I listened to an NPR interview of past US President Jimmy Carter on his most recent publication, “A Call To Action.” In this book, he dares to take on the worldwide injustice towards women. By far, the most discriminated group, more than race, religion, or color, is the female gender. This is because, across various races and religions, there are cultural and religious norms that perpetuate the superiority of men and boys over women and girls.
I am always amazed at how this much respected octogenarian has made such great use of his time, energy and resources to promote what is good and what it right. I know of him to be deeply spiritual and religious. But in spite of this, he is not known to be someone who would take church dogma (he and his wife belonged to the Southern Baptist Christian denomination, although they have since moved to a more moderate Baptist group.) unquestioningly or blindly. The resounding theme in most of his works and activities is his deep understanding and belief in equality.
Mr. Carter has challenged all organized religions, i.e., Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. Some have conflicting passages on equality between men and women. Most of the time, religious leaders (usually male) tend to cherry-pick passages and isolate them from the rest of a section to support their claims for superiority. He does not single out any religion or group. He lays out all the ugly realities of sex trafficking, genital mutilations, to the refusal of religious institutions to allow women to serve as priests or deacons. He admits, it will take a lot to change practices that perpetuate this discrimination. His book aims to point to everyone this glaring injustice so that the conversation will continue and grow. And spread.
I’m sure there will be backlash heaped on him from those who are exposed for what their practices truly are. I’m sure even the ultra conservative religious right will do their best to denigrate his good name. I can only hope he’ll hold steady and ride the storm.
I’m reminded of yet another ongoing case before the U.S. Supreme Court. This is the Hobby Lobby Inc. Contraceptive Case where this privately held for-profit company that offers health benefits to its employees are refusing to include contraceptive services in it health plans, citing religious objections. This company has 13,000 employees and its owners are conservative Christians who object to certain methods of birth control.
In an interview, they said:
“We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally is what we should operate our lives by … and so we cannot be a part of taking life,” explains Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.
“It’s our rights that are being infringed upon to require us to do something against our conscience,” adds CEO and founder David Green.
I already have a serious objection to ACA exempting non-profit or religious organizations this and that. No one is asking these people to avail of the contraceptive services themselves. But why do they have to impose their religious beliefs on their staff? Does one have to be a conservative Christian then in order to work for Hobby Lobby? I don’t think so. And even if an employee were such, it is still the decision of the employee whether to avail of the health service or not. By making it unavailable, Hobby Lobby owners are practicing paternalism: That they know what’s best for their employees. And because of this, they provide some needs (employment, a career, wages, etc.) while at the same time depriving them of taking responsibility for their bodies and taking away their freedom to choose. It’s tantamount to saying, “You can’t make the right decision so we’ll make it easy for you. We’re taking away what we believe to be the wrong decision.”
To me, paternalism is nothing more than the age-old practice of superiority that President Carter has been denouncing, albeit dressed in a pseudo compassionate (even benevolent) guise. Whatever you might pretend it to be while you beat your chest with your bible or koran, it denies a woman to choose. It denies a woman to own her body. It is still discrimination.