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By Humberto Casanova
Employer health insurance plans must start covering contraception with no co-payment, according to a new rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. News of the rule quickly became a political football because of its intersection with religion - while insured employees of churches will still have to pay for their contraceptives, women who work at religious institutions such as hospitals and universities should be getting contraception coverage from now on.
The Curia of the Roman Church is up in arms, portraying the coverage requirement as a frontal attack on religious freedom. This is odd, given the opinions of the people who make up the body of the church. 58% of Catholics believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception. And 55% of all Americans who agree that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.
Furthermore, 98% of women at some time in their lives use contraceptives, including Catholic women. A study of the Guttmacher Institute shows that “The overwhelming majority of sexually active women of all denominations who do not want to become pregnant are using a contraceptive method.” This means that “the overwhelming majority of sexually active women of all denominations” do not think that the government is attacking their faith with so-called “secular values” of contraception.
The opposition of the Curia to this coverage is not in line with American belief or behavior, whether inside or outside the Catholic church.
So why do church representatives like Bishop David A. Zubik paint the rule as a personal attack, saying, “the Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, ‘To Hell with you,’" and why does GOP candidate Rick Santorum use the rule to paint the President as "secular"?
When we talk about a so-called war on religion, we should ask: whose religion? It seems it is only the religion of the Roman Curia, and not the faith of the great majority of Catholics in the pew. In this battle, the Curia is not fighting for the church but against the church. The problem is the Roman Curia trying to control the life of women.
The war, if there is one, is only a war on women.
Each American person, not the leaders of the church or of the government, should have the power and freedom to decide whether we are prepared to bring a child into this world. Whatever the reason may be, it must be a personal decision. The federal mandate that every employer offer contraception coverage is much less government control than the control being exercised by the church over women when it lobbies against insuring female employees.
If someone insists that we should protect the religious freedom of the Roman Curia, and by that I mean the archaic-out-of-touch-with-reality-and-modern-times-minority gang of Bishops that rule the Catholic Church, then the Government could surely find other ways to give away the pill to women who work for religious institutions and who cannot afford contraception. However, one thing is clear: with this rule, the Government is not persecuting the majority of Catholics or Protestants or Americans or Women. The problem exposed by the rule is an out of touch with reality Curia who sets a doctrine most Catholics do not believe in.
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Humberto Casanova lives in Nashville and likes to dig into the world of the Ancient Near East and the Bible. He’s also interested in promoting the separation of church & state, or a secular society. His passion for social justice takes the form of stopping religion when it tramples on the rights of others. His religious reflection comes from a historical and scientific perspective.