THE ABSOLUTE UNABSOLUTENESS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Republicans have, once again, framed an issue to suit their own misguided – and downright false – interpretation of our Constitution.  The original body of our U.S. Constitution contains scant mention of religion.  One prohibition is the requirement of a “religious Oath” for the purposes of holding office at the federal level – keep in mind the Constitution was a guideline for the relationship between federal authority and state authority.

The new nation had to wait until 1791 to enjoy the efforts of the first Congress in attaching a Bill of Rights to the three-year-old Constitution.  The Bill of Rights added ten amendments that dealt primarily with “rights” that the Founders felt essential to the survival of a free nation.  The First Amendment addressed the issue of religion in two different and juxtaposed areas: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

In just one short sentence, the Founders created the potential for some of this country’s biggest social and legal battles.  Yet, the first amendment references the prohibition against establishing a religion first – before providing the free exercise of religion.  The fact that both of these appear before any other right – including freedom of speech and the right to bear arms – demonstrates the paramount importance that the Founders placed on the role of religion – or lack thereof – in the new Nation.

Republicans would have everyone believe – incorrectly – that religious freedom is absolute and that government cannot interfere with what they might consider a realm of religious freedom.  But the reality is that, while beliefs are inviolate, when  religion turns those beliefs into actions, those actions can be regulated by law.

States consistently make laws that interfere with the “free exercise of religion.”  Members of certain denominations cannot handle poisonous snakes even though it is seen as a display of faith and trust in God.  Native Americans are not free to use peyote in their ceremonies without consequences.

Parents whose child dies due to withholding life-saving medication based on a belief that prayer will heal may be held criminally responsible for that child’s death. Thus, to say that religious freedom trumps is false – no right in the Bill of Rights is absolute.  Laws exist on many levels that govern religious freedom, yet Republicans would have the public shudder in fear that our “collective” religious freedom is on the verge of collapse because those who work for religious institutions must provide birth control.

If anything is absolute at all, it is the unabsoluteness of freedom of religion, regardless of the gnashing of Republican teeth and the desire to substitute a Bayer Aspirin for that little round packet of protection.

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About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Bill of Rights, Religion, Reproductive Rights, Republican Party, Republicans, Rights and Liberties, Women's Interests and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to THE ABSOLUTE UNABSOLUTENESS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

  1. cw martin says:

    Frankly, I think that an employee of a religious institution who complains to get their birth control paid for is about as disingenuous as a waitress at a bar who wants no smoking laws. Kind of like purposefully sitting in crap and complaining when it stinks.

    I am very suspicious that most of those who take this to a complaint level only took the job to cause trouble. And while I agree- to an extent- on your points, I also think that free expression means a lot more that “In your house and in your church”. This is where Christians are fighting the battle, against evangelistic atheists that will readily admit that they want to stamp out belief in the supernatural altogether. (That they concentrate on Christianity I think is more about Satan’s attack on the true faith than Christianity “dominating our society”, but whatever.) I am sorry that many republicans use this sincere fight for faith as another cudgel against liberalism. It demeans the seriousness of the struggle. The founding fathers saw this seriousness and that is why it was in that 1st amendment,

    • CW – I would assume then that you oppose insurance coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs. Why should males have insurance coverage for those drugs that impact a privacy issue when women are denied birth control which is also a privacy issue.

      I don’t look at the waitress issue as the same at all. Second-hand smoke is a “public” health hazard; birth control is not. Birth control is a medication that serves more than just the purpose of preventing pregnancy. It is often used to regulate menstrual cycles.

      In today’s economy, and with the demand for health care professionals, I highly doubt these employees took the jobs just to cause problems. I mean, think about it. Would the thought process go like this? “I think I will apply at St. Joe Hospital because I know they are a religious institution. I think it would be fun to get the job and then cause them problems if they don’t give me paid birth control.”

      Besides, this was a law under W, and no one raised a big fuss. Religious institutions have been providing this type of insurance coverage for almost ten years.

      This is just another way to warp the public’s view point about Obama.

  2. cw martin says:

    1. No, I don’t think ED drugs should be covered. In addition to the fact that for me personally it’d be like slapping a big block engine into a chassis with no wheels, I think it is unnecessary on the lines of plastic surgery.
    2. You mistake me on the waitress thing. I’m not looking at the overall good/bad. I was commenting on that you have those who wisely say, “Well, I got myself into this,” and those who hire a high priced lawyer, call the ACLU, and get their names on TV. It is that second group that I think are causing a disproportionate amount of the trouble on these subjects.
    3. I agree with your “big fuss” comment, as I said previously. As I said, there are those who would take a serious issue and turn it into a cudgel for their political purposes, thus demeaning those with heartfelt beliefs on the subject.
    4. “This is just another way to warp the public’s view point about Obama.” As I said, a cudgel. Obama does enough to warp his own public view point. From his insensitivity to viewpoints he disagrees with (religious people, Israel), to taking credit for what has “kept fuel prices down” (like hiring Stephen Chu), to treating every confrontation with the opposition like a Chicago city council meeting (“Oh, you don’t agree? Let me twist your arm some more”), to encouraging his entourage to spread the idea that opposition to him is racism (when the truth is most people who oppose him just plain thinks he sucks, just like we did the white Jimmy Carter), he shoots his own foot.

    • I think we pretty much agree on the first three, but #4 is an issue. The Republicans have done nothing but obstruct since they were elected. They continue to say, “but that was what we were elected to do.” No where did I see in the 2010 election where a candidate ran on a platform of obstructionism.

      I (and many others) do not consider his actions on religion to be insensitive. Religious freedom was never meant to be absolute – it gets really old to hear people say this or that right included in the Bill of Rights can’t be restricted. That was the whole point of my article.

      As to taking credit for keeping fuel prices down – never heard that said because he hired someone. In fact, in today’s alerts, Pence blames Obama for rising fuel prices. So, which is it? If he can be blamed for rising prices, then why shouldn’t he take credit if they come down?

      As far Israel goes – we have far too long catered to them. Their state was created by ripping apart the home of other people. Yet, no one seems to care much about that. And, if they do, we are called anti-Semetic and accused of just not understanding the role of Israel in the end of days.

      All presidents twist arms – come on. That is a part of the office and politics. To say Obama is any different is not recognizing reality.

      • cw martin says:

        You should look into Chu’s statements on the matter. Much of the rest we just won’t agree upon. And you should, living in the midwest, know what the term “Chicago politician” means. And respectfully, how would you find his taske on religion sensitive if you are not on the religious side of the fence? Not meaning to judge your faith here. Just that you aren’t a conservative faith fundamentalist. That doesn’t mean you’ re right or wrong, just not on the side of the debate that IS sensitized to the issue.

        And when you consider that Israel is our only real friend in a very crucial region, I find it puzzling that as many people who do have your attitude about Israel. Would you rather give it all back to those Palestinian terrorists who would be oh so happy to thank you appropriately? Sorry, but my sympathy wanes for people whose leadership support KILLING anyone who doesn’t worship Allah. They are no better than the Irish Catholic terrorists who got to the point of just killing because its what they do. AHEM. Anyway, anyone who thinks the “solution to move negotiations foreward” in the mideast is take Israel back to 1948 borders has no clue of political/military reality. And to suggest same to an ally is next to brain death IMHO. I don’t believe you are anti-semitic. I question your President on that, though.

  3. Yes, I am aware of the meaning of Chicago politics. All I am saying is that I am not aware of any president who does not “strong-arm” to get things done.

    You are missing my point on Israel. Palestine was partitioned in 1947 to “give” the Jewish people a homeland, which was declared in April 1948. In doing that, the UN tore apart a land already home to Palestinians. Just where do you think Israel got its “homeland?”

    I am not talking about giving anything to terrorists; I am talking about the simple act of recognizing that Palestinians had a homeland and that they have the right to be recognized as well. Palestinians deserve a state just like Israel has, and both need to be recognized on the world stage by the U.S.

    I am amazed that so many Americans have no understanding or sympathy for the Palestinian people who lost their land when it was partitioned. It seems like Americans think anything is acceptable if it impacts Israel – no matter how it was obtained or taken away from others.

    I support the Palestinian people and their quest to have a homeland – period. And one recognized by the U.S.

    • cw martin says:

      Maybe the palestinians would have it all to themselves if they’d done a fraction of the work the Jews have to develop it. I’ve seen it quoted that when the partition came, none of the other Arab nations would take them in because of their reknowned laziness. History is full of examples of a native people being displaced for not wanting to advance. And if they’d concentrate on advancing rather than lobbing bombs and getting the Hollywood elite to feel sorry for them, they’d have their place on the world stage- and in the sun. The Jews came to palestine and made it livable- and more. To me, hard work earns you respect.

      By the way, like to say I am enjoying you back. We may rarely disagree, but at least you make me think.

      • Could you tell me how you know that the Palestinians were so lazy? With that broad of a statement, I would imagine there are numerous erroneous theories about Palestinians. So what if Jews are industrious. That doesn’t justify taking a homeland away from someone else to give it to another group of people.

        Heaven help us if we had the ability to be so judgmental about our own citizens. Oh, wait, we are. It could go something like this – “my neighbor is lazy, I think we should move to take his/her home away and give it to someone who we think is not lazy.”

        I would say that as far as the partition, it would be like any other mass exodus from an area. Look at the issues in Africa when nations divide and civil wars are fought. Or when the Soviet Union disintegrated. People try to flee over borders and many times no one wants them – even if it is for humanitarian reasons.

        And, thanks, it is good to be back and discussing topics with you. You are right, we will rarely agree, but it is fun just discussing.

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