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Thursday, November 22 , 2018, 3:46 am | Fog/Mist 52º


Randy Alcorn: Separation of Church and Reality

Greater good of universal health care far outweighs mythical consequences of religious tenets

Not being a man of faith affiliated with any church or religion may rule out the notion of my eternity, but it does afford a perspective on the here and now that is unclouded by ecclesiastical doctrines derived from interpretations of scripture or hopes and fears of divine judgment.

Predictably, my thoughts on the current confrontation between the Catholic Church and the Obama administration over birth control mandates for employer-provided health insurance plans are grounded in objective reality and not the calcified canons of religion.

The delicious irony of the Catholic Church protesting encroachments on its moral values is that it has been one of the worst transgressors of those values throughout its sordid history. That aside, freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Constitution does not license any practice or behavior that religions might claim as inviolable principles. If it did, Muslims would be allowed to stone to death female rape victims, orthodox Mormons could practice polygamy, and satanists could make human sacrifices.

The perversity of unquestioning adherence to religious moral values was recently seen in Canada where Afghan immigrants complying with principles of honor derived from their Muslim faith murdered four of their family members. Just as Sharia law cannot supersede secular law simply based on the argument of freedom of conscience, exemptions from secular law for the Catholic Church or any other religion must be carefully considered.

The essential issue at hand is not government impositions on religious moral values, it is determining reasonable limits of government impositions on the private sector — secular or religious. Does the requirement that church-owned institutions — hospitals, schools and charities — include contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans exceed sound public policy and wrongly trespass on freedom of religion?

First, examine the religious principle in play here: “sex is only for procreation.” Really? How does that principle conform to reality? Is it based on a justifiable premise that serves all of society? Judging from the teeming masses of humanity that are choking the very life out of the planet, there is less justification for increasing human population than for allowing it to decrease by preventing unwanted births. Providing health care services that prevent unwanted pregnancies is ultimately more life sustaining than not, and, therefore, good public policy.

Next, examine the logic of exempting church-owned institutions from the birth control requirement. If the Catholic Church bought a grocery store chain, would it be entitled to an exemption from the birth control provision for the chain’s health insurance plan? Based on personal conscience, should the owners of any institution be exempt from any law they contend violates their conscience, thus imposing their personal beliefs on all their employees?

There have to be reasonable limits on religious freedom to provide for and protect the general welfare. Freedom from religion is a civil right that must overrule freedom of religion if broader individual rights are to be protected.

The big underlying issue in this current dust-up between church and state is universal health care. Is government justified in mandating that the entire population be covered by health insurance? If so, can it dictate the extent of that coverage, e.g. contraceptives? These questions invite contemplation from both the secular and spiritual sectors of society. Is it good public policy to provide health care for everyone?

If health care should be a free-market enterprise geared primarily for profit and available only to those who can pay for it, then we accept that some human casualties are unavoidable. Is it then consistent with religious moral values to allow people to suffer and die because they cannot afford medical care? If not, how does preventing or prohibiting birth control not increase the number of people who will eventually not only suffer from lack of adequate health care but also from deprivation of other critical resources depleted by excessive human population?

Effectively forcing women to conceive and carry to term children that they do not want, or cannot afford to support, or cannot properly raise, may provide more souls for the church to save for a mythical eternity. But in reality it jeopardizes life in the here and now.

— Santa Barbara political observer Randy Alcorn can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to read previous columns.

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