Cliché alert: “politics make for strange bedfellows”. The phrase is attributed to Charles Dudley Warner, a 19th Century American essayist, and survives as a cliché because its truth reveals itself so often.
The Reagan Revolution, the conservative movement that started in 1980, was enabled by the empowerment of three elements: business interests, proponents of a strong military defense and the Christian right. Over the last 30 years or so, the former two have had their way with government. The latter has earned few victories for its agenda. Until now, that is.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Conservatives rely on the principles of our nation’s founders to guide them.
Capitalism and freedom are at the heart of those principles.
The capitalist revolution started in late 18th Century Great Britain. Scottish thinkers like John Locke and Adam Smith defined its philosophy. The capitalist system ended feudalism and dictatorship, where the fruits of one’s labor were the property of the crown. Its basis was the radical idea that God granted rights to individuals not to monarchs; and, central to that idea, was the right to pursue one’s own happiness. Capitalism was (and is) the expression of that pursuit.
Separation of church and state is at the core of this philosophy. We are so accustomed to taking this freedom for granted that we don’t think about the connection. However, we have seen how the connection of church and state historically has resulted in the denial of freedom.
We have recently seen the effect of the Taliban on a society that can only be called medieval. It’s also easy to find examples in western society – the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem witch trials come to mind. And, there are examples that precede Christianity. Indeed, Socrates was executed because he refused to accept the polytheistic religion of ancient Greece.
So, the connection between the religious right and conservatives in the US seems more than a bit odd to me.
The recent Supreme Court decision, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, serves as an example of this anomaly. The court granted the right for closely held private companies to be exempt from the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that require healthcare plans to cover the expense of certain contraceptives.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself again.
Two years ago, the Court decided that the government has the right to impose its healthcare law (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) on the American public under its right to levy taxes.
I’m not a constitutional lawyer; however, I have read the Constitution. The Court’s decision blew me away when it was handed down.
In Hobby Lobby, the Court created an exception. If the ACA requires you, as an employer, to provide coverage that violates your religious freedom, you have the right to carve out that particular requirement.
Wait a minute! It’s either right or it’s wrong. It’s either constitutional or it’s not. Why are we making exceptions?
This may seem like a minor matter. However, the decision is the result of a larger campaign to deny reproductive rights to women. Lest you think I have come loose from my moorings, I’ll pass on a quote from Judie Brown, president of the American LifeLeague: “we see a direct connection between the practice of contraception and the practice of abortion”.
If you dig a little, you can find evidence of an insidious campaign to undermine free choice not only of contraception but also of sexual activity. During FDA meetings in 2005 concerning the morning after pill known as Plan B, Dr. Janet Woodcock, deputy commissioner for operations at the F.D.A., expressed a fear that making the drug available over the counter could lead to "extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an 'urban legend' status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B."
Lest you think that the movement stops short of invading your marital bedroom, here’s Kimberly Zenarolla of the National Pro-Life ActionCenter: “We are opposed to sex before marriage and contraception within marriage…. [T]he sexual act is meant to be a complete giving of self…. [I]ts purpose is procreation… By using contraception, they [a married couple] are not allowing the fullness of their expression of love. To frustrate the procreative potential ends up harming the relationship."
Forty years after women were granted the right to reproductive freedom, those who oppose it, are chipping away at its foundation by any means possible.
Conservatives who espouse freedom – from free markets to free speech to freedom of religion – should see the religious right and their abhorrent influence as a scourge on the principles of our founders and rid themselves of it once and for all.
WHO WILL LEAD?