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Thursday, October 30, 2014

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Viewpoint: The muddling of religion and politics

BY MELISSA SCHOLKE

Published July 9, 2014

Since I was little, my dad warned me of three “dangerous” conversation topics that inevitably lead to arguments: money, religion and politics. My status as a broke college student usually saves me from offending anyone within the first topic. However, the following two subjects continually find pesky ways of intertwining and infringing upon human rights. Religion and politics provide us with societal frameworks. These very, separate spheres of thought and belief encourage humanity to flourish, to foster goodwill towards one another, to seek peace and to provide guidance amidst the towering specter of uncertainty. Yet, when these vastly different and complicated worlds of subjectivity collide, we, as citizens dismantle and scatter into our respective corners like billiards balls at the start of a game.

When religion and politics are muddled together, the shouting match commences and we begin to disregard the impact our beliefs hold over the rights of our fellow citizens. For example, an offensive — well, in my opinion — float appeared in my hometown’s Fourth of July parade. It was merely a pickup truck with a trailer scuttling behind it; the float’s message was a crudely sprayed equation upon the trailer’s side. In black spray paint, the message read: “God’s marriage= 1 man + 1 woman. Honk if you agree.

I most certainly wasn’t about to honk. The only reaction the supposedly “correct” equation incited was a fervent desire to display a particular finger to the elderly, scruffy “mountain man” sitting in the trailer. However, the presence of children and the realization my reaction would encroach upon the freedom of speech of these individuals stopped me. Even if I didn’t agree with the message or if I believe it was displayed at the wrong place and time, the parade was open to all forms of speech. Yet, I possessed a sneaking suspicion if a pro-marriage equality float appeared, its creators would be accused of shoving their beliefs down the townspeople’s throats.

While the parade incident was a minor example, last week the infiltration of religion upon politics led the Supreme Court to disregard the rights of thousands of female workers. In a close 5-4 ruling last Monday, the Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of owners of the Hobby Lobby retail chain in a dispute regarding the responsibility to cover contraception in the insurance offered to their employees. The Christian families who own Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties challenged a provision of the Affordable Care Act requiring them to offer contraception coverage. Under the grounds of protecting their religious freedom, the owners argued offering insurance coverage for contraception forced them to endorse abortion.

The Affordable Care Act provides exemptions to religious institutions, hospitals and schools, but for-profit companies, like Hobby Lobby, were originally expected to cover contraception in employee health care plans. Now, because Hobby Lobby is considered a privately-held company — or a company with the majority of shares owned by five or less people — they’re no longer required to cover birth control methods such as Plan B or intrauterine devices. Prices for birth control methods like IUDs can range up to $1,000, and now the entirety of these costs must come directly out of female workers’ pockets.

Although the company may only be owned by a small number of Christians, the numerous individuals employed by the company most likely come from a diverse array of creeds and shouldn’t have their employers’ beliefs imposed upon them. The women requesting contraception coverage may not even wish to prevent pregnancy. According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, 1.5 million women use birth control aid in the treatment of ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, endometriosis and endometrial cancer. Likewise, Guttmacher also found 58 percent of birth control users utilize these methods to reduce menstrual pain, prevent migraines and treat acne. Like many other treatments and prescriptions, birth control can be a costly medical necessity.

As a Catholic myself, I understand and support the anti-abortion perspective. However, scientific evidence has found contraceptives and abortion aren’t similar processes. Likewise, I realize my religion doesn’t give me the right to dictate whether another woman has an abortion or should be able to acquire birth control, no matter its use. A decision of women’s health rests exclusively with the woman affected by it and the beliefs she follows. I find it preposterous an issue of women’s health was decided by five men, the justices who comprised the majority decision, and will continually be decided by religiously motivated employers.

Melissa Scholke is an LSA junior.