I did not go to law school. I am not an attorney. I am not a politician nor do I have plans to become one. I am a minister. I am a theologian. I am an artist. And I am also a citizen of the United States of America.
I respect religious belief. I respect religious belief different from my own. I respect people who hold no religious belief. I have spent most of my career as a clergyman arguing for tolerance and respect.
But here’s what I know and feel and believe today . . .
Health care, and the exercising of choice in health care, is a human right. The human rights of a nation supersede the personal religious convictions of individual citizens. Human rights transcend ethnicity and cultural perspective. Just as respect and dignity for people of different ethnicity or sexual orientation is a human right, so the right to health care, including choices about reproduction, is essential to our life in America.
What a person believes in the privacy of his or her own living room (or personal chapel) is up to the individual. I respect that. But to participate in a nation that respects all citizens means that private religious viewpoints cannot not be imposed upon the general population of a nation.
From my perspective, the Supreme Court has opened the door to turning back virtually every important human right / civil right advancement I have known in my lifetime, advancements that have been courageously forged by men and women who have gone before me.
There will always be someone willing to claim a “religious objection” over every human right. Slavery? (Yes, some ministers argued for it.) Women voting and participating in public life? (Yes, some churches wanted to silence women as the weaker sex.) Black people voting? (Believe it or not, some segregationists attended church every Sunday.) And reproductive choice? (People still threaten Planned Parenthood Centers in the name of God and religious belief.)
God is easily invoked in matters of public faith. Perhaps too easily. Yet, at least from my perspective, people of faith must be willing to forge a personal faith in a larger context of human experience.
This means, for example, as Senior Minister and CEO of a non-profit organization, I will do everything I can to provide health care for my employees. But never. Never will I try to dictate employee choices regarding their health, including reproductive choices of women. I may agree with some choices. I may disagree with some choices. That is my personal, religious prerogative. Nevertheless, I will argue that men and women have a right to make their choices regarding health, even as I would argue that men and women have a right to love whom they love and marry whom they wish to marry.
Take a Breath today. Religious freedom is a precious right in our country. I will continue to defend it, even as I have defended the separation between church and state, primarily because it is good for religion and good for the state. But public human rights are more important than private religious conviction. And while I’m not an attorney, nor would I pretend to be, I think the Supreme Court took a mighty swing today, and in the parlance of baseball, I still feel the wind of this big, legal whiff.