Now that a proposed government regulation would require most employer-provided health insurance to cover birth control, the Republican party has strongly rallied around the idea that what insurance covers is a part of “religious freedom” that must be protected from government attack.
This new rule so strongly bothered Mitt Romney, the front runner for the Republican Party nomination, that he declared, “this is a violation of conscience. We must have a President who is willing to protect America’s first right, our right to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.”
If Romney actually believes this own statement, he should endorse the government legally allowing people to use marijuana for bona fide sacramental purposes. The use of marijuana to aid in religious worship of a deity has been part of some forms of Hinduism for thousands of years. It is also considered an important part of worship to many in the Rastafari movement.
The idea that the government has a duty to allow individuals to use otherwise illicit substancea as part of their free exercise of religion has a long history in this country. During alcohol prohibition there was a government exception for the sacramental use of wine by Catholics, Jews and other groups. Similarly the Native American Church has a special exemption to legally use Peyote as part of religious ceremonies.
If the GOP really feels that we have a “right to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience” then are not current marijuana prohibitions without religious exemption also a government attack on the free exercise of religion?
Sadly I don’t expect Romney or the rest of the GOP currently caught up in this religious freedom hysteria to take up this issue, anymore than the GOP rallied around the religious freedoms of Muslims to build a house of worship anywhere, including lower Manhattan.
The only time the Republican Party talks about the importance of religious freedom is when they are using it to justify the promotion of particular practices and policies with which they already agree.