There's an old adage that says we should never talk about religion "or" politics in polite company. Even worse, never talk about religion "and" politics. And, there's another adage that says, never say never. But, those adages get thrown out the window when the federal government decides to ignore the First Amendment to the Constitution and systematically begins to attack the tenets of Christianity.
Christians make up 32 percent of the world's population, 2.2 billion people. Of that number 1.2 billion are identified as Catholics. In the United States, there are over 160 million Christians, with Roman Catholics accounting for over 77 million of that number.
The First Amendment clause pertaining to religion clearly states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. We are all free to choose our religion, or not to choose one. "Free exercise" means that practicing your religion is not restricted to only within the walls of your church or other religious edifice, but you are free to practice your religion wherever you happen to be.
In March of 2010, the president signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which mandated that every citizen purchase, or have provided through their employer. health insurance. If citizens opted not to purchase such insurance, they would be subject to a fine. In August of 2011, a regulation was added to the plan that mandated that contraceptives, including the so-called "morning after" abortion pill, be included in all the insurance policies and, that such items be provided for "free" to the recipients. This provision did not exempt the religious community that found contraception and/or abortion to violate the tenets of their faith. This issue was first highlighted when a third year law student at Georgetown University (a Catholic school with a $60,000+ per year tuition) objected to having to pay about $8 per month for her birth control pills because the university objected to having that provision in their insurance policy. That brought to light the fact that every Catholic or other religious institution,including hospitals, schools, charitable organizations, and other religious based groups, would all face the same challenge to the tenets of their faith.
Hobby Lobby, a business whose ownership has deep religious convictions concerning abortions, was forced to petition the courts for relief from the abortion provision, and subsequently appeal their case all the way to the Supreme Court. In a landmark decision, the court actually broadened their decision beyond the Hobby Lobby objection to providing the "morning after" abortion pill, expanding the ruling to cover all contraceptives. The court ruled that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business. To get that ruling of the court, the owners of Hobby Lobby had to fight against the overwhelming power and resources of the federal government, in bringing their case up through the court system.
The Little Sisters of the Poor for the Aged in Colorado, objected to the "contraception" requirements in Obamacare and were threatened with millions of dollars in fines if they did not either provide such coverage for their employees, or sign a form affirming their objection, which would then force the insurer or an outside health plan administrator to provide separate birth control coverage. In other words, the Sisters of the Poor could avoid the millions of dollars in fines if they would violate the tenets of their faith by assigning their mandate to the insurer. Justice Sotomayor issued a stay on the imposition of the government's demand until the case can be heard by the Supreme Court. A ruling is expected in June.
What is equally appalling is that other groups claiming their religious beliefs are being violated by the contraceptive/abortion mandates, are still being required by the federal government to plead their cases up through the court system. The most recent case has been filed by East Texas Baptist University, who have claimed that providing contraception and abortion violates their religious beliefs. Why the government is forcing each individual company or institution to file and appeal their cases individually is beyond comprehension . . . it appears to be a wasteful use of governmental resources and excessive governmental bullying, to say the least.
Government, at the local and federal levels, has also imposed itself into religion in a number of ways. For example, religious groups, especially Catholics, view marriage as a Holy Sacrament. On what basis do local governments decide that to be married, a couple must get a "license". Regulating a religious act was not provided for in the Constitution . . . in fact, the Constitution told the politicians to keep their noses out of it. What business is it of the government if a couple wants to participate in a sacrament of their church?
There are places the government simply does not belong . . . poking its nose into one's religious beliefs is one of them.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
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