The Obama administration is being criticized by the Catholic church for requiring that employers, including Catholic hospitals, cover their employees’ birth control in their health care plans. The Catholic church is arguing that this is a violation of its religious liberty, telling it how to treat its own employees. Interestingly, this it the same argument that they’ve used to justify stopping gay couples from adopting via Catholic-run adoption agencies, and it’s the same argument religious extremists use to justify pharmacists turning away anyone they “morally” disagree with.
This isn’t just the Catholic church, and it isn’t just hospitals. Religious extremist Republicans are slowly taking over more and more of the economy – look at the Mormons – and are using that economic leverage to slowly cut off the rest of us. They’re just a church, the Catholics claim, when they run an anti-gay adoption agency that receives the majority of its funding – nearly $3bn Catholic Charities gets each year – from the government. For $3bn in taxpayer money, where do I get my church? They’re just a church, the Salvation Army claims, when they take your money each Christmas and use some of it to lobby against the civil rights of gays and lesbians.
They’re not just a church when they’re the only hospital in town. They’re not just a church when they’re using taxpayer funds to discriminate against taxpayers.
But this is the future the Catholic Church, and their evangelical/Mormon buddies, are wishing on the rest of America. They’re increasingly involved in more and more non-proselytizing ventures – hell, they’re not permitted to proselytize with government money – yet when it’s revealed that they’re discriminating against their own employees or the public at large, suddenly the operating room becomes the divine liturgy. (Which is a neat trick: Maybe Catholics should drop their insurance cards in the offering plate next Sunday, since apparently it’s all the same thing.)
So what’s next? If Catholic hospitals are permitted to discriminate against their non-Catholic employees in health care, then I assume they should be able to discriminate in who they hire. And who they serve. After all, would you really want a Catholic hospital to have to serve homosexuals? Or adulterers? Or Baptists? Think that’s an absurd analogy, think again. The religious extremists have been arguing for years that pharmacists should be permitted to refuse to serve any customer that violates their conscience. Generally, they mean giving out birth control. But what about AIDS drugs? Should Catholic and Evangelical pharmacists be permitted to fill AIDS cocktail prescriptions only for the “innocent victims” of AIDS? Forget about the gays and the druggies. Only children who were infected via their moms are permitted to get their drugs, and even then, it’s unclear how we should treat those Mormon children since Catholics and Evangelicals might consider them members of a cult. And don’t even get started on Muslims. They can move back to Mecca if they want antibiotics.
And how about a Jehovah’s Witness pharmacist? Can they refuse to sell any prescription drugs at all?
In fact, a rape victim in Tucson recently wasn’t able to get the morning after pill for 3 days because local pharmacies refused to stock it, and one that did have it wouldn’t give it to her because the pharmacist on duty objected to the drug for “religious and moral” reasons. And it’s not just isolated to Tucson. Remember a few years ago when we found out Target had the same policy of pandering to their pharmacists’ delicate religious sensibilities.
So where does it stop? Does the Catholic church think their hospitals can refuse to respond to 911 calls from transgender people? That’s what happened in DC a number of years ago, the emergency medical guys freaked out when they responded to a call and found out the victim was trans. They let her die, not before verbally mocking the dying woman, rather than offend their delicate sensibilities by treating her life-threatening injuries:
Injured in an automobile accident, Hunter died shortly after a firefighter stopped treating her when the firefighter realized that Hunter was a man dressed in women’s clothes. Rather than assisting Hunter as she lay dying, the firefighter harassed her by making homophobic jokes to his fellow firefighters.
So don’t tell me it won’t happen. It has happened. And it’s what the Catholics, and the religious right, are arguing for. The right to treat their hospitals and pharmacies and any business they’re involved in (hell, they want the right to not sign marriage licenses in NY state if it offends the religious sensibilities of the clerk whose job it is to sign marriage licenses) as a church. Should Catholic employees of hospitals in New York state, or Catholic hospitals generally, be able to refuse the legally-wed husband of a dying man visitation rights because the Catholic church doesn’t recognize their marriage, and to force the church to do so would be taking away its “religious liberty”?
And if you object to their absurd demand to take a job, working for the state no less, that they’re not willing to do – seriously, who takes a job that they know offends their religious sensibilities, or any other sensibility (if you don’t like touching dead bodies, don’t become a mortician)? – then you’re the bad guy. I’ll tell you who takes a job like that: people who are gunning for a fight, and who want to jam their religion down your throat.
It’s not your religious liberty when you’d rather let me die than do your job.