127. pettifog

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pettifogverb1. To bicker or quibble over trifles or unimportant matters. 2. To carry on a petty, shifty, or unethical law business. 3. To practice chicanery of any sort.


For a bunch of puritanical prudes who object to every manner of sexual deviance (at least according to their narrow and hysterical definitions), they certainly do seem obsessed with the subject.

To the point where I’m tempted to say, “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

In case you’ve been living in the darkest parts of the Peruvian jungle for the past year, there’s been a bit of buzz in the news lately about contraception and its moral turpitude (or lack thereof, depending on who you ask).

Last week seven states filed lawsuits against the federal requirement that religious employers offer health insurance coverage that includes contraceptives and other birth control services. Surprise of all surprises, the Catholics are at the epicenter of it all.

The “Blunt Amendment” (so named for its author, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-MO) would have achieved just that end, allowing “employers and insurers to opt out of portions of the president’s health care law they found morally objectionable.” Which could cover just about anything. Find some spurious support in your holy book for why your so-called god finds such-and-such practice morally reprehensible and voilà! you now don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else.

Thankfully, today the Senate rejected the effort to reverse the Obama administration’s policy in a 51-48 vote.

The funny thing is that these employers and insurers have qualms about offering birth control to their female employees (merely offering, mind you, not requiring every single woman to accept it), but have no qualms about accepting government money to, for example, run hospitals. Including Catholic hospitals, which are not private institutions.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

I’m all for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The First Amendment is one of the core values of this country, that you can say and believe anything you like (given certain reasonable restrictions, of course—hate speech, inciting violence, supporting terrorism, defamation and infringing on intellectual property are not protected), regardless of how insane.

However, your right to free speech ends where it begins to tread on the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. You don’t have the right to kill me because your prophet commanded you to kill the infidels. You don’t have the right to lock me up and attempt to “cure” my gayness because you believe that homosexuality is a sin.

You sure as hell don’t have the right to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body. Which is precisely what republicans wanted to do with this amendment, and what conservative legislators wanted to do in Virginia by requiring women to submit to an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound probing (I turned more gay just typing that) before they can receive an abortion. Fortunately, that bill was also shot down.

Mitch McConnell said on Rachel Maddow’s show last month that “[overcoming Obama’s opposition to their measure] would be difficult as long as [he] is rigid in his view that he gets to decide what somebody else’s religion is.”

Hello, Pot—meet Kettle. That’s precisely what they’re trying to do—imposing a Christian sexual ethic on the entire country. “Freedom of religion” does not come with an asterisk and the caveat, “*so long as Jesus died for your sins.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines chicanery as “deception by artful subterfuge or sophistry.” It defines subterfuge as “deception by artifice or strategem in order to conceal, escape, or evade.”

And that is precisely what is going on with these measures, with the One Million Moms movement, with John Piper, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the conservative religious establishment. They know that their bigotry wouldn’t stand up in court if they actually came right out and said that they just didn’t like gays, don’t like to see two men or two women kissing or holding hands, and certainly don’t like even the idea of a gay couple getting married. So instead they point to things like the historical tradition of marriage, and the fact that only a heterosexual coupling can produce offspring. When all else fails (though this is increasingly becoming their first line of offense), they drag out the First Amendment and claim that allowing gays to marry will infringe on their Freedom of Religion.

Even though lawmakers in Maryland specifically stated that no one would be forced to marry a gay couple, provide pre-marital counseling, etc.

Just as no one would be required to accept contraceptives from their employer. This isn’t Brave New World. Nowhere in the policy were “Malthusian belts” mentioned. Employers only have to make contraceptives available.

But that’s not what’s really going on, as any magician will tell you when explaining how to do a bit of slight of hand. Religious conservatives are trying to hold on to whatever power and influence they have. For almost two thousand years the Church was able to direct the personal and sexual lives of its followers with promises of heavenly rewards, and threats of divine, eternal retribution.

They are terrified now that people are taking more charge of their own lives and decisions, and like an overbearing, controlling parent, they’re threatening to take away the T-Bird. Only I think they really know that it’s not their car to take away, and that they only ever had as much control as we gave them.

But they’re not for a moment going to let on that they know that we know that they know.

On the issue of contraception and the federal mandate that all employers (not excluding the ones who don’t want to follow the rules like everyone else) must provide access to birth control through their health insurance plans—if you don’t want to do that, find another source of funding. If you’re going to accept government money, then like any employee you are obligated to do things your employer’s way.

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