Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saying no to the attacks on women

I have been trying not to get pulled into political or religious debates this year. I was looking forward the Republicans having their caucuses in our state on Saturday, so we could break get a break from the phone calls.

That was until talk radio windbag Rush Limbaugh let spew from his mouth a vile attack on a young American woman using language dehumanizing to women generally. My wife and I were actually hoping for political calls on Saturday so we could have demanded that the callers explain their candidate's position on Limbaugh's comments. But by then the calls had stopped.

So far the responses from the Republican candidates on the comments by Limbaugh have been pathetic. Romney said he would not have used those words that Limbaugh used. Does that mean Romney agrees with the thought? Romney should put that question to rest.

Santorum went further, arguing it is wrong to force conservative Christians to pay taxes for medical procedures that are against their deeply held beliefs. Never mind that the law does not use tax money, it is private health insurance after all.

The principle behind Santorum's argument, that having a deeply held religious belief should mean a special exemption from our laws, is deeply wrong in my view.

Consider the recent violence over the inadvertent destruction of the Koran by American soldiers. Should those who killed American soldiers be allowed to use the fact that their Muslim religious convictions were offended in their defense? No.

I have some deeply held beliefs of my own. I believe that all of Nature is sacred. Humans are part of nature and no part of nature is superior to any other. Men are not more or less sacred than women, nor are adults more or less sacred than children. Every part of nature deserves to be accepted, respected, and protected, for what it is, in its own way. That, more or less, is the gospel according to me.

Should there be special laws to accommodate my deeply held beliefs? Of course not. If I want to persuade anyone of a political position consistent with my faith, protecting a wilderness area, for example, or equal pay for women, I should have to use arguments based on reason, shared experience, or common interests to do so, not special pleading. Not always getting my way is the price of living with other people.

So when Catholic employers demand special exemption from laws requiring employers to provide female contraception as part of their health care plans, simply on the basis that is against their patriarchal religion, I am not impressed.

Religious exemptions are rare in our laws and will hopefully remain so. Religion in America is still too political to hope for such laws to be abolished soon, or to expect politicians or talk radio windbags to stop arguing for new ones. But as one of my favorite politicians like to say, hope is audacious.