Despite election losses, some writers and activists among the Christian Right continue to chip away at religious liberty in the United States while striving to defend that freedom.
Timothy P. Carney’s column, “Re-elected, Obama takes aim at religious liberty,” appearing in today’s regional Examiners, exemplifies this trend.
Carney opens with an ominous warning, “The Obama administration says your right to live as a Christian ends if you go into business.”
With his first few words, Carney makes some startling assumptions about Christianity. We may have grown up believing that Christianity is a religion rooted in spiritual rebirth, shared community, charity to the least fortunate, stewardship of the Earth’s resources, and liberating Creation from injustice. But now we’re led to believe that Christianity can also encompass for-profit businesses that pay employees too little to afford health care, leave female employees with no practical alternatives to abortion, or deny workers and customers freedom of religious belief and expression.
Carney’s article seems to assume that 1) employees are not entitled to religious freedom, while business entities are; and 2) taxpayers won’t mind if religious businesses exempt themselves from the laws and taxes that apply to other businesses. The second assumption has grim ramifications for “pro-life” advocates who believe businesses should stop creating — or profiting from — the very same conditions that compel female employees to seek abortion. That assumption also negatively impacts the religious liberty of LGBT and non-Christian customers.
Whatever its faults (and there are many), the health-care reform law does not compel employees to seek an abortion. But the alternative that has been sought by conservative churches — denial of insurance coverage for abortion alternatives — would likely result in more abortion, not less.
Businesses are entitled to voice their moral and religious values in the public square. But so are workers. The health-care reform law simply ensures that — barring creation of a national health system, which is opposed by conservatives — businesses continue to fulfill their social duty to support employees and communities, and to reverse the collateral damage done to infrastructure and community health by businesses’ water and power use, transportation activities, and pollution.
Community values are essential to public morality. Churches that oppose the health-care law for reasons relating to reproductive health appear willing to put aside certain community values and individual religious liberties for the sake of a strategy regarding abortion that is counterproductive.
Are Carney and the churches for whom he speaks protecting life and religious liberty — or defending practices that may result in a quick profit, but risk harm to community, life, and liberty?