Civility and tolerance are common themes in this blog and this post is no different. While I speak out against the harsh rhetoric of pundits of all political stripes, I recognize that actions speak louder than words and so today I wish to write on a recent action by the Obama administration to force hiring institutions to cover the health care costs of their employees, including controversial procedures that many deem unhealthy or even immoral.
Boiling the controversy down to its fundamentals, it seems that one side claims there is a “right of conscience” that trumps concerns over health, while the other side claims there is a “right to health” that trumps concerns over having a clean conscience. Further complicating this is that those receiving the benefit, those paying for the benefit, and those forcing them to pay for the benefit are all different people. What is now occurring is that those who care more about physical health than a free conscience (at least of others) are showing intolerance toward those that disagree with them.
While I often write in the abstract, today I am writing specifically to you – all of you. To understand how those whose right of conscience is being violated feel, I am going to ask some questions and make my appeal personal. Probably the greatest reason why tolerance of others is important in a society as diverse as ours is to prevent backlash and establish precedent. If the government can force you to pay for contraceptives and abortion, what is to stop the government from forcing you to get vaccinations? From paying for vaccinating others? Even vaccines known to cause side effects? Even vaccines for diseases rare and minor? What is to stop the government from forcing you to get medical treatment? From forcing you to pay for others getting treatment? Even if they agree to it? Even if they don’t agree to it? Treatment for ADD (considered healthy by some – the culture just doesn’t accommodate for it well)? Treatment for homosexuality (considered a psychological disorder by some)? Treatment for being religious (considered a psychological disorder by some)? Treatment for being liberal (considered a psychological disorder by some)? Treatment for drapetomania (the condition that would cause slaves to try to escape – no longer considered valid)? What about treatment for homophobia? Not all agree that these are true medical concerns, and in the same way, not all agree that contraceptives are true medical needs, arguing that it is normal and natural to spawn offspring.
While some of these actions you may agree with, you must recognize that pressing it on those that disagree opens the door for them to do the same to you on some other issue. The Obama administration is not the only faction trying to impose its beliefs on others; there are many. We have a choice to make. Will we call a truce – or engage in endless backlash as faction after faction musters together a coalition to enforce on the rest of us through a fifty percent-plus-one majority their ideals? Do we value tolerance at all? I don’t say this as a subtle threat that I will see to it that my beliefs are forced on you when I have the chance if I don’t get my way; I say this only as a warning that others will see to it. Indeed, it is antithetical for me to enforce my ideals on others. Indeed, my prime ideal is the belief that I should never enforce my ideals. For example, in past posts I have expressed my discomfort with homosexuality so that others will understand me. It seems to me to be a sort of perversion – but never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever would I endorse treating someone for this condition against their will, and never would I agree to force others who disagree with me to pay for such treatment (even when the subject is willing) – even though it could be construed as a health issue. Even though I try to convince others that homosexuality is wrong, I refuse even to pay for propaganda to be used to convince others to make those who are not convinced pay up. From my perspective, more harm is done by the loss of liberty than is done by the disease itself. Trust me; I’m on your side. No matter what side you are on, I am on your side.
I understand that some think the use of contraception is a good thing, and that people who can’t afford it should have greater access. I’m not sure I totally agree, but this is certainly a valid position, and I do admit that it will probably do well to slow the widening income gap we see in the U.S. and elsewhere, which is a concern of mine. It is one thing to help another pay for contraceptives. It is totally another to make an unwilling third party do it. It is yet another to pay for the enforcement of the rule. It is yet another to make an unwilling third (or fourth or fifth by this point) party pay for the enforcement of the rule. How far do we want to take this?
There are some who make the counter-argument that if we let people off the hook from one thing for being a conscientious objector, we will have to let people get away with all kinds of things. They say that if we allow priests to refuse to preside over gay weddings, we must also allow people to refuse to pay their property taxes. However, these “slippery slope” arguments cut both ways; if we allow the government to force priests not to discriminate, we must also allow the government to force anyone to do anything.
Since it is important for your defense and safety (and therefore health), should the government force you to own a gun? To pay for others to own a gun? Should the government be able to force you to pay for sonograms to show to mothers who are considering abortion? Since education is important to many aspects of quality-of-life (including health), should you be forced to pay for biology education that doesn’t include evolutionary theory? That does include it? That teaches evolution and creation side-by-side? That teaches only creation? Generally speaking, if the government can force you to pay for contraceptives, can it force you to serve in the military? Serve as executioner? Turn in any runaway slaves hiding in your barn? Turn in any Jews hiding in your attic?
Certainly there must be some things we are forced to do when a supermajority deems it absolutely necessary – such as paying our taxes, but for the sake of tolerance, civility, and a functional society free of riots, disobedience (civil and otherwise), and legislative gridlock, these things need to be kept as few in number as possible. There is no reason anyone should have to pay for another’s contraceptives against their will.
There are some who point out that many (but not all) of those who have a problem with the new rule are receiving public funds and so have to follow public rules. This is the primary reason that liberty-minded people have been warning churches (and other institutions – like the banks who were forced to take TARP) not to take public funds since the thirties. For a while, the government was prohibited from giving to churches, but this gave secular organizations an unfair advantage, leaving less money available (because it was taken from donors in the form of taxes) for churches. Perhaps there was something to those warnings about the government after all.
This blog is primarily supposed to be about education about the underlying feelings and concerns behind different policy viewpoints so we may better understand one another. I may also write upon threats to understanding, such as partisanship. Understanding first requires tolerance. Because the threat to understanding of such blatant intolerance coming recently from the Obama administration is so grave, I felt I had to make an appeal to my readers to oppose this.
For some of you, I know the concern for health still trumps concerns for civility, tolerance, and liberty, and that even if a voluntary organization stepped in to pay for everything, you would still rather the government either paid for it or forced others to. This is because the government is us; it is our representative as we care for people. This is because health care is a fundamental human right, more important than religious freedom or the right of conscience. I’ve heard these arguments before, but I still don’t understand them. What makes contraception more important than religion? What makes the government so important? Why not express yourself through some other venue? I invite those who disagree with me to leave a comment below. Longer dissertations may be sent to me through my contact page. I will try to read everything. I want to understand this.
Side Note: Citizens of New Hampshire need not worry. Article four of the New Hampshire bill of rights states, “Among the natural rights, some are, in their very nature unalienable, because no equivalent can be given or received for them. Of this kind are the rights of conscience.” Just so there is no confusion over who has the final say on these matters, article seven states, “The people of this state have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent state; and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right, pertaining thereto, which is not, or may not hereafter be, by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in congress assembled.” In other words, it is ILLEGAL for the Obama administration (or any agency) to make any moves to enforce any rules in New Hampshire that violate the right of conscience. In other words, the president, congress, senate, and supreme court of the United States of America have no more authority on this matter than I do.
Side Note: Obama recently introduced the compromise that rather than force institutions to cover things they don’t like, instead all health care carriers will be required to cover these things. This, of course, is less of a compromise and rather just a different way of saying the same thing. Heads, I win, tails, you lose. No difference. Many take this as adding insult to injury, making a mockery out of compromise, and see Obama as the most divisive and intolerant president of the generation. This action will force many hiring institutions to drop their health carriers, leaving many without insurance, and creating a demand for a “public option” to cover them.
Hi, I'm Dan. I like chocolate, hiking, and politics.