Point of View Columns

When Freedom Equals Tyranny

It is amazing how the political campaign season has twisted and turned with stomach-churning frequency. As recently as six months ago, it would be accurate to state that the unifying goal and mission of the Teapublican Party was to defeat the Negro Anticolonialist Kenyan Muslim Undocumented Alien, President Barack Obama. It was the kind of mission statement that the entire right wing of the right wing could recite from a palm card – except, of course, the hapless Rodeo Rick Perry (oops!).

But now the mission statement has veered so far to the right of the Teapublican social agenda that defeating Barack Obama almost seems an afterthought. Puritanical zealots like Saint Santorum are bellowing that the future of the Republic is in jeopardy because of contraception and the right of women to make choices regarding motherhood.

Same sex marriage is opposed with a vehemence not seen since hoods and white robes went out of style. While high crimes and misdemeanors are taking place in corporate boardrooms, the G.O.Tea Party is concerned with what it believes is felonious conduct that takes place in the privacy of your bedrooms.

And now, in a move that would make a judo master proud, the Teapublicans have linked their opposition to the Affordable Health Care Act to religious freedom. The argument goes something like this: if an employer’s religious beliefs do not coincide with the medical treatment sought by an employee, the employer shouldn’t have to pay for it.

Leaping on this rickety platform of logic, leaders of the Catholic Church along with other opponents of contraception and abortion believe that they have discovered a backdoor strategy whereby these medical services can be denied to female employees, cloaking this strategy with the cause of religious freedom.

But it has to said – religious freedom entitles someone to practice their faith, not impose the tenets of that faith on someone else. Taking the argument regarding contraception, health care and religious freedom to its logical extreme many employers could impose restrictions. Employers who are Jehovah’s Witnesses can refuse to provide health coverage that includes blood transfusions and surgery. Employers who are Orthodox Jews could refuse to provide health care coverage that doesn’t mandate circumcision at birth. The list goes could go on into some sad, stupid state of confusion.

Freedom of speech and freedom of religion certainly empowers these religious leaders to state their point of view. But if what underlies the denial of freedom to others, all freedoms are devalued. After all, there was a time when Roman emperors viewed all Christians as enemies of the state and put them to death for their beliefs. How odd it is that 2000 years later Catholics pronounce political death sentences on politicians that do not support their point of view.

As a practicing Catholic I certainly feel queasy about the political activism of the Catholic Church even as these vocal leaders and their self-righteous political supports have been noticeably less on the issue of child abuse by Catholic priests. The vehement statements of outrage against contraception and same-sex marriage dwarf any statements of dismay, disgust or apology by the Catholic Church when it comes to the abuse of children by priests.

Entire parishes and archdioceses have been bankrupted by the damages awarded to the victims of the Catholic Church. Yet the acknowledgements of guilt and complicity have been tepid when compared to the bellicose roar of the church hierarchy in denying the legitimacy of choice by women or of expressions of love that do not comport with their moral universe.

And the Catholic Church is not the only glass house. One of the largest entertainment industries in America is pornography. It would be naïve and silly to believe that Teapublicans do not count pornography customers in their number.
We are witnessing a return to a time best left forgotten when imposing moral standards and views on life were accomplished with threats and violence. The wobbly core beliefs of the framers of the Constitution were tested by issues like slavery and suffrage for women. But the sound concepts of freedom and the rights of individuals bound by a union focused on the common good are worth remembering and citing.

Those sound concepts are being remixed and spun in ways that are taking us back into a time of intolerance and injustice. We should remember that in such matters it can get late early.

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