Watson: When rights conflict


Birth control pills

Scott Watson

The time has come when religion no longer dominates popular opinion and government policy. Recently, President Barack Obama passed a new health care reform, mandating all companies and institutions provide their employees with contraceptives, Plan B (the morning-after pill) and sterilization surgeries as a means of making contraceptives available to all demographics. There are few organizations exempt from this new bill. Among those who are not exempt are hospitals, schools and charities founded on religion, demanding a sacrifice of timeless core principles from those organizations.

Many consider this to be a huge step in progressing women’s health rights. But when does a fight for rights begin to inhibit the rights of others? What makes one person’s self-endowed rights more important or ethical than another person’s?

Not everyone who works for a religious organization holds the same principles as their employer. It should be up to the discretion of the organization to decide if the legislation is providing freedom to the needy or taking it from all.

The Obama administration has given these organizations an ultimatum — comply within the year or risk penalization varying from fines to a possible closure of the organization in its entirety. This tactic is ludicrous. The Roman Catholic Church is a 2,000-year-old organization. Asking it to rethink a fundamental dogma is undermining all religions and inhibits the rights of all to hold and maintain their own standards and beliefs.

What about the separation of church and state? It seems this phrase of conveniently strung-together words is only applicable when it meshes with the agenda of the state. They are two separate entities that must brush shoulders from time to time, but religious values are to be protected by the state, not regarded as an obstacle for the state to maneuver to achieve the desired effect.

For many years, we have been told how pertinent it is to keep the church out of state affairs, but what about keeping the state out of church affairs? It is not the state’s place to tell the church what it is allowed to believe. When church and state are intertwined as one, the vision of what is best for society is skewed.

We have our individual beliefs and spiritualities, and we also have our role as citizens. These are separate roles that require us to put aside our beliefs and make compromises for the betterment of society, while maintaining our own religions and outlooks on life. When either church or state meddle with the others’ rights and duties, it sacrifices the integrity of both.

According to Business Insider, last year the Catholic Church built 625 nonprofit hospitals and accounted for one in every eight visits. The church is the largest nonprofit segment of the American health care industry by far.

It’s obvious our nation has surpassed the days of showing religious favoritism. In fact, etiquette toward religions has been completely bypassed, and is close to bordering the lines of persecution.

The callous manner in which the Obama administration has gone about achieving its agenda completely undermines the values of these religious organizations. This is an extremely complex issue with many intricate factors deriving the broader goal.

By failing to understand this is not as simple as passing out penicillin and bandages to the poor; many good-doing institutions are being thrown into a position where they’re forced to sacrifice morals for existence. Not every institution is ready for the widespread acceptance of contraceptives and its questionable morality. The government is making a stand, showing these groups they too are subject to any laws the government would like to impose, regardless of violations to religious dogma.

The underlying message to all religions has been written on the wall: Your beliefs and morals are wrong, this is what you will believe and this is what your organization will and will not support. I’m picking up what they’re putting down. Call me melodramatic, but the undertones of fascist ruling are blaringly loud. Why should the church be forced to support an issue that has never been supported in the entirety of the church’s existence simply because there’s liberal pressure to change? Is this forward thinking or a new tactic set in malignity for a group to bully its way into getting what it wants by means of manipulation and coercion?

If the provision of contraceptives is a make-or-break issue for you as an employee, I propose an elegant solution: Don’t work there. Nobody is forcing anybody to take any job; if the benefits of the job are not to your liking, then find a job whose benefits are. Making a church pass out contraceptives is like making a Buddhist pass out hand grenades. It’s a conflict of interests.