Weekly Thoughts 1

The last few years Christian organizations have fought for their sense of religious freedom, decrying government mandates that would force them to carry healthcare like birth control. They have maintained that birth control should not be mandated for them to carry as it goes against certain religious beliefs (this to be pandered later).

This has lead to and has been accompanied by a wider discussion of religious liberty – regarding how much the right to religious liberty should give people and organizations. Does religious autonomy grant one the right to be exempt of certain laws? Does it grant one the right to discriminate?

Well in one sense, every religious organization does discriminate by only hiring those who are a part of their religion or specific denomination. The right to religious exemption does allow for discrimination at least in hiring and firing practices.

But if a group believes that they should be allowed to discriminate by sexual orientation (as has been done) or disallow government given rights because of a religious belief, how should the government react? This tension has risen, with the government stepping in in some cases.

This prompts interesting questions on both sides. First, how should the government react to religious groups, particularly those who are more radical and exist on the fringe? While the government tends to be quite willing and capable of being inclusive of religion and religious leaders through tax exemptions, allowing religious private schools the same authority as public education, and the capability to exert influence in politics, there is a line that should be drawn. Not all religious belief is equal – those who actively go against government policy will not and probably should not be allowed benefits by the state. Where is this line drawn? It’s not so easy.

On the other side, religious institutions, especially Christianity – whose ground I stand in- also has a line that is being discovered. Religious schools and companies want to refuse birth control (why you may ask? I am not entirely sure for those Evangelical groups because it is not really immoral or anti-Bible; my best guess is it is because they don’t want to make it seem like their people are having sex – the ultimate taboo or because they believe that birth control can be abortion inducing. Which, to be frank, seems ridiculous because the human body is more likely to abort a fertilized egg than birth control is. It’s strange that us non-Catholics aren’t all over promoting birth control having lead the huge anti-abortion campaign of the last couple decades – I guess it’s an unwillingness to condone sex out of marriage even if it is saving the lives of babies. Pick your poison, or sin.).

At some point religious institutions will have to make a choice – whether this choice comes about by birth control or in having to allow openly gay members – a choice will have to be made whether to separate from the government or not. Religious institutions are given benefits by the United States government, which is why the rage seems so loud when laws are placed that seemingly go against religious beliefs. But if the government continuously pushes against certain subjects (gender is certainly next) religious institutions will either have to adapt (as some progressives push for) or separate.

This is where I see a bit of hypocrisy. Where Christian Universities are outraged about required birth control – claiming religious exemption from the government – they also support this government through various ROTC and Military Science programs. They say ‘hey we don’t have anything to do with that’ while building up and even advertising for the most prominent representation of government there is – the US military.

I would attempt to argue how the Bible does not necessarily condone the violent means by which the US armed forces are used, but all of those arguments lie in the Pro-Life belief. The sanctity of human life, people made in God’s image, thou shall not murder, etc… They are all there. Sure one could argue a just-war thesis that connects the US or we could go back to a Manifest Destiny theory – but please let’s not do that. The Bible doesn’t say much about abortion and really the science does seem inconclusive as to when a baby is a human life. This inconclusiveness is probably the same as what we know as to whether the US military force was justified in any of the last several wars. But one side receives all the outrage.

A day could come where Christian organizations may have to give up their position of power and influence in America to hold fast to their beliefs (right or wrong), though it may be hard for some to imagine a religious leader choosing to give up power, it may have to be done. I think the hypocritical level of religious institutions to support the military while claiming exemption in other areas shows more ties to conservative politics and ethics than any sort of religious cause.