‘Freedom of religion’ means freedom from it

When Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced new rules in August under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) mandating employers provide employees with no-cost birth control coverage, faith leaders were quick to decry it as an attack on their religious freedom.

“Since birth control is the most common drug prescribed to women ages 18 to 44,” said Sebelius, who announced the rules in August, “Insurance plans should cover it.”

Catholic and leaders of other faiths complain the rules, which exempt churches, still force religious institutions like charities, schools, universities or hospitals to provide contraception to employees.

Catholics like House Speaker John Boehner called the mandate, “an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country,” while Mitt Romney accused the Obama administration of “attacks on religious liberty.”

It is easy for the believer, who sees all other faiths through the lens of their own, to see the neutral dismissal of their religious interests as an “attack on religion”, because to them, there is only one actual religion, and only one actual set of religious interests.

Seen through my godless, heathen eyes, however, all faiths are reduced to the same ranking: “objectively goofy.” From here, it quickly becomes clear that the only way for government to balance the competing interests of every religion, none of which have any claim to superiority over another, is to ignore them all equally.

Allowing Catholic employers perks based on religious doctrine would obligate us to do the same for all religions. Should employers who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose doctrine forbids blood transfusions, be exempt from providing employees with insurance covering such procedures?

The only way to protect religious freedom is to recognize that all religions are equally subjective and equally lack a place within the objective, hard-edged reality of law and, especially, health care.

Alexander Strada

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