The New Conscientious Objectors

The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at HHS could be highly problematic.

In 2018 the Department of Health and Human Services announced the formation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights. The stated purpose of the division is to “restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.”

At the event announcing the division’s formation, OCR Director Roger Severino stated that, “Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice. For too long, governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection, but change is coming, and it begins here and now.”

The basic purpose of the division is to protect healthcare workers from discrimination if they refuse to participate in abortions, based on their religious convictions. This seems reasonable enough on the surface. As long as the protections do not block a woman’s adequate and reasonable access to their constitutional right to obtain an abortion, the wishes of healthcare workers based on religious grounds should be not only allowed, but respected without malice. Abortion is a deeply personal issue on both sides of the debate for those truly torn by its implications, as opposed to those that would simply use the issue for political purposes.

Clear distinctions must be drawn however to insure that protecting a healthcare worker’s legitimate opposition to participating in abortions does not become the government’s open door into fostering situations that limit or prevent women (particularly poor women) from finding adequate options for obtaining an abortion.

The proverbial slippery slope comes into play as well. Where does the line get drawn on not treating people based on religious objections? Does this also become a part of President Trump’s covert attacks on the LGBTQ community to prop up his standing with the hypocritical so-called evangelicals? Could physicians now refuse to provide care for transgender people, same-sex couples, and gay and lesbian people, because of religious beliefs? Do they really think that Jesus would refuse care for anyone in need?

If they are to be consistent, would they then also refuse care to anyone who’s divorced, remarried, had sex out of marriage, had an affair? The list of those not to be treated goes on. I consider myself a religious person, so I am not against religious convictions. I am against the staggering amount of religious hypocrisy on display every day by self-proclaimed evangelicals that act exactly like the Pharisees that Jesus spoke out against.

Again, I sincerely respect the true convictions of those that choose to help others selflessly in the healthcare field as long as protecting their convictions doesn’t become yet another avenue to restrict constitutionally protected rights, or to marginalize our fellow citizens based on gender or sexual orientation.

Read More

Why All the Hate?

As Marianne Williamson might say, hate has no place in our hearts or our country.

While the argument goes on in a senseless never-ending drone as to whether hate crimes are on the increase or rather it just looks that way because more agencies are reporting them, a very simple point goes ignored: even one hate crime is one too many.

But, why do we hate? Psychologists point to many factors including the fear of others or cultures that are different; fear of aspects of our own selves that we project onto others; our family and cultural histories, portions of which get passed down through generations; lack of compassion, and the need to belong or to fill a void in our lives. Many times, it may be a dangerous combination of some or all these factors.

I also think that there are other contributing factors to the underlying “hatred,” and that each hate crime needs to be analyzed individually to obtain a better understanding of their origins. The speed of societal change may be a contributing factor. For example, there have been great strides over a comparatively short period of time in LGBTQ rights which may prove jarring to some. A majority of people, fortunately, deal with such rapid changes in a manner of acceptance, or at the very least, they keep their biases to themselves and go about their lives. However, the dangers come from those in society that are disenfranchised and irrationally see such rapid changes as threats that need to be combated.

Religious hatred has been around since the beginning of religion, but in this country, it has ebbed and flowed throughout our history based sometimes on world events. For example, I can remember as a kid during the Iran hostage crisis, the hatred spewed irrationally against Iranians in this country who fled the revolution and were very pro-American. The same goes now that, after 9/11, some feel that those of the Muslim faith are trying to destroy the United States from within.

Racial hatred has also been around, unfortunately, for far too long and will take us all, collectively and diligently, to battle the abhorrent ignorance of the belief, held by too many, in some racial superiority fantasy. It is the responsibility of all of us to help raise a generation that can one day be as free as possible to move beyond our racially unjust legacy.

Economics also plays a role in hate crimes. One group has more and wants to keep it or wants more and plans to take it. Too often this can lead to said group demonizing another group irrationally as the reason they don’t have what they “deserve” in terms of possessions or wealth. This twisted economics bias has led not only to individual hate crimes but to genocide as well.

What can we do? We can start by standing up for, helping out, befriending any person who is marginalized or hated because of their ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. I may be a dreamer, but hopefully, I’m not the only one.

Read More