Wednesday, February 15, 2012

War on Religion or political posturing: Religion in American politics; some history;

Column in the Sky Hi News today:
The announced policy of the Obama administration to require church affiliated institutions, hospitals and charity organizations to include insurance coverage for birth control for the many low-income employed has created a political brouhaha.

At stake is $50 per-month expenses for those who wish to have that kind of family planning which would not be covered by insurance.

The cries on both sides of the aisle have been high-volume outrage, ranging from “This is Obama's war on religion,” “It Is an example of overreaching big federal government,” to “The GOP is waging war on women, denying women's rights to family planning health care, …whether it is affordable access to mammograms, pap smears, and birth control, and abortions.” There is probably an element of truth in each of these positions, but let us get a grip on ourselves.

The policy was published in January and brought to the attention of the broader public by Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan.

The flap then escalated to a political blowup regarding first amendment rights of freedom of religion, highlighting federal overreach arguments against Obamacare, and playing into other right-wing anti-Obama messages.

Obama switched his position so fast, it made heads swim, as he realized he committed a political blunder. He allowed religious institutions to exempt themselves, while mandating insurers to provide free birth control to anyone uncovered by insurance. That has not appeased Bishops opposed to birth control, but Catholic health care providers hailed the compromise because it accomplished the purpose of giving affordable access to women who choose birth control without making a church-sponsored institution provide it.

Republicans see enacting legislation as a way to keep the heated wedge issue on the front burner. Doing so takes the public's mind off an improving economy. Obama's failed economy is Republicans' major case to-date for election in the 2012 campaign, and this gives the GOP a way to refocus their pitch.

Twenty-eight states already require that church-affiliated institutions provide coverage, including Massachusetts, a heavily Catholic state, as part of Romneycare. That makes Mitt Romney's rant against it seem hypocritical. Like his defense of Romneycare, he is left with saying that it was OK for Massachusetts, but not for the federal government to impose it on any other state. That is a hair-splitting ideological position appealing to the anti-Obama and anti-federal right.

So far as Colorado is concerned, we already require that even churches themselves provide such insurance coverage, a position even more extreme than the Obama administration's policy that exempts churches. No one declared Colorado was at war with religion when that one was passed by the legislature. So let us take the attack on Obama as waging a “war on religion” as being motivated by a large dose of political posturing.

Here is the dilemma of American politics in modern times. When women began demanding the right to control their bodies and their lives in the 1970's, the conservative reaction to it was the making of religious beliefs on abortion as the single-issue litmus test for candidates.

I recall now Sen. Jim Inhofe's first political campaign for Mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1978, where my brother was a pro-choice Republican precinct committeeman. He was ousted by Inhofe supporters on one issue: Inhofe was pro-life. It happened in precincts throughout the city and then throughout the U.S.

I wondered at the time what abortion had to do with street-paving and sewers, but now I understand. It was the beginning of a political movement to gain political power and use techniques of governance so they could impose one segment of Christianity's' theological interpretation on others. Now called “culture issues,” that factor has dominated our national politics ever since, for better or for worse, depending upon one's own personal beliefs.

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