Originally Published: June 29, 2012 9:59 p.m.
Vegans strongly believe that eating meat is wrong, as is the consumption of eggs and dairy products. They're convinced that they are right and have good reasons for their beliefs: Eating meat is unhealthy (especially due to antibiotics in animal food), raising animals is more expensive than growing vegetables, slaughtering farm animals is immoral.
Suppose that a majority of Americans were vegan, say 55 percent, and the eating of meat was outlawed. If you were part of the minority, how would you react? After all, why shouldn't you be allowed to exercise your choice - why is that so wrong? Suppose the majority was 75, or even 90 percent, would that make a difference? Personally, I don't think so. Vegans should be free to practice what they believe, but shouldn't be able to force others to follow their dogma.
Now let's apply these thoughts to religious beliefs. Most Christian Americans think the enforcement of Sharia (the Muslim law) is abhorrent. Yet some Christian Americans want to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us.
Some say a child is a human being at the instant of conception, so the morning-after pill is wrong and abortion at any time must be illegal. They ignore situations such as rape, incest, a careless teenager, a torn condom, a woman who is in poor health, a family with too many children who didn't plan to have any more. This also ignores a diseased embryo that won't survive after birth or will be deformed. It's the mother's body, but her wishes are not considered - the religious belief is overriding. The recommendations of an understanding and expert doctor are overruled by politics and religion.
Some say homosexuality is wrong. It isn't genetic; it's the person's choice! (Why any sane person would choose to be gay, with all the associated negatives in today's society, is beyond me.) They think the many benefits that are part of marriage should be denied to these people. If your church is against such marriages, don't perform them, but don't deny others the same privileges that you enjoy. If these religious devotees had accepted the rights of homosexuals and supported "civil unions" with identical entitlements many years ago, the term "marriage" for these unions might have been avoided. Too late now!
Some ignore the societal benefits of family planning and say women should pay for their own contraception instead of it being a standard part of medical insurance. Using the same logic, childbirth shouldn't be part of standard medical insurance either - after all, she chose to get pregnant! What about coverage for illnesses caused by alcohol or drugs, or from overeating or lack of exercise? Where do you stop? It should be what is best for society as a whole.
I say let people choose for themselves when that choice is none of your business and does no harm. Many right-wingers claim to be defenders of freedom. They don't see the hypocrisy of denying others, with different views, their freedom to choose.
There has been much talk recently of religious freedom versus women's rights. In particular, Catholic churches that provide medical insurance to their employees shouldn't have to include birth control. On this same basis, if an employee conceives out of wedlock, shouldn't she be denied coverage for childbirth? Never mind that 90 percent of Catholic women in America use birth control. Never mind that some Catholic organizations have been providing contraceptives in their medical insurance for years.
One solution would be to allow any institution to exclude medical coverage on anything that is against their beliefs, but only for new employees. Existing employees would be grandfathered to the same coverage as they have now. If people chose to work for such restrictive institutions, that would be fine, provided the insurance companies are willing to issue such policies.
This could be a slippery slope. If it is OK to allow an institution to choose its specific medical coverage, could they also choose not to employ people with different religious/moral beliefs or skin color? No, that would be discrimination! Should an institution, religious or otherwise, be allowed to not pay taxes for the cost of war when they are convinced that war is wrong? Once you start allowing exceptions, where do you stop?
Before you reach a decision on important issues like these, base your conclusion on reason, not emotion. Avoid imposing your religious beliefs on others, regardless of how certain you are that you are right and that others are wrong.
Nigel Reynolds is a pragmatic engineer, now retired, who has lived in Prescott for more than 15 years.