Loading
Law professor says flawed view of sex threatens religious freedom
By Michelle Bauman
Helen M. Alvare, law professor at George Mason University.
Helen M. Alvare, law professor at George Mason University.

.- A law professor at George Mason University believes that current threats to religious freedom are intrinsically connected to the modern understanding that “sexual freedom is about shaping yourself.”

Helen Alvaré, who has formerly worked with the U.S. bishops' pro-life office, spoke on May 10 at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. She observed that many modern threats to religious freedom “are coming by way of a newly strong government position on human sexuality.”

This view holds that sex is unrelated to procreation or the union of man and woman, but is simply about “expressing oneself” and forming one’s identity through various sexual acts, she explained.

Alvaré traced this understanding of sexuality through court decisions in the last 50 years.

In 1965, the Supreme ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that the Constitution implicitly protects the “right to marital privacy” and that married couples therefore have a right to contraception. At this point, Alvaré observed, the union of the married couple was still intact in the understanding of sex.

By 1992, however, the court upheld the “right” to abortion by describing sexual decisions as a means of shaping one’s identity, she said.

In its Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, the plurality opinion affirmed “the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

At this point, Alvaré said, sex has been “completely disconnected from the other person” and is solely about expressing oneself and building identity.

This view is reflected today, she explained, pointing to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., which distributes information to young people encouraging them to explore and express themselves in different sexual ways.
 
This disconnected idea of sexual expression as an individual right can also be seen in a careful reading of the court cases supporting a redefinition of marriage, Alvaré added. In these court opinions, “same-sex marriage is not about the two people in the marriage. It’s about the individual expressing themself sexually.”

It is in this context that the Obama administration’s contraception mandate comes into being, with “no hesitation in divorcing sex from everything” that it physically, emotionally and spiritually means, she continued.

The mandate has been heavily criticized as a major threat to religious freedom because it will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.

Alvaré views the mandate as a “culmination” of a view of sexuality that has become more and more disconnected from marriage, procreation and the natural unity of man and woman.

She explained that this way of thinking began with the argument that taking the babies out of sex would allow couples to flourish, women to escape poverty and children to avoid being raised in bad situations.

But this has changed drastically, in a way that is evident by the “models of freedom” used to defend the contraception mandate, she said.

Rather than a woman facing poverty or a married couple overwhelmed by a dozen kids, the iconic figures in the sexual freedom debate today are unmarried, highly educated, and fairly well-off financially.

She pointed to Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who has become a leading figure in the push for free birth control.

These women are not talking about marriage, poverty or the wellbeing of children, Alvaré observed. Rather, they are simply saying that they want a regular sex life with a constant supply of contraception, and they want someone else to pay for it.

This “right to a commitment-free, child-free sexual experience” has become so elevated that no religious conscience is permitted to object to it, she said, explaining that when disconnected sexual expression becomes a basic and fundamental right, religious liberty suffers.

This can be seen today, as Catholic individuals and institutions are told that they shouldn’t “even be able to have a critical stance” on issues such as contraception, she said.

She also observed that proponents of the mandate are making claims of a “war on women” and using “language of discrimination,” as if religious individual seeking to follow their conscience were violent members of the Ku Klux Klan, who should not have a voice in the public square.

The Catholic Church’s idea of sexuality as being connected to marriage and new life is “absolutely contrary” to the modern understanding, Alvaré explained.

As Catholics step up to defend religious freedom, she noted, they also have a chance to help change the way that human sexuality is viewed.

“I really see this time as an opportunity,” she said.

Tags: Religious freedom, Sexual ethics


Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic
Apr
19

Liturgical Calendar

April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 28:1-10

Gospel
Date
04/19/14
04/18/14
04/17/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Gen 1:1-2:2
Gospel:: Mt 28:1-10

Saint of the Day

Blessed James Oldo »

Saint
Date

Homily of the Day

Mt 28:1-10

Homily
Date
04/19/14
04/18/14
04/17/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: