Sunday, February 5, 2012

On Conscience and Coercion


Let me extend a heartfelt wish for the speedy and enduring recovery of your loved one.

As Secretary  Sibelius’ decision to compel all health care providers under the ACA to provide contraceptive services as part of their plans percolates through the commentariat and the pew where you found yourself today, the irresolvable tension strains between the freedom (that concept so precious to you) to adhere to one’s moral principles and religious beliefs, and the right of another to be free from having those beliefs imposed upon them.

But I come to this from a rather different place than you. I am a Jew, and as such, am a member of a tiny religious minority with a spectacular history of persecution across the ages. It is incontestable that the extraordinary acceptance of American Jews in the nation’s cultural economic and political life represents a historical anomaly that remains unduplicated almost anywhere else outside of Israel, and it is a credit to the greatness of this country that we both love that it could happen here. Along with, I might add, the election of an African American president, who endures the enmity of large proportion of the country for reasons that have nothing to do with race.

But I still remember as if it were yesterday, reciting the Lord’s Prayer every morning in 1st grade, of standing in the middle of street at 13, surrounded by four boys a head taller than me challenging the “dirty Jew” to defend myself, which I promptly did by throwing one of them to the pavement and breaking his leg, and how every Jewish lawyer in town showed up at my assault hearing to make sure that Judge O’Conner let me go.

So I am willing to go to fairly extreme lengths to protect anyone from the will of the majority, no matter how sincere or heartfelt the beliefs of that majority are. I would feel the same even if an overwhelming majority of Catholics didn’t follow the church’s  teaching on birth control.

That said, we will both surely agree that the politics of the decision were incomparably stupid, that a way should have (and likely could have) been found to get women what they need while allowing religious institutions to follow their conscience, and  that the President, who captured 54% of  the Catholic vote in the last election, will surely regret it.

As far as Obamacare, I’ll get to that.


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