Oct. 11, 2012
As MARRI intern Alex Schrider points out in Student Debate: Taxing Conscience, the HHS contraceptive mandate is a direct attack on religious freedom. It does more than require employers to deny their personal beliefs about life and contraception; it forces many (primarily conservative Catholics and Evangelical Protesants) to violate church teachings and religious convictions..
This is significant for more reasons than the obvious wrong of asking religious Americans to violate their conscience. It represents an attack on religion itself.
Historically, religious practice formed the fabric of American culture. From New England Puritans to Maryland Roman Catholics, colonists came to the New World seeking religious freedom. After the nation was established, revival meetings helped unify the ragged frontier. Immigrants from all ends of the globe relied on religion to keep their families and communities intact.
The twentieth century, however, saw a cultural about-face. The ostensibly conservative, religious postwar era gave way to urban riots and juvenile delinquency. America left the 1950s baby boom for the 1960s free love movement, followed by four decades of increase in non-marital births and decrease in the overall birth rate.
MARRIs Patrick Fagan and Henry Potrykus suggest part of the impetus behind this shift:
The contraceptive mindset…is of one cloth with the West shifting its economic orientation from family enterprise to individualist labor activity while simultaneously moving from religious to secular social values.
The Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century weakened both family life and the American economy, because industrialism severed the workplace from the home. Urbanization in the twentieth century further undermined ties to family and local community. As this shift happened, the religious values that emphasized marriage and the family as a context for childbearing also declined.
The shift in values has economic effects, as Alex Schrider explains:
MARRI has documented the effects of widespread contraceptive use: when birthrate decreases, the average age of a population increases, eventually leading to population decline. An aging and declining population is associated with economic problems, not the least of which is the substantial burden placed on the shoulders of the smaller, younger generation, which must provide for the disproportionately large elderly generation.
There is a solution, but it does not lie in the HHS mandate. Rather, according to Fagan and Potrykus,
Remediation lies in a re-adoption of stable marriage as a societal norm and the rejection by governments and peoples of this non-sustainable model of society a religious, sexually polymorphous, serial polygamy and its replacement by a less secular, more traditional, family-oriented life.
Rebuilding our culture and economy requires us to return to family-oriented values. To start this process, our culture must return to religion, which creates these values. The federal government should not attack the very bedrock of society with an ill-conceived mandate that smothers religious freedom.