We have seen that religious freedom, as with all freedoms, is not absolute and at times may need to be abridged for the larger good of the public. But the current controversy begs the question, “why this issue?” Why does the Administration feel contraception (including “morning after” pills) is such a crucial matter that it warrants the violation of the free expression of religious rights? Those who back this decision often cast it as a matter of women’s health. In an article in the Wall Street Journal two weeks ago three Senators were quoted as saying, “Access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and is linked to overall good health outcomes.”
My guess is the average American would not say that unrestricted sexual activity is the key to salvation and heaven on earth. On the other hand, there is a definite undercurrent in our culture that says one must have the freedom to express sexuality however one desires in order to have a full life. That’s not far from Sanger’s belief that sexual liberation is the key to inner peace and security. It seems as though there are two competing philosophies at work here. One philosophy says that fulfillment in life is rooted in knowing God and allowing him to be Lord over all of one’s life, including one’s sexuality. It says that true joy, peace and fulfillment in all areas of life are discovered only as they are submitted to God. The other philosophy says that fulfillment in life is rooted in being able to fulfill one’s desires however one sees fit, and one of the strongest of those desires has to do with sexuality. If one has the latter philosophy of life then it is easy to see why a person might insist that his or her freedom in sexuality must not be limited. If the protection of that “right” requires the limitation of someone else’s freedom of religion to some extent, then so be it. It appears that at some level, this controversy comes down to the clash of those two philosophies.
No doubt the issue is not as simple as that. There are a number of factors, including concern particularly for the health of less advantaged women and a desire to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortion, involved in this controversy along with issues of religious freedom. Nevertheless, while it may not be the sum total of the issue, it certainly appears to me that this clash of philosophies is a major player in this debate.