Tomorrow and Saturday I’ll be attending the Values Voter Summit, an annual Religious Right confab sponsored by the Family Research Council, American Family Association Action and other groups.
People sometimes ask me what the country would be like if these groups managed to achieve total political power. It isn’t necessary to speculate about that. You can see the results of it in several states right now.
Take Missouri, for example. A wave of Religious Right/Tea Party Republicans swept into office in 2010, and their main goal isn’t providing jobs or putting the state on a sound economic footing. Instead, they’ve gone on a tear over birth control.
The legislature passed a bill that would give employers the right to refuse to provide birth control in their employee health plans if it offends the employers’ religious convictions. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed it. Yesterday, Missouri lawmakers voted to override Nixon’s veto.
The bill is very sweeping in its provisions. It allows insurance companies to refuse to include contraception coverage as an option even if an employee is willing to pay for it on his or her own.
At the time of the veto, Nixon stated that the bill “stands between a woman and their right to make their own personal decisions about whether to use birth control. That is not the right path forward for Missouri.” He later added, “It’s a shame we’re still debating access to birth control in 2012.”
Yes, it is a shame. It’s a shame that religious zealots continue to treat birth control like it’s something controversial when the vast majority of people of reproductive age use it at least some of the time. It’s a shame that many of these religious zealots don’t care that women often use the pill for medicinal reasons, such as fending off potentially dangerous ovarian cysts. It’s a shame that those who claim to be “pro-life” don’t grasp why it’s a bad idea to implement policies that bring more unwanted children into the world.
But mostly it’s a shame that politicians listen to these zealots and actually implement their agenda. And it’s a huge shame that all of this is being done in the name of “religious freedom.” (AU issued an alert on this matter, debunking that phony argument.)
This isn’t rocket science. If your religion teaches you that birth control is a sin, no one on the planet should be able to force you to use it. But you have no right to impose that doctrine on anyone else. Nor should you be able to bend public policy so that it conforms to your narrow religious perspective.
When I speak to groups, I’m often asked to explain how the Religious Right (in which I include the Roman Catholic hierarchy often the leadership of the Mormon Church) has affected public policy. Among the things I point to are several issues related to human sexuality.
Religious Right groups spearheaded the push for the new spate of curbs on legal abortion. Religious Right groups make sure our children are taught inaccurate and unrealistic “abstinence only” sex education in public schools. Religious Right groups have led, funded and organized the successful campaigns in several states where constitutional amendments have been passed that deny same-sex couples the legal right to marry.
You don’t have to be a psychologist to see that the Religious Right's neo-Puritans have a lot of hang-ups when it comes to sex. This manifests itself as a burning desire to control the most private and intimate matters of others’ lives. Now they are even coming after birth control.
Does the Religious Right’s America sound like a nation in which you wish to reside? Are the values of the men and women who will gather this weekend in D.C. your values? If not, you’d better get busy opposing those among us who yearn to convert this nation from a democracy into a theocracy.