Submitted by Rabbi Arthur Waskow on
The Supreme Court majority decided yesterday that an employer who has religious or moral objections to birth control can refuse a health-insurance contract that covers it for his employees.
They did this in the name of "religious freedom."
But in fact they refused to recognize the religious freedom, the moral freedom, the conscientious freedom, the freedom of conscience, of thousands of workers. For the boss, it's money saved. For the workers, it's freedom lost. -- No, not lost. Stolen. A life lived by their own consciences in the most intimate parts of their lives -- stolen.
But they are only women. They have no moral agency, no right to consciences of their own, anyway, The bishops of the Roman Catholic Church and the heads of various "evangelical" denominations have a religious conscience. Even a boss who never goes to church but claims a "moral" objection has a conscience. But a woman who has decided to make her own choice whether or when to get pregnant has no moral choice, no conscience. No religious freedom. Please notice: This is not even about abortion, where it is possible to make a coherent ethical case at some point in a pregnancy that a viable fetus has rights. There is no fetus. No being that has rights.
Where does this come from? Two roots, like many practices: An intellectual formulation that meets the needs of some group for power over others. For the Catholic Church and some other forms of Christianity, a tortured interpretation of the Eden story plus power for a certain body of males. The interpretation in its best-shaped version came from Augustine -- I won't call him a "Saint." The "original" sin of Eden was not just "original" in the sense of "first." It was the corruption of our origins -- that they came from the pleasure of sex. And the invitation of an archetypal woman -- Eve. So pleasurable sex was sinful. But sex was necessary for the continuation of the human species. Sooooo -- prohibit all sex that was not for procreation. No birth control, no contraception. And since "Eve" had invited all this, men should rule. What a convenient theory to make "legitimate" the rule of men who claimed to be celibate (though they often lied).
It isn't what Eden was about. It was about refusing to have the self-restraint to leave even one tree uneaten -- to not gobble up the whole of material abundance. When that obligation to our Mother Earth was violated, two dangerous consequences: (1) The abundance vanished: Men had to work hard in the sweat of their faces because Earth gave forth only thorns and thistles. And (2) Hierarchy entered the human community: If Humanity thought it could rule over Earth, then men would rule over women.
The story was urging the human race to grow up enough to rise beyond both consequences. Humans should learn to invent tools that eased their own labor while nurturing Earth. Women and men should learn to be equal. Nobody thought the first consequence was a command -- no tools! But the second -- aah, no equality!
But not everybody accepted Augustine's tortured -- and torturing -- logic. Not even Catholic women. Every sociological study, every survey, shows that about 97% of Catholic women actually use the very forms of birth control that the male bishops of their church prohibit. In the Church's convenient acceptance of Augustine, each of the all-male bishops has a religious conscience. Women? A laughable idea.
Let me be clear -- this is just as reprehensible when it is male Orthodox rabbis or male imams or males who claim to be the "heads" of any religious community
And of course this has a class and race dimension too. Many women will have the money to buy contraception, even while they are robbed of conscience, But the poor won't. No freedom of religion for THEM. How can a poor Black woman have a conscience?
There will be only two ways to reverse this decision to enforce religious tyranny. Bodies on the line to vote, and bodies on the line to block and create in the same breath. When the Supreme Court dares again and again to Subjugate, not Liberate, when it denies those "inalienable rights," then get ready to "alter or abolish it." Get ready for a struggle to change the Supreme Court, not just the Senate and the White House. It is necessary but not enough for women to vote, if the Court insists on robbing them of conscience, of religion.
This is as much Subjugation, Tyranny, as police killing Blacks with impunity. As destroying health insurance. As yanking babies from their mothers' breasts at the Southern border. As imposing coal-plant dust and asthma epidemics on poor neighborhoods. As burning California and drowning Midwestern towns to multiply the profits of the Carbon Pharaohs. As pepper-gassing peaceful demonstrators to make space for photo-ops of holding a Bible upside-down.
We must unite to win our freedom, our bodies, our souls.
Shalom and salaam mean not only paz, peace, but wholeness. Namaste means "In you I see God." It is time for all of these. Fierce urgency of NOW. The vote and the body and the soul.
Your action is necessary. And right this moment, please help us help you to make these actions real by clicking on that "Contribute" banner in the left-hand margin of this page -- Arthur