It does not take much for many Christians to throw down the Christian Card and declare war on themselves. They loudly point out the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment. But, many of them read “religion” as synonymous with “Christian” and “freedom” to abridge all other religions and non-theists. The War on Christmas, laws against sharia, and dismissal of rights for non-theists or atheists run hot and are but a few examples of their self-declared “War on Religion (or alternately, Christianity)” . They take the whole Onward Christian Soldiers thing very seriously in the same way the blitzkrieg was serious.

War on ChristiansThe latest skirmish is the one aledgedly waged by evil secular humanists – or future candidates for hell as some would say – over compelling Christian hospitals to offer abortion services against their beliefs.

In this particular war, however, Christians have a point. It’s obvious that if a religion were compelled to offer the offending services it would violate the freedom of religion clause whether the majority of followers – for instance, Catholics – follow church teachings or not. But, that’s a narrow view. It excludes the beliefs of others to benefit to narrow, but powerful, Christian beliefs. The First Amendment applies to them too.

But, there is a compromise.

Many secular people don’t argue so much about religion as they do imposing religious beliefs on others. They object to the government giving religious enterprises special rights by exempting them from taxes and providing funding for some of their enterprises.

The compromise here is easily evident. If religions want to offer services to the public, but not offend their own beliefs, forsaking government funding for religion-owned businesses should be on the table. If a religion wants to operate secular businesses – like schools or hospitals – they have two choices. Stop asking the rest of the nation to pay your businesses in support of your specific religious teachings. Or, stop providing services to those who do not share your beliefs.

There are positives in this compromise. Religions would no longer be required to provide services against their beliefs. They could provide any service they want to any person they want. The secular community would get relief for their complaints about government policies that are against their beliefs. Both sides get a sturdier wall between church and state to resist the evils of theocracy, which isn’t good for anyone, even the Christians.

However, there are some problems too. People living in areas where religion-affiliated health care is the only practical choice will have to find their care in between different church decisions that conflict with their ability to get dogmatically unfettered care or travel far to find it. However, there are ways to mitigate that issue.

There might also be some degradation of education and charitable services through reduced government funding, but again, there are mitigation solutions for this as well.

Given the religious and political trench warfare of our times, these solutions will never be mentioned, much less adopted. Both sides will agitate for solutions that require total capitulation from their ideological foes. These ideas may make things fairer, but neither side will buy into them.

After all, compromises are “one size fits all” and so, by definition, fit no one perfectly.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

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Comment by Reason Being on April 4, 2012 at 11:49am

I think you touched on a slippery slope part of the issue when you point out the problem where religiously affiliated hospitals are all that exist.  I happen to live in one of those areas.  The closest non-religious hospital is three hours away.  This could lead to many potential problems for me and my family.

I think that it is important to point out that the views of the Catholic hospitals in my area should in no way be forced into my health care.  Decisions on my health care should not be limited to the view of one specific religion.  That would be violating my "freedom of religion" rights.  If religions are going to be operating business such as hospitals that are accepting of all patients, then they must offer all possible medical services.  Any other solution would potentially place the views of the Church above the views of the patient.

Comment by Pat on April 3, 2012 at 3:42pm

Interesting. I do have a question, though. You stated, "If religions want to offer services to the public, but not offend their own beliefs, forsaking government funding for religion-owned businesses should be on the table." It's the idea of a religiously owned business I'm struggling with, here.

We'll stay with the example of health care, or hospitals, but I think it wold apply to book stores,  meeting halls which are rented to the public, or charitable organizations that employ, for a wage, individuals as well.

A religion decides to build and operate a hospital, and at the same time wish to be exempt from providing certain services which other medical facilities are required to do. Your solution is to say, fine, go ahead and deny that, but you're not going to get government funding. OK, so far so good. But what if the religious business says they object to certain OSHA regulations on religious grounds, or paying the janitorial staff minimum wage on religious grounds, or paying unemployment insurance or workman's compensation benefits on religious grounds? Now what?

Are they to be allowed to engage in a secular form of business, yet object to the rules and regulations of that business on a pretext of religion. Does waving a a cross, star of david, or crescent moon alleviate the necessity to comply with civil law when these religions are clearly engaging in the secular marketplace? Not all businesses who engage in "business" in the civil arena get government funding. Should private businesses who are without government funding, and are not religious in nature, be allowed the same exemptions to adhere to the rules and regulations based on a complaint that whatever the offending rule is, "I don't like it because I disagree on my own personal and moral grounds."

My personal opinion is that by allowing exemptions for those who clearly step into a regulated market place, based on religion, is a slippery slope where the exception will swallow the rule. As I see it, if you don't like the rules, don't engage in the business in the first place, or work to change the rules. Exceptions for religion, that voluntarily step into a secular market place, make no sense to me.

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