Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Stand Up for REAL Religious Freedom


The Humanists of Rhode Island fully support the First Amendment right of religious freedom. Such freedom to worship or not worship, according to one’s beliefs, is guaranteed only by complete separation of church and state.
The "Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally" is not about religious freedom, however it is about the Catholic Church and other religious groups forcing it's religious doctrine on the American people, and in so doing they are reversing needed health care reforms and turning the clock back on women's health care.
The fact that some religious hospitals and universities have already found ways to accommodate new women’s health care requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act shows that the arguments being put forth by organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are about politics, not religious freedom. Georgetown University, DePaul University in Chicago, Boston College, and other Catholic universities, already have insurance programs in place that meet the requirements laid out by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Steps HHS has already taken to balance women’s health care needs with the rights of church-affiliated organizations have satisfied the Catholic Health Association, which made the following statements in a February 10, 2012 press release:

“We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished… The Catholic Health Association remains committed to working with the Administration and others to fully implement the Affordable Care Act to extend comprehensive and quality health care to many who suffer today from the lack of it.”

The attack on the Affordable Care Act by the Catholic bishops and other conservative organizations is at odds with the desires of the very population they are supposed to represent. As the National Catholic Reporter wrote in February, 2012:
“According to a Feb. 7 report from the Public Religion Research Institute, about 6-in-10 Catholics (58 percent) believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception… A majority of Catholics (52 percent) say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should have to provide coverage that includes contraception.”
The Reporter also notes that, “Numerous polls show that sexually active Catholics use or have used contraception, perhaps as many as 98 percent.”
In heavily Catholic Rhode Island, a Brown University public opinion survey reported in the Providence Journal shows that, “More than half of Rhode Island voters support President Obama's contraception policy… The poll found that 56.3 percent of those surveyed support the president's revised policy, which requires insurers to offer contraceptive services directly if religious institutions object.”
It is time the Catholic bishops join the American people in recognizing that religious institutions willing to work creatively can balance their religious convictions with the need to ensure that women’s health needs are adequately met. 
Note: You can access the other side of this argument over at Caution Church Ahead. The rally, and a small counter-protest, will take place in Eisenhower Park in Newport Rhode Island at 12 noon on Friday, June 8, 2012.

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