It doesn’t take a whole lot to get the Religious Right riled up, but it seems Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn really touched a nerve when he took the “radical” position of defending the rights of women to make their own decisions about their health care.
Speaking at the Feminist Majority Foundation’s “Women, Money, Power” summit in Washington, D.C. on March 29, Lynn said, “The Protestant Religious Right and the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church today has no moral authority whatsoever to speak on the rights of women.”
Lynn went on to proudly declare himself a feminist.
“We feminists stick together,” he said. “Feminists don’t play games about women’s health. We feminists do not let the patriarchal rulers of some religious mega-corporation tell us or our partners, our spouses, our daughters, what choices they can make on some of the most intimate decisions of our moral lives.”
(You can listen and decide for yourself whether or not Lynn has taken a radical position.)
Lynn was immediately attacked not once, but twice, by Kathryn Jean Lopez of The National Review. Lopez, a far-right Catholic, claimed that Lynn’s words were nothing more than a ploy to rally female voters to the Democratic cause ahead of the 2012 election.
Such a claim is not only an attempt to draw attention away from the actual issues here, but it is patently false. Americans United cannot campaign, even indirectly, for a political party if it wants to maintain its status as a tax-exempt organization.
The most offensive idea Lopez expressed in her National Review column was that anyone who, like Lopez, attended an institution such as the Catholic University of America, doesn’t deserve to complain about being denied access to contraceptives without costly co-pays because “students and their families freely joined the community.” For Lopez, these people knew what they were getting into, and if they don’t like it, well that’s just too bad.
Problem is, that’s not true. Some of them didn’t know what they were getting into. Later in her column, Lopez disproved her own point when she quoted a current female undergraduate at the Catholic University of America, who said at the conference, “I had no idea the rights I would be giving up.”
In another column, which appeared in the National Catholic Register and included an unflattering picture of Lynn from seven years ago, Lopez was again critical, claiming Lynn “glossed over the details” of the Department of Health and Human Services mandate, as if implying that he was either ignoring facts or didn’t understand the issue. Actually, Lynn and AU’s Legislative Department studied this issue in depth in framing our stand on it.
The reality is that budding theocrats like Lopez are coming to the realization that most Americans don’t support their position, and they’re starting to panic. A recent poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 63 percent of respondents, including Catholics, support a federal requirement for health insurance plans to offer birth control. A whopping 60 percent of Catholics and 57 percent of evangelical Protestants support the Obama administration on this issue, the survey found.
So where does that leave the Religious Right? Its members are pretty scared, which is why Lopez and others are lashing out in a weak attempt to save their sinking ship.
Barry is often attacked by the right wing, so this is nothing new. The assaults don’t bother him or Americans United. In fact, we’re proud of them. We must be doing something right if we’ve got the theocratic right so worked up.