Freedom of religion… but for Christians only

Cross-posted on my blog.

This whole contraception debate has gotten completely out of hand. In light of the Obama Administration’s decision regarding birth control access for women employed by Catholic organizations, Catholic’s have been kicking and scream about Freedom of ReligionIt seems that their main argument is that by forcing Catholic organizations to provide insurance that has the option of covering birth control for women who want it violates their religious beliefs and therefore violates the notion of religious freedom.

With that in mind, let’s turn to the even more controversial topic of abortion. Catholic’s and conservatives have made it abundantly clear that they believe and that their religion states that life begins at conception, therefore making abortions murder. This is what their religion dictates.

However, there are other religions that do not share these views.

In simple terms, Islam allows abortions for married women up to about 120 days and allows it for victims of rape and incest as well if the woman’s life is in danger. The more complicated stance is that while it doesn’t openly condone it, the act is permitted if there is a legitimate excuse and the decision to get one is “the lesser of two evils”. There is a great divide within the Muslim community regarding abortions because of external factors relating to culture and sexuality and while some Muslim’s regard it as sin, the religion itself states that abortions under certain circumstances are permissible.

Judaism also allows abortions for serious reasons. For example, the religion considers the woman’s life as more important than the fetus’ and in the event of a threat to her life, a pregnancy may be terminated. The religion is more lenient within the first 40 days of pregnancy. There are people within the religion that have made their own interpretations and consider it wrong. However, officially, the religions stance is not entirely against it.

The Hindu school of thought regarding abortion is a bit more complex. Old scripture states that it is not permissible. However, similar to Islam in this regard, Hinduism considers the “lesser of two evils”. That is, “to choose the action that will do least harm to all involved: the mother and father, the fetus and society”. Some Hindu’s believe that abortions after 3 months are not permissible. The religion does allow abortions if the woman’s life is in danger.

The Buddhist stance on abortion is even more convoluted. The religion itself does not have any official mention of it and women in Tibet usually do not obtain them even though they are available. There are many who consider it a sin based on their own personal beliefs. In an interview with The New York Times, however, the Dalai Lama stated:

When I was in Lithuania a few years ago, I visited a nursery and I was told, “All these children are unwanted.” So I think it is better that that situation be stopped right from the beginning — birth control. Of course, abortion, from a Buddhist viewpoint, is an act of killing and is negative, generally speaking. But it depends on the circumstances. If the unborn child will be retarded or if the birth will create serious problems for the parent, these are cases where there can be an exception. I think abortion should be approved or disapproved according to each circumstance.

Between these 4 religions, neither has a staunchly anti-abortion stance. Though Protestants, Mormons, and Catholics are definitely the majority in the United States, the focus here is on the notion of religious freedom.

So with that, here is the crux of this post: Keeping religious freedom in mind, outlawing abortion serves to violate the freedom of religion of many Muslims,Hindus, Jews, and Buddhists. Protestant, Mormon, and Catholic anti-abortionists who seek to outlaw abortions based on their religious view of life beginning at conception are forcing their religious beliefs on millions of others who don’t necessarily hold the same religious views, not because they are atheists or agnostics, but because their religion does not believe that life begins at conception.

So does freedom of religion not apply to them in this case?

Why do the Catholics that are condemning the Obama Administration for violating their religious freedom not consider the religious freedom of others?

Stepping away from the aspect of abortion for a moment, Ryan Stevens, afellow Tumblr-er pointed out that Christians have, in recent years alone, repeatedly violated the notion of freedom of religion for others. This includes preventing the building of Mosques (there are too many such incidents for me to link just one) or “when an atheist rightly points out that her school, as a public institution, cannot endorse Christianity or hang religious paraphernalia in their school, they flip a shit and threaten her with violence, death, and eternal damnation.”

Is it that freedom of religion is important to them only if it applies to Christianity because ‘who cares about all those other people who don’t share the same beliefs as us’? If they’re going to bring religion into this and make freedom of religion the current focal point in war on contraception (and it definitely is a war) then perhaps they should actually stand by freedom of religion for all and not just Christians and Christian beliefs.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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