Whose Religious Freedom?

The freedom of religion and belief is one of our most cherished liberties. The First Amendment protects our right to believe whatever we choose. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) would like you to think this right is in peril. As defenders of the Constitution, we beg to differ, and think that some of the recent controversies actually show that the First Amendment is doing its job, and confirm that religious freedom in America is alive and well.

Take, for example, a recent federal court ruling concerning federally funded grants—including to USCCB — to aid trafficking victims. For several years, the bishops would take millions in federal funds and disburse them to other organizations to deliver services to help trafficking victims rebuild their lives, such as housing, clothing, and medical care.

In administering this federal program, however, USCCB prohibited its subcontractors from providing a comprehensive range of reproductive health services – including access to contraception and abortion – to victims, many of whom have been sexually abused, forced into prostitution or raped by their traffickers. In effect, USCCB was using government money to enforce its beliefs on other organizations, some of whom were not religiously affiliated in any way.

We brought a lawsuit challenging the use of these grants to promote a particular set of beliefs at the expense of victims’ needs. Recently, the judge in that case ruled that the government was indeed wrong to allow USCCB to do so. As the court explained, this case was “about the limits of the government’s ability to delegate to a religious institution the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them).”

Just as they did when the administration announced that employers must include contraception coverage in their health plans, the bishops cried foul, declaring that this was somehow an imposition on the right to practice their faith. This was a hollow claim then, and it’s a hollow claim now.

The bishops have every right to believe that birth control and abortion are sinful. Consistent with religious freedom, the bishops also clearly have the right to espouse those beliefs and do their best to persuade others to follow their lead. But when the bishops insist that they have a right to use taxpayer money to impose their beliefs on others, that’s something else entirely.

As the judge explained, making sure that taxpayer funds are not used to impose religious beliefs on others does not “discriminate against religion; indeed, it promotes a respect for religion by refusing to single out any creed for official favor at the expense of all others.”

Similar claims of discrimination against religion have been made a lot lately. We see arguments that religious freedom justifies agencies trying to deny loving homes to children in foster care simply because the would-be adoptive parents are gay or lesbian, to insist that hospitals should be able to deny a woman life-saving care if it meant ending her pregnancy, to allow public school guidance counselors to turn away students in crisis if they disapprove of their sexual orientation, to allow any employer the right to refuse to cover contraception in their employees’ health insurance plans, or to allow hotels and restaurants open to the public to refuse to serve same-sex couples. But we know that’s not what true religious freedom is.

The United States is among the most religious, and religiously diverse, nations in the world. Religious freedom is one of our most treasured liberties. This fundamental and defining aspect of our national character is undermined when religion is used as a license to discriminate against others or to impose beliefs on others. The First Amendment exists to allow individuals to live according to their own deeply held values, not to force those values on everyone else.

(Originally posted on the Washington Post's On Faith blog.)

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Melissa Thomspon

Note to those who fail to understand that when the Constitution refers to the "right" to practice one's faith that does not extend to the imposition of "your faith" on others. We all have the same and equal constitutional right to believe or NOT believe whatever we want to. And to the courts....I've read that there is a test called the "Lemon Test" that helps determine constitutionality of a law that could clear alot of this up....can you please refer to it and apply more frequently, it really works!

Anonymous

Hugh Ferguson replied :
"Actually, the scientific research that was done on circumcision and the transmission of AIDS showed a significant drop in transmission with circumcision. They even stopped the research early to let the control group take advantage of the new information."

No, the reason the study was stopped prematurely was that the intervention group (circumcised) was quickly catching up with the control group (not circumcised).

"As for making a choice for the child, choosing *not* to circumcise can result in phimosis – a condition where the foreskin does not retract."

No. Phimosis is caused by well meaning parents who forcibly retract the foreskin to clean thereby causing cumulative damage that results in phimosis. Virtually every website that addresses the issue warns against this. Sayings such as "don't retract" and clean only what is seen" and "wash the outside like a finger" are everywhere.

"It’s only correctable with circumcision."

No once again! The Beauge Method is effective in 99% of cases. There is no cutting and no blood. It is painless and virtually always successful.

"Do it after puberty and, well, it’s painful due to normal nocturnal cycles that start after onset of adolescence."

A final NO! After the infant stage, males are always given effective anesthesia. They are also given medications that quell erections for 6 weeks.

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donaldjohnson

Many existing laws and regulations apply specifically to pregnant women. Several provisions of the Affordable Care Act offer new benefits for expecting mothers. Search online for "Penny Health" if you need affordable insurance for yourself or your wife.

Eduardo

I am thankful that my eoyemplr has its own policy on this. I am protected by internal policy for three years if I wish to pump that long. I wind up having to use one-half hour of vacation each day to cover two 30-minute pumping sessions plus my lunch hour when hubby brings her for me to nurse (unfortunately, I am not a 15-minute wunderkind in this regard and like a PP, have to pump twice at work, once in the morning, twice in the evening, and again at midnight or so in order to get enough for my daughter's three 3oz bottles while I'm at work), but at least I won't be fired for it!

Larry Parsons

Every man is responsible for his own faith, and he must see it for himself that he believes rightly. As little as another can go to hell or heaven for me, so little can he believe or disbelieve for me; and as little as he can open or shut heaven or hell for me, so little can he drive me to faith or unbelief. Since, then, belief or unbelief is a matter of every one's conscience, and since this is no lessening of the secular power, the latter should be content and attend to its own affairs and permit men to believe one thing or another, as they are able and willing, and constrain no one by force. For wherever any Invasion is made upon unalienable Rights, there must arise either a perfect, or external Right to Resistance. . . . Unalienable Rights are essential Limitations in all Governments.There can be no Right, or Limitation of Right, inconsistent with, or opposite to the greatest public Good.One could not in fact give up the capacity for private judgment (e.g., about religious questions) regardless of any external contracts or oaths to religious or secular authorities so that right is "unalienable.Thus no man can really change his sentiments, judgments, and inward affections, at the pleasure of another; nor can it tend to any good to make him profess what is contrary to his heart. The right of private judgment is therefore unalienable. -Francis Hutcheson -

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