5 Big Lies About the Phony 'War on Religion'
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Republican candidates have been traveling the country pledging to end Obama's war.
Sounds great, except for one tiny problem—the war they're railing about doesn't exist. They're not calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan or the abstract “war on terror.” The candidates claim that Obama and Democrats across the country are waging a “war on religion”-- and, of course, they're the “civilian casualties,” along with the rest of America's white Christian majority.
Exploiting religious divides has long been one of the ways conservatives seek to win over working-class voters, whom they otherwise don't seem to care about. Abortion, gay rights and religious education become wedge issues for politicians like Rick Santorum, who blend a kind of faux-populism with frighteningly reactionary sentiments about the rights of women and LGBT people.
That's just it, too. The claims of “war on religion” seem to always come when a move by the administration, a court, or legislature has granted more rights and protections to those who are not straight, male and usually white. When white evangelicals and Catholics claim that Obama's declaring a war on religion, they mean on their religion. They're evoking the same xenophobia as the demands for the birth certificate, as the claims that Obama is a Muslim. The insinuation is that the president isn't American, isn't like them, and thus is to be feared, hated, or simply voted out of office.
We've collected five examples of the GOP and religious-right leaders claiming their rights are being infringed when the government tells them they can no longer use their beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against others.
1. Catholic employers complain about having to provide birth control coverage with health insurance.
Republican politicians and religious-right leaders—particularly the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, known previously for its willingness to tank healthcare reform over private abortion coverage that women could purchase with their own money—are claiming, incredibly, that the Obama administration's ruling that birth control should be covered by health insurance without a co-pay infringes on their freedom of religion.
Santorum, a Catholic, pitched a fit over the contraception rule in Colorado on the campaign trail this week, calling Obama "hostile to people of faith, particularly Christians, and specifically Catholics."
And Mitt Romney, whose church explicitly permits birth control, nevertheless had to get in on the fun, writing an op-ed for the Washington Examiner claiming Obama is trying to “impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.”
The Catholic bishops fought Obama's decision to provide birth control coverage at all, and then demanded an exemption that would have given religious institutions sweeping rights to deny coverage. As Amanda Marcotte noted at RH Reality Check:
“Sensibly, the Obama administration did not grant the exception, following federal tradition of protecting the religious freedom of individual employees over claims from employers that their rights trump those of employees. You can’t cut someone’s salary because they don’t share your religious belief, after all, so why should you be able to cut their benefits?”
Not only that, but NPR reported that many Catholic hospitals and universities already do offer contraceptive coverage as part of their health insurance. And a new poll shows that a majority of Americans -- and a majority of Catholics – think Catholic hospitals and universities should indeed have to offer co-pay-free birth control coverage.
So how, exactly, is this a war on religion? If anything, it's another symptom of the war on workers—employers claiming that they have the right not to provide the same coverage mandated for other employees, because of their personal beliefs. (Note that the Catholic bishops never speak out on behalf of workers' rights, though the Pope has spoken out for economic justice issues many times. They're only interested in defending the rights of the boss to impose his religious beliefs on his female employees.) The only way it becomes an attack on religion is when right-wingers lie about it.