How did contraceptives become a religious freedom issue? Logic would dictate that those who oppose abortion for religious reasons should support contraceptives as one means of avoiding unplanned pregnancy. But logic left the building about the time that Barack Obama entered it.
Today “religious freedom” includes the “right” of corporations to impose fringy religious beliefs on its employees. The “Hobby Lobby rule” resulted from that company’s objection to an Obamacare provision requiring insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Hobby Lobby (HL) has no objection to insurance coverage for drugs enabling their male employees to have an erection lasting up to four hours before seeking medical treatment. But they have religious objections to women using prescribed medicines to prevent pregnancy resulting from those erections.
HL’s full page 4th of July ad in this and hundreds of other newspapers nationwide reveals their ultimate objective. It’s not that much different from those of the Taliban. The Arabic word "Talib" describes those who seek religious illumination, a rather tame way to describe those who force their religious views on others. The Taliban uses violence. HL uses the five ideologues on the high court.
But the Hobby Lobbyists have the same goal. Their ad dredged up out-of-context founding fathers’ quotes to support the claim that the US is their kind of religious nation. Interestingly they omitted any quote from Thomas Jefferson, the intellectual “father” of our nation. He expressed his concerns in the Virginia Act Establishing Religious Freedom.
“[God] chose not to propagate (religious views) by coercions, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions.”
Jefferson knew “religious freedom” when he saw it. What Hobby Lobby seeks is not religious freedom but religious coercion. On a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court opened an era of propagating narrow, minority religious beliefs using the coercions against which Jefferson warned.
Anti-contraceptive religion is not mainstream American religious doctrine. Even so, according to the Supreme Court, a closely held corporation may impose its religious beliefs on its serfs regardless of how fringe those beliefs are. What’s next? What about the fringe fundamentalists who believe the apostle Paul was speaking against integration and interracial marriages when he wrote in 2nd Corinthians 6:14, "What fellowship hath light with darkness?"
Do you think the five ideologues on this Court will feel the same when a Muslim-owned corporation requires female employees to wear veils?
Back to contraceptives. How did contraceptives become a cultural and political dividing line?
In 1968, after Pope Paul VI condemned abortion, the pontiff added a condemnation of contraception. “Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.”
That raises the question of whether Hobby Lobby’s insurance includes “direct sterilization” through vasectomies. And it raises other issues, like why on a planet increasingly characterized by the unsustainability of population growth does any church still feel compelled to order adherents to go forth and multiply?
Two decades after Pope Paul’s directive, the Vatican released the "Vademecum for Confessors" which states, "The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception.”
We had that debate in the 60s. Those who thought contraceptives were intrinsically evil lost. Those who saw contraceptives as a way of halting unplanned or unwanted pregnancies and controlling population growth made the more persuasive case. Religious beliefs as lived out on this issue are almost unanimous. Those who oppose the use of contraceptives are a tiny minority. The Guttmacher Institute says, “More than 99% of women aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.”
The religionists could not make their case from the pulpit of the church. They turned to the bench of the courtroom. Soon they’ll return to the courts to further propagate their cause by coercion. The Taliban could learn a lot from these folks.