religion and politics

the answer to: What are two conversation topics most likely to piss people off?
Anyways…I shouldn’t be ranting now, I have other crap I have to be doing, but I needed to vent…somewhere.  The hindsight point is that I should have known better, even bringing up a political discussion is going to end in nastiness.  and also, some people you just can’t rationally argue with.  At least, after the election, the heat will be all over with…for the most part, for now, maybe.

A conversation that began trying to weigh the pros and cons of both candidates wandered into possibly religious territory, when the person I was speaking with said that, as I heard it, she believes that Obama is against religious freedom.  Her basis was that Obama was apparently forcing Hobby Lobby, run by a Christian, to provide people with contraception, or else pay some ridiculous fine – which goes against religious freedom.  and that Hobby Lobby is suing the government over this.  First off, I think that the business would be mandated to provide health insurance coverage and that technically it’s the insurers, not the business itself, condoning and paying for a portion of contraception coverage.  Having admittedly not heard of the news with Hobby Lobby, I was aware of the stink Catholic priests made earlier and the whole Sandra Fluke thing.  I countered that there is a provision that allows religious and religious-affiliated organizations to opt-out of providing coverage which goes against their beliefs, the same types of religious organizations that are tax exempt.  (which also reminds me of Native Americans and Amish…conscientious observers protected from the draft etc.)  I was not believed, and an argument commenced.  I finally pulled up documentation to validate my statements.  (See here, and the footnote here, and pdf here, as found on the US Health and Human Services page)  All organizations that are primarily religious-affiliated and are non-profit organizations are exempt.  Is Hobby Lobby a religious organization, is it religiously affiliated, does it primarily hire religious employers, and is it non-profit? No.  Could it conceivably require an exemption status if it were to declare itself a non-profit religious organization?  I would think so. (technically, I don’t know, but I would think so)  But I still received grief from the person I was arguing with, that, though Hobby Lobby is not a religious organization, nor is it non-profit, that it is still grossly unfair and an assault against religious freedom that it must be mandated to provide contraception coverage.

But why? If Hobby Lobby is not a religious organization?

The argument derailed into even more treacherous ground.  In other words, gay rights.  The person with whom I was discussing and myself did both agree that the CEO of Chick-Fil-A is fully entitled to his opinions.  I said that it’s perfectly ok (for point of argument) for the CEO to believe whatever he wants to believe, so long as he doesn’t discriminate by not hiring gay people because they’re gay, or not serving gay people because they’re gay; that there is a fundamental difference between having beliefs and acting on those beliefs in a discriminatory manner.  As a business, and not a non-profit religious organization at that, Chick-Fil-A should abide by all anti-discrimination laws, just as one would abide by handicap accessibility laws and fire safety building codes.  (unless, again, you’re grandfathered in/exempt – as some buildings are)  My “opponent,” as it were, seemed to imply that there doesn’t need to be a law to mandate anti-discrimination – because that could be against religious freedom, but that Chick-Fil-A (or Hobby Lobby or any business, for example) would not discriminate in hiring/serving, because that would be wrong.  To which I said that you can’t trust people to always do the right thing, that’s why there are laws.  If there weren’t laws to force businesses not to discriminate against black people, gay people, women, purple people etc., then some businesses would clearly discriminate.  You can’t trust people to do the right thing.  But, moreover, (I think) everyone has their own version of what the right thing is.

This led to one last argument – whereupon both sides huffed off in anger – which is that what one person sees as a valid religious belief, another person sees as hateful/discriminatory.  One unfortunate but go-to debate strategy is to take a point to its extremes…such as pulling in Hitler or KKK (and, by then, you know the argument should have ended hours ago).  For example, as an American citizen and believer in free speech, I have to begrudgingly say that it’s ok for a KKK person to hate black people (or Neo-Nazis to hate Jewish people…or insert another horrible analogy), so long as they don’t do anything about it.  In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be such blatant and genocide-inducing hatred.  and, in honesty, I don’t believe it’s ok for a KKK person to hate black people, Neo-Nazis to hate Jewish people, and so on.  The point is that people, in America, are entitled to their opinions.  all opinions.  even the ones you loathe.  And the line between freedom of beliefs and law is where it hurts people.

Unfortunately, it’s a blurry line.  Nearly everyone agrees that killing innocent people is bad.  On a less extreme note, I would hope a majority of people would believe that denying innocent and merit-worthy people a job solely based on stereotypical discrimination is bad.  But simply holding opinions can obviously be hurtful too; there’s slander and libel, bullying (and schools’ zero-tolerance thereof), and propagating an atmosphere of hate that can lead to violence and genocide.  Perhaps people are entitled to their opinions, so long as they intend no harm to others.  Or, people are entitled to any opinion, so long as they don’t act on opinions in a manner which causes harm to others.

But, the really sad part is when people don’t even realize they are being discriminatory.  For instance, in said argument, I try to explain gay rights as analogous to African American rights.  I think the bottom line was that the person I was debating with did not see being against gay marriage as discriminatory, they did not see it as analogous to discriminating against black people, or women, or Jewish people etc.  Instead, it seemed, they saw it as more of a religious matter.  Perhaps akin to freedom to not eat [insert food here], freedom to abstain from work on [insert day here], freedom to attend church [or insert place of worship here, but, to be frank, I’ve only had this debate with Christian people.  I have personally not met a Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, or other-faithed person virulently against gay rights and gay marriage, but that’s just my experience].  anyway, the point was, in no uncertain terms, that they told me that believing that gay marriage is not acceptable is not discrimination, but a religious belief.  All I could do at that point, losing wind and too stammered, was say that some people believe that that is discriminatory.  But it brings to mind another thought, which is, how could you hope to encourage someone to be less discriminatory if they don’t believe they are in the first place?

