On the surface of the recent decision by the Supreme Court, it may seem SCOTUS has decided that when it comes to birth control, this is something that you need to buy on your own and it is not the responsibility of the employer to provide this through a federally mandated healthcare plan. Or, the court has simply said your boss’ religion is more important than your rights. That, no matter what you are legally allowed, your employer can limit what you are entitled to based on their beliefs. Whether you’re in the good, bad or indifferent camp on this issue, for me it’s irrelevant as this is not what I want to look at in this piece.
This piece will not talk about what is politically right or wrong in this case – that’s your opinion.
This piece will not talk about how partisan the Supreme Court has become nor whether or not they are overstepping their mandate, acting more as policy makers than interpreters of laws – that’s for a Constitutional scholar, and I’m not one of those.
This piece will not debate whether contraception is immoral or if the morning-after pill is tantamount to abortion or even the merits of the Affordable Care Act as a whole – this is a discussion of public policy and not really appropriate here.
No, this piece will talk about Christianity (though not necessarily or specifically Orthodox Christianity) and whether or not we as Christians should impose our beliefs on others that may or may not share them. It will also talk about the possible repercussions that this decision may have on all of us Orthodox Christians.
The basic question is: is it morally, ethically, and even spiritually correct to impose our own mores on people that (a) can be profoundly affected by them and (b) don’t share them? Do we have a right and (dare I even say) an obligation to say that my beliefs are more important than yours and therefore mine are the ones that stand? That as a Christian, my moral code is far superior to yours and this gives me the obligation to impose this on how you live your life?
Do you agree with these points?
As a logical and just person, I can’t imagine that you do. I can’t believe that anyone reading this, who professes to be a Christian, would actually be nodding their head in approval with the points I just made. Yet thousands of Christians across the US cheered this very action last Monday after the SCOTUS decision. Millions of people were excited that SCOTUS permitted the imposition of the religious beliefs of the owners of two companies to limit federally mandated programs that their employees are entitled to. Women that may not be able to afford birth control, women that may require birth control pills for various health reasons (unrelated to contraception) who in many cases will not be able to take them because their employers’ Christian beliefs have taken that option away from them.
Not to be trite, but I’ve always been taught that a good Christian respects other people (and their beliefs). While there may be things people do that I, as an Orthodox Christian, disagree with (or even find morally or ethically wrong), it is not up to me to be the judge. It’s not up to me to impose my ethics and mores – that it’s up to them to figure it out with God when they get there, not for me to dictate (and judge) here on Earth. That is exactly what this ruling is allowing, however. Granted I’m not a theologian but doesn’t this go against the teachings of the Church, and the basic tenets of Christianity? Judge not, that ye be judged, isn’t that how Matthew 7:1 goes? Doesn’t forcing our Christian beliefs on people through manipulating situations to satisfy our personal moral code make one less than Christian? How do I as a Christian tell someone that I’m judging you on your use of contraceptives and as such, I will prevent you from using them? Does not passing this judgment make me a sinner too? Even if it doesn’t, am I so sinless that I am able to correct other people’s sins? What kind of Christian does that make me? A pretty bad one, I think.
I understand the con argument of ‘but what about the business owner – aren’t their beliefs being imposed upon by being forced to fund something they find morally repugnant?’ Yes, those beliefs are being imposed upon, but this is the cost of having a business. A business is not a person and as such doesn’t have a personal moral code. A company doesn’t answer to God. The owner can believe what they want and practice as they see fit, but that’s as far as that goes. The business owner doesn’t have to use birth control or anything else mandated in the Affordable Care Act. What other people do, quite frankly, is neither their problem nor their concern. The business owner has a lot to worry about; staffing, productivity, staying competitive, just to name a few. A business needs to adhere to laws governing the business they operate. They have to conform to any regulations, labor laws and yes, now even to the Affordable Care Act. Business owners need to worry about running their business, not the moral hygiene of their employees.
Christian ethics aside, no one seems to be considering the bigger picture here either. This decision is not only limited to Christians but to all religions. Can a company that is run by a Jehovah’s Witness, for example, one day say they will not include blood transfusions in their employees’ health plans? What if the company you work for is run by a Christian Scientist? What happens then? How far can this go from here? Now that corporations can apparently have an official religion, why stop at what’s covered under health plans? Why couldn’t a clever lawyer say that a company that is run by a Muslim can require women to wear hijabs while on the job because that is part of their moral code? How about a member of a Christian sect that believes paying taxes is a sin? Do they get a free pass? Should Caesar not get what is Caesar’s because this particular person’s moral code says otherwise? How far down this slippery slope do you want to go?
Yes, before you fire up your keyboard and type out your disagreement with my message, I know I’m being flip, but I’m doing so with a purpose. I want to first show that what some Christians see as a victory today could end up severely backfiring tomorrow. Beyond that though, I also want to show that imposing one’s mores on another, just because you can, becomes very unjust very quickly. As Christians, we should abhor the passing of judgment on others and we should be interested in fairness and justice – as Christ stood for. This ruling falls into this category. As much as many of us might believe that this is a victory for Christianity, I don’t think it is.
Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.