The Religious Denial of Aid and Charity

I wrote recently about the denial of emergency reproductive health care at Catholic hospitals, and I’m glad to see that this extremely important issue is getting media traction. There are two articles in the Washington Post this week calling attention to these clashes across the country (HT: The Wall of Separation).

As AU says:

The Maryland Health Care Commission voted unanimously to allow a Catholic hospital called Holy Cross to build a new facility in northern Montgomery County. The commission made this vote even though another hospital run by a group affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventists had proposed building a facility that would offer the full range of reproductive care.

It’s not just the denial of abortion to women suffering life-threatening complications of pregnancy, though that’s certainly the most critical issue. But Catholic-controlled hospitals restrict women’s freedom in other ways as well: for instance, by forbidding doctors to perform tubal ligation. This is usually done along with C-section for women who don’t want any more children, but since it’s not allowed at these hospitals, women who give birth there end up having to travel elsewhere and go through more surgery. There’s also the threat of these hospitals ignoring patients’ living wills if they’re deemed to conflict with Catholic dogma about end-of-life care.

AU has promised legal action in Montgomery County, which is as it should be. When hospitals are built on public land or with public money, religious gatekeepers have no right to come in and decree which kinds of care will be forbidden there. The old, celibate men who run the church can preach whatever they like to their own congregations. They may not enforce their beliefs on everyone who comes to a hospital, regardless of those people’s own beliefs or affiliations.

But it’s not just Catholics who value religious dogma over human well-being. There’s also this shocking story out of Georgia, where a church-run homeless shelter with the audacity to call itself the “House of Mercy” flatly refuses to serve gay and lesbian people:

Earlier this month, two women checked into House of Mercy along with their children. Soon, the operators of the facility began to suspect that the two women were lesbians, and promptly kicked them out. Both women told the local news that they weren’t even gay, and one of them said she came from an abusive home.

Is there even any point in citing the Bible? Probably not, but I’ll do it anyway:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left…

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”

—Matthew 25:31-45 (NIV)

I could point out that there’s no footnote saying, “Except when those people are gay, in which case I couldn’t care less about them,” but why even bother? It’s obvious that people like Elder Bobby Harris only care about the parts of the Bible that give them an excuse to hate.

And that’s really what’s behind all this, whether it’s evangelical-run shelters that turn gay people out onto the street, or Catholic bishops who demand that women with preeclampsia be left to die. Their charitable work isn’t done out of a genuine concern for human welfare – how could it be, given this evidence? – but out of a desire to enforce their brand of religious superiority on the population. They want to show, in a very public and visible way, which people they consider worthy or unworthy of their help, and by so doing, to prove that their beliefs and their edicts reign supreme. This cruel, theocratic desire for supremacy is something that an enlightened and secular society shouldn’t tolerate.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • L.Long

    Of course these theostards who obviously do not really read their buyBull did not realize that there is NO condemnation or gay women in it. Of course there is no condemnation of gay men in it either. The leviticus thing is not about being gay but about have sex acts between men. You can actually be as gay as you wish as long as there is no sex acts being done. But that requires to much thinking on the theostard’s part and being essentially brain dead that is a difficult chore for them.

  • http://Daylightatheism.org J. James

    What you’re referring to probably doesn’t exist anymore, L.Long. Keeping your sexuality repressed, particularly for men, is extraordinarily difficult and increasingly unnecessary. Eventually it explodes into a supernova of bottled-up gayness, which can be harmful to say the least. Even closeted gays tend to have relationships on the side, and the overwhelming majority have probably made it with a guy before. Besides, do you think they would care if they were a gayness-virgin?

  • Hailey

    L.Long, were I to argue this, I would point out that leviticus makes no obvious distinction of this. It seems to determine homosexuality as a sex act between the same genders, yes, but it would impossible to be gay and not have the desire to be intimately involved with someone or at least attracted to them. I’m sure in the eyes of the theocratic, these would equal the same. If they DID acknowledge your point, it would only lead to more troubling things like the distinction between being casually gay with no sex life and a gay who actively partakes in sexual behaviors. Wouldn’t it just be easier for the hateful bigots to actively condemn ALL homosexuals in the name of their Lord even if they did ever assume such a (nit-picky) distinction?

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Actually, there are hateful bigots who do just that. They “hate the sin, but love the sinner” by asserting that they aren’t against gays, but against the act of gay sex. IOW, it’s OK to be gay, you’re just not allowed to ever act on it and be human.

  • http://killedbyfish.blogspot.com feralboy12

    You know, something just occurred to me: Deuteronomu 23:1 says that “he whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the LORD.”

    Would a Catholic-affiliated hospital treat such an injury? Just askin’.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    Their charitable work isn’t done out of a genuine concern for human welfare – how could it be, given this evidence? – but out of a desire to enforce their brand of religious superiority on the population.

    My experience has been that some Christians perform charitable works for both reasons: they do care about human welfare, and they’re certain that their solutions to the world’s problems are the right ones. Some Christians want to impose their solutions forcefully (these may be less inclined to act out of compassion), but others want to use persuasion rather than force (these are more likely to act out of compassion). The ones who function on the compassion/persuasion plane are less likely to deny services and goods than those who are functioning on the force/imposition plane.

  • Cheryl

    Their “charitable work isn’t done out of a genuine concern for human welfare”

    Of course not! It’s ONLY concern is about “souls”. And, since the church is making it up out of whole cloth, don’t expect any logic behind it. A pedophile priest’s “soul” is intack, though he might have to be sent off to pray. The abused child and his parents, however, have betrayed the church by going to the authorities, so their “souls” likely can’t be saved.

    Grave crimes — homosexuality and ordaination of women — now we’re talking.

  • Cheryl

    Leviticus “seems to determine homosexuality as a sex act between the same genders”

    Really? The versions of the Bible I’m familiar, says “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” The KJ bible, then, is not even concerned with women’s sexuality, is it?

    I don’t speak Greek or Aramic (or whatever), but I find it interesting that re-translations in the 20 years have re-interpreted/re-written the “unerring” word of god, so as to include both sexes in this abomination.

    I heard a minister speak at an LGBT pride event a number of years ago — she posits that Ruth and Naomi were in a lesbian relationship. I don’t know my Bible, so I will just thank: http://www.WouldJesusDiscrimate.org:

    The same Hebrew word that is used in Genesis 2:24 to describe how Adam felt about Eve (and how spouses are supposed to feel toward each other) is used in Ruth 1:14 to describe how Ruth felt about Naomi. Her feelings are celebrated, not condemned.

    And throughout Christian history, Ruth’s vow to Naomi has been used to illustrate the nature of the marriage covenant. These words are often read at Christian wedding ceremonies and used in sermons to illustrate the ideal love that spouses should have for one another. The fact that these words were originally spoken by one woman to another tells us a lot about how God feels about same-gender relationships.

  • Jormungund

    @feralboy12
    They should treat the injury.
    The thing is: then that guy should be banned from church forever. Same goes for people with less than perfect vision.
    But we all know that certain Bible verses ‘don’t count’ and that the Catholics would never kick out a crippled man even if God does explicitly demand it.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    If I may quote JT Eberhard: “Tell me again how we need religion to be moral.” (http://zerowing21.xanga.com/738658848/good-news-clubs/)

    It amazes me people can look at examples like this and then still claim that, if it wasn’t for religion, people would have no reason to do good things. This is also why I get upset when certain religious groups oppose social programs. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems they want people who are in need to be forced to go to their religious charities and convert.

  • iza9

    @Cheryl
    I don’t know. Wasn’t Naomi Ruth’s mother-in-law?


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