By: Lindsay Cogdill
The news has been on fire lately with the GOP’s war on women. I know many people view that phrase as derisive and even an exaggeration, but I think it truly is a war. Throughout history, religion has been used to limit women’s rights, and I believe that is what is happening in our own government, with people trying to claim that women’s choices for their own healthcare should not have to be covered by insurance.
“Freedom of religion” is the reasoning currently being used by Republicans to say that contraception should not have to be covered by insurance plans if a person works for a religiously affiliated workplace, such as a school or hospital. The problem with this idea is that every individual employed at a Catholic school or Baptist hospital is not a Christian. Maybe they just want to be a teacher or doctor or student at a religious university, because they appreciate the career opportunities there.
However, America was not founded to be a Christian country. It was founded to be a secular government that happened to have a lot of Christians involved. Which is not a problem, in my opinion, because I think our Founding Fathers did a fantastic job of creating the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That being said, I think many politicians and citizens today attempt to use the Bill of Rights in a way that it was not intended to be used.
I encourage our politicians and my fellow citizens to take a look at the actual wording of the First Amendment to the Constitution. It states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (You can find the full text of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights at www.archives.gov.) There you have it, people: “No law respecting an establishment of religion” does not mean “let’s make laws that protect establishments of religion.” It means the laws should not be based on the rules of any establishment of religion. The first amendment, in my opinion, seems obviously intended to protect individuals from being forced either not to exercise their religious practices or from being forced to exercise the religious practices of a certain religious establishment because the law says so.
Now, many people would point out here that our country maintains many laws on the basis of Christian morality. That is true, obviously; laws about marriage and family are the foremost examples. However, there is a difference between making a law loosely based on morals that many people in the government (and, by extension, voters) hold as a result of their religion, and a law enacted specifically to allow certain religious institutions to be exempt from the law of the land. And that is what the church is seeking to do in this instance – they are seeking to be allowed an exemption from the law, which says that health insurance plans must cover contraception for women, because some religious establishments do not morally agree with the use of contraception.
This is a part of a larger issue in our country’s government, to be sure. Religion is frequently used as the basis for many legal arguments, and that practice should be stopped. However, this instance is more insidious in my opinion because it so flagrantly disregards the Bill of Rights, twisting the words of our founders to suit a religious agenda. I believe it is the responsibility of ordinary citizens like us to hold our politicians accountable for these things – speak out against politicians using the Constitution unethically! Millions of women are doing so already, through petitions with Planned Parenthood, AAUW, and other progressive political organizations.
The only way to stop this war on women is for women ourselves to stand up and tell politicians that they are misusing our laws to limit our rights, and not allow them to do so.
By: Lindsay Cogdill