The front page of the local section of The Charlotte Observer on Saturday, March 24th, reported on a midday rally the day before in front of the Charlotte federal courthouse.
“Hundreds rally uptown”, said the headline, followed by the subheading: “Largely Catholic crowd urged to fight Obama’s health care reforms”.
There was a picture of one woman crying. Another picture showed mostly women holding signs. One sign said: “Religious Freedom for Americans. Stop the HHS Mandate”. Another said: “Freedom of Religion NOT FROM Religion”.
The protest, according to a tag line for one of the pictures, “took aim at the Obama administration’s new rule that requires employers to offer free birth control to workers”.
As I was reading the article, I mentally scratched my head at this report: “The Catholic Church considers birth control a sin; a poll last month found that 98% of Catholic women who have sex use contraception”.
Despite a recent change that exempts religious groups from the rule, requiring insurance companies instead to provide free contraceptive services, the crowd still believed that its religious rights are being infringed. “Don’t Obaminate my First Amendment Rights” and “Protect Freedom of Conscience”, were the words on two more signs.
This rally comes on the heels of a February 16th session in Washington spearheaded by House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa. You may remember the picture of the witnesses for this Congressional hearing on contraception: all men, no women, sat there ready to testify that day. In fact, two female representatives walked out. Why no women? Issa said, “the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience.”http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/02/why-are-men-dominating-debate-about-birth-control-women/48809/
So what does this have to do with Amendment One?
You might think very little, except that the article in the Observer took a strange turn near the end. Under the sub-heading “Stand for righteousness”, I saw that Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church was at the rally and mentioned Amendment One. “As president of the Baptist State Convention, Harris is one of the leaders of the campaign to get the amendment passed”, said the article. He was quoted as saying: “We should respect and obey our government except when we are compelled to be disobedient to the word of God”. He also said Christians should use their votes “to stand for biblical righteousness”.
So let me get this straight. On the one hand, there are valid constitutional grounds for opposing government interference with particular religious beliefs about contraception (“Don’t Obaminate my First Amendment Rights”), but on the other hand, there is nothing irregular about certain religious groups using the NC state constitution, through Amendment One,”to stand for biblical righteousness”.
I don’t know what is more strange, the Catholics and the Baptists getting on the same page on an issue, or the dichotomy of these two constitutional positions.
Does it strike anyone as odd that these two opposing constitutional positions end up joined together as one in the same bed?
I actually think that contraception can be a health care issue. I also believe it helps avoid unwanted pregnancies that can lead to another problem for the Catholic church, abortion, and contraception helps cut down on single family households, something the supporters of Amendment One hope that the amendment miraculously will cure.
But having said this, I can understand how the Catholic church, with its historic position on the subject, could think that contraception is more of a religious issue. And that being the case, I say “good for you”, members of the Catholic church, for standing up for your religious beliefs, and for voicing your argument that the Constitution should protect those beliefs. And to you, Pastor Harris, for supporting them.
But dont’ call me a nice guy just yet. Hear me out. I also have this to say.
What is good for your constitutional goose is also good for someone else’s constitutional gander.
Remember, opposing contraception on religious grounds is bucking the tide, hence the poll that says that 98% of Catholic women are using birth control. Many view your stance on contraception as a minority antiquated position, and yet, you want and you may well get some constitutional protection on the issue.
So don’t plead for constitutional protection, as a member of the religious minority and then turn right around, just because you may hold a slim majority religious view on a topic, and try to change the NC constitution to impose your religious beliefs on others.
You don’t own the US or NC constitutions. They don’t belong to just you. They belong to everyone.
Can I get an “Amen” please?