The Modern Attack on Religious Freedom

November 5, 2012
By Shannon Etz BRONZE, Durango, Colorado
Shannon Etz BRONZE, Durango, Colorado
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The beginning of the end of religious freedom has entered the legislature of America wrapped in a box called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Within this act is a mandate that requires that almost all employers provide insurance coverage of contraceptives to employees. The mandate became effective on August 1, 2012. Now, what’s so wrong about having employers contribute more to our health? Well, nothing, except that this act requires that ALL employers provide this coverage regardless of faith or religious beliefs unless they qualify within the miniscule government exemption. In order to create a more just society, our government must find a balance between equality and liberty on the issue of insurance-covered contraceptives by widening the exemption prerequisites to include all companies and organizations of a religious belief.

Upon the enacting of this mandate, the condemnation was vehement both inside and outside the religious community. However, people still support this act on the basis that it promotes equality. This act is believed to encourage equality because it provides access to contraception for women who may otherwise be unable to afford it. While mandating that all employers provide insurance, covering contraceptives gives more women access, it prioritizes equality over liberty. Liberty is a right that Americans have fought for throughout our history. This act is trying to constrict the liberty for which we have battled to maintain for ages.

Imagine that you run a Catholic orphanage that raises children in Catholicism. You believe whole-heartedly in the bible and the faith in which you have been brought up. You have employees within your organization and this mandate requires that you provide those employees with contraceptives which go against your religious beliefs. Many religions, including Catholicism, are built on the idea of showing others your beliefs through your actions, and yet the government, through this act, is saying that you cannot do that. Since you are not a church, you do not meet the requirements needed to gain an exemption from this mandate. The United States was founded largely on the principles and ideas of Rights Ethics including the right of all to do as we please until we begin endangering the rights of others. This act violates the rights of individuals to promote the lifestyles they believe in and exercise their right to religious freedom.

Under the intention of creating an equal health care system, the Human Health and Services mandate is imposing unjust regulations on religious liberty. The first amendment of our constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech”. This act violates the ability to freely practice religion by forcing the support of something with which they disagree with religiously. This act also restricts freedom of speech by refusing employers the right to express their beliefs through refusing to provide contraception.

In order to justify keeping the act as is, a person would approve of Utilitarianism. A Utilitarian focuses on the happiness of an entire society instead of the happiness of the individual. Utilitarianism allows many acts that in a typical society would be abhorred and would be severely punished. An example of Utilitarianism is allowing a child to sit in a cellar in the dark and in its own feces for its entire life to allow others to be happy (The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas). By emphasizing society’s happiness, you lose the importance of the individual because they become just one in the crowd. When we as society lose the value of the individual we lose the emphasis of individual rights and liberties in the U.S.

However, the problem is not solely in the act. Equality is fundamental to America and measure should not be taken against it; however, liberty is just as fundamental and must be protected similarly. In order to repair the injustice that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has begun, the prerequisites needed to receive an exemption from this mandate must be widened. The most just way to create these exemption requirements is to allow anyone with legitimate religious standing or base to be granted an exemption. As former DNC Chairman, Tim Kaine, said in the Washington Post, the act was a “bad decision in not allowing a broad enough religious employer exemption.” The way to balance liberty and equality is to demand looser exemption requirements so that employees have equal medical access while the employers have liberty. Just as our forefathers fought for the ability to freely practice religion we must continue their fight in our world to preserve the freedom for which they pledged their lives.

The author's comments:
This article was a part of a project for my junior humanities class where we were challenged to choose a political issue, research it and then based on our study of morality and justice decide what the most just course of action would be.

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