Religious Freeloaders

mary dyerThe Catholic Church has a rich tradition of martyrdom as a statement of faith. In school we learned of heroic virgins and missionaries and the tortures they endured. Our parents didn’t aspire to raise saints, but they did agree with the nuns that the One True Church was worth sacrificing for. In fact, the nuns themselves were a living testament.

This was the sixties, and the Vietnam War was devouring lives both American and Vietnamese. Young men studying for the priesthood were counseling draft-age men who sought conscientious objector status. Though the persecution might not have been as severe as that inflicted on those who took this stand in WWII, prison was likely. If not prison, then alternative service for years doing jobs no one else wanted, or exile to Canada. In Vietnam, some monks made a despairing statement by setting themselves on fire.

It distresses me to hear anti-abortion lobbyists compared to those conscientious objectors. There are women who make a moral decision to continue a pregnancy under difficult circumstances, but they are seldom seen picketing clinics. It’s mostly men and older women who harass women and invade their privacy. It’s kind of like burning someone else’s draft card and watching the cops haul him off to jail. And feeling really good about stopping war.

There are people of all religions or none who willingly pay a price for their principles. And we’ve always had those who imposed their religion on others. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony required all to follow their religious precepts and attend church services whether or not they were accepted as members. And when Mary Dyer’s Quaker faith led her to preach individual conscience and women’s equality, they hanged her on Boston Common. This was the morality of the times.

Can a corporation feel pain? Too many times I’ve heard someone sneer at a woman who has an abortion because pregnancy is ‘inconvenient’. I’d love to ask the owners of Hobby Lobby if ceasing trade with China and divesting from companies that make contraceptives is ‘inconveeenient’. I could get the tone just right.

Today’s lawyers, lobbyists and bosses may go on about ‘faith’ and ‘conscience’ but what sacrifice have they made? They are more Cotton Mather than Mary Dyer, no matter how much they cry persecution. It’s women who will suffer for their exercise of power.

Corporations and tax-exempt religious organizations are lining up to claim that women are trying to get them to pay for their immoral ways. But really, it’s the corporations that are the freeloaders. They are using their influence to carve out health care from women who earn their insurance benefit and should own it no less than their paycheck. Workers have to live in the world regardless of legal fictions. The corporate person gets sanctified at the expense of flesh and blood women. It’s probably good PR for their market.

People of real faith should not consider this a win. Politics and money never improved religion.

Graphic from Wikipedia Mary Dyer.

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