This seems crazy. Obviously not everyone agrees with every law, but that’s the bummer about living in a society. In a democracy, if you feel strongly enough, you can set about finding like-minded people and try to change the law. Or, if that doesn’t work, and you truly believe it’s a sin to, say, fill contraceptive prescriptions, then (a) don’t be a pharmacist or (b) risk getting fired. Wouldn’t God appreciate the gesture?
If your religion won’t let you get vaccinated against the coronavirus, then don’t get the shot, but be prepared to suffer the consequences.
If your God-given anti-mask beliefs are sincerely held, then they’ll carry you through trying moments such as homeschooling your child and driving from Miami to Houston instead of flying. Martyrdom is supposed to be hard!
But ever since the Texas abortion ban went into effect, I’ve been rethinking exemptions. Maybe we actually need more of them.
If religious people can opt out of secular laws they find sinful, then maybe the rest of us should be able to opt out of religious laws we find immoral.
That’s right: immoral. We act as if religious people are the only ones who follow a moral compass and the rest of us just wander around like sheep in search of avocado toast. But you don’t need to believe in God or particular religious tenets to have a strong sense of right and wrong.
I am not a believer, but I have beliefs. Strong, sincerely held beliefs. Such as: A seven-week-old embryo — which is a week too old to abort according to the Texas law — is not a person. It’s the blueberry-sized potential for a person.
There is no moral component to aborting a seven-week-old embryo. None. But it is immoral to force people to bear children they do not want to have.
I realize that not all Texans would agree with me. But most Texans don’t agree with this law, either. A majority even of pro-life Texans think that abortion should be permitted in the case of rape or incest, which the new law does not allow.
Shouldn’t there be some sort of exemption from that law?
Around the country, people are claiming religious exemptions from mandates that they be vaccinated. They want to opt out of laws that seek to protect their health and that of their neighbors.
Surely people should be able to opt out of a law that forces them to risk their health.
Let’s call it an un-religious exemption. Or no — since there are plenty of religious folk who object to the Texas law — let’s call it a rational exemption.
Rational exemptions could be used for religion-based laws with which people strongly, sincerely disagree. For example, a law that values the life of a quarter-inch embryo more than the life of a person carrying that embryo.
Religious laws are a part of our history, ranging in character from inconvenient (“blue” or “Sunday” laws) to unconscionable (laws banning interracial and same-sex marriage). But they are not a thing of the past. In fact, they seem to be enjoying a resurgence. There are laws that discriminate against trans people. Laws that permit or require schools to teach creationism along with evolution. Laws that require schools to teach abstinence but not contraception.
Such laws try to force 21st-century America into alignment with a first-century moral code according to some toxic combination of political posturing, fearmongering and — sure, why not? — the sincere beliefs of a certain subset of people who adhere to a certain religion.
If they’re going to be making these laws, and the Supreme Court is going to let them, then the rest of us should be able to opt out.
In Louisiana, the attorney general helpfully offered language to parents in his department who object to school mask mandates: “I do not consent to forcing a face covering on my child, who is created in the image of God. Masks lead to antisocial behaviors, interfere with religious commands to share God’s love with others, and interfere with relationships in contravention of the Bible.”
For a rational exemption to the Texas law, may I suggest, “I do not consent to bearing a child I do not wish to have. Pregnancy and childbirth lead to assorted health issues up to and including death, and bearing a child interferes with my right to live my life and use my body as I wish, in contravention of both reason and morality.”
At least mine makes sense.