This past week has seen the reemergence of the red-herring, “war on religion” screams from the GOP. The Catholic Church is crying foul over the Presidents plan to have all business health insurance plans cover contraception. Combine that to the recent Republican legislation in Virginia that requires women be forcibly probed in order to prove the age of the fetus. We see a full fledge attack on our right to be free from religion.
Women in Virginia who want an abortion will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure. This is a medically unnecessary procedure in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced. Since a proposed amendment to the bill, a provision that would have had the patient consent to this bodily intrusion or allowed the physician to opt not to do the vaginal ultrasound failed, the law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law.
During recent testimony on the insurance bill, I was left speechless at the sight of a table of Catholic clergy testifying before a House of Representative Committee exerting their right to deny federal law and refuse to cover some woman’s health coverage under a separation of Church and State argument. No women were allowed to testify on the Congressional bill concerning churches that operate businesses refusing to cover women’s health option.
This would be the same as the catholic clergy that argued that separation of church and state meant that the local government authorities did not have the right to investigate sex abuse charges. These are the same people complacent in the sex abuse scandal now claiming moral authority to defy federal insurance law. This has nothing to do with doctrine but apply when the church runs a business. The church argues that if they are running a business, that they should be able to pick and choose what laws apply to them based on their interpretation of their doctrine.
This argument, about protecting religious freedom from government interference, should be of concern to everyone but especially the GLBT community. Drunk with power, the radical republicans have waged war on anyone one and any things that upsets their status quo. In Michigan, Republicans only agreed to consider an anti-bullying measure that did not require school districts to report bullying incidents, did not include any provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold administrators accountable if they fail to act. Social conservatives believe that efforts to protect gays from assault, discrimination or bullying impinge on their religious freedom to express and act on their belief that homosexuality is an abomination.
Freedom of religious expression doesn’t give someone the right to kick the crap out of a gay kid or to verbally torment her. It doesn’t give someone the right to fire a gay employee instead of dealing with the potential discomfort of working with him. It’s also a highly selective conception of religious liberty. The same religious conservatives who applaud the religious exemption would be appalled if it protected a Muslim student who defended bullying a Christian classmate by saying he considered her an infidel.
There is a war in America being carried out by those wrapped in a flag carrying a cross. Unless we as citizens stand firm in our convictions, stand firm in opposition to laws written or change to conform to religious doctrine, we are destined to lose the few rights we have remaining. Every little encroachment matters. Every “creation based” science book matters. Every restriction on a women’s right to health care matters. Every bullied child matters. Every business and restaurant hat refuses service to gays and lesbians matters. It should matter to each and every one of us.