Unitarians, Catholics and HHS

God bless all the folks who have come out in support of the Catholic Church’s right not to subsidize sin. And God bless (with His rod) the folks who so don’t-get-it that they actually came out in support of the government in this matter. It’s pretty much the usual suspects, and there are all kinds of snark I could make on each one. But I’m going to concentrate on just one in this post: the Unitarian Universalist Association. They should know better, I will show that they do know better, and my wife had to set one of their congregants straight yesterday.

The Seven Principles of the U-U Church include “The inherent worth and dignity of every person” (unless they’re preborn, apparently) and “The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.”  If this isn’t a matter of conscience, I don’t know what is. U-Us are in general so supportive of the right of conscience that you can believe pretty much anything and still be a U-U (excepting, again, the belief that abortion is murder). But if you want more clarity, here is a resolution from 1982:

Personal Religious Freedom

WHEREAS, the central issues for religion include the beginning, duration, nature and meaning of life, the extent to which individuals can be in control of their own lives and bodies, and the moral and ethical responsibility of individuals to the lives and bodies of others; and
WHEREAS, the 1982 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association reaffirms our heritage of personal religious freedom of belief and acknowledges as one of its tenets the right and responsibility of persons of all ages to decide and act upon these religious issues according to their own conscience and faith, without government interference or invasion of privacy;

BE IT RESOLVED: That the 1982 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association calls upon Unitarian Universalists and all individual groups, both religious and secular, of like mind to oppose attempts for legislative policy changes that would limit the free exercise of this, our religious heritage; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That this Assembly calls upon the governments of the United States and Canada to oppose all attempts to legislate such limitations.

Now, the HHS contraceptive mandate quite clearly bears on “beginning… of life, the extent to which individuals can be in control of their own lives and bodies.” It could be that this was meant to be a weasel-word support of the right to abortion. But since they’d expressed that much more clearly 4 years previously, I have to take them at their word here.  Neo-Catharism (not breeding) is apparently a tenet of Unitarianism.  They are extremely pro-reproductive-freedom. But that doesn’t negate their conscience statement. Nor does this: “we believe that, regardless of income, every person has the right to all reproductive health information and basic services”. They may believe in the right to free birth control, but it doesn’t follow from that that any particular entity needs to provide it. Indeed, one might ask: if there are Catholic hospitals, where are the Unitarian free women’s clinics? Why haven’t they put their money where their mouths are?

But the Unitarians have been more than happy to have their freedom of religion protected by the government.  In First Unitarian Church v. Los Angeles – 357 U.S. 545 (1958):

Solely because they refused to subscribe oaths that they do not advocate the overthrow of the Federal Government by force, violence or other unlawful means, or advocate the support of a foreign government against the United States in the event of hostilities, petitioners were denied tax exemptions provided by the California Constitution for real property and building used solely and exclusively for religious worship.

In my own back yard, we had Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron v. City of Fairlawn, Ohio, 2000-01. The city decided that the U-Us could not build a fellowship hall on their land (owned before a zoning change), and backed down under legal pressure.

But the religious liberty strain of classical liberalism, which was so much a part of their tradition for so long, seems to have fallen by the wayside. Of all the religious groups that filed amicus briefs in the recent case of Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC (unanimously decided for plaintiff), the UUA was the only one to pick the losing side.

What makes this particularly odd is the the U-Us have become a haven for neo-pagans and Wiccans, who have a long history of religious persecution. They’re the growing edge of Unitarianism, since there’s no longer the pressure to “be something, and Unitarian is the least you could be” and religious atheists are in style and no longer need to blow off several hours a week not-worshipping their non-god. Pagans have benefitted directly in such cases as Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah 1993 508 U.S. 520. So why aren’t the pagan elements in the UUA fighting to keep the church on the side of freedom? I suspect that reproductive issues, being one thing that most U-Us can agree on, have become a defining doctrine of the faith. And Catholics stand against that. But there’s more than disagreement there. One step in my own conversion involved the observation of the visceral hatred many Pagans hold for Catholicism, way beyond any historical explanation (I’ll see your Burning Times and raise you a Coliseum.) I decided that fierce irrational Satanic hatred meant that there was a power in the Church worth paying attention to.

Anyway, while I don’t respect the U-Us, I respect their right to worship as they please, and to not be commanded at gunpoint to perform acts which they consider morally repugnant. I just wish they would give me the same respect.


6 Responses to Unitarians, Catholics and HHS

  1. jeffrey smith says:

    1) You’re kind of overestimating the Roman persecutions. The best estimates are that between three and five thousand people were killed by the Roman government starting with Nero’s persecution and ending with Constantine’s ascent to the throne. Which is much smaller than the most conservative estimates of “the Burning Times”, and smaller than the number of people killed by the Spanish Inquisition or during the Crusade against the Cathars. And we’ll leave out what various groups of European Christians were doing to each other between 1517 and 1648….
    In fact, the only massive persecutions suffered by the Church at the hands of a secular government came in the 20th century, with the Communists, and the brunt of that was of course borne by the Orthodox Church. But the perception that the Church has done more persecution than been persecution, and has gladly used the levers of government to enforce and enlarge its own power (I’m speaking of the hierarchy and the institutions now centered on the Pope here) is not Satanic–it’s real history.
    That’s why non Catholics like me don’t really trust the Church–there is no real indication that the hierarchy has learned such actions are a bad thing. For most of the last two thousand years, it’s been trying to encroach on “what is Ceasar’s”. It’s never learned from what theology calls the kenosis of Christ–the emptying of himself, the divesting of all his power and the taking on of human powerlessness that lies at the heart of the Incarnation.
    As to why I think the Church is focused on its own power, I’ll give two observations: first, it seems totally unconcerned with anything outside the Church (for instance, a Baptist small business owner who will be forced to subsidize abortion by his employees) and second, it’s applying its logic selectively. It says that if it offers insurance to cover contraception, etc. it will have a share of responsibility for the resulting sin since it’s giving financial means of obtaining it. Well, suppose the employee pays for it without insurance. The Church is still providing the financial means, in the form of her paycheck.

    BTW, given the principles involved, I presume you would be okay with any Jehovah’s Witness business owner refusing to offer his non JW employees insurance which covers blood transfusions, given the JW view of transfusions.

    You obviously have the convert’s zeal in defending the Church, which rather saddens me, because I think it’s the wrong side of the issue. All this fuss really is, is the Church demanding (again) special treatment.

  2. Jeffrey Quick says:

    Somebody else brought up the JW thing, and yes, I would be cool with it…as long as it was clear to the employee going in.

    I’m not at all sure that the church is ignoring your Baptist. But I will admit without argument that the whole argument re Obamacare is a day late and dollar short in terms of principle….thanks in part to that fool Taparelli, whose response to the events of 1848 was to capitulate and take the Church with him.

  3. Actually, I found a quote from someone who wasn’t a bishop but has some sort of official status (can’t find it again, and I don’t remember who exactly he was) talked about the effect on Catholic small business owners, so they are halfway there. I am surprised the Church is focusing on the contraception angle and not the abortion angle in this, since the abortion angle resonates with a lot more people. No contraception is, after all, almost completely limited to the Catholic Church. I don’t think the Eastern Orthodox ban it, although I might be wrong. I know even Orthodox Judaism allows it–the medieval rabbis allowed women to use not only potions that were the medieval equivalent of the Pill, but potions that had the same effect as the “morning after pill”, although they banned abortions in normal circumstances (ie, allowed if the mother’s life was in danger).if Nature had taken her course.
    And I found out last night that the Church is actually over a decade late in protesting. EEOC regulations back in Clinton’s last year (2000) required offering coverage for contraceptives if prescription insurance is offered, and that regulation was never reversed by Congress or the Bush Administration. And apparently there was no exemption for any religious body included in those, so theoretically Obama’s regulations will actually improve matter from the Church!

  4. Jeffrey Quick says:

    You got an URL on that EEOC thing? (It’s going to be a long day of performing for me, so no time to hunt.). I find it difficult to believe such a thing would fly under the radar if enforced. As for the angle, I’ve heard as much about abortifacients as contraceptives…but the main angle has been freedom of conscience. Maybe I’m cynical today, but the examples of religious exemption law that are in front of my face have to do with the Amish. And I don’t believe the State gives an eff about the Amish per se; they’d as soon get rid of them, but their culture directly and indirectly props up a number of rural economies. Maybe we need to analyze how the HHS mandate is “all about the Benjamins”

  5. Original ruling
    Enforcement against a Catholic college and appropriate complaint from a Catholic organization in 2007–meaning of course, under GWB.

    You can get similar stuff by doing a search for “EEOC health insurance contraceptives”

  6. Hmm, askismet seems to think the EEOC URLS are spam.

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