Health care law no danger to religious freedom
The Rev. Christopher Jackson tells us the Obama administration is opposed to the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom and to other basic freedoms.
The threats to our freedoms arise from the administration filing a brief in support of a claim of disability discrimination by an employee of a Lutheran school and from the mandate in the Affordable Health Care Act to provide free contraceptives in health insurance plans.
According to Jackson, these actions are part of a "consistent message to religious organizations" to "stop being so religious" and show that the administration supports "governmental self-empowerment that threatens true democracy and free society." He associates these actions with Stalinism, Rome's Caesars and totalitarianism.
Never mind that, in the Hosanna-Tabor case cited, the Justice Department was only raising the legal question of whether the "ministerial exception" rule allows religious institutions to engage in discrimination in employment that otherwise would be legally impermissible. In no other way did it question the right of religious organizations to set their own criteria for employment.
The insurance mandate exempts religious institutions from the provision that free contraception coverage be provided employees. It is extended only in cases of religious institutions offering secular services, like health care, to the public. In no way is anyone compelled to use contraceptives, while employee rights are protected.
It is difficult to see how "true democracy and free society" have been threatened. This type of fear mongering and distortion, all too common in the rhetoric that seeks to demonize President Barack Obama, is not helpful.
Majority of women favor birth control
Having been brought up in a large Catholic family with too many mouths to feed, I was always under the impression that we were different from our Protestant classmates and neighbors because they had small families and, therefore, were better off financially.
We were scornfully told that "they" only had two children, thus putting material interests first. How I envied them.
Now I see that Lutherans are in fact opposed to birth control, as are "Protestants, Muslims and Jews," according to Lutheran pastor Christopher Jackson. This is most puzzling to me, since in adulthood not only did my sisters and I use birth control to have planned, wanted children, but so did all of my Protestant and Jewish acquaintances. So exactly which Protestant dominations are against birth control?
I hate to tell the good pastor, but the vast majority of American women are quite happy not to be the baby mills their grandmothers and great-grandmothers were, regardless of religious heritage.
Continual pregnancy from the onset of menstruation to menopause is nothing more than biological slavery. Only a male would be arrogant enough to imply otherwise.
Defend conservative women, too
In response to Merlene Davis' March 6 column about Rush Limbaugh calling law student Sandra Fluke a slut: Did Davis write a column when Ed Shultz called pundit Laura Ingraham a slut, or when TV commentator Bill Maher called Sarah Palin the "c" word or when he said, after CBS's Lara Logan was gang-raped in Egypt, that we should send Elizabeth Hasselbeck of The View there? Or when comic Sandra Bernhard said that Palin would be gang-raped if she set foot in Manhattan?
Seems like only conservative women can be called egregious names.
Fluke, who testified before a congressional panel, is a known women's activist. She enrolled at Georgetown University Law Center, a Catholic school that does not offer birth control in its health plan.
Fluke says that all private insurance should cover contraception regardless of religion, upending the First Amendment. Fluke stated that birth control could cost her as much as $3,000 over her three years in law school. Since pills cost an average of $15 per month, that adds up to a bit over $500. A shot that lasts 12 weeks costs $600 over three years. And Wal-Mart offers pills for $9 per month, costing just over $300 for three years.
It seems that Fluke's main concern is not the cost of birth control pills but forcing others to pay for them.
Little freedom, democracy in religion
The Rev. Christopher Jackson has added his name to a long list of complainers about "religious liberty" who never bother to define the term.
In an extremely ironic paragraph, Jackson correctly cites the founders' awareness of the tendency of government to become self-serving; he then has the temerity to forward religion as a protector of "true democracy and free society."
Most religions do not promote freedom of thought, nor do they smile upon free society; members are told what to believe, no matter how ridiculous and/or physically impossible the claims, and they are judged, sometimes harshly, by the company they keep. The founders were keenly aware of the failures of government. They went to great lengths to make our system self-checking and, in the original constitution, made only one reference to religion.
"Everyone should care about the attack on religious freedom," wrote Jackson. What he sees as an attack, I see as the awakening and resistance of people becoming aware that religious activists have gone far enough in their ever-increasing demands for yet-to-be-defined "religious freedom."
Recognized religions in this country pay no taxes and, therefore, should not be a part of the political decision-making process; yet, these non-players cannot understand why they have no right to attempt to exert political influence to their favor in the way the game is played.
Speaking of politics, Jackson refers to President Barack Obama seven times in his column. If the whole point of the column is to bad-mouth Obama, I have three things to say: He's black. He's president. Get over it.
James H. Hazlett
Eastern Kentuckians need UPike
Thanks to Bill Weinberg for his March 5 column expressing my sentiments on the need for the University of Pikeville to be a state university.
Former Gov. Paul Patton and House Speaker Greg Stumbo know the people of our area need a state university. I am an old woman, but if we had had a state school here when I was growing up, I would have a doctorate now.
Education has always been the key to Eastern Kentucky. Just because some old men (politicians) want to protect their turf and hang on to the coal severance tax does not make them right.
Also, the editorial trying to make Stumbo look bad just because he uses his power to help his constituents is sour grapes; he is not the first politician to go to bat for Eastern Kentucky. I appreciate the efforts of Stumbo and Patton. If they are successful, years from now, they will be in the history books for lifting our area out of poverty — not by entitlements, but by education.
Research university wrong fit
I sincerely respect Bill Weinberg and his passion for improving life in Kentucky's coal counties, and I agree the region needs more people with a broad education. But having spent more than 40 years in research-oriented universities, in Chicago, Maryland and Kentucky, I find it difficult to see a research-oriented university in Pikeville.
Eastern Kentucky students and their teachers typically come from communities in which very few adults grew up elsewhere. Students need to interact with a broader range of people and ideas, as they would in schools like Berea, the University of Kentucky and, increasingly, the state's regional universities.
It would be difficult to recruit a research-oriented faculty willing to locate in a community isolated from the advantages of interacting with others engaged in high-tech, research-oriented businesses, the arts, and a diversity of people and ideas.
The faculty would be much more costly than the current staff. Without an airport or interstate connection, Pikeville will remain off the beaten path.
Further, relationships with local government would likely be problematic. In communities such as Lexington, if the local, state or federal government is seen as not solving significant problems, pragmatic voters turn to another group or party.
In the communities near Pikeville, families or cliques seem to retain power even if they don't address persistent problems. A major university needs the backing of a flexible, pragmatic citizenry.