More on religious tolerance and the infringement thereof in an alleged democracy...
Last week, thanks to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal government took a giant leap toward encroaching on the religious liberty of Catholics. Reuben Daniels Jr., director of the EEOC District Office in Charlotte, N.C, ruled that a small Catholic college discriminated against female employees by refusing to cover prescription contraceptives in its health insurance plan. With health-care reform looming before the country, this ruling is a bad omen for people of faith.
In 2007, eight faculty members filed a complaint against Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., claiming that the school's decision to exclude prescription contraceptives from its health-care plan was discriminatory against women. "As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church," said the college's president, William Thierfelder, at the time.
In March the commission informed the college that the investigation of its employee health insurance plan had been closed with no finding of wrongdoing. Inexplicably, the case was reopened, and now the college is charged with violating federal law. If Belmont Abbey doesn't back down, the EEOC will recommend court remedies.
You can see where this leads. If forced to provide coverage for birth control, I wouldn’t be surprised if Belmont Abbey just ended medical coverage entirely. Partly this is an issue of overindulged people in a litigious society who think they should be able to dictate to their employer the terms of their employment and have no issue with suing if they don’t get their way, a legal system equivalent of a toddler throwing a tantrum. However the greater issue here is the issue of religious tolerance.
Who cares you might ask? I am not a Roman Catholic, I have never heard of this school and no one I know ever has or ever will go to school there. The reason it concerns me and should concern you is that restrictions on religious liberty impact everyone and it is an awfully slippery slope. Religious liberty is not something that is reserved for Protestants. There is an awful outcry whenever the government removes a 10 Commandments monument from public lands but the silence is deafening when the afflicted group is out of favor. Many evangelicals would cry foul if this college was forced to pay for abortions but since most evangelicals don’t care about birth control, we find something else to think about. Even in places, or perhaps especially in places, where we see religious liberty being restricted by the government of a group we are nto part of we should speak up. I will defend to the end the right of a Muslim woman to wear a headscarf or a Catholic college to refuse to cover contraception in the same way I would fight for my right to tell a Muslim or Catholic the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is disingenuous to cry “Persecution” over every perceived affront to Christmas but then turn a blind eye when the impacted party is a religion you don’t subscribe to.
There are many people who see my wife covering her head and think she is being repressed, including people who are Christians. There are many people, including some in the church, who think that we are unqualified to educate our own kids. As people increasingly educate their own children and with the nearly double child-bearing rate of homeschooling families, as public schools become emptier, revenue goes down and teachers need employment, you can be sure that there are many people who will look greedily at the millions of homeschoolers and try to find a way to force them back to the schools. If you think that in an increasingly secular world there are not forces who would like to expunge all religious expression, including private religious instruction of children by their own family, you are dangerously naïve. Government encroachment on religious liberty will not stop with small Catholic colleges or Muslim garments.
This is why we need as Christians to be concerned when religious liberties are being infringed. We may not be Muslim or Catholic or mormon or Hindu, but we all live under the specter of government infringement on the practice of our faith. I despise Islam as I do every other religion that leads people away from Christ, but I no more want the government to tell Muslim women they cannot dress as they choose than I do the government telling me what we can teach in our church. God is sovereign and no government can stop the Gospel from being proclaimed. That is not my concern. However, as a Christian who is an American citizen, I (and you) have a Constitutional right to practice our religion or not practice any religion without government intrusion. That right is being chipped away here and abroad. Today it is headscarves in France and mandated contraception coverage in Catholic colleges. Tomorrow it could be tax funded abortions and outlawing the preaching of the Gospel. We shouldn’t see religious liberty as a buffet where we pick and choose what liberties we like and which ones we leave on the buffet line.