August 28, 2014

Reproductive Stand Off: Letter writer says critics of Hobby Lobby decision don't under stand the meaning of religious freedom, I say letter writer doesn't understand science


Sometimes I ask myself, why? Why do I keep doing this? Why do I see "letter to the editor" and click through, knowing full well that there's a very strong chance that it will kill my faith in humanity yet again?

The short answer is that I do so because I want to know what the general population--or at least, the population that still reads newspapers--thinks on current subjects. It's also, of course, so that I can provide content that's of interest to me and to you.

Today's example is a letter on the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. You can view the whole letter here, but what I'd like to talk about is the implication of this quote, right here:
Critics of the Hobby Lobby decision fail to understand the meaning of the Constitutional religious protection phrase of not "prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The decision does not claim that a woman cannot have "choice" over her own body, even if we disagree with her decision. What the Supreme Court's decision made abundantly clear is that if you wish to purchase an abortion-inducing drug, your employer does not have to pay for that choice when paying for such drugs is against the employer's religious beliefs. Is there some religious belief that women "must" purchase abortion-inducing drugs? I don't know of any such religious belief. An employer should be able to exercise his/her religious belief that buying such abortion-inducing drugs for someone else violates his/her religious tenets. The not "prohibiting the free exercise thereof" provision means that your freedom to buy such drugs does not require me to buy them for you.
This clearly illustrates one of my main issues with the Hobby Lobby decision. While as a feminist, I detest the loss of reproductive rights and the ability of an employer to force their morality on men (because yes, men have a stake in the contraceptive debate--I'm sure they enjoy sex without unplanned babies as much as women do) and women, and while as an atheist, I detest the enforcement of Judeo-Christian privilege, it's the rational freethinker in me that's most appalled.

You see, this decision isn't just about morality.

It's also about the supremacy of religious belief over scientifically proven facts, and having that codified into legal precedent by the highest court in our land is truly terrifying.


This letter writer illustrates it perfectly when they refer to contraception as "abortion-inducing drug[s]". There's copious amounts of data that prove--as nearly to beyond a shadow of a doubt as possible, actually--that you cannot, in fact, cause an abortion with birth control. This is because contraception does not, in fact, terminate a pregnancy.

Because it...you know...prevents a pregnancy, and you can't terminate what was never there to begin with.

So not only do we have an overreach of morality, but we have the triumph of "closely-held beliefs" over reason and scientifically verifiable facts. How is that a decision to be celebrating? How is that a triumph of religious freedom?

It's my sincere closely held belief that the government should be run by a secular mindset. In the government, in the courts, belief should never trump objective, scientifically verifiable information. That's pure madness. That's not operating based on what's best for a secular state.

Coding the supremacy of "closely-held beliefs" over factual information into law isn't a win for anyone.

Just consider, briefly, the implications if a company decides that their "closely-held belief" that the world is flawed, broken, and--most of all--ending shortly and that this closely-held belief means that they say, don't need to take environmental protections. What do such protections mean when the world is wearing out anyway, after all? It doesn't matter that we have demonstrative proof that such protections are good for the secular state--we've now place belief in a position to trump such proof. We've put belief in a place to trump science.

It shocks me that so many people are willing to applaud that.

I suppose it shouldn't though. If you think about it, the most severe believers--those that support such decisions--don't want a secular government. They don't see such an instrument as best for anyone. After all, such an institution greatly reduces their privilege as the dominant worldview in our nation, and we simply can't have that.

I truly hate the religious freedom argument for this very reason. This isn't about religious freedom. It never was. It's not even about reproductive rights, or morality, when you get right down to it.

This is a battle to determine the balance between belief and objective knowledge--and it's that balance that has suffered the most.

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