(This is a reprint of an editorial I wrote for the Missourian. The original editorial can be found here. The full text of the article is below.)
The war on religion manifests itself in many forms. When pharmacists refuse to sell birth control, they are imposing their religious beliefs on others. When I walk into a store, I should be able to buy anything that the store sells. To illustrate, suppose I decide that I want to buy some beer in a grocery store. When I am checking out, the clerk refuses to sell me the beer because drinking alcohol is against his religion. Both should spark outrage at the seller.
And this shows the true war on religion in the United States — the attempt by some to impose their religious beliefs on everybody else.
This issue often manifests itself in the politics of reproduction. Whenever someone tries to limit access to abortion or impose medically unnecessary rules to restrict abortion, they are attempting to impose their religious beliefs on others. When somebody tries to restrict access to birth control, they are also imposing their religious beliefs on others.
When there is a moral issue, who gets to decide? Some people and religions believe abortion is murder because life begins at conception. Other people and religions believe life begins at birth. Should one group have the right to impose their will on others by outlawing abortions? Or turn the question around: Should one group have the right to force women to have abortions in certain circumstances? In either case, if you allow one, then the other is possible with a change in policy. Abortion could be banned or forced, depending on the group in charge.
The individual’s right to make the decision is asserted when the state is not allowed to prevent or force abortions.
Should there be restrictions on a person’s ability to purchase or use contraception? The 99 percent of women who use birth control at some point in their lives might say no.
When the Republican presidential candidates are pontificating about the war on religion, they are right that there is a war. They are wrong about who is waging it. The candidates are actually waging the war because they are attempting to impose their religious beliefs on others. Preventing unplanned pregnancies is good public policy and will help reduce abortions. It is ironic that these same candidates who are against abortion are supporting a policy that will likely cause abortions to increase.
Preventing gay marriage is another example of some trying to impose their religious belief on others. Marriage by the state is a civil contract that provides for certain benefits and responsibilities between two people. If two men or two women want to enter this contract, they should have that right, just as they would for any other contract. At the same time, if any clergy do not want to perform gay marriages for religious reasons, that should be their right. Religious freedom is preserved, and none are forced to violate their beliefs.
If some are allowed to impose their views on others, where does it end? The choices must be left to the individual, not the state. Otherwise, we will have some imposing their religious beliefs on others. That war must be avoided.