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Morning Feature – The Arrogance of Democracy

March 13, 2012

Morning Feature

Morning Feature – The Arrogance of Democracy

How dare We the People elect officials to pass laws that help us solve problems. Don’t we understand Freedom? (More)

The Arrogance of Democracy

I’ve clearly been misled. All this time I thought the most essential freedom in a democratic society was the freedom of political expression: to speak and write – especially about political issues – to peaceably assemble and petition our government to redress our grievances, and to elect officials who would enact and implement laws that redress those grievances. Silly me.

Consider Allysia Finley’s open letter to President Obama in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, which opens:

Dear President Obama,

Can you believe the nerve of employers? Many of them still seem to think that they should be allowed to determine the benefits they offer. I guess they haven’t read your 2,000-page health law. It’s the government’s job now.

That’s a good thing, too. Employers for too long have been able to restrict our access to essential health services like contraception by making us pay some of the bill. Really, it’s amazing that we aren’t all dead. Now, thanks to you, we’ll enjoy free and universal access to preventative care just like workers do in Cuba. Even so, there are still many essential benefits that the government must mandate to make the U.S. the freest country in the world.

She goes on to list fitness clubs, massages, yoga classes, coffee, and salad bars among the other preventative health care for which employers should pay. Set aside the false equivalence. Focus on her core message: your boss should be decide what health care is included in your employee health benefits and what health care you must pay for yourself. If your boss doesn’t care about women’s health, then women should pay for it themselves … like in the Good Old Days before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 required employers who offered health insurance benefits to include pregnancy care in the basic package, without additional premiums or co-pays. The new rule on contraceptive coverage extends that same principle: refusing to cover women’s health care – including contraception – violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Thus we became Cuba. Or Ireland, where contraceptive care is also covered by insurance. They’re both island nations, after all.

But comparing U.S. health policy to Ireland doesn’t raise the specter of communism, and that’s the next right wing talking point in the debate about contraceptive coverage, as Cardinal Francis George wrote back in February:

The provision of health care should not demand “giving up” religious liberty. Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship – no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.

So see? We’ve become the Soviet Union! Or Spain, where contraceptive care is also covered by insurance. They’re both continental nations, after all.

But, again, comparing U.S. health policy to Spain doesn’t raise the specter of communism.

So there you have it. Turns out “We the People” really means “We the Employers.” The First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause is about employers’ rights to impose their religious beliefs on employees. If the rest of us elect leaders to pass and implement laws to redress our grievances – like employers discriminating against women by requiring them to pay extra to decide whether and when to accept the risks of pregnancy and bear children – that’s communism.

Thus declares the Wall Street Journal. And thus declares the Catholic Bishops or – as E.J. Dionne described them in Sunday’s Washington Post – “the Tea Party at prayer.”

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Happy Tuesday!

8 Responses to “Morning Feature – The Arrogance of Democracy”

  1. winterbanyan Says:

    You nailed it. And while we’re on the subject, there’s an article in Noontime News yesterday about how the Church pulled its donation from a homeless services charity because its new director supports Planned Parenthood and gay marriage.

    Now the services being offered by the charity haven’t changed. Not one jot. All they changed was directors, to a woman who has a long history of working with such organizations and is herself a pastor. But because the Catholic Church doesn’t like her viewpoints, it has chosen to cut off all support for a group it previously found worthy for its work with the homeless.

    I’m glad to say, the cut in donations was replaced overnight by people who heard the news and immediately stepped in. They also got a whole bunch of new volunteers.

    And the Church, which would hurt the homeless to express its outrage over the views of one woman, looks uglier than ever.

    This isn’t just about employers choosing what is best for us. It’s also about religions seeking to impose their views on people who do not share them.

    It’s repression.

    • NCrissieB Says:

      This is very true, winterbanyan:

      This isn’t just about employers choosing what is best for us. It’s also about religions seeking to impose their views on people who do not share them.

      It’s repression.

      Cardinal George’s complaint, quote above, is broader than contraception. Taken on its face, he objects to any government programs that serve the needy, as such work should be the exclusive province of the church and other charities. That is, by the way, a common conservative narrative … and it’s all about ensuring that major donors and those who run charities should be able to set the rules for what help is offered, and to whom.

      If “We the People” set those rules, through our elected leaders, acting to redress our grievances with others whose rules we don’t want and cannot change … conservatives call that “communism.”

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  2. glendaw271 Says:

    I find it ironic that a religion that was ‘communist’ in the truest sense in its very early days is now so upset over communism. Especially a religion where communion is an essential part of the religious service.

    I’ll mention again how the church has done nothing in the last couple of years to make me regret my decision to leave it. They’re now so concerned about protecting their own and making women subservient that they’ve lost the real meaning of the words of Jesus. How sad.

    • winterbanyan Says:

      I am quite certain that most churches today would not want Jesus as a member. After all, he wandered around homeless with a bunch of men, he consorted with prostitutes and others who were considered the “dregs” and he spoke out against the religious authorities of his day.

      No, they’d call the cops to have him arrested for loitering…or something.

    • NCrissieB Says:

      I agree, Glenda. While I don’t agree with the Catholic Church that abortion should be illegal – I believe that unfairly criminalizes women in need – I do understand their position on the issue. I do not, never have, and never will understand their position on contraception.

      Even a ‘normal’ pregnancy poses health risks, and women have a right to decide whether and when to accept those risks. It’s easy for men to say, as a New Hanover (North Carolina) county commissioner did yesterday, “If these young women were responsible people and didn’t have the sex to begin with, we wouldn’t be in this situation.” But he doesn’t face that choice, nor does any other man.

      Women – and women alone – bear the health risks of pregnancy. When employers exclude contraceptive coverage from basic health insurance, they discriminate against women employees. Period.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  3. addisnana Says:

    I can’t help but think that this assault on woman’s health is in some way tied to the Supreme Court’s consideration of the ACA. To stir up the religious argument ahead of that is a deliberate strategy.

    I will be needing blood pressure medication if this keeps up. The whole thing makes me as angry as I can ever remember being.

    • NCrissieB Says:

      I think that’s part of the agenda, addisnana. We won’t know for sure until and unless the opponents try to include this ‘controversy’ in their briefs. I say “try to” because the Supreme Court usually does not let parties introduce issues that were not heard by the original trial and appellate courts.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

    • winterbanyan Says:

      It infuriates me, too, addisnana. I get even madder when I think about how hard it’s going to be to repeal these laws. Even were we to sweep the elections at every level in November it would be hard, and we’re not likely to sweep all the state houses. :(

      This will come back to the courts, courts packed with conservatives.

      I cannot stand to think how many women may die in the meantime.