Sometimes I think that without their preoccupation with the "sinfulness" of human sexuality, all Western religions and some others as well, would be unrecognizable. For a Secular Humanist like me, it's difficult to understand this because the allegedly universal and inescapable condition of being a 'sinner' from birth is entirely separate from the commission of acts that harm others or their property. Indeed, harming others and their property is often fulsomely praised as something done in service of some rather helpless or lazy deity who would, were he able to act on his own, punish people for their very thoughts and the unhistorical actions of mythological ancestors. To many and perhaps most, even thinking about sex can be a 'sin' almost on a par with having sex without clerical approval. To some, sex and sin are nearly synonymous. God help the government that lets us make our own choices.
Perhaps the action of a number of Roman Catholic bishops last weekend won't be much heeded by the congregations to whom it was directed, but the letter, read aloud from thousands of pulpits last Sunday told the faithful that President Obama has
“cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.”Now how has he done that? Well, by asserting that freedom of religion does not include the freedom of religious organizations to illegally deprive others of their freedom: the freedom to plan whether or not and when to procreate, the freedom to choose.
Of course the sentiment isn't exclusively Roman; evangelicals and many others seem to make a lot of noise about the first amendment being a violation of the first amendment and of course again, such cognitive contradiction, to put it politely, is the rock upon which the edifice is built. But obviously the decision of the Administration to stand by the Affordable Care Act which requires virtually all private insurance policies to cover family planning -- including female contraceptives, essentially guaranteeing near universal access to birth control, is being sold as the precise opposite of what it is. To some Bishops at least the first amendment guarantees an infringement of civil rights by religious authority. The anti-establishment clause means the opposite of what it says and it's our God given right to have our lives limited by clergymen.
“People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights"wrote Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in one of the numerous letters, reeking of dishonesty, illogic and lust for power -- as if freedom of religion meant ecclesiastical tyranny embedded within civil government.
What's at issue is a provision that says that unless a religious organization hires its own members exclusively, those employees: janitors, gardeners, secretaries, are entitled as first class citizens to access to birth control through their health insurers. All other organizations, including non-profits run by religious groups that hire based upon non-discrimination policies, must enact the new rule by August 1, 2013.
Now, I'm sure to be accused of being all sorts of things, including a bigot and an arrogant Humanist, but since virtually all the Roman Catholics I know seem to have a healthy degree of skepticism about the virtuousness and infallibility of Church men, perhaps I shouldn't make too much of this desperate appeal to medieval mores, but there are plenty of people of faith who don't and religious, economic and social fundamentalism -- and the stupidity on which it thrives -- are no less dangerous than when Jefferson and Madison wrote about it.