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Opinion | Religion can no longer be used to oppress rights: Where do we draw the line?

By Steven Beynon
On April 10, 2014

Hobby Lobby is in the middle of a lawsuit against the U.S. government for being forced to provide "abortion-inducing" and emergency contraceptives to its female employees.

The company's CEO, David Green, says his evangelical Christian beliefs conflict with some forms of contraception. Right now, Hobby Lobby agrees to provide 16 federally approved forms of birth control such as diaphragm and condoms.

Under the Affordable Healthcare Act, companies refusing to provide contraceptives can be fined $100 a day per employee.

Hobby Lobby has said it won't provide some birth control measures including Plan B and IUDs as Green said he believes they can cause an abortion.

This rhetoric of Plan B being an "abortion pill" has been used too often to oppress women's rights to healthcare and the rights of men to have heterosexual relationships without worrying about their partner getting pregnant.

Right-wing Christians such as Michele Bachmann often crusade against birth control. Plan B is often the most targeted contraceptive, usually under the accusations of it being an "abortion pill."

Right now, women under the age of 17 cannot even buy Plan B without an adult.

"It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be," Rick Santorum, a Republican politician said. This is coming from the same man who is constantly criticizing the government for overreaching and controlling the lives of citizens.

This adds to the controversy of whether or not corporations should be seen as people and have the rights of an individual.

Can a for-profit non-religious institution claim a religion? If so, should that company impose beliefs on its employees? Hobby Lobby is fighting for its first amendment rights.

But with that mentality, there's nothing stopping a business owner from refusing service to racial minorities if for-profit corporations had the right to impose religious ideas on their employees.

The Book of Mormon says people with dark skin are, "a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations." Until 1978, African Americans were not allowed in the Mormon Church.

In the Bible, Leviticus has some rather harsh words about women on their menstrual cycle. "Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean," it says.

Does that mean Green wants females to take a week's vacation every month? I hope that's paid.

The Bible also states that, "If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as to a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense."

Obviously these are all extreme cases that would never realistically happen in our society.

But how do you draw a line? How can society cherrypick which words of a god are appropriate to enforce and which religious laws to ignore?

Mississippi just passed an Arizona-style religious freedom bill that has received criticism from LGBT supporters saying it legitimizes discrimination of race, gender and atheism. According to MSNBC, it isn't illegal to discriminate against sexual orientation in Mississippi. Religious freedom bills are on the books in 18 other states.

The general public doesn't have the tolerance to be told what to do. People are less religious now more than ever.

A lot of the dramatic drop in faith is due to young people being offended by religious views on homosexuality, women's rights and other top issues today. Most polls find that around 30 percent of millennials do not identify with a religion.

Supporters of Hobby Lobby argue the United States was founded on Christianity but most of the founding fathers were atheist or agnostic. The bulk of this religion debate is supporting a Christian bias.

The problem is that granting religious freedoms to for-profit corporations is a slippery slope. Such laws can set the stage for further discrimination against women, homosexuals and atheists.

The other side of this argument is that the employees aren't forced to work at Hobby Lobby. With the high unemployment rate, I'm sure it isn't as simple as that with the average female Hobby Lobby employee.

Hobby Lobby has shown good integrity in the past. The corporation does follow the Christian belief on Sunday being a day of rest. Their minimum wage for a full time employee is $14 an hour. That's still a small wage, but it's far better than most comparable jobs.

That's what makes this whole story a shame. The for-profit corporation that employs 13,000 Americans is seeking individuality and religious freedom without considering the personal beliefs or health of the girl ringing up glitter at the cash register.


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