I have said it before, and I will say it again. Religions do not, indeed, the cannot, respect boundaries. They always overstep the limits of reasonable, civilised discourse and behaviour. As an example, take the Obama Administration’s recent attempt to compromise with the Roman Catholic bishops. “No way!” say the bishops — and here, if you please, is their complaint (The full bishops’ statement can be accessed here):
the church leaders said the policy offers “second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education and Catholic charities.”
What’s the compromise? Well, it’s as simple as 1-2-3. They don’t have to fund contraception, but women are entitled to contraception at no cost. Couldn’t be simpler? You have to factor in the religious and their demands first, and then, suddenly, the whole thing is a mess of religious demands for their rights and your subordination.
The problem, it seems, is this. First of all, the compromise:
The proposed guidelines would allow religious-affiliated organizations opposing contraception to opt out of a federal mandate requiring that they provide their employees with insurance coverage for birth control.
The policy would give women at non-profit, religious-based organizations, like certain hospitals and universities, the ability to receive contraception through separate health policies at no charge.
But according to the bishops, the women would not be permitted to opt out of the program. According to Cardinal Dolan of New York:
It appears that the government would require all employees in our ‘accommodated’ ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy.
First of all, notice the word ‘illicit’. How did that sneak in there? But, additionally, this is not only strange, it’s simply unwarranted. No one can force women to take contraceptives. Indeed, some of the women in question, presumably, would not want to be on contraceptives, because intending to have children. So Dolan’s point is far-fetched. What he’s saying is that women who want contraceptives would receive them, no matter what the bishops try to do! So, it is not mandatory, but those who want them won’t have to pay! So, what’s the problem? Well, the bishops don’t like the idea of women in their employ receiving contraceptives, unless they have to pay! Bastards!
The truth of the matter seems to be this, and this is the very point at issue:
Cardinal Dolan also said the proposal refuses to acknowledge conscience rights of business owners who operate their businesses according to their faith and moral values.
This is where the violation of boundary conditions arises. For, why should businesses have the right “to operate their businesses according to their faith and moral values”? After all, consider the degree of freedom that this would afford business owners. They could restrict their businesses to men or women only, depending upon their faith values; they could require women to be bagged in burqas; they could demand that no employee be permitted to receive blood transfusions or vaccinations; or that they should not receive other than homeopathic remedies, or faith healing. The Roman Catholic Church may think that their moral foundations are sound — though I beg to differ; nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church is not the only possible faith position out there, and some of them are possibly even more offensive than the Roman Catholic position. To make it a general principle that businesses should be permitted to govern themselves according to their faith and values is precisely the kind of thing that the separation of church and state is supposed to protect: the right of individuals to conduct their lives without the interference of religion. It is intolerable that these high-handed moralists, who believe that their truths are handed down to the ragglety-tagglety occupant of the supposed throne of St. Peter, should get to base the benefits of lack thereof that they supply to their employees should be based on their faith and moral values alone. What a bunch of assholes! (And that’s bloody strong language from me!)