Over the weekend, Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Greg Lipper took part in a panel discussion about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision at a meeting of the American Political Science Association here in Washington, D.C.
This report by the Christian Post is worth a read. Reporter Napp Nazworth focuses mainly on the comments made by Vincent Phillip Muñoz, Tocqueville associate professor of religion and public life at the University of Notre Dame. Read his comments and be afraid – or simply amused. (Do note that this story gets one thing wrong. It reads as if Lipper compared opposition to birth control to racial segregation. Actually, he compared religious opposition to racial integration to the current religious opposition to LGBT integration.)
Muñoz argued that “the left” really won the Hobby Lobby case. His reasoning seems to be that our side won because the discussion all along was about the scope of the contraceptive mandate, not whether there would be such a mandate.
Muñoz asserted that the case was really a clash between two views of human sexuality. He said the “traditional view” holds that “men and women are called to live to a normative standard of human sexuality that they themselves do not create.” The competing perspective, which Muñoz called the “modern view,” says that “men and women are and ought to be their own authors of what constitutes the proper use of sexuality.”
Let’s unpack this a bit. I’m especially interested in Muñoz’s claim that human beings did not create the “normative standard of human sexuality” that they are expected to adhere to. So who did, then?
If you guessed “God,” that’s not quite right. Rather, this standard, which we are all expected to honor and cling to unquestioningly, was created by (surprise!) the all-male clergy of the church that just happens to own the University of Notre Dame. Sure, they say they speak for God, but, you know, a lot of people have made that claim over the years.
Furthermore, this standard of “normative” human sexuality was hammered out by these clergymen something like, oh, 1,500 years ago and it hasn’t moved one iota because we all know that social norms certainly haven’t changed in that time.
“The Hobby Lobby case wasn’t really a contest between the traditional and modern views of human sexuality,” Muñoz added. “The only dispute was how thoroughly the modern view was going to route the traditional view.”
Allow me to interpret for you: “You’re not listening to the leaders of the Catholic Church when everyone at my college knows full well that the leaders of the church are right! You’re making me very mad!”
Actually, the Hobby Lobby case was a clash between the reality community and the “my-religion-gets-to-tell-you-what-to-do” community. Sadly, the reality community lost because the Supreme Court decided in part that what matters is not facts but what people believe to be true (even if it’s not).
Yet those pesky facts won’t go away. Here are some that are interesting:
* Ninety-five percent of Americans have sex before marriage.
* Most Americans who want children say two children is the ideal number to have.
* Women can start bearing children during their teen years. A woman, generally speaking, can remain fertile until into her 40s.
* Virtually all sexually active women, at some point in their lives, use some form of birth control. Eighty-eight percent have used birth control pills, patches or intrauterine devices.
* Several studies have shown that access to affordable, safe contraceptives has made it possible for more women to take part in higher education and more fully participate in economic life.
Add it up. What all of this means is that most heterosexual women are going to spend a lot more time trying to avoid pregnancy than they are trying to get pregnant. Hence, birth control is a vital public health issue. It was included in the Affordable Care Act for that reason, not as a way to annoy the Roman Catholic bishops.
See, what’s really bothering Muñoz and his ilk isn’t the contraceptive mandate. Their beef goes much deeper. What troubles him is that people are 1) having sex before marriage; 2) engaging in sex because they happen to enjoy it and not just because they want to have babies 3) taking part in family planning. These things bother Muñoz because people are not listening to his church’s bishops.
And, get this: Many of those people who are not listening to Muñoz’s bishops are members of his own church. That stings.
This is a bitter truth for the theocrats to face, so it all must be a conspiracy: “The left” is trying to force religion out of public life. “The left” hates God and Christianity. “The left” favors hedonism.
Not quite. “The left” (and plenty on “the right” too) happen to live in the real world, the world where consenting adults have sex and engage in responsible forms of family planning because they realize that, in an ideal society, every child would be wanted and loved and not brought into a family that can’t afford to raise him or her.
No one in America is being forced to use birth control. Most people do it voluntarily and want access to it because it improves their quality of life. It makes no sense to put roadblocks in their way.
Perhaps instead of constantly carping about the overheated machinations of “the left,” Muñoz and his bishops should look inwardly. The fact is, they had every right to make an argument against birth control and did in fact make one. It just wasn’t a very good argument, and the people consciously rejected it.
In that sense – in the sense of cultural realities and the way Americans choose to live their lives – Muñoz is right: The anti-contraception forces did win the battle of Hobby Lobby but are steadily losing the war.
We can’t force these folks to join the reality community; I wouldn’t want to. But we can do this: We can stop them from elevating their rejected, outmoded, out-of-touch dogma to the status of public policy that all must follow.