That would be Jim Winkler, the General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. In the latest edition of that agency’s newsletter, Winkler again demonstrates that facility with logic and argument is not a prerequisite for his position.

I’ve always appreciated that The United Methodist Church has never claimed to be a victim of religious persecution. Even though we imposed our religious views on others when we pushed through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting sale and manufacture of alcohol nearly 100 years ago, we did not insist our religious liberty was infringed when Prohibition was repealed.

That’s because claiming such would have been absurd. Two reasons: 1) the passage of Prohibition, whatever you think of its success or failure, was a democratic act that involved a diversity of citizens, some of whom had religious motivations, some of whom did not, so that no one’s “religious views” were “imposed” by anyone; 2) the repeal of Prohibition placed no burden on the free exercise of religion in any way. No Prohibitionist was required by the government to start paying for his neighbor’s booze.

We strongly oppose gambling and find war incompatible with Christian teaching. We don’t suggest, however, that the spread of gambling and the constant warfare around the world represent persecution of Methodism.

As far as I know, no Methodist institution is required to pay for anyone lottery tickets or trip to a casino. As for war, Methodism is not pacifist. According to the denomination’s Social Principles:

We also acknowledge that many Christians believe that, when peaceful alternatives have failed, the force of arms may regretfully be preferable to unchecked aggression, tyranny and genocide. We honor the witness of pacifists who will not allow us to become complacent about war and violence. We also respect those who support the use of force, but only in extreme situations and only when the need is clear beyond reasonable doubt, and through appropriate international organizations.

We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ. We therefore reject war as an instrument of national foreign policy.

So the analogy of war, absurd on its face (does anyone really think that, say, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980 to thumb his nose at the United Methodist Church?), really doesn’t apply anyway.

Yet, when the General Board of Church & Society agreed that religiously affiliated employers have an obligation to provide contraceptive services through the health insurance plans they offer to their employees, we have been accused of thwarting the religious liberty of various groups such as evangelical Christians and the Roman Catholic Church.

You know, those people who are wrong about religion, and who therefore have no claim to practice their faith as their beliefs dictate. This is exactly the same mindset that Winkler supposedly laments regarding Prohibition. Apparently, it’s OK to impose your “religious views” when it has to do with birth control, but not alcohol.

Why is it that the liberty of those who are denied basic health-care services is not at issue?

Because, Jimbo, no one–absolutely no one–is being “denied basic health-care services.” Contraception is universally available, and extraordinarily cheap. Please note the confusion of free health care services with access to health care services. That confusion is utterly deliberate, and has been the basic tactic that both the political and religious left has been using for weeks now to try to bamboozle the citizenry, which they assume is too stupid to know the difference.

Contraception benefits society. It reduces the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, reduces the need for abortions, and assists families to plan the number and spacing of their children.

Fine. So pay for it out of your own pocket. Birth control is one of many health care items I could name that has benefits for society as well as the individual. I don’t see Winkler pounding his spoon on his highchair demanding that Lipitor (increases productivity by lowering the incidence of heart attack and stroke), Enbrel (reduces claims for disability by preventing destruction of joints by rheumatoid arthritis), or Norten (an ACE inhibitor that helps lower blood pressure and thus reduces the likelihood of a person being struck with any of a number of diseases) be given for free to anyone. For that matter, why not make all medicines available for free? Why not all medical procedures?

Just because someone says their religious liberty is being infringed upon does not make it so. Just because the Catholic hierarchy says that birth control is a sin against God does not make it so.

So what Winkler wants is for the federal government to adjudicate theological and moral questions–is the use of birth control a sin against God?–and then base its formulation of public policy on the answers. No First Amendment problems there.

This is one area where The United Methodist Church is in clear disagreement with the Roman Catholic Church: “People have the duty to consider the impact on the total world community of their decisions regarding childbearing and should have access to information and appropriate means to limit their fertility” (United Methodist Social Principles, 162K, 2008 Discipline). “We affirm the right of men and women to have access to comprehensive reproductive health/family planning information and services that will serve as a means to prevent unplanned pregnancies, reduce abortions, and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS” (Social Principles, 162V, 2008 Discipline).

Fine. Terrific. Then it will in no way bother the consciences of United Methodists that their church agencies have birth control among the covered medical items in their health insurance. Gotta wonder, though, how Winkler would feel if in January, the new Santorum administration mandated that Methodists had to include reparative therapy for homosexuals in their health insurance. Anyone suspect he’d be on the phone to his friends at the ACLU and Americans United within minutes, screaming about the separation of church and state?

A compromise has been offered that enables religiously affiliated institutions to refuse basic contraception coverage to their employees by mandating that insurance companies offer these services to women who opt for them. Catholic leadership has rejected the compromise.

If Winkler actually understood how insurance works, I’d say he was deliberately misconstruing what the “compromise” is about. Since I’m sure he doesn’t, we’ll put this down to ignorance.

Why? Because they don’t want women to have the liberty to choose to use birth control. They want to deny that freedom to women.

Right. And after that, they want to make us all subjects of their papist master. Who knows, maybe they’ll even bring back…THE SPANISH INQUISITION!!!

There were those who argued that racial segregation was biblically mandated, that keeping women out of church leadership was sanctioned by God, and that destruction of the environment is approved by God. All of these notions were and are wrong.

At this point, Winkler appears to have simply stopped thinking altogether, and just let his fingers wander across the keyboard. What do any of these things have to do with religious freedom? The state is not in the business of desegregating churches, nor does the state force churches to hire women, and as for environmental regulation, I just have no clue why he brings that up.

Religious freedom is not violated by denying religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and other institutions the right to discriminate on the basis of race or gender.

Birth control has a race or a gender? Who knew? And did you know that birth control was something only women use? Someone really had better tell the condom manufacturers that they are wasting their time.

The wonderful thing about  a column like this is the clarity it offers, even despite the author’s apparent intentions. Though Winkler is trying to obfuscate, confuse, and misrepresent what this entire debate has been about, it comes through loud and clear. He, and his allies in the religious and political left, are determined to impose the correct view of sexual morality on the United States, no matter what the First Amendment has to say or the electorate thinks. If your faith leads you to disagree with that morality, that’s your tough luck. You’re wrong, and you’ll do as the Winklers of America tell you. You’ll pay up, or else.

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