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What exactly is "religious freedom?" Did Obama violate it?

Updated on August 7, 2012
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How is it defined?

I write this Hub inspired by the recent debate about religious institutions, like hospitals or schools, and whether or not they should provide contraceptives to their employees. This has been seen not as a debate on the morality of contraceptives (if that were not outrageous enough) but on religious freedom! These institutions claimed that their rights were being violated by being forced to provide something they do no morally support. This has been called, by the eloquent and intelligent Rick Perry, a "War on Faith!" I spent a little time in forums on this subject (and learned ANY time in a forum is TOO MUCH time) to see what the opinion was. No one was arguing much about contraceptives, but on religion. So what does religious freedom mean?

This is from the U.S. Department of State:

"The International Religious Freedom Act defines five violations of religious freedom:
Arbitrary prohibitions on, restrictions of, or punishment for: (i) assembling for peaceful religious activities such as worship, preaching, and prayer, including arbitrary registration requirements; (ii) speaking freely about one's religious beliefs; (iii) changing one's religious beliefs and affiliation; (iv) possession and distribution of religious literature, including Bibles and other sacred texts; (v) raising one's children in the religious teachings and practices of one's choice."

So does incorporating contraceptives in mandatory health care provisions violate any institution's religious freedom? Here's what it does not do: 1. Prevent religious assemble 2. Prevent freedom of speech 3. Prevent changing one's religion 4. Prevent possessing religious literature and 5. Prevent raising one's children religiously.

The argument that may come next will contain the following notion, in all probability: "Well it is against some employers religion to provide or support the provision of contraceptives! Therefore, their religious freedom is being oppressed!" If that is the case, let's look at a hypothetical.

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Who doesn't love hypotheticals?

What if it was against my religion to be taxed? Would taxation be a violation of my religious freedom? Or, for a more realistic (but just as absurd) example, what if it were against my religion to work for so many hours straight, as I must take breaks for prayer every so often. Does my employer protesting to this constitute a violation of my religious freedom? Some people think so.

Instead of actually debating the topic of contraception itself, which is not much of a debate, to begin, it seems that the words "religious freedom" are thrown about in such a careless way. Why do we have to throw superstition into the mix? Freedom should be protected, certainly, but to what extent should we allow people to act crazy under the guise of "religious freedom?"

What prompted this Hub

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    • Distant Mind profile image

      Distant Mind 5 years ago

      A great hub! I couldn't agree with you more on that one.

    • Steve Orion profile image
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      Steve Orion 5 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      These measures, as far as I knew, were inclusive of hospitals and schools, as well. My question is still unanswered: Why is this debate on "religious freedom" and not on contraceptives? What if a blood transfusion is needed, or an employee needed a transplant of some kind. It is not unheard of for the most religious sort of people to be against those things, as well. If we incorporate those things into the medical plan, are we violating their religious freedom?

      If Catholics think homosexuality is a sin, they could try and discriminate against gays. Is discouraging this discrimination a violation of their religious freedom? Since, after all, they might feel employing gays might place their souls in jeopardy.

    • Davesworld profile image

      Davesworld 5 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      Yet, as the Catholic Church considers contraceptives to be immoral, forcing them to engage in the practice, no matter how indirectly, does indeed impinge on the Catholic Church's freedom of religion.

      If the Catholic Church provides an insurance benefit that does not include contraception payments, the employee can always go find another job, one with the "proper" insurance coverage. I see no harm here.

      If the heavy hand of government is used to attempt to force the Catholic Church to pay for contraception - something they consider to be a mortal sin - then, in their eyes, you are compelling them to place their souls in jeopardy. That makes it a religious freedom issue.

      We are not talking about covering heart attacks, or diabetes, or accidents, we are discussing birth control which is a thing of individual choice. Whether or not you or I consider contraceptives to moral or immoral is beside the point.

    • Steve Orion profile image
      Author

      Steve Orion 5 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      I think being opposed to taxes is FAR less preposterous than being opposed to providing contraceptives as part of a health plan, but no matter.

      Your argument was that no one should be forced to do something they find immoral. That is not valid, as anyone can find anything immoral. My point was, and is, that it is fine to debate the "morality" of contraceptives, though preposterous an argument, but one shouldn't make it an issue of "religious freedom."

    • Davesworld profile image

      Davesworld 5 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      Nice try, but it doesn't wash. You can easily avoid taxation: don't make any income that is taxable, don't own any property and don't buy anything from anybody outside of the cash market between individuals. (See, it's easy to not answer a question by being preposterous in response.)

    • Steve Orion profile image
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      Steve Orion 5 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      We are compelled to pay taxes. What if I find those morally repugnant? Should I be exempt from them?

    • Davesworld profile image

      Davesworld 5 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      To compel another, at the point of a gun, to perform some act that that person finds morally repugnant is not acceptable behaviour on the part of an individual. Why then, is it acceptable when the compulsion comes from government instead of an individual?