The faux birth control debate

According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, while most U.S. Catholics support both the new federal directive that … Continued

According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, while most U.S. Catholics support both the new federal directive that health insurance plans provide coverage for birth control and marriage equality, about half of those evangelicals polled appear to be more in sync with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on these topics.

A report by the Guttmacher Institute confirms that most Catholic women ignore official Catholic teaching that prohibits artificial birth control. Conservative evangelical teaching on contraception ranges from the Quiverfull movement that promotes natural family planning to the Focus on the Family’s recommendations for select methods of contraception, as well as their teachings on abstinence for those not in a “traditional” marriage” between a man and a woman. (More progressive evangelical organizations like Sojourners do not view women’s reproductive rights and other topics relating to human sexuality as part of their core issues. To date their voices have been largely absent from this debate.)

Just as Catholic women who use birth control ignore portions of Catholic teaching, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich appear to be functioning as Cafeteria Catholics as well For example, their pro-life, pro-death penalty views are held by the National Association of Evangelicals but remain at odds with Catholic teaching that affirms the dignity of all people.

So when former Governor Mike Huckabee and pundit Glenn Beck proclaim, “We’re all Catholics now,” they don’t mean that evangelical Christians, Mormons and Catholics will unite over a common theology. Rather, as noted by Richard Land and others noted on this column, these disparate groups found common ground over what they perceive to be a loss of their religious liberties. On this blog Jordan Sekulow and Matthew Clark state, “No religious institution, and no American, should be forced to choose between obeying the tenants of one’s faith and obeying the law.” Purpose-driven megachurch pastor Rick Warren summed up the sentiments of some conservative Christians when he tweeted, “I’d go to jail rather than cave in to a government mandate that violates what God commands us to do. Would you? Acts 5:29.

Rick Santorum took a more dire tone by proclaiming that President Barack Obama and other liberals are leading people of faith down a path that ends at the guillotine. Also, he joined evangelical thought leaders Chuck Colson and Eric Metaxas in taking historical analogy one step further by equating this battle against the Obama administration over contraception with the socio-political climate of Germany circa 1930.

Such hyperbole should be familiar to anyone who has followed the rise of the religious right as “family friendly” players in U.S. politics. After all, they crafted a myth that these “family values” conservative evangelicals and Pentecostals first came together when they joined forces with like-minded Catholics to defeat Roe v. Wade. In fact, the religious right began to coalesce as a political movement following the court case Green v. Conically (1972) where the court decided that racially discriminatory private schools were not entitled to tax-exempt status. The Supreme Court of the United States referenced this case in its ruling of Bob Jones University v. United States (1983), where it stated that the religious clause of the First Amendment does not protect those religious institutions seeking tax-exempt status if their practices are contrary to government public policy such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Marci Hamilton, a constitutional scholar at Cardozo School of Law, offers this observation, “Courts nationwide have repeatedly ruled that religious groups must follow the same rules as everyone else when holding a government contract. Any institution that can’t in good faith follow those rules shouldn’t apply for public funding.”

Hence Obama is not exercising “religious bigotry” or “phony theology” in forcing people of faith to choose between obeying the U.S .government versus following their particular faith tradition. Rather this administration maintains the law as upheld by the Supreme Court which clearly states that religious institutions cannot obtain federal funding and tax exemptions and then refuse to follow the law. To quote Jon Stewart from “The Daily Show,” “You confused the war on your religion with not always getting everything you want…it’s called being part of a society. Not everything goes your way.”

Becky Garrison is an On Faith panelist.

  • Alison6

    This is a Catholic issue. Stop making it a public issue that anyone and everyone can weigh in on. (I’m not Catholic)

  • TopTurtle

    If this were purely a Catholic issue, it would only involve the Catholic hierarchy telling Catholics not to use birth control. Instead, the Catholic church has exerted a great deal of political muscle to try to change public policy. That makes this everyone’s business.

  • alex93

    I think it’s “tenets of one’s faith”, rather than “tenants”. Although I’m completely charmed by the idea of a faith having tenants. The rental agreement could include no extra-marital sex on the property, no birth control on the property, no swearing, no impure thoughts… Lovely.

  • MHughes976

    Since God, if indeed there is a God, is greater and better than human sovereigns, knowing everything and being in all respects wise and good, then surely God’s commands override any human law. That is unless God’s principal command is that we should obey the sovereigns we have, the powers that be, since He hath ordained them.

  • Catken1

    “Since God, if indeed there is a God, is greater and better than human sovereigns, knowing everything and being in all respects wise and good, then surely God’s commands override any human law. ”

    First you have to prove, or at least find some reasonable, substantiated, objective evidence, that there is one (or more), and that S/He/They is as you have described Her/Him/Them. When you have done that, we’ll talk.

  • amelia45

    This is everyone’s issue since the Catholic Church wants the power to impose its faith doctrine on the 70,000 people who work for Catholic hospitals. These people are doctors, nurses, technicians, accountants – all kinds of occupations. They are also of all faiths, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Muslim, Hindu, no faith, any faith.

    If you are a member of this society, your own ability to make choices about birth control are at risk, from the Catholic Church itself.

  • amelia45

    There is a craziness loose in the land. It is a political party wedded to fundamentalist faith. In Islamic countries we see where that leads.

  • PhilyJimi

    Got to love good old religion. When it comes to gays being allowed to get married. Then the government needs to step in and enforce their particular twisted religious view of morality. When it comes to birth control then the government is forcing them to pay for something they find religiously immoral.

    Please just go away and leave me alone.

  • PhilyJimi

    MHughes976 – Remember to pass the Kool-Aid.

    A human makes up a god. He then makes up laws. He credits his invisible, immaterial and unavailable god with creating his laws. And everyone is expected never to question the laws he made up because he says god gave them to him. Then eventually this man dies and this god idea goes on living. This is the biggest con ever.

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