A Gaffe in Politics Can Be Inadvertently Telling the Truth
As the economy has gotten a little better the culture wars have reared their ugly head in American politics. Front and center is the attack by the Conservatives on Obama and his policy of requiring religious sponsored employers operating in the secular world to offer family planning coverage in their health care plans. The Republicans are using the issue to drive a deeply contentious religious wedge between Americans. It is the stuff that divisive culture wars are made of, and below basic decency of American politics.
The editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal see all of this as an opportunity to rail against government regulation of health care. In doing so they make a huge gaffe; they actually state what the core issue is. Here is the critical part of the commentary.
The HHS diktat isn't something unique to President Obama. It is the political essence of government-run medicine. When politics determines who can or should receive what benefits, and who pays what for it, government will use its force to dictate the outcomes that it wants—either for reasons of cost, or to promote its values, which in this case means that "women's health" trumps religious conscience. (emphasis added)
Wow, someone finally has said what is really going on here. The position of Conservatives is that those whose personal religious beliefs would deny women who do not share those beliefs health care benefits in the name of their religious beliefs should be allowed to do so. And if those same individual, totally sincere in their beliefs feel that they should impose those beliefs on others and in doing so deny health care to those others, well that’s okay as far as the WSJ is concerned. In fact, for them it is more than ok, it is an area that government should not step into in order to protect the rights of women and to protect their health.
The role of government and religion is a complex one, but most Americans believe that government should to the extent possible accommodate religion. And it does, a religious holiday like Christmas is a national holiday to accommodate the religious celebrations of the majority, as well it should be. But accommodation of religion does not mean allowing religion to harm people or to use economic or employer power to force their beliefs on others.
There are strong prohibitions by government to prevent people from being harmed by religious practices. A recent court case showed that a sect that believes in polygamy cannot force women into marriage. Religions based on taking illegal drugs cannot escape prosecution by claiming religious freedom. Parents whose religion would deny their children access to medicines are not allowed to do so even though it violates their sincere religious beliefs. Accomodation to religion does not mean allowing religious beliefs that result in physical or mental harm.
In acting to require religious sponsored organizations operating secular businesses to provide access to health care for its employees, the government is not restricting religion. No one is being forced to use family planning health care service if they do not want to. Instead government is doing what it is supposed to do, ensuring the freedom of religion extends to all Americans.
One should ask the religious leaders who want to use government to force their tenets on the public, “Isn’t your faith strong enough, your principles clear enough, your beliefs firm enough that you don’t need government to force people to adhere to your religious structure?”.
One truly hopes the Obama administration knows the moralilty and the politics of this, and that the right position is to stay with their principles. Based on past history, this Forum is not optimistic.