against abortion.
I know the Constitution doesn’t give the government the authority to tell religious organizations what to do – as far as religion is concerned.
But if a church opens a business, it has to obey the law of the land like anyone else. Right?
And I wonder how far the constitutional separation goes. Marijuana advocates are arguing that they should be able to smoke “the weed of wisdom” as a sacrament, for example. I can’t see the government agreeing to let that “religious” practice go unchallenged, can you?
Anyone can see that religion and politics are inseparable in America. Listen to the sanctimonious pleadings of the presidential candidates for instance. And how about those convoys of Southern Baptist buses ferrying voters to the polls?
It’s no secret that many religious leaders are anti-Obama – motivated by their crusade to reverse Roe vs. Wade. And Catholic clerics are among the Supreme Court ruling’s most outspoken critics.
Across the world, the Church of Rome is vigorously political – and staunchly “conservative.” The Vatican is a political power, and has been for centuries.
Fortunately, the members of this massively pwerful church don’t necessarily vote the way the leadership decrees. Most of them are sensible enough to form their own political opinions.