Sunday, April 15, 2012

Contraception Controversy No Longer a Religious Freedom Issue, Rather an American Issue?

In keeping with the times, I have chosen to look at a new movement within the contraception debacle that our nation is currently fighting. On CNN's Belief Blog, Dan Gilgoff presents his audience with coverage on the Catholic Church's "religious freedom" campaign. In this article, Gilgoff gives updates on how the controversy over contraception is continuing to evolve and how the Catholic Church believes that, “this is not a Catholic issue,” the statement said. “This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.” I wish to ask you all this very same question. Is this an American issue? Is giving the opportunity to have birth control coverage an impediment of religious freedom for all American woman? To be quite blunt, contraception is only available for women, yet all we are hearing in the news is Catholic Bishops refuting against contraception. Where are the women in this conversation? Gilgoff writes how the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are wanting to extend awareness of religious freedom by addressing congregations and "sending inserts for church bulletins." As for the actual legal bill regarding contraception coverage, Gilgoff notes that " The White House tweaked an earlier version of the rule that required employers, rather than insurance companies, to pay for the contraception coverage, mollifying some Catholic groups who objected to Catholic colleges and hospitals to fund contraception coverage." Apparently this was not efficient enough for the Roman Catholic Church, thus the push for a religious freedom awareness campaign. The Catholics stating that this is no longer a religious issue, but an American issue. 
The argument of the contraception controversy being an "American issue" seems to be a bit of an oxymoron in my opinion. Where I find fault with this statement is that religious freedom is being blurred into the web of American-ism. While I understand that our Constitution provides us with freedoms and rights language that other nations do not provide, I do not agree with the Catholic church stating that religious freedom is "our first, most cherished freedom." For a religious person, I could understand the personal mentality of such a statement. However in broader terms, I am not sure that such a position would be aligned with the majority opinion. While I understand that I am coming from my own personal bias, I try to be as open to hearing both sides. Jeffrey Stout, a current scholar focusing on religion's place in democracy, notes the importance of conversation. We must be effective listeners and talk with one another in order for democracy to flourish. As democratic citizens, if our duty is to listen and converse with one another, I argue that such conversation is not occurring. In the article, Gilgoff notes that a bishop stated that, "Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. . . .It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans." While I agree that religious liberty is not just about the ability to partake in a religion, in order to contribute to the common good of all Americans, fruitful conversation must be produced; I argue that such is not happening. Gilgoff points out that the Catholic Church believes that the contraception controversy is "going to be extensive and it's going to be occurring over a few years." I agree with this statement and further problematize the situation by noting that the rhetoric used in the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings, is not efficient for allowing for dialogue between all parties involved in the contraception controversy. I further challenge the issue by asking where women are in this conversation? The Catholic Church is stating that this is an infringement upon their religious freedom, but I question if the Catholic Church is infringing upon individual rights and conscienceless by turing this controversy into an "American issue." 
In looking to what's at stake here, I fear that the voice of religion in democracy is under a microscope in this particular controversy. I have hope that the government is listening to the Catholic Church by tweaking the bill regarding controversy, however as shown in this article, such aims are not to the Church's likings.  Because of the lack of proper language and the continuance of blurring the separation of church and state, such a controversy will challenge language set out by the founding fathers and further allow for questions of where religion belongs in conversation regarding governmental decisions. Thus, concurring with the statement that this controversy will be "extensive" and "occurring over a few years." 

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