The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Archive for February 19th, 2012

When Religious Stupidity Infects Public Policy: The Fiasco of the Catholic Church and GOP

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 19, 2012

I’ve waited for awhile to chime in on this particular subject for a number of reasons: partly because it makes me so angry that I wish to be as calm and rational as possible when I finally write about it, and partly because I have some (apparently vain) hope that the primary actors involved will pull their heads out of their asses.  Sadly, on that last point, it seems I am to be sorely disappointed.

“It’s all dudes.”  The Congressional panel testifying on insurance coverage for women’s contraception.  *Facepalm*

We all know the biggest social issue to flare up in recent weeks in the United States, which is the question of requiring insurance companies to cover birth control.  Apparently, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops don’t like this much (never mind the fact that these insurance companies are secular businesses).   I would like to reference an excellent article written by Robert Shrum at The Week.  In his article, Shrum reveals the true motivation of the Bishops:

… The bishops could have welcomed President Obama’s compromise on insurance coverage for contraception — that religiously affiliated institutions don’t have to provide or pay for it, but insurance companies do. Insurers will finance the coverage but save money in the long run, since the cost of birth control is far less than the bills for unwanted pregnancies. Instead, the bishops reinforced their anathema, announcing that they were not “focus[ing] exclusively on the question of religious liberty” — the very cause that sparked the opposition to the original regulation, which required religiously affiliated organizations to provide employees with copay-free coverage for birth control. The bishops essentially revealed that their original cause was also a cover for opposing “the nationwide mandate of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients” — the morning after pill — which for them “remains a grave moral concern.” … [emphasis added]

So there you have it, folks; once the “religious liberty” question was addressed by President Obama by shifting the responsibility for covering birth control to purely secular insurance companies, the Bishops came out with their true intentions: to oppose ALL forms of contraception, not only for Catholics but for everyone, in the United States.

Holy… shit.  I don’t know what is worse: the fact that these deluded old men think what they do, or the fact that they think they have a chance of pulling it off.  Of course, perhaps that last point is probably related to the fact that the U.S. Republican Party has decided to grab onto this issue and take the Bishops’ side on it.  Shrum continues in his article:

… The unholy alliance of the bishops and the GOP threatens the party’s ultimate presidential candidate and its House majority — and diminishes its chances of taking the Senate.

Let’s translate this ecclesiastical speak: Bishops believe that birth control services should be denied to non-Catholics and Catholics alike. The bishops can’t persuade their own flock — among whom contraception is a norm, not an exception — so they attempt to enforce their doctrine through public policy. They even huffed that they “were not consulted in advance” about the president’s revised policy — and then demanded a law that would entitle institutions and employers to forbid coverage for any health service to which they had a moral objection — even if they weren’t paying for it. (Should an employer who is a Jehovah’s Witness be allowed to delete any insurance for blood transfusions — which Witnesses regard as biblically prohibited?) … [emphasis added]

Note the bolded part.  Believe it or not, the GOP has actually tried to introduce legislation that would allow any employer with a so-called “moral objection” to not pay for any insurance which covered things with which they disagree.  I’m not kidding; Shrum outlines this:

… In Congress, Republican leaders propose to do the bishops’ bidding by attaching the dubiously named Respect for Religious Conscience Act to, of all things, a transportation and highway bill. Instead of working on jobs, they’re laboring to restrict birth control. …

But think carefully about this, folks.  It isn’t just about contraception (the hot-button for the Catholic hierarchy, but apparently not for the 98% of U.S. Catholic women who have used contraception); if the legislation written by the GOP were to actually become law, there would be innumerable negative consequences beyond the cancellation of birth control coverage for employees of Catholic employers.  Imagine, with such broad and stupid wording in the law (does it even define “moral objection”?), the following scenarios:

1. Blood transfusions wouldn’t be covered for employees who work for a Jehovah’s Witness.

2. If you work for a Scientologist, kiss goodbye any chance at getting coverage for any kind of psychiatric-related care.

3. Those who got food-poisoning from a batch of bad ham might not get coverage on their hospital visit if their Orthodox Jewish boss got wind of it.

4. Suppose you got an STD and you’re not married; would your evangelical Christian employer cover the insurance costs for the treatment?

5. What if you work for a rabid anti-vaccinationist?  So much for your regular flu shot and vaccines for the kids.

6. Gay couples (married, in a civil union, domestic partnership) could easily see their health benefits evaporate simply because of the bigoted views of their bosses.  And do I even need to ask about what would happen to atheists?

7. Christian Scientist employers could pretty much just cancel ALL health coverage for their workers since prayer works better than anything, right?

Need I go on?  I think you get the picture, folks.  This is the sort of stupidity that results when you get politicians, desperate to gain traction with the populace, allowing superstitious nonsense to guide their policy decisions.  It is my hope that this backfires on the Republicans and Bishops both; to make that point loud and clear, the best thing to do is speak at the polls this coming November.

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