Who Is Warring Whom?

Note: This might seem like yet another post about abortion but really it’s not. I’m going to try (and fail) to make some broader points. Points about Mitt Romney, Planned Parenthood, religious freedom and beliefs, the “terrible power” of government, societal control, and so much more. I’ll try to do it with my usual grace, style and aplomb…

Is this like preaching to the choir? I wouldn’t know. I’ve said some of this before and, no doubt, I’ll say some of it again.

Planned Parenthood is a political hot potato. I get that. It’s obvious because they perform abortions that some people think the organization itself should cease to exist. I can accept that.

Organizations such as Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, and Lutheran Social Services continue to receive substantial government funding, just as they have for decades.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

I understand that people can have strong opinions about issues like abortion. These opinions can be based on things like religious beliefs or a philosophy (like mine) that is against the infliction of pain.

At some point, these feelings cross the line from opinions into a form of control of other human beings. This is a natural consequence of us choosing to live in societies. There must be some limits on personal freedoms in the name of a greater good. For example, I may want your possessions, but society frowns on me taking them against your will. This simple value benefits us all.

To extend that level of control solely on the basis of religious beliefs is, in my opinion, wrong. One person may choose to call a fertilized egg a “child” or a “baby” but they don’t have a right to force another person to hold the same opinion. To me, this is part of what freedom of religion really means. It means we all have the right to disagree with your religion if we want.

In essence, the debate about the act of abortion is saying, “I don’t care what your beliefs are. My religious beliefs say different and, based solely on that, the full power and force of this society is going to restrict your choice on that matter.”

And it doesn’t stop there, either. Some, like Rick Santorum, take it beyond the point of the fertilization of an egg.

One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.

Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.

Rick Santorum, October 2011

To some, a discussion about the legality of prohibiting abortion seems reasonable and appropriate. But what if the discussion is about the next step in that same logical progression? That contraception itself is contrary to God’s will? Or, the next logical step, that our sexual organs aren’t to be used for anything but the act of procreation between a married man and woman?

Should the government make masturbation a criminal act? Should married couples be prosecuted for sexual activity during certain times of the month when conception isn’t possible? How about a Dept. of Rhythm Method Compliance? How about the Position Restriction Prohibition Act of 2014? (Based on 13th century religious technology that the missionary position was the single best way to conceive. Saint Thomas Aquinas #FTW!) But it’s still okay to drink Brawndo because it has electrolytes.

It seems silly to think about, right? What about when Google finally gets around to inventing technology that can detect orgasms? Literally with a few keystrokes (oops) religiously-backed government will be able to protect and enforce God’s will by proving what happened.

Make no mistake about it. The defendant, unmarried and alone on the evening of Feb. 14th, 2014, did knowingly and with premeditated thought, lit candles, poured wine, and made a bubble bath. Then, with great disregard for God’s will, blatantly induced an orgasm that was detected by Google Big-O at 9:47pm. The state will prove that, according to Google GPS, no other human being was within 100 feet of the defendant at TOP (Time Of Pleasure) in obscene defiance of God’s will.

When was it that America, the land of freedom, democracy, and the right to the religious beliefs of your choice became so much worry about what other people believe and do?

So some people, who I happen to call busybodies, spend a lot of time and effort trying to enforce their particular brand of religious beliefs on people other than themselves in our society. And, if anyone dares to comment or criticize this sort of thing, they are promptly accused of propagating a “war” against the busybody’s beliefs. For example, if the busybody is a Christian, then it is called a “War Against Christianity.”

I can understand the non-religious argument against abortion. It is one that I share. Personally I don’t much like the thought of anything or anyone being killed. As a free person what I mainly want is a live as free of pain as possible. I don’t like killing. Not humans, birds, or even my dinner. That’s one reason why I went vegetarian. But I live in a culture that worships guns, an optimal way of making killing easy. Too easy. Humans have invented a myriad of ways to kill. There are like 42,000 different kinds of firearms and ammunition. Bullets that explode inside the human body. Bullets designed to do all sorts of things. An alien who landed on planet Earth might look around at the empirical evidence and rightly conclude, “The overriding purpose in this species is to find new ways to kill. It is the number one branch of research and development they have embraced since the dawn of time.”

Yet the minute you talk about terminating a fertilized egg then all hell breaks lose.

Considering all this, Planned Parenthood has become a poster child for those religiously against abortion. Let’s review a few facts:

  • Federal funding of Planned Parenthood began in 1970 when the Republican president Richard Nixon signed the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act into law.
  • Margaret Sanger, the woman who started a birth control clinic in 1916 that eventually grew into the organization we call Planned Parenthood, was a nurse and originally motivated by the deaths of women performing self-abortions. For her, questions like, “What would women do if abortion was outlawed?” were a reality, not some hypothetical arguments in a debate. She witnessed the aftermath firsthand. She was also the originator of the phrase “birth control.”
  • By law federal funds cannot be used by Planned Parenthood for abortions.
  • Approx. 45% of Planned Parenthood’s revenue is from the Federal government. Of that, approx. two-thirds is used for “health services” with the remaining “one-third” used for non-medical services such as sex education and public policy work, management expenses, fundraising, and international family planning programs.

Now here’s the rub of this post. It has become trendy for states to prohibit funds from going to Planned Parenthood. Arizona did this recently. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney says that, if elected, he would do the same thing at the federal level. Even though Planned Parenthood doesn’t exist solely to perform abortions and does provide other beneficial services to women. (The exact amount, of which, can be debated ad infinitum on the internet.)

But whatever the amounts, it remains a fact that Planned Parenthood provides some services beneficial to women, men and families other than abortion. Some may attempt to minimize, trivialize or criticize these services as part of their larger arguments against the organization as a whole, but that doesn’t make it not true.

So much is being made of the fact that federal funds, our tax dollars, go to Planned Parenthood. Mitt Romney recently backed away from comments that he would “get rid of” Planned Parenthood. In clarifying statements, he said he only meant that comment to apply to federal funding.

My question is this: If abortion, something that is currently legal in the United States, is opposed so strongly on religious grounds that persons will seek to prohibitall funding to an organization simply on that basis, what else is funded by tax dollars? For example, how much does the government award to religious and faith-based organizations?

So far I haven’t been able to find a straight answer to that simple question. That fact in itself is quite telling. Apparently it works like this: The stuff where I have a personal disagreement with should be defunded. The stuff that I agree with should be funded.

Shouldn’t it be all or nothing? After all, most Americans don’t enjoy that level of granularity. They don’t get to pick and choose that which their dollars fund and that which they don’t. (In this respect taxing is much like giving your money to a charity.)

The federal government gave Planned Parenthood about $487 million in grants and reimbursements in 2010. How much does the government give to faith?

How about $650 million to “Catholic charities” since Obama took office?

Note: My emphasis added:

In 2007, the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department issued a memo (PDF) stating that the evangelical Christian group World Vision was still eligible for federal funding from the department, even though it openly discriminated in hiring, which DOJ regulations prohibited contractors from doing. World Vision receives hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants annually, mostly to do aid work abroad. The OLC memo came the same year that several former employees sued the organization after it fired them simply for adhering to a different version of Christianity than the one espoused by their employer.

Source: MotherJones.com

How much federal/state funding goes to organizations that provide services that require a belief in God? Or that beneficiaries of these programs submit to a proselytizing process? Or organizations that discriminate based on faith or on the basis of homosexuality? Where’s the checkbox on my taxes that provides me the option not to use my tax dollars to support such organizations?

George W. Bush created something called the “Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.” Where is the freedom of religion in that? The program has continued into the Obama administration although renamed as the “White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.” I tried in vain to find information regarding the budget for this office but the internet seemingly provides no straight answers.

My opinion is that if the funding of programs like Planned Parenthood are cut then funding of all religious institutions (charities or what not) should also be cut. Like Mitt Romney says, they are private enterprises and if the public wants to fund them, they can always do so. There is no need to involve our tax dollars.

I view this sort of double standard as one of the ultimate hypocrisies by those who, on religious grounds, demand the defunding of Planned Parenthood on the part of the federal government and the states.

Bringeth forth thy pith and vinegar

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