Not that systems haven’t changed.  It used to be believed that people of color were “naturally” inferior, as ordained by the divine.  Mexico had it down to intricate percentages…someone who was 1/16th mestizo was superior to someone who was 1/8th mestizo, with “pure blood” Spanish at the top.  (Latin American mestizo charts) Mormons, aka the LDS, only recently (1978 by Prophet Kimball, I think) stopped believing that those with dark skin (at least African American people, not so sure if they extended the courtesy to Native Americans and other non-whites) are evil descendents of Cain.  Anyway, it appears that people, over time, can shift from thinking that something is “the way things are/ordained by god/fact” to “ok, I guess that’s antiquated and bigoted, and I don’t think god literally meant that.”  However, it could be that out and out institutionalized racism and bigotry (which, at least, is easy to spot) just becomes subtle and ingrained, and thus much harder to fight.  (For example, it is much easier to see the hatred of someone standing on a street corner saying that 9/11 was because of the gays…when someone who isn’t an apparently hateful person and who isn’t literally throwing stones, but personally believes that a marriage should only be between one biological male and one biological female, to what extent is that discriminatory?  some would say not at all.  some would say insidiously, because it is hard to combat.  some would say in between.)

I do realize that this is a difficult and complicated topic too.  I don’t want to make the same mistakes, by stereotyping, myself (as in stopping short of saying all Christians are anti-gay, which I know is a false generalization)

One of the things I am bothered by is what I see as hypocrisy.  Certainly, people who hold these views clearly believe in religious freedom.  They clearly are fighting for the freedom to have their beliefs.  But what about the beliefs of other people?  It’s not religious freedom if it’s freedom for one group at the expense of other groups.  I believe that is called a theocracy.

anyways, the Hobby Lobby thing.  I need to look that case up specifically, to be more informed and I acknowledge that.  But my thought process is that if the CEO wants to have religious-based exemption from government policy, then he should have a non-profit religious-affiliated organization.  If his organization is itself not religious based, then it doesn’t follow that it should adhere to religious doctrine.  In which case, the CEO is entitled to his opinions, so long as the actions of the business are not discriminatory.

Some last thoughts on this whole contraception/abortion/women’s rights thing:

1) In my opinion, regardless of your personal views, abortion is a very intensely private and personal matter, and should remain thus.  Taking a libertarian view, this should be the sole decision of the person whose body it is and is no one (or government’s) else’s business.

2) If abortion were made illegal, or illegal only in cases of rape, the consequences could prove disastrous.  Already pained women being subjected to tests to prove they were raped.  Back alley abortions.  greater harm done.

3) The point that may be missed is that no one wants an abortion.  (do people forget this?!)  If education and access to health care and contraceptives are provided, it not only decreases abortion, but also STDs, including AIDS.  Education is not a bad thing.

4) Women take oral contraception for reasons other than preventing pregnancy, such as preventing breast cancer.

5)Where’s the line between not allowing coverage for oral contraception and not allowing synthetic estrogen for menopausal women?

6)If you are a religious-affiliated hospital, I would sorely hope that you would treat and care for patients who have not lived by a set code of standards/beliefs (I don’t think any hospital turns away people because of religion, but just hoping things don’t end up that way).  Moreover, if a woman comes to a hospital seeking the morning-after pill, an abortion, or contraception, or information about such, I would hope that the hospital would at least direct the person to a place where they can receive such information or alternatives, if those are not provided there, rather than giving the woman no options.  The point is that sometimes a person goes to the nearest – or only – available hospital (and timing is crucial, such as 72 hours for morning after pill, or antivirals), and that hospital may likely be religious-affiliated.  Some people argue that if you disagree with the religious policies of a place, then simply go somewhere else.  But often it is not so simple.  What if that is the only hospital you are physically able to get to, in time, in your area?

7)Where’s the line between religious freedom and religious freedom at the expense of others?

8) and lastly, perhaps part of this mess could be alleviated if insurance was mandated, but not tied to employers.  (as it is in some other countries, I believe Switzerland)

9) okay, another lastly…whatever happened to “separation of church and state”?  It was mandated not only for the good of the state, but for the good of the church as well, so religions don’t have to dirty themselves (or any further) with politics.

Related Links:

Hobby Lobby, NBC

“What the Bible Says About Rape”, AlterNet (clearly biased, and not too kind or respectful of Christianity at times, and could have been worded better.  However I think it does bring up some points for consideration, thus I am including it here)

(Also, as Jon Stewart and Colbert have belabored, the topic of rape really shouldn’t come into political discourse.  Everybody is pretty much agreed that rape is bad.  Please, for the love of god, let’s drop rape from being bantered about like just another political ad talking point wedge issue.  You know, to some people, this is a very real, very traumatic, very personal thing.  They probably don’t want this batted around, like some soundbite, by some ignorant politician trying to win some votes.)

“I just want to address my fellow conservatives who are running for office this year, … you may not be aware of this, but, in 1920, women got the right to vote.  And, since then, … rape’s approval rating has plummeted.  I just want to give you a little advice on how to handle yourself, if, in the middle of a debate, or while casually talking to reporters, you feel yourself about to share your views on rape.  …I want you to, and this is important, so go grab a pencil…If you want to talk about rape, I want you to …Stab yourself in the eye with your pencil – Colbert


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