Freedom of Religion

America.  Land of the free.  Among those freedoms that make up this great nation is the freedom of religion.  This freedom of religion not only grants American citizens the right to exercise whatever religious beliefs they choose, but it also prohibits the government from establishing a religion or from placing favor over one religion or another.  And right now, this freedom is under question.  Due to the recent Health and Human Services act regarding woman’s preventative health care as a part of the Affordable Care plan, religious freedom is at stake.  The ruling by the HHS determined that all employers MUST provide all women employees with coverage to all preventative health care measures.  Granted some of these measures are fantastic; regular mammograms, health screenings, etc.  But the ruling also mandates that women be provided with contraceptive services, including sterilization methods and pills that cause early abortions, at no deductible or co-pay. (read about it here: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/01/obama-rejects-contraception-exemption-for-catholic-hospitals-schools/ , or here: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1200263.htm for a Catholic viewpoint.)

This is not about whether you support contraception, abortion, or sterilization.  This is about the United States government forcing a religious institution to provide its employees with a product that goes against its core values.  The government does not have the right to make that decision.  If you choose to work for a Catholic hospital, you have to realize that Catholic ideals will be a part of your work.  You have to realize that if you choose to engage in practices the Church does not support, you cannot expect your workplace to then support them.  The government does not have the right to force this.  In August of 2011, an appeal was made for a widening of the exemption.  This would allow more religious institutions to be excused from the mandate due to beliefs.  Obama rejected this proposal.  As is currently stands, the exemption is very narrow and basically applies only to church employees.  The government is placing favor over certain religious organizations while forcing others to adhere to procedures they disprove of.  This is completely unconstitutional and NEEDS to be fixed!  The government does not have the right to determine what classifies a religious organization as religious enough, so to speak, to qualify for the exemption. 

Now, I’m not saying this act needs repealed completely.  I’m simply saying that the portion requiring contraceptive measures needs a broader exemption standard so that institutions are not forced to participate if it goes against their beliefs. Why are we forcing Catholic organizations to pay for employees to prevent life, while every day thousands of Americans don’t receive the health care they need to pay for medication and treatment to preserve the life they have?  Instead of allowing free contraceptives, why not focus on free antibiotics, reduced costs for chemotherapy, radiation, and various other treatments for cancer and life threatening illnesses.  Instead of forcing religious institutions to pay for someone to take an early abortion pill, why can’t we focus our health care on treating heart disease, diabetes, and other serious illnesses? 

One last comment on the issue before I close:  why do people insist this is a “victory” for women?  These are the same people who fight tooth and nail for “pro-choice” laws.  With this new mandate, their supposed victory has revoked the right to choose.  It has taken away the right for a religious establishment to choose to refrain from providing contraceptive measures that contradict their teachings.  This, in my mind, is not a victory for women at all.  Providing fair health care to everyone including women is a victory.  Keeping the religious freedoms that this nation was founded upon is a victory.  Maintaining the right to hold string to your beliefs and not be forced down by the government…that is a victory. 

We need to focus on what is best for America and its citizens.  Fair health care that does not force anyone to give up their beliefs.  We need to let those in power know this is unacceptable.  Write to your congressmen, senators, etc.  Tell people you know about the new mandate.  And most of all pray.  Pray that our government will reconsider this manner and allow for religious freedoms to be protected.

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