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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

America, Who Controls Your Birth Control?

"On Monday in a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that the Affordable Care Act cannot demand a 'closely held company' (those where a majority of shares are held by fewer than five people, which happen to comprise at least 90 percent of corporations in the United States) to cover certain types of contraceptives for its employees because the law could potentially interfere with religious convictions."

 (Talia Day, CNN iReport producer. CNN. June 20, 2014)

Should the government protect the rights of women while maintaining separation of church and state? Should family businesses be forced to pay for birth-control methods to which they are morally opposed? I say, "Yes" to both questions.

Let's face it, when we Americans claim "religious freedom," we accept our freedom to practice and to tolerate the worship of any denomination, any set of beliefs, and the rights of all believers and non-believers, conventional and non-conventional. But, thank goodness the First Amendment prohibits the federal government from making a law "respecting an establishment of religion."

In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson so eloquently wrote this well-know "wall of separation" passage:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

The Supreme Court ruling about contraceptives protects the religious freedom of some at the expense of shattering the religious freedom of many. A growing number of Americans (both believers and unbelievers) want to be free from religion. Like it or not, the government must keep out of the fight for a minority's morals.

Now, how many companies will exercise their right to "sincerely held religious beliefs" while imposing them on their female workers? This harms female employees in the name of religion. The power of "closely held companies" infringes the rights of the individuals working for their corporate judges of morality.

Two of the leaders of the fight against paying for contraceptives -- Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood -- object only to emergency contraceptive methods, such as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd's Plan B morning-after pill, and ella, made by the Watson Pharma unit of Actavis PLC.

Yet, religion, not health, is certainly the driving force for the objections.

Author Deborah Mitchell gives this interpretation of the ruling:

"It tells us that your boss can pressure you into acting against your own best interests. What if you’re a 25-year-old woman who has been sexually assaulted?

"Your employer is exempt from providing you with a drug that will stop the implantation of a fertilized egg into your womb. Your boss thinks you, the victim, should carry that clump of cells to term. Will your boss also pay for you to have and raise the unwanted child? Let’s hope so."

(Deborah Mitchell. "Supreme Court Ruling Limits All Americans." CNN. June 30, 2014) 

In addition, when employers are permitted to decide the sexual morality of women, they deny the good judgment of their own employees making private decisions. These corporations have no respect for women. This is sexist and wrong.

The most frightening aspect of the Supreme Courts decision lies in the uncertain future. Will more and more social conduct in the future be dictated by employers: Who can have children? What are the only legal contraceptive measures? Who can terminate an unwanted pregnancy?

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lambasted the decision.

“The court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law ... they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs,” she wrote.

(Tresa Baldas and J.C. Reindl. "Supreme Court Rules for Hobby Lobby on Birth Control. 
The Detroit Free Press. June 30, 2014)

Mitchell believes the decision about contraceptives is all about... you guessed it -- money. Here, she explains:

"Today’s Supreme Court ruling isn’t about religious belief. It’s about judgment and control and self-righteousness and money. In the end, it’s always about profit, even if Justice Alito absurdly asserts that, “Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law."

"If this weren’t about money and the fines companies like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would have to pay, this case would have never made it into the court system. And if this case were about religious freedom, then the SCOTUS would realize that every person has a right to their own beliefs about religion."

At any rate, Autocam (a company makes auto and medical industry parts) owner John Kennedy, a Catholic, who last year lost his contraception lawsuit before the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, was very happy with the new ruling. He faced a $24 million penalty for not complying with the law.

“We are deeply grateful that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of those business owners whose sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit them from complying,” Kennedy said in a released statement. “Based on today’s decision and the compelling facts in our case, we trust that we will be permitted to conduct business in a manner that is true to our sincerely held religious beliefs.”

"Sincerely held religious beliefs" are mostly wonderful, good-intentioned assumptions protected by the United States Constitution. However, so is a strict adherence to separation of church and state in matters that squash the protected rights of others.

Decisions to consume the morning after pill and other forms of controversial legal contraceptives are personal and perfectly fitting in so many cases. I respect those, who in their religious convictions, do not believe women should employ these methods, but, at the same time, I think their beliefs must not be allowed to restrict freedoms that relate to health issues that depend so much upon individual circumstance.

Decisions like the one just made by the Supreme Court have the potential to allow corporations and government to use their greedy collusion to tighten the vice on individual freedoms and eventually control every aspect of the way Americans live.

In my own religious manner, I pray the wise use of separation is applied. And no, I'm not talking about having a prayer at high school graduation or an observance of a religious holiday at school. I understand the need to give praise. I'm talking about not letting ONE group of fundamentalist Christians control church and STATE. I think the outcome would be disastrous to America.

The Court of the Land for All?

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