I’ve been terribly neglectful lately, but I just had to pop over to my actual blog to say a few words about contraception.

You are no doubt aware of the recent hubbub over the religious freedom aspect of requiring religious organizations to provide contraception coverage without a co-pay. Catholic bishops, natch, don’t like it. It’s trampling on our religious freedom, they say, because…the Bible is really adamant about it? Or something? (Mother Jones has a really great piece about how the Church almost got totally down with contraception. But let’s just put that to the side for now.)

I was worried that President Obama was going to throw women under the bus. But, for what it’s worth, I think he came up with a really shrewd compromise. For religious organizations that don’t wish to cover contraception, insurance companies need to offer it directly to the employee. No crazy religion middleman. No freedom of religion problem! Done and done. Next thing.

But, unsurprisingly, the bishops are still pissed. According to The New York Times:

The bishops said the plan offered insufficient protection for their institutions: “In the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns.”

Does this say what I think it says? By virtue of a woman working for a particular Catholic-affiliated organization, a woman is not allowed to purchase birth control with money she earns? Amanda Marcotte made an interesting point on Twitter earlier today:

It says, “Question: Do Catholic bishops believe if they pay a man a salary and he buys condoms with it, he is violating their religious liberty?

Hm. Good point. But I’m also surprised that no one else has made this point: Could there be any group of people in the world with less credibility on the issue of contraception than Catholic bishops? They are celibate men. They will never become pregnant, nor will they ever get anyone pregnant. Just shut the fuck up, already.

The fight, of course, isn’t over. Republicans are trying to get a law passed that would allow any employer that objects to birth control to get out of providing it under the guise of “religious freedom.”

Can we talk about religious freedom for a second? Because I have a real problem with this. First, it assumes that every person in a religious faith believes exactly the same thing. Which is total bunkum. In the Mother Jones piece cited above, it says that Catholics use birth control at least as much as the rest of the American population, and according to some polls, even more. My family was Catholic, yet I only have one brother. Why? Because birth control makes sense! It’s not destroying anything. Birth control allows people to not be impoverished by 15 children. Kids are expensive, and sex is fun. These are incontrovertible truths. People of whatever stripe will do what is right for them, regardless of what the Vatican brass says.

But even Catholics were a homogenous group, the fact is that some of the organizations that are Catholic-affiliated employ non-Catholics. Like hospitals. You think every doctor and nurse and cafeteria worker and custodian in every Catholic hospital is actually Catholic? You’re living in a dream world. Prohibiting them from using contraception isn’t respecting religious freedom. It’s imposing a rigid dogma onto someone who is not of the same religion. It amounts to disrespecting the religious freedom and right to self-determination of the employees. And for the love of Zeus, don’t tell me that these people can quit and get a job somewhere else. Have you seen the unemployment numbers lately? I grew up in a small town where the Catholic hospital was a major employer. Getting a new job is a tone deaf and egregious “solution.”

Separation of church and state doesn’t exist to protect a dogma. It exists to protect individual conscious. When you get out of the church and start acting like a secular employer, you have to stop telling people what to do and what to believe. You don’t get to force your beliefs on other people. No one is forcing Catholics to use birth control. And, as American Catholics have been proving for decades, not even the power of the of the bishops can force people to stop.

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