Despite my near constant lamentations on the state of America, there is a lot about the United States that I’m proud of. Not least of which is the willingness to accept all different types of people into the fold. Even when we fall short of perfect, but at least we don’t say stuff like this. (Well, unless it’s about Muslims, but that’s a topic for another post.) It’s part of the American Myth. Everyone tosses their bits into the salad bowl, and it gets mixed up into the American Salad.
OK, Americans don’t eat salad. But you get my point.
But in order for everyone to be recognized as valid and respected, the government must remain secular. I don’t think there is any way around it. If the government promotes or gives super-special benefits to one group over another without a damn good reason – using affirmative action to correct decades of systematic and malicious discrimination – then the government is taking a side. And in a democracy, the government should try to do what is best for the people, not some of the people.
However, there is one group of people that seem to think that they should get a free pass in everything they do: Christians. That’s a pretty broad group, I grant you. And not all Christians feel like they should get to do whatever the hell they want. But the ones that do are ruining it for the rest of us.
Take, for example, abortion. One of the most common arguments I hear is that anti-choice people don’t want their tax dollars to fund abortions. And why? Because their faith tells them that abortion is wrong. And that faith gives them the right to essentially deny poor women access to abortion services.
I hate this argument for many reasons. First, someone’s religious preferences shouldn’t dictate public policy. What would happen if the Jehovah’s Witnesses banded together to stop federal tax dollars from going to blood transfusions? We would say that is crazy. Blood transfusions are a basic and necessary part of modern medicine. No one would stand for an across the board ban. I don’t think abortion is any different.
Women get abortions for a variety of reasons, but I have a hard time believing that anyone gets an abortion for kicks. It’s either medically or economically necessary. Don’t have sex? Then erectile dysfunction medication shouldn’t be covered. Also, don’t get raped.
Second, not only would this argument not work with other medically necessary procedure, it wouldn’t work with any other government program. I know plenty of peacenik Christians who don’t like their tax dollars going to fund wars. But try getting an exemption for that. I dare you.
Third, paying taxes to fund things you don’t use is the price you pay to live in a civilized society. I’m not on welfare (yet. If I remain unemployed for much longer, I might have to get on that gravy train.) but I don’t suggest that we get rid of it. Some kind of safety net – no matter how weak – is necessary to have a functioning society. I don’t use all the roads in my town, but I’m happy to help pay for them. I don’t want to pay for wars, but I want to have a military. I might have even been OK with the bank bailouts if those bailouts had come with real reform. Being your sister and brother’s keeper is what makes it all work. I can’t be the only one who is terrified by the idea of anarchy.
But it isn’t just tax money for abortions that Christians find unpalatable. There are also THE GAYS.
Recently, The New York Times reported on a town clerk in upstate New York who has delegated her responsibility to issue marriage licenses to a deputy. Why? You guessed it! Because homosexuality is a sin and she shouldn’t be forced to issued marriage licenses to those filthy heathens!
The Times has billed this as “rights collid[ing].” I disagree. This is not about competing rights. This is about someone not doing her job. There is an argument that if she was a private citizen, she can discriminate in whatever non-violent way she wants to. But in her capacity as a town clerk she is not a private citizen. She is an extension of the government. And the government has said that same-sex couples get to marry. Personal feelings have nothing to do with it at this point.
This is why it’s so important for a government to retain its secular principles. If not, there will always be people with no recourse, who feel like they are not full citizens. The Jesus Entitlement would win, and everyone else would lose.
Image credit: rexipe