Here I go again, using the “S” word to crank up my readership.
Tacky to be sure. But still, I can’t resist.
The Internet’s abuzz about the appearance of Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who was invited to testify before a Congressional committee on the need for free birth control among law school students.
Ms. Fluke told the committee that birth control pills cost female law students about $3,000 during their three year matriculation. They are already parting with roughly $140,000 in tuition, not to mention room and board, books, and other incidentals.
Ms. Fluke was speaking in favor of the mandate of Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, requiring employer provided health insurance to include free birth control pills.
That mandate has been challenged by Catholic institutions and other religious organizations on the ground that it interferes with their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.
President Obama called Sandra Fluke just before she was to be interviewed by Ed Schultz on MSNBC, telling her that her parents should be proud of her for standing up for women’s reproductive rights.
Of course, the Sebelius mandate has nothing to do with student health care plans. It only deals with employee health care plans.
Small detail. What the administration really wants is to cut off any talk about religious liberty and change the subject to women’s rights.
Indeed, most of the voices favoring the mandate clearly regard free birth control as a fundamental civil right, an entitlement, a birth right on par with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
After all, men can enjoy sex without getting pregnant, can’t they? What’s good for the gander should be good for the goose, n’est-ce pa?
I suppose it’s impossible to discuss the subject of religious liberty without the shrill, emotional diatribes that emanate from the minions of feminism.
But judges and law school professors like to change the facts of a case to see if a rule of law applies in a different frame of reference.
So let me try this:
Can the federal government require that a Catholic hospital cafeteria serve meat on Friday? Does it matter that a high percentage of Catholics regularly ignore the Church’s penitential rule?
Or can the Congress require a Jewish University to serve pork in its cafeteria? Does it matter that many of the students and faculty are not Jewish or belong to a progressive branch of Judaism which does not observe the traditional Kashrut?
Does it make a difference that such rules are enforced by fines and/or imprisonment? Or by loss of a subsidy paid to those who are willing to comply?
Can the law punish crimes by clergymen more severely than when committed by anyone else?
Can the Congress limit a clergyman’s First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech? Can it decree that certain subjects cannot be discussed or certain opinions be expressed from the pulpit?
Can the government take away the tax exemptions of religious organizations which preach against its mandates?
The culture wars are heating up. Unfortunately, there are lots of loose canons on the deck, like Rush Limbaugh, whose unbridled rhetoric makes rational discussion or debate well nigh impossible.
Unhappily, culture wars are fought in sound bites and tweets, with most of the fusillades coming from unmitigated self interest and prejudice.
Today’s hot button issues may or may not affect the outcome in November.
Either way, the hard questions will still need to be answered.