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Friday, January 13, 2012
An Analysis on How Federal Policies Allegedly Violate Religious Expression
An Analysis on How Federal Policies Allegedly Restrict Religious Expression
Can one truly exercise freedom of religion notwithstanding restrictions on religious expression? Religious expression is a part of freedom of religion which is known as one of the basic elements of democracy. The USA is believed to be a bastion of democracy and is expected to respect freedom of religion of all of its citizens. However, there are recent developments on federal policies which have been challenged by the Arbishop of Washington D.C on the ground that such policies certainly restrict religious expression. One of these policies is the Obama administration's health care law that requires free contraceptive coverage in health care plans which is absolutely against the Catholic’s view on procreation and natural method of family planning. Speaking on "Fox News Sunday, Cardinal Donald Wuerl said that "One of the things that our conference of bishop has done in response to some of the regulations and some of the difficulties that our Catholic institution are finding is to calls all of us to reflect again on the importance that in a pluralistic society, the importance of respecting the religious traditions, the religious freedom, the freedom of conscious of everyone”. ( D.C. Archbishop: Federal Policies Need to Respect Freedom of Expression. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/12/25/dc-archbishop-federal-policies-need-to-respect-religious-expression/#ixzz1j3wzUnL5).
Another issue which has become a challenge to religious expression is the denial of funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to help victims of human trafficking because the bishops refuse to refer victims of the slave trade to contraception or abortion services. Cardinal Wuerl expressed that "The church has always been the public effort to meet issues like feeding the hungry, providing care for people in need, the homeless, that we would always be a part of that, and to do that today we need to be all the more respectful of the freedom of conscience, the freedom of religious expression of everyone of us”. (D.C. Archbishop: Federal Policies Need to Respect Freedom of Expression. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/12/25/dc-archbishop-federal-policies-need-to-respect-religious-expression/#ixzz1j3wzUnL5).
Although freedom of religion and religious expression are essential elements of democracy, the separation of church and state is an equally important component of democracy. The state can formulate policies that cannot be questioned by the church as long as such policies are not an outright violation of freedom of religion. The law on free contraceptive coverage in health care policies does not restrict or prohibit the exercise the freedom of religion nor does it restrict religious expression. The said policy merely encourages free choice among the citizens considering that the law does not in any way compel the people to use contraception. Therefore, it does not violate the freedom of expression nor restrict any exercise of religion.
Even the denial of funding to the Catholic Bishops to help human trafficking on the ground that the bishops refuse to refer victims of slave trade to contraception or abortion services is not also a restriction of freedom of religion. If the funds have been disbursed at the discretion of the government, then the government can likewise deny such disbursement at any time for whatever reason. If bishops have the discretion to refuse to refer the victims of slave trade to contraception and abortion services, the state shall likewise recognize and respect such decision based on the right to exercise religious expression. But bishops shall also understand that the state has the obligation to protect the general welfare of the people including the victims of slave trade. All possible help shall be extended by the state to the victims and such assistance requires certain funding, for after all, contraception and abortion services, to some extent are allowed by law